ALBUM OF THE DAY
Divino Niño, “Last Spa on Earth”
By Richard Villegas · September 19, 2022 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, T-Shirt/Shirt, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)

It’s hard to describe Divino Niño‘s new album Last Spa on Earth as anything other than a leap. Vaulting off the pristine psych-pop of their previous LP Foam, the Chicago quintet obliterate precedent by fearlessly reimagining their sound with vibrant strokes of reggaetón, hyperpop, and house. The laid-back vibes remain a hallmark, but here the music drips with self-assured, unapologetic swagger encompassing greater themes of curiosity and liberation.

Every note in Last Spa on Earth feels like a cathartic release; from its genre-crushing beat shifts and rumbling basslines geared towards dance floor abandon, to the title track’s (“LSE”) meditative ambience. On shimmering rock zinger “Nos Soltamos,” the band lets go of expectations—self-imposed and external—amidst jubilant blasts of synthesized horns that recall Bowie’s “Modern Love.” “Juventud, criado en velas, religión, clase media” (“Youth, raised in wakes, religion, middle class”) sings Javier Forero on album closer “I Am Nobody,” listing off details from an imperfect upbringing that included struggles with depression and a womanizing father. Confessions pour out, as Medina is racing to find inner peace before the song mutates from ’70s soft-rock into K-hole-inducing house.

In fact, dance music is a major reference point for the group’s dynamic new chapter. The album’s strongest moments with daringly and wholeheartedly embrace of reggaetón. Inspired by neoperreo’s punkish, queer grit, the back-to-back run of “Tu Tonto,” “XO,” and “Toy Premiado” melds groovy funk, beachy vaporwave, and nasty dembow riddims into an ass-shaking molotov. The bars are braggadocious, and the band feels empowered by their own sexiness, using the unrelenting barrage of sound to unpack their own past traumas with religion, most notably in the video for “XO.”

Divino Niño’s bassist and rapper Javier Forero highlights graffiti as a major inspiration for the way the album sounds. “We basically took the songs we were writing and vandalized them,” he explained ahead of the album. “We might keep the core of the idea but we wanted to rip apart our own work.” This sort of tagging technique can be found throughout Last Spa on Earth, like on “Especial,” which infuses cruising psych with jolts of hedonistic disco. On “Miami,” nostalgic new jack swing snowballs into Bad Bunny-flavored Latin trap, with more than a few winks to Will Smith’s late ’90s classic of the same name. For “Drive,” the album’s lead single, the band trades genre flipping for extrapolation, dialing up the BPMs in a rapturous wind-in-your-hair crescendo.

Divino Niño are no strangers to bilingual songwriting, though Last Spa on Earth is undoubtedly their most Spanish-anchored record to date. Medina and Forero dip lightly into English, choosing instead to lean on their Colombian heritage and sneak in childhood Easter Eggs with multiple references to SpongeBob and anime. It’s a sweet, dazzling tour through the life of a band and each of its members, stepping outside themselves to glean fresh lessons from the journey. “Las cosas que pasaron ya pasaron ya/ No hay nada que unas polas ya no sanen ya” (“The things that happened happened/ There’s nothing a few beers can’t heal”), further accepts Medina on “I Am Nobody.” And he’s right. We cannot change the past, but we’re here, and we can toast to that.

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