Two years ago, the last time Banda El Recodo released an album, I wrote, “Like happy families and episodes of The Waltons, all Banda el Recodo albums are alike. When you play one, you’re assured 40 minutes or so of ace arrangements and pleasant tunes in a variety of styles.” I haven’t heard all of their new album, Mi Vicio Más Grande (Fonovisa), but I may have to go back on my word. For one thing, it’s only 30 minutes long! Possibly inspired by the rambunctious spirit of their title song, a previous Pick to Click, they’ve decided to dispense with this album quickly with only 11 songs, down from the 19-song high water mark of 2009’s Me Gusta Todo de Ti. But that’s OK, NorteñoBlog likes short albums. Worse news is that aside from “Vicio,” the songs I’ve heard suck. “Todo Tuyo” may have been a hit but it defines the idea of a nothing ballad, sucking brain cells into its void. Nor do the other two advance tracks seems designed to stick, whether it’s songwriter Freddy Osuna enjoying “La Miel de Su Saliva” or the sage songwriting team of Luciano Luna, Joss Favela, and Miguel Angel Romero skipping through “De Haber Sabido.” By now bandleader Alfonso Lizárraga has proven he can simply spin Recodo’s wheels, releasing an album with the requisite two hits (“Vicio” has gone top 20 on the Hot Latin chart) to keep the brand going.
NorteñoBlog has previously been bewildered by the prolific career scope of psychedelic corridista and family man Larry Hernández, whose new Vete Acostumbrando (Sodin/Fonovisa) dropped two weeks ago. In contrast to the somewhat unofficial “got purp” feel of his last album 16 Narco Corridos Vol. 2, Vete is an official hitmaking release full of romance and obsession and a Gerardo Ortiz duet. At only 10 songs (NorteñoBlog cheers!), most of which are good, none of which stand out, it’s less of a chore than either new album by Ortiz or Recodo. Hernández doesn’t innovate his genre like Ortiz, and he doesn’t even sing as well — listen to the fine quartet ballad “Ya Me Cansé” and you might think he’s coughing up his lyrics. But he zips through his music with unabashed and unpretentious pleasure. On my loosely ranked list of favorite albums of 2015, Hernández sits next to Kid Rock, which seems about right. Plus my awesome librarian Gloria likes him. I’ll confer Pick to Click status upon the banda firecracker “Aferrado Corazón,” which features Hernández not quite reaching his high notes in a very appealing way.
El Komander yadda yadda another single blah blah blah not really trying any more but that’s integral to his charm yak yak yak. But — what’s this? — Sr. Riós seems pretty invested in his sixth (?) official single in as many months. It’s called “El Elegante,” it’s fast banda and barely a song, but it does herald his forthcoming album for Twiins Enterprises, Detrás Del Miedo. Due July 7th! I’d say reserve yourself a copy, but let’s face it: such effort would hardly keep with the spirit of Komander’s recent loosey goosey output. Although to be fair, the guy’s released a single per month in 2015; what have I done?
That sort of existential uncertainty hangs heavy over “Wildfires,” the new Mariachi El Bronx single on ATO. Wait. No it doesn’t. Mariachi El Bronx sounds like fucking Fastball. Let’s be clear here: NorteñoBlog is not categorically opposed to U.S. pop appropriations of regional Mexican styles. More such appropriations might be welcome, because horns and strings sound great on the radio, and the people of El Norte need to learn these styles. The members of Mariachi El Bronx have doubtless studied more mariachi music than I have. Some of them are Latino. They play their instruments well. But let’s also be clear: they’re not playing mariachi music. They’re using mariachi as a gimmick to sell tickets to indie rock shows, same as Cake uses a trumpet. (Sometimes I like Cake.) If white hipsters go to Mariachi El Bronx shows to gawk at music that’s “cute” or “indigenous,” or if white hipsters leave Mariachi El Bronx shows thinking they suddenly know something about mariachi music, I suppose that’s the white hipsters’ problem, but I wish I had more confidence in Mariachi El Bronx to combat the problem. Ultimately though, I’m ragging on Mariachi El Bronx because of my longstanding disinterest in rote indie rock songs. (Plus, the lead Mariachi sings with a tenth the authority of George Strait; but then, don’t we all.)