Guitarist, singer and songwriter Alex Cuba (né Alexis Puentes) traded the tropics of his native isle (whose name he appropriated) for the near-tundra of northern British Columbia a decade or so ago. His music is as expansive as the distance in between, a hook-heavy hybrid that combines a nonspecific Cuban/Latin sensibility with mellow, singer-songwriter fare, norte-americano folk-pop and more virulent strains of soul, funk and rock. Cuba has won a few Juno awards in Canada, but his highest-profile gig so far south of the border was collaborating with Nelly Furtado on her 2009 Spanish-language album, Mi Plan — until earlier this month, when Cuba won Best New Artist at the 2010 Latin Grammy awards. His infectious new eponymous album on his own Caracol label is full of breezy melodies and slinky rhythmic intrigues, whether simmering, horn-laced syncopations on upbeat tunes like "Caballo," New-Wave rock jaunts like "Tierra Colora" or the sleek funk (with Chicago-like horns) of "If You Give Me Love" (the only song on the album he sings in English). Cuba has a fine, molasses-sweet voice too, venturing into prime, soulful territory on love ballads, but also kicking it out on the wicked Cars/Kinks-like rocker "Que Pasa Lola."
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