The Curtain Opens to Endless Possibilities in Marias' Debut Album, Cinema
By River Stone
“Maybe I'm living in my head
Maybe I'm living to pretend”
“We want people to feel inspired to create anything,” says María Zardoya, leader of The Marías, about their CINEMA(tic) debut album. This intention is vividly present throughout each track, lilting from lush string arrangements to pulsating synth, all with the effect of motivating a potent visual landscape to dance across minds as the notes dance across the band’s tight instrumentation. Such filmic prowess is no accident: The Marías were originally tasked with creating music for film, an endeavor which led to lead singer María and multi-instrumentalist Josh Conway coming closer together, both as collaborators and as partners.
The duo compose all the psychedelic band’s songs together, employing dynamic creative processes that range from “a little LSD journey throughout [their] neighborhood” (All I Really Want) to Conway holding up photographs for María to visually interpret (Heavy). The couple’s songs are bolstered on the album and during live sets with their “closest friends” Jesse Perlman (guitar), Edward James (keys), and Gabe Steiner (trumpet).
Hence, CINEMA is also a love story, spanning from the warm, theatrical opening track, Just a Feeling, through the uncertainties, ecstasies, and possibilities of life until the final track, Talk to Her, concludes with a sense of integration, reincarnation, and imagination. This arc was entirely intentional, with María comparing the recording process to new love: “at the beginning of a relationship, you don't want to throw all your cards out there. You don't want to give away too much of yourself until you get to know the person”. This debut thus allows listeners an intimate insight into the process of becoming, as a couple, but also as citizens of the world. This is most evident in one of the final tracks, Fog as a Bullet, where a simply strummed acoustic guitar holds space for María’s soft, reverberating vocal tone as she sings about the liminality of life, inspired by the tragic helicopter crash that took Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s lives, caused by the very same fog that María had been admiring the day before for its beauty. “Estaré volando entre niebla y el mar / Volando entre dioses y paz,” she sings “I'll be flying between mist and the sea / Flying between gods and peace” as a horn theme emerges, a new arrangement of the Hable con Ella interlude; a recollection of the closed curtain between acts.
Woven throughout the album are subtle, continuous themes such as these that hint at both the streamlined storyline, as well as the surreal, existential echo that seems to be so embodied throughout the philosophical group’s approach to music. Hable con Ella translates to “Talk to Her”, the title of the final track of the album, the second closed curtain. This visceral epilogue takes the form of María reading a poem, underscored by driving, syncopated instrumentation reminiscent of a heartbeat. The overall effect is one of being reborn, of transcending the “dark and grim”, finding hope in the quiet moments and emotional synchronicities. The track, and album, end with a refrain of “Don’t stop giving up”: an invitation to surrender to the tides of life, especially when “[we] don’t know exactly where [we’re] supposed to be.”
In this way, CINEMA whisks listeners away to the realms of their imaginations with hushed vocals superimposed upon a diverse array of instrumental styles that render an overall feel of intimacy; one of both lullaby and encouragement, odes to life and death, alike. By sharing such vulnerable, authentic, and relatable histories, The Marías expand the aperture of consciousness, widening minds and hearts as an iris expands, taking in the night sky. As if this generosity were not enough, they also offer snail mail love letters, which you can sign up for on these “vintage crooners’” website. Surrender to your potential, for even if it feels like there’s no one else, The Marías believe in you.
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