13 Songs, 37 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Cuco, aka Omar Banos, built his name in 2017 on a woozy, heart-on-sleeve indie-pop slow jam called "Lo Que Siento.” Despite the fact that its title translates to “What I Feel,” the song’s lyrics—“This is for you, baby, listen/It’s your song”—are clearly directed at someone else. However, as the title of his full-length debut suggests, Para Mi is ultra-personal and made for an audience of one discerning listener. "This one is for me," he tells Apple Music. "Nobody else.”

With songs that examine lovesickness through the lens of a bad drug trip (“Ego Death in Thailand”), heartbreak after a harrowing accident (“Hydrocodone,” which he completed following his hospitalization after a tour van crash in 2018), and being alone in one’s room while toggling between LSD and psilocybin (“Keeping Tabs”), it’s definitely not intended to cast him into the spotlight. And so far, his style of confessional, vulnerable songwriting (and the ease with which he jumps between psych rock, lo-fi hip-hop, '70s synth-funk, '80s quiet storm, shoegaze, and jazz-inflected pop) has made him a bit of a reluctant star, particularly among Latino kids who don’t often see themselves reflected onstage, especially in the American indie-pop world. "It's kind of scary,” he says of performing to audiences who sing every word along with him. "People look at me like a teacher or some s**t. But other than that, it's fun. I like seeing people that look like me in the crowd.”

Growing up in Hawthorne, California, the 21-year-old only child of Mexican immigrants didn’t really have a model for his career. "I just made the music,” he says of his teenage tinkering, using whatever tools he had around—a laptop with GarageBand or Ableton Live, his trumpet, a pair of headphones as a mic—doing mix-downs through the auxiliary port of his car stereo. "I didn't relate to a lot of people. 'Keeping Tabs’ is just like me being in school, kind of being a lowlife. The whole vibe of it—it's like the song sounds really happy and s**t, but the lyrics are pretty dark.”

It was during those formative years that he discovered flutists like Bobbi Humphrey and Hubert Laws and trumpeter Clifford Brown (all of whose influence you can hear in the jazz-funk of “Feelings”) and Brazilian greats like Antônio Carlos Jobim and Seu Jorge (whose impact makes itself heard on “Bossa No Sé” and “Best Friend”). Somewhere down the line, though—after enough SoundCloud uploads caught fire, after the video for the blissful “Summertime Hightime” blew up—what used to be his became everyone else's.

Cut to Cuco in the middle of headlining a pretty grueling world tour. He's exhausted and homesick—the kind of situation that, for better or worse, inspires one of Para Mi’s most poignant tracks. "Far Away From Home” is, as you can guess, an opulent ballad about “missing someone on tour when you can't see them,” he says. "You're tired and you come to a city, enjoy it for like an hour, perform. Then you f**king dip out the next day.” Don’t get him wrong—he appreciates the love, but he longs for the simple pleasures of just being Omar, back in LA with his friends, kicking it: "I’m just a regular-ass dude.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Cuco, aka Omar Banos, built his name in 2017 on a woozy, heart-on-sleeve indie-pop slow jam called "Lo Que Siento.” Despite the fact that its title translates to “What I Feel,” the song’s lyrics—“This is for you, baby, listen/It’s your song”—are clearly directed at someone else. However, as the title of his full-length debut suggests, Para Mi is ultra-personal and made for an audience of one discerning listener. "This one is for me," he tells Apple Music. "Nobody else.”

With songs that examine lovesickness through the lens of a bad drug trip (“Ego Death in Thailand”), heartbreak after a harrowing accident (“Hydrocodone,” which he completed following his hospitalization after a tour van crash in 2018), and being alone in one’s room while toggling between LSD and psilocybin (“Keeping Tabs”), it’s definitely not intended to cast him into the spotlight. And so far, his style of confessional, vulnerable songwriting (and the ease with which he jumps between psych rock, lo-fi hip-hop, '70s synth-funk, '80s quiet storm, shoegaze, and jazz-inflected pop) has made him a bit of a reluctant star, particularly among Latino kids who don’t often see themselves reflected onstage, especially in the American indie-pop world. "It's kind of scary,” he says of performing to audiences who sing every word along with him. "People look at me like a teacher or some s**t. But other than that, it's fun. I like seeing people that look like me in the crowd.”

Growing up in Hawthorne, California, the 21-year-old only child of Mexican immigrants didn’t really have a model for his career. "I just made the music,” he says of his teenage tinkering, using whatever tools he had around—a laptop with GarageBand or Ableton Live, his trumpet, a pair of headphones as a mic—doing mix-downs through the auxiliary port of his car stereo. "I didn't relate to a lot of people. 'Keeping Tabs’ is just like me being in school, kind of being a lowlife. The whole vibe of it—it's like the song sounds really happy and s**t, but the lyrics are pretty dark.”

It was during those formative years that he discovered flutists like Bobbi Humphrey and Hubert Laws and trumpeter Clifford Brown (all of whose influence you can hear in the jazz-funk of “Feelings”) and Brazilian greats like Antônio Carlos Jobim and Seu Jorge (whose impact makes itself heard on “Bossa No Sé” and “Best Friend”). Somewhere down the line, though—after enough SoundCloud uploads caught fire, after the video for the blissful “Summertime Hightime” blew up—what used to be his became everyone else's.

Cut to Cuco in the middle of headlining a pretty grueling world tour. He's exhausted and homesick—the kind of situation that, for better or worse, inspires one of Para Mi’s most poignant tracks. "Far Away From Home” is, as you can guess, an opulent ballad about “missing someone on tour when you can't see them,” he says. "You're tired and you come to a city, enjoy it for like an hour, perform. Then you f**king dip out the next day.” Don’t get him wrong—he appreciates the love, but he longs for the simple pleasures of just being Omar, back in LA with his friends, kicking it: "I’m just a regular-ass dude.”

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