Gabriel Garzón-Montano Delivers Alt-R&B Tour de force on ‘Jardín’
Some folks will be quick to state that R&B has lost its luster. True, the genre isn’t a heavy-hitter in the sales department, and some of it has grown predictable. Still, there are plenty of compelling R&B artists who have nothing short of greatness to offer. One of those is Gabriel Garzón-Montano, who proves he’s “the one to watch.” Garzón-Montano delivers a surefire gem with his alternative soul effort, Jardín.
Lovely strings initiate “Trial” ahead of Garzón-Montano’s beautiful, cool, calm, and collected vocals. Clocking in at under two minutes, “Trial” sets the tone Jardín as a whole. “Sour Mango” serves as the first full-length joint off of Jardín. Groovy, the record lays back on the beat, giving off truly chill vibes. While Garzón-Montano flaunts his soulful abilities, he never has to force vocally – no histrionics. “Sour Mango” feels completely natural.
The smoothness of Garzón-Montano continues to shine on “Fruitflies.” One of the most interesting features of “Fruitflies” is the harmonic progression. There is nothing standard about the progression, which eliminates predictability. This adventurous approach is something that R&B and music, in general, need more of. There is nothing wrong with the spirit of experimentalism. On “Fruitflies,” Garzón-Montano uses a dramatic ascending progression to build emotional intensity which complements the lyrics.
“But we can’t change the way the wind blows / Can’t find a way back home / We can’t change the way the wind blows / No, we can’t find the way back home.”
Garzón-Montano kicks off “The Game” aggressively ‘straight out the gate.’ No, he doesn’t deliver a performance filled with gospel histrionics, but there’s a clear confidence that matches the sentiment of the title. The chorus serves as one of the best moments, with the background vocals adding the cherry on top. The simplicity of the record is a pro, with the heavy bass anchoring things down.
The sheer captivation of Jardín continues on the radiant “Long Ears.” Once more, Garzón-Montano composes a soulful gem using clever, jazzy harmonic progressions. Lyrically, he’s incredibly poetic:
“Fruit flies in the breeze / Priestly moaning / In the garden I pardoned Eve / Begged her take leave.”
“Crawl” continues to employ some impressive harmonic twists and turns, eliminating predictability. Besides the fantastic knack for music theory, the romantic joint thrives. Clearly, Garzón-Montano is infatuated with his bae:
“I act a damn fool / Baby when you crawl around on me / And I’ll thank you too, it’s true / Lapping up the whole damn thing love it when you sing.”
“Bombo Fabrika” once more features a punchy bass line – among the most compelling features of the album. Follow-up “Cantiga” is a radiant, 6/8 ballad, finding Garzón-Montano singing in his most tender tone. The production is superb, specifically the use of strings. The strings add additional drama and intensity. Penultimate number “My Balloon” picks up the pace, finding Garzón-Montano showing some grit on the catchy chorus.
“I’ll get back on my balloon / And meet my baby on the moon / Hanging flowers in her room / And dancing just to keep my cool, to keep my cool.”
“Lullaby” concludes Jardín soothingly, as its title suggests. Again, the music theory stands out, specifically on the chorus:
“A line on water’s edge / Your sweet mother’s breast / Sleep baby sleep / Sleep baby sleep.”
The chromatic approach is enough to tickle any composer’s fancy.
All in all, Gabriel Garzón-Montano has crafted an exceptional alternative R&B album. Jardín is superbly composed both harmonically and lyrically. This is an album that likely won’t receive the attention that it deserves. That is a shame – Garzón-Montano clearly proves he’s “got next.”
Gems: “Sour Mango,” “Fruitflies,” “The Game,” “Long Ears” & “Crawl”
Gabriel Garzón-Montano • Jardín • Stones Throw • Release: 1.27.17
Photo Credit: Stones Throw