In Praise of “Xuntas” by Sangre de Muerdago (#8 in 2020’s Top Ten)

I do not have the vocabulary to write about this album. I have never heard of Sangre de Muerdago, I do not know the names of half the instruments that appear on Xuntas’ eleven songs, and since the lyrics are sung entirely in Spanish, I don’t even know what these songs are about. None of those things are hindrances or obstacles to recognizing the fact that this album is transcendently gorgeous, and the fact that this was shared with me in mid-November (shoutout to Caleb Griffin for finding this!) and beat out nearly thirty other albums for a top 10 spot ought to tell you how highly I regard this album.

Critiquing music requires you to be able speak beyond whether or not you subjectively enjoy something; you must be able to speak objectively as to whether or not a song or an album is well made or poorly made (and further break down what parts or elements are good or bad), envision remedies for development or improvement, and so much more. I do not have the skill to do any of that here, other than to heavily entreat you to listen to this album and ask you how this could be anything less than masterful. I may not be able to describe the precise reasons why “Cadeliña” is a phenomenal opening track, or why the ending motif of “Canción de Berce” nearly moves me to tears every time I hear it, or why “De Néboa e Choiva” and “Unha das Peores Cousas Que Escoitéi No 2019 For Pedir Perdón É un Acto de Debilidade” (that is the actual track name) are the best standalone compositions I’ve heard all year, or why “Xuntas” and “Coma un Bico”’s melodies require me to hum along to a language I don’t speak, but I can tell you this – every single moment on this album is gorgeous and beautiful and any other word in the thesaurus you could throw at it.

Why then is this not my Album of the Year? Had it released earlier in the year, or during a year where prog metal wasn’t booming, there is a chance it could’ve been. Objectively, this album is better than most of the albums on this list; subjectively, I enjoy the other albums on this list more by virtue of being a metalhead. But if a metalhead could listen to this and esteem it so highly, imagine how much higher you might regard it?

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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