Bilingual Art Rock From Brooklyn? Yes, por favor!
Name: Xenia Rubinos
Where She’s From: Brooklyn, NY
Genre: Avant-indie… en español
When She Started: 2010
Sounds Like: The coolest kid in music school.
It would be easy to call Xenia Rubinos the Spanish-language tUne-yArDs. Sure, the two ladies share a certain experimental approach to music-making, but Xenia’s particular brand of badassery is all her own. Her music is a landscape of distorted keyboards, stuttering drum beats in odd meters, and meandering melodies that never seem to go where you think they will. Unexpectedness is a constant feature of the sound. Somehow she manages to always do weird s**t you weren’t ready for, while making it a delight to listen to at the same time.
Xenia was raised in Hartford, the exciting insurance capital of the US, in a family of Puerto Rican and Cuban extraction. Eventually, she found her way to Brooklyn, where she collaborated with drummer Marco Buccelli to put out her debut album Magic Trix in 2011. The album’s songs, sung in English and Spanish, range from “Pan y Café,” a sort of whimsical, avant-garde nursery rhyme, to “Help,” a creepy tribute to her Aunt Rosa, who was rumored to live under a bridge and have supernatural healing powers. Then there’s “Ultima,” where she almost raps over a drum beat that is almost reggaeton, before devolving into a chaotic drum and keyboard jam at the end. Like I said: unexpectedness.
Xenia says she stopped singing for a while to write instrumental music, and you can totally tell. Throughout Magic Trix, she uses her voice as an instrument, riffing as if she was the band’s lead guitarist. The inherent sweetness of her voice contrasts with the rest of her band’s sound, which is purposefully rough around the edges at every turn. We’re talking about someone who, on one song, features a squeaky hinge opening and closing for a full 30 seconds. She’s not playing around.
Stream Magic Trix below, and don’t forget to check out her excellent video for the song “Hair Receding,” in which she strapped up her abuela with innumerable cameras and documented her as she went about daily life in Hartford.