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La Séptima Banda

¡Perros y gatos! ¡Viviendo juntos! (Desfile de Éxitos 5/6/17)

calibre 50

NorteñoBlog’s Pick to Click comes this week from Calibre 50, but it is not the quartet’s smash Top 10 ballad “Siempre Te Voy a Querer,” which does not solve Calibre’s perennial ballad problem — namely, that most of their ballads sound thin and flimsy and threaten to grind to a halt with every bar. Nor is it their #13 airplay hit/Michelob jingle “Las Ultras,” which, since first spotting it on the Mexican charts a couple weeks ago, has admittedly grown on me like so much cheap beer and/or beachfront dressage.

No, you should instead direct your attention to Calibre’s cover of “Volveré a Amar” by the 10-years-late banda singer Valentín Elizalde. The song itself is swanky midtempo heartache with backbeat and doo-wop tuba, a 2004 template for later earworms like Roberto Tapia’s “Mirando al Cielo.” (Or at least, it’s one of the templates: El Coyote beat Elizalde to this particular sound back in the ’90s.) Covering the tune, Eden Muñoz does his best Elizalde impression and sings low in his range, a wise choice — he’s as effortlessly charming as beachfront dressage. When the accordion quartet takes over for the banda during the chorus, the transition is seamless and full, so hats off to whoever recorded and mixed this thing. It’s at #39 airplay and you can find it on Fonovisa’s terrific collection of Elizalde covers, Tributo a Valentín Elizalde, previously covered here.

Also in the news:

— At #4, Christian Nodal‘s debut single “Adiós Amor” continues to win hearts and Youtube revenue. (Closing in on 128 million views!) Last month we covered it at The Singles Jukebox, where I wrote, Continue reading “¡Perros y gatos! ¡Viviendo juntos! (Desfile de Éxitos 5/6/17)”

¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)

marco-flores-dancing

Controversy! ¡Polémica! NorteñoBlog’s favorite dancer Marco Flores (aka Marco A. Flores) y su Banda Jerez (aka #1 Banda Jerez, or simply La Jerez) are back on the Mexican airwaves with “Los Viejitos” at #17, an amped up waltz that takes an insanely complex approach to both rhythmic subdividing and cultural appropriating.

los-viejitos-400x400The song, you see, plays on the traditional Danza de los Viejitos, danced for centuries by the indigenous Purépecha people in the highlands of Michoacán. Flores lives two states to the north in Zacatecas, but because he bows to Terpsichore in all her forms, he’s opened his new video with a not necessarily accurate re-enactment: five guys in flamboyant stooped-old-man costumes walk a circle, “helped” by members of La Jerez, who keep looking underneath their ponchos but seem otherwise respectful. The slow, trad fiddle music of la Danza stops abruptly, La Jerez kicks into its waltz, Flores flails his limbs, and the stooped old men spring to life, emboldened by this rad new beat. There’s a long, proud history of affectionately tweaking the Olds by replacing their slow rhythm with a new, faster rhythm — recall the Clash’s “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” or Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings.” Flores seems to be operating on the same impulse here.

¡No tan rápido! says Michoacán’s secretary of indigenous people, Martín García Avilés. (Let’s just note how great it is that a Mexican state has its own secretary of indigenous people.) García Avilés calls the video an insult to native traditions nationwide. Flores and La Jerez are denigrating the Purépecha people and subjecting them to ridicule, he says, and they should take down the video. Flores expresses surprise, countering that he’s trying to rescue and exalt la Danza and bring it to the attention of younger generations. NorteñoBlog, watching a video of an actual Danza, asks warily, “Aren’t the dancing fake old men supposed to be funny? At least a little bit?” Not that I plan to start making video parodies of indigenous dances any time soon. Tumblr would have a collective aneurysm. But I’m curious to know how Flores’s video reads to other people who’ve grown up with la Danza de los Viejitos. Offensive? Funny?

Anyway, as I mentioned, the rhythms in this thing are also stellar — bar by bar, the band divides the basic pulse into either two or three, with Flores subdividing those beats into even smaller and faster bits during the choruses, his accents landing in unexpected places. Limbs flail accordingly. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)”

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)”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Albums of 2016

fuerza-de-tijuana

Polkas and waltzes, yes. Accordions and brassy fanfares, check. Songs about impossible amor, violent negocios, and getting pisteando, you bet. But once you accept those rhythms, tone colors, and subjects as merely the constraints its talented artisans and occasional geniuses have given themselves to work around, Mexican regional music produced a pop scene as colorful and varied as any other. The difference between El Komander’s shaggy storytelling and La Maquinaria Norteña’s frenetic heartache pop is a contrast in visions. Give or take a tuba and a sax, they employ pretty much the same musical building blocks and arrive at wildly different results.

And both results are better than Intocable’s Highway, for NorteñoBlog’s dinero the most overrated norteño album of the year, insofar as these albums get rated at all. Intocable is a talented band, no question. They’ve refined a unique sound, and as they demonstrate over and over on Highway, they’re able to open songs with stylist feints as authoritative as their originals. (One sounds like ’60s handclap pop, one sounds like “Kashmir,” that sort of thing.)

The problem is, Intocable’s sound is as constrained as any other band’s; and once the opening feints end, the songs themselves are among Intocable’s most generic batch yet. We’re left with just more four-chord Intocable songs, melodies that allow Ricky Muñoz to stretch his throat to el cielo and noodle on his axe — sometimes for way too long — and a rhythm section lope that could have anchored any Intocable album in the past 20 years. It might be perverse to complain about sameyness in a genre that never wanders too far from accordion/brass polkas and waltzes, but great new bands like Fuerza de Tijuana and Norteño 4.5 (see below) are burrowing into that basic sound and digging up new rhythms and instrumental combinations. On Highway, Intocable offers few interesting musical ideas, and they barely try to work through their constraints. The most interesting ideas, those opening feints, only last a moment. (The great seven-minute exception, “En La Obscuridad,” ends with a Beatlesque psych coda. It’s cool, but it should tell you all you need to know about Intocable’s idea of “innovation.”) I don’t knock Intocable for giving their songs gimmicks; gimmicks, as we learn from Banda Rancho Nuevo, are good. But Intocable rarely has the musical courage to follow through on their gimmicks.

So here are 50 albums, including 13 from Mexico, that are better than Highway — less of a chore to play and full of surprises.

1. Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution (Concord) (indie, jazz-prog jaw dropper)
2. I.P.A. – I Just Did Say Something (Cuneiform) (indie, Norwegian jazz tone color fest with kickass rhythm section)
systema solar3. Systema Solar – Systema Solar (Nacional): This Colombian crew has about as much to do with norteño as Lil Jon does; but on the other hand, they sometimes play cumbias, Mexican-American radio digs cumbias, and this career overview of explosive raps and minimal dance experiments is undeniable. Plus one of the dudes says “Yeah!” exactly like Lil Jon — who incidentally scored his own Latin hit in 2016.


4. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it (Dirty Hit/Interscope) (major, long-ass pop album equal parts hooks and pretentious bits — see my review of “The Sound”)

el komander top 205. El Komander – El Komander 2015 Top 20 (Twiins): To cap his year as North America’s most prolific and consistent singles artist, Alfredo Riós dropped this digital playlist to ring in 2016. How prolific is he? Top 20 actually contains 21 songs, and Sr. Riós has since released even more essential singles, notably the point-counterpoint “Desaparecido”/”El Mexico Americano.” His small, tuba-bottomed band remains a shambolic marvel; the musicians threaten to spill over the edges of the songs. This compilation stands with the greatest instantly incomplete mid-career summaries: think Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection or Garth Brooks’s The Hits.


6. Greg Ward – Touch My Beloved’s Thought (Greenleaf) (indie, Mingus tribute of nonstop invention)
7. Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law (Metal Blade) (indie, beautifully layered Satan metal)
8. Brandy Clark – Big Day In a Small Town (Warner Bros.) (major, country singer-storyteller)
9. Anna Webber’s Simple Trio — Binary (Skirl) (indie, sharp elbowed Canadian jazz)
10. YG – Still Brazy (Deluxe) (Def Jam) (major, West Coast rap)

bandononona11. Banda Rancho Viejo de Julio Aramburo La Bandononona – La Bandononona en Mi Rancho (Disa): Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Albums of 2016”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/17/16

gerardo-ortiz-regresa-hermosa-snap-b

Welcome back to Songwriters’ Showcase, an apparently semiannual feature in which NorteñoBlog checks out the new love songs on Mexico’s radio chart, discovers that the world is a void wherein everything tastes like ashes, and attempts to salvage the post by researching the professional tunespinners who spun the tunes. The winners, as always, are you the readers.

Except they’re not all love songs this week! We start with not one but two big dumb cumbias. At #18, Claudio Alcaraz has written his own exercise in banda-fied minimalism, “El Pú,” about a friend of his who likes to get drunk and insult people. Great swaths of humanity get insulted here. Truckers, cops, Michoacanos, saints, etc. — you name ’em, they’re pú, aka “puro mandilón.” (“DEmasculated,” as my grandpappy and/or Urban Dictionary used to translate it.) In the video, Sr. Alcaraz’s friend appears as a lecherous clown who lights up the party by starting a conga line. Even so, the guy should stop insulting entire classes of people or he’ll never be elected to public office.

The other BDC, at #11, is way more bitchin’: “Que Perrón” by La Séptima Banda. Written by Joel Suarez and Luciano Luna, who is normally not this much fun, it’s an ode to the modern world’s sexually assertive mujeres. As you might expect, such mujeres make La Séptima Banda very happy, especially the dude in the middle of the song who sheepishly admits, “I’m ugly.” Whoever’s singing lead — I think it’s Efrain, but votes for Chino will also be tabulated — plays his wiggly cadence off the tuba/batería lines with a cheerful insouciance that makes me think I’ve been underrating the Séptima album all year. I’ll get back to you on that. In the meantime, a very ornate Pick to Click. (This live video lets you savor some of those internal brass rhythms.)

Also charting this week: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/17/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 7/23/16

chicken

This being summer in the northern hemisphere, and summer being the perfect time for weddings, and weddings being the ultimate nexus of comedy, pain, and terror (apart from this week’s Republican convention), it’s no surprise that two of this week’s debut videos feature newlywed hijinx. At #47 Hot Latin, the Los Angeles DJ Deorro has recruited Nuyorican merengue singer Elvis Crespo to sing the festive electrosalsa tune “Bailar.” Angling for the drop-heavy wedding reception market, Deorro has yoked the song to a video featuring an angry padre de la novia who keeps trying to sabotage his new son-in-law. A chicken suit makes a prominent appearance. The video will make you yearn for the trenchant realism of the Steve Martin movies, while the song itself might make you yearn for a couple more chord changes and a wall to bang your head against.

Equaling Deorro for NRG are Ojinaga’s sax stalwarts Los Rieleros del Norte, at #18 on the Regional Mexican airplay chart. Lead singer Daniel Esquivel narrates the song with a heart full of rue and a bloodstream full of liquor, “una botella en cada mano,” because his mujer has left him all alone. In the video, Esquivel’s tears are precipitated by the wedding of his daughter, who drives off with her young jagoff of a husband, leaving lonely Dad to his tequila distillery. “I’m still alive,” he sings, reassured by the undying riffage of chipper staccato sax and accordion. The video has a happy ending, but the song leaves room for doubt.

But the best new tune this week comes from La Séptima Banda, Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 7/23/16”

¡Nuevo! (starring La Séptima Banda, Bryndis, y más)

consentido

septima bandaThe members of La Séptima Banda have applied their fleet fingers to corridos, love songs (“Se Va Muriendo Mi Alma”), and stuff that sounds like Tower of Power playing the Sahara Tahoe (“Bonito y Bello”). They’re back with the 10-song A Todo Volumen (Fonovisa), which contains the first two options. The bouncy romance “Me Empezó A Valer” has already become a radio hit, and it’s not hard to imagine their stacked brass chords capping a weekend of Vegas debauchery. Even better is “A La Orden General,” their ode to the Guzman family, who I’m guessing have developed some Vegas acreage over the years. Side note: A Todo Volumen is also the Spanish title of that one Jack White/The Edge/Jimmy Page documentary, as well as Luis Coronel’s nickname for his latest hairdo.

bryndisAlso on Fonovisa and purportedly even more romantic, the formerly prolific hitmakers Grupo Bryndis have a new album of synth cumbias called A Nuestro Estilo. In its favor: a duet with Diana Reyes; a cover of a decade-old Diana Reyes song, “Celos”; a synthesizer sound that only sometimes reminds me of the guys selling pan flute CDs at the local craft fair. In its disfavor: plodding rhythms, pitch issues, and, yes, suffocating craft fair synth presets. Unlike duranguense bands, who speed along with the good sense to turn their chintzy synths into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of wackness, the men of Bryndis mean to seduce. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll avoid eye contact and make a beeline for the Home Grown Honey tent.
NO VALE LA PENA

gallitosNot to be confused with the Tejano pop of Texas band Los Gallitos, the trio Los Gallitos de Chihuahua hails from the next state to the south and plays accordion-led Sierreño music. (Bassist, no tuba.) Their umpteenth album Soy de Rancho (Twiins) features corridos popularized by Los Alegres del Barranco, Tito Torbellino, Sergio Vega, and on the title song El Komander, though Los Gallitos’ take is much more polite than that of Sr. Ríos and his loosey-goose band. You don’t know how much you’ll miss tuba mouthpiece farts until they’re gone.
NO VALE LA PENA

dueto consentidoThe far more energetic Sierreño dudes Dueto Consentido have just released their second album, Cambio de Domicilio (AfinArte). As NorteñoBlog noted with their last album, Dueto Consentido is not a duo but a Sierreño trio, led by Joaquin Caro’s requinto guitar. (Bassist, no tuba — but Erik Lopez gets a fat sound.) Their name is a phrase that shows up in corridos from time to time. “Consentido” is a cartel term of art meaning a narco boss who operates with the favor and consent of the Mexican government. Not so sure about the “dueto” part — I guess they often come in pairs? The three musical Consentidos do their share of corridos — their ode to Iván Archivaldo Guzman flatters its subject with seriously hot licks — but they also branch out into charming songs of besos y amor, like “Dame Más”. Still, you can’t beat the snarling energy of the corrido “El Tigre,” where the guitars lock in and Lopez coaxes extremely cool tones from his axe’s growly bottom end.
Pick to Click!

Dueto Consentido photo by Nelssie Carillo

Desfile de Éxitos 2/6/16 (Wristwatch Porn and White Slavery)

adriel arroyo

From the NorteñoBlog Department of Corrections (no, it’s not a Larry Hernández update): Last week when we were looking at the charts from 2004, I speculated that era’s airplay-only Hot Latin chart “placed five RegMex songs inside the Hot Latin top 10, a percentage we never see today.” Well color me morado — this week Banda MS, Ariel Camacho, La Adictiva, Gerardo Ortiz, and Arrolladora have all crashed the Hot Latin top 10 at the same time. Ding ding ding and cigars all around! In all, more than half the top 25 is made up of our guys. And yes, they’re all guys — where are Alicia Villarreal and Los Horóscopos when you need ’em?

What’s new? This week we say adios to one spritely tune by La Séptima Banda and hola to another. “Me Empezó A Valer” is your typical bouncy ode to a treacherous mujer and the cuckold who’s finally mustering the courage to show her the door. Its video, though, is Muy Especial. Turns out the woman was cheating with a good-looking guy at the gym, portrayed by Séptima’s lead singer. When he takes her “home” to “meet his family,” she discovers to her horror that home is a strip club and his family is a cabal of human traffickers. They lock her in a closet — I’m not making any of this up — and put her to work and she winds up half naked and sobbing on the concrete, mascara everywhere. When she texts the dude she cheated on — like, she can’t call the police? — he’s celebrating a promotion or something with his new girlfriend, so he just dismisses her texts. LESSON LEARNED, AMIRITE? Apparently not, because the final frames display the stark message, “LA SEPTIMA BANDA ESTÁ EN CONTRA DE LA TRATA DE BLANCAS.” You know, in case the video didn’t make that clear. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 2/6/16 (Wristwatch Porn and White Slavery)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (ft. La Séptima Banda & Hasty Cartel Googling)

septima banda

Down at #20 this week we find La Séptima Banda, evidently so emboldened by their recent hit love songs they think they can skirt any Mexican bans on radio corridos. “El Hijo del Ingeniero” (Fonovisa) is a song the banda picked up from their corridero labelmates Los Hijos de Hernández, although NorteñoBlog should note that Sr. Hernández is not the Ingeniero in question. But who is the Ingeniero? This song calls for a new edition of HASTY CARTEL GOOGLING: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (ft. La Séptima Banda & Hasty Cartel Googling)”

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