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Mars Rodriguez: Up until "The End"

Mars Rodriguez is an independently-operating, Los-Angeles-based, Nicaraguan-American singer-songwriter-producer-multi-instrumentalist and so far her early releases are living up to that multi-hyphenate description. Mars released her first full-length last September, Don't Wait for Nothing, and over its 30 minutes you never have to wait too long for some new sonic wrinkle or other musical ingredient to be thrown into the mix which makes for a compelling and propulsive listening experience. And while I may be reading too much into things here, I could see how this restlessness could possibly derive in part from being part of a population displaced by political crisis and state violence.

If forced to come up with my own original hyphenate to describe Mars Rodriguez's music I think I'd go with "Café-Tacuba-meets-Shirley-Manson-meets-Massive Attack" because that at least hints at the stylistic eclecticism and the multilingualism and the mix of grungy guitar, power pop melodies, trip hop ambience, dub- and psych-inspired production, rock-en-espanol rhythms and drum machine rhythms. It's one of those albums meant to be taken in all at once in full, a continuous sonic journey.

Take the album-opening instrumental track "Tous Les Jours" for example, which starts off with almost a full minute of ambient planetarium-style celestial sounds before launching into a funky percussion loop that wouldn't sound out of place in a Chemical Brothers song and then a fuzzed-out zig-zagging melody that brings to mind Radiohead's "Myxomatosis" or it does to my mind at least. After a minute or two the fuzzone starts to disintegrate and get swallowed up by swirling echo effects. Then the whole thing topples and transforms into a slower, stripped down groove--but with vibrating tones and reverb-drenched voices still hovering overhead before fading out to sounds of distorted radio signals and sine waves.

From there each subsequent song on Don't Wait for Nothing explore a new direction or two. One of these directions is the "potential pop crossover hit" and there would seem to be at least a couple on the album--like "Now" with it's singalong refrain and motivational message and steady build to a big finish--but always with a quirky touch or two to keep it more on the alternative side of things. Mars's new single released on Friday ("The End") continues down this path of pop music with frayed edges--evoking Brian Eno one moment and Republica the next, with the listener exhorted to "exit your mind". And with all this talk of ends and exits, here's to new beginnings because I'll bet Mars Rodriguez has some more interesting ideas in store. (Jason Lee)

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