Y La Bamba
Luz Elena Mendoza Ramos of Y La Bamba Credit: Jenn Carrillo

The first song I heard from Y La Bamba was the title track from 2016’s tender and expansive Ojos del Sol. The music had a transformative quality that made it feel at once like the nostalgia of returning home and an imagined comfort yet to come. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Luz Elena Mendoza Ramos, the leader of Y La Bamba, continues that wondrous world making on the new album Lucha, which came out last month via Oregon label Tender Loving Empire. The album’s title—an endearing nickname for the artist that also translates to “fight” or “struggle”—encapsulates the dichotomy of ease and hardship in its songs. 

Written and recorded during a fraught time in Mendoza Ramos’s life, Lucha is a brave and electric endeavor that hurtles across time and space, chronicling loneliness, ancestral trauma, and grief as well as honoring the enduring power of self-healing and familial bonds. “Eight” opens the album with gently strummed guitar, piano, woodwinds, and Mendoza Ramos’s signature compressed vocal, which is layered over itself in hushed, heartbreaking, dreamlike harmonies. On “Collapse,” sunny, rhythmic guitar meshes with a catchy vocal hook and a smooth bass line for an undeniably danceable and confident tune. 

Mendoza Ramos imbues Lucha with pride for their Chicanx heritage and an unyielding reserve of self-protection, in the process shining a light on a lifetime’s worth of personal growth and understanding. They close the album with the sweet, psychedelic “Walk Along,” the first song they’ve written about a romantic relationship with a woman. They repeat the line “Something tells me that I’m falling for you” in loping echoes over sweeping saxophone into a slow fade-out—a finale that sounds like a celebratory ode to vulnerability and the shimmering swell of new queer love.

Y La Bamba Daniel Villareal opens. Sat 5/20, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $20, 21+