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Los Hijos de Hernández

Fiesta Tercer Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK

alfredo olivas wary

Welcome to NorteñoBlog’s fourth year! As I survey the previous twelve months of radness, several themes emerge:

fantasmaSierreño is no longer a novelty. The guitar + tuba-or-bass style is now as prevalent as its country cousins, banda and accordion-based norteño. Although the style has existed for decades, you can trace its popularity back to the 2015 death of young singer-guitarist Ariel Camacho, which cemented sierreño as both young people’s music and a vehicle for pop hits. Two Camacho-related bands — Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho and Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes — appear below, as do established norteño/banda stars Gerardo Ortiz and Remmy Valenzuela, jumping on the sierreño bandwagon with corridos and romantic ballads. One of the year’s biggest breakout stars, man-myth-legend El Fantasma, scored a long charting hit with the guitar corrido “Mi 45,” in the process becoming one of California’s most streamed Latin artists.

comere calladoGerardo Ortiz continues to dominate. You wouldn’t know it by looking at his album sales, but artistically, nobody in the genre had a better 2017. His sierreño-biting Comeré Callado album was a rebound from 2015’s disappointing Hoy Más Fuerte, with better songs and typically stunning band interplay. He was also featured on excellent norteño and bachata singles (see below), and notably did not release any videos showing him murdering women. I only accomplished one of those things.

La-Nueva-Onda-Norteña-V-Hell-Yea-2017-500x500Like Civil War reenactments and teen slasher movies, puro sax music will never die. The jaunty norteño subgenre, whose songs definitely do not all sound the same, continues to do several things well. It’s an excellent accompaniment to doing chores. Like freestyle, it pits bouncy uptempo music against bereft emo lyrics, to the benefit of both. And it pulls all kinds of other stuff — notably the huapango folk dance and alt-rockers Caifanes (see below) — into its deranged but happy orbit.

christian-nodalI wish I liked mariacheño and socially conscious corridos more than I do. Christian Nodal released an excellent, career-defining debut single, “Adios Amor,” and then followed it up with a boring but well-reviewed mariachi album. Calibre 50 released a heartfelt sigh of an immigration story, “Corrido de Juanito,” that meant a lot to some very smart people. Given the choice, though, I’d rather listen to the parade of reprehensible narcocorridos scattered below. Bands like La Nueva Rebelión draw swaggering energy from their illicit subject matter, turning narco music into a thrilling and paradoxically life-affirming force. Not that musicians can’t walk and chew gum at once — last year especially,
El Komander succeeded with both kinds of stories.

la villarrealWhere are all the women? I’m sorry to say, this is one area where the Blog seems to be getting worse, not better, and I’m not sure if it’s my fault or the industry’s. This year the Blog enjoyed singles by Alicia Villarreal (her album La Villarreal is way better mariachi pop than Nodal’s), Lucero, Diana Reyes, and Chiquis Rivera, but didn’t Pick to Click them, simply because there was better stuff those particular weeks. The latest countrified album from blog fave Laura Denisse was more of a chore than her last one, although it may be growing on me (and I just saw she has a Christmas album! Must research…). Los Horóscopos have been MIA lately. As Victoria ‘La Mala’ has pointed out, Mexican regional music remains a man’s world — the sheer amount of music produced by men overwhelms that of the women. That said, the year’s most exciting new voice belonged to Ángela Aguliar, who showed rich confidence on two wonderful duets with her father Pepe. (See below.)

Anyway, here they are: the past year’s worth of Picks to Click. Thanks for reading, and happy listening!

11/17/16: “Que Perrón” by La Séptima Banda
A big dumb cumbia 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.”

12/2/16: “Traigo Ganas de Pistiar” by Escuela de Rancho, Los Orejones de la Sierra, y La Bandeña
It scarcely matters what the song “Traigo Ganas” is about. I mean, I know it’s about getting drunk — the song opens with the sound of cans being cracked open, and anyway, I’m sure you’ve met low brass players — but what matters is the stupendous way this makeshift octo-quin-trio makes you feel all giddy and swivelly by jumping from one part of the song to the next.
Continue reading “Fiesta Tercer Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK”

¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)


lalo-moraThis week in the “norteño legend covers the Great Ranchera Songbook” department, we find Lalo Mora, formerly of the ’70s duo Lalo y Lupe and the ’80s band Los Invasores de Nuevo León. Mora’s been making solo music on labels big and small for a while now, and on his latest, Un Millón de Primaveras (Mora), he’s hired a banda to help him dig through some classics. The horn charts are decent and Mora’s grizzled voice settles into the tunes with effortless authority, but you’ve probably heard these songs done better elsewhere. NorteñoBlog directs you to Joan Sebastian‘s country-with-horns take on the title track, which he wrote; and to Vicente Fernández‘s trembling and magisterial version of “El Ultimo en la Fila,” which Sebastian also wrote. Lest you think the entire Great Ranchera Songbook sprang from Joan Sebastian’s tear-stained pen, Mora also sings “Cartas Marcadas” and some other decidedly non-Sebastian tunes. The album’s technically accomplished, but I never need to hear it again: NO VALE LA PENA.

leonardo-aguilarLeonardo Aguilar has lucked into some decidedly less accomplished banda charts on his debut album Gallo Fino (Machin) — if you wanna hear clarinets cloy hard, check out this single from a couple years ago. No matter: I like Aguilar’s album better than Lalo Mora’s. Continue reading “¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)”

Indie Singles a Go Go (¡Nuevo!)

los grandes del pardito

la yegrosNorteñoBlog starts the day by wandering down to the next continent, as we do sometimes — specifically to Argentina, where the cumbia and its omnivorous psychedelic folk cousin chicha are still going strong, and the gauchos still roam the countryside. (I’m not sure whether “omnivorous psychedelic folk” is the best descriptor since it makes me think of the Grateful Dead, but let’s not worry about that now.) Buenos Aires singer La Yegros is back with her new single “Chicha Roja” (Waxploitation/Soundway); her album Magnetismo will come out in March. Nice song! It’s got a rolling I-wanna-say electro-acoustic cumbia beat, accordion and melodica (you can tell because a melodica appears in the animated Georgia-O’Keefe-on-shrooms video), crowd noises, a dense breakdown with flutes playing out of tune, and the appealing presence of La Yegros herself. Her voice sort of reminds me of Shirley Simms from the Magnetic Fields — only, you know, marshalling a cicha like a friendly dance commander.

los rodriguezThemselves no strangers to cumbias, indie corrideros Los Rodriguez de Sinaloa released a humdinger of one last year; I regret never having Picked to Click “Bye Bye.” Although I should note, norteño/banda cumbias differ from the South American kind, or even from the slow and steady cumbias favored by Mexican bands like Los Angeles Azules. Namely: norteño cumbias are way faster. Witness Julión Álvarez’s “Cumbia del Rio.” At his pace you can still hear the cumbia’s trademark “1 2-and 1 2-and” grind divvied up among the different instruments, but once a band starts approaching hyperspace — as in “Bye Bye” or Calibre 50’s current hit “La Gripa” — the subtleties of the beat smear into one homogeneous oompah.

Anyway, Los Rodriguez’s new single is NOT a cumbia, but the ice-cold breakup tune “Te Tengo De Cortar” (self-released). Taking a cue from K Camp, Los Rodriguez decide they need to leave this particular mujer where she stands, and it’ll be much less painful for the mujer in question if they end it with some quickness. Pulling off Band-Aids and whatnot. Los Rodriguez’s tuba player does his best to be convincing, particularly during the chunky, rapid-fire pre-choruses. The song lasts less than three minutes, but nearly every bar sounds like a big jagged glob of something shoved in your face. That’s a recommendation and a Pick to Click.

Continue reading “Indie Singles a Go Go (¡Nuevo!)”

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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