Considering the size of the size of coastal town Hawthorne, California – a mere 88,000 as of the last census in 2016 – its hit rate for game-changing artists is pretty fantastic. Every member of the Beach Boys, including brothers Brian and Dennis Wilson grew up in the southern California town. Decades later, Hawthorne proved to be the stomping ground for Odd Future founder and creative polymath Tyler, The Creator in his early years.
If Cuco’s debut album ‘Para Mi’ is anything to go by, Hawthorne could be looking at its next famous son. The 13-track album is an absolute riot, falling somewhere between the meticulous dreamy psych-pop production of Tame Impala’s 2015 breakthrough album ‘Currents’ and the loved-up summertime vibes of Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 record ‘Flower Boy’. It’s a sticky and schmoozy listen for the weirdos and outsiders as much as it is for the young couples curled up in the park at sunset.
For the outcasts and brokenhearted, there’s ‘Keeping Tabs’. Built upon a hypnotic synth riff that has more loops and twists than a ride at Thorpe Park, it spends plenty of time wallowing in lonerism (“I’m not satisfied / Where my mind resides / Hell is bound to find me”). The chorus, however, might be the catchiest about psychedelics since The Beatles’ ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’: “I been trippin off the tabs in my room / I don’t know why baby but I’m feeling blue / Take another tab an ounce of the shrooms”. For the lovers, there’s the bossa-nova infused number ‘Best Friend’ and the sickly sweet lo-fi bedroom-pop number ‘Do Better’. Cuco’s pinpoint descriptions of heartbreak – the ones that hit you right in the feels over and over again – are endlessly compelling.
The 21-year-old skates through any genre he pleases on ‘Para Mi’. Every song has the same thread running through it – stoner jams for Gen Z – but the diversity of pace and texture of these songs have helped him engage young fans across the planet. The bouncing beats of ‘Bossa No Sé’ are recognisable in the gentle sway of ‘Hydrocodone’, while he dabbles in schmaltzcore for the twinkling ‘Brokey The Pear’ and the ‘80s-infused ‘Far Away From Home’. ‘Para Mi’ is cheesy as hell in places but, y’know, who doesn’t like a little nibble on a power-ballad once in a while?
Much like contemporary Billie Eilish and rising DIY star Clairo, ‘Para Mi’ is indicative of the way a new generation consumes music. No genre is too lame to tackle and reinvent, and no problem is too small to dive into as a launching pad for something great. The future is here, and it sounds fucking great.