Cuco Para Mi Interscope
“Where is this fool going?” blares a nasally, robotic voice on the Intro of Cuco’s Para Mi, a sun-dappled day trip of a debut album. Kicking off one of the year’s most highly anticipated projects with such throwaway self-awareness is indicative of the California cool that the singer/multi-instrumentalist born Omar Banos oozes with enviable ease. And while Para Mi may not offer a definitive answer to its formative query, few could deny that this record takes you to places altogether different.
Cuco has been independently releasing music since he was 16 and it shows. Even the weakest moments on Para Mi reveal a close attention to detail, from the sharp pop hooks to the gelatinous soundscapes fusing funk and psychedelia. Singles Hydrocodone and Feelings are the gold standard for this intoxicating blend; the former showcasing gutting lyrical sensibilities, the latter a consummate understanding of mixing, where each layer of instrumentation is richly felt, the contours rigid even as they melt together.
The forays into full-on trap on Bossa No Sé and Best Friend feel less naturalistic, and it is debatable how successfully Cuco incorporates elements of bossa nova into this frenzied palette. These outings don’t fail to entertain, and they put a spotlight on a slew of rising Latinx talents who deserve a moment to shine, but they lack the marriage of form and intention that characterises the woozy synth balladry found elsewhere. Still, it’s easy to indulge Cuco in moments that would otherwise feel extraneous. After all, this is – as made clear in the album’s title – for him.