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First Listen: Quetzal, 'Quetzanimales'

Quetzal's new album, <em>Quetzanimales</em>, comes out July 29.
Courtesy of the artist
Quetzal's new album, Quetzanimales, comes out July 29.

Twenty years is a long time in the life of a band. In the case of Quetzal, its two decades have been spent playing the soundtrack of its East L.A. neighborhoods: an evolving mash-up of Mexican son jarocho, low-rider oldies, cumbia, boleros, rock and blues.

Many Angelenos consider Quetzal as much as an institution as its East L.A. brethren in Los Lobos. Much of the current revival of son jarocho can be traced to Quetzal's history of playing the music when few others bothered.

Its latest album, Quetzanimales, expands the band's legacy with a concept that pays tribute to different animals found in the urban landscape: night owls, coyotes, spiders, squirrels, a rooster. The lyrics offer lessons that reflect the group's stated philosophy: the re-imagination of human life in relation to other living things.

Quetzal pulls off its mission with inspiring lyrics and gorgeous, expert musicianship; Martha Gonzalez's voice has developed the kind of deep resonance found in the best mariachi belters and soul crooners. On top of it all, the steady presence of band founder and guitarist Quetzal Flores guarantees a multi-genre musical journey that's both eclectic and magically cohesive.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.