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Border Songs 

Former Tucson resident Ani Cordero's band is stylistically multilingual.

Tucson has historically been a place where people come to recover, to regain health. Something about that dry heat we're always bitching about is appealing to those who've spent their lives in the moldy confines of the East Coast.

So when Gamma Clones of Man or Astroman? came through Tucson in 1999, Gamma Clone drummer Ani Cordero looked around and thought, hey, this seems like a good place to kick around for a while and work on music.

"I thought it would be a good place to have a sabbatical," said Cordero, who now lives in Ridgewood, a neighborhood in Queens that straddles the Brooklyn border (Cordero lives on the Brooklyn side), "and it was."

While living in Tucson, Cordero wrote and recorded a collection of songs entitled Deserter, with the assistance of Howe Gelb, Joey Burns, Naim Amor and Tasha Bundy.

"They're really my baby songs," said Cordero. "I was trying to find my way, and they just made it sound so cool, helping me have confidence in myself, to know that something I wrote could be really cool."

Deserter, though, hasn't been released in any capacity. "It's a nice document," said Cordero. "I like it, but it's more me solo. I'm not sure what to do with it yet."

"I love playing drums," said Cordero. "But when you're the drummer, when you leave a project, you realize, 'I don't get to take anything away from this; these are not my songs.' The thing about being a songwriter is I can't quit myself. It's mine; it can stick with me."

Cordero's current musical project is a five-piece band composed of musicians from bands such as the Rock*A*Teens and Bee and Flower, which Cordero played drums in.

"Since I was a drummer, I was immediately in bands when I moved to New York," explained Cordero. "When I played my first show in New York, I asked the people I was playing drums for to play for me. And then the more we played together the more sense it made to be more of a band."

Under the moniker Cordero, the band plays a salsa style of indie rock that reflects Ani Cordero's musical roots: She is Puerto Rican, and grew up in Atlanta. Like Ani herself, Cordero's repertoire is bilingual; songs are either entirely in Spanish or English.

"I just hear (a song) in my head, and it's already with words and music," said Cordero. "Some people prefer Spanish, some English. We're both."

Living in Tucson and Brooklyn has further influenced Cordero's Latin side.

"I'm a lot more influenced by the Latin scene here than I was when I lived in Atlanta," she said. "My window's open right now, and I'm going to hear whatever song is going by, and that just gets into your head." At that particular moment there was an ice cream truck outside her window; Ridgewood is a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood, the kind of New York City where kids ride their bikes around in the street while their parents sit on the stoop with the radio blasting. Puerto Rican bodegas are sandwiched between Dunkin' Donuts, Hungarian delis and dollar stores, all kinds of elements peacefully coexisting on that strange border between boroughs.

Between the Latin tracks on Cordero's first record, Cordero Perdido in la Ciudad (Lamb Lost in the City), are songs like "Hellfire" and "Sea Captain's Daughter" that reveal the flexibility of Cordero's voice and songwriting sensibilities. The record fluctuates between upbeat salsa and slower indie pop flawlessly, even delving into P.J. Harvey-esque depths on "Isn't it So."

Perdido was half slow-core," said Cordero, "and our live shows are more of a party. Mostly we feel like dancing and having a party." So Cordero decided to release a live album that was recorded at a show at Arlene's Grocery in Brooklyn to sell on their tour this fall; a new studio album is set to be released in March.

More by Annie Holub

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