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Los Inquietos Del Norte

Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio

ulices dancing

Welcome back to the Mexican radio charts! This week, in a startling change of pace, NorteñoBlog finds the Mexican airwaves awash in amor and sentimiento. Rather than fight this impulse by singling out the odd song about lavish lifestyles or dancing horses or whatever, the Blog has decided to embrace it. I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that you open your cold dead heart to at least one of the touchy feely offerings listed below.

uliceschaidezAt #7 we find “Que Bonito es Querer,” the latest declaration of sierreño amor from Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes. The chorus is a decent minor-key circle-of-fifths thing, not unlike “Autumn Leaves,” that allows Chaidez to show off his smoky upper register. The rest of the song would be better if it had any hint of a beat. The video is some straight-up Disney castle cosplay, stuffed with decorum and meaningful gazes and painstakingly plotted ballroom dances — you know, all the places where love goes to die flourishes. Chaidez’s bandmates and sombrero are as absent as princess farts. NO VALE LA PENA

At #8, the balladeers in Banda Carnaval refuse to be anyone’s “Segunda Opción,” especially the segunda opción of a no-good two-timing kiss-stealing mujer. Watch out, faithless ones! When Banda Carnaval’s clarinet players wriggle their eyebrows at you, the nausea can be overwhelming. NO VALE LA PENA

para-sacarte-de-mi-vida-275-275-1519877868They could take heartbreak lessons from Alejandro Fernandez ft. Los Tigres del Norte, who present an entire heart cauterization program in their duet “Para Sacarte de Mi Vida”, #9 this week. The Springsteens of norteño team up with the… um… Roseanne Cash of ranchera (Maybe? I mean, Alejandro’s too popular to be Shooter Jennings) for a stomp-clap-snappy pop ballad that’s atypical, at least for Los Tigres. The lyrics soar past sentimiento into dark emo/self-help guru territory, with the bereft narrators diving headfirst into their pain, killing their hearts, removing their tattoos, completely rerouting their jogging paths, all in a last-ditch effort to be reborn as some beautiful, heart-intact horse-tiger hybrid. (I paraphrase.) It’s catchy, and Los Tigres acquit themselves well in this less familiar setting. VALE LA PENA and Pick to Click:


Continue reading “Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio”

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NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2018: Enero – Abril

cornelio luis

After a month’s hiatus, we’re back! Please accept with the Blog’s apologies a Spotify playlist of the year’s best singles so far. (And here’s the bilingual version.)

NorteñoBlog’s recent lack of new content comes down to a couple factors, some excusable (extra work), some not (a new Minecraft addiction), and one germane to the Blog. If you’re near Seattle Saturday afternoon, stop by the Museum of Pop Culture, where I’ll be talking about Mexillenial gender presentation and how young dudes like Luis Coronel relate to their increasingly suburban fanbase. It’ll show up here eventually. In the meantime, let’s celebrate that Luis Coronel no longer sucks and has made one of the year’s best singles, in whose video he removes his shirt.

“Cambio de Papeles” – Cornelio Vega y Su Dinastia ft. Luis Coronel (Gerencia 360)
Under the tutelage of his famous papa, Cornelio Vega Jr. has emerged as a surprisingly gritty bandleader. He tosses off inventive accordion lines and sounds about a decade older than he is — just listening to him, you wouldn’t guess he’s got a mouth full of braces. In “Cambio de Papeles,” a stomping banda kiss-off, he pulls the prevoiusly personality-free Coronel up to his level — like, you actually believe these guys are jerks. Wronged jerks, but still jerks. Also worth checking out: the Coronel-less “Yo Soy,” a bouncy norteño number in whose charming video the band dresses up like teenage FES officers, trying to help their colleague win over a mujer. And then there’s “La Kushura,” in which Sr. Vega allows Jr. to hop aboard the latest high-flying musical trend: corridos verdes.

“Como Los Vaqueros” – Lenin Ramirez ft. Ulices Chaidez (DEL)
Is this super-catchy ballad with the “Stand By Me” chord changes a proud assertion of Mexicanness in a foreign land? Or a proud assertion of traditional machismo against the encroaching suburban void? Or an acknowledgement that the vaquero act has always been just that: an act? Or a really pretty and simple way to practice your reflexive verbs? ¡Sí sí sí y sí! When I heard it twice at the Aragon in February, everyone sang along, men and women, so there’s room for all God’s people inside the persona of the lovelorn vaquero. The backsplash in the video remains a thing of wonder.
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2018: Enero – Abril”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)

zapateado endemoniado

la rueda de la fortunaContinuing the sad theme of Albums NorteñoBlog Slept On In 2017, we turn to the fifth-or-so release from prodigious 23-year-old singer-songwriter-accordionist Alfredo Olivas, La Rueda de Fortuna (Sahuaro/Sony Latin). The Blog first encountered Olivas in the pre-Blog morass of 2013, when he appeared as a teenager on Hyphy Records’ cheapo compilation Hyphy Music Inc. Presenta El Corrido VIP 1era Edición. Comparing him and his cohort to punk rockers, and misspelling his name, I wrote, “Olvidas creates thin slashes of song, sometimes with one instrument insistently out of tune, tuba and accordion prancing around one another like bird of paradise evading some jungle cat, if that ever happens.” (I think I’d been watching a bunch of Planet Earth.)

Since then, Olivas has been sounding like more of a pro. He’s written a ton of songs — according to Wiki, over 1,000 during his life — and has lately turned away from the narcocorridos of his youth into more reflective and romantic work. Which isn’t to say he’s stodgy. “El Paciente” was one of 2017’s best singles, a soaring deathbed meditation whose energetic horn charts were set to “burble.” For his accordion songs, his band tackles different rhythms like Intocable, moving beyond the typical polkas and waltzes into grooves that approach rock. And his lyrics tend to be more interesting than typical for this genre, where song themes tend to stick to “I’m so in love with you,” “You unfaithful whore,” or “I’m such a big shot.”

antecedentes de culpaSee, for instance, the song sitting at #13 in Mexico. (Blog note: it’s since climbed to #4, but I’m too lazy to change the chart below.) In “Antecedentes de Culpa,” a guy has a drunken argument with his mujer, wakes up hung over, and regrets the whole thing. I’m not even sure what they’re arguing about, but it hardly matters; the argument dredges up a host of insults that sting worse than the subject of disagreement. It’s a precise, subtle portrait of how two lovers can choose exactly the right words to wound one another. (Standard translation caveats apply.) The music, naturally, is all swinging and sunshine, the band ruefully shaking their heads while their leader tries to talk his way out of his regret. Special props to Olivas’s drummer for leavening his beat with some cool snare rolls and subdivided cymbal work, and to the bassist for playing hooks. Pick to Click!

Also notable:
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)”

Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is

The Grammys and the Mexican government would very much like Mexico’s musical output to consist of genteel roots music. Fortunately, NorteñoBlog’s annual playlist 2016 VALE LA PENA shows that Mexican-American musicians have other ideas.

Our playlist has El Komander singing about immigration in two very different, equally urgent songs: once from the vantage point of a mother whose son is missing, and once as a proudly binational drug dealer. The playlist includes a defiant statement of national pride from Los Inquietos and Marco Flores. There are love songs from guitar bands, brass bands, accordion bands, sax bands, and synth bands.  El Bebeto and Banda Tierra Sagrada stop by to plug liquor; Fuerza de Tijuana celebrates two real-life American narcos. The guys in Los Titanes de Durango drive way too fast. La Rumorosa curses a terrible boyfriend; Intocable mourns absent amor with distorted guitar and a smoking accordion solo. At the top of the list, El Armenta offers a low-fi Lynchian nightmare of a cumbia about his girlfriend’s dog. All in all, it’s as energetic and varied as any single-genre playlist you’re likely to find.

THIS, Grammy voters, is where the action is.

———————————————–

vicente-un-aztecaEven as NorteñoBlog congratulates living legend Vicente Fernández on winning his third Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) (But Not Including Grupero ‘Cause That Shit Suuuuuuuux), we gotta note that this particular win is lame in a very Grammy-ish way. Continue reading “Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo

el armenta

Please excuse the note of shame in NorteñoBlog’s voice, but 2016 has gotten off to a more… focused start than last year. On the list (and YouTube playlist!) that follows, you’ll find no bands devoted to cumbia, no musicians from outside la patria, and — despite my doubtless inadequate searching — only one woman. (Karla Luna snuck on at the end, with a song that might end up growing on me. And Helen Ochoa‘s album deserves a listen.) What we’ve got here is nine norteño songs and six banda tunes by dudes who are pretty open about their lusts — if not for las mujeres, then for power and fancy wristwatches. But their music is no less compelling, because within those confines live several worlds of possibility.

El Armenta‘s big dumb cumbia (#1), Remmy Valenzuela‘s power ballad (#8), and Banda Pequeños Musical‘s pan flute monstrosity (#15) are all romantic banda songs that find vastly different paths to greatness. Or near greatness. The same thing happens on the norteño side. Though everyone’s working the same genre turf, Adriel Favela‘s guitar-saturated version of a new corrido standard (#3) couldn’t sound further from the Intocable love song (#10) with the distorted electric guitar and the show-offy accordion solo, as precise and memorable as a prime Van Halen break. Regional Mexican music pitches a bigger and more inventive tent than half the U.S. political system. Speaking of which, I sort of feel like El Armenta’s video, in which grotesque rubber-faced men enact an inexplicable ritual while carrying big sticks, gives us a terrifying preview of June’s Republican convention. At least nobody dies from the sticks.

1. El Armenta“El Perro Se Soltó” (Armenta)
Of all the big dumb banda cumbias I’ve heard this year, “El Perro” is the best, with horns and clarinets blaring all over the place and a churning beat that doesn’t quit until the perro in question barks at the end. The sound’s a little clipped in the head-scratcher of a video, which only adds to the Lynchian daytime nightmare feel of the whole endeavor. Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo”

Marco Flores y Los Inquietos Saluden a Su Madre

inquietos flores

You may remember that last summer the noted TV game show host Donald Trump announced he was running for president. Because he is a “straight-shooting” “outsider” who “tells it like it is,” he decided it would be a good idea to launch his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants. (Actually, what percentage of Trump’s actions spring from conscious decision making is open to debate and armchair psychoanalysis, but that’s a different blog.) A bunch of other Republican candidates, being “confident” “Christian” “human beings” who “think for themselves,” decided they would also insult Mexican immigrants. And Syrian immigrants. And Central and South American immigrants, just as, when ebola was all the rage, they wanted us to ban travel to and from Africa. These people know how to discriminate against, but among? Not so much.

Since then NorteñoBlog has seen a healthy number of pro-Latino and, in some cases, anti-Trump songs. The latest comes from blog fave Marco Flores and hyphy-not-hyphy stalwarts Los Inquietos del Norte. With his Numero 1 Banda Jerez, Flores made NorteñoBlog’s favorite album and single of 2015; he’s a proud Zacatecan country dude who fills his songs with crass jokes and parties. When he first arrived on the scene a decade ago, Billboard lauded him for “tell[ing] it like it is.” Like Sr. Trump, he’s also a straight-shooting outsider, saying in a Triunfo magazine cover story that, unlike many of his banda-music colleagues, he doesn’t like El Norte. Flores claims he couldn’t afford to live here; he’d need to buy a car; in Mexico he can just ride his horse wherever he needs to go. The straight-shooting outsider is still an attentive modern businessman, though — dude can quickly rattle off his YouTube counts.

In contrast, Los Inquietos may have cousins in Jalisco and Michoacan, but they’ve based most of their 20-year music career in California. Besides devising new and innovative ways to chinga tu madre in song, they’re enterprising businessmen, starting their own Eagle label and bringing their own crass corridos to fans throughout the U.S. Their new duet with Flores, “Requisito Americano,” addresses this cultural difference before uniting in solidarity: If you discriminate against them, “salude a su madre.” I guess they wanna get this song on the radio.

Blast it at your nearest Iowa caucus!

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 1/19/16

iniciativa

Thanks to an extremely geeky background playing in concert bands, where mixed meters and overlapping rhythms kept my mind off the pain of my sputtering lips, NorteñoBlog will always dig bands doing proggy rhythm stuff in non-prog settings. This week’s 15th most played norteño/banda song on Mexican radio comes from the young tuba quintet La Iniciativa de Angostura Sinaloa, or simply “La Iniciativa” to their madres. “El Loquito del Rancho” (PCol) is a quick waltz, but singer Ariel Inzunza’s inventive melody throws in all these quintuplets, giving the first half of each line a crowded five-against-three feel. (You can play along at home! Tap your chest “ONE two three/ ONE two three” over and over again, and then start saying “onetwothreefourfive/ ONE two” so that the “one”s in your voice line up with the “one”s in your tapping. Got that? Now balance a ball on your nose!) Add to that a great chorus hook and a tubist (Rigoberto Cruz) who keeps messing with everyone, plus some hot accordion work from leader and co-singer Martín López, and you’ve got yourself a Pick to Click.

López is a triple threat who used to play tuba in Calibre 50; he and drummer Agusto Guido left that superstar band about two years ago to form La Iniciativa and possibly the PCol label, which seems to promote no other acts. NorteñoBlog slept on their 2015 album Ya Estás Olvidada. Among other things, it includes a beefed-up cover of the late Ariel Camacho’s “Hablemos” that doesn’t cut the original, but does demonstrate that they are caballeros of good taste. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 1/19/16”

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…

HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY

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)

peyoyo

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)”

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