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Corazón Serrano

¡Lo Mejor de 2018!

el-dusty

In 2018, Regional Mexican radio chilled out. Amid the ever-shifting blend of genres that comprises the format, the two “new” styles that commanded the most attention sounded remarkably blase about their surging popularity. In fact, “command” seems like the wrong word for the genres of cumbia and corridos verdes, since they were just sitting around in a smoky haze, waiting for audiences to trip over them.

As Elias Leight explained in a spring Rolling Stone feature, cumbias have been around for decades, having traveled from South America throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora over the last 70-or-so years. Turn-of-the-millennium hits from Los Angeles Azules, a swanky Mexican big band, have never outgrown their use as commercial bumper music on U.S. radio. The band’s recent resurgence culminated in a 2018 Coachella performance, dug by none other than Justin Bieber, and a current hit rearrangement of Natalia LaFourcade’s tune “Nunca Es Suficiente.” And that’s just the acoustic stuff.

The electronic technocumbia scene, pioneered by Selena and her producer brother A.B. Quintanilla in the mid ‘90s, got new energy from former nano-satellite engineer Edmundo Gómez Moreno, aka Raymix, and his unkillable singles “Oye Mujer” and “¿Dónde Estarás?” The Blog admires the mysterious modality of these singles and admits they don’t really sound like anyone else.The Blog also never wants to listen to them. Like the band Low, for whose 2018 album Double Negative I also didn’t have much time, Raymix zeros in on precisely one mood and hits his mark. It’s a feat that demands acknowledgement rather than repeated listening.

If Raymix songs seem like they might sound better stoned, corridos verdes make that theme explicit. Praised by Snoop, played mostly by young sierreño bands who weave hypnotic patterns from acoustic guitars and either bass or tuba, these songs can get sort of samey. If you thought shoutouts to narcos were getting old, or if you were having trouble differentiating weeping meditations on drinking away lost amors, wait until you hear a bunch of young dudes sing about how high they are. These guys stick to themes. Their songs are sometimes hilarious, though, and the tubists and lead guitarists occasionally stumble across moments that’ll legitimately drop your jaw, regardless of how much THC is in your blood. As with so much else, it depends which strain you get.

Corridos about smoking weed aren’t new, either, but they do represent a shift, at least in terms of mainstream radio fare. A boyband like T3R Elemento might occasionally sing about real-life narcos and the marijuana production business, but unlike the older generation of corrideros — Gerardo Ortiz, El Komander, Noel Torres — they make no pretense that they’re singing from experience or proximity. Born and raised in the U.S., T3R Elemento sings about weed from a bilingual suburban U.S. high school point of view, a vantage their video iconography reinforces. It’s similar to what we saw with the Bay Area’s hyphy movimiento a decade ago. That movement also focused on drug and alcohol consumption, with little reference to Mexico or the drug production narratives that had long dominated corridos. Call these movements “assimilation” if you want, but they represent wilder, less predictable patterns of assimilation than political discourse or radio programmers have led us to expect.

Of course, Regional Mexican radio still plays frantic dressage polkas from Marco Flores, and plenty of maudlin slow jams from the likes of Banda MS. Old narcocorridos from Los Tigres rub shoulders with new ones from El Fantasma. Frantic emotions and spirited boasts will never die; but neither will the phenomenon of getting really baked, and then singing about it.

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Having accounted for trends, here are 11 Regional Mexican albums the Blog recommends, genre by genre — in several cases paired with their higher profile inferiors.
Continue reading “¡Lo Mejor de 2018!”

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¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Corazón Serrano, Soñadores, y Marco Flores)

corazon serrano

Loyal readers know that NorteñoBlog is in the tank for unapologetic Zacatecan vaquero and spurting tank of Terpsichore Marco Flores y La Jerez — aka Marco A. Flores y su Banda Jerez. Flores seems cheerfully indifferent to the U.S., partly because if he moved here he’d have to buy a car, and he prefers to travel by horse. He records an updated version of the centuries-old banda style tamborazo zacatecano, which is faster than its Sinaloan counterpart and, if possible, even less pretentious. Flores’s songs are full of smutty jokes and traditional dances, and though they rarely aim to cross over into banda pop, he seems to record a video for each of them, maintaining an intimate knowledge of his YouTube counts. Flores’s aesthetic appeal boils down to this: He is a prolific hoot.

marco flores zapateadoHis latest album is Zapateado Endemoniado, released on his own MF label. It contains only three fewer songs than the latest Migos album, but — since nearly every song clocks in between 2:22 and 3:31 — it’s 45 minutes shorter. True, that’s still an hour-long brass band assault with no standouts as genius as “Stir Fry,” but Flores wisely livens up his tempos and rhythms throughout. And song for song, La Jerez’s beats are even stickier than team Migos’.

Take “Colas,” at 4:07 the longest song on Zapateado; it may or may not be an answer record to Migos’ “All Ass.” “Colas” is a big dumb cumbia punctuated by four bar solos that bounce from section to section, with unpredictable low brass lines hellbent on tripping up your dance moves. Starting at 3:40, there’s a groovy duet for clarinet and tuba that deserves to be sampled far and wide. Pick to Click!

But really, the Blog could Pick just about any song here. (In fact, I’ve already endorsed the title track, the best dressage video of our young year.) “El Torito” is a rollercoaster ride through a traditional jarabe, a 6/8 dance that flits between duple and triple feels. On “De Está Sierra a La Otra Sierra,” Flores covers a wistful immigration classic like he was just elected mayor of San José. “Mi Niña Bonita” is not a cover of Vicente Fernandez or Marco Antonio Solis; it’s even bouncier and prettier. And if you watch any of the videos for these songs, you’ll see the flailing limbs of a man more comfortable in his own skin than most of us have dreamt of being. He’s pretty pleased with the sound of his crowing voice, too. ¡VALE LA PENA!

sonadoresIf norteño is more your thing, the fresh-faced septet Soñadores de Sinaloa have just released their I-dunno-sixth? album Lo Improvisado (Mayra/Three Sound). Continue reading “¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Corazón Serrano, Soñadores, y Marco Flores)”

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