music, charts, opinions


Bomba Estéreo

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16


First off, NorteñoBlog congratulates friends of the blog Los Tigres, Natalia Lafourcade, and most charming man alive Pitbull on their recent Grammy wins. Los Tigres’ very good Realidades won for “Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano),” a category that included no Tejano albums but whose name testifies to the lingering power of the Tejano voting bloc. Or at least to the outspoken crankiness of the Tejano voting bloc. (I assume there’s still a Tejano voting bloc.) Lafourcade’s fine Hasta La Raíz tied with Pitty Wap’s intermittently banging Dale for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.” NorteñoBlog woulda picked Maquinaria Norteña for Regional and Bomba Estéreo for Rock/Urban/Alternative — after all, the Bombas excel in all three areas — but these were still respectable and relevant choices.

Next, NorteñoBlog congratulates Espinoza Paz for writing lots of decent, non-sappy songs recently. Paz is capable of biting hilarity — see Marco Flores’s “El Pajarito” and Los Horóscopos’ “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama.” He can also concoct musical experiments that look deceptively simple, like Arrolladora’s “Cabecita Dura” — 120 straight syllables without pause or apparent breath! — and straight up banda bangers like Roberto Tapia’s new single “Vale La Pena.” (That video seems to have fallen off a truck, so watch it while you can.) Back in 2009, after he’d won his second straight BMI songwriter of the year award, Billboard‘s Leila Cobo interviewed Paz, a former migrant worker who doesn’t read music.

Cobo: How would you describe your music?

Paz: Commercial.

True enough; and like most professionals he’s had some bad days at the office, especially in solo work like “Sin Esencia,” a pensive smell-the-fart guitar ballad. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15

will smith

It’s not quite our one-year anniversary — that’ll come next week — but NorteñoBlog has been at this funny business for 51 weeks and in all that time, Billboard‘s Latin charts have always contained a song by either Gerardo Ortiz or El Komander. UNTIL NOW. Well, really until two weeks ago, when Komander’s “Malditas Ganas” dropped off the chart. “Malditas Ganas” entered the chart back in May, hi-fiving Ortiz’s “Eres Una Niña” as it sauntered out and paving the way for Ortiz’s “El Cholo” a week or three later. (NorteñoBlog doesn’t need your fancy “fact checkers.”) And now “Ganas” and “Cholo” are both gone, and NB’s heart is empty, and… ooh, what’s that! New Chuy Lizárraga!

Please note: it’s entirely possible that both Banda MS and Julión Álvarez have been on the charts the entire length of the NB’s existence, much like well-known Methuselan beard “Propuesta Indecente” (116 WEEKS!), but frankly, that last bit of data gathering has plum tuckered me out and I would like to listen to some songs now.

The Hot Latin Top 10 is a complete reshuffle of a month ago. (NOBODY. EVER. GOES. IN. and NOBODY. EVER. COMES. OUT.) So we’ll just skip down to #11, where Bomba Estéreo have repurposed their excellent single “Fiesta” to include a rap by new Bomba Estéreo superfan Will Smith. This isn’t Smith’s first visit to the Latin charts: “Men In Black,” “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” and “Wild Wild West” were all monster hits that received Latin airplay and broke the Hot Latin top 40 back when the Hot Latin chart allowed for such things. (Weirdly, “Miami” doesn’t seem to have received the same bienvenido.) This may, however, be the first time someone has tried to rhyme “mamacita” with “beer-a.” Let’s hope it’s the last. Smith’s other intriguing line is this odd bit of post-coital pride: “Woke up behind her/ No gas in me, I’m a Tesla.” Yo homes, smell you later!
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15”

Dance Komanders


Bomba-Estereo-AmanecerOver the weekend NorteñoBlog met up with the redoubtable Bilbo’s Laptop to see Bomba Estéreo play Chicago’s Concord Music Hall. The Colombian electro-boogie band only wanders within NorteñoBlog’s purlieu insofar as the genre tag “Latin music” says anything coherent, but we’ve enjoyed them here before, and new album Amanecer (Sony) is VALE LA PENA. Carefully honing a tight set from four(!) albums worth of material, the Bombas gave us seven or eight massive jams, most of them new, and little changed from their recorded templates besides some extended intros and party-hearty crescendos at the ends. Where improvisation appeared, it was rhythmic. Bomba Estéreo prizes rhythm over all. Drummer Kike Egurrola played rock-solid beds of beats — dembow, cumbia, others I can’t name — providing a foil for the contrapuntal jabs of guitarist Julián Salazar and bassist Simón Mejía; during songs like “Somos Dos,” they were the grooviest little indie rock band on the planet. Salazar and Mejía spent roughly half their time at their electronic sound banks, keeping the details of their recordings while thickening the sound. “Soy Yo” was already the most ridonkulous song on the new album. Live, with its Colombian flute and sampled voice mixing with deep, body-shaking bass and frontwoman Liliana Saumet’s explosive gestures, it sounded like banger of the year.

Saumet’s job, at which she excels, is to cut through the bass and mobilize the crowd. She sets a good example: her unfussy dancing gave us a nice repertoire of rippling body movements, perfect for a crowded floor of hipsters holding cups of beer. That said, the main mobilizer was Saumet’s voice. Her high whine can come off as strangled on romantic melodies — even “Somos Dos,” which Saumet humbly introduced as “beautiful,” went a little long — but usually it’s a fourth rhythm instrument, punching and goading along with the others. This is true of her raps, of course, but Saumet also builds her melodies for rhythmic impact. Hearing her voice and its syncopations emerge from the electro-throb, the mass of bodies understands its implicit commands: Dance. Love. Clap. And Saumet’s most crucial, Dr. Seussian directive: Shout loud at the top of your voice! SOY YO!

Alfredo-Rios-El-Komander-Detras-Del-Miedo1-450x450On the drive down I listened again to El Komander’s latest album, Detrás Del Miedo (Twiins). It’s as effortlessly charming as you could hope, but of course that lack of effort is an effect — YOU try lassoing a four-or-five-piece band into the stop-start precision of the title song. Komander’s released about half these songs as singles already, and I’ve been skeptical of his ballads, but even they sound better in the middle of his faster tunes. The guy can write melodies! His singing has improved, too; as Komander grows into his timing, he convinces us that “El Papel Cambio” emerges straight from his mind. Él es él. Plus, any album containing both “Malditas Ganas” and “Fuga Pa’ Maza” would have to work pretty hard to avoid a big VALE LA PENA.

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