Francisca Valenzuela: Buen soldado 

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Francisca Valenzuela (born in San Francisco and raised in Chile since age 12) has been kicking ass for some time, and now the world is ready for her. Isabel Allende wrote the intro to her poetry book (Defenseless Waters, 2000), and Bono invited her onstage to sing "One Tree Hill" during a U2 show in Santiago, the only local artist to have that honor. Now her second album solidifies her status as one of Latin America's best singer-songwriters. Co-produced by Valenzuela and Vicente Safuentes (Sr. Coconut) and Mocky (Feist), the album jumps from a spaghetti western intro filled with marching snare to fast ska, and has a dark jazzy feel reminiscent of early Julieta Venegas. But then she jumps from disco to a slow bluesy piano ballad and dance-pop, in an unpredictable mix of styles where smart lyrics and arrangements are the norm. This is radio-friendly stuff but it won't fill your brain with garbage. It is an enjoyable album from an author and illustrator whose voice reminds you of Fiona Apple and who just happens to write above-average songs. If you didn't see her at SXSW, catch her at 3 p.m. on September 16 at Austin City Limits.




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