Californian singer-songwriter Cuco (aka Omar Banos) creates distinctly woozy chamber pop that mixes Spanish and English vocals with laid-back beats, fuzzy guitar reverb, synth wash, 808s and occasionally a distant bossa nova horn. His summer-romance-and-weed formula has made him a force on streaming platforms, and rather than spoil the success, he keeps the vibe going strong on his new sophomore album, Fantasy gateway (Interscope). Cynics might find Cuco’s relatively simplistic lyrical style off-putting – on “Aura”, he sings, “Do you wanna come home with me / Do you wanna get lost with me tonight?” – but this music is not made for cynics in any case so everything is fine.
“Sweet Dissociation” is a perfect distillation of Cuco’s style. Its hook, just shy of irritating and snappy, is wrapped in layers of psychedelic shimmer so the track throbs in your brain like a fuzzy psychic caterpillar DayGlo. “Sitting in the Corner” adds a few twists, mostly via a careful choice of vocal collaborators, and the groove fits under Adriel Favela’s norteño rhythms as well as Kacey Musgraves’ country-tinged indie-rock vocals. Cuco doesn’t combine Mexican and American influences so much as he refuses to tell them apart, and in his hands they become a cascading rainbow of sounds. He’ll be coming to Chicago next month to headline the first day of Ruido Festival Friday, August 19.
Cuco’s Fantasy gateway is available after 07/22 the artist’s website.