Rock artist Brian Lopez confesses that his new album, Ultra, can’t be easily categorized into a single genre. Lopez’s Tucson upbringing plays an obvious role in his first full-length work, with its drawling melodies and instrumentation, but his sound is far from typical. While Ultra begins with a stereotypical rock song, the subtleties of his slower and layered, both musically and emotionally, pieces make the album worth a listen.
One of the most unique features of this album is its bilingualism. Lopez primarily sings in English and but several tracks feature Spanish, including “El Vagabundo” and “El Pajaro y El Ciervo.” Generally the use of Spanish added a depth to the music, but the overemphasis of traditional Hispanic elements such as mariachi in “El Vagabundo” seemed gimmicky and more appropriate for either an Antonio Banderas or old western film.
In context with the rest of the album, opening track “Montjuic” did not impress. What distinguishes Ultra is its sentimentalism and beautiful melodies, which are apparent in songs such as “Under Watchful Eyes,” “Maslow’s Hierarchy” and “Leda Atomica.” Lopez does best when he sticks to material that emphasizes his voice and the musical arrangement of the melody. The employment of instruments like the violin creates an additional layer of sound that contributes to his stirring vocals.
Throughout the album, the country blues and folk influences create a gentle sound that evokes a desert campfire-like image. Ultra becomes better as it progresses but only when Lopez maintains a slower pace and remains faithful to the violin-guitar melodies on tracks like “Leda Atomica.” Lopez is an artist on the rise, but his potential is only just beginning to show.