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Grupo El Reto

Alta Consigna Takes Charge (Desfile de Éxitos 1/21/17)

alta-consigna

Since NorteñoBlog last checked out Billboard‘s charts four weeks ago, the Hot Latin chart remains depressingly stagnant, with only six new songs. Four of the songs in the Top 10 have been there over half a year. Worse, the  Mexican songs in the Top 25 all sound like stagnant pools of overripe romance, unless you get real zen about it; then they become meditative pools whose stillness reflects back to us our most private yearnings.

alta-consignaThat includes the song at #20, “Culpable Tu,” by the young guitar/bass/tuba quintet Alta Consigna. Released back in July, it does not appear on their new album No Te Pide Mucho (Rancho Humilde), which shares a pacing strategy with Neil Young’s 1979 classic Rust Never Sleeps: lull listeners to sleep during the first half, then wake ’em up by rocking out more ferociously than any of your peers. This comparison is not exact; the first half of Rust Never Sleeps is better than the first half of No Te Pide Mucho, but in Alta Consigna’s defense, Neil Young famously did not record a world-historical bachata-with-tuba cover of “Propuesta Indecente.” Few albums of 1979 did. This is something the critical histories of the period won’t tell you.

NorteñoBlog has dug Alta Consigna before. Back in 2015 they got a “ft.” credit on Grupo El Reto‘s “La Parranda Va Empezar,” as ferocious a cavalcade of strumming and triple tonguing as you could hope for. At the band’s best — i.e., a new re-recording of its 2015 tune “Sinaloense Es El Joven” — it capitalizes on having two bass instruments by making them do completely opposite, equally rad things. Dani Vida fires a wild variety of machine gun and other noises from his tuba, while bassist Esteban González achieves a truly menacing tone. “Culpable” might be the token romantic ballad that gets people’s attention, but the back half of Mucho is where the Picks to Click reside. The album is VALE LA PENA, at least if you play it on shuffle.

Continue reading “Alta Consigna Takes Charge (Desfile de Éxitos 1/21/17)”

¡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 Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna

grupo el reto

Extollers of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people and composers of relentless electrocumbias, the members of Banda Cohuich inhabit the liminal nexus of old and new. I mean who doesn’t? But I’m guessing Cohuich limns the nexus a bit more loudly than do you and I. Their single “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol)” is a blaring ringwalk of a Huichol anthem, and most of the songs on their entertaining compilation No Te Equivoques (Pegasus) follow suit. One exception: the unapologetically goofy “Cumbia de Voz”, a low key groover that’s acapella except for a synth beat, with the band singing the part of falsetto trumpets.

Continue reading “Lo Mejor De 2015: Banda Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna”

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”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Abril – Junio

cuisillos

This quarter’s list contains fewer radio hits than last quarter’s — only four out of 11 — but don’t worry! Both radio and Youtube continue to inundate us with all kinds of great music under the banner of “regional Mexican.” Below we’ve got cumbia from the underrepresented state of Nayarit, violin-driven dance music from the underrepresented state of Oaxaca, a brass banda from Jalisco who dresses in indigenous garb and doesn’t play corridos but sometimes plays piano pop, Linda Ronstadt-style pop country from Nuevo León, Chicago’s hometown heroines Los Horóscopos hitting Mexican radio and giving everybody cuernos, aaaaand (as usual) a whole lotta Sinaloa. NorteñoBlog has apparently been sleeping on the states of Chihuahua and Zacatecas, though, as I’ve dug up zero hot new singles to represent their puro sax styles. Better luck next quarter!

1. Banda Cohuich“Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol)” (Pegasus)
Huichol is an indigenous Mexican language, and “Son Kora” is a relentless jerking propulsion machine with brass, gang vocals, and a slippery synth line (I think).
hasn’t charted

2. Laura Denisse“Sigo Enamorada” (Fonovisa)
Denisse has a big clear voice in the vein of Linda Ronstadt, and she’s been singing a mix of banda and pop since she was a kid in the ’90s. The big brass riff here is simply a series of repeated notes, but the players articulate and syncopate like swaggering jazz cowboys.
hasn’t charted

3. Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho“Te Metiste” (Del/Sony)
This gorgeous love song sounds just as strange and sparse as “El Karma” when it plays on the radio.
U.S. radio hit

4. Grupo El Reto ft. Alta Consigna“La Parranda Va a Empezar” (Gerencia 360/Sony)
This quartet belongs to la corriente escuela of corridistas who sing about corruption while their corrosive tubists imitate machine gun fire. Corre! The quartet Alta Consigna also has a tuba in the band, so you’ve got two tubists and a requinto (I think?) playing furiously over everything.
hasn’t charted

5. Banda Cuisillos“Cerveza” (Musart/Balboa)
This isn’t even my favorite Cuisillos song of 2015 — that’d be this swinging piano-driven non-single — but these Jaliscanos do indulge several of NorteñoBlog’s weaknesses: two different singers trying to outdo one another in the passion department, brass alternating with guitar, and deplorable sexism.
Mexican radio hit

6. Leandro Ríos ft. Pancho Uresti“Debajo Del Sombrero” (Remex)
This not-so-humble ranchera ballad takes as much pleasure in the act of rhyming as any random song by Sondheim. Although, going through my Spanish rudiments, I’m disappointed the song doesn’t take place in enero, and why doesn’t our heroic caballero own a perro?
U.S. and Mexican radio hit

7. Banda Costado – “Pinotepa” (Talento)
This is a way different sound than we usually enjoy here: lots of percussion, tuba bassline, wild violin, and singers. Many independent lines and very little chordal harmony, in other words.
hasn’t charted

8. Banda Culiacancito“Lastima de Cuerpo” (Del/Sony)
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know one of my favorite musical effects is rapid fire barrages of syllables that never seem to end and make me feel totally inadequate about my grasp of español. Prolific songwriters Geovani Cabrera (Regulo Caro, Calibre 50) y Horacio Palencia (todos) deliver. Knock yourself out with a trombone slide!
hasn’t charted

9. Los Gfez“Hasta Tu Dedo Gordito” (Remex)
I implore you not to google images of dedos gorditos unless you get off on toe injuries. No judging. I should mention that the quartet Los Gfez, last seen joining Diego Herrera on a likable Mexican hit, start their search for the mystery dedo fast and, through the magic of time changes, find a way to get faster.
hasn’t charted

10. Noel Torres“No Andan Cazando Venados” (Gerencia 360/Sony)
Torres’s arrangement of “Venados” sounds like he’s adapting Ariel Camacho’s unusual instrumentation. He takes stripped down passages of requinto guitar solos over lurching tuba, the same dynamic you find in Camacho’s repertoire, and alternates them with full banda sections. Horns replace rhythm guitar. The result is both serious and silly (ay, esos clarinetes), a fitting tribute that also fits with Torres’s swagger.
hasn’t charted

11. Los Horóscopos de Durango“Estoy Con Otro En La Cama”
Mexican radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miguel – “Coffee”
AB Soto – “Cha Cha Bitch”
Sam Hunt – “House Party”
Markus Feehily – “Love Is a Drug”
Honey Cocaine – “Sundae”
Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip – “Go”
Brandon Flowers – “Can’t Deny My Love”
Haley Georgia – “Ridiculous”
Bobby Brackins ft. Zendaya and Jeremih – “My Jam”
Vanbot – “Seven”

¡Nuevo! (starring Grupo El Reto, Julio Preciado, y más)

violinist

grupo el retoNorteñoBlog would like to apologize for sleeping on Grupo El Reto‘s March album A La Vieja Escuela (Gerencia 360); although in my defense, if El Reto is so Old School, their music should be timeless, right? More correctly, this quartet belongs to la Corriente Escuela of corridistas who sing about corruption while their corrosive tubists imitate machine gun fire. Corre! — to their Pick to Click single, that is, a duet with the quartet Alta Consigna. Alta Consigna, you see, also has a tuba player in the band, which means “La Parranda Va Empezar” features two tubists doing crazy things. (Consigna also has a hot bajo sexto player imitating a requinto. I think that’s what that is.)

julio preciadoAlso Vieja Escuela y VALE LA PENA is the new album from Julio Preciado y Su Banda Perla Del Pacifico, Ni Para Bien Ni Para Mal (Luz). Preciado’s a veteran of two Sinaloan bandas, La Original Banda El Limón and Banda El Recodo; he struck out on his own, I wanna say at the turn of the millennium. This new album is fairly trad, perpetually high-NRG banda with its horn sections not entirely in tune, but I think that’s intentional. (It sounds cool and adds to the energy.) I will now quote at length from Preciado’s Wikipedia page:

On February 2, 2009 he was assigned to sing the Mexican National Anthem in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, as a part of the Opening Ceremony of the Caribbean Baseball Series (Serie del Caribe). He made several mistakes in the anthem lyrics and musical pace, being majorly booed by the audience.

You know, these things happen to the best of us, and NorteñoBlog forgives Preciado just as we did Christina Aguilera and Roseanne Barr, because WHO CARES. Surely there were extenuating circumstances?

Some factors came into play during the failure to sing the national anthem properly since the background music did not play, so he decided to improvise by singing a capella. He decided to extend the improvisation. The audience’s reaction caused the local sound to be shut off to protect Preciado from more serious actions by an angered public, so he could stop singing. In fact some people in the stadium assure that the singer was drunk.

I want more extended improvisations on national anthems! I know what you’re wondering: is this brouhaha on Youtube, complete with angry fans yelling and poor Preciado shrugging sheepishly at the end? You bet it is!

Julio apologized to the audience and in a written statement hoping he will get a second chance to sing the national anthem in the future.

So the guy apologized — in writing — and that’s gotta be the end of the story. No?

Before the Carnival of Mazatlan Preciado was a serious candidate to be burned as a “burn of bad humor” (La quema del mal humor), an event that burns the people or event that represents the worst thing for the people, But since he was a diputade with license and using his influence and money in the town of Mazatlan he was saved of that “un-honor” despite he won the votes of the people of Mazatlan to be burned.

Your diputade knows what you need, but I know what you want. Glad you weren’t burned, Julio! End of story? Por favor?

Since he was not burned in that event the people of Mazatlan towards his anger with his daughter Yuliana Preciado, during the parade where she was elected as a “Infant Queen” in the middle of corruption and scandal, the people started to sing the Mexican National Anthem loudly to her in protest.

This will never end, will it? The sins of the padre will be visited upon generations yet unborn, until every new Preciado knows that anthem by heart. Listen to the new album, it’s really good.

banda costadoFrom the southern state of Oaxaca comes Banda Costado and their violin-driven single “Pinotepa” (Talento). This is a way different sound than we usually enjoy here: lots of percussion, tuba bassline, wild violin, and singers. Many independent lines and very little chordal harmony, in other words. Exciting stuff. VALE LA PENA.

ultimos momentosTraviezoz de La Zierra has teamed up with the late Ariel Camacho’s guitarist and tubist, aka Los Plebes Del Rancho, to record a tribute to Ariel, called “Mis Ultimos Momentos” (Del). Given the subject, it’s appropriately slow and deliberative, but Camacho’s own slow and deliberative songs tended to have compelling melodies. NO VALE LA PENA.

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