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Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (febrero 2017)

reunion-nortena

aycci-nortenaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. From the icy wilds of New Mexico comes Aycci Norteña, whose self-released debut album Futuro en Nuestras Manos (alternate title: Saxo Con Nuestras Manos) is an entirely decent jaunt through pop hooks and sax/accordion riffs. As with Geeshie Wiley and Jesus, photos of the Ayccis don’t exist, but the principles of detection tell me they’re a five-or-six-piece: cracking bajosexto/bass/drums rhythm section, an overactive accordionist whose sworn enemy is silence, and sax. Plus whoever’s singing. Plus whoever’s applying heaping doses of reverb. But fair is fair: Aycci’s song entitled “Por Eso Te Amo” (aka “Tu Saxo es Por Eso Te Amo”) has less reverb than Río Roma’s pop dirge of the same name. We’re gonna Pick to Click “Quiero Volver,” though, because then you can watch all these happy couples dancing:

Remember right after Y2K when The Strokes came out, and then suddenly you had all these guitar rock bands named “The [Objects]”? There were The Roots, The Streets, The Avalanches, and I forget who else. Something similar is cooking at la frontera de U.S./Mexico, where saxophones glisten against the desert sands. There we find: Continue reading “Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (febrero 2017)”

Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)

coronel-kiss

NorteñoBlog has been of two minds about Las Bandas Románticas de América, the annual compilation of lovey-dovey banda hits (and “hits”) released by either Fonovisa or Disa Records, the two norteño tentacles of el pulpo gigante known as Universal Music Latin Entertainment. The first mind thinks the songs are catchy, and is grateful for the occasion to write the phrase “asymptotically approaching the musical ideal of amor.” The second mind hated asymptotes in high school, thinks 20 straight love ballads is 19 too many, has nightmare fever dreams involving doe-eyed clarinet armies, and has boycotted the series for two years running.

bandas-romanticas-2017Resolve is not the Blog’s strong suit. Thus did I find myself washing dishes and listening to the latest in the series, Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017, 20 songs by 10 bands, only some of whom are “hitmakers” in the sense of “being heard anywhere outside this compilation.” I mean, I’m sure they tour. But if you’ve heard “Pedirás Perdón,” a 2015 nonentity by Banda Coraleña, on the radio anywhere in North America, you’re doing better than I am. If you can hum the song without looking it up, you’re doing better than Banda Coraleña. Give ’em this: their cover of Joey Montana‘s “Picky” is adequate! It’s also not included on Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017 — ironic for the least choosy compilation series around.

But you do get some good songs. As previously discussed, La Séptima Banda released some fine singles in 2016, two of which — the swinging ’50s sock hop “Yo Si Me Enamoré” and the irrepressibly bouncy “Se Va Muriendo Mi Alma” — are here. You also get Banda Los Recoditos’ current hit “Me Está Tirando El Rollo,” featuring some syncopated tuba bass that’s a primo distante of “Stand By Me,” and Samuel Sarmiento, the singer who isn’t Luis Angel Franco. Banda El Recodo‘s remake of “Mujer Mujer” keeps growing on me. Banda Rancho Viejo is, for NorteñoBlog’s money, the best banda working and always worth hearing. Their tune “Mil Veces Te Quiero” was also ignored by radio, and it’s from freaking 2014, but it combines an echoing triple-voiced hook and gang shouts with one of the struttingest grooves in all of bandaland. (Plus, more ’50s sock hop imagery in the video. Thinkpieces go!) A tardy Pick to Click.

Continue reading “Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)”

¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)

lalomoralaurita

lalo-moraThis week in the “norteño legend covers the Great Ranchera Songbook” department, we find Lalo Mora, formerly of the ’70s duo Lalo y Lupe and the ’80s band Los Invasores de Nuevo León. Mora’s been making solo music on labels big and small for a while now, and on his latest, Un Millón de Primaveras (Mora), he’s hired a banda to help him dig through some classics. The horn charts are decent and Mora’s grizzled voice settles into the tunes with effortless authority, but you’ve probably heard these songs done better elsewhere. NorteñoBlog directs you to Joan Sebastian‘s country-with-horns take on the title track, which he wrote; and to Vicente Fernández‘s trembling and magisterial version of “El Ultimo en la Fila,” which Sebastian also wrote. Lest you think the entire Great Ranchera Songbook sprang from Joan Sebastian’s tear-stained pen, Mora also sings “Cartas Marcadas” and some other decidedly non-Sebastian tunes. The album’s technically accomplished, but I never need to hear it again: NO VALE LA PENA.

leonardo-aguilarLeonardo Aguilar has lucked into some decidedly less accomplished banda charts on his debut album Gallo Fino (Machin) — if you wanna hear clarinets cloy hard, check out this single from a couple years ago. No matter: I like Aguilar’s album better than Lalo Mora’s. Continue reading “¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)”

Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (diciembre 2016)

cumbre-nortena

It is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. When we last checked in with the New Mexican quintet Anexo Al Norte, they were pursuing perfection with fellow New Mexican Beto Ronquillo. That pursuit failed, so they’ve settled for a limp Christmas cumbia on Blas Records, “Parodia Botas de Navidad,” unfortunately NOT a parody of “The Christmas Shoes” (aka “Los Zapatos de Saxmas”). Announcing your song as a parody is never a good move, especially when the song isn’t funny, but sax player Iván Murillo almost makes up for it with his groovy syncopated takes on “Jingle Bells.” In the song, Santa brings the boys in the band a bunch of instruments, along with the titular botas and a mixing board. One of them falls asleep with the mixing board, which is sure to mess up his levels. In the video’s high point, the band leaves a bowl of tamales out for Santa Claus, a tradition I will now force upon my own family. (NO VALE LA PENA)

no-hay-quintoAs you’d expect, the Dallas saxtet La Energia Norteña has far more energy. They’ve just released their fifth album for the Azteca label, an ode to saxual endurance entitled No Hay Quinto Malo. And, because the fifth time’s the charm, the album debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Album chart. Lead single “Hoy Me Toca Perder” (aka “Hoy Me Toca de Dar Saxo Oral”) is a maudlin thing, with string cues and a video full of meaningful looks and lonely rooms, though it does afford Israel Oviedo a chance to wail in full Clarence Clemons mode. Better is “Me Ganó la Calentura” (aka “Calor Saxual”), which sounds more like winning, even though its chord progression gives it an undercurrent of heartache.

But NorteñoBlog is most partial to their cover of Joan Sebastian‘s straight-up country song, “El Taxista.” (“El Saxista”? Too easy.) Written by Sebastian’s son José Manuel Figueroa, its melody soars through a tale of lovelorn despair, told from a stoic taxi driver’s point of view. In other words it’s perfect for this genre, where jaunty beats and riffs try to ignore their songs’ anguish every day of the week. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (diciembre 2016)”

A Sixteen-Musician Pileup from Chicago (also starring Voz de Mando)

escuela

voz-de-mandoNorteñoBlog has long neglected the Sinaloan quartet-con-tuba Voz de Mando, despite their having one of the more charming Navidad songs on the radio for the past four years. (It’s actually a cover of Los Bukis, whom the blog will continue to neglect for now.) Their new single “Pa’ Que No Me Anden Contando” (AfinArte/Sony) is useful in several ways. It’s a minor-key stomper encouraging you to grab life by the horns with your teeth and whatnot (I paraphrase) — so that, when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t have to rely upon secondhand reports to know what it’s like to have horns caught in your teeth. (See also Los Recoditos’ “Mi Último Deseo” and other YOLO worthies.) It’ll help you fill out your Joss Favela/Luciano Luna bingo card, in case you hadn’t yet accounted for a “minor-key YOLO stomper” from their collective pen. Aaaaand it’s a useful Spanish idiom for all my fellow language learners out there. “So I Don’t Hear It Secondhand” is how the Sony PR team translates the title, which literally-to-inglés has something to do with careful accounting, I think. The message is clear: Voz de Mando, Favela, and Luna are against careful accounting. NorteñoBlog is fastidious in its accounting, so I don’t recommend songs too too easily, but some fiery accordion rips this tune into VALE LA PENA territory. Plus, the dude who shouts out “VOZ DE MANDO” in all their songs sounds like he’s inviting you to a monster truck rally.

Somewhat better is a Sierreño-con-tuba ode to the Triduum, Continue reading “A Sixteen-Musician Pileup from Chicago (also starring Voz de Mando)”

Keeping Up With El Komander

komander-cigar

When NorteñoBlog last checked in with Alfredo Ríos El Komander, it was right after el primero de enero and everyone was still pisteando. This is inexcusable. Komander is the premier singles artist of our time, as proven by the 21-song digital album El Komander 2015 Top 20 (Twiins), which showcases his tuba-driven norteño band. Under their fingers, the nerviest sentiments become off-the-cuff, and the silliest drinking songs swing like a hammer throw competition. Despite sounding like they’re inventing their music as they go, they rarely settle for less than consummate hooks and popcraft.

They also rarely stand still. Since that collection, Komander and his manos have released a bunch more songs. NorteñoBlog sleeps on them no longer!

komander-chefFirst up is “El Chef de las Cocinas,” in which Sr. Ríos introduces us to his stove. Turns out he runs a cracking meth biz in Sinaloa, where he can enjoy the fresh air while strolling through the hills surrounded by his army of ex-militia soldiers. His product is all locally sourced — “nada es ‘Made In China'” — and socially responsible, in that Komander doesn’t deal with people who are racist. I’m not ashamed to tell you I would vote El Komander’s meth operation for president over Donald Trump. Not that meth is so great, but Trump’s just a really low bar. Musically the song is an appealing but rote corrido, with most of its action coming from the tubist, who plays as a rock-hard extension of the drum kit, coordinating his hits and fills with the cymbals. VALE LA PENA

komander-mayitoWe move from there to some Mexican CNN type shit, or at least to some Hasty Cartel Googling. Continue reading “Keeping Up With El Komander”

Beto Cervantes D.E.P.

beto white hat

Multiple news outlets have reported that 42-year-old singer José Alberto Cervantes Nieto, aka Beto Cervantes of the band Explosión Norteña, has died. At around 11am Thursday morning, he was shot at the corner of calle Art. 27 and calle Michoacán in the Constitución colony of Rosarito, Baja California.

beto cervantesAs Manuel wrote almost a year ago, Cervantes has been attacked before, probably because he and his band have (allegedly) been cozy with a cartel and cartels (most definitely) shoot people. Indeed, Explosión’s latest album, De Regreso Y Con Bastante Decisión (ARS), has sparked several rounds of Hasty Cartel Googling as NorteñoBlog tries to figure out corrido protagonists like El Flakito and El XL. One rumor suggests Cervantes was killed by a rival cartel when he refused to write them a corrido — a courageous move, if it’s true, when your prospective employers brandish guns and offer you up to $50,000 for a day’s work. Continue reading “Beto Cervantes D.E.P.”

Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (agosto 2016)

maquinaria nortena

maquinariaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. First things first: La Maquinaria Norteña, the Zaca-huahuan/New Mexican quintet that stands astride this genre like a saxophone colossus, has just released its ninth-I-think album in a decade, Generación Maquinaria Est. 2006 (alternate title: Saxo de Cumpleaños). Thanks to some major label Fonovisa distribution, and because they’re on the scene like máquinas saxuales, they sold 3,000 copies of the album its first week. That was enough to debut at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Albums chart.

Agosto may be slow, but Maquinaria isn’t. Generación skips along in typical unrelenting fashion; the polka beats are sharp and nonstop, brothers Keith and Rory Nieto fill nearly every instant with well-plotted sax/accordion ideas, and Ivan Gutierrez winds his bass through the proceedings like a buoyant breeze. You can hear all this on their current hit “Todo Es Diferente” (subtitle: “… Excepto El Saxo”), but NorteñoBlog notes two other standouts. Keith’s original “El Corazón No Miente” throws in a slamming surprise ending, with electric guitar and drums bashing away; and singer Sergio Soto contributes a new breakneck waltz that sounds old, “Cosquillitas” (i.e., “¡¡¡Tickle Sax!!!”). Maquinaria’s quality is a difference of degree: the group simply sounds fuller, richer, and more distinctive than other puro sax bands. Once you go Maq, you’ll never go back.

Continue reading “Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (agosto 2016)”

Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)

martin patron

It’s been a few months since NorteñoBlog checked in with Hyphy Music Inc., the Fresno, California-based indie label devoted to (mostly narco-)corridos. Despite the label’s bud-bating logo “Kush Style,” adopted by owner Jose Martinez to distinguish his label as a mellow alternative to the gory Movimiento Alterado, I’ve previously chided the label on its lack of a distinct brand identity. (Seems like a weird thing to care about, I know.)

Recently, though, Martinez seems to have settled into a niche: His acts are all about HUSTLE. They play fast and work hard, and they sing about playing fast and working hard. Just like in rap, where the nonstop grind of the gangster becomes a metaphor for cranking out endless musical versions of that selfsame metaphor (a meta-metaphor?), Hyphy’s bands embody the gritty work ethic of the narcos they chronicle. That they sometimes sing about other subjects is the exception proving the rule. This extreme focus can lead to repetitive music, sure; but at their best, Hyphy acts create exciting micro-variations driven by morally fraught jitters. They know that, if their energy flags, a rival will quickly step in to fill the void. It’s music as an energizing and sometimes exhausting fight for life.

trap corridosUn ejemplo: the accordion-slinging corridero Martin Patrón (aka Martin Lopez “El Patrón”) has just released his debut album Trap Corridos, hustling another term of art from U.S. rap. It comes only a decade and change after T.I.’s Trap Muzik, but whatever; the word “trap” still has currency in this year of “Panda.” Also like “Panda,” my transcriptions of Sr. Patrón’s songs remain sketchy-to-nonexistent, but a round of Hasty Cartel Googling reveals “M100” is probably about a Sinaloa Cartel honcho, and “Hijo de Joaquín” is probably about El Chapo’s kid. (St. Louis pride being what it is, arguments for the late Joaquín Andújar, himself no stranger to hustle, will be entertained.)

So don’t invite Patrón to play Career Day at your local high school. But the music’s the important thing: an irresistible blend of spiky tuba/drum/sexto counterpoint, topped by Sr. Patrón’s accordion, alternately spitting out impressive flourishes and chromatic Jackson Pollock splatters. He’s a fine singer, too, with a rich and resonant voice. A couple Facebook comments suggest he sounds like the late Tito Torbellino. Check out the Pick to Click single “El de la Rueda” (not a Torbellino cover) and see if you agree:

¡VALE LA PENA! Continue reading “Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)”

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