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Lo Mejor De 2015

Fiesta Segundo Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK

el-komander-fiesta

Welcome to year three!

If you’re looking for a handy review of good-to-excellent singles released over the past year, you could do worse than NorteñoBlog’s Picks to Click. They’re all listed and linked below, from Calibre 50’s big dumb cumbia “La Gripa” through El Bebeto’s new “Como Olvidarte.” Along the way you’ll find album tracks, old songs, big hits, and indie videos with a couple thousand views that look like they cost even fewer dollars to make.

Artists appearing twice include waltzing indie rockers Fuerza de Tijuana, the continent’s hardest working singles artist El Komander, La Séptima Banda, Calibre 50 spinoffs La Iniciativa, the aforementioned actually-a-grown-man El Bebeto, and walking cry for help Banda Los Recoditos. Also picked twice were Los Titanes de Durango, who Bandamax reports have split into two groups, the U.S.-based Los de Durango and the Mexico-based Los Titanes de Durango, because singer Sergio Sánchez’s work visa was denied. No word on whether that’s because Sánchez’s dad refuses to stop dressing up like El Chapo.

If there’s a trend here, it’s the surge of Sierreño music. Ariel Camacho’s 2015 death made everyone realize how well tubas, guitars, and true crime short stories go together, so now pretty boys like Adriel Favela and Bebeto are biting the style, and indie bands like Los Grandes del Pardito are receiving more attention.

Let’s get to clicking!

calibre historias10/23/15: “La Gripa” by Calibre 50
Is this big dumb cumbia repetitive? Yes. Does it repeat itself? Yes. Does Calibre 50 keep singing the same thing over and over? Yes. Just when you think they’ve repeated the chorus phrase all the times they’re going to repeat it, do they repeat it several more times? Yes. BUT! Tubist Alex Gaxiola gets in some wicked syncopated jabs, and the whole rhythm section adds up to a sound much thicker than expected. Continue reading “Fiesta Segundo Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK”

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Julio Tiene Calor

Pg13-Mens-soccer-celebration

Thanks to you, a loyal coalition of corrido heads and puro sax devotees, NorteñoBlog enjoyed its most-clicked month yet in julio. Here are the posts that got the most attention, both current articles and old ones:

Current Posts:
1. Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)
Hyphy Music Inc. is still going strong; Martin Patrón’s Trap Corridos is rad.

2. NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio
12 tunes worth hearing; NorteñoBlog will totally update the YouTube playlist sometime in the next decade.

3. Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)
Sax riffs and terrible puns comin’ at ya!

4. Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16
Intocable sets a chart record; the blog continues to marvel at how much the kids love Los Plebes del Rancho.

5. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16
Songwriter’s Showcase underrates the new Recodo single.

Old Posts:
1. Explosion Norteña: Beto’s Revenge
Manuel celebrates the inimitable flow of Beto Cervantes, lead MC of Explosion Norteña.

2. Top 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
More intersections of rap and corridos: Manuel counts ’em down.

3. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16
La Iniciativa and Banda Los Recoditos team up for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club.

4. 100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
Seriously, who buys these things?

5. Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño
Almost a decade ago, Los Amos and friends went hyphy; WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

¡Gracias por leer!

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015

calibre 50 mejor

The hyper-abundant compilation album is one of the more bewildering aspects of the Regional Mexican music industry. There are a LOT of them — witness this Allmusic list of more than 50 Conjunto Primavera comps since 1995, released on eight different record labels. Lately some music-writer friends and acquaintances have observed a dearth of compilation albums in recent years, given listeners’ ability to cherrypick their own songs on streaming sites. NorteñoBlog does not dispute this observation; I’ll only add that the compilation market in Regional Mexican is still going strong. This year saw four new Primavera comps, on two different labels. Who’s buying these things? Don’t they already own all these songs?

Without answering these questions, NorteñoBlog presents this list of 100 single- (or, in the case of Sony’s Frente a Frente series, double-) artist comps released on CD in 2015. It doesn’t include multi-artist comps like Fonovisa’s annual Radio Éxitos: Discos Del Año series. This list is incomplete; I’m pretty sure I could find more by scouring the catalogs of indie labels Select-O-Hits and D&O.

Some items of interest: Continue reading “100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015”

¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)

2016-copia

Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”

This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.

(An appropriate YouTube playlist to accompany that claim.) Continue reading “¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)”

Lo Mejor De 2015: Marco A. Flores

marco flores grimace

“Soy Un Desmadre” — loosely translated, “I’m Bad News, Baby” — begins as a pleasant midtempo waltz by Banda Tierra Sagrada. But then, in one of the most thrilling entrances since Busta Rhymes commandeered “Scenario”, someone invites guest singer Marco A. Flores to show everyone how they do it in Zacatecas. What follows is a noise both exhilarating and terrifying. Imagine some maniacal rooster doubled over in laughter, and you may begin to understand the unique vocal timbre of Mexico’s greatest musical entertainer in 2015.

Flores sings with a gallo-rific crow unequaled in Mexican music. He makes his #1 Banda Jerez play faster than everyone else, because that’s how they do it in Zacatecas. They only manage one slow verse of the pretty ballad “Soy El Bueno” before kicking it up to a doubletime bounce. In his videos, Flores dances with abandon and encourages everyone in his band to do the same. (Sometimes they hide from him behind potted plants.) The album Soy El Bueno (Remex) races by so quickly, with so many fanfares and war whoops, it might initially seem bewildering. But every song sticks, a headlong rush of blaring creation, a refusal to look backwards that nevertheless demands to be heard over and over again.

A radical new song recorded for an éxitos album, “Amor de la Vida Alegre” juxtaposes quick horn fills with passages of Flores crowing over just drums and tuba. His dancing remains excellent and floppy. Like the Ramones, Rae Sremmurd, or early Madonna, Flores and his Banda make termite art of the most gnawing and forward thinking sort.

Read the entire list here or at PopMatters, check out a list of my other non-norteño picks on Twitter — and thanks for reading!

Lo Mejor de 2015: Roberto Tapia, Ariel Camacho, and Natalia Jiménez

natalia jimenez

A TV judge, narcocorridero, and all around country dude gone mainstream, Roberto Tapia has sung backbeat banda before on “Mirando El Cielo” and “Me Enamoré”, two of the decade’s catchiest earworms. (No lie, my kids hate on banda but they were seat dancing the first time they heard “Mirando” on the radio.) He goes a different route on Diferente (Fonovisa), corralling an excellent banda into 10 jumpy arrangements of merciless invention. “Soy Diferente” is a lightning waltz that transforms into an even faster polka, the murmuring brass leaving plenty of space for Tapia’s voice. Lead single “No Valoraste” marches in a stately manner, allowing Tapia to kiss off his ex with tongue-in-cheek decorum. “Dónde Estarás” flirts with bachata; “Besos” lets Tapia sing over just drums and tuba, then interrupts him with jarring tutti passages. In every horn chart you can hear the arrangers cackling with glee.

The last time I heard a tuba take the lead in a love song was in Scoring and Arranging class, when someone gave the low brass a verse of “Wonderful Tonight” for laughs. Decorating the haunting melody of “Te Metiste” (DEL/Sony) like finely wrought iron, Omar Burgos’s sousaphone trades off fills with the late Ariel Camacho’s requinto guitar, and the results are stately and moving.

Natalia Jiménez’s “Quedate Con Ella” (Sony) is irresistible breakup pop that owes as much to ABBA as it does to the mariachi music it streamlines — which makes sense, since Jiménez started off in the trans-Atlantic pop group La 5ª Estación.

Lo Mejor De 2015: Banda Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna

grupo el reto

Extollers of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people and composers of relentless electrocumbias, the members of Banda Cohuich inhabit the liminal nexus of old and new. I mean who doesn’t? But I’m guessing Cohuich limns the nexus a bit more loudly than do you and I. Their single “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol)” is a blaring ringwalk of a Huichol anthem, and most of the songs on their entertaining compilation No Te Equivoques (Pegasus) follow suit. One exception: the unapologetically goofy “Cumbia de Voz”, a low key groover that’s acapella except for a synth beat, with the band singing the part of falsetto trumpets.

Continue reading “Lo Mejor De 2015: Banda Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna”

Lo Mejor De 2015: El Komander

el komander horse

Having begun his career several years ago as an intimidating narcosinger, Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” has since softened into norteño’s cuddliest barfly, a charming lout with an endless stream of stories about heartaches and the bottles they’ve occasioned. In 2015 he released a single nearly every month. Thanks to his rambunctious band and self-referential writing style, these songs never sounded like work, whether they grew into big radio hits (“Malditas Ganas”) or remained little-heard square dances (“Fuga Pa’ Maza”). Komander included some, but not all, of these singles on Detrás del Miedo (Twiins); there’s also a duet with the recently incarcerated (but no less charming) Larry Hernández, a couple banda remakes, and a tuba player hellbent on cracking everyone up. Next year’s album should be another corker.

Not content to release one fine album in 2015, Sr. Ríos just keeps putting out music about mind-altering substances. On his two best non-album singles, he sings about the ominous presence of a white Ford Tacoma on his pot farm (“La Tacoma”), and about quenching his dangerous thirst (“Hoy Toca”). His band eagerly takes up whatever he hands them.

Lo Mejor De 2015: Colmillo Norteño and Rocío Quiroz

rocio_quiroz_christian_manzanelli_representante_artistico_contratar_sitio_oficial_rocio_quiroz-3

Colmillo Norteño’s 10-song “EP” A Quien Corresponda (Remex) is better than their more recent full-length album because it’s more focused. If you’re gonna play a demented rapid-fire circus waltz like “La Plebona”, you really have to commit, you know? Of course you know. The quintet with the sousaphone “O” also covers Trakalosa’s great banda hit “Mi Padrino El Diablo”, a Faustian tale of soul-selling woe, and they use a couple other songs to namecheck notorious cartel figures. So they could maybe choose better role models; but if you were studying how to lead an insanely tight musical ensemble, you could do worse than taking notes from these guys.

Rocío Quiroz is from Argentina but we’ll let her song “La De La Paloma” (Ser) onto this list, given the space Regional Mexican airwaves allot to cumbia music. (See also the enduring presence of Grupo Cañaveral.) Buttressed by an off-kilter stomp, Quiroz’s voice powers through new wave guitar licks and synth buzz.

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