Video + MP3: Roman S - "Your Voice"

Our club is having a major crush on Roman S, a techno pop extraordinaire who is quickly climbing into the cream of the crop of Chilean pop. Fully immersed and enunciated in dance floor vogue, Roman is responsible for some of the year’s most transfixing jams. He regularly collaborates with Mamacita, explores hip hop rooftop sensibilities as DJ Ro$t, and cooks generational gems with his band MKRNI. “End of Times” is the title of his recent contribution to our latest compilation, Sebastián, a song that comes to validate Roman’s harmonious union with the zeitgeist. Video stylist Nicolás Oyarce dusted off a few VHS tapes and plays with analog nostalgia in “Your Voice.” In this song, Roman is not only in bursting control of his beats, he also sings with a crooner sensibility that is anything but obsolete.

Nicolás Oyarce recently put together a NSFW video for Mamacita’s “Besame,” a Chatroulette marathon with plenty of male genitalia. Unfortunately, we can’t post it here because we already have two strikes with Blogger’s NSFW guidelines, but you can watch the NSFW clip on Vimeo.

Naturalesa Salvatge - Una llum infinita

Una llum infinita,

Independiente, Spain

Rating: 73

by Blanca Méndez

Living in smoggy cities with jagged skylines and more gravel than grass, where the trains rattle overhead and traffic rushing past becomes nothing more than a hum, the concept of wilderness seems anachronistic, and one forgets that humanity has not overtaken every inch of the globe just yet. But there are corners of the planet still virtually untouched by man, where nature exists in its purest form. Naturalesa Salvatge's Una llum infinita is a reminder of this. Or perhaps more of a reminder of the fact that we humans are, at our core, still a part of the natural world despite our attempts to separate ourselves from it. The scenes created through the music seem to quietly urge us to stop forcing that separation, not necessarily by returning to the wild like Christopher McCandless (though this album would have been a pretty great soundtrack to Into the Wild), but by maybe going for a swim in the ocean once in a while.

The one song that's in Catalan, "Sota l'aigua," or "Underwater," has just one line in it: "Al mar es troba la veritat," or (roughly) "in the sea you will find the truth." In it there's the romantic notion of the sea as a liminal space, of being both vulnerable and safe in it, and of submerging oneself in and then re-emerging from its waters as a baptism. Album opener "Ancestros," included in the most recent volume of Fonogramaticos, is a lyrically haunting piece that describes a dark abyss from which emanates the echo of a disembodied scream. It's on some paranormal, ancestors trying to communicate with the living type levels, almost imploring you to remember where you came from and to access that more primitive part of you. Compared to a song as quietly powerful as "Ancestros," "Mil millones de colores" is a bit lacking. For a song about wanting to combust in thousands of millions of colors, the track is far too subdued, the music not on par with the drama of the lyrics.

Ultimately, the guys of Naturalesa Salvatge have made an indie pop album with a folk sensibility and an earthiness that's more hiking boots and trail mix than Birkenstocks and granola. The music might seem like it's trying to become one with the earth, but it makes no pretensions to rejecting a worldly existence. It's kind of like Christopher McCandless at the end of Into the Wild, realizing that, while his time in isolation taught him a lot about himself and his relationship with the natural world, what he really needed was a balance, one that allowed him to keep this connection to nature while still nurturing his human relationships. Una llum infinita does a nice job of striking that balance between modern humanity and primal wilderness, of bridging that ever-widening gap between humans and the rest of the world.

Video: Algodón Egipcio - "El Día Previo"

Algodón Egipcio’s very first video, “El Día Previo,” is a frame-within-a-frame fest of gorgeous composition and shredded rhythm. Mexican director Domingo Pablo takes full advantage of the widescreen, juxtaposing images in an unsuspected, almost creepy fashion. It’s so meticulous in its execution that it has been added to Vimeo’s ultra selective Staff Picks. When we described La Lucha Constante as an album of “expansive WILD continuum” and of “text and sound ambience,” this is close to what we had in mind. The idea of a multilingual karaoke is intriguing by itself, but when you add shots of nature as wallpaper, the experience is as surreal as those 3D waterfall pop ups that you used to get when you downloaded music via MP3 search engines. A beautiful first visual treat from the album we already called this year’s "wildflower."

Video: Babasónicos - "Muñeco de Haití"

Transnational labels often get things messed up within their branches, which is why those of us based in the States never got a chance to watch Babasónicos’ video for “Deshoras.” This time around Universal Music got their act together for the release of “Muñeco de Haití," one of the most upbeat tracks on their latest album, A Propósito. Like in the quality of their albums, Babasónicos rarely disappoint with music videos, and their latest is yet another visual knockout. The video starts with Babasonicos looking like Ghostbusters or astronauts of some sort, until they release a village of bees into a national bank. The flying insects transform the corporate building into a disco, stimulating some truly fascinating dance moves. Of course, at the end, Babasónicos walk away with the cash. Bravo.

MP3: Neon Indian - "Fallout"

The leading man of the chillwave renaissance, Neon Indian, is putting the final touches on his much-anticipated sophomore album, Era Extraña, out September 13. After hitting the web with a series of short teasers, the Mexican-born synth virtuoso just unveiled the first full-length track titled “Fallout.” Whenever we’re hoping for a tailor-made sequencing number, we know we can always count on Alan Palomo. “Fallout” is no exception. It is whimsical in its anticipation, slowly transcends into a summer jam, and fades away in subtle chops. It might not be a veins-cutter like “Should Have Taken Acid With You” or as catchy as “Deadbeat Summer,” but it welcomes Palomo back to his field after the not exactly arousing collaboration album with The Flaming Lips.

♫♫♫ "Fallout" | Facebook

Fonogramáticos Vol.13: Sebastián

Fonogramáticos Vol.13


A compilation by Club Fonograma


Genre: Dark Iberoamerican Surf

Artwork by Carlos Reyes

Mentira Mentira - "If I" (Nene Records, México)

Pegasvs - "El Final de la Noche" (Canada, Spain)

Davila 666 - "Hangin on the Telephone" [Nerves Cover] (Volar Records, Puerto Rico)

Alexico - "Robame el Dinero" (Melodias Belafonte, México)

Los Siquicos Litoraleños - "No Sabemos Nada" (Independiente, Argentina)

MKRNI - "Humedad" (Independiente, Chile)

Violeta Vil - "El Reloj" [Los Panchos Cover] (Unreleased, Spain/Venezuela)

Juan Cirerol y Martin del Prado - "No Mas Sirvo Pa Cantar" (Unreleased, México)

Cut Your Hair - "Utah in Pictures" (Mushroom Pillow, Spain)

Daniel Maloso - "No Doy Nada" (Comeme, México)

DJ Javier Estrada - "100 años Pedro Infante Remix" (Mad Decent, México)

Los Animales Superforros - "Chacabit" (Independiente, Argentina)

Roman S - "End of Times" (Independiente, Chile)

Los Amparito feat. Lucrecia Dalt - "Fata Morgana" (Unreleased, México)

Piñata! - "Tombourine" (Mama Vynilia, Spain)

Marley Muerto - "Sr. Gobierno" (Independiente, Ecuador)

Naturalesa Salvatge - "Ancestros" (Independiente, Spain)

Dani Shivers. "Up" (Unreleased, México)

Installed. "Calavera" (Unreleased, USA)

Anna-Anna. "Cat Eyes" (Independiente, Brazil)

Joe Volume & The Shot O'Clock. "Slick Eyes" (Independiente, México)

Fother Muckers. "Alzad las Manos" (Independiente, Chile)

Colateral Soundtrack. "La Escondida y la Ciudad de los Mil Caminos" (Independiente, México)

Mañaneros. "El Volcán" (Unreleased, Chile)

White Ninja - Sounds Like Cocoon Fever

Sounds Like Cocoon Fever,

Records Are Dead, México

Rating: 88
by Carlos Reyes

Musical and visual composition tends to respond well to otherworldly abstraction, especially when the surfer of its wavelength is in full dialogue with the human condition. Part space opera and part velvety chillwave, White Ninja’s sophmore album is a triumph of gorgeous digital sequencing, analog proverb, and individual grooving. Two years ago, Leo Marz astonished us with his debut Guacala Los Modernos y Su Electro, a spellbinding record we described as “a series of adrenaline rushes, jammed technos, and unbounded clutter.” Marz’s comeback is less militant in its execution, equally intricate in its assortment of beats, and more affecting to the creator’s well-harvested, shoegazing morph.

With sweaty grooves dripping into slow-burning acid, Sounds Like Cocoon Fever dignifies its self-descriptive title in ways that are as encouraging to the human strength as Space Odyssey’s monoliths. With little or no resemblance to the “No Retreat No Surrender” premise of his debut, Marz now finds himself fully immersed and motivated by blissed-out machinery. White Ninja’s flirtations with wavelength allocate the act as part of the exciting group of artists pulsating rhythm into faded synth-pop memories (Neon Indian, Washed Out, Toro y Moi). But unlike these contemporaries, White Ninja has the psychotropic vertebrate to travel within its own grooves. When, in the first sequence of compression, springs start bouncing in “El Alfa," you just know this will be an album about proportion and digital blossoming. This is a song that progresses from a perplexed urban number to a sort of futuristic cumbia.

Marz, who is also a member of Monterrey’s non-linear pop band Album, knows a thing or two about juxtaposing plot with space. If “PCU” and “Regrets are the Best” sound like pastiches bouncing on synthetic ropes it's because the 6-piece album practices discontinuity to recruit and retreat from its own form. When you have something as exceptionally executed as the sequencing in this album, it’s best to embrace it. Not to say White Ninja is template-dependent, but upon multiple listens one learns to recognize its patterns and motifs; an exciting moment for any technicality buff who doesn’t mind records to losing their romantic mysticism. Released digitally by Marz’s own netlabel Records Are Dead and soon to be published on cassette via UK’s Abastrakt Muzak, Sounds Like Cocoon Fever is one of the most exciting releases of the year.

While the sequencing drives White Ninja’s orbit, the emotional cues in the album arrive mostly at the clever inwardness of its vocals (by Tavo Figueroa). Particularly in “Patty Hearst,” where Marz abandons narrative as means of approach and goes straight to your soul. It’s almost as if the holy spirit of La Lupe took over with its “Fever” and poisoned White Ninja’s nervous system in the most frenzied and sweaty way you could possibly think of. Album finale “Hit and Run” resolves all the ideas of a truly whimsical, self-resolving album. It might be short in length, but Sounds Like Cocoon Fever is a profound knockout worthy of international appraisal. Six tracks and two interludes are in conversation with one another, grooving collectively in what’s bound to become one of the year’s most progressive records.

Francisca Valenzuela - Buen Soldado

Buen Soldado,


Feria Music, Chile

Rating: 72

by Enrique Coyotzi

Daughter of Chilean parents and born in San Francisco, California, Francisca Valenzuela moved to Chile at the age of 12. There she received heavy media coverage in 2007 with Muérdete la Lengua, a debut that showcased the multi-instrumentalist’s praiseworthy skills and scathing teenage-angst lyrics. The album's bitter adolescent tone made it an instant hit that established Valenzuela as a national sensation. With her sophomore effort, Buen Soldado, the artist’s notorious thirst for musical expansion, just like her immersion in social thematic issues, reveal a more grown-up work in multiple terms that denotes an admirable maturity.

Similar to Julieta Venegas’ transition from menacing alt-rocker to sweet pop rock princess, Valenzuela’s compositions have become more sugary and her lyrics less melodramatic. Produced by Canada's Mocky (Feist, Jamie Lidell) and Chile's Vicente Sanfuentes aka Original Hamster (Gepe, Señor Coconut), Buen Soldado is balanced between songs in this new upbeat direction and calmer, piano-based pieces. Whereas thematics about longing, spite, and solitude are still present, the songwriter has adopted a more serious facet, focusing on social aspects like unemployment, poverty, and national freedom. The singer’s approach in adopting male perspectives in some of these tracks is noteworthy, depicting a very rich imagery within the striking stories they narrate. Album opener "Buen Soldado" starts like an arid spaghetti-western epic that suddenly shows its '60s go-go inspirations. Here, Valenzuela comically assumes the point of view of a respected soldier with "un buen rabo" that has no problem in obtaining anything he desires, especially in the low-life bars he visits. The gloomy "Crónica" is a dismal tale about a man that commits murder in order to feed his family. In "Entrevista" the uncertainty about obtaining a job and anxiety of failing at a work interview are achingly captured, while "Salvador" exposes a citizen's desire to become a credible leader that directs his nation to a beneficent change.

Full of memorable choruses, incredible vocal delivery, and some of Francisca's best work (see the impossibly catchy "Quiero Verte Más" or moving friendship ode "Qué Sería"), the only problem to be found in Buen Soldado is in its inconsistency, musically and thematically. Ballads like "Corazón" or "En Mi Memoria," while beautiful, break the cheerful mood of the record, lyrically are sort of cheesy, and in essence would fit better on a Bat for Lashes or Cat Power album. Empowering songs for women, like "Mujer Modelo" and "Ésta Soy Yo," are equally amazing, although probably hard for a guy to relate to. Even though the topics in Buen Soldado are pretty mixed up, Francisca Valenzuela has managed to create a solid second record that, although not as ambitious as the work of some of her visionary compatriots (Javiera Mena, Fakuta), makes her a distinguished representative of the Chilean pop army.

Video: Kinética - "Desencuentro"

Chilean singer, producer, and actress Emiliana Araya explores the resplendent beauty of sonic depth under the intriguing moniker, Kinética. Experimental hip hop-driven netlabel Dilema Industria released her self-titled debut last year and just unveiled a gorgeous clip for album standout “Desencuentro.” Resembling Ana Tijoux, DJ Raff, Como Asesinar Felipes and much of the Michita Rex clan, Kinética is a revelation. The use of space in Kinética’s soundscape is splendid and always in motion. Every punch and thunderous dazzle in this song feels like a kiss on the lips. Under the industrious cinematic eye of Aldo Guerrero, the song is pushed into an audiovisual stalwart. “Desencuentro” has been released as an open digital single along with four stellar remixes. Download the package HERE.

Sebastián. Coming Soon

Los Jardines de Bruselas - Floating in Dreams

Floating in Dreams,

Independent, Argentina
Rating: 71

by Blanca Méndez

Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is a tale in which the discovery of a landscape that's just as real as it is magical inspires a change in the story's young protagonist and in the pieced-together family she comes to be a part of. Floating in Dreams also occupies that fact-fantasy Bildungsroman territory. As the title suggests, the album sounds like a reverie. Even the album cover, which looks like blurry college brochure art, suggests a dreamy coming of age. Ezequiel de la Parra, the man behind Los Jardines de Bruselas, recorded the entire album on his computer and created a surreal kind of reality, like those dreams that you’d swear actually happened.

“Changing, Just Growing” evokes a final hometown summer with high school friends. You know that once September comes around, everything will change for good. You will all go your separate ways and, no matter how sincere your promise to stay friends forever, you somehow know that you'll all break that promise. This track expresses that fear of change, especially of growing up. There’s also a sense of resignation present in the vocals, knowing that the change is inevitable and giving in without a fight. The steady guitar acts as an anchor, a reassurance that growing up isn’t as bad as it sounds, which is comforting even if you don’t believe it. "Prisoner of the Past" brings up other concerns about growing up. This time, it’s worry about being left behind by those who are moving on, about being scared to leave behind what was and, consequently, becoming a prisoner to it.

With playful bird chirps in the intro and a keyboard melody that’s so light that it almost evaporates, “Fog in Australia” sounds exactly like what you would expect a foggy morning in Australia to sound like. It’s a shame that the keyboards at the end become a little too loud and brash for the song and kill the lazy-hazy vibes. The murmuring, echoing “Josefina” is the darkest track on the album and the only one in Spanish. The song’s almost passive confrontation and the calmingly repetitive melody that gradually and beautifully fades away is a perfect way to close the album

Floating in Dreams’ strengths lie in its cohesiveness, in sticking to a concept without getting too conceptual. This is sometimes problematic, when De La Parra skews a bit too literal, like in the rainfall on “Love Storm.” For the most part, though, the layers of sound and the way those sounds linger produce a lovely effect. There are also some issues with the vocals, whether it’s simply De La Parra’s style or perhaps his accent, he is often difficult to understand (in “Prisoner of the Past” when he says “like a prison” it sounds like “a Capri Sun”). But this is just a minor detractor to an overall pleasant album with some of the best and timeliest song progression that I’ve heard on an indie pop album in a while.

Caravana - Caravana


Quemasucabeza, Chile
Rating: 81

by Carlos Reyes

It’s a beautiful thing when the personal approach becomes universal. I can’t remember the last time I heard a line diagram of bird chirping, bird calling, and bird singing and actually found it cute. This is the gorgeous vignette that surrounds Caravana, an album enriched by melodic muscle and moody cohesion. Quemasucabeza’s music director, Rodrigo Santi, departs from his previous music adventures (Congelador, Paranormal, Barco) to find his most intricate project yet, Caravana. Recruiting the MVPs from the prestigious label (Gepe, Pedro Piedra, and Fernando Milagros), Caravana is the extension of the one-man band into a perfect-pitched pilgrim.

Sounding closer to Iron and Wine, Mexico’s Nos Llamamos, and Spain’s Pumuky than any of its Chilean contemporaries, Caravana’s approach to songcraft is one where music strength is the cohesive endeavor of richly textured frames and melancholic center parts. First track “Reconocer” grasps its landscape with menacing rhythm and cavernous consummation. Opening a record with such commanding literacy usually means sacrificing forte for turmoil, but Caravana’s expressionistic borders balance out with the band’s gorgeous tranquility. It’s this combination of straightforwardness and subtlety that will also alienate those with thin appreciation to something as dualistic as a wildflower.

With every one of its gears clicking nicely toward some sort of darkness progression, Caravana’s dexterity at bundling instruments is extraordinary. You can actually hear the edges and stomping walls within each frame. It’s almost as if Santi sharpens his tools to achieve precision. Especially in its middle section, Caravana’s panoramic inquisition is wide, almost provincial. Standout tracks “La Entrega” and “Garantia” reveal Rodrigo Santi as a sharp observer of composition. Think of Lisandro Alonso or Lucrecia Martel and how they’re able to frame emotional depth by painting their characters and landscape at equal density. Album best “Sigue Sus Ojos” is the finest example of a pop narrative working under coats of countryside garments. Felicia Morales’ gorgeous vocal contribution here is only the last slice ricocheting towards absolute pop resonance.

If there’s a single thing holding Caravana from unanimous triumph it is a certain level of conservatism in mood from one track to another. Yet, there’s a nice variation in track timing and overall structure to embrace these pieces as individual merits pointing to a bigger whole. Vocally, Rodrigo Santi could be described as the opposite of Bon Iver and a cousin of the Mongolian throat singers (pay close to attention to “Despacio” for that latter resemblance). Caravana is woody but also garnished in an evocative fatalist crimson. It’s also the kind of half-broken album that’s more about its space than about its spirits. Slow-paced and obliquely self-indulgent, Santi’s solo return to the front stage plays as a surreal garment of compositional prowess.

Video: MKRNI - "Srta. Robinson"

MKRNI’s “Humedad” is one of the undeniable hits of the summer with an actual chance to transcend into a long-term collective pop conscious. While their highly celebrated single rises in popularity, the Chilean trio gets ahead of its game releasing their second single, “Srta. Robinson.” MKRNI’s myriad skills for dancefloor currency keep things catchy and fresh, negotiating beats and space in a syncopated fashion. The video features kaleidoscopic footage from their current tour. Here, the band sounds closer to Sleigh Bells than to their usual comparisons (Yelle, CSS, Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser), and this is certainly a more upbeat track on the infamous “Mrs. Robinson.” Simon & Garfunkel might not approve of this full-blown interpretation of the cougar icon, but I’m sure it’s closer to what the character’s creators Calder Willingham and Buck Henry had in mind.

Chiquita y Chatarra - Animal de Amor

Animal de Amor,

Discos Humeantes, Spain
Rating: 73
by Pierre Lestruhaut

It’s after listening albums like this one that I think there might be one positive aspect to having only a handful of blogs covering Ibero-American music. And, when I say “covering,” I mean that they manage to somehow surpass the personal music blog format of those blogs that you only visit when you don’t get too many results after googling “Band Name Album Name.” The one good reason coming from this lack of coverage of our small Latino-Hispanic niche is that it can, to a certain extent, isolate itself from every discussion there might ever be about...all-girl bands. Or, what many people would probably try saying in other words, the fact that women making revivalist rock in a post-riot grrrl context is infinitely cooler and sexier than just some dudes holding guitars.

Chiquita y Chatarra, a band comprised of two girls from Oviedo, Spain, gave us a great cover of Los Chamos for Fonogramáticos Vol. 12 and is yet another addition to the collection of all-girl bands hitting our radar. And even if we thought there was a male voice in “Oh Cherry Cherry,” apparently we were wrong; they’re really just two girls making some new rock music that really sounds kinda old (and, of course, releasing it on vinyl). Insert reference to Vivian Girls, and another to Las Robertas and Las Kellies about the geographical transcendence of garage and punk all-girl acts, or whatever. Yet this version of “Oh Cherry Cherry” is not only a great blend of the nakedness of punk ideals with the melodic richness of a Venezuelan '80s pop song, but it’s actually a very straightforward take on the “Menudo on drugs” self-description of Dávila 666 in how it reappropriates a pop tune with great hooks for the interest of garage rock revival. Garage fans would probably even judge Los Chamos as being too catchy and not dirty enough anyway.

For most of the album, it’s in their reduced line-up that allows them to use only vocals, guitar and drums and their self-imposed restraint of rarely going for anything over two and a half minutes long that the duo is actually more interested in embracing punk (and riot-grrrl) ideals of building songs around a single guitar line with lots and lots of yelling and squealing than going for anything too catchy. Insert reference to Kathleen Hanna or Corin Tucker. But Animal de Amor does seem to work better when they decide to extend both the sound wave and the verse length, thus building songs that actually manage to breathe and progress, like in “Motorbike” and “Alta Tensión.” Yet, overall, you do get the feeling that the album finds a good balance between the shorter riff-driven songs and the more traditionally structured verse-chorus pieces that make it over the 3-minute mark, making for one of the more minimalist and straightforward approaches to rock we’ve had so far this year. Insert reference to Wire...No, wait, those were just some English dudes with guitars.

Video: Odio París - "Uno de Noviembre"

“If you were to combine every tumblr picture except for those of cats and cakes, you would get this video,” says the top comment at Jenesaispop’s post of Odio París’ career-first video, “Uno de Noviembre.” On this side of the Atlantic, NPR’s AltLatino highlights director Alberto Saguar’s eye to capture “the band’s chaotic yet glossy aesthetics.” Well, I guess no matter on what side of the world you are or where you stand in the hierarchy of music publishing, we can pretty much agree that this clip is quite gorgeous. Here we get an almost dualistic parallel of a bleeding heart and what’s happening on the outside. No matter how many times the band gets compared to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Los Planetas (sorry mentioning it again), we’re in front of a dazzling band thriving in post-adolescent demeanor.

Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores - Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores

Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores,

Independiente, Argentina
Rating: 65
by Carlos Reyes

“The modern kids don’t like folk anymore” say the generation-driven guys from En Ventura. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, considering the recent bombardment of indie folk acts emerging from all across Latin America. The placement of the indie tag in front of the now politically discarded genre apparently made any acoustic assembly relevant, even those with a pure, transitory vertebrate. While the abrupt novelty wave might have found its all-compassing summer hit in the utterly awful “Tahoma 32” by Andy Mountains (which apparently is “Pump Up Kicks” south of the border), there are better examples of indie folk worth talking about.

Argentina’s Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores brings analog mellowness in a five-piece formation that, although middling at best, makes genuine efforts to maximize sonic splendor. Although quiet and seemingly inoffensive, their self-titled debut is of special interest because it shows the latest shift of Latin music fusion: traditional idiosyncratic genres moving away from electronica and going back to the oral, folkloric tradition. Opening track “Cumbia” is deliciously sassy, the kind of whimsical intro that is exclusive to live performance. “Si se ponen a bailar tocamos 15 temas mas” is the kind of embedded vernacular that breaks the band out of its shell and elevates them from other acoustic chord-strumming groups whose only real chance to thrive relies on the act of iPod shuffling.

Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores are clever storytellers that often strike for melodic sprawl but never really get there. They do, however, provide their templates with enough energy and well-structured crescendos to reach some level of visceral emotion. Album highlights “Caramelos de Limon” and “Linda Melodia” are not only wonderfully crafted, they’re also understated and affecting in their alt-folk coating. Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores is above all, a group of friends appreciative of the little moments. There’s plenty of room for improvement, though. When the band realizes life is more than a picnic, I’m sure they’ll come back with a pop gamut worthy of their wholehearted spirits.

Stream: Violeta Vil - "Toronjil"

Since early this year our trusted circle of tastemakers have been pointing us to Violeta Vil (VV) as the one band to watch for the second half of the year. After listening to a demo track (“Amish”), we understood what the fuss was about. That track tells the story of an Amish teenager who finds it in his heart to venture to the outside - to an exotic world we find normal, and yet, for him, is the embellishment of his identity and his last act of faith. Even more fascinating is the way VV juxtaposed the Amish character within his environment. See, the real secluded element in the track is a line of whispered microhouse in hopes of relief that’s isolated by tormented noise. The stunning track eventually reached our Midyear Report as one of our favorite songs of the year so far.

Before VV’s debut full-length album (tentatively titled Lápidas y Cocoteros) is released in October, their label, Discoteca Océano, released the band’s first mesmerizing single, “Toronjil,” along with the no less audacious B-side “Paso Selvático.” Band members Monica Di Francesco and Yanara Espinoza describe their sound as tropical goth, and “Toronjil” makes that premise a reality. This piece is a fest of affiliated, bone-deep sentiment portrayed with a mundane narrative and shadowy instrumental sequencing. “They took out a molar the day of her communion” is the first line in a song that sounds like it was carved by a cult of Catholic dentists, so austere in its form and yet, so obtainable in its rhythm.

Video: Fred Lorca - "Animal Bueno"

Fred Lorca is one of the most introspective characters we’ve encountered among the remarkable Vale Vergas catalog and after his impressive 2009 debut, Cosas Que Suceden, he is back into his pop cult with his latest LP, Cuchita Club. This is the one-man project by Argentine-born multi-platform artist Christian Dergarabedian. Like Brooklyn’s Helado Negro, Santiago de Chile’s Voz de Hombre and Madrid’s Anti, Lorca’s responsiveness to sonic texture takes him to the most rumbling corners of pop songcraft. “Animal Bueno” is the opening track on his new album and shows progression in almost every layer of Lorca’s rich melodic assembly. This flat-out gorgeous clip by Barcelona-based art director Nico Casavecchia is a great companion to a venturesome piece that’s at times eye-popping and surreal and at times breathtakingly humorous. Inventively drawn and self-governing in its motion, this clip also brings Lorca’s crooner vocals closer to a never-ending summer chillwave.

Alondra de la Parra - Travieso Carmesí

Travieso Carmesí,

Columbia, M
Rating: 76

by Blanca Méndez

In this slough of the Calderón years and the failed war on drugs, much of the news about Mexico that reaches us in the States involves violence, corruption, and fear. But last year, in the country’s bicentennial, the air was more jubilant and festive. In the fireworks and confetti we saw a nation’s deep love for their country, and it was inspiring. One of the most moving celebrations was Alondra de la Parra conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in a performance of some of the most treasured pieces in Mexico’s memory. They, accompanied by three of the country’s loveliest voices (Ely Guerra, Denise Guiterrez of Hello Seahorse!, and Natalia Lafourcade), paid stunning tribute to their beloved Mexico with Travieso Carmesí.

Alondra de la Parra is one of today’s most talented conductors, having founded the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas at the age of 23 and having conducted some of the most accomplished ensembles in the world in captivating and stirring performances of works that range from European standards to South American ballets. On this album, she directs her orchestra in performances of 10 classic Mexican songs that are at times bold and aggressive and at times light and delicate, but always respectful of the original compositions.

On the latest Hello Seahorse! album, Denise Gutierrez explores the operatic ranges of her voice and, while this move may not have been well-received by everyone, in this setting no one can deny the splendor of her voice. The vocals unfurl lovingly as Gutierrez embellishes the classics while still maintaining a marked reverence for the history of the songs. In “Estrellita,” a song composed by Manuel M. Ponce in 1912, Gutierrez relishes in the warmth of the lower notes, then soars into higher octaves effortlessly in a mesmerizing rendition of the timeless song.

The sweetness of Natalia Lafourcade’s voice is perfect for Agustin Lara’s “Farolito.” Even the song’s arrangement – the pleasant cadence of the brass, measured march of the snare, fluttering flute, dainty xylophone, and elegantly swelling strings – suit Lafourcade’s style. In “La Llorona,” Ely Guerra’s smoky voice with its signature seductive melancholy takes control of a song that’s intimidating in all aspects. Guerra manages to navigate the emotional complexities of the song and delivers a beautifully nuanced performance.

In the songs featuring all three singers (“Cielito Lindo” and “Solamente Una Vez”), their voices complement each other and allow each other to shine with an almost “you first, no you first” respect and admiration for one another. This isn’t a VH1 Divas-style sing-off. It’s not even really about the women singing. It’s about the country they are singing to and about capturing the attention of a younger generation so that they can come to appreciate and love the music of their grandparents and great-grandparents and perhaps, through that music, gain a better understanding of the history of the country that they call home.

Midyear Report: 12 Essentials 2011

12. Nacional 42

The return of the 7’’ single is nowadays, one of the few current glimpses of the romanticism of the record. Empty alphabetized CD shelves are the horrific ruins of the physicality of commercial records. Indies are however, on a journey to become music collectors. If such transition causes a generation of MP3 & OGG buffs to start archiving music through discs you can actually touch or lineup, than let’s welcome such consumer conduct with open arms. One of the bands doing their share to prevent the record slaughter is Madrid’s new sensation Los Claveles. Their rock takes them back to the early (and dusty) progression of “new wave”, to a time-gap of stand-by insecurity regarding the genre’s future. The wave found glory with its contextualization of electronic equipment, but as Los Claveles show, the movement also left some string-wavers behind. - CARLOS REYES

11. Hypnomango EP
From Monterrey, Mexico rises René Rodríguez’ noise pop project Hypnomango. Rodríguez has recently become the guitarist and newest member of soon-to-takeover indie rock pioneers Bam Bam. Earlier in December of 2010, ClubFonograma's editor Carlos Reyes commented that Hypnomango EP killer-opening track “El Mundo No Es Real” “could translate into ‘No Hope Kids’, but this one is actually alive”, and I agree. Unlike Wavves’ Nathan Williams whose work, at its worst, can be perceived as a soulless experience (see 2009’s Wavvves), there’s plenty of life and mind-bursting energy in Hypnomango EP to assure Rodríguez as a passionate artist, one that might be seeking to achieve Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo status in the future. - ENRIQUE COYOTZI

10. La Manifestación

The kick-ass album cover of La Manifestación makes the idea of the auteur-technician a reality. If you’re ever at an arthouse and you realize the sound isn’t as crystal-clear as in most Hollywood films, realize that burning-sound has an idea behind it. As far as breakthrough albums go, Poliedro’s La Manifestación is the embodiment of those grainy brave ideas comprising a truly great first album. Working with the most stripped-down tools of the lo-fi methods, this new Chilean one-man act has crafted a rainbow-hued EP built from all the corners of sonic complexity. And he does that, through atmospheric lens. Despite all the songs feature (some form of) vocals, not one track goes beyond the 16-character word count. - CARLOS REYES

09. El fin del sueño del
helicóptero personal


Leonardo Velázquez’s approach to songwriting is as personal as you can get. His subjects of interest are his own life, memories and experiences; his favorite medium to express them is a room-constructed arrangement of string instruments and ambient synth washes that are finally shaped in the form of a lo-fi home-recorded product uploaded for free on bandcamp. As much personal as it is DIY, yet it’s through his own DIYness that his songs excel as universal entities. Take his outstanding single “Que bueno que nadie piensa en mí” from last year. While its whole construction responds to all these different levels through which Leo developed his very own personal vision of loneliness, its appeal eventually resided in how it managed to transcend the small sphere of the songwriter and actually become a universal manifesto for the lonely kids of the digital era. The ones who would rather spend a Friday night listening to the stuff they downloaded through the week and waiting for a (1) to appear on their twitter account. - PIERRE LESTRUHAUT

08. Exito Mundial

Armed to the fullest in leading single “Me Gusta La Noche,” founding members Diego Adrian and Nacho Aedo polished the perfect single for their triumphant comeback. Already one of the hits of the year, this compelling piece is rowdy and chaotic, yet so warm and orchestral. “Me Gusta La Noche” is this year’s flash-frozen summer jam, one of human adventure and unquestionable soul. Without marginalizing its topics to adolescent agony, Adrianigual sings about “dancing your dreams,” and I don’t know about you, but that just makes me sweat over the dancefloor (and on a couple of walls). If El Medio’s “Que bueno que nadie piensa en mi” is the embodiment of the #ForeverAlone meme, then Éxito Mundial’s opening track, “Arde Santiago,” must be the epithet of #DisasterGirl. Under eloquent production by Alex Anwandter (a master of disco songcraft), this first track pictures Chile’s city capital in devastating flames. Our character, however, gazes back only to rejoice the burning of his bridges (“atras arde Santiago, es un dia muy feliz”). - JEAN-STEPHANE BERIOT

07. Ofrenda a Mictlan

Think of Mexicali, then think of Nashville. Think of Michael Salgado, then think of The Tallest Man on Earth. You might feel like I’m adjusting your ink cartridges but I’m just setting the tone for this one (cheesy enough?). You could consider this as an exercise for the extension of the mind (and the music horizon), but that would be somewhat offensive, instead, think of it as a warm-up for one of the warmest, most heart-felt albums we’ve received in a while. But we can’t go on into a rave review without making a confession; it’s distressing to know just how much we like this, it’s quite disturbing actually. Mexicali’s Juan Cirerol could be classified as a Norteño folk troubadour, a storyteller, a romantic, a stylist of the popular song. - CARLOS REYES

06. Diagrama de Ben

Of gargantuan confection and gorgeous sophistication, Luciana Tagliapietra’s sophomore album, Diagrama de Ben, is an astounding collection of sonic motifs packed with enough progressive elements for an individual’s revolution and a collective warfare. Recorded in the fertile Tucumán Province in Argentina, this record nuances the solidification of Tagliapietra as one of the most exciting new voices on the continent. Targeting personal overhaul rather than crowd-pleasing delegacy, Diagrama de Ben arrives at grandiosity with a lavish orchestration worthy of a Renaissance affair and an allocated space in its digital environment. Tagliapietra’s instrumental wardrobe is rich and eccentrically hermetic, like a demoiselle’s turnaround toward social interaction. Yet, it is the songstress’ analog lyricism that also finds her as an immaculate renegade. Luciana Tagliapietra’s debut Los Domingos (YoConVoz, 2009) was an exciting revelation but bled from its ever-pealing ambition. Diagrama de Ben brings a well-rested singer with a devouring stream of consciousness and a relinquished wisdom of existentialism. - CARLOS REYES

05. Odio París

Here’s a quick summary for the simpletons in the audience: Odio París’ debut full-length sounds pretty similar to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. So however you feel about that band’s first record, this album will leave you with pretty much the same taste in your mouth. Thanks for reading Club Fonograma! Alright, for the rest of you, here’s the low-down. This Odio París debut LP is fantastic. Like the sort of fantastic that makes you want to go to sleep ASAP so you can get up and go play this record for all of your friends the next day. Odio París is one of those records that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, if there’s one real flaw on the album, it’s the lack of one defining, anthem-like number. However, that doesn’t mean that you will have trouble finding a wealth of great tunes throughout the record. - ANDREW CASILLAS

04. Tan Bajo

In Tan Bajo, their second LP releaed through In the Red, the guys from Puerto Rico show nothing to get rid of that idea, in fact they had rarely sounded this much like a garage rock revival act. But this is also probably the album where Dávila 666 has finally managed to underline the difference between being a revival retro-rock act in the wrong place, and appearing as an out of time channel for dazzling rock songs and impossibly catchy hooks. Because even if their vastly discussed “Menudo on drugs” self-description sounds a lot more like a gimmick than anything else, Dávila’s approach to songwriting doesn’t differ significantly from that of the popular boy band. Take Menudo’s use of lyrical repetition and playful melodies in “Subete a Mi Moto” as a frivolous conduct for teenage love angst and compare it to Dávila’s abrasive yet very catchy mourns of “Esa Nena Nunca Regreso” and “Eso Que Me Haces” and you’ll see that structurally and lyrically they’re on a very similar page. - PIERRE LESTRUHAUT

03. Telememe

A few years ago during the MySpace golden age, a hot punk girl showed her panties to the world, as you would assume, she got herself a few millions of profile views. But once you actually sent her a friend request, she would respond back with an automatic message celebrating the new friendship with an excerpt from Timbiriche’s “Somos Amigos.” This is the kind of personality switch that makes Jessy Bulbo such an interesting character in Latin Rock music, many have not realized it yet, but nowadays, she is Latin Rock’s most talented lady. In 1998 Julieta Venegas and Ely Guerra appeared on TIME magazine’s cover as the publication announced the surfacing of the ‘Era of the Rockera’, if the TIME was to recreate the cover today, Bulbo should be leading the pack. Telememe is a round record, perhaps the first Jessy Bulbo that actually feels complete. The album cover outlines the album’s roundness, and as it suggests, she seems to have found a sense of absolute freedom.- JEAN-STEPHANE BERIOT

02. La Lucha Constante

Like the well-packaged titles of his songs, Algodón Egipcio’s shrewdness for craftsmanship is of inner expression and experience, but also attentively in dialogue with its era. In dialogue, but not in tune; Cheky’s platforms neither practice nor reject vocation, - they’re just ‘flowy.’ All these conditions allow for such a song like “La Transformación” to be read as a piece about the alteration of data, genetics, your virtual 'Second Life' character, or a full metamorphosis (and how sadly, there is no 'back button'). The cultural epochs in La Lucha Constante aren't allocated to a time frame; instead, we get a comprehension of its installment through the negotiation of rhythms that are presented to us. It’s as if Cheky’s infamous afro was the epicenter for sylvan ideas and actions. The execution of such ideas - and how they come to action through the music- is more suffocating than nurturing, but trust me, for a visionary fascinated by The Smashing Pumpkins, Akron/Family & Destiny’s Child, the outcomes are phenomenal. - CARLOS REYES

01. Futura Vía

Albums that are determined to become legendary milestones seem to be appearing less frequently during the 21st century. With the immediacy of the Internet, as listeners, we consume a bigger number of projects than we did during our adolescence by just watching MTV. In the thousands of MP3s by countless artists, most are forgettable, ephemeral movements whose days are numbered. But a few reveal themselves as classics that may even transcend into consolidated sub-genres. Monterrey’s beloved indie rockers Bam Bam surprised music blogs with their fascinating self-titled debut EP, astonishing the indie circuit geeks with fresh, out-of-this-world grooves. Although their success was moderate, hopes for the regiomontanos to release an even more impressive first full-length were in. And Bam Bam has surpassed all expectations, opening an exciting new chapter in Mexican rock history with the stellar Futura Vía, a psychedelic pop record equivalent to an intergalactic experience. Futura Vía is bound to be a reference in years to come, a majestic exercise about the universe, a meticulous work in conceptualization, and an undeniably fantastic achievement in the psychedelic field. - ENRIQUE COYOTZI