music, charts, opinions


Larry Hernández

Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16

larry hernandez

While NorteñoBlog was away from the charts over Christmas, something unexpected happened. The listening public, perhaps because they were feeling unusually decent, STOPPED LISTENING TO “PROPUESTA INDECENTE.” Or at least they listened to it less. And because King Romeo’s ballad had spent more than one year on the Hot Latin chart, and because it had lately dropped to #5, and because Billboard writes you off the Hot Latin chart after a year if you drop below #5 — OUR LONG NATIONAL INDECENCY IS OVER!!!!! “Propuesta Indecente” ended its record 125-week chart run the week of January 2. We extend a hearty congratulations to King Romeo and all those who have swooned in his name.

(Alternate lead: “Propuesta Indecente” was destroyed January 2 when a small band of resistance fighters blew up its thermal oscillator, destabilizing the star-killing juggernaut and exiling King Romeo to his recording studio. In a prepared statement the King said, “Don’t worry, I’ll build another one,” and then chuckled with craven glee.)

Maybe coincidentally, the week of January 2 saw an enormous number of Regional Mexican songs climbing the Hot Latin chart: 14 out of the top 25, to be exact. (Usually the top 25 contains around 10 or 11.) Since that week the number has dropped to 13, many of which are holdovers from last year, but there are a few interesting things happening. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16”

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”

Desfile De Éxitos 6/27/15


Four new tunes from the NorteñoBlog milieu join this week’s charts. At the top of the heap, cracking the top 20 on the Hot Latin chart, is the latest mind numbing ballad from Banda MS, “A Lo Mejor.” You’re forgiven if you’ve forgotten “A Lo Mejor” since we last encountered it, because IT NUMBED YOUR MIND. But the video is entertaining twist-ending novela fare; you can tell it cost a lot, and that nobody shooting the video could remember the song they were supposedly depicting, either.

The other three new songs, all near the bottom of the Regional Mexican airplay chart, sound better to varying degrees. Arrolladora’s “Confesion” is faster and more minor-keyed than much of their recent output. Faint praise, but then, it’s been a while since these guys left an impression. Los Tucanes’ corrido “Suena La Banda” stomps along with guest stars Código FN. Several several members of Código are confined to standing around singing in their sparkly jackets without their instruments, but their tubist gets in some good licks, and both bands’ drummers find a way to coexist. Even better is the magic changes title track from Vete Acostumbrando, the latest album by psychedelic corridista and family man Larry Hernández. Lots of crammed-in words and snarling, which beats Larry attempting to croon.

It’d be this week’s Pick to Click if NorteñoBlog wasn’t a total sucker for Tito “El Bambino” and his attempts to sound like a more romantic Pet Shop Boys. Like the aforementioned Banda MS song, “Como Antes” enters the Hot Latin top 20. Unlike Banda MS, Tito plays majestic reggaeton synth pop with pounding drums and low voices comically interjecting things like “MAMACITA” every so often. Great vocal harmonies, too. The acerbic voice of Zion &/or Lennox appears midway through to scrape the plaque from your heart.

Continue reading “Desfile De Éxitos 6/27/15”

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda El Recodo, Larry Hernández, y más)

mariachi el bronx

recodoTwo years ago, the last time Banda El Recodo released an album, I wrote, “Like happy families and episodes of The Waltons, all Banda el Recodo albums are alike. When you play one, you’re assured 40 minutes or so of ace arrangements and pleasant tunes in a variety of styles.” I haven’t heard all of their new album, Mi Vicio Más Grande (Fonovisa), but I may have to go back on my word. For one thing, it’s only 30 minutes long! Possibly inspired by the rambunctious spirit of their title song, a previous Pick to Click, they’ve decided to dispense with this album quickly with only 11 songs, down from the 19-song high water mark of 2009’s Me Gusta Todo de Ti. But that’s OK, NorteñoBlog likes short albums. Worse news is that aside from “Vicio,” the songs I’ve heard suck. “Todo Tuyo” may have been a hit but it defines the idea of a nothing ballad, sucking brain cells into its void. Nor do the other two advance tracks seems designed to stick, whether it’s songwriter Freddy Osuna enjoying “La Miel de Su Saliva” or the sage songwriting team of Luciano Luna, Joss Favela, and Miguel Angel Romero skipping through “De Haber Sabido.” By now bandleader Alfonso Lizárraga has proven he can simply spin Recodo’s wheels, releasing an album with the requisite two hits (“Vicio” has gone top 20 on the Hot Latin chart) to keep the brand going.

hernandezNorteñoBlog has previously been bewildered by the prolific career scope of psychedelic corridista and family man Larry Hernández, whose new Vete Acostumbrando (Sodin/Fonovisa) dropped two weeks ago. In contrast to the somewhat unofficial “got purp” feel of his last album 16 Narco Corridos Vol. 2, Vete is an official hitmaking release full of romance and obsession and a Gerardo Ortiz duet. At only 10 songs (NorteñoBlog cheers!), most of which are good, none of which stand out, it’s less of a chore than either new album by Ortiz or Recodo. Hernández doesn’t innovate his genre like Ortiz, and he doesn’t even sing as well — listen to the fine quartet ballad “Ya Me Cansé” and you might think he’s coughing up his lyrics. But he zips through his music with unabashed and unpretentious pleasure. On my loosely ranked list of favorite albums of 2015, Hernández sits next to Kid Rock, which seems about right. Plus my awesome librarian Gloria likes him. I’ll confer Pick to Click status upon the banda firecracker “Aferrado Corazón,” which features Hernández not quite reaching his high notes in a very appealing way.

komander eleganteEl Komander yadda yadda another single blah blah blah not really trying any more but that’s integral to his charm yak yak yak. But — what’s this? — Sr. Riós seems pretty invested in his sixth (?) official single in as many months. It’s called “El Elegante,” it’s fast banda and barely a song, but it does herald his forthcoming album for Twiins Enterprises, Detrás Del Miedo. Due July 7th! I’d say reserve yourself a copy, but let’s face it: such effort would hardly keep with the spirit of Komander’s recent loosey goosey output. Although to be fair, the guy’s released a single per month in 2015; what have I done?

mariachi el bronxThat sort of existential uncertainty hangs heavy over “Wildfires,” the new Mariachi El Bronx single on ATO. Wait. No it doesn’t. Mariachi El Bronx sounds like fucking Fastball. Let’s be clear here: NorteñoBlog is not categorically opposed to U.S. pop appropriations of regional Mexican styles. More such appropriations might be welcome, because horns and strings sound great on the radio, and the people of El Norte need to learn these styles. The members of Mariachi El Bronx have doubtless studied more mariachi music than I have. Some of them are Latino. They play their instruments well. But let’s also be clear: they’re not playing mariachi music. They’re using mariachi as a gimmick to sell tickets to indie rock shows, same as Cake uses a trumpet. (Sometimes I like Cake.) If white hipsters go to Mariachi El Bronx shows to gawk at music that’s “cute” or “indigenous,” or if white hipsters leave Mariachi El Bronx shows thinking they suddenly know something about mariachi music, I suppose that’s the white hipsters’ problem, but I wish I had more confidence in Mariachi El Bronx to combat the problem. Ultimately though, I’m ragging on Mariachi El Bronx because of my longstanding disinterest in rote indie rock songs. (Plus, the lead Mariachi sings with a tenth the authority of George Strait; but then, don’t we all.)

¡Nuevo! (starring Larry Hernández, Pesado, y más)


larry hernandezHere at NorteñoBlog we’ve not yet explored the career of Larry Hernández, corridista and family man, creator of both controversial Youtube smashes and a reality show called Larrymania. He’s out with a new album today, 16 Narco Corridos: Vol. 2 (Fonovisa), whose psychedelic purple cover — complete with frolicking spiders and ungulates! — suggests a lyrical move from production to consumption. No idea whether that’s true, since none of the songs seem to have found their way onto the internet yet. (Though I’m probably wrong about that, since Hernández knows his way around the internet better than I do.) Instead we have the sweet if stalkery “Vete Acostumbrando”, in which Hernández promises to show up outside your window at midnight with a banda, looking for your silhouette on the shade. Nice of him to provide warning.

Vol. 2 is the sequel to 2009’s 16 Narco Corridos, for a time Hernández’s biggest selling album and spawner of the hit “El Baleado.” Hernández got the same rap as Movimiento Alterado: that he glorified violence by singing explicitly about the violent murders surrounding Mexican drug cartels. According to Billboard‘s Leila Cobo, Hernández saw it differently:

Hernandez says he in no way seeks to glorify that way of life. While some of the appeal may lie simply in its shock value, composer/singer Hernandez says he sings about what he knows. “I lived violence as a child,” says Hernandez, who’s also an avid reader of books about drug cartels and the drug trade. “I was born in Los Angeles but was raised in Mexico, and as a boy, I saw how this person or the other was killed. They are my experiences.”

But while this may be the reality in Mexico, it isn’t the same in the United States. This fact, producer Adolfo Valenzuela says, makes the songs harmless- and appealing- in the United States. “Here, it would be almost impossible for [young people] to go around toting guns,” says Valenzuela, whose company, Twiins Enterprises, has signed several new acts like El Kommander. “I think they merely see it as something forbidden and cool. They see it as a new trend.”

Sometimes I wonder whether Adolfo Valenzuela inspired the character of Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games.

pesadoIn the past we’ve been annoyed by the superabundance of Pesado’s live albums, but we’ve also appreciated their acumen for soaring melodies and male video models. Their new album Abrázame (Disa) may or may not be out today, or possibly sometime in May, but there’s no question it opens with their VALE LA PENA single “Que Aún Te Amo,” and it’s quite likely that lovelorn singer Mario Alberto Zapato could use a hug.

capitanes de ojinagaThe border city of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, has a dual musical personality. In the ’80s it was home to man myth legend Pablo Acosta, El Zorro de Ojinaga, one of those storied drug traffickers who gave back to the community before getting offed by los federales. As such, Ojinaga and El Zorro himself will live forever in the form of corridos, including one by Los Tigres. But Ojinaga is also the musical home to a slew of peppy saxophone dance bands, including Conjunto Primavera and Los Rieleros, giving rise to the “puro Chihuahua sax” sound. Two such bands have new music out: La Fiera de Ojinaga just released the single “Como Una Fiera” (Azteca), and Capitanes de Ojinaga have the album Volando Hacia Ti (Goma) with its solid romantic lope “Cuando Quieras Llorar.” Capitanes’ singer even sounds a little like Primavera’s Tony Meléndez, one of the higher compliments NorteñoBlog can pay.

triny y la leyendaThe Go Tejano Day protesters had a point — their music has suffered neglect in recent years — but what about those poor fans of tierra caliente? Man, nobody’s even talking about that stuff any more! NorteñoBlog would seek to right this wrong, but I actually don’t like tierra caliente, since it always just seemed like duranguense for supper clubs or church socials. Here to prove me wrong are genre stalwarts Triny y La Leyenda with Me Voy a Ir (Discos Arpeggio). Triny’s single “Tu Desastre” could be worse — the accordionist is spitting out some wicked fills in the background — but I fear it won’t change hearts and minds. Neither will the latest hits compilation by supertwee Tierra Cali, La Historia… Mis Éxitos (Universal).

rocio quirozYou would perhaps like some cumbias? Argentina’s Rocio Quiroz has a new album, Vivir Soñando (Ser Música), thoughtfully uploaded to Youtube by some scofflaw. This seems really good, especially its Pick to Click single “La De La Paloma”, 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 Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.

Grupo Maximo GradoLike many corridistas before them, Grupo Máximo Grado think they are Iván Archibaldo Guzmán Salazar, and they sing as much on their latest album and single, Yo Soy Ivan (Sol/Hyphy). See also Gerardo Ortiz’s “Archivaldo,” where Banda El Recodo and Los Tucanes show up at Ivan Archivaldo’s party. Máximo Grado’s Ivan has hot licks and a good tune that climbs its way into the upper register (akin to how Ivan’s dad climbed his way into the upper ranks of the Sinaloa Cartel, hmmmm?), but little in the way of uncanny lyrical detail. Corridistas take note: you should always namedrop who plays your icons’ parties, because it gives me more to write about.

bisnietosI know nothing about Los BisNietos except each one is un Hombre De Rancho (Luz), although their singing comes more from the school of clean norteño vocals, reminiscent of Glenn Medeiros. (As opposed to Marco Flores’s more extreme norteño vocals, reminiscent of a rooster.) The single “Me Creo” has some wicked accordion, fitting for a song in which Los BisNietos cast themselves as villains… OF THE HEART. Their sideburns are their rapiers.

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