Track listing: The Damage That's Done, All I'll Ever Be, Whiskey Kisses, Bicycle Wine, To Your Memory, Spark, Blind Dove, I Belong To You, When We Were Made, I Can Talk You Into Anything, Ghosts, LeaveWhen I worked at a major label in New York over a decade ago, there was a buzz about the still-unsigned Dallas band, South FM. Being from Texas myself, whenever us A&R types got together, conversation frequently turned to the topic of great bands from Texas. When that happened, there was an inevitable, collective heaping of praise upon South FM's sound, great live shows, and their lead vocalist with an absolutely killer voice. The voice leading that band was Paco Estrada's. MCA eventually signed South FM, but Paco has been leading a solo career since 2006, when MCA's dissolution left South FM high and dry.
Estrada's latest album is sparse and gorgeous, entitled the definite and indefinite... integrals of logarithmic and exponential functions. Twelve stories of love, angst, and yearning, told as much through their harmony and melody as their lyrics. It's a mellow album, volume-wise, but intense in its songwriting. Estrada writes a lot of love songs, though they vary among their sub-topics, including love found, love lost, and love of one's self.
Estrada doesn't shy away from writing about his own mistakes, at times admitting his own shortcomings.
Suppose I told you that I'm still in love and it won't go away.
The hardest part of letting go is knowing when to walk away.
I tried so hard at loving me, but loving you comes so naturally.
It's all I am and all I'll ever be.
But this is hardly an album of depressed self-loathing. Hell, Paco fronted a kickass rock band, so you know he's got to have some confident cockiness in there somewhere. Shades of that come through in "I Can Talk You Into Anything."
Stumbled in the dark, turned the radio up
Moonlight comin' through the room, it helped me get a better view of you
And you know that I know that nothing here is set in stone
And I know that you know every secret down in my soul
And I think we both know the deepest of the wounds love brings
But, baby, everybody knows I can talk you into anything.
Paco describes the definite and indefinite... as "a bit indie and lowfi," similar to his previous releases in its soulful storytelling and passionate vocal performance. Because he has such a gifted voice, I was surprised to hear a vocoder on "I Belong To You." I suppose if there's a tasteful use of the vocal processor, Paco aims for it—not using it on every hook and the end of every line of a 3-minute pop single. But for me, the vocoder/processor's intense over-use over the past decade on Top 40 radio makes me cringe when I hear its warbly output.
the definite and indefinite... integrals of logarithmic and exponential functions is comprised of the songs you want to hear when you're alone, on those nights when you're holed up at home with a drink, and want nothing more than to watch some old movies and revel in nostalgia. It's those nights when you reflect on life—the highs and lows, the emptiness and fulfillment. With this album, Estrada takes you on a journey, guiding you through those peaks and valleys, accompanied by a wonderfully melodic soundtrack.