This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



“Say what you want to say / Say what you mean out loud,” Luz Elena Mendoza sings on the title track of the latest EP, Oh February (Tender Loving Empire, January 29), by her enchanting group, Y la Bamba. The tall, heavily tattooed Mendoza has been saying what she wants and means since her solo debut, 2008’s Alida St., after which she formed a full band named after her six-toed white cat. On such previous albums as 2010’s Lupon, produced by Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, and 2011’s Court the Storm, produced by Los Lobos sax man Steve Berlin, the Portland, Oregon-based Y la Bamba created a unique blend of various genres that come together beautifully on Oh February, which reunites them with Funk. Mendoza’s ethereal voice has never been better as she leads the way through a half dozen English-language songs (previous albums included a mix of English and Spanish tunes), her vocals serving as another instrument, complemented by guitarists Sean Flinn and Paul Cameron, bassist Ben Meyercord, accordionist Eric Schrepel, drummer Mike Kitson, and percussionist-clarinetist Scott Magee. Mendoza, who suffered a debilitating case of amoebic dysentery ten years ago during a spiritual journey to India that led her to reevaluate her strict Catholic upbringing headed by her Mexican immigrant father, incorporates elements of traditional Mexican and Latino music, jazz, indie pop, depression-era Tin Pan Alley, and more into such beguiling songs as “A Poet’s Tune,” “Death on the Road,” and “River in Drought.” The EP culminates in the mesmerizing “Oh February Part 2 (Mad as We Are),” a duet with Cameron that encapsulates everything that Y la Bamba stands for: “We are changing . . . Got nowhere to go / Don’t look back,” Mendoza sings. The continually evolving Mendoza and Y la Bamba should have plenty of places to go, including Terminal 5 on February 1-2 opening for the Lumineers. The show is sold out, but you can check out their dazzling new EP above now for free.

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