She shows a maturing songwriting and singing voice. With early-bloomer musicians such as Natalia Lafourcade, there's sometimes a thin but crucial line between precociousness and preciousness.
When this gifted Mexican pop-rocker released her self-titled solo debut in 2003, she was not yet 20 summers old. But Lafourcade -- a daughter of musicians who grew up singing mariachi and who plays guitar, piano and several other instruments ably and writes or co-writes most of her material -- already had attained a mature songwriting style that wrapped delicate emotional introspection in sly wordplay while seldom stooping to mere whimsy.
Her primary subjects were pretty standard late-teen fare, gently exasperated expressions of romantic uncertainty. Her lyrics could mix playfulness with passion, longing for Ricky Martin and lusting after Gael Garca Bernal. Yet these effusions mostly came across not as fangirl gushing but rather as a sophisticated young woman keeping her humor intact while striving for self-knowledge. Like one of those preternaturally flexible but muscly Olympic gymnasts, she was a petite dynamo, effortlessly appealing and wise enough to keep the cuteness meter dialed down to around 6.
On Thursday night, Lafourcade's nearly two-hour set at the Conga Room testified to her growing maturity as a songwriter and, even more, a mastery of her shape-shifting, dynamically intrepid voice. Technically a solo artist again, after releasing her second album, Casa" (2005), with the band La Forquetina, Lafourcade was accompanied only by a bass player and a kinetic percussionist. Playing virtually her entire latest record, Hu Hu Hu," released last spring, mixed in with a few oldies," she echoed and amplified her bright harmonies with reverb, sampling and looping techniques that at times recalled the piercing minimalism of early Laurie Anderson.