Search

NorteñoBlog

music, charts, opinions

Tag

2014

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)”

Advertisements

Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño

amos 2008

After first appearing at the 2014 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, this article ran last spring at Maura Magazine; I reprint it here with their kind permission.

————————————–
amos 1996Here’s the story of a band from Modesto,
A small city east of San Francisco.
Led by the brothers Guajardo,
They’re known to the world as Los Amos.

amos 2001They got started back in the mid-’90s
Playing los narcocorridos,
And over the course of a decade,
Los Amos altered their appearance

amos 2006From flashy-shirted, big-hatted cowboys
To black-suited, no-hatted tough guys,
Los Amos’ transformation was dramatic,
And their music changed right along with them.

This transition was shaped by two forces:
The demands of their well-structured business,
But also their repeated incantations
Of one magic word from the Bay…

HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY

But before we get hyphy, we need to answer this question: Why were some guys in Modesto, California, playing corridos—Mexican story songs about the drug trade—for a living in the first place? The answer lies with two names, corridistas you’ve probably heard of, immigrants to los Estados Unidos, legends in their field.
Continue reading “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño”

El Karma Comes Back To You Hard

camacho18656z

Alternate headline: NorteñoBlog Steps On Pitchfork

That’s right, my first article at the illustrious music website Pitchfork.com is also Pitchfork’s first article about Regional Mexican music. It’s all about Ariel Camacho’s song “El Karma,” which longtime NB readers know I like a bit. Here’s the opening:

So far in 2015, six different songs have topped Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Five of them involved slick, established stars like Enrique Iglesias singing about love or dancing, but the sixth hit was different. It was a corrido, part of Mexico’s century-old ballad tradition about everyday heroes facing impossible odds; according to Salon’s Alexander Zaitchik, corridos are like “contemporary news reports—a Mexican version of Chuck D’s description of rap as black America’s CNN.” With the rise of Mexican drug cartels over the last few decades, corridos have largely given way to narcocorridos, story songs lauding the exploits of illicit kingpins and their employees. But before last March, no narcocorrido had ever hit #1 on the Hot Latin chart.

Then came “El Karma”…

Read all about it at the ‘Fork! You’ll notice the NB has changed our header to mark the occasion: Hats off to Omar Burgos, Los Plebes’ astounding tuba player.

¡Nuevo! (starring Los Alegres, Los Alcapones, y más)

camacho fernandez

los alegresLast week NorteñoBlog noted that, when Los Cuates de Sinaloa were getting popular about a decade ago, Billboard hailed their guitar-based “musica de la sierra” as one of Mexico’s “new sounds” to keep an eye on. In the same milieu were Los Alegres de la Sierra, another family band who, from the looks of my hasty research, never made the jump to a major label but branched out musically just like Los Cuates did, adding members and instruments. Their self-released 2012 album Lagrimas En La Sierra is chipper accordion quartet stuff, new to streaming services, and I’m partial to “No Podrán.”

los alegres del barrancoSimilarly chipper and altitudinally minded, Los Alegres del Barranco have released a new single, the corrido “El Chino Piloto” (Hyphy). It’s chock full of fatalistic loneliness and helpful radar-evasion tactics, and its repeated eight-bar melody will dig a six-inch barranco through the middle of your skull.
Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Los Alegres, Los Alcapones, y más)”

Diario de Radio 5/18/15

pancho barraza

Calibre 50 – “Contigo”: NorteñoBlog hasn’t yet discussed what a bad song this is. I’d call it “terrible” but that would imply some level of awe or achievement that’s completely lacking in the music. And what about that music? It sounds like a second-tier Maná power ballad, only without the power. As these guys must know, an accordion isn’t a lead guitar! In some cases it’s better than a lead guitar, but its attempts to sustain single notes sound like wheezes, so the whole song feels empty, a dried out husk of attempted passion. Of course it’s a huge hit, so what do I know?
NO VALE LA PENA

Vicente Fernández – “Estos Celos” (2007): A late career hit written, arranged, and produced by Joan Sebastian, who won the Latin Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Song. The strings and midtempo chug could be ’70s Glen Campbell, as could Fernández’s rue when he sings about his jealousy. His high notes should teach Nick Jonas something about chin music.
VALE LA PENA

Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho – “El Karma”: NorteñoBlog has waxed about this song before. Basically, it sounds like nothing else on the radio, Camacho’s endless flutters of requinto deepening a murder ballad that’s cynical but cautionary, mythic but subversive, and coming to you direct from BEYOND THE GRAVE. (As near as I can tell, Camacho tries to kill his daughter’s kidnapper and gets killed himself, so Karma doesn’t work!) This is still the best version of the umpteen floating around. Here’s how I explained it to Frank Kogan, but I may be missing some nuance in how its audience hears it:

The song ends with the line, “nobody escapes the reaper.” Other versions of this song are speedy, either triumphal or drunken, performed by norteño quintet or banda. Camacho’s version is slower, stripped down to two guitars and a tuba, the fatalistic retelling of an old old story. Camacho’s version has become the hit version on regional Mexican radio, where it sounds like nothing else — it’s surrounded by sappy love songs and cheery trafficking songs. In early 2015 Camacho dies in a car wreck and “El Karma” hits #1 on Billboard’s overall Hot Latin chart, albeit during a slow week. (It’s the first norteño song to do so in years.) Possible social critique: this death we sing about so blithely deserves our respect.

VALE LA PENA

El Komander – “Malditas Ganas”: Loose, funny, talking as much as he sings — which is good, given his misguided attempts at balladry — Alfredo Rios defines charismatic. The word “charismatic” implies an apparent lack of effort, right?
VALE LA PENA

Pancho Barraza – “Ignoraste Mis Lagrimas” (1995): The cruel oompah of tears.
NO VALE LA PENA

Los Tigres on the Jukebox

los tigres idolos

And not a moment too soon! The Singles Jukebox finally wrote about Los Tigres and their extended (and SAXY) pickup line “Qué Tal Si Eres Tú.” It’s an unorthodox introduction to their storied career, but in my opinion it’s as good as any:

…aka, the one where Hernán Hernández sings triplets, the one where Óscar Lara plays two different drum patterns, and the one with ALL THOSE MINOR CHORDS. I know I’m missing stuff, but after they’ve spent 40-odd years sifting through subtle shades of dry bounce, “Qué Tal” resembles a great Saguaro-like flowering of Los Tigres’ sound.

Fellow Jukeboxer Tara Hillegeist wrote well about the subtleties of bajo sexto playing and prompted me to listen again.

VALE LA PENA

Luis Coronel on The Singles Jukebox

Luis-Coronel1

If you felt an inexplicable throbbing in your heart earlier today, it wouldn’t hurt to get that checked out, but it could have just been the psychic palpitations that inevitably result when young Luis Coronel appears in the media, since we wrote about his single “Cuando La Miro” at the Singles Jukebox. Of course, if your heart is that affected by Luis Coronel, it wouldn’t hurt to get that checked out either. Sez me. I should probably go easy on the guy for a while:

I won’t sugarcoat it: this won’t be the last you hear from Luis Coronel. Triunfo magazine reports the bilingual Tucson teen plans to eventually “make the crossover and record in English.” His videos feature English-speaking restaurateurs, ’50s diners, and muscle cars, meaning he’s already singing to a bilingual U.S. audience; whether his crossover turns out to be Prince Royce-style assimilation, or the thing that finally drags banda/norteño music into Top 40’s embrace, is anybody’s guess. But no matter what Coronel sings, he needs to do something about his voice. Or lack thereof. Forswearing both the nasal whine and the overwrought (i.e., perfectly wrought) romanticism of his forebears, Coronel sings everything as though he’s reading the phone book. He can barely hang on to his songs. His hapless vocal cords tossed about by his (generally really good) arrangements, he makes even the simplest lines sound hard to scan. “Cuando La Miro” strands Coronel in his midrange; except for that shouted “Chiquitita!” he’s confined to six notes, none of which he projects over the brass. Maybe that’s why people love him? Like his unaffected peers Kevin Ortiz and Jonatan Sanchez, Coronel transforms music that’s often violent and racy into the endearing genre next door. He may someday portray the Pat Boone character in Elijah Wald’s How Calibre 50 Destroyed Narcocorrido.

Most other reviewers liked the song more: common themes included the goodness of the banda players and Coronel’s propensity to hide his vocals behind them. “Cuando” is currently #10 on Billboard‘s regional Mexican chart.

Things I Learned Listening to Javier Rosas This Weekend

otro golpe newBack in March NorteñoBlog was temporarily confused when the benevolent Fonovisa corporation re-released an old album by Javier Rosas y Su Artillería Pesada as though it was a new album.

otro golpe oldOtro Golpe originally came out in 2013 on whichever tiny label was releasing Javier Rosas albums at the time. Presumably nobody heard Otro Golpe that way, so Fonovisa gave it a new cover and distributed it to the masses to capitalize on Rosas’s minor radio hit, “Y Vete Olvidando.”

lleuge“Olvidando” came out late in 2014 as the second song on Llegué Para Quedarme, Rosas’s official Fonovisa debut. Three weeks after Otro Golpe dropped for the second time, Rosas got shot in an even more confusing scenario near a Culiacán mall. Since then he’s understandably dropped from sight, the better to hasten his recovery.

What’s not confusing is how good Rosas and his band are. I mean, the band’s named “Heavy Artillery”! (Also the best Mr. Lif song, imo.) They’re not as heavy as Noel Torres’s band — the drummer skitters more than pounds — but their dense interplay is similarly hard to fathom. And that density is the musical point. This took me a while to understand. Because Rosas’s songs have melodies and chords, you might expect those melodies and chords to be the point, the songs’ reason for being. As a songwriter Rosas has a welcome fondness for minor chords, and sometimes his tunes will run up to unexpected heights, and that’s all well and good, but Rosas’s corridos — and he’s in his element singing narcocorridos, not romantic ballads — primarily constitute a framework for himself and his band to demonstrate how badass they are. The Artillería Pesada accomplishes its badassery two ways: Rosas sings with amused gravity, because his crime stories intimate more than we’ll ever understand; and the band is a frightening rhythm machine.

How frightening? Like, they keep making me think of James Brown, everything subsumed to polyrhythmic whirl. The Pick to Click is still “Por Clave Llevo El 13,” a math-oriented tale of illicit doings and ne’er-do-wells, and the rhythm section — which is basically everyone except Rosas and the accordion player — achieves some math-rocking triplet-against-duple thing I’m still at a loss to fully understand. (Like, who’s playing the triplets? Is it just the accordion riff, or are those constant skittering snare rolls part of the “three”? The tuba is clearly subdividing in two or four.) Rosas is no Brown, but storytelling is a different task than whatever you’d say James Brown does. Rosas rides the rhythms with authority, without even seeming like he’s trying to ride them. He just tells stories, man; the band plays an audible expression of whatever violent turmoil Rosas won’t allow himself to state outright.

Track-to-track comparison reveals that Otro Golpe is better than Llegué, because Llegué contains a couple slow songs that stretch out and unwind the band’s dense rhythm attack. Not that the band couldn’t put over slow ones, but so far they don’t. The comparison also reveals Rosas is very consistent — the third track of each is devoted to a femme fatale/trap queen figure named “La China”. Both albums close with cumbia medleys — “popurris” — and the one on Llegué goes on way too long.

¡Nuevo! (or, Is “El Karma” the new “Louie Louie”?)

cohuich bus

For corrido bands, “El Karma” is quickly becoming what “Louie Louie” was to ’60s garage rockers or “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” was to D.C. hardcore bands: the song you play to prove your mettle and/or prove you’re metal. This was true even before Ariel Camacho’s death propelled the song to mythic status and #1 on the Hot Latin chart earlier this year. Last year Camacho, Noel Torres ft. Voz De Mando, Revolver Cannabis, and two of this week’s bands all recorded versions of the song, and last week the Ivan Archivaldo impersonators in Grupo Maximo Grado released their own take. “El Karma” has several things to recommend it to aspiring nihilists. Its story and takeaway lesson are badass; its minor-key B section sets it apart from the corrido pack; and it works as well with rowdy bandas as it does with unsmiling small ensembles. Nadie de la parca se puede escapar — so we might as well dance, right?

banda culiacancitoThe 17 or so members of Banda Culiacancito were last seen cutting a live album of duets with the norteño band Revolver Cannabis and the late corridista Ariel Camacho, and their version of “El Karma” is a muy borracho thing, far removed from Camacho’s stolid solo rendition. Their new album Termina de Aceptario (DEL/Sony) returns to just Culiacancito and their horns, with a rollicking single called “Lastima de Tu Cuerpo.”

septima bandaLast year La Séptima Banda cut their own version of “El Karma,” a cover of competing borrachera and verve. They titled their whole album after the song, in fact — El Karma: Puros Corridos (Hyphy). Their major label debut Segurito Segurito (Fonovisa) is out this week, and it’s already yielded one minor radio hit with the big, bouncy “Bonito y Bello.” “B’y’B” is NOT puro corrido; its swanky melody reminds me Adriel Favela’s “Cómo Olvidarla,” which in turn reminded me of Tower of Power or something, but maybe you should check for yourself.

panchito arredondoPanchito Arredondo does not, to my knowledge, have a cover of “El Karma” floating around, but I’ll tell you what is floating around: the guy’s sense of pitch. His second album Mayor de la Vagancia (Hyphy) should be required listening for aspiring TV singing contestants; in places it’s as painful as Madonna’s high notes in “Into the Groove.” But like Madonna, Panchito’s saved by energy and sympathetic backing musicians who generally succeed in hustling him away from the long notes. On the song “El Polacas,” those musicians include the young band Grupo H100, who are also on Hyphy but who are not themselves hyphy. (Thinkpiece forthcoming.)

maria belemMaría Belem should not be confused with the telenovela María Belén aka María Belém. (I was briefly confused.) Her low budget videos “¿Te Acuerdas?” and “Yo Te Decido” came out last year and have been largely ignored, a shame for songs with such robust energy. Now comes her debut album Orgullo de Tierra Caliente (Prodisc), as cheerful an album as I’ve heard this year, even when Belem is lamenting “Que Triste Navidad.”

banda cohuich“Yo Te Decido” would be this week’s Pick to Click if I hadn’t come across this cumbia album that may or may not be a compilation, Banda Cohuich‘s No Te Equivoques (Pegasus). The cover advertises the exito “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol),” Huichol being an indigenous Mexican language, “Son Kora” being a relentless jerking propulsion machine with brass, gang vocals, and a slippery synth line (I think). Quickie Youtube research reveals that several of these songs existed several years ago, but also that Banda Cohuich consistently rocks, especially on the speedy mucho-syllabic electrocumbia “Chicos iLu.”

OTHER SEEMINGLY NEW ALBUMS OR REISSUES:

El Rey Pelusa – Irresistible
La Fe Norteña de Toño Aranda – Entre la Espada y la Pared (Goma)
Los Junior’s Klan – Contragolpe (RCA)
Grandes Exitos de Los Terrícolas (NVO)
Rossy War y Su Banda Kaliente – Soy Diferente (INDEPENDIENTE)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑