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Album review: Julieta Venegas' 'Otra Cosa'

March 15, 2010 |  6:49 pm

Julieta-Venegas240 Love's capricious, sometimes cruel behavior, and the ambiguous feelings amor engenders, are the alpha and omega of the Julieta Venegas songbook. Since she began recording in the late 1990s, the Long Beach-born, Tijuana-bred musician has parsed her conflicting feelings about emotional commitment with surgical precision.

In the liner-notes photos for her 2003 record "Sí," she posed as an ambivalent bride teething her white glove and ripping off her wedding gown. On her Grammy Award-winning "Limón y Sal" (Lemon and Salt), from 2006, she pondered the taste of romance, alternately bitter and tartly seductive.

But, closing fast on 40, Venegas appears to have reached a kind of truce with Eros, philosophically if not psychologically. She immediately sets the tone on her latest disc, "Otra Cosa," with the opening track "Amores Platónicos" (Platonic Loves), a deceptively perky pop confection with a languid, reggae-fied beat. Addressing a beautiful garden as if it were a feckless lover, Venegas intones in Spanish that "it's better the fantasy that you give me" than the more fraught reality.

That Socratic-lite statement of purpose reverberates through a disc that finds Venegas revisiting familiar thematic ground, with no great revelations to offer, but with her considerable charm, sincerity and melodic subtlety intact. She quirkily caroms from flirty hopefulness to unrequited longing and remorse, her catchy compositions buoyed by her sweetly brooding voice and jaunty accordion, guitar and keyboard playing.

Her reverence for boleros and other Mexican regional music forms sparkles through songs such as the disc's title number and "Duda," a reminder that, for Venegas, romance may falter, but passionate craftsmanship will prevail.

-- Reed Johnson 

Julieta Venegas
"Otra Cosa"
(Sony International)
Three stars (Out of four)