Molotov Jukebox’s debut album Carnival Flower was truly something to behold. Mixing a variety of different styles and influences into their music, from Latin to calypso to pop, there was a song for every kind of listener on the album, whether you were interested in crazy brass arrangements and accordion or something more familiar; the fact that Game of Thrones actress Natalia Tena is their lead singer was more of a fun fact, rather than a selling point. Rather than keep things simple the second time around, however, they’ve fully embraced their exotic side with their even more enticing follow-up album Tropical Gypsy.
Even the album’s equivalent of a pop track slides seamlessly into the mix: The album’s biggest pop moment, lead single and opening track Pineapple Girl, is defined by its constant barrage of brass and its frantic percussive introduction. The heavy calypso vibe of the track sets the mood for the rest of the album as one of its more accessible tracks without having to dull their spark in the process. Elsewhere, they tackle ska on Just the Thrill, another of the album’s more accessible tracks, and a fusion of plodding reggae verses and frantic Latin choruses on Halfway There, whose subtle but noticeable use of accordion and violin make for an even better result. The album’s Latin and Balkan influences end up reigning supreme, and while the songs have a tendency to sometimes sound similar to each other, Molotov Jukebox’s overall aesthetic and general musicianship turn this into a glowing positive rather than a glaring negative.
Even more impressive is their ability to tie their own brand of balladry into the album: Too Late uses soulful vocals and sorrowful lyrics on top of a cheery brass-laden arrangement, making a sad song into something you could positively dance to. The final track Gypsy Funeral slows it down even more, using a sparse reggae beat for its verses to highlight its macabre ceremonial lyrics before launching into a full-on, frantic wall of percussion and brass at a pace that’s bound to give you whiplash, with all the flourishes of violin and accordion on top sealing the deal. No matter what they try to tackle on this album, it comes off superbly, and there isn’t a single moment that doesn’t demand your full attention. Tena herself still sounds as good as ever, too, gliding over each song with her full vocals that move between joyous, seductive and every other emotion with ease.
If you were on the fence regarding Molotov Jukebox’s debut, Tropical Gypsy is bound to convince you of their talent. It’s an exotic collection of different styles and emotions that are all conveyed in their own joyful style, sometimes even coming across as slightly twisted when the songs are taken in full context with their lyrics. By the time the epic six minutes of Gypsy Funeral come to a close, the magic of Molotov Jukebox comes into full bloom. Take heed, because you’re not going to want to miss this album; Tropical Gypsy is sure to be one of 2016’s defining releases, regardless of its impact on charts or online.