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NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo

el armenta

Please excuse the note of shame in NorteñoBlog’s voice, but 2016 has gotten off to a more… focused start than last year. On the list (and YouTube playlist!) that follows, you’ll find no bands devoted to cumbia, no musicians from outside la patria, and — despite my doubtless inadequate searching — only one woman. (Karla Luna snuck on at the end, with a song that might end up growing on me. And Helen Ochoa‘s album deserves a listen.) What we’ve got here is nine norteño songs and six banda tunes by dudes who are pretty open about their lusts — if not for las mujeres, then for power and fancy wristwatches. But their music is no less compelling, because within those confines live several worlds of possibility.

El Armenta‘s big dumb cumbia (#1), Remmy Valenzuela‘s power ballad (#8), and Banda Pequeños Musical‘s pan flute monstrosity (#15) are all romantic banda songs that find vastly different paths to greatness. Or near greatness. The same thing happens on the norteño side. Though everyone’s working the same genre turf, Adriel Favela‘s guitar-saturated version of a new corrido standard (#3) couldn’t sound further from the Intocable love song (#10) with the distorted electric guitar and the show-offy accordion solo, as precise and memorable as a prime Van Halen break. Regional Mexican music pitches a bigger and more inventive tent than half the U.S. political system. Speaking of which, I sort of feel like El Armenta’s video, in which grotesque rubber-faced men enact an inexplicable ritual while carrying big sticks, gives us a terrifying preview of June’s Republican convention. At least nobody dies from the sticks.

1. El Armenta“El Perro Se Soltó” (Armenta)
Of all the big dumb banda cumbias I’ve heard this year, “El Perro” is the best, with horns and clarinets blaring all over the place and a churning beat that doesn’t quit until the perro in question barks at the end. The sound’s a little clipped in the head-scratcher of a video, which only adds to the Lynchian daytime nightmare feel of the whole endeavor. Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo”

Indie a Go Go Again! (¡Nuevo!)

alex saucedo

el armentaStricken with a rare case of getting to the point, NorteñoBlog directs you cuanto antes to the latest single by El Armenta, aka singer/songwriter/businessman/director Raymundo Armenta from the state of Guerrero. The zero-budget video for “El Perro Se Soltó” (Armenta), presented by Raysunshine Films, does not quite achieve the demented heights of Ed Wood’s Cocaine-Fueled Fever Dream, but it comes close. It cuts repeatedly between two different scenes. In the normcore narrative half, El Armenta stops by the home of his novia, who’s been preparing for his visit by doing the dishes, putting on makeup, and ignoring calls from an unknown number. Armenta brings her a stuffed perro and unsuccessfully tries to throw grapes into her mouth. He abruptly disappears from this narrative, sending novia to the recliner for a nap. She wakes to the sound of a barking perro on the radio, checks her phone, and leaves. This plot summary should be taken as a NorteñoBlog cry for help.

In the second scene, El Armenta dances in a park amid a circle of people wearing sombreros and grotesque rubber masks. They hold sticks the size of baseball bats tied to coils of rope. Although they are frankly frightening, nobody gets hit with a stick. I’m not sure how these scenes relate to one another or to el perro de la novia del Armento; no doubt I’m missing a proud cultural tradition and/or a lyrical plot point. So be a dear and watch this thing, will you? To sweeten the deal, I’ll tell you that of all the big dumb banda cumbias I’ve heard this year, “El Perro” is the best, with horns and clarinets blaring all over the place and a churning beat that doesn’t quit until the dog barks at the end. The sound’s a little clipped in the video, which only adds to the Lynchian daytime nightmare feel of the whole endeavor. An obvious Pick to Click. Continue reading “Indie a Go Go Again! (¡Nuevo!)”

¡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: 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.

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

El Komander Vs. The Thirsty Thirteen (aka Colmillo Norteño y Los BuKnas)

colmillo y buknas

Despite running regular lists of the year’s best singles, NorteñoBlog has kept fairly quiet about the best albums of 2015. That’s not changing today, but if it were, my list would definitely include El Komander’s Detrás del Miedo and Colmillo Norteño’s 10-song “EP” A Quien Corresponda. Say what you will about these acts — and no, I cannot prove that El Komander’s tubist has a rare Tourette’s-like condition that makes him compulsively produce mouthpiece farts — but they don’t rest on their achievements. True to form, both have recently released more new music, and in both cases it’s good.

hoy tocaIN THIS CORNER, Komander’s new single “Hoy Toca” (Twiins) continues his string of songs about drinking and (I think) chinga-ing the haters. Alternating a banda with his small group, tight as a whipcrack yet fraying around the edges, this song sounds sensational.

al llavazoIN THE OTHER CORNER, the quintet Colmillo Norteño leads off its new album Al Llavazo (Go) with “La Invitación,” a rollicking argument over who gets to enjoy the company of a treacherous mujer. Continue reading “El Komander Vs. The Thirsty Thirteen (aka Colmillo Norteño y Los BuKnas)”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Enero – Marzo

marco flores

As you listen to this Youtube playlist, imagine a Regional Mexican station that plays not just regional styles, but disco-fied international variations on those styles. Weirdly enough, the disco-mariachi songs here, while great, are far from the most danceable songs on the list. If you don’t believe me, check out the top video, where Marco Flores and his band create a barrage of anarchic polka moves, including Hiding Behind the Congas, for their banda-fied take on the Zacatecas state’s tamborazo music. Colmillo Norteño aren’t quite as terpsichorially ambitious with the waltz at #2, but they’ve still got moves.

You could call these the year’s best regional Mexican singles, but there’s a catch. “Regional Mexican” here includes Mexicans and non-Mexicans playing their takes on regional styles — norteño, banda, mariachi, and cumbia (not native to Mexico, but nation and format have embraced it), along with minor styles like Tejano, tierra caliente, and duranguense, if we’d found any. It doesn’t include Mexicans playing pop, although most of these songs register for listeners as pop songs. It also doesn’t include any Latinos playing reggaeton, bachata, or salsa, though NorteñoBlog broke that rule last year when Gerardo Ortiz released a full-throated bachata song.

Maybe not so weirdly, this list’s Venn diagram circle for “international interlopers” — Natalia Jiménez, Rocio Quiroz, Jenny and the Mexicats, and Shalia Dúrcal — overlaps perfectly with the circle for “women.” It’s not that women can’t make great music that’s puro Mexicano; after all, we’re observing the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death, the 10th anniversary of Yolanda Perez’s fantastic Esto Es Amor album, and also check out NorteñoBlog’s best of 2014 list. But in the recently dominant styles of norteño and banda, the male gaze and traditional, possibly smothering, notions of chivalry predominate. Women in song lyrics often have the upper hand over their hapless male counterparts — see the hilarious video for “Adicto a La Tristeza” — but the hapless males still make most of the music and money. Though she’s not on this list, check out América Sierra’s “Ponte Las Pilas” for a refreshing exception — she also wrote Ortiz’s latest single, “Perdoname” — and keep your eye on her this year. In the meantime…

1. Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez“El Pajarito” (Remex)
We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. His take on Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura.
Mexican radio hit

2. Colmillo Norteño“La Plebona” (Remex)
A demented rapid-fire circus parade waltz — you like those, right?
U.S. radio hit

3. Natalia Jiménez“Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Spanish pop star Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA breakup ballad. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

4. Rocio Quiroz“La De La Paloma” (Ser)
A minor key stomp with its drums slightly off-kilter in that delicious cumbia manner. The guitar tone is like something out of ’80s new wave, and Argentine singer Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.
hasn’t charted

5. Alfredo Ríos El Komander“Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Alfredo Ríos El Komander (I guess that’s what we’re calling him now?) continues to fire off charming singles that sound like he wrote them on a napkin and recorded them in the back of the bar. This one makes the theme explicit. It’s a drinking song whose background crowd noises exist as much for their musical energy as their verisimilitude — note how the crowd abruptly shuts up mid-whoop at the end of the song, rather than fading into a jumble of congratulatory high-fives. “Mi vida es pura pura pura borrachera,” Ríos brags, his tuba and requinto (I think) players capering around the bar, spilling everyone’s drinks.
hasn’t charted

6. Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats“Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón played one of their turn-of-the-millennium cumbias, “Tiene Espinas El Rosal,” in concert. They brought out the little Spanish/Mexican indie band Jenny and the Mexicats to sing it with them. It turns out I’m a sucker for both turn-of-the-millennium cumbias and Jenny and the Mexicats.
Mexican radio hit

7. Shalia Dúrcal“No Me Interesa” (EMI)
The Spanish singer’s latest blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Also check out “Has Sido Tú,” a tech-folk-ranchera stomper whose main riff is lifted directly from one of Slash’s solos in “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
hasn’t charted

8. La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti“Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
It turns out Edwin Luna, lead singer of La Trakalosa de Monterrey, is very convincing portraying un “Adicto a la Tristeza.” It helps that his voice chimes like a throaty bell. Luna’s labelmate and guest singer, Pancho Uresti from Banda Tierra Sagrada, is somewhat less convincing because his voice is scratchy. When the woman in the video spurns his advances, he’ll feel nothing and should be able to pick up pretty easily with someone else. High camp.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

9. Los Tigres Del Norte“Qué Tal Si Eres Tu” (Fonovisa)
This study in triplets — the musical figure, not the polyzygotic phenomenon — still sounds better every time I hear it. Any other late ’60s bands still going this strong?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10. Rosendo Robles“Alterado De Corazon” (Rosendo Robles)
A banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game.
hasn’t charted

11. La Maquinaria Norteña“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” (Azteca)
A stomping country polka with some puro Chihuahua sax, by way of New Mexico. I want La Maquinaria Norteña’s logo on my windshield.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

12. Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado“El Rancho” (Garmex)
A sad but swinging protest corrido using chicken farming as a parable about Mexican kidnapping violence, I think. The simple tune is appealing enough, but check out the interplay between bass, guitar, and requinto, alternately locking in together and tugging at the rhythm with passages of loose virtuosity.
hasn’t charted

13. Alfredo Rios El Komander“Malditas Ganas” (Twiins)
Tossed off kiss-off. The eternally loose Ríos sprechtstimmes and casually mentions “Soy De Rancho,” reminding the woman he can’t forget that nobody can forget him these days, either.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

14. Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez“Es Todo Un Placer” (Remex)
One of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves.
Mexican radio hit

15. Remmy Valenzuela“Mi Princesa” (Fonovisa)
A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99” (Cinematic/Relentless)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
One Direction – “Night Changes” (Columbia)
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (300)
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” (Sony Nashville)
Victor Manuelle – “Que Suenen Los Tambores” (Sony)

¡Nuevo! (starring Colmillo Norteño, Cuarteto Imperial, y más)

colmillo big

NorteñoBlog has been in the tank for Remex Records since hearing La Trakalosa’s “Mi Padrino El Diablo” on the radio. The song co-opted the Faust myth with more diabolical vigor than any of the surrounding songs could manage — any, that is, except those by other Remex bands, like Banda Tierra Sagrada and Marco Flores’s #1 Banda Jerez. Sometimes these bands falter: Tierra Sagrada’s “Soy Un Desmadre” is a great single, but most of their forgettable 2014 album was a disappointment. Overall, though, the Remex crew are a lively bunch who appear on one another’s tunes and seem perpetually on the verge of cracking up.

colmilloThis week on Remex, the tuba quintet Colmillo Norteño releases their 10-song A Quien Corresponda, which features their own take on “Mi Padrino El Diablo,” along with the rapid-fire circus parade (and Pick to Click) “La Plebona” and some other good or promising stuff. Colmillo have been around for several years, their album covers growing shinier and less rural over time, and I dig their sousaphone “O.” They also appeared on Tierra Sagrada’s smash “El Bueno y El Malo,” which at last count had garnered ONE TRILLION YOUTUBE VIEWS.

Also on Remex, Trakalosa’s new single “La Revancha” may be good for practicing your cusswords, or at least your three-against-two subdivisions. Wouldn’t hurt you to click on that one, either.

Another single, by the duranguense goddess Diana Reyes, is not as good. She sings her self-released banda ballad “La Mesa Puesta” well, but the song itself lies flat.

el tronoSpeaking of duranguense, El Trono de México has a new best-of, Los Más Grandes (Skalona), which kicks off with a song entitled “Se Fue” that is NOT the Diana Reyes song “Se Fue.”

la originalLa Original Banda El Limón drops Medio Siglo (Luz/Disa), from whence comes their Mexican top 10 ballad “Mayor de Edad.” Like their clademates in Arrolladora, Original reliably churns out two or three radio hits a year, and “Mayor” has begun its slow climb to mayority in El Norte.

cuarteto imperialIn the world of cumbia albums that may or may not be compilations, but that are definitely pro-fishing, Cuarteto Imperial celebrates El Pescador (Utopia). I should caution that Cuarteto Imperial is South American, not Mexican: this busy album cover boasts “De Colombia a la Argentina ye de Argentina para el mundo!” World conquest may take them a while; when I went to watch the video for “El Alegre Pescador,” it had zero views. Now it has one. This is a great injustice you should help remedy, because “Alegre” is a lot of fun, heavy on synth and piano, and not the official Click to Pick only because I can’t tell if it’s new. Cuarteto Imperial also posted the rest of this album on Youtube. Go make some fishermen happy.

antionio aguilarThe late man-myth-legend Antonio Aguilar has a new compilation, Antonio Aguilar Eterno (Seamusic). Aguilar recorded 150 albums of ranchera music and acted in a bunch of movies. Billboard sez, “Much of his repertoire consisted of “Corridos,” the sung stories so beloved in Mexican music. He turned several “corridos,” into classics, including “Gabino Barrera,” “Caballo Prieto Azabache” and “Albur de Amor.””

ramon ayalaI like the cover of this Ramon Ayala reissue:

Desfile de Éxitos

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published Nov. 6. Things to note:

The elephantine gestation chart count for “Propuesta Indecente” increases to 67 weeks.

We say “you’re back!” to Fidel Rueda’s “Me Voy De Ti,” and bid a sad “adios” to “Mi Padrino El Diablo,” La Trakalosa’s Faustian tale of terror. But not to worry! Trakalosa’s labelmates and duet partners Colmillo Norteño have also released “Diablo” as a single.

1. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo”
2. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (I just wanna point out this song is 67 WEEKS OLD, and that maybe someone’s chart methodology needs tweaking.)
4. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
5. “No Me Pidas Perdon” – Banda MS (#4 Reg Mex)
6. “Y Asi Fue” – Julión Álvarez (#1 RegMex) (Is this man the best banda singer around right now? Or should we forget the qualifier?)
7. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
8. “Odio” – Romeo Santos ft. Drake
9. “6 AM” – J Balvin ft. Farruko
10. “Hasta Que Salga el Sol” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)

11. “Tus Besos” – Juan Luis Guerra 440
12. “Soy El Mismo” – Prince Royce
13. “La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte (#2 RegMex)
14. “Adios” – Ricky Martin
15. “Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50 (#3 RegMex)
16. “Yo Tambien” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
17. “Lo Poco Que Tengo” – Ricardo Arjona
18. “Tu Respiracion” – Chayanne
19. “Perdon” – Camila
20. “Tenerte” – Luis Coronel (#9 RegMex) (Quite a plummet for young Coronel! You hate to see that.)

21. “Como Yo Le Doy” – Pitbull ft. Don Miguelo
22. “Soledad” – Don Omar (It’s new!)
23. “Plakito” – Yandel ft. El General Gadiel (It’s newish!)
24. “El Agüitado” – Jorge Valenzuela (#6 RegMex)
25. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#18 RegMex) (Hooray!)

——

#7. “Soy Un Desmadre” – Banda Tierra Sagrada ft. Marco Flores & La #1 Banda Jerez
#8. “Ahora Por Ley” – Los Huracanes Del Norte
#10. “Zapatillas Ferragamo” – Meno Lugo

#11. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela
#12. “Asi Ya No” – La Maquinaria Norteña
#13. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando
#14. “La Historia De Mis Manos” – Banda Carnaval
#15. “Al Estilo Mafia” – Saul El Jaguar ft. La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza
#16. “No Me Dolio” – La Original Banda el Limón
#17. “La Indicada” – Kevin Ortíz
#19. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho
#20. “Me Voy De Ti” – Fidel Rueda

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