On his second album, Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Manuel—considered one of the hottest new soneros on the island—strikes a balance between the often unbearable repetitiousness of new C

On his second album, Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Manuel—considered one of the hottest new soneros on the island—strikes a balance between the often unbearable repetitiousness of new Cuban timba and the sappiness of much of the salsa being done in the U.S. On some tracks, including the opening title track, the results are exceptional. "Malo Cantidad" mixes timba with touches of reggae, and, aided by Carlos Manuel's cajoling, rough voice and a catchy hook, it becomes a stand-out in the current cookie-cutter salsa world. The same holds true for an edgy Spanish cover of "Matilda, Matilda" and the aggressive "Acabando," a counterpoint of chants and piano/percussion vamps. But as the album progresses, the material grows weaker and the songs less memorable—a pervasive problem with new Cuban son, which relies more on raw feel than melody or lyrics. Songs like "Melón," whose title alludes to both the fruit and breasts, don't help either. Still, Carlos Manuel does grab your ear and your senses and opens up the possibilities of a currently lackluster genre.—LC

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