Listen: In Probing Folk Songs, Alisa Amador explores crises of identity and love
This is an exclusive song premiere, part of The ARTery’s efforts to showcase rising New England musicians.
The first thought in Alisa Amador’s “Red Balloon” is fear. Seeing a balloon rising in the distance, Amador worries that it will land in the ocean. “I pray it happens on the beach,” she sings, as a string ensemble swells above a finger-whispered guitar.
The song is about the apprehension that comes with falling in love: it’s beautiful, but potentially destructive. Floating, but destined to fall to Earth.
Amador wrote “Red Balloon” to process his budding feelings for someone. “For me, writing songs is like going down a pit, like the thing that you’ve buried deep inside that bothers you, but doesn’t want to confront it,” Amador says. “And the song brings it to the surface.”
“Red Balloon” and its accompanying B-side single, “Milonga Accidental,” are Amador’s first releases in nearly three years. They’re calmer, more contemplative than the songs from his 2018 EP “Salt,” which featured a big voice and jazz-influenced melodies. Amador appeared to everyone’s eyes as a budding neo-soul in the mold of Amy Winehouse or Emily King; now she shares more with discreet and intriguing singers like Adrianne Lenker or Joan Shelley.
But Amador says that, rather than reflecting a change in his songwriting, “Red Balloon” and “Milonga Accidental” are simply expressions of his polyglot influences. The Cambridge singer grew up in a musical and multilingual family. his parents, Brian and Rosi Amador, founded the Latin band Sol y Canto. The family used to tour together, with Alisa and her twin brother singing along to her father’s bilingual children’s songs. The experience was formative, as was “seeing how seriously my parents took their work as songwriters and performers and the intense presence they had with every song,” Amador says.
But life as New England-based Latinx folk singers was not without its complexities. “I just used to worry about getting into a box,” Amador says. “Milonga Accidental”, which is written in Spanish, addresses some of these concerns. “Cuando senté mi hogar en mi voz?” she sings to a syncopated milonga rhythm. “When will I feel at home in my voice?”
The answer? She gets there. “I’m settling into my multitude of music,” says Amador. “Little by little, I’m realizing that I don’t have to hide any part of myself when I share what I’ve done.”
Alisa Amador’s “Red Balloon/Milonga Accidental” is out December 11.
Note: The audio for The ARTery’s musical premieres stops after the song is released. You can still listen to the track via the embedded streaming service above.