Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Magic User, USA
The elusive Los Angeles-based Miller Rodriguez never intended for Mickey Mickey Rourke to be anything beyond a personal art project. He says that he “wanted [the] project to seem like a myth where people were hearing the music but never knew about who it was coming from.” So far, he’s been successful in maintaining that air of mystery, always appearing as a cryptic, shrouded figure (like in the video for “GLO”) and letting the music speak for itself. And it speaks volumes. Just this year, Rodriguez has released three albums as Mickey Mickey Rourke and another album as part of Mickey Brown.
Rodriguez’s blend of glo-fi atmospheric psych pop in lush textures creates beautiful soundscapes that you’ll love getting lost in. This is the kind of music that’s best listened to in full-album form, allowing the narrative to unfold, the landscape to be formed, and yourself to become fully immersed. “SATANIC YOUTH BRIGADE” is one of Rodriguez’s more accessible, poppier songs, with the tinny echo of the vocals and the steady anchor of the guitar working together to soften the screeching and distortion. The track will be on the upcoming album Magic User, set to be released in January.
The overall response to Hello Seahorse!’s third LP Lejos. No Tan Lejos has been a bit lukewarm, but let’s remember they took major risks and shifts many bands don’t ever attempt to get near in a lifetime. If there’s a song that can actually bring a full ensemble response from the audience is “Un Año Quebrado”, which only becomes more gorgeous with every spin, “it’s the one point in the album where all the melodious rumbling is given actual form.” The band has released a thrilling video directed by Diego Martinez Ulanosky, who also directed “Criminal.” hard to describe, it’s ghostly and religious, a one-man’s journey to a frightening discovery, -spoiler- he’s dead. LoBlondo looks stunning as usual, and those bird-nesting screams at the end still give me goosebumps.
Featured: Hey Chica! - “Adiós Noviembre”
Lo Que Nadie Ve, México
The Guadalajara-based quartet prospects their self-released debut LP early next year, titled Lo Que Nadie Ve. They’ve put out their new single “Adiós Noviembre” just in time to farewell the eleventh month of the year. It only takes a single spin to know this is their most accomplished number yet; an important step in their quest for harmony, along with the warmth of its lyrics: “épocas de nublina escuchando esa canción.” Hey Chica! has polished a beautiful pictorial song for featherweight dreamers.
Monday, November 29, 2010
8106 explains this is a fully audiovisual (& conceptual) album, which includes having a music video for every piece of the record (seems like they'll keep the momentum all throughout 2011). First single “Amorfos” is climbing up at The Hype Machine’s list, not only is it an instant hit, it’s the kind of near-the-end of the year track that pretty much sums what 2010 sounded like. Mercedes’ in-depth vocals are top-notch and ultimately, the emotional tissue that gives shape to an aesthetically gorgeous song.
Another success for the Tape Music family, who have kept it nice & fresh all year long with Rey Pila, She's a Tease, Toy Selectah, Adanowsky, Neon Walrus, and others.
The official description of this video reads as follows:
“In quantum theory, certain physical systems can become 'entangled,' meaning that their states are directly related to the state of another object somewhere else. When one object is measured, and the Schroedinger wavefunction collapses into a single state, the other object collapses into its corresponding state...no matter how far away the objects are.”
Now, I don’t know what any of that means because the only science classes I took in college were Intro to the Solar System and Astrobiology (i.e. science for kids who don't do science), but I always love it when musicians reveal their inner nerd. In this case it isn’t too much of a revelation, given that the band is named after the unicorn of the sea. Barcelona-based Narwhal is Cristian Subirá (also known as Summer Recreation Camp, a part of El Guincho’s former band, Coconot, and founder of Discos Compulsivos/Luv Luv CDR-tape label) and Simon Williams (also known as Jahbitat/Sunny Graves/Pirámide and a part of Cristian Vogel's Night of the Brain). They make music that’s an amalgam of myriad styles from ambient to noise and psych pop that comes together to sound aquatic and celestial at the same time, like some sort of deep-sea solar system.
by Andrew Casillas
A couple of years ago, in seemingly another universe, I wrote about la Mala Rodríguez: “. . . don’t be surprised if a year or so after [Malamarismo] when that next album comes out if you see her on the cover of XXL.”
Obviously, there is a lot of stuff wrong with that prognostication. But it shows the innate, top-notch skills that la Mala the MC has in her arsenal, and the seemingly limitless potential she showed on her breakthrough LP three years ago. Malamarismo, while at times a delicious piece of irreverent and giddy fun, still suffered from its scattershot thematic approach. Her latest, Dirty Bailarina, steers away from the unrestrained experimentation, instead playing within the realm of retro-electro pop/rock.
And for the first few tracks, this approach suits la Mala. Lead single "No Pidas Perdón" rides some Eurhythmics-style synths, while la Mala spits straight dirty (meaning attitude, not in the scatological sense) rhymes straight into your earhole. And of the more traditional hip-hop tunes, “En la Linea” is a minimalist-banger which sounds more like classic Calle 13 than anything off of Entren los Que Quieren.
The major hurdle on this album lies when la Mala veers almost completely towards the pop field. La Mala is a fine enough vocalist, but there are far too many tracks on this album where her presence doesn’t make up anything greater than just an anonymous hook girl. Stuff like “Nene” and “Prima” aren’t awful songs, but there’s almost nothing to them, from production to lyrics to chorus. These songs would be fine as the demo from some up-and-coming 19-year old artist, but la Mala’s personality is stifled in this context.
Thankfully, the latter half of the album contains some nice down-tempo tracks, along with a pretty solid duet with Estrella Morente that closes the record, but the overall effect is that of a disappointment. This isn’t to say that la Mala is a lost cause or anything, but she’s not any closer to that XXL cover that we know she has the chops to someday earn.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
DJ Golonosh’s sophomore LP is a party-ready blast; mixing some of the year’s hits (Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga), some earlier works (Madonna, Michael Jackson, the 90s), and some Latin acts (Quiero Club, Molotov, Calle 13, El Gran Silencio). Although not as interesting as Girl Talk itself or El Sueño de la Casa Propia, “Bruneta” shows this is way more than just a “see how many songs you can spot” kind of mix. D.D.A. Bears! (20 tracks) is available for free download over at La Musica Es Gratis (Delhotel Record’s free music database).
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Featured: Jan Pawel - "Hoy Los Muertos Están De Pie"
Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Jovén, Venezuela
Jan Pawel (Juan Pablo in Polish) is the project of Maracaibo-born Juan Pablo Oczkowski, a singer-songwriter born into and raised by a family of musicians who immigrated to Venezuela from Poland in the mid-‘70s. Growing up in such a musical family, Jan Pawel naturally gravitated toward music as a form of expression. In his earlier days, he experimented with noise and electronica with projects like Los Os Brokolis. Later, his music became more confessional and intimate, taking on a more rustic, folk feeling in the vein of bands like A Hawk and a Hacksaw.
“Hoy Los Muertos Están De Pie” is about cleansing and renewal, specifically about going through rehab. The heavy subject matter explains why the song has a much darker, more serious tone than much of Jan Pawel’s earlier work. The almost monotone vocals of the beginning verse feel somewhat hollow, but in a powerful way. The song then builds into a triumphant march that announces rebirth. The single will be on the upcoming Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Jovén EP, for which Jan Pawel has enlisted the help of his friend and fellow Venezuelan Ulises Hadjis.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
By Carlos Reyes
“Es la revelación de tu imaginación, atento, viene la programación.” Beyond the multiplex and on to absolute engagement, TV Gamma’s disinterred debut combusts on its own landscape, yet it storms its beauty from the ripeness of the moment. That awesome album cover is warning enough, the album is at an alarming stage of manifestation, with all senses pointing to a desired symmetry. With the help of up-in-the-air pedals & reverbs, mystified drums and distorted hooks, TV Gamma constructs a naturally divisive self-titled record, some will flee from boredom, and others will appreciate a set of 10 songs with prime encoding.
The Chilean band mediates the idea of the coexistence of a programmable life, with that of the human intellect. They appreciate the interaction between one and the other, distinguishing the shared responsibility from both parts to maintain equilibrium. Of course, the key to achieving all the spectacles relies in processing of their methods. In “Las Cosas” they shout “tomalo con calma, tomalo con calma!” making a subliminal trip to database-error grounds, making it very clear they’re more concerned about the treatment of their methods than the actual songs themselves. Leading track “Nada Importante” has the right amount of jangle-pop, textures and Jorge Gonzalez to succeed as the album’s anthem. This is how the album succeeds its monotonous sound, by working within their own pixel.
Their most infectious pieces are founded on a video-game platform, “Me Pasa” walks, jumps, and fires in many directions, but it only shifts its head completely to either the left or the right, “yo ya no creo, me pasa.” We could talk about the album’s inherent relationship with density, but as they show in “Maria Antonieta” and “Guillotine”, space and mid-air precision is what they’re truly chasing. The album feels a bit heavy whenever they reduce the red light on the dark room, but things get really bright in “Tan Normal” and the thrilling voice by Valeria Jara, I swear I was listening to Quiero Club on this one. Like cautious entrepreneurs, TV Gamma is the kind of band that surveys the ground they step on, which is why their lo-fi aesthetic feels a bit ecstatic. TV Gamma’s mechanisms are questionable, thrilling, confusing and ultimately, effective.
Sony Music, Puerto Rico
Rating: 81 ★★★★
by Andrew Casillas
So how does Calle 13 react to their place at the top of the mountain as the inevitable backlash sets in? The way any of us would: by throwing a party as grand and glitzy as Rick Ross’s watch. There’s a sense of pretension and bravado that embeds Entren los Que Quieran, with taunts daring you to ignore what’s to follow. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Calle 13 tackles any potential backlash head-on by opening the album with its most polarizing track, the Mars Volta-assisted “Calma Pueblo.” Much of the disdain surrounding the song deals with its admittedly hard-to-defend lyrics, which are ignorantly polemic, at-worst, or misguided and vain at the least (see the Adidas shout-out). Yet, listening only to what’s going on behind those lyrics, it’s certainly one of the most interesting infusions of hard rock in modern hip-hop—though how much you actually like said music will depend on your tolerance for the Mars Volta. Possible wariness continues with the next two songs, which find Residente at his most hit-or-miss, straddling the line between pre and post-retirement Eminem, and swinging at far too much low hanging fruit—though Visitante doesn’t exactly help things with beats so nondescript you begin to recognize why this record premiered on NPR.
What follows is the very good-not-great Spaghetti Western-influenced “La Bala,” whose vehemently anti-violence lyrics provide the first instance on the record of the irreverent populism that Residente does better than any other rapper; this is followed by “Vamo’ a Portamos Mal,” which I would love to say sounds like the stepchild of Rita Indiana and Gogol Bordello, except it’s not as effortless as either of the above, but at the least there’s finally a song you can dance to. However, just when you’d be right to ponder jumping on the anti-Entren los Que Quieran bandwagon, Calle 13 throws up a happy floater to close the first half in the form of “Latinoamérica.” A sparkling, almost gorgeous ode to Latin America and those who’ve sprouted from its lands, it’s here where Calle 13 stop forcing their statements, instead painting their passions with a easel full of blood while avoiding the self-serving neurosis that dragged down the earlier tracks.
After a brief interlude, the show continues—and this time, we finally see some fireworks. “Digo lo Que Pienso” provides us with our heartiest belly laughs yet, along with a beat that seemingly combines Bollywood strings with DJ Premier scratching (and it’s about damn time, too). “Muerte en Hawaii” stacks up subversion like building blocks, from its winking stereotypical ukulele and island sounds, to its seemingly random name-checking (GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ!), to its fanciful story (complete with talking animals), and its somehow fitting ending. Really, someone call Bigott and tell him that they’ve stolen his schtick and improved upon it. “Todo Se Mueve” is accompanied by a strut and guitar lick worthy of the Meters, while “El Hormiguero” provides enough rock for those rubbed raw by “Calma Pueblo” yet enough cumbia to keep things interesting.
Which brings us to “Prepárame la Cena,” the album closer, and perhaps it’s most impressive number. Tucked into the back despite, or perhaps because of, its pop sheen, the song works as an impressive showcase for the entire group individually and as an entity. Visitante’s production is perhaps his most impressive soundscape to date, with measured percussion and guitars, powerful vocal samples, and a grab-bag of tricks at the back-end. Lyrically, Residente keeps things simple and down-to-earth, while his cadence perfectly rides the beat without rocking it. And lest we continue to ignore her, PG-13 finally distinguishes herself as an actual singer, providing first-rate background vocals while delivering a warm, soothing chorus. Not the greatest Calle 13 song—but not far from the top either.
The album proper closes with a continuation of the Hollywood Revue theme of the Intro, except there isn’t a celebration. Instead, it’s calls of callate! and vehement booing, as if Calle 13 are fully aware of the expected backlash that’s about to head their way, which apparently anyone with an awareness of Twitter trends can already tell you is coming. The major criticism typically revolves around Calle 13 being a group of rebels without a cause, Kanye West-esque blowhards that are confused and naïve regarding the messages that they try to convey in their music. That they take the world too lightly for anyone to take their protestations as anything but mere barking, and those criticisms are more than fair. But show me a pop star who isn’t full of shit and I’ll show you a Taco Bell entrée that doesn’t suck. Really, we’re not here to talk about politics; we’re here for the music, and as pure musicians, this band has very little competition. With Entren los Que Quieran, Calle 13 doesn’t change the world, nor do they set it aflame. This may not be their best album either, but considering the spotlight facing them this time, this is can only be labeled as an unqualified success.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
About a month ago, Alex Anwandter told us he would meet with Javiera Mena to make music together, yes, very exciting. In the meantime, it seems like their pop sensibilities connected tremendously well since Anwandter (Odisea) shows up in the credits as the director of this nice glossy video. Reclueless has premiered the much-anticipated video for Javiera Mena’s “Hasta la Verdad”, the first single out of the mesmerizing Mena and one of the year’s hits. The video was shot in Chile prior to Javiera’s triumphant visit to Mexico, where she’s been touring nonstop for over a month. The clip might not do anything to legitimize Javiera Mena’s stance as a true diva (moustache doesn't count), but it does show a warrior of pop music encountering beautiful scenaries. Now, let's take it to the dancefloor for the next one, please, let it be "Luz de Piedra de Luna!"
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The music base in this song is so clean and faultlessly polished, you’ll be seeing the light of the day even if you’re dancing to it ad midnight. Dadalú's unpredictable vocal styling is in full syndication with Sokio’s thumps and razor-blade supersonic composition. Both artists are currently working on new albums, Dadalu’s debut album Periodo will count as Michita Rex’s most important release of the year, that is, if it’s not pushed into next year. "Quiero morir en un lugar con libertad de elegir."
Discos Laptra, Argentina
Rating: 85 ★★★★
By Carlos Reyes
Aching romance in the midst of an unsettled party-going background, infectious guitar riffs, and cheering kids living the dramatic moment buoy the extraordinary new release by Argentina’s La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau. Just a few months after releasing their coming-of-age teen-dream debut Entre Un Ladron y Una Beba de Seis Meses, the band has surprised us with a new record that can claim to have one great track after another. Like some of their contemporaries (Black Kids, Los Campesinos), it would be extremely easy to dismiss them as plain revivalists, but with this much acquired sonic rupture, their punk-to-disco qualities and their young-blooded progression are just too much of a good thing to overlook.
Películas Caseras is an album about teenage yearning, about the suggestions of post-adolescence and our aspiring new romantics. In an era where portraits have replaced illustrations, La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau are on top of their aesthetic, thinking of the album as an ultra-personal family album. Superman and its fatal substance open the show with a get-the-girl noisy piece, “Kriptonita” fears the weakness of the heart: “superman me conto que ademas de tenerle miedo a la kriptonita, te tenia miedo a vos.” The band has not grown up on its themes, but they’re already extracting subjects on adulthood, like they do in “Teta.” The song is the story of a kid growing up, his mom buys him milk and keeps it in the fridge just so he can grow up healthy, but he’s just not feeling it.
The band seems to be playing adults in “Polacos”, their first approach to scratching political surface, luckily, they approach it as Los Punsetes would do it; on a half reflective, half comical structure, “lejos de cuentos y cartas viejas, somos los nuevos idiotas de hoy.” Their youthful pedigree doesn’t justify for many of the album’s melodramatic moments, but somehow they seem believable on every minute. By far, the album’s essential track is their overwhelming cover of The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, now graciously titled “Rocío Pelea Contra los Robotitos.” It’s still as catchy and melodically flawless, but this time around, they’re not singing about pink cancer cells, but about new social media, “que seria una mierda que nos ganen los robotitos.”
The leading side of Películas Caseras closes with “Hijo Mio”, the most distressing track in the album despite its vigorous hooks and Got Team! Inspired shouts. Some of the album’s most precious moments arrive on the B-Side, comprised of some of their first recordings, including raw demos and live recordings. The warmth of Películas Caseras is the warmth of a jam-packed household of friends and memorable songs. They prove romance is not boring and that every heart-bleeding instance should be confronted, even if that means you’ll keep documenting your revolution with a Sharpie and asking your folks for vitamins.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Grabaciones Azul Alcachofa, Spain
By Carlos Reyes
You know how there’s a weirdo on every nation’s indie scene, well, Spain has a several of them. Some may point straight to Joe Crepusculo, Thelematicos or Manos de Topo, but newcomer Raúl Querido has the right amount of quirkiness and eccentricity to take the official title. His loopy pop hides and reveals an interesting character in Spain’s pop; he’s pretty much a hit-or-miss artist, unbearable at times, but mostly charming. His vocal execution is almost non-human, there’s barely any warmth to it; it’s robotic, lifeless.
But along with his cold flamboyance, there are some dynamics that make Raúl Querido’s albums more than simple witty exercises. This year alone, he’s put out a total of 11 releases, including some really cool Christmas songs. Most of the other albums are destined for the recycle bin, but that’s not the case with his 2-episoide album Final y Flores, divided in two episodes: 'Alfa' and 'Omega.' Both discs carry the aesthetics of bedroom pop: sad songs that appear to be brighter than they usually are, begging for some sunlight. “Tiempo Seco, Tiempo Frio” and “El Capricho” are two of many sorrowful songs that seem to celebrate in their own obscurity.
Raúl Querido’s charm does better things when he steps away from the numinous pieces. “Santo Porvenir” and “H-E-Y” are clever bouncy songs, proof of an artist than can in fact, be loving and beloved. While most f the ideas in Final y Flores come out as alienating and disconcerted of any kind of direction, the actual execution is inspiring. Final y Flores is the kind of melodramatic album that takes full advantage of the EP format, you know it’s bad but you can’t stop playing. It’s got that Olympian golden rush (in search of the garden feel) absent in many of the year’s best albums (especially those that assume their greatness), not that bad for a guy who looks like Diego Verdaguer and makes Hidrogenesse seem like a safe bet. You might end up dehydrated, but it's worth the try.