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Banda Los Recoditos

Julión Álvarez sidesteps his sanction, and other surprises (Desfile de Éxitos 7/12/19)

sin memoria

Several unexpected finds inside this week’s Regional Mexican top 10, not least the presence of some good banda ballads. Unfortunately, #1 isn’t one of them.

1. Banda Los Recoditos“Perfecta” (#37 Hot Latin)
Billboard reports that this is Recoditos’ fifth #1 on the Regional Mexican chart. The first three of those — the iconic breakthrough “Ando Bien Pedo,” “Mi Ultimo Deseo,” and “Hasta Que Salga El Sol” — were about how the world is ending so we should all get drunk and shout along with Luis Angel Franco. The next two — including this one — represent the dispiriting comedown, with the personality-free Samuel Sarmiento atoning for everyone’s sins. If, as I once theorized, Franco’s songs are “the Spencer’s of the banda pop mall,” Sarmiento’s ballads are the HomeGoods. NO VALE LA PENA

2. Calibre 50“Simplemente Gracias” (#22 Hot Latin) NO VALE LA PENA

3. La Adictiva Banda“El Amor de Mi Vida” (#46 Hot Latin) NO VALE LA PENA

4. Banda MS“Por Mi No Te Detengas” (#38 Hot Latin) NO VALE LA PENA

carnaval olvidarte5. Banda Carnaval“Olvidarte, Cómo?”
A slow-as-agave ode to love’s unbreakable hold on the memory. The first line of the chorus sums it up: “Forgetting has some degree of difficulty.” That is, this banda ballad is studied and square, it pulls its punches and never cuts loose — but simmering under all that reserve is a geyser of anguish, rattling the ground around it. You hear it in certain musical gestures, like when the lugubrious on-the-beat melody jostles back and forth with the syncopated horns, and then they come into sync for a trio of “NO”s that seem exhaled rather than sung, yet pack a tremendous rhythmic wallop. Maybe I’m overselling this thing because of the video’s bargain-basement O. Henry “don’t text and drive” message. But Banda Carnaval undersells throughout, except when they strategically don’t, earning them a big old VALE LA PENA.
Continue reading “Julión Álvarez sidesteps his sanction, and other surprises (Desfile de Éxitos 7/12/19)”

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El Fantasma, Calibre 50, y glitter rainbow hologram Jenni Rivera (Desfile de Éxitos 7/8/19)

calibre 50

First up, from the YASSS SLAIN QUEEN file: July 2 would have been the late Jenni Rivera‘s 50th birthday, so her estate celebrated by releasing “Aparentemente Bien,” a ballad she was working on before her 2012 plane crash. Thanks to some skilled studio reconstruction, you can hear the song in banda, mariachi, and pop versions. It’s OK. Inspired, no doubt, by the heavy metaphysical symbology of the Thor movies, the banda video depicts a rainbow butterfly morphing into an onstage Jenni hologram. NO VALE LA PENA

And now, BILLBOARD’S TOP 5 REGIONAL MEXICAN SONGS:

1. La Adictiva Banda“El Amor de Mi Vida” (#40 Hot Latin)
This lovey-dovey Horacio Palencia ballad is very boring, so the Blog’s SEO Optimization Team has asked that I make the most of things by reporting that La Adictiva’s singers are Isaac Salas and Guillermo Garza, the latter of whom shares a first name with Guillermo del Toro, producer of the forthcoming film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The movie looks cool; this song, also recorded by sierreño quartet Alta Consigna, is NO VALE LA PENA.

encantadora fantasma2. El Fantasma“Encantadora” (#33 Hot Latin)
Now we’re talking. The man-myth-legend’s “Tu amor es que respiro” lyrics are hard to distinguish from Palencia’s, but the vaquero born Alexander García plows through all that sap like he’s racing his banda to the merch table. This song does NOT appear on García’s latest good album El Circo (Afinarte), on which the banda players routinely sound like they’re trying to trip their boss with their horns. Both album and single are VALE LA PENA. Also Pick to Click!

3. Calibre 50“Simplemente Gracias” (#20 Hot Latin)
Edén Muñoz remains one of the format’s most interesting lyricists, on a purely formal “watch me take pleasure in making these metaphors scan” level. When his band plays his ballads, they still sound like they’re gasping for breath. The Blog recommends their brand new, skippy hard luck tale “Chalito,” but this one is NO VALE LA PENA.

4. Banda Los Recoditos“Perfecta” (#29 Hot Latin)
This is the third song in a row to use el cielo and las estrellas as romantic metaphors. It seems they are endless. La mujer’s beauty is endless. This particular metaphor’s usefulness is not endless. This song feels endless. NO VALE LA PENA

5. Banda MS“Por Mi No Te Detengas” (#27 Hot Latin)
Wait a minute! Faithful reader, the Blog hasn’t yet directed you to my listicle for the Minneapolis City Pages: 10 times Banda MS, the world’s biggest brass band, didn’t totally blow. This single isn’t one of those times. NO VALE LA PENA

NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000

jenni-rivera-diva-de-la-banda

As a recovering rockist and certified Old, I enjoy listening to the radio station The Current, 89.3 FM, whenever I’m driving through the Twin Cities. Recently The Current held a listener poll to determine the 893 essential songs since the year 2000. This list is a hit of sweet, unfiltered white elephant art. “Seven Nation Army” is #1 — and to be fair, it’s got one of the first riffs learned by today’s budding guitarists. Arcade Fire is everywhere, and Duluth folk-rockers Trampled By Turtles are more ranked than they’ve ever been ranked before.

In response, last week the Minneapolis City Pages, led by the excellent Keith Harris, published a list of 40 non-essential songs since the year 2000. This was the termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss riposte to all that Art. As you might guess, the non-essential list is way more fun, since it contains songs about dog sex and smashing things with hammers. But still, there was something missing, and I don’t mean Trampled By Turtles.

Both these lists gave NorteñoBlog an excuse to indulge in its two favorite pastimes: bitching that nobody pays attention to regional Mexican music, and shamelessly stealing the ideas of its betters.

So, in the pioneering spirit of 7-Minute Abs: ¡NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since 2000!

What does “esencial” mean in this case? I only got into Mexican music in 2005, so my list will look different than the list of someone immersed in this music for years, let alone decades. If you’ve followed the Blog at all, you know my taste leans toward novelty: cumbias, tubas, brass sections turned into backbeats, and squalid consortiums of instrumentalists all trying to outplay one another. I have Complicated Feelings about violent narco songs celebrating real criminals, but I don’t dismiss them outright, and I think they often make bands sound more exciting than they would otherwise.

In short — and this is one of the points I read in the City Pages’ subtext, and in Richard Meltzer’s The Aesthetics of Rock and Chuck Eddy’s books — the non-esencial is esencial to the whole enterprise. That’s why this list sometimes looks like a mutant termite-elephant hybrid.

Before we get started, here’s something else you won’t find on either of those other lists: an artist who’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury! Romantic balladeer Julión Álvarez, despite being basically Iran, has the distinction of being the continent’s best singer, and he recorded the most esencial melody here, but you can’t find it on the Spotify playlist at the bottom. So enjoy “Ojos Verdes” as you peruse.

And now, get a whiff of the Blog’s essence.

40. Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey – “Mi Padrino el Diablo” 2014
Whether flaring his nostrils or trying to jumpstart his perpetually nascent acting career, Luna over-enunciates more dramatically than anyone in banda music. Here’s a jaunty waltz where he gets down with the devil.

39. Los Angeles Azules – “El Listón de Tu Pelo” 2000
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000”

Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio

ulices dancing

Welcome back to the Mexican radio charts! This week, in a startling change of pace, NorteñoBlog finds the Mexican airwaves awash in amor and sentimiento. Rather than fight this impulse by singling out the odd song about lavish lifestyles or dancing horses or whatever, the Blog has decided to embrace it. I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that you open your cold dead heart to at least one of the touchy feely offerings listed below.

uliceschaidezAt #7 we find “Que Bonito es Querer,” the latest declaration of sierreño amor from Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes. The chorus is a decent minor-key circle-of-fifths thing, not unlike “Autumn Leaves,” that allows Chaidez to show off his smoky upper register. The rest of the song would be better if it had any hint of a beat. The video is some straight-up Disney castle cosplay, stuffed with decorum and meaningful gazes and painstakingly plotted ballroom dances — you know, all the places where love goes to die flourishes. Chaidez’s bandmates and sombrero are as absent as princess farts. NO VALE LA PENA

At #8, the balladeers in Banda Carnaval refuse to be anyone’s “Segunda Opción,” especially the segunda opción of a no-good two-timing kiss-stealing mujer. Watch out, faithless ones! When Banda Carnaval’s clarinet players wriggle their eyebrows at you, the nausea can be overwhelming. NO VALE LA PENA

para-sacarte-de-mi-vida-275-275-1519877868They could take heartbreak lessons from Alejandro Fernandez ft. Los Tigres del Norte, who present an entire heart cauterization program in their duet “Para Sacarte de Mi Vida”, #9 this week. The Springsteens of norteño team up with the… um… Roseanne Cash of ranchera (Maybe? I mean, Alejandro’s too popular to be Shooter Jennings) for a stomp-clap-snappy pop ballad that’s atypical, at least for Los Tigres. The lyrics soar past sentimiento into dark emo/self-help guru territory, with the bereft narrators diving headfirst into their pain, killing their hearts, removing their tattoos, completely rerouting their jogging paths, all in a last-ditch effort to be reborn as some beautiful, heart-intact horse-tiger hybrid. (I paraphrase.) It’s catchy, and Los Tigres acquit themselves well in this less familiar setting. VALE LA PENA and Pick to Click:


Continue reading “Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/22/17

espinoza

Welcome back to Songwriters’ Showcase, a not-at-all regular feature in which NorteñoBlog tries to muster some interest in the new songs on the Mexican radio chart, falls asleep in an office chair, and wakes up to find both lap cat and left foot asleep. Unable to move, the Blog faces two choices: pay bills or figure out who wrote the songs. The Blog chooses the marginally less depressing option.

tiempo recoditosAt #15 we find “Tiempo,” a romantic Banda Los Recoditos ballad written by Joss Favela, who’s capable of far more interesting work, both on his own and as a writer for hire. Here he depicts a lovelorn hombre begging a bored mujer for more time together. Their amor no ha terminado, you see, and he’s still got kisses on his labios, kisses that siguen esperando. We can only hope for an answer song where she curtly provides him with a rhyming dictionary.
NO VALE LA PENA

More labios haunt “Será Que Estoy Enamorado,” the latest sierreño-by-numbers ballad for Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, in at #8. Los Plebes, you’ll remember, left the late Camacho’s DEL Records hurling charges of “explotación.” They now record for indie label JG, where apparently they no longer have to credit their songwriters, because I can’t find a name associated with this thing anywhere. On the other hand, would you really want credit for this halfhearted attempt at tremulous amor? José Manuel López Castro’s affectless singing, sometimes an asset, just sounds bored, and even Irael Meza’s tuba sounds like it’s slinking towards the exit sign.
NO VALE LA PENA

espinoza paz chinguesAt #5 is the latest lost-love mariachi ballad from former baby-faced banda singer El Bebeto, “Seremos.” It was written and produced by Espinoza Paz, who has his own lost-love mariachi ballad, “No Me Friegues la Vida,” down at #14. In this case, Paz has wisely saved his best material for himself. “Seremos” is fine, a bittersweet and passive-aggressive “you’re gonna miss me” song, but there’s nothing passive about “No Me Friegues,” except that it really really would like to be called “No Me Chingues” if that wasn’t sure to chinga its airplay. (Recall Octavio Paz, no relation: “[Chingar] is a magical word.”) Besides being a good-humored cabron, Paz is a talented producer, and both these songs sound like breaths of fresh ranchera air, even incorporating accordion into their horn-and-string textures. Not sure whether he’s trying to bite Christian Nodal‘s “mariacheño” gimmick — but in any case, “No Me Chingues” is this week’s Pick to Click. The stately-smutty contrast puts it over the top.


Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/22/17”

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)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16

marcello-gamiz

The best recent song to hit the Mexican radio top 10 is probably the #4 hit “Al Rescate,” the latest in the ongoing cry for help disguised as a brass band, Banda Los Recoditos. Having set aside a nice piece of land for themselves in the “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” territory, Luis Angel Franco and company seem content to mine that turf for whatever they can find, for the rest of their lives — which probably won’t be long, given the volatile state of their collective liver. Typically, their horn chart is accomplished and stuffed with counterpoint, and El Flaco is the most charismatic guy at the bar, savoring some strategically placed high notes that sound like they were written for his voice. VALE LA PENA, even if you’ve heard 20 other Recoditos songs just like it.

Also solid is the song sitting at #5, La Adictiva’s brassed up take on another “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” song: “Que Caro Estoy Pagando.” Formerly a hit in El Norte for Sierreño heartbreakers Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, the song transitions to its new instrumental setting with stately melodic leaps intact, though I do miss the scratch in José Manuel Lopez Castro’s voice. VALE LA PENA.

But that’s the chart that measures “Audiencia.” The real action is over on the “Tocadas” chart, where — I’m guessing — we see adventurous radio programmers in smaller markets testing the waters for more VALE LA PENA songs like:

Los Horóscopos’ “Qué Chulada de Papucho”: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16”

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!

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio

chiquis-rivera-624x351

Last time out, NorteñoBlog counted six chart hits among the quarter’s best. This quarter we’re down to three, which doesn’t necessarily mean the radio has turned into a wasteland — after all, part of the thrill of radio is hearing a song you never much cared for, like Gerardo Ortiz’s “Fuiste Mia,” suddenly sound really good in the company of entirely dissimilar songs. Not that you’ll find “Fuiste Mia” below. But who knows, I may relent before the year is out.

No, all this means is that norteño and banda music have thriving independent scenes, geared more toward online video than terrestrial radio — see the tiny labels and self-releases promoted by Beto Sierra, whose YouTube clients make up a good portion of this list. In terms of their commercial outlook, bands like Máximo Grado and Los Rodriguez don’t resemble the reactionary ’80s heyday of “indie rock” so much as the early rock heyday of the ’50s and ’60s, when bands simply wanted to get paid to rock out, whether they recorded for Excello or Sun or Decca or RCA. Today’s world of online promotion means it’s easier for musicians of all genres to get heard, though not necessarily to get paid. But the barriers between majors and indies seem more porous in Mexican regional music than they do in Anglo pop and rock. Indie artists like Fidel Rueda and Los Inquietos regularly get played on mainstream radio; major and indie bands record the same corridos, and sometimes the same love songs. Everyone tours the same venues relentlessly. That’s not to say everyone is equal. Indie label acts are routinely priced out of performing on the glamorous award show circuit, and I’m guessing major label artists have first pick of surefire radio hits by Luciano Luna and Horacio Palencia. NorteñoBlog needs to research this more, but in Mexican regional music, the indie-major borderline isn’t drawn philosophically or aesthetically so much as with scrap and hustle and practicality: Who’s got the money? Who’s got the chops? How do we use our chops to get more money?

Of course, 10 years from now, when Ortiz and Julión Álvarez have catalogs full of dull 20-track prestige albums, who knows? Boredom has a way of shaking up philosophies and aesthetics.

1. Banda Renovación“Los Ninis” (Talento Lider)
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio”

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