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Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 1/19/16

iniciativa

Thanks to an extremely geeky background playing in concert bands, where mixed meters and overlapping rhythms kept my mind off the pain of my sputtering lips, NorteñoBlog will always dig bands doing proggy rhythm stuff in non-prog settings. This week’s 15th most played norteño/banda song on Mexican radio comes from the young tuba quintet La Iniciativa de Angostura Sinaloa, or simply “La Iniciativa” to their madres. “El Loquito del Rancho” (PCol) is a quick waltz, but singer Ariel Inzunza’s inventive melody throws in all these quintuplets, giving the first half of each line a crowded five-against-three feel. (You can play along at home! Tap your chest “ONE two three/ ONE two three” over and over again, and then start saying “onetwothreefourfive/ ONE two” so that the “one”s in your voice line up with the “one”s in your tapping. Got that? Now balance a ball on your nose!) Add to that a great chorus hook and a tubist (Rigoberto Cruz) who keeps messing with everyone, plus some hot accordion work from leader and co-singer Martín López, and you’ve got yourself a Pick to Click.

López is a triple threat who used to play tuba in Calibre 50; he and drummer Agusto Guido left that superstar band about two years ago to form La Iniciativa and possibly the PCol label, which seems to promote no other acts. NorteñoBlog slept on their 2015 album Ya Estás Olvidada. Among other things, it includes a beefed-up cover of the late Ariel Camacho’s “Hablemos” that doesn’t cut the original, but does demonstrate that they are caballeros of good taste. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 1/19/16”

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¡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: Banda Costado, Grupo Cañaveral, and some Mexicats

jenny canaveral

The countdown continues to regions not often heard…

Foregoing such musical niceties as Chordal Harmony or Being Able To Tell The Songs Apart, the percussion-heavy southern septet Banda Costado reels off one minor-key violin melody after another on their album Chilenas de Oaxaca (Talento). Fiddle and singers work in counterpoint, with the tuba diving into the rhythmic arsenal — which, if you pay attention to it, sounds nearly as complex as the stuff avant-jazz legend Henry Threadgill has been playing with his tuba-inclusive band Zooid. Banda Costado is samier and less metrically ambiguous than Zooid; but to Costado’s credit, they sing and joke around more.

Turn of the millennium cumbiaderos Grupo Cañaveral have lately invited the trans-Atlantic pop band Jenny and the Mexicats onstage to sing their decade-old hit “Tiene Espinas el Rosal” (Fonovisa), about roses having thorns and whatnot. Jenny sings lead and takes a trumpet solo while the two bands groove toward infinity.

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”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/26/15

horoscopos11

This week’s Mexican radio roundup looks far different than it did last time, for two reasons: it’s been a month and I’m using a different chart. Inspired by the discovery that audience impressions matter more than total radio spins, NorteñoBlog has begun following the audience impression chart at radioNOTAS. So we say adios to a whopping 10 songs — half the chart — including winners from Leandro Ríos and Zacatecan dancing machine Marco A. Flores, losers from Banda Los Sebastianes and songwriter-to-the-stars Espinoza Paz, and startlingly hot motorcycle enthusiast Jovanko Ibarra.

That said, this week’s Pick to Click is cheating, in more ways than one. The new single by Chicago’s startlingly hot chicas malas Los Horóscopos de Durango, “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama,” is dramatic banda camp about cheating, and it comes from the “spins” chart, not the “audience impressions” chart. This study of hi infidelity uses “cuernos” imagery worthy of Shakespearean cuckoos, and it’s a welcome bit of smut from aforementioned songwriter Espinoza Paz, seen performing it here. (Los Horóscopos don’t have a video yet; that link above will get you to a stream that might disappear at any moment.) Paz’s stripped down version might be even better; his audience keeps laughing at key lines and it has the transgressive feel of a Toby Keith “bus song.”

Also noteworthy: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/26/15”

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)

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/15/15

diego herrera

Two picks to click this week, the first of which probably shouldn’t count. Down at #19, 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, who are classified in Allmusic as “Jazz Blues” because, um, Jenny plays the trumpet? No no. A cursory listen tells me they’re cumbia rockers, and I totally slept on their 2014 album. Confused by this sudden mixture of guilt, cumbia-suckertude, and wanting to sing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” in the shower, I direct you to their live video and Jenny’s excellent trumpet intonation.

REAL pick to click is Diego Herrera’s (ft. Los Gfez) “Es Todo Un Placer”, one of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves. You could do worse than subscribing to Remex’s Youtube channel.

I like Fidel Rueda’s “Escuchame” a touch less, but it has the advantage of being short. It also has some really tight brass charts packed into what’s essentially a midtempo norteño quartet waltz.

Picks to run far away include El Bebeto’s second boring ballad in a row, although he returns to banda from his brief mariachi nap; Espinoza Paz’s brief mariachi nap; and Los Primos MX’s insufferable sax ballad. My displeasure has a theme.

These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by radioNOTAS. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Uptown Funk!” and the ABBA-schlager of Natalia Jiménez.

1. “Contigo” – Calibre 50
2. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
3. “Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo
4. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos
5. “Culpable Fui (Culpable Soy)” – Intocable
6. “Malditas Ganas” – Alfredo Rios El Komander
7. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
8. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
9. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – Arrolladora
10. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval

11. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortiz
12. “Sencillamente” – Raúl y Mexia + SuenaTron
13. “Mayor De Edad” – La Original Banda el Limón
14. “No Fue Necesario” – El Bebeto
15. “Si Tuviera Que Decirlo” – Pedro Fernandez
16. “Perdi La Pose” – Espinoza Paz
17. “Escuchame” – Fidel Rueda
18. “Me Importas” – Los Primos MX
19. “Tiene Espinas El Rosal” – Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón ft. Jenny and the Mexicats
20. “Es Todo Un Placer” – Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez

¡Adios!
“El Pajarito” – Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez
“Nos Acostumbramos” – Los Horoscopos de Durango
“En La Sierra y La Ciudad La China” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
“Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Ríos ft. Pancho Uresti de Banda Tierra Sagrada
“Broche De Oro” – Banda La Trakalosa
“Cuando Tu Me Besas” – El Bebeto
“Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda

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