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Rocio Quiroz

¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)

2016-copia

Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”

This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.

(An appropriate YouTube playlist to accompany that claim.) Continue reading “¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)”

Lo Mejor De 2015: Colmillo Norteño and Rocío Quiroz

rocio_quiroz_christian_manzanelli_representante_artistico_contratar_sitio_oficial_rocio_quiroz-3

Colmillo Norteño’s 10-song “EP” A Quien Corresponda (Remex) is better than their more recent full-length album because it’s more focused. If you’re gonna play a demented rapid-fire circus waltz like “La Plebona”, you really have to commit, you know? Of course you know. The quintet with the sousaphone “O” also covers Trakalosa’s great banda hit “Mi Padrino El Diablo”, a Faustian tale of soul-selling woe, and they use a couple other songs to namecheck notorious cartel figures. So they could maybe choose better role models; but if you were studying how to lead an insanely tight musical ensemble, you could do worse than taking notes from these guys.

Rocío Quiroz is from Argentina but we’ll let her song “La De La Paloma” (Ser) onto this list, given the space Regional Mexican airwaves allot to cumbia music. (See also the enduring presence of Grupo Cañaveral.) Buttressed by an off-kilter stomp, Quiroz’s voice powers through new wave guitar licks and synth buzz.

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”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Enero – Marzo

marco flores

As you listen to this Youtube playlist, imagine a Regional Mexican station that plays not just regional styles, but disco-fied international variations on those styles. Weirdly enough, the disco-mariachi songs here, while great, are far from the most danceable songs on the list. If you don’t believe me, check out the top video, where Marco Flores and his band create a barrage of anarchic polka moves, including Hiding Behind the Congas, for their banda-fied take on the Zacatecas state’s tamborazo music. Colmillo Norteño aren’t quite as terpsichorially ambitious with the waltz at #2, but they’ve still got moves.

You could call these the year’s best regional Mexican singles, but there’s a catch. “Regional Mexican” here includes Mexicans and non-Mexicans playing their takes on regional styles — norteño, banda, mariachi, and cumbia (not native to Mexico, but nation and format have embraced it), along with minor styles like Tejano, tierra caliente, and duranguense, if we’d found any. It doesn’t include Mexicans playing pop, although most of these songs register for listeners as pop songs. It also doesn’t include any Latinos playing reggaeton, bachata, or salsa, though NorteñoBlog broke that rule last year when Gerardo Ortiz released a full-throated bachata song.

Maybe not so weirdly, this list’s Venn diagram circle for “international interlopers” — Natalia Jiménez, Rocio Quiroz, Jenny and the Mexicats, and Shalia Dúrcal — overlaps perfectly with the circle for “women.” It’s not that women can’t make great music that’s puro Mexicano; after all, we’re observing the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death, the 10th anniversary of Yolanda Perez’s fantastic Esto Es Amor album, and also check out NorteñoBlog’s best of 2014 list. But in the recently dominant styles of norteño and banda, the male gaze and traditional, possibly smothering, notions of chivalry predominate. Women in song lyrics often have the upper hand over their hapless male counterparts — see the hilarious video for “Adicto a La Tristeza” — but the hapless males still make most of the music and money. Though she’s not on this list, check out América Sierra’s “Ponte Las Pilas” for a refreshing exception — she also wrote Ortiz’s latest single, “Perdoname” — and keep your eye on her this year. In the meantime…

1. Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez“El Pajarito” (Remex)
We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. His take on Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura.
Mexican radio hit

2. Colmillo Norteño“La Plebona” (Remex)
A demented rapid-fire circus parade waltz — you like those, right?
U.S. radio hit

3. Natalia Jiménez“Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Spanish pop star Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA breakup ballad. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

4. Rocio Quiroz“La De La Paloma” (Ser)
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 Argentine singer Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.
hasn’t charted

5. Alfredo Ríos El Komander“Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Alfredo Ríos El Komander (I guess that’s what we’re calling him now?) continues to fire off charming singles that sound like he wrote them on a napkin and recorded them in the back of the bar. This one makes the theme explicit. It’s a drinking song whose background crowd noises exist as much for their musical energy as their verisimilitude — note how the crowd abruptly shuts up mid-whoop at the end of the song, rather than fading into a jumble of congratulatory high-fives. “Mi vida es pura pura pura borrachera,” Ríos brags, his tuba and requinto (I think) players capering around the bar, spilling everyone’s drinks.
hasn’t charted

6. Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats“Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón played one of their turn-of-the-millennium cumbias, “Tiene Espinas El Rosal,” in concert. They brought out the little Spanish/Mexican indie band Jenny and the Mexicats to sing it with them. It turns out I’m a sucker for both turn-of-the-millennium cumbias and Jenny and the Mexicats.
Mexican radio hit

7. Shalia Dúrcal“No Me Interesa” (EMI)
The Spanish singer’s latest blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Also check out “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.”
hasn’t charted

8. La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti“Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
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. High camp.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

9. Los Tigres Del Norte“Qué Tal Si Eres Tu” (Fonovisa)
This study in triplets — the musical figure, not the polyzygotic phenomenon — still sounds better every time I hear it. Any other late ’60s bands still going this strong?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10. Rosendo Robles“Alterado De Corazon” (Rosendo Robles)
A banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game.
hasn’t charted

11. La Maquinaria Norteña“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” (Azteca)
A stomping country polka with some puro Chihuahua sax, by way of New Mexico. I want La Maquinaria Norteña’s logo on my windshield.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

12. Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado“El Rancho” (Garmex)
A sad but swinging protest corrido using chicken farming as a parable about Mexican kidnapping violence, I think. The simple tune is appealing enough, but check out the interplay between bass, guitar, and requinto, alternately locking in together and tugging at the rhythm with passages of loose virtuosity.
hasn’t charted

13. Alfredo Rios El Komander“Malditas Ganas” (Twiins)
Tossed off kiss-off. The eternally loose Ríos sprechtstimmes and casually mentions “Soy De Rancho,” reminding the woman he can’t forget that nobody can forget him these days, either.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

14. Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez“Es Todo Un Placer” (Remex)
One of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves.
Mexican radio hit

15. Remmy Valenzuela“Mi Princesa” (Fonovisa)
A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99” (Cinematic/Relentless)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
One Direction – “Night Changes” (Columbia)
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (300)
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” (Sony Nashville)
Victor Manuelle – “Que Suenen Los Tambores” (Sony)

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

Larrymania

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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