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El Armenta

Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is

The Grammys and the Mexican government would very much like Mexico’s musical output to consist of genteel roots music. Fortunately, NorteñoBlog’s annual playlist 2016 VALE LA PENA shows that Mexican-American musicians have other ideas.

Our playlist has El Komander singing about immigration in two very different, equally urgent songs: once from the vantage point of a mother whose son is missing, and once as a proudly binational drug dealer. The playlist includes a defiant statement of national pride from Los Inquietos and Marco Flores. There are love songs from guitar bands, brass bands, accordion bands, sax bands, and synth bands.  El Bebeto and Banda Tierra Sagrada stop by to plug liquor; Fuerza de Tijuana celebrates two real-life American narcos. The guys in Los Titanes de Durango drive way too fast. La Rumorosa curses a terrible boyfriend; Intocable mourns absent amor with distorted guitar and a smoking accordion solo. At the top of the list, El Armenta offers a low-fi Lynchian nightmare of a cumbia about his girlfriend’s dog. All in all, it’s as energetic and varied as any single-genre playlist you’re likely to find.

THIS, Grammy voters, is where the action is.

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vicente-un-aztecaEven as NorteñoBlog congratulates living legend Vicente Fernández on winning his third Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) (But Not Including Grupero ‘Cause That Shit Suuuuuuuux), we gotta note that this particular win is lame in a very Grammy-ish way. Continue reading “Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is”

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!)”

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