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Grupo Recluta

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio

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Last time out, NorteñoBlog counted six chart hits among the quarter’s best. This quarter we’re down to three, which doesn’t necessarily mean the radio has turned into a wasteland — after all, part of the thrill of radio is hearing a song you never much cared for, like Gerardo Ortiz’s “Fuiste Mia,” suddenly sound really good in the company of entirely dissimilar songs. Not that you’ll find “Fuiste Mia” below. But who knows, I may relent before the year is out.

No, all this means is that norteño and banda music have thriving independent scenes, geared more toward online video than terrestrial radio — see the tiny labels and self-releases promoted by Beto Sierra, whose YouTube clients make up a good portion of this list. In terms of their commercial outlook, bands like Máximo Grado and Los Rodriguez don’t resemble the reactionary ’80s heyday of “indie rock” so much as the early rock heyday of the ’50s and ’60s, when bands simply wanted to get paid to rock out, whether they recorded for Excello or Sun or Decca or RCA. Today’s world of online promotion means it’s easier for musicians of all genres to get heard, though not necessarily to get paid. But the barriers between majors and indies seem more porous in Mexican regional music than they do in Anglo pop and rock. Indie artists like Fidel Rueda and Los Inquietos regularly get played on mainstream radio; major and indie bands record the same corridos, and sometimes the same love songs. Everyone tours the same venues relentlessly. That’s not to say everyone is equal. Indie label acts are routinely priced out of performing on the glamorous award show circuit, and I’m guessing major label artists have first pick of surefire radio hits by Luciano Luna and Horacio Palencia. NorteñoBlog needs to research this more, but in Mexican regional music, the indie-major borderline isn’t drawn philosophically or aesthetically so much as with scrap and hustle and practicality: Who’s got the money? Who’s got the chops? How do we use our chops to get more money?

Of course, 10 years from now, when Ortiz and Julión Álvarez have catalogs full of dull 20-track prestige albums, who knows? Boredom has a way of shaking up philosophies and aesthetics.

1. Banda Renovación“Los Ninis” (Talento Lider)
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio”

No Más Lápices, No Más Libros

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Returning to the YouTube channel of the jet-setting, tiger-smooching promoter Beto Sierra, NorteñoBlog has stumbled across the perfect song to play as you’re ending the school year. (Besides “School’s Out,” I mean. You know who sings “School’s Out” and thinks it’s cool? Fourth graders.) From the Baja Californian sextet Grupo Recluta comes “El Estudiante” (Sitio), a tongue twisting song of familial love and visiting abuelo for the summer, enjoying soccer and tacos. The narrator’s name is Alfredo, nickname Carrillo, and he introduces us to a few friends — Gustavo, Francisco, and Jorge Arturo — whom he can count on one hand. Unless “Jorge Arturo” is the name of a school or a jefe. Standard translation caveats apply.

Here’s what I can tell you for sure: the music is astonishing. While the band bounds along like they’re waltzing through a jacked up version of The King and I, songwriter/leaders Manuel Rodelo and David Correa harmonize their way through a melody full of tricky syncopated subdivisions. They’re the two hotshots swing dancing in the center of the ballroom, garnering the adoration of women and the resentment of men. The other hotshot is the accordion player, curiously unmentioned in Grupo Recluta’s promotional literature and reluctant to show his face in the video. In any case, Pick to Click:

recluta plataNo strangers to the academic life, Recluta also cut a charming call-and-response song called “De Libros a Libretas,” in which they graduate from their academic books to their street-smart notebooks. (Need a summer job? Recluta’ll hook you up.) Neither song appears on their current album Plata O Plomo, whose title track isn’t a Soulfly cover but might cover the same lyrical territory. 24 songs, all but a handful under three minutes, I’m guessing describing some of the less taxable job prospects for new grads, and it kicks off with some tremendous drumming. And look! — there’s the accordion player on the album cover, second from the left. All the boys making all that noise ’cause they found new toys.

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