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Los Amos

NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000


As a recovering rockist and certified Old, I enjoy listening to the radio station The Current, 89.3 FM, whenever I’m driving through the Twin Cities. Recently The Current held a listener poll to determine the 893 essential songs since the year 2000. This list is a hit of sweet, unfiltered white elephant art. “Seven Nation Army” is #1 — and to be fair, it’s got one of the first riffs learned by today’s budding guitarists. Arcade Fire is everywhere, and Duluth folk-rockers Trampled By Turtles are more ranked than they’ve ever been ranked before.

In response, last week the Minneapolis City Pages, led by the excellent Keith Harris, published a list of 40 non-essential songs since the year 2000. This was the termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss riposte to all that Art. As you might guess, the non-essential list is way more fun, since it contains songs about dog sex and smashing things with hammers. But still, there was something missing, and I don’t mean Trampled By Turtles.

Both these lists gave NorteñoBlog an excuse to indulge in its two favorite pastimes: bitching that nobody pays attention to regional Mexican music, and shamelessly stealing the ideas of its betters.

So, in the pioneering spirit of 7-Minute Abs: ¡NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since 2000!

What does “esencial” mean in this case? I only got into Mexican music in 2005, so my list will look different than the list of someone immersed in this music for years, let alone decades. If you’ve followed the Blog at all, you know my taste leans toward novelty: cumbias, tubas, brass sections turned into backbeats, and squalid consortiums of instrumentalists all trying to outplay one another. I have Complicated Feelings about violent narco songs celebrating real criminals, but I don’t dismiss them outright, and I think they often make bands sound more exciting than they would otherwise.

In short — and this is one of the points I read in the City Pages’ subtext, and in Richard Meltzer’s The Aesthetics of Rock and Chuck Eddy’s books — the non-esencial is esencial to the whole enterprise. That’s why this list sometimes looks like a mutant termite-elephant hybrid.

Before we get started, here’s something else you won’t find on either of those other lists: an artist who’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury! Romantic balladeer Julión Álvarez, despite being basically Iran, has the distinction of being the continent’s best singer, and he recorded the most esencial melody here, but you can’t find it on the Spotify playlist at the bottom. So enjoy “Ojos Verdes” as you peruse.

And now, get a whiff of the Blog’s essence.

40. Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey – “Mi Padrino el Diablo” 2014
Whether flaring his nostrils or trying to jumpstart his perpetually nascent acting career, Luna over-enunciates more dramatically than anyone in banda music. Here’s a jaunty waltz where he gets down with the devil.

39. Los Angeles Azules – “El Listón de Tu Pelo” 2000
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000”

Las Ironías de la Vida: Grupo Codiciado

grupo codiciado

BREAKING: Binational quintet Grupo Codiciado has changed its look. The fearsome fivesome sped onto the Billboard charts last year with “Gente de Accionar,” for NorteñoBlog’s dinero the most exciting debut hit in a year that also gave us “Mi 45” and “Adios Amor.” Propelled by rippling drums and spurts of accordion, “Gente” might also be the most exciting song with its overused four-chord progression since Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana.” Here’s the Grupo playing the song back in 2015, when it was apparently so new Alilet Aragon had to read the lyrics off his phone:

Note the flashy matching suits, standard issue for corrido combos young and old. But now it’s 2018, and for their forthcoming album, No Lo Intenten en Casa, Codiciado seem to have blown their advance at Urban Outfitters:

no lo intenten

Not appearing on that tracklisting is Codiciado’s latest single, “Todo Nos Pasa Por Algo,” a song about getting, like, so high with los muchachos. “Todo Nos Pasa” is better than “Fire Up,” the latest hit ode to self-medication by T3R Elemento, because it’s faster and funnier. “Todo el tiempo la pasaba platicando que ironías de la vida,” sings Aragon — “We spent the whole time talking about the ironies of life.” Sounds about right. Pick to Click!

We’ve seen moves like these — flashy matching suits transformed into black urbanwear, tales of drug production into drug consumption — before. A decade ago California bands like Los Amos de Nuevo Leon went self-consciously hyphy, turning from their trad (if grisly) narcocorridos to faster, grosser party corridos. The Blog covered that whole movement in the article “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño.” The members of Grupo Codiciado, in their late teens and early 20s, don’t identify as “hyphy,” and their new music hasn’t appreciably changed in style, but the visual impulse is the same.

Some enterprising hesher has uploaded the album in full before its official release. Notable songs include what I think is another single, “Miro Lo Que Otros No Miran,” a proud song about how the boys have worked hard for everything they’ve got; and “Yo Solo Me Entiendo,” one of the better corrido odes to DEL Records proprietor Angel Del Villar.

Could this mean indie rockers Grupo Codiciado are angling for major distribution on Del Villar’s roster? If he signs them, will he make them “expand from hardcore corridos and into radio-friendly romantic fare,” as Talento Uno CEO Gustavo Lopez promises to do with the similarly rockin’ Fuerza de Tijuana? Rewarding a talented band by destroying what people love about them? ¡Que irónico!

Julio Tiene Calor


Thanks to you, a loyal coalition of corrido heads and puro sax devotees, NorteñoBlog enjoyed its most-clicked month yet in julio. Here are the posts that got the most attention, both current articles and old ones:

Current Posts:
1. Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)
Hyphy Music Inc. is still going strong; Martin Patrón’s Trap Corridos is rad.

2. NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio
12 tunes worth hearing; NorteñoBlog will totally update the YouTube playlist sometime in the next decade.

3. Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)
Sax riffs and terrible puns comin’ at ya!

4. Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16
Intocable sets a chart record; the blog continues to marvel at how much the kids love Los Plebes del Rancho.

5. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16
Songwriter’s Showcase underrates the new Recodo single.

Old Posts:
1. Explosion Norteña: Beto’s Revenge
Manuel celebrates the inimitable flow of Beto Cervantes, lead MC of Explosion Norteña.

2. Top 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
More intersections of rap and corridos: Manuel counts ’em down.

3. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16
La Iniciativa and Banda Los Recoditos team up for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club.

4. 100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
Seriously, who buys these things?

5. Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño
Almost a decade ago, Los Amos and friends went hyphy; WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

¡Gracias por leer!

Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño

amos 2008

After first appearing at the 2014 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, this article ran last spring at Maura Magazine; I reprint it here with their kind permission.

amos 1996Here’s the story of a band from Modesto,
A small city east of San Francisco.
Led by the brothers Guajardo,
They’re known to the world as Los Amos.

amos 2001They got started back in the mid-’90s
Playing los narcocorridos,
And over the course of a decade,
Los Amos altered their appearance

amos 2006From flashy-shirted, big-hatted cowboys
To black-suited, no-hatted tough guys,
Los Amos’ transformation was dramatic,
And their music changed right along with them.

This transition was shaped by two forces:
The demands of their well-structured business,
But also their repeated incantations
Of one magic word from the Bay…


But before we get hyphy, we need to answer this question: Why were some guys in Modesto, California, playing corridos—Mexican story songs about the drug trade—for a living in the first place? The answer lies with two names, corridistas you’ve probably heard of, immigrants to los Estados Unidos, legends in their field.
Continue reading “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño”

Indie Animales (starring Los Inquietos, El Chapo de Sinaloa, y más)


We all know insufferable (and occasionally kickin’) Brooklyn indie bands love naming themselves after animals. But did you know that kickin’ (and occasionally insufferable) indie norteño bands also dig animal metaphors? And were you aware that writing intros is not NorteñoBlog’s strong suit? Read on!

los inquietosLos Inquietos del Norte started one of norteño’s most successful artist-directed indie labels, Eagle Music, in 2002. Along with their fellow Bay-area natives Los Amos de Nuevo Leon, Los Inquietos helped create the sound of hyphy norteño, the party punk version of bro-norteño, all lickety split tempos, simple accordion slashes, and lyrics about wild debauchery. Inquietos quickly went their own way: though their songs still sounded hyphy, they dropped the hyphy name and started adding wobbly violin-based ballads to their repertoire. They also grew their record label. Along the way they’ve cut distribution deals with mom-and-pops and majors. I’m not sure how their new album De Noche Enfiestado is being promoted, but I did hear its wobbly violin-based lead single “No Dudes De Mi” on midwestern corporate radio the other day, so somebody’s pushing it.

In addition to their Eagle mascot, Inquietos are into perro y gallo metaphors. NorteñoBlog has discussed their wobbly, weirdly operatic single “Como Perro Amarrado,” which is sort of like Jamey Johnson’s “Dog In the Yard” without the rue. Like, serious lack of rue. The Meza brothers’ vibrato is where rue goes to die. Their profane and violent “La Cerre el Hozico al Perro” has more energy, and I’m partial to “Los Tres Gallasos,” if only for the accordion. Rosalio Meza has some fast licks at his disposal, but he’s not afraid to simply hang out on one repeated note, frowning his instrument’s approval at the lyrics. There’s a cultivated carelessness in this bunch.

Continue reading “Indie Animales (starring Los Inquietos, El Chapo de Sinaloa, y más)”

El Hyphy (aka The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño) in Maura Magazine

narquillos cover

My hyphy thinkpiece has arrived! It’s all about California’s unique genre of corrido music known as “hyphy” — yes, named after the rap style — which flourished briefly last decade. The article excerpts two new interviews, one with Hyphy label owner Jose Martinez and one with producer and engineer Juan Ramirez. If I may say so myself, it’s a fun read.

You can read it in Maura magazine, either by subscribing or paying some nominal dinero for the single issue. Out of respect for the magazine and its paywall I won’t reprint anything here, but I don’t think they’d mind if I reprint my abstract for the conference where this article originated:

Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: California Norteño, the Word “Hyphy,” and the Story of a Movement

Recount the fall of 2008, when everyone in the club was getting hyphy — everyone in California’s norteño scene, at least. A year after the watershed rap compilation Hyphy Hitz, the Modesto band Los Amos de Nuevo León scored a minor radio hit with “El Hyphy,” a galloping two-minute accordion orgy of “locos brincando.” A movement was born, sort of. Los Amos’ producer Juan Ramirez corralled like-minded bands into El Movimiento Hyphy; CDs and videos rushed to market. As hyphy rap faded from the nation’s radar, these norteño bands claimed the word as their own, suggesting fast tempos, California pride, subterranean video budgets, and various decadent and/or inexplicable behaviors. The cover of Narquillos del Hyphy’s album El Burro Hyphy depicts the movement in all its glory: six men in matching black and white outfits stand with a gleaming motorcycle, scowling at the severed head of a donkey wearing a diamond studded grill.

Hyphy Movimiento burned out quickly, but the word “hyphy” lives on. Los Amos’ current label is Hyphy Music Inc., which “has nothing to do with Hyphy Movimiento,” label founder and namer Jose Martinez told me — “‘Hyphy’ to me means absolutely nothing.” But it still connotes plenty: California, kush, and, in Martinez’s view, a mellower strain of narcocorrido. Unlike bands in the more popular Movimiento Alterado, Hyphy’s bands don’t sing the gory details of cartel massacres, except when they do. Through interviews and music I’ll explore the shifting story of the word “hyphy” in U.S. norteño music, and through that story some larger issues of branding, cultural appropriation, and the new wave of corrido fans. (Hyphy sells 90% of its music within the U.S.) I won’t dwell too much on cartel violence, promise — but Martinez, a conscientious former youth counselor, did bring it up.

¡Nuevo! (starring Trakalosa and Alfredo Olivas)

trakalosa uresti

We’ll start with esta semana’s pick to click, and it’s a weeper. It turns out Edwin Luna, lead singer of La Trakalosa de Monterrey, is very convincing portraying un “Adicto a la Tristeza.” It helps that his voice chimes like a throaty bell. Luna’s labelmate and guest singer, Pancho Uresti from Banda Tierra Sagrada, is somewhat less convincing because his voice is scratchy. When the woman in the video spurns his advances, he’ll feel nothing and should be able to pick up pretty easily with someone else. I myself am addicted to the urgency of their chorus melody, and a quarter-million Youtube viewers in the past two days seem to agree.

Other newish singles include Hijos de Barrón’s “Mis Quimeras” (LNG/Hyphy), featuring cool bass work and a syncopated groove;

“Así Es el Juego,” an underwhelming cover of Colmillo Norteño‘s profane kiss-off (in a couple senses), by Luis y Julián Jr. ft. Naty Chávez. It’s available in both obscene and family-friendly versions!;

and I’m not sure if this counts, but Graciela Beltrán throws herself into a new ballad, “Qué Tal Se Siente,” and it’s good to hear her voice.

The big new album this week is Alfredo Olivas’s El Privilegio (Sahuaro/Sony), which originally seemed to have come out late last year but maybe it was leaked. Olivas is an alumnus of several labels, including Fonovisa and the aforementioned Hyphy, here making his Sony debut. He’s also written songs for big names, so maybe Sony sees in his boyish grin the next Gerardo Ortiz?

The quintet Los Ramones de Nuevo Leon’s Con La Rienda Suelta (Grupo RMS) exists, as does a new retrospective from hyphy floggers (and Hyphy alums) Los Amos de Nuevo Leon, 20 Éxitos (Mar).

And I’m confused about Hyphy alums Los Rodriguez de Sinaloa — didn’t they just put out an album? Well, there’s another one out there called Entre El Rancho y La Ciudad (Independent), which so far seems more energetic than Sr. Olivas’s album.

What’s that? — you’re worried Hyphy music is under represented? — very well, the trio Los Kompitaz released 12 Corridos y Canciones at the end of 2014.

Accordionist, singer, businessman, and crier of single tears Fidel Rueda releases Música del Pueblo on his own Rueda label. His latest single “No Te Vayas” has stuttering accordion and horn lines that sound like they’re fighting to squeeze through his tear ducts.

Feeling romantic and/or cash-starved, Fonovisa has released it’s annual Bandas Románticas de América comp, which last year sucked. As companion pieces, they’ve compiled 20 Kilates Románticos for a bunch of groups, including Recodo, Primavera, Bryndis, Bukis — you know, groups who have never been compiled before.

El Cantar De Los Gallos


El Komander – Cazador (Twiins Music Group)
I’ve got some catching up to do with Alfredo Rios, whose single “Soy De Rancho” and at-least-fourth album Cazador are among the best of 2014. With his aviator shades, fealty to country living, and endorsement of la mota, Rios could almost be Eric Church, if Church had Brantley Gilbert’s vocal range and described gangland killings in gory detail. (Please note: my translation studies don’t yet reveal whether Rios’s latest traffics in the gore. Back in 2011 he was the focal point of one of those “explain corrido violence to gringos” articles. I found it helpful, anyway.) The music on Cazador is wonderfully loose and shaggy norteño, its nonstop guitars frequently augmented by a banda that sounds like it’ll fly apart any second. Overall, the music’s as obnoxious as the tuba fart that punctuates Rios’s voice the first time he sings “Sí Señor, yo soy de rancho.” Despite having about eight notes at his disposal, Rios has charisma to burn; he only fools himself into trying to sing pretty once, on the mariachi ballad “Descansa Mi Amor,” where his ideal of love is a whispering frog.

Rios also appears on Calibre 50’s excellent “Qué Tiene De Malo,” a hit in México but not (so far) the U.S. We covered it over at The Singles Jukebox, where I said:

The artists are indignant. Both Calibre 50, a quartet named for a big-ass gun, and El Komander, who’s designed his “K” to look like a big-ass gun, have recently been fined and banned by certain state and local governments in Mexico. The reason? Their narcocorrido music “promotes violence.” Well, yeah. Wasn’t that the point of all the big-ass guns? The artists retaliate with this pro-freedom meta-corrido, “What’s Wrong With That?”, presenting themselves as working stiffs who’ll drink and party and spend hard-earned money on whatever kind of music they like. (They’re like two steps removed from Toby Keith in “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.”) On their albums, Calibre venture into pop ballads and dangerously close to sea shanties; despite the broadest reach of any norteño band, their grasp sounds firmest when they return to corridos. That lurching waltz beat could trace the arc of a razor sharp pendulum, the tuba fluttering and blatting just out of its reach. During the spoken interlude they quote Komander’s 2012 Youtube hit “Cuernito Armani,” named for — you guessed it — a big-ass gun.

Los Amos – 2014 (Michoacan Records)
Los Creadores del Corrido Hyphy return, and they are… not so hyphy. Not that “hyphy” was ever a guarantee of quality in the norteño field (watch for my hyphy norteño thinkpiece, coming soon to this blog, only four years past its sell-by date!), but in 2014 they’ve amped up the outside songwriters, the ballad count, and the amount of reverb on José Guajardo’s voice. When José lays on some thick accordion, they can be lively and raucous; but more often they sound like old pros politely trying to recapture the raucity of youth. They’re most energized by the songs of Marco Montana, who evidently knows a thing or two about chinga-ing your madre.

Banda Tierra Sagrada – Así Te Quiero Yo (Remex)
Despite the minor key tunes “La Loca” and “Máxima Potencia” — have these guys been reading my email’s spam folder? — they never approach the desmadre of their most recent hit. The three different singers are modestly compelling, even if nobody sings as well as duet partner Marco Flores, but the band doesn’t offer much beyond one big brassy idea per song. Ballads like “Lucharé Por Ti” don’t even get that far.

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