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Luis y Julián Jr.

¡Nuevo! (starring Julión Álvarez, Shalia Dúrcal, y más)

julion alvarez nieto

Julión Álvarez has been called many things: the best singer on the continent (OK, that was me), “un gran ejemplo para la juventud mexicana” (THAT was the president of México), the biggest deal in regional Mexican music last year because Gerardo Ortiz didn’t release a new album, and… Well, people don’t actually talk about Álvarez that much, even though he’s never made a bad album that I’ve found, and his last album produced three radio hits. The former Banda MS singer has worked his way from an indie to a major label with an impressive consistency that may be hard to write about. Álvarez emerges from the studio once a year with an untroubled good album: mostly uptempo, a variety of styles, and a voice that sounds both lived-in and young, toying with its own scratchy crags and the tricky rhythms of his trio and a big banda. “Y Así Fue,” his single from 2014, could have been anyone’s spritely sex romp, but Álvarez rendered it indelible with the little swoops in his voice. His unpredictable vibrato threatens to lose the pitch at any moment, almost like he’s about to cry.

JulionAlvarez_ElAferradoSo he’s a romantic who makes easy listening. The thing is, Indispensable was the best album of 2014 because it was so easy to listen to, and each listen revealed something new about the singer’s devotion to musical pleasure. Álvarez’s new album, El Aferrado (Fonovisa), sounds after a couple listens like a singer who’s successfully codified that pleasure, at least for himself. There are surprising moments like the title song, a Pick to Click that combines the two ensembles to jarring effect. But though trombone, tuba, and accordion reinvent the song nearly every second they play, nobody ever sounds like they’re about to lose it. It’s a very professional take on Wild Banda + Trio. The lead single, a ballad called “El Amor De Su Vida,” is far worse, to the point where you might not even know Álvarez is singing. The greatness of his singing has always dwelled in his sense of rhythm and phrasing as much as the unique grain of his voice. Now the grain of his voice remains, but nothing gets caught on it, least of all the pat melody of “Amor.”

luis y julian jr.The band name Luis y Julián Jr. pays tribute to Luis y Julian, a stolid country harmony duo from, oh, the ’90s or possibly earlier. I’m not sure whether Luis y Julian Sr. sang songs with the kind of macho, tight-lipped sense of humor that makes me certain they’re about to bash my head against the bar; but Luis y Julián Jr. sure do! “Las Muchachas de Estos Tiempos” is your standard “women and their Facebook dragging me away from my cockfights, amirite” song; the duo also sings something I’m guessing not entirely complimentary about Boy George and “Georgie” Michael. Drinks in your faces, assholes. NorteñoBlog has previously covered their latest single “Asi es el Juego,” ft. Naty Chávez, a cover of Colmillo Norteño. Its explicit take on Real Talk norteño balladry is sort of cute, but it’s not like you’d wanna listen to it for the music or anything. So three more drinks to the face, and expect more of the same on what I think is their debut album, A Chin… ¿pos Qué Pasó? (Remex).

shaila durcalShalia Dúrcal is from Spain but has gotten some traction in México, having sung with Jenni Rivera and delved into Mexican styles. Her latest single “No Me Interesa” blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Second Pick to Click, what the heck, and her self-titled sixth (?) album is just out on EMI. The album opens with “Has Sido Tú,” a tech-folk-ranchera stomper whose main riff is lifted directly from one of Slash’s solos in “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” Now the second song, sweeping ballad “Yo Daría,” is sweeping me off my feet. I have extremely high hopes for this album and should probably just liveblog it. (I won’t tell you who Durcal’s mom is, you’ll have to look that shit up, but fear not — it’s in the first paragraph of every bio.) Go listen to Shalia Dúrcal!

uriel henaoUriel Henao, “El Rey del Corrido Prohibido,” releases albums on his own self-titled label and just put out an Éxitos comp. “La Mafia Continua” is about the mafia and how it continues.

Not to be outdone, Los Rieleros del Norte have just released their 42nd album, Corridos y Canciones de Mi Tierra. Their tierra is Pecos, TX, though like many Texas bands they get their puro sax style from Chihuahua. Lead single “Mis Peores Deseos” has effortless appeal, just like every other Rieleros song I’ve ever heard.

Sadly I don’t have time to lead you down the rabbit hole of puro Chihuahua and/or Zacatecas sax, but check out the good folks at MundoNorteño, who’ve been going crazy with that stuff.

¡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.

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