What do you get when you mix math, rock guitar solos and patterns, broadway and alternative emo singing, island/reggaeton drums and rap?
Musical artist Andrés is all these styles and influences mixed together, becoming big through songs like “Self Care” and “Darth Binks” off his first album “Strange Memories on this Nervous Night.” On Halloween Andres released his third and newest album to date called, “Once Upon a Time in Bakersfield.” I was very excited to dive into this album because I was a huge fan of his previous 2018 sophomore project “Heroes, Villains, and All That Jazz,” which combined rap, alternative rock and a bit of samba influence.
The opening track is called “Coldhives and Screwdrivers” and it was an opening that caught me off guard because of how melancholy the track is compared to other opening tracks, like the bubbly “Bad Boy” and the passionate “Andrespacito.” From the two tracks like “Maybe” and “High School” we got previously to the album being released, tone-wise “Coldhives and Screwdrivers” was a lot more calm. Andrés talks about hoping his band would be as big as Drake, but he currently only has $25, which is enough to buy a screwdriver (Beginning the themes of alcoholism). In the chorus Andrés mentions how he has a committed girlfriend who wants to have children and a dog, but he’s more fixated on making it big as a musician, even implying that he was cheating on this girl with the lines “I need a substance that’ll bring me to the brink of death. That’s when I really feel alive, a suburban boy living a lie.” I feel like the placement of this song would fit better as track two because it gives you a more focused idea of the story and putting its placement as track one made the angst seem a bit jarring. 6.5/10
“Maybe” was the first song I took to heavily and was one of the first two teaser tracks for this album. Andrés hypothesizes every single thing he could possibly do for his future over a bubbly piano and guitar instrumentation. Even though the instrumental is so enjoyable and happy, a lot of the things that are being said are on the darker side of the spectrum. “Maybe I’ll just give up on music, like it’s a hobby; Maybe I’ll drink myself into an early casket, or maybe I’ll become one of those ‘reformed addict’ pastors,” said Andrés. I look at this song as the opening of curtains on the initial narrative of the album and think contextually it would make a better first track. 7/10
“Sonny Wides” is the third track on the album. Andrés is explaining the story of how he fell in love with his girlfriend. He compares (before they got together) what he wants this girl and his relationship to be, similar to a vice that someone has, like wanting to be the cigarette to her nicotine addiction or the shot of liquor to her alcoholic, providing false promises by saying their flame will never burn out. Though this song is driven by narrative and it’s well written, for me it was one of the more forgettable tracks on the project, falling into the background compared to bigger cuts like “Cada Mes” and “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” 5/10
“Cada Mes” (also known as “Every Month” in English) was at first a song I was truly struggling to get into. The first time listening it fell to the background and felt like ambient salsa math rock, but after two more listens the song is so much more. The chorus is from the cheater girl’s point of view, saying Andrés visits her house every month writing songs about her and the times they have fallen asleep together. While the verses are from Andrés’ point of view, he mentions the girl thinks he’s privileged but in reality he steals his mother’s car to see her. Andrés and the girl got into a fight about his friends and don’t talk until September 14; This is the last line you hear, except for the chorus in Spanish spoken word from the girl’s point of view. She asks him to forget her because of how much time has passed and how she has a new boyfriend. I love the lyrics and the overall fun and uplifting tone of the song. The chorus is very catchy and it has a lot of replay value. 7.5/10
“Bargain Bin Action Figure” is a spoken word story about an inebriated Andrés who visits the home of his former lover and promptly goes through her stuff, looking and reflecting on old love letters and notes he used to pass back and forth with this girl. Andrés compares her treating his feelings poorly to a similar feeling of a neglected bargain bin action figure, also nodding to his previous album in the chorus. The backing tracks are some light harmonies over some soft guitar and a shaker. The last part of the song is from the girl’s point of view, responding to all of this saying she’s okay being away from Bakersfield living a promiscuous life and wants him to move on. For some reason, with this entire song every lyric captivated me to keep listening to it. 7/10
“A Child’s Garden of Verses” upon first listen was beautiful, reminding me of a ballroom dance. Something about the normal alternative drums with classy, graceful, violins added an extra loveliness to the instrumental. This is where Andrés’ songwriting skills are front and center since he is expressing how he feels after going through her stuff and fighting with her. Andrés opens up, saying originally he was trying to get a normal job and was playing in the town orchestra on the side and got mixed up with the wrong people. Later he describes himself as the same tattooed vagabonds who got him in the band scene and he blames them for his substance abuse. Toward the end of the song the instrumental consistency breaks and an eruption of electric guitars fuels all of the emotion and angst behind the track. Just to hear the lyrics in the chorus one last time, “And maybe it’s not magic, I just miss when my life felt more like a movie, And I’ve got all these habits, I just miss when I could be happy sober.” 8/10
“High School” ft. Tyler Carter is a track about a confident Christian girl Andrés was glad he never met in high school. Tyler Carter from the band Issues helps out on a guest verse from Andrés’ friend’s point of view who also is seeing the girl (without Andrés’ knowledge). Carter gives a good vocal performance, singing, “Sign the line and say you’re mine, I know that I said that I don’t mind, but girl I mind. You’ve been out with other guys and boo that’s fine.” The song is very catchy and has some replay value, but since the singing patterns and notes are repetitive it can get extremely overplayed quickly. 5/10
“Cul-De-Sac Interlude” had so much potential to become a full song where Andrés could actually thrive and elaborate on the state of his life. “Interlude” begins with a car door shutting on Halloween night and a bunch of people talking; you hear drinks clink and then someone turns on a radio and the song begins. The instrument has a shaky rattle from what sounds like a maraca and some light strumming and plucking on an electric guitar. Andrés raps about what he is surrounded by, including a girl named Jamie and his friends Darren and Johnny, who are drinking Bacardi to flirt with girls. He questions “if it benefits our confidence, when we give into instincts.” A radio personnel cuts off Andrés and introduces the next two songs. 6/10
“Lima Heights” is the strongest emotionally driven track on the album. All of the questions I had during the “Cul-De-Sac Interlude” were answered in some way through this song. Andrés talks about being in his home town after touring with his band and mentally dealing with all of these issues with this girl. The track begins with him denouncing going out to drink, giving himself the benefit of the doubt by saying he still went out and tried touring, even if he didn’t come back famous. He questions his current relationship/friendship with the girl, asking “Are we real friends or am I an accessory?” Andrés finally starts thinking about his future and reflecting on what he should have done in the past, like going to college instead of touring. He also talks about the time he had to spend in jail for blowing a .09 while driving intoxicated and how he was on honor student before getting involved with the wrong people. 9/10
The final track is called “Colossal Titan” and the first verse talks about everything Andrés has been struggling with on this album. Drugs, alcoholism and getting over his ex. Something peculiar about this track is that he writes it from another persons point of view as they’re talking to him. The second verse is from Andrés’s point of view, talking about how long it’s been since he’s played a show in Bakersfield. He talks about moving on from shows in the area and moving the music stuff to online on Youtube. While working at a movie theater to draw more income, Andrés mentions seeing people he doesn’t like from his past and finally, by the last part of the outro, he neglects playing shows at the bar and is determined to prove himself elsewhere. Andrés ends the album by saying “I’m just trying to prove you wrong and I’m down to do some crazy s***.” 7/10
Final thoughts on the album: “Once Upon a Time in Bakersfield” is an album about a lost twenty-something who is coming to terms with hanging with the wrong people, being an alcoholic and still having feelings for a girl who has given up on the relationship. The narrative is driven emotionally through a layer of angst and substance abuse. Andrés wrote this album beautifully because of the way everything connected. For example, in the album Andres mentions drinking the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko multiple times. In the song “Cada Mes” Andrés compares himself to the drink, saying, “Cause your lil’ loco’s sneaking in at 4.” Overall, this album is an 6.8/10 and I can’t wait to listen to Andrés’ next project.
Joseph Guzman can be contacted