Search

NorteñoBlog

music, charts, opinions

Tag

Diana Reyes

Un Aplauso Para Esas Mujeres (Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 4/21/17)

LUCERO-HASTA-QUE-AMANEZCA-17-FEB-17022017-193312

Women charting with norteño and banda music remains an unfortunately rare phenomenon, like snow in April or seeing an owl in the wild. So NorteñoBlog is stoked to see not one but two women on the Mexican radio charts this week. At #10 is actress/singer/”novia de America” Lucero, with a banda remake of Joan Sebastian’s 1980 countrypolitan tune “Hasta Que Amanezca”. With its repeated demands of “Ámame!”, it’s as forceful a love song as anything from Taylor Dayne’s Imperative Period, and Lucero really lets her voice fly around the melody’s contours. VALE LA PENA

Diana-reyes-la-pasion-tiene-memoriaThen at #18 we’ve got Diana Reyes with the banda song “La Pasión Tiene Memoria,” a song that appeared on her 2015 album but just got a video. It’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde deal with lovey verses detailing the memories of love, and then an angry chorus, in a different key and tempo, where Reyes goes crazy and feels everything overflowing inside her. The switch from verse to chorus is jarring, but Reyes’ voice remains a wonder and the song is growing on me. And it’s definitely better than anything off her dull new album Cuando Tuve Ganas. VALE LA PENA

(Although, la pura verdad, I think I prefer the new Jekyll-and-Hyde video from Chiquis Rivera, “Horas Extras,” to both. Give me a week to ruminate.)

luna aplausoAnd it’s not just women getting in on the “women” act! At #17 we find Edwin Luna, his Banda la Trakalosa, and his perennially nascent acting chops performing “Un Aplauso,” which is sadly not a Lady Gaga remake. Continue reading “Un Aplauso Para Esas Mujeres (Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 4/21/17)”

Advertisements

¡Nuevo! (Indie Label Mini-Roundup)

zafirosbig

Banda Cuisillos is a big bunch of brass-playing hippies. According to their useful biography, they got their name by combining the Mayan word “KU,” a sacred space, with the Spanish word “sillos,” which hasn’t appeared in my Spanish lessons but which apparently means “little (or at least diminutive) pyramids.” They dress in “Indian” garb, with a sentimental fondness for the Apaches who populated Mexico and the U.S. in the halcyon days before our two nations were separated by a border, when everyone lived together in peace and harmony. (Must research.) Besides the requisite love songs, every Cuisillos album includes one or two songs about “diferentes aspectos importantes” of being human; these aspectos include drug addiction, ecology, forming a new world, and single mothers. Their February single “Cerveza,” for instance, addresses the modern epidemic of “beer goggles.” Just say no, kids.

cuisillosBut in general you should say yes to Cuisillos, whose independently released albums have featured fine songs, unexpected sonic touches, and cover art puked up by the Luck Dragon. Unfortunately, their new single “Soñando Despierto” (Independent) has none of those things; it’s your standard-issue happy-go-lucky banda lope, not too far removed from something puked up by Luis Coronel. It’s not nearly as good as Willie Colón’s song of the same name. As daydream songs go, it captures all the cloying bits of the Lovin’ Spoonful but neglects the Monkees’ majesty.
NO VALE LA PENA
Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (Indie Label Mini-Roundup)”

¡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:

Diana Reyes – MIS MEJORES DURANGUENSES

dianareyes_albumreview_splash650

At PopMatters, I wrote 1,000 words about this solid career overview that someone else, somewhere, must care about:

Diana Reyes – Mis Mejores Duranguenses (DR Promotions)

In the title of her new career retrospective, Diana Reyes unapologetically invokes the “d” word. The album’s called Mis Mejores Duranguenses, a perfectly accurate title that nonetheless situates Reyes in a previous decade, out of vogue in today’s Mexican music world. But despite its nostalgic aura, that word, that genre—duranguense—is integral to what makes Reyes such a vital singer. Like Donna Summer, forever tied to a different dance music “d” word, Reyes transcends the style that made her transcendence possible.

For the past few years, being a duranguense fan in the norteño world has felt like being a scorpion set loose at a Sierra Club meeting. Everyone runs away when they see you coming, but once they’re safely across the room, they talk about you with condescending pity and acknowledge your Vital Role. Springing from the state of Durango and its satellite city Chicago around 2002-04, duranguense was, for a few years, the hot sound of regional Mexican music. That sound was a pared down take on banda with synth oompahs, ultra-speedy tempos, unhinged tambora (a bass drum with cymbals on top) acting like a lead instrument, and a ridiculous dance step all its own. Dancing el pasito duranguense was like “having gum stuck [on] the bottom of your shoe and trying to get it off,” explained dancer Jaime Barraza to the radio show “The World”.

By decade’s end, the genre itself had become stuck. Thanks to band infighting, legal wrangles, and the winds of popularity shifting from Durango to Sinaloa’s bandas and corridos, duranguense’s popularity dwindled. Maybe not down to the level of used chewing gum—recent videos by genre stalwarts Grupo Montéz and Alacranes Musical still command around a million hits apiece—but pretty far. Far enough that the annual Radio Éxitos compilation, which used to be one third duranguense, now shuns the genre. Even Los Horóscopos de Durango jumped ship; the band has sold its keyboards and bought tubas, and now it plays banda sinaloense.

Born in Baja California, with family from Sinaloa, Diana Reyes began her singing career recording traditional norteño. In 2004 she hopped aboard the Durango bandwagon and released six or seven albums for labels both major and minor, including DBC, the label she founded. To give you an idea how bankable this stuff was, that “or seventh” album was a Christmas record for Universal, Navidad Duranguense. She wasn’t alone. During those gold rush years, at least three other bands released Christmas albums with the same title.

Reyes was a welcome presence in the genre. Her husky voice was a powerhouse, and she could fray it at exactly the right emotional high points. Though you’d sometimes catch her chuckling, she sang with a gravitas that gave counterweight to her skippety-skip music. Look, let’s put our duranguense cards on the table. Lots of people hated this style and called it ridiculous circus music. They had a point. Most duranguense acts sounded like they were vying for Chintziest Synth Sound at the county fair. To overcome that handicap, musicians either had to own the chintz and become the wildest band in town and maybe cover “The Night Chicago Died”, like the sainted clowns in Banda Lamento Show, or they had to use their genre trappings to make perfect pop songs, like Diana Reyes.

At her best, Reyes achieved what Hi-NRG singers like Laura Branigan and Exposé did in their own genres: heartbreaking melodic lines belted over beats of endless momentum. Since Reyes’s beats were mostly polkas, the 20 songs on Mis Mejores might take some getting used to. After a few songs, though, the oompah is so consistent it falls away, and you’re left with the tune and the unpredictable clatter of percussion, clarinet, and bargain basement synth presets (yikes) popping out like the cast of Laugh In. In Reyes’s two biggest hits, 2004’s “Rosas” and 2007’s “Cuando Baja La Marea”, the band is so tight the players could be on autopilot, but their stop-on-a-dime breaks and complicated fills reveal otherwise. The melody to “Marea” takes advantage of the polka’s two-step feel to stretch and contract its phrase lengths like taffy. 2005’s “Mentiras” pulls the same trick. No longer tethered to predictable four-bar phrases, these melodies are free to start earlier than you expect, or extend longer than normal, giving them an emotional weightlessness. “Forget the beat,” Reyes and the melody say, “this is how I feel.”

What she feels is mostly sad, and then angry about the sadness. 2009’s album ¡Vamos a Bailar! opened not with an exhortation to dance, but with the post-breakup pine “¿Dónde Están?” A sub-Winwood keyboard fart reminds you this is a duranguense song. Reyes establishes the breakup in a thick purr, but once she hits the chorus, she and the snare drummer belt you with that string of questions: where are all those letters and flowers and visits and kisses? Our bodies, the ones that used to be close to one another—where are they? Turn your attention from Reyes to the band, and you’ll realize the keyboards and woodwinds are still going, but they no longer sound cheesy. They’re simply adding to the bedlam.

In 2010 Reyes released her best album, Amame Besame, through Capitol Records. Half-duranguense, half-techno cumbia, and all exquisitely produced, it effectively marked the end of duranguense not just for Reyes but for regional Mexican music in general. Apart from duranguense Reyes has been less exciting. Her 2011 roots album Ajustando Cuentas took on traditional banda. Her voice sounded spectacular, but the banda arrangements were too perfect—they were there to showcase her, not to be her sparring partners. Most recently, Reyes released a power ballad telenovela theme, “Yo No Creo En Los Hombres.” (Hey, me neither.) I won’t vouch for the song, whose horns read more “‘80s Chicago” than any horn-based music you’d actually wanna hear wafting from our fair city, but her voice remains a powerhouse. As for this new hits album, you’d think 20 straight duranguenses would be too many. And while some variety would be nice, the beats never quit, the new romantic melodies never flag, and the instrumentalists never stop finding new ways to go apeshit. Plus, Reyes’s voice might make people nostalgic for a time when they could reliably hear women’s voices on regional Mexican radio. Let’s hope so.

Lo Mejor De 2014

julion_alvarez_video-movil

At PopMatters you can read my list of the year’s best music — or if reverse-order lists make you feel uneasy, you can just read it here! For the PopMatters list, Matt Cibula, who’s been writing about norteño music longer than I have, added Regulo Caro’s metal-biting Senzu-Rah.

Beware: what follows may contain tubas. Also accordions, clarinets, canned gunfire, protest songs, dance songs, songs about roosters, songs about drug cartels, songs using drug cartels as metaphors to make the singers seem intimidating and/or awesome and/or “authentic,” songs using roosters the same way, and amor. Lots and lots of amor. Any kind of amor you can think of, unless it’s completely unremarkable and pedestrian. That’s not how these singers do amor.

In 2014, norteño quartets and big brass bandas continued to dominate the Mexican music charts, awkwardly named “Regional Mexican” in the U.S. and, somewhat less awkwardly, “Popular” in the motherland. (That’s “Popular” as opposed to “Pop” or “General,” both of which include Ricky Martin. We’re not talking about Ricky Martin.) Nominally these are “country” styles, but they’re a country music that borrows imagery from rap and 100-year-old folk songs, and chord changes from Tin Pan Alley and hard rock. In those regards, this music’s not too different from modern city-slicker pop country. But comparisons will only get you so far, because ultimately norteño and banda are pure pop for their audiences: Mexicans, Latino Americans, and anyone else (hi!) lucky enough to have radio stations (95.5 “El Patrón”!) that allow us to listen along. Not everything below is radio fare, but it’s all grabby like the best pop music. And while understanding Spanish can make listening more fun, particularly when cusswords are involved, it’s certainly not required.

ALBUMS

popmatters album1 alvarezJulión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda – Soy Lo Que Quiero… Indispensable – Fonovisa
Indispensable is a shiny pop album in caballero drag. That’s true of most major label banda albums anymore, but this one has an advantage: the best singer on the continent. A young man blessed with a voice dusty as the Sierra, Álvarez sings 12 short songs with a mix of high melodrama and lived-in naturalism. Lead single “Te Hubieras Ido Antes” is a good example — listen to the way his voice tugs against the stately waltz laid down by the banda, falling behind the beat almost immediately. For a delicious moment it’s unclear whether he’ll make it out of the chorus. Eventually he does, big surprise, and goes on to some very happy flirtations with cumbia, corrido, and a woman with “Ojos Verdes” who inspires a gorgeous midtempo love song. “Hoy mi pena ya no duele,” sings Álvarez — “Today my pain doesn’t hurt.” I feel the same way whenever Indispensable is playing.

popmatters album2 rebelionLa Nueva Rebelión – Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte – LR
They’re 26 hours drunk, their songs are full of second hand hoods, and they have very defensive notions of justice and vengeance. Is La Nueva Rebelión the only rock ‘n’ roll band that matters? I don’t wanna overstate my case for the aesthetic achievements of their corrido lyrics, partly because I don’t understand the nuances of Spanish, partly because “aesthetic achievement” only matters if it brings the songs to life. That’s where Rebelión excel. They populate their songs with as lively an assortment of characters and life lessons as Springsteen or Jay-Z or whoever your favorite world creator is. That energy spills over into their music, with the singers harmonizing at crooked intervals, the accordion and bajo sexto filling every bit of sonic space, and the drummer, g-d bless him, flailing like Tommy Lee tearing up a hotel room.

popmatters album3 komanderEl Komander – Cazador – Twiins
With his aviator shades, fealty to country living, and endorsement of la mota, Alfredo Ríos could almost be Eric Church, if Church had Brantley Gilbert’s vocal range and described gangland killings in gory detail. For Cazador, Ríos has dialed down the gore but not the substance abuse. His band plays wonderfully loose and shaggy norteño, augmented by demented horns that jump out of nowhere and sound like they’re two hits away from falling down. Lead song “Toquezones de Cannabis” sets the tone; its abrupt tempo shifts will either make you laugh uncontrollably or start freaking out. Despite having about eight notes at its disposal, Ríos’s voice has charisma to burn. He only fools himself into trying to sing pretty once, on the mariachi ballad “Descansa Mi Amor,” where his ideal of love is a whispering frog.

popmatters album4 torresNoel Torres – La Balanza – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
Torres’s whirling dervish accordion and propulsive band were musical highlights a year ago. This year’s La Balanza is an unwelcome step toward respectability — it’s a touch less surprising and it flags near the end. But Jesse “El Pulpo” Esquivel is still pounding the skins in a way that makes music writers write things like “pounding the skins,” and Torres stages a couple coups. Coup #1 is hitting the charts with “Amanecí Con Ganas”, a funny scenario involving a spoiled rich girl, her gun-toting father, and an alarmed Torres in the role of profane farm boy Westley. Coup #2, “El Cambio”, pays tribute to Mexico’s autodefensas, the local self-defense militias standing up to cartels and Mexico’s corrupt government. In the U.S., with our overheated 2nd Amendment rhetoric and open carry wingnuts, a song like this might make you cringe. But its anthemic melody is undeniable, and it shows Torres experimenting like few other norteño songwriters.

popmatters album5 guzmanNena Guzman – La Iniciativa – Del/Sony Latin
A forthright singer who lets her brass players take care of the sentimental stuff, Guzman doesn’t do melodrama, or even vibrato. Sometimes she veers close to telenovela territory — playing the other woman in “Yo Soy La Amante”, she cattily reveals her identity to the first woman, then offers to be her assistant — but even then she sounds cheerful and warm. Corralling her small band is a different story. Though tuba, accordion, and bajo sexto are all technically playing the same songs, they’re locked in a battle to see who can improvise the most notes. Using her syllables to keep time, Guzman strides with authority through a solid batch of corridos, love songs, hate songs, and the requisite cumbia.

popmatters album7 recoditosBanda Los Recoditos – Sueño XXX – Disa
You may have seen the advertisements for this album? Like, they were on condom wrappers? Recoditos is one of the most consistent bands around, both in terms of their quality and their sticking to themes. They never release a bad album. They never release a mind-blowing fantastic album. They tend to sing about sex, XXX-rated dreams, drinking, partying, forgetting what happened during drunken parties, and things of that nature. (Also “love,” blah blah blah.) The musicians play their gleaming arrangements with spectacular dexterity. The singers’ personalities jump off the radio. Basically they are Electric 6. Doesn’t it seem like Electric 6 should advertise on condom wrappers?

popmatters album8 castilloMartin Castillo – Mundo de Ilusiones – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
On the better of his two 2014 albums, Martin Castillo sings, drums, writes corridos, and leads his band with the same aim: attaining the norteño sublime. (Apologies to the late hip-hop scholar Adam Krims.) The first half of Mundo de Ilusiones (Castillo sees deeply) features a banda, and it’s pretty good, peaking early with the minor hit “Así Será”. But Castillo hits his stride on the last six songs when, joined by his quartet, he tosses off one corrido after another. Each song features one instantly memorable melody that Castillo sings over and over, meditating on the nature of illicit power, while around him the band weaves polyphonic tales of its own. This is the sierra of Castillo’s imagination: a complicated tangle of associations bespeaking a force best left implicit.

popmatters album9 favelaAdriel Favela – Mujeres de Tu Tipo – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
Young Favela has the most soothing voice this side of Glenn Medeiros. In fact, you might have to go back to ‘70s AM radio to find soothingness of this magnitude. The overconfident title song suggests Favela would benefit from spending time with Miranda Lambert’s “Girls”, but his voice is so comforting it’s impossible to dislike him. How do you hate a warm bath? For a while Favela’s second album edges toward classic MOR, with the horns in “Cómo Olvidarla” attempting Tower of Power riffs, and “Murió El Amor” threatening to become “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. But the back half delivers a string of corridos, played by an exceptional band and sung with a warmth not often associated with drug cartel honchos.

Also worthwhile:

Los Tigres Del Norte – Realidades – Fonovisa
Diana Reyes – Mis Mejores Duranguenses – DR
Los Rieleros del Norte – En Tus Manos – Goldfink/Sony
La Adictiva Banda San José de Mesillas – Disfruté Engañarte – Sony Latin

SINGLES

La Nueva Rebelión – “Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte” – LR Music
Lately, certain corrido bands have rocked harder and wilder than most rockers claiming the title. (Like, for instance, Good Time Rockin’ Jack White — his latest is OK, in the way reading someone’s dissertation is OK.) It’s still rare, though, to catch the norteño guys playing songs that would, in any other context, be considered rock music, which makes the title single from La Nueva Rebelión’s latest such a blast. Literally — the video’s body count is high. This manifesto of vengeful resolve opens with a trio texture straight from the Minutemen, and then the accordion kicks in — you always thought the Minutemen needed an accordion, right? The band launches into a power waltz, built on a chord change I think Black Flag once used, with both singers’ voices straaaaaaaaining into the chorus, shouting threats at their haters until the instruments have no choice but to collapse. It’s the most exciting four minutes of music this year. Trigger warning: things don’t end well for the horse.

Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda – “Y Así Fue” – Fonovisa
Julión Álvarez sings his love songs with a smoky warble that makes him sound twice his age. Makes sense, since on paper this hit — rubbing shoulders with Romeo and Enrique on the Hot Latin chart — could be an ace pre-Beatles pop song, complete with those magic changes and a tune that’s unforgettable because it simply follows those chords around. But in the world of banda, those pop chords, along with the band’s relentless syncopated rhythms and the recording’s knifelike sheen, make this song sound utterly contemporary. Think “In the Still of the Night,” only faster, hornier, and hornier — Álvarez and his ladyfriend give it up on the first date, and so they go from there.

El Komander – “Soy De Rancho” – Twiins
Back in April at the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle (home to FM 99.3 “La Gran D”), Professor Josh Kun described how people’s mobility — across borders, or from country to city and back again — is central to the mezcla of genres known as “Regional Mexican.” Alfredo Ríos, “El Komander”, agrees. “Sí, Señor, yo soy de rancho,” he tells a U.S. border official, right before Ríos’s tuba player farts in the guy’s face. Over furious accordion and a ramshackle acoustic waltz, Ríos goes on to describe a ranchera paradise full of singing cocks and weed-covered hills, but also admits his fondness for citified flashy brands and fast cars that may or may not have been afforded by those weed-covered hills. A man for all people! The people agreed, making this his first top 10 hit in the U.S.

Alacranes Musical – “Zapateado Encabronado #3” – A.M.
10 reasons you shouldn’t listen to this song: 1) The video endorses cockfighting. 2) The two drummers, while not explicitly endorsing cockfighting, sure make a lot of scritchy scratchy sounds that may or may not imitate agitated cocks scampering around mid-fight. 3) The song’s repetitive accordion+sax+synth riffs could drive you to drink. 4) I, for instance, am cracking open a bottle of Buchanan’s. Come over! 5) If you get drunk and start messing with cocks, Alacranes Musical will not help clean up your mess. 6) There’s no bass or even tuba in this song, so Alacranes Musical are clearly ripping off “When Doves Cry”, which also had no bass or even tuba. 7) “When Cocks Cry”. This song made me type that. 8) The third installment in a saga is always the weakest. 9) Oh wait, Toy Story. 10) OMG, are you remembering a cockfighting sequence in one of the Toy Story movies? It was like in a flashback, Sarah McLachlan was singing about sad cocks… WHAT ON EARTH AM I THINKING OF???

Gerardo Ortiz – “Eres Una Niña” – Del/Sony Latin
Like Adriel Favela, Ortiz could stand to sit down with Miranda Lambert’s “Girls”, but we’ll cut him some slack since he released his own 16-song masterpiece a year ago. Its third single, a chivalrous offer to kiss the extremities of a young woman until she screams the word “Gerardo”, innovates by sticking bachata guitar into the Sinaloan banda mix. Its melody is long and winding like Ortiz’s gilded tongue. Even though the current face of regional Mexican music isn’t really directing his song at me, it still sets my heart aflutter.

La Trakalosa De Monterrey – “Mi Padrino El Diablo” – Remex
You know the old story. Kid runs away from his abusive dad, falls asleep in a drainage ditch, wakes up to a Companion of Black touching his forehead, and joins a new family: the Devil’s family! What could possibly go wrong? From Faust to Coraline, Robert Johnson to Tom Hagen, the myth finds its way to “Mi Padrino” and its 40-odd-million Youtube views. La Trakalosa mix a small band texture with brass fanfares, an exciting gimmick that became al corriente this year — see also Los Buitres de Culiacán’s best songs.

Calibre 50 ft. El Komander – “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Disa
It’s not often a protest song hits #1 on any chart. But when two of Sinaloan corrido music’s leading flamethrowers teamed up for this ode to free speech, they topped the radio charts in Mexico. Granted, it’s sort of a self-serving protest. Both Calibre and Komander have been fined or banned in various Mexican localities, for the crime of “inciting violence” with their music, when really all they’ve ever tried to incite was the purchase of Calibre and Komander records. So they wrote this song on behalf of all hard-working citizens who enjoy listening to songs about drug murders. They wrote it for YOU! It’s sort of like when Anthrax did “Startin’ Up a Posse”, only much better — the whole thing swings like some fearsome pendular tuba.

Los Horóscopos de Durango – “Las Chicas Malas” – Universal Latin
Having jettisoned duranguense three albums ago, the Terrazas sisters throw themselves into Jenni Rivera mode, putting their banda musicians’ fingers to work as they embark on a wild night of drinking and, if the video can be believed, destructive pillow fights. Sometimes after the song has ended, I can still hear the screaming.

Also worthwhile:

Marco Flores Y La Número 1 Banda Jerez – “Soy El Bueno” – Remex

Banda MS – “Hermosa Experiencia” – Discos Sabinas

Regulo Caro – “Soltero Disponible” – Del/Sony Latin

Los Buitres de Culiacán – “Mejor Soltero” – Sony Latin

Album Review: AMAME, BESAME by Diana Reyes

amame besame

Since Diana Reyes is repackaging and re-releasing her music, I’ll do the same with my writing. Here’s an unpublished review of her really good 2010 album:

Diana Reyes
Ámame, Bésame
(EMI Latin 2010)

Diana Reyes has been making good albums for years, but Ámame, Bésame (“Love Me, Kiss Me”) is an explosion of color and energy like nothing else in her catalogue. It’s also a breakthrough for duranguense, the Chicago-based techno-polka style that five years ago threatened to take over regional Mexican radio. Back then, Reyes pulled one of the most effective genre switcheroos in Latin pop history, when she left her native norteño music for duranguense. Reyes was so confident about this career move, she titled her first album in the new genre La Reina del Pasito Duranguense (“The Queen of the Duranguense Dance Step”). Just to make certain nobody argued, she sang the hell out of her songs and grew her fingernails to a frightening length.

Duranguense’s impact has since cooled, thanks to scene infighting and the fickle winds of public taste. Maybe that’s why Ámame, Bésame alternates its polkas with more pop-wise techno cumbias, in the tradition of A.B. Quintanilla’s Kumbia All-Starz. Reyes even covers a couple songs by Quintanilla’s late sister, Selena, and works with his production associate, Luigi Giraldo. Giraldo has assembled a crack band for his songs, and his arrangements really sparkle. When you hear how the accordion switches from outlining the melody to playing riffs, or how the strategically placed laser FX chirp away in the background, you can tell how much care he’s lavished on this music.

Of course, such sonic tchotchkes are par for the course with most pop music. Reyes’s stunning achievement is that she now gets that same bold, detailed sound with her duranguense producers. If Reyes’s previous four duranguense albums were good, they also sounded a little thinner, as though they were made on a much lower budget. Indeed, that’s been the case with lots of duranguense music. For this album Reyes’s Chicago producers, the Orwellian-sounding “The Team, Inc.”, have really amped up the energy. The polkas are faster and louder. Where Reyes’s backing band once sounded anonymous, they now clatter away on tambora and provide wild electronic tuba fills. With their madcap woodwind lines and beat changes, these polkas resemble Carl Stalling’s orchestra performing Europop songs during Oktoberfest. Which isn’t to say it’s ALL louder — the background keyboards that once popped garishly out of the mix have been replaced by softer, subtler synths. What it all adds up to is increased professionalism and, I assume, a higher recording budget courtesy EMI, Reyes’s new label.

Here’s what hasn’t changed: Reyes still sings the hell out of her songs. Whether she’s singing songs written specifically for her, or covering Selena or Lupita d’Alessio (a balladeer and telenovela actress), Reyes delivers each tune with enough full-throated conviction to completely command her arrangements. Her clear tone and phrasing keep her free from syrupy melodrama, but her voice is laced with a magical huskiness that hints at some hidden pain or experience. You sense she knows more than she’s willing to reveal in the song. In the sinister “Ten Mucho Cuidado” (“Be Very Careful”), which sounds like sped-up Ace of Base + accordion, Reyes switches from quick, matter-of-fact tongue twisting to a soaring world weariness. Her song-picking ability is uncannily good, but this woman would sound great even if someone made her sing an album of Ariel Pink covers.

Thankfully it hasn’t come to that. This is the best-sounding duranguense — or, I guess, semi-duranguense — album I’ve heard. It’s bursting with catchy pop songs and full arrangements that allow them to flourish. Ámame, Bésame ends with a polka version of the title track, replete with a whistle doubling the melody, haphazard organ fills, electronic squelches, and what sounds like EVERY OTHER MUSICAL INSTRUMENT that The Team, Inc. could dig out of their Memory Hole. It’s as though they realized that, after revolutionizing the sound of the duranguense genre, they should send us out with as big a bang as possible. Explosion accomplished.

¡Nuevo!

diana reyes

Being a duranguense fan has lately felt like being a scorpion at a Sierra Club meeting — everyone runs away when they see you coming, but once they’re safely across the room, they talk about you with condescending pity and acknowledge your vital role. Hence the new compilation from Diana Reyes, Mis Mejores Duranguenses, a promising overview of an important career. Back in ‘04-’05, Chicago duranguense music was the hot sound of norteño, a pared down take on banda with synth horns, faster tempos, unhinged tambora, and a ridiculous dance step all its own. Born in Baja California, with family from Sinaloa, Reyes began her career recording traditional norteño but hopped aboard the Durango bandwagon and released several albums for different labels, including her own DBC. To give you an idea of how bankable this stuff was, her third album for Musimex/Universal was a Christmas album, Navidad Duranguense.

In 2010 Reyes released her best album, Amame Besame, through Capitol Records — back on the majors! Half duranguense, half techno corrido, and all exquisitely produced, it effectively marked the end of duranguense not just for Reyes but for regional Mexican music in general. Former heavy hitters like Grupo Montéz and Alacranes Musical have seen their popularity dwindle and their sound give way to banda pop. (That new Alacranes song, which I shouldn’t in good conscience endorse because the linked video promotes cockfighting, sounds rad.) Los Horóscopos de Durango just up and went banda. Reyes herself returned to norteño for an underwhelming 2011 album, and recently released this power ballad telenovela theme, “Yo No Creo En Los Hombres.” (Hey, me neither.) I won’t vouch for the song, whose horns read more “‘80s Chicago” than any horn-based music you’d actually wanna hear wafting from our fair city, but her husky vibrato remains a powerhouse. As for this new hits album, 20 straight duranguenses will be too many, but Reyes sang them as well as anyone. Aside from making lots of pretty, clattery pop, her music might make lots of people nostalgic for a time when they could reliably hear women’s voices on regional Mexican radio. Let’s hope so.

Also new this week:

Senzu-Rah from singer-songwriter Regulo Caro, whose album last year trafficked in off-kilter songwriting experiments and character studies, while still digging deep into corridos;

Así Te Quiero Yo from Banda Tierra Sagrada, who, if they don’t get sucked into a sarlacc pit of samey banda ballads, might deliver more energetic bad-boy anthems like the album’s lead single “Soy Un Desmadre”;

and a new live comp from Pesado, which’ll probably turn out to be a couple hours of mildly pleasant stodge that you either already own in some other form, or never need to hear again.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑