Alisa Amador's first album embraces the multitudes she contains

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Alisa Amador. (Courtesy Brent Goldman)
Alisa Amador. (Courtesy Brent Goldman)

Boston singer-songwriter Alisa Amador wastes no time in her debut full-length album. In just the first minute of music, she blends philosophy, playful songwriting and captivating vocals. It’s a combination of skills that helped her win NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2022.

The first track, titled “Extraño,” begins with two guitars strumming in stereo. A warm voice sings, “Cuan extraño que es pensar que nunca pertenecías/ Que el hogar de tu memoria es un espacio que alquilas,” or in English: “How strange is it that you never belonged/ That the home of your memory is a space you rent.” By the end, Amador’s ruminations are joined by the backup vocals of Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno and Californian-based Madison Cunningham in a gentle, swirling arrangement.

In an interview with WBUR, Amador described the song as “an existential lullaby.” That opening sentiment functions as an ode to life’s temporary nature.


The rest of the album follows Amador as she searches for her place in the world. Many of its songs serve as a series of affirmations that Amador belongs here now despite whatever feelings otherwise.

“Being true to yourself goes against cultural norms,” Amador said. “I think especially in the U.S., especially in the Northeast. There’s not a lot of culture around just being.”

The album is titled “Multitudes,” a word that Amador points out shares the same spelling and meaning in Spanish and in English. It represents much of what this album is about: language, identity and the relationship between the two.

During a solo show at Club Passim in February, Amador talked about one of the songs that examines just that: “Nudo de raíces.”

“That means ‘tangle of roots’ in Spanish,” Amador told the audience. “I wrote this song about being in-between. Because my mom is from Puerto Rico, my dad is from New Mexico. We grew up here in Boston. And we’re this beautiful tangle of roots.”

Amador wrote many of the songs on “Multitudes” to make meaning of challenges in her life. She shared how “Woke Up Today,” a song off the album, helped her recognize her own depression. She didn’t have plans to release that song, but she felt that if it helped her work through issues in her own life, it may help others too.

“There's just so much stigmatization around doubting yourself, around struggling with your mental health ... you can feel like you're fighting this secret battle with yourself and with society,” said Amador. “I really hope that this album can just help listeners feel like it's not a secret.”

Being true to yourself goes against cultural norms. I think especially in the U.S., especially in the Northeast. There’s not a lot of culture around just being.

Alisa Amador

In that way, the songs of “Multitudes” are acts of generosity from an artist who has persevered through feelings of self-doubt and wants to offer insight to her listeners. For Amador, singing and a sense of belonging are inextricably tied. As she sings on the album, “I need to believe, I need to believe/ That there’s nothing wrong with the songs I’m singing/ I need to believe, I need to believe/ That I do belong in this world I live in.”

But she didn’t always feel this way.

Alisa Amador performing in Boston in 2023. (Courtesy Brent Goldman)
Alisa Amador performing in Boston in 2023. (Courtesy Brent Goldman)

Despite having been performing since she was a child providing backup vocals in her parents’ band Sol y Canto, Amador nearly walked away from music during the pandemic. Winning the NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2022 was a turning point that gave her the push she needed to carry on. The exposure introduced her to a wider audience, and since then, she’s toured internationally and shared dates with Hozier, Brandi Carlile, Maggie Rogers and Lake Street Dive.

In the new album, Amador draws inspiration from folk, jazz, funk, alternative rock and even pop punk. With the help of co-producers Tyler Chester and Daniel Radin, she recorded “Multitudes” in Los Angeles and finished the production back in Boston. The album comes out two years after the release of that Tiny Desk performance and feels like a bookend to that landmark moment in her career.

She ends “Multitudes” with a new version of the song she submitted for that Tiny Desk contest, singing the same words but now imbued with a different meaning.

“When I first wrote ‘Milonga Accidental,’ it was a mournful song about feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, and then it just became more and more like a celebratory song about not belonging anywhere,” Amador said. “How beautiful it is that you don’t fit neatly into a box and how beautiful it is that you don’t know where you’re going. It just feels like a full circle moment to rerelease that song with all the new meanings contained within it now.”

The final words on the album are “Cuando sentiré mi hogar en mi voz?” — “When will I feel at home in my voice?” Amador may not have all the answers, but throughout this album she has found joy in asking the question.

This segment aired on June 7, 2024.

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Solon Kelleher Arts Writer
Solon Kelleher is an arts and culture contributor at WBUR.



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