Some voices are plainly subtle and have no bite to them. Others stay subtle, but have that certain something, that extra edge between the syllables that speaks louder than the delivery itself. Reina del Cid delivers on her understated vocals in a gigantic way for her second album, The Cooling.
Del Cid, the Minnesotan singer-songwriter, is as savvy a lyricist as she is a vocalist. Whether she is walling her heart out or dreaming of brighter days, del Cid attacks each tone with the same amount of energy all around. The Cooling showcases del Cid, the optimist, the pessimist, and the deep thinker all with the same sneaky, sharp wit and melody throughout, making for a mighty musical force that utilizes her understated nature to the record’s benefit.
“Where The Sun Always Shines” is a prime example of how del Cid can maintain an even keel: with lofty heights comes a gradual climb in overall tone and melody. Initially, Del Cid is reluctantly hopeful as this song builds in elevation in a methodical manner. Subdued, whispery vocals keep everything in check as the deep chords lumber their way up the ladder. However, once it has hit its peak, the optimistic vision is in full view, just as the shining cities might suggest. Del Cid does not waver much, even if there is a hint of an uptick in her vocals; she plays it right down the middle of the road even in the smallest of ways.
The minimalist melody of “Morse Code” sets the tone for what is a largely simple song. Del Cid’s wiry vocals dwell on the expanse of the night sky, connecting the dots of constellations into a form of code that only she can decipher. The long distance acoustics echo on into the cosmos and across vast oceans with waves of melancholy. As this straightforward track trails off into silence, the listener is left stoically frozen by guitarist Toni Lindgren’s acoustic work.
The title track is carried by a string arrangement that swings along with each bout of gloomy glory it brings. “The Cooling” plays like a funeral waltz, swaying to and fro for one last dance before the blood runs frigid. Even when del Cid is waxing poetic about walking dead, she isn’t over-the-top in her delivery. Frankly, she gives as little effort as she can and still presents a sorrow-driven vocal that doesn’t sound forced or manufactured.
“Xanadu” is where del Cid finds her feet again after “Morse Code” and “Giving Up” do their best to knock out all of the upbeat feelings that “Where The Sun Always Shines” had built. That’s not to say that del Cid was off her game during that stretch, but it is refreshing to hear her step outside of herself into a surf rock-ish melody. Del Cid rides the waves of the tropical composition and outwardly scoffs at its "head in the clouds" theme. Still, she retains a zest in her voice, a dynamic she pulls out of her hat from time to time.
The Cooling give del Cid a platform for her prowess as a subtle and cunning singer-songwriter. On the surface, you may not think of del Cid as having bravado. However, it is there in the slightest of ways on this record. Between the syllables, there is a sharpness that outweighs the soft sonics of her vocals. On point with her vocals and the complements of her backing members, del Cid has a winner in The Cooling, a record that will take you by surprise and becomes an exceptional work in the process.