“Embrujo” by Stokoff
Long before Stokoff ever starts to sing in his trademark Spanish vocal in the new single “Embrujo,” he’s letting his audience know exactly what’s on his mind through the colorfully brooding string work that opens the track’s nearly four minutes of play with a bang. You don’t have to be the world’s biggest country music fan to appreciate the swing that the first few bars of this track is sporting, but for those of us who are in the running, the instrumental prowess of the backing band crashing into the confident attitude of the rockstar-esque Stokoff makes for an eruptive intro that can stand up to the best of them this autumn without debate. It’s nothing new for this country singer, but that doesn’t make “Embrujo” any less amusing.
It isn’t until Stokoff begins to serenade us with the single’s first verses that it becomes obvious what purpose this song was conceived for – showcasing a larger than life vocal from a very stylish lead singer. The only problem? The mix is initially so smothered by the intensity of the strings that it’s quite difficult to zero-in on where Stokoff’s end of the harmony begins and that of his backing band concludes. Instead of being a product of seamless production, it’s an inconsistency that makes it hard for me to fall in love with the complete warmth of the vocal, which, if I’m being honest, is the real reason why most critics have taken interest in the music this guy has been releasing in the last few years.
As tends to be the case with singles as instrumentally pumped-up as “Embrujo” is, the fiddles, guitars and quaking drumbeats that comprise the backdrop of the song are potently bombastic and occasionally assaultive, but I would stop short of saying they’re so beefy that we’re unable to get into their complexities and see them for the stunning aesthetical contributors that they truly are. Granted, Stokoff is one heck of a singer who doesn’t need a lot of extra help from his band to make a statement in his music, but this recording feels just a bit more groove-oriented than it is lyrically-driven. There’s nothing wrong with this in theory, but longtime fans of Stokoff might walk away just a little disappointed in the rather jagged construction of this latest piece.
“Embrujo” is hardly his finest hour, but if you’ve been interested in finding out a little more about this man and his highly-stylized strain of Latin country music, I’d still recommend listening to this single and giving its music video a peek as well. The video has all the features that most of us have come to demand out of our favorite country content, and while I think Stokoff probably has plenty of compositions left in his war chest even better than this one is, I wouldn’t ask him to rush his creative process moving forward. Someone as talented as he is shouldn’t be pressured into throwing material together; his craft deserves time and space to be cultivated for mass consumption.