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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

We're going to bring this hour to a close with una banda de rock Columbiana, a rock band from Columbia, Aterciopelados. Our world music critic, Banning Eyre, says the group's latest album, "Rio," has a sound that resonates far beyond Latin America.

(Soundbite of song 'Gratis')

BANNING EYRE: Aterciopelados play the sort of grooving, guitar-driven, edgy-but-uplifting rock music that recalls bands like the The Police and Talking Heads. But you won't hear them singing in English or making any sort of undignified play for an international audience. They don't have to. Entrancing guitar melodies from Hector Buitrago and Andrea Echeverri's raggedly tuneful vocal flights are so seductive that the language barrier just melts away on its own.

(Soundbite of song 'Gratis')

EYRE: Despite their expansive sound, Aterciopelados is essentially a duo, two former lovers who found truer happiness as artistic collaborators. Buitrago was once described as a recovering punk, while Echeverri's background lies more in the realm of folklore and romantic boleros. The name they adapted together means the velvety ones, and on "Rio," they rock hard without losing that velvety touch. I can't remember when a CD offered so many hook melodies you just want to curl up with and caress.

(Soundbite of song 'Bandera')

EYRE: The songs on "Rio" deal with local realities in Colombia. The title track laments the despoiling of the country's rivers, and the song "Bandera" speaks out against strict immigration policies that make it harder and harder for ordinary folks from a place like Colombia to travel the world.

(Soundbite of song 'Bandera')

EYRE: Local Colombian music also permeates the Aterciopelados' sound escape. An Andean folk group contributes on two songs, and we hear the whoops of a village party mixed into the lilting "No Llores" or "Don't Cry." But what gives this band's music its universal appeal is something more intangible, a dry-eyed optimism that proves both persuasive and powerfully reassuring in a world facing troubled times.

(Soundbite of song 'No Llores')

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. And you can hear songs from Aterciopelados' new album, "Rio," at nprmusic.org.

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