The facts and figures clearly show that Uruguay’s chief exports are cheap, reliable domestic help and beef. But the most exciting export from the-country-that-isn’t-Paraguay is surely the music of the inspired and unpredictable Martín Buscaglia, or the “Uruguyuan Prince”.
El Evangelio Según Mi Jardinero (Love Monk, Spain) is a definition-defying Picasso of a pop canvas, that mixes deep funk with Spanish folk and flamenco, and crocodile-tear-jerking Latino love songs with squelchy synths and gay abandon. The hyper-kitsch cover of Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” doesn’t just work, it somehow seems inevitable.
It is well known that brilliantly harmonic pop has been Sweden’s stock-in-trade ever since Abba’s hair’n’flares bestrode the 1970s. But now Loney, Dear (aka Emil Svanängen) has swapped the Viking horns of his musical heritage for exotic hanging baskets, to subvert and soften the solid good taste of Scandinavian melody with blooming imagination. Loney, Noir (Regal, UK) is a bewitching, soulful, mini-symphony of unusual, up-tempo, home-recorded love songs to music and to love itself.
Belying her professed influences – Tom Waits and LA punks X – Eleni Mandell has been purveying her superior sort of low-key, lyrical, candle-lit pop for eight years and five albums. Her sixth, Miracle of Five (Zedtone, US) is the album that should lift her from undeserved obscurity to getting her face carved on to the Mount Rushmore of folk-pop, between Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and bedtime’s Norah Jones.
Whether it’s through the church music of her rural Maryland upbringing or her immersion in Fort Thunder’s Rhode Island alt-art clique, Becky Stark is clearly well-acquainted with the periodic table of pop’s three precious metals: melody, simplicity and soul. Imagine Our Love (Matador, US) is a breathtakingly beautiful debut intent on solving the riddle of the perfect pop song. Elegant, uncluttered arrangements set the stage for a wide-eyed vocal virtuosity in a stunning gospel fairytale where you can easily imagine Alice in Wonderland played by Patsy Cline.
Monocle’s favourite ad campaigns aimed at promoting the health and spiritual benefits of cycling are both pithy – but from polar opposite price points:
City Charlotte, North Carolina, US Agency LMK (Loeffler Mountjoy Ketchum) Price tag $10,000 (€7,496)
City London, UK Agency M&C Saatchi Price tag £14m (€21m)