Malena Cadiz “Hellbent And Moonbound”

Sad Mall, 2023

First album in seven years sees Malena Cadiz reach for classic LA sound.

Artwork for Malena Cadiz album Hellbent And MoonboundMalena Cadiz’s last album, ‘Sunfair’, was released in 2016.  The intervening seven years has seen Cadiz move homes, become a mother and working different jobs.  She describes it as a time of introspection:  “it was a moment to be still and examine who and how I wanted to be, letting go of anything that wasn’t serving me, and leaning into what was”.

Having lived with the songs, she decided to show them to the world through the perspective of a classic LA pop-rock lens.  To this end, she worked with Andrew Lappin as producer and a strong cast of studio musicians to make ‘Hellbent And Moonbound’.

An acoustic guitar picks out the introduction to ‘Museum Shoes’ and is joined by Cadiz’s breathy vocal drawing out the whimsy in lyrics.  As the song progresses, horns, strings and lap steel are layered in so by its conclusion it’s wrapped in a lush arrangement.  ‘Shatter’ references the late Princess Diana’s haircut and malls giving it a slightly retro feel.  A more upbeat pop number, the chorus has some sweetly arranged backing vocals.  It would sound good on the radio.  The playing is more of a light jazzy/ R&B variety on ‘Whatever You Need’.   The Fender Rhodes sets the overall mood while Cadiz’s singing almost slips into talking at times reflecting on the give and take of her (or at least her narrator’s) relationship.

The strings are back for ‘The Real Thing’ although the acoustic guitar again leads in. The melody is underpinned with Jason Robert’s sweet guitar while producer Lappin adds several parts, including tubular bells.  Cadiz plays electric guitar on ‘My Kind Of Thief’, a descriptive, almost film-like piece filled with observations of the personal and the physical. The track builds keyboards, strings, sax into a swirly effect.

‘Getting By’ with harp-like piano and Jesse McGinty’s horns creates a nightclub vibe, setting the mood for a lazy trip through an afternoon and evening with someone she’s close to.  The title track is a co-write with Lappin and features a kora from Prince Diabaté.  Cadiz lays out a tale of intimacy with a partner tinged by doubt while she concludes: “I’m hellbent and moonbound; I’m in too deep; might as well double down”.

Another co-write – this time with David Turbeville- follows.  ‘Easy’ is a more lightweight poppy song which seems designed to catch the attention from the radio on a summer’s day.  ‘Call It A Night’ is characterised by percussion which creates a set of varied beats providing a marked contrast with its predecessor.  The arrangement incorporates more strings, horns, keys and backing vocals that at ties sounds more Memphis than LA.  Closer ‘Child Again’ – like its predecessor and the title track another Cadiz-Lappin composition – is a more intimate affair with just Cadiz vocal, piano and strings.  The lyric tells of a night with friends but has Cadiz musing on a return of innocence “Don’t know why I feel convinced, someday I’ll be a child again.”

‘Hellbent And Moonbound’ is an enjoyable listen. It’s a well-arranged and played set of songs with enough variety to keep the listener’s attention.  As an album styled on a classic LA pop sound though it doesn’t quite hit the joyfulness or intensity which are the hallmarks of that genre.

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7/10
7/10

About Richard Parkinson 129 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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