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Javier Rosas

Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)

coronel-kiss

NorteñoBlog has been of two minds about Las Bandas Románticas de América, the annual compilation of lovey-dovey banda hits (and “hits”) released by either Fonovisa or Disa Records, the two norteño tentacles of el pulpo gigante known as Universal Music Latin Entertainment. The first mind thinks the songs are catchy, and is grateful for the occasion to write the phrase “asymptotically approaching the musical ideal of amor.” The second mind hated asymptotes in high school, thinks 20 straight love ballads is 19 too many, has nightmare fever dreams involving doe-eyed clarinet armies, and has boycotted the series for two years running.

bandas-romanticas-2017Resolve is not the Blog’s strong suit. Thus did I find myself washing dishes and listening to the latest in the series, Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017, 20 songs by 10 bands, only some of whom are “hitmakers” in the sense of “being heard anywhere outside this compilation.” I mean, I’m sure they tour. But if you’ve heard “Pedirás Perdón,” a 2015 nonentity by Banda Coraleña, on the radio anywhere in North America, you’re doing better than I am. If you can hum the song without looking it up, you’re doing better than Banda Coraleña. Give ’em this: their cover of Joey Montana‘s “Picky” is adequate! It’s also not included on Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017 — ironic for the least choosy compilation series around.

But you do get some good songs. As previously discussed, La Séptima Banda released some fine singles in 2016, two of which — the swinging ’50s sock hop “Yo Si Me Enamoré” and the irrepressibly bouncy “Se Va Muriendo Mi Alma” — are here. You also get Banda Los Recoditos’ current hit “Me Está Tirando El Rollo,” featuring some syncopated tuba bass that’s a primo distante of “Stand By Me,” and Samuel Sarmiento, the singer who isn’t Luis Angel Franco. Banda El Recodo‘s remake of “Mujer Mujer” keeps growing on me. Banda Rancho Viejo is, for NorteñoBlog’s money, the best banda working and always worth hearing. Their tune “Mil Veces Te Quiero” was also ignored by radio, and it’s from freaking 2014, but it combines an echoing triple-voiced hook and gang shouts with one of the struttingest grooves in all of bandaland. (Plus, more ’50s sock hop imagery in the video. Thinkpieces go!) A tardy Pick to Click.

Continue reading “Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)”

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”

Things I Learned Listening to Javier Rosas This Weekend

otro golpe newBack in March NorteñoBlog was temporarily confused when the benevolent Fonovisa corporation re-released an old album by Javier Rosas y Su Artillería Pesada as though it was a new album.

otro golpe oldOtro Golpe originally came out in 2013 on whichever tiny label was releasing Javier Rosas albums at the time. Presumably nobody heard Otro Golpe that way, so Fonovisa gave it a new cover and distributed it to the masses to capitalize on Rosas’s minor radio hit, “Y Vete Olvidando.”

lleuge“Olvidando” came out late in 2014 as the second song on Llegué Para Quedarme, Rosas’s official Fonovisa debut. Three weeks after Otro Golpe dropped for the second time, Rosas got shot in an even more confusing scenario near a Culiacán mall. Since then he’s understandably dropped from sight, the better to hasten his recovery.

What’s not confusing is how good Rosas and his band are. I mean, the band’s named “Heavy Artillery”! (Also the best Mr. Lif song, imo.) They’re not as heavy as Noel Torres’s band — the drummer skitters more than pounds — but their dense interplay is similarly hard to fathom. And that density is the musical point. This took me a while to understand. Because Rosas’s songs have melodies and chords, you might expect those melodies and chords to be the point, the songs’ reason for being. As a songwriter Rosas has a welcome fondness for minor chords, and sometimes his tunes will run up to unexpected heights, and that’s all well and good, but Rosas’s corridos — and he’s in his element singing narcocorridos, not romantic ballads — primarily constitute a framework for himself and his band to demonstrate how badass they are. The Artillería Pesada accomplishes its badassery two ways: Rosas sings with amused gravity, because his crime stories intimate more than we’ll ever understand; and the band is a frightening rhythm machine.

How frightening? Like, they keep making me think of James Brown, everything subsumed to polyrhythmic whirl. The Pick to Click is still “Por Clave Llevo El 13,” a math-oriented tale of illicit doings and ne’er-do-wells, and the rhythm section — which is basically everyone except Rosas and the accordion player — achieves some math-rocking triplet-against-duple thing I’m still at a loss to fully understand. (Like, who’s playing the triplets? Is it just the accordion riff, or are those constant skittering snare rolls part of the “three”? The tuba is clearly subdividing in two or four.) Rosas is no Brown, but storytelling is a different task than whatever you’d say James Brown does. Rosas rides the rhythms with authority, without even seeming like he’s trying to ride them. He just tells stories, man; the band plays an audible expression of whatever violent turmoil Rosas won’t allow himself to state outright.

Track-to-track comparison reveals that Otro Golpe is better than Llegué, because Llegué contains a couple slow songs that stretch out and unwind the band’s dense rhythm attack. Not that the band couldn’t put over slow ones, but so far they don’t. The comparison also reveals Rosas is very consistent — the third track of each is devoted to a femme fatale/trap queen figure named “La China”. Both albums close with cumbia medleys — “popurris” — and the one on Llegué goes on way too long.

¡Nuevo! (starring Javier Rosas y más)

JAVIER ROSAS Y SU ARTILLERIA PESADA

[Updated to correct some discographical confusion.]

javier rosasSometimes it’s nice to hear pretty songs, or a variety of songs. But sometimes you just want an album to knock you flat for a half hour, and this seems to be Fonovisa’s goal with their new and unrelenting compilation reissue of Javier Rosas y Su Artillería Pesada‘s early-career highlight, Otro Golpe, featuring a flashier cover photo and a couple additional songs. Rosas and his rocking bass + tuba quintet released three (I think) albums on independent labels before their breakthrough hit “La China” led to a 2014 major label debut. (Because it wouldn’t be norteño music without confusing discographies, one of those indie albums was also titled Otro Golpe.) The singer-songwriter looks a little like Jonathan Rhys Meyers with his penetrating gaze, and he sings with blunt exuberance, as though spewing truths nobody else allows themselves. He enjoys spoken asides, too, which furthers the impression that he’s singing the collective unfiltered id. (Today’s gringo country comparison: Toby Keith.) Otro Golpe cherrypicks features some excellent math-oriented corridos like Pick to Click “Por Clave Llevo El 13,” “Soy El 4,” and “El 3-1.” I need to listen on better speakers, but I’ll go out on a limb and give this comp NEWLY REISSUED 2013 ALBUM a big VALE LA PENA.

invasionRosas also appears on Fonovisa’s new compilation Invasión del Corrido 2015: Sold Out, the third comp (at least) to feature Calibre 50’s “Javier El De Los Llanos.” Fonovisa repackages their songs as brazenly as Cook’s Illustrated recycles their recipes — not that I’m ready to abandon either friendly corporation.

los originales albumThe Hyphy label is also friendly — I know because I’ve talked with the owner (thinkpiece forthcoming!) — and it has two recent albums out: Chuy Vega’s Mas Underground y Mas Maldito: Puros Corridos and Los Originales’ Corridos de Poca M… (Ellipsis theirs.) Without running them through the translator, I’m gonna say both albums feature corridos, those traditional Mexican story-songs that often fixate on heroic tales of the drug trade. Listening while cleaning, Chuy Vega sounded slow and Los Originales sounded fast; do with that what you will. I will caution that neither album has anything to do with hyphy rap or hyphy norteño. (See thinkpiece, forthcoming.)

los chacalesAs we’ve discussed, the Goma label loves spreading the joy of puro Zacatecas saxophone to the world. Real “Up With People” types. To that end, they’ve released the latest dance album from Los Chacales de Pepe Tovar, Llego el Chacal, from Zacatecas by way of Wichita, Kansas. Lead song “Entre Fuegos Cruzados” is a spritely frolic.

los grandesLos Grandes Del Desierto are shrouded in sandy mystery, but they also have a sax and a new album, Reflexión (JB). Based on their album cover, the desierto in question belongs to Titan, the sandworm-infested (and poorly Photoshopped) Saturnine moon from Beetlejuice.

tierra caliRemember back in 2006-07, when tierra caliente music briefly became a thing? Like duranguense, tierra caliente had synths playing banda parts, only with less frenetic tambora NRG. The band Tierra Cali, hailed by Billboard‘s Leila Cobo as standing “at the helm of this new wave,” recently released the very twee Enamorado de Ti (Los Creadores del Sacadito)(Ciudad). As you see from the album’s subtitle, at some point in their career Tierra Cali created a dance step, the Sacadito. I haven’t figured out the dance yet, but this live video, featuring the band looking and sounding markedly less twee, might help.

nancyhernandezladamabravIn singles, Nancy Hernandez, “La Dama Brava,” has a likable/annoying little song called “Mi Nuevo Cellular” (Starss). Basically it’s a single melodic phrase repeated over — and over — two chords and a ringing phone, but tuba and accordion are busy and Hernandez has the beginnings of a musical personality.

luis vegaMore accomplished but also more generic are Banda Pequeños Vendaval’s “Quiero Que Te Largues!” (Mayra) and Luis Vega’s “La Chica Nice” (Pegasus), two cheerful banda tunes. Vega’s better and faster, so if your clicks are limited click on his.

Desfile de Éxitos 2/28/15

chuy lizarraga

Another chart, another week of being contigo and living contigo and dancing cont– what? What’s that? YOU SAY THAT AFTER 41 WEEKS, “BAILANDO” IS NO LONGER NUMBER 1?

[Cue Star Wars clips of the Death Star blowing up, cheesy computer-animated intergalactic societies dancing and partying in its wake. Despair sets in when we realize they’re dancing to a steel drum version of “Bailando.”]

That’s right, Enrique and the gang have been replaced by Maná and Shakira singing a bit of tissue paper called “Mi Verdad.” Say what you want about “Bailando” — and no, I cannot prove it was part of a North Korean plot to make Americans voluntarily destroy all our broadcast technology — but at least it’s memorable. A good teaching tool! If it weren’t for millions of Youtube viewers confirming “Mi Verdad” actually exists, I’d have my doubts.

Don’t shed too many tears for Enrique, though — he’s climbing at #12 on a Nicky Jam track, and anyway, “Bailando” simply moves down to #2, just ahead of the 82-week-old “Propuesta Indecente.” (“Bailando” has always been at war with “Propuesta Indecente.”) King Romeo’s doing OK, too. With his new song “Hilito” climbing to #13, Romeo Santos is getting perilously close to having four songs in the top 10 again. Speaking of which, the Singles Jukebox just covered his duet with Marc Anthony; Jonathan Bogart suggests, “The alleged woman at the center of the lyric is entirely absent: Marc and Romeo spend the entire song preening for and performing at each other, not her.”

Among this week’s new entries, the Pick to Click is Chuy Lizarraga’s banda ballad “Se Me Sigue Notando.” Calling it dramatic is like calling an Applebee’s cocktail watered down, but Lizarraga achieves his drama through the confident relaxation of his pacing. Like, the song’s really slow? And Lizarraga doesn’t seem to care, and in fact he wants you to wonder when the next phrase is going to hit. Just slow down and accept that Chuy knows what he’s doing, and your mind will open to a new realm of romantic despair. (Today’s gringo country comparison is Jamey Johnson.)

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published Feb. 28.

1. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
2. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo” (48 WEEKS OLD)
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (82 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
5. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos (49 WEEKS OLD)
6. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
7. “Yo También” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
8. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#14 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
9. “Disparo Al Corazon” – Ricky Martin
10. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#3 RegMex)

11. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#6 RegMex)
12. “El Perdon” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
13. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
14. “Juntos (Together)” – Juanes
15. “Piensas (Dile La Verdad)” – Pitbull ft. Gente de Zona
16. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando (#1 RegMex)
17. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
18. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#5 RegMex)
19. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (#2 RegMex) (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)
20. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#13 RegMex)

21. “Adios” – Ricky Martin (BACK FROM THE DEAD THIRTIES)
22. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
23. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#9 RegMex)
24. “Mi Vuelvo Un Cobarde” – Christian Daniel
25. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#19 RegMex)

¡Adios!
“Mi Vecinita” – Plan B
“Quédate Con Ella” – Natalia Jiménez (Sleek! Horns + electrobeats!)
“Soledad” – Don Omar

—————–

4. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
7. “No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda
8. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval
10. “Entonces Que Somos” – Banda El Recodo (A nada Luciano Luna ballad off Recodo’s 2013 album, now turned into a dramatic short film.)

11. “Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50
12. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho
15. “Y Vete Olvidando” – Javier Rosas
16. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
17. “Mi Primera Vez” – Jonatan Sánchez
18. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
20. “El Amor de Nosotros” – Duelo

¡Adios!
“Perdoname Mi Amor” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana
“La Indicada” – Kevin Ortíz
“La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte
“Hasta Que Salga El Sol” – Banda Los Recoditos
“Y Asi Fue” – Julión Álvarez
“No Me Pidas Perdon” – Banda MS

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