There are a lot of discs on which the first song will set the mood for everything to follow; will you like it? Hate it? Get bored with it? Like a good book, the first chapter is crucial for setting the tone that can either draw a fan’s attention or turn it away. ‘Cocinera’ begins with a piano-driven song that could easily be imagined as background music for Charlie Brown as he’s wandering down the sidewalk. Each following piece falls into that same track: taking a journey.
This is one of those albums that keeps us following along, not because we are hooked by the music, but because we want to know what comes next. We want to know where it is going. Yes, it’s all pleasant and even enjoyable to hear, but it is such an eclectic jump from one tract to the next that the listener becomes involved in the flow. It fluidly passes between experimental sounds and well-established genres. One piece may have the dour depth of Fiona Apple and the next has the sounds of a pianist tickling the ivories in an Old West saloon. The range of talent in these 15 songs is obvious and never loses its edge or its shine; though there is variety, nothing is ever out of place.
Even better is the use of voices and instruments as the pages of the book, not the words. The lyrics have messages, but they act more as observations than epiphanies. It’s poetry, not storytelling. The music on this disc fills in the lines of the coloring book that we call “life.” It takes those moments we have all experienced—angst, happiness, loss—and, with an often sultry voice and perfectly balanced instrumentals, puts them into melodic tones that everyone can share. Thatcher has taken our individual concerns and formed them into the insights of the population; it leads us through our own trials and tribulations.
In an almost Mr. Snufalupagus-like plodding rhythm, ‘Cocinera’ breathes substance into the reflections carried by its listeners. Through its words, it wraps its listeners in the very webs that trap us all. And, when it is all said and done, it is obvious that we have not been listening to Ashlyn Thatcher, but that she has been listening to us.