Video: Disco Ruido - "Morfeo"

For their latest video, “Morfeo,” Mexico’s quartz-pop advancers, Disco Ruido, have recruited the sharp eye of novel filmmaker Humberto Hinojosa. This is the third promotional cut off of Disco Ruido's debut album, Sistema Solar. Like in his opera prima, Oveja Negra, Hinojosa mingles architectural density with subtle touches of nu-realism in this captivating clip. Framed in super widescreen and shot at Mexico City’s abandoned art deco cinema, Cine Opera, the video has some of the most impressive dystopian aesthetics we’ve seen in a while. There are plenty of mythological references in here to think this is a song about Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, but also many hints to think of The Matrix’s character, as the song centers around the acknowledgement of the fourth wall. Disco Ruido recently unveiled a four-track maxi-single featuring remixes of “Morfeo” and “Amorfos” by She’s a Tease, Yamil Rezc, and others. Download it for free HERE.

MP3: Roman S - "La Hora de Bailar"

Born from a jam session with Alejandro Paz, “La Hora de Bailar” is what the folks at Discos Pegaos call a “hedonistic dance statement.” And they’re absolutely right. It’s all about unapologetically giving in to the pleasure of dance. In his version of the song, our new Chilean boyfriend, Roman S, makes sure that everyone is dancing. The track begins with early morning sounds, the kind you hear when you’ve been partying all night and finally stumble home as the sun rises. And dancing until morning is exactly what the song wants you to do. Listening to it you take the all-night trip with Roman S in less than eight minutes. First you ease in with the subdued percussion and pseudo-slow mo provocative bass, then you amp things up with the spacey, jittery synths, then the alluring repetition of “es hora de bailar” seals the deal, and you’re not leaving the dance floor until dawn.

Video: Super Guachin - "Me Fume El Fichin"

Commodore 64 chiptunes, cumbia villera, and Tommy gun dubstep comprise the juicy premise of Argentine audiovisual duo Super Guachin. This pair of youngsters has a serious affair with '80s and '90s nostalgia and is literally encoding 8-bit integers into folk archetypes. With this caliber of embeddable intellect, the duo is making a fair attempt to fill generational gaps by referencing the application and cultural awareness of portable and game consoles in the modern man. Super Guachin is also the latest inductee in the ZZK Records catalog, with whom they will release their debut EP, Piratas y Fichines. Leading track “Me Fume El Fichin” shows just how evocative the duo is with programmable and interactive media, while letting everyone know they are also pop futurists. If you’re up for other examples of Nintendo nostalgia, we recommend you check out Pepepe’s jaw-dropping take on Banda Limon’s “Abeja Reina”and Los Sonoreños’ “La Cumbia de Mario Bros.”

MP3: Fernanda Ulibarri - "Corro"

“Fair Mexican brunette with lots of hair.” Gorgeous L.A.-based singer Fernanda Ulibarri (from Uli and The Gringos) does a great job describing her image but is not as savvy with first impressions. Or at least that’s what we’ve come to realize upon listening to her stirring new single, “Corro.” For several months she’s been promoting the wrong single (“Se Satura Mi Cabeza”), when she should’ve spent the time making a hit out of her much more inspiring and overall lovely second single. While there was nothing really unpleasant about the leading track, it was a bit forgettable. “Corro,” on the other hand, is a blessing of clean-cut harmonies marching toward a brimming paradise. If “Corro” was a piece of clothing, it would be part of one of the Adidas Sportswear collections; it’s agile, chic, and unrestrictive of movement. This is a truly exciting cut off of Ulibarri's forthcoming debut album, átOma, out under Cosmica Records in October.

♫♫♫ "Corro" | Facebook

MP3: Furland - "Faladó Falá"

The last few lines in our review of Furland’s gorgeous 2009 album, Historia de la Luz, spoke of the album as the band’s “first step toward greateness.” It’s been almost two years since its release and it’s time for a progress report. Their brand new single “Faladó Falá” is not only a big thumbs up, it's also a reaffirmation of our optimism toward the band’s future. Here they sound more muscular than ever before, almost stepping in Astro and Bam Bam territory. Furland has yet to specify if this is the leading single of their new album, but either way it’s pretty great. Sergio Silva has such a clear-minded approach to blending countryside folk with technological environments, and it’s this craftsmanship of light and space that makes “Faladó Falá” sound colossal. Perhaps Furland is treating this single as a transitional piece, and if that’s the case, we better get ready for a landscape of cosmic dust, electronic wisdom, and bouncing banjos.

♫♫♫ "Faladó Falá"

CSS - La Liberación

La Liberación, CSS

Fontana, Brazil

Rating: 60

by Jean-Stephane Beriot

Cansei de Ser Sexy is making every negligible and relevant publication out there accentuate at least one vowel in their latest issue/web update with the release of La Liberación. The highly anticipated third album from Brazil’s most flamboyant and intercontinental import is a step forward from their self-destructive and self-descriptive sophomore album, Donkey. Bittersweet news, though, as CSS is still mediocre at best. In the lapse of three back-to-back albums, lead party host Lovefoxxx and hybridizing producer Adriano Cintra have succeeded at keeping things breezy and fluorescently trashy. Nothing wrong with that, but once you realized CSS is more about posture than actual pop pedigree, things get to be anything but liberating.

It would be very easy to consent to the CSS experience as one exclusive to the dance floor and the sunny days, but that’s a settlement not even the band would ever approve of. For one, because behind the fun summer jams and adolescent revolt themes there is a band with a certain level of ambition. When CSS opts to self-resolve the album’s first quintessential line “Feel the beat of my heart?” with something as fuzzy as “I love you, I love you too,” you can’t help but cringe. Lovefoxxx and company are blindly immersed in hyper-strained ground and, while wonderfully entertaining at times (see the off-your-seat “City Grrrl”), overall they’re not very savvy at resolving their own dramatic tests. But the few times they do get it right, you come to realize you’ve been rooting for them all along.

In a recent chat with Spin, the band disclosed the only imposed rule while recording this album was “to be very exuberant and not think of how to do it live.” There are very few moments in which the band fulfills that promise, and I think it’s for the better. It’s the funkier and slower numbers that save La Liberación from a complete malfunction. Just listen to the beachy waves and breathy vocals on “Hits Me Like A Rock” and you’ll get to understand the band’s ironic confession about losing their edge. The very attractive and lauded Spanish-language title track is also impressive in its march-like sequencing, but it is a lyrical disaster (if you understand the whole horse imagery here, please enlighten me). CSS has made a career out of well-handled funky hooks and an over-the-top spirit, and that’s ultimately what you get here. La Liberación is yet another effort to reconcile nu rave with its new wave cousin. The approach and execution are flawed, but somehow they always manage to keep most things afloat.

MP3: Dani Shivers - "Witch" (Los Macuanos Afilan El Cuchillo Remix)

It’s a little early to be thinking about Halloween playlists but ruidoson primers Los Macuanos have provided us with the first must-have mix of the season. The Tijuana-based trio has unveiled (via Matinee as Hell) a profoundly dark, almost evil remix for Dani Shivers’ already eerie single, “Witch.” Earlier this year we pointed out this track disclosed Shivers' nostalgic affinity for sinister landscapes and aesthetics, but Los Macuanos go after that witch like a three-member sect on a bloody witch hunt. There’s a lot of good, dark-edged music out there (Dave Rata, Mueran Humanos, etc), but there’s nothing as infernal as a “cumbia rebajada.” This “Los Macuanos Afilan El Cuchillo Remix” is a creepy crawler and their best remix since that speaker-detonator Fito Olivares mix titled “El Ruidoson de la Culebra.” Los Macuanos and Dani Shivers are currently working on their debut albums, both among Club Fonograma's most anticipated records for the rest of the year.

107 Faunos - El tesoro que nadie quiere

El tesoro que nadie quiere, 107 Faunos

Independiente, Argentina

Rating: 71

by Pierre Lestruhaut

Think, just for a moment, of everything that’s ever happened in the history of indie pop, all the time and space that’s been traveled to go all the way from early Beat Happening hand-drawn cover art, kid aesthetics, careless vocals, and cute effortless melodies into 107 Faunos’ hand-drawn cover art. You can now assume just how serious and devoted indie pop fans are about this type of things. Because if you happen to have friends who are into it, or if you’re a pop geek yourself, then you probably know what I’m talking about, and those friends are probably also into a cute p!o!p! act like 107 Faunos.

Back in 2008, the Argentine band’s self-titled debut was, in absolute twee fashion, fueled by an obsession with childhood imagery, using memory-triggering lines such as “saltás con el A, disparás con el B,” song titles like “Calamar Gigante #8,” and of course a cover art you’re super talented 10 year-old niece might have drawn. Then its follow-up, Creo que te amo, as Carlos Reyes said in his review of it, was more about the “themes and topics of the adolescent years, where uncertainty overshadows positivism,” thus seeing the band’s interests parallel the aging of a person. Now, with their latest EP, El tesoro que nadie quiere, we’re treated to what’s perhaps their most adult record yet, one that’s still packed with that youthful energy, yet is also a lot more paced and developed in its execution and overall structure.

In the album, the kids from La Plata surprisingly go over the 3-minute mark twice, delivering what’s clearly their most laid-back and least amateurish songs so far in “El tigre de las facultades” and “Panchito en Hawaii.” But it’s while playing their catchiest tunes that the band sounds even more compelling. Like the subsequent series of “Con y contra,” “Boxeador mejicano” and “Cachorros,” where in less than 2 minutes per track they manage to drop the finest vocal hooks we’ve heard from them so far. Yet the greatest song here is probably “Modelos de prueba,” which is another very short number, where this time Heavenly-esque guitar lines meet Casio-style keyboard in an exciting mingle of early and late indie pop.

Because it’s precisely of this sort of digging through a genre’s past as a way to enhance its future that 107 Faunos are singing to us here (“buscamos el futuro escondido en el pasado”), while still pointing out the inevitable fate of constantly being deemed as inferior to it (“soy un Bart Simpson mal dibujado”). It’s with this sort of highbrow meets lowbrow subtext that 107 Faunos can be a very exciting act to listen to and, even if this latest release might not be as rich, both lyrically and melodically, as those of our favorite South American indie pop acts, it’s always great to see a band trying to leave their comfort zone and escape from their genre's most obvious clichés.

Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx II

Mariachi El Bronx II, Mariachi El Bronx

ATO Records, USA

Rating: 76

by Carlos Reyes

Earlier this year, Lady Gaga celebrated her 25th birthday singing alongside a full mariachi to a ranchero adaptation of “Born This Way." That was supposed to be the mariachi portrait in any publications' “year in pop" specials. That image changed significantly a few weeks ago as Mariachi El Bronx made their network television debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Upon the triumphant results of that performance, it appears that American punk music and mariachi blend pretty well. Their new album Mariachi El Bronx II is not only exciting, but it brings many topics of discussion afloat, including race.

Even in the most radical breadth of punk music, it’s hard to dismiss the genre as the ever-evolving social movement that rejects technicality and opens its arms to music reform. The first time I ever realized this hybrid could function (beyond a Chicano registry) was back in 2005 at the Latin Grammys, when Incubus joined Café Tacuba in a performance that blended alternative rock and Mexican folk almost effortlessly. Mariachi El Bronx takes that premise to serious ground as the enchanting alter ego of Los Angeles’ hardcore punk band, The Bronx. I guess it was only a matter of time before a seemingly all-American rock band embraced L.A. culture through Mexican tradition. The band’s concept and quest conviction can be compared to that of Shawn Kiehne, aka El Gringo, or Mexico’s Mariachillout. The former is an American country singer with a norteño fixation and a preoccupation with border politics, and the latter is a weird act that has released Mariachi tribute albums of The Beatles, Queen, and The Rolling Stones.

Crossover music at this level of cultural and racial blurring grandness has lost its novelty in genres like Latin Jazz (think Cal Tjader) or MPB (think David Byrne), but gringos wearing mariachi suits and personalized belt buckles are noticeable to say the least. Two years ago during the act’s formation, they explained why they didn’t wear sombreros: “because we’re white and that would be disrespectful.” While very few Mexicans would find that offensive (that’s after actually listening to them), it’s this kind of respectful approach that makes Mariachi El Bronx’s wide scope and ambition all that more endearing. Opening track “48 Roses” grasps the romanticism of ranchero music with the equally passionate three-chord punk notions. In this track everything is executed fiercely and with a sense of bittersweet tragedy, very suitable for a song about a man who buys four dozen roses for his four lovers and asks God to save him some forgiveness.

In the last decade, experimental lo-fiers Lucky Dragons have done their share of Mexican American contribution with mostly distorted and heterogeneous pieces, but this is one of the first times a band approaches this fusion with actual form. Initially a five-piece band, Mariachi El Bronx has expanded its formation and instrumental chest to match the demands of ranchero music. Not only are they great at mediating songcraft with aesthetics, but they are also great with speed. Fast-paced tracks like “Great Provider” and “Map of the World” are handled with the elegancy and fortitude of the Mexican genre. Unlike The White Stripes’ misguided and ultimately scornful attempt at mariachi punk, Mariachi El Bronx II is solid and beyond refreshing. For those of us with a profound exposure to ranchero music, the application of this vernacular by some white dudes seemed dangerously sketchy at first (because seriously, we don't need another ¡Three Amigos! fiasco), but within seconds of playing this record one comes to realize Mariachi El Bronx is not only in full control of their concept, but that their heart is also in the most honest place.

♫♫♫ "48 Roses" | Facebook

The return of Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas

Oh shit. Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas are back. The return of the IKV clan has been highly rumored in the past few months, but they’ve made it official. Dante Spinetta and Emmanuel Horvilleur have not stopped making music since the IKV split 10 years ago, releasing solo albums of varied qualities to mostly critical and commercial success. The duo had given us plenty of hints of this reunion lately, most notably during the 15th birthday party of Gustavo Cerati’s daughter, when the eccentric pair hit the stage to perform the still mind-moving “Abarajame” and a couple more classics. It’s been a decade, but Spinetta and Horvilleur are still household names and MTV rock stars. IKV’s comeback album is expected to see the light by the end of this year. Here is hoping the duo is still as mad and senseless as they were in the '90s; to this day, we can’t seem to find a proper way to describe them. This trailer of their return is beyond exciting.

Installed - Plancha

Plancha, Installed

Independiente, USA

Rating: 85

by Blanca Méndez

One of the most telling lines ever written by Anne Sexton (or by anyone, for that matter) is from her poem “You, Doctor Martin.” In it she writes, “we are magic talking to itself, noisy and alone.” That one, simple line encompasses who Sexton was as a writer and the truth in that short line is also Fernando Alvarez’s truth. Alvarez is Installed and he is one of those almost painfully self-aware types. Listening to his intimate music you get the sense that it betrays him, like it’s revealing secrets that he didn’t intend to disclose. But he’s more in control than that. At times the intimacy is even mischievous and wry. In Plancha, Installed knows the ins and outs of his conflicts, acknowledges the battling states within him, and delivers this awareness so intelligently and poetically, it might just break your heart.

In “Que No,” Installed repeats the line, “doctor, estoy bien,” as a reassurance that seems more targeted at himself than his doctor, like a self-affirmation that he is, indeed, fine. It’s a revealing almost-mantra that seems very personal, like the listener is intruding on a very private moment. Even when the song talks about someone else, it feels very introspective, examining Installed’s own relation and reaction to that person. “Palestino,” about unrequited love, is as much about the “muchacho Palestino” as it is about Installed’s struggle with his unfulfilled desire. One of Sexton’s strengths was in knowing how to arrange words and how to pace them so that sometimes they glide effortlessly and sometimes they trip over each other and sometimes they drag like tired feet. Installed also has a strong command over phrasing. Some sections in “El” feature Installed talk-singing, almost rapping, a style difficult to execute without coming off as comical. But he pulls it off. He builds vocal cadences like this one throughout the album, rhythms that become a part of you, echoing in your bones like instincts you didn’t know you had.

Not only is Installed aware of the expanse within himself, he is keenly aware of sonic space, the depth and breadth of it, and the texture he achieves by manipulating sound is extraordinary and poetic in its own right. The layers of background sound in “La Miel” are so dense and kinetic, that all together they sound like rainfall. The vocals are somewhat isolated from this, as if emanating from a cave that serves as shelter from the downpour outside. “Lejos” is an instrumental track in which electronic sounds emulate nature, evoking bird calls and cricket chirps and that stillness of dawn and being gently awakened by the whisper of morning. And it all feels remote, hence the title.

That remote feeling in the music is present on much of the album, acting as a foil to the personal lyrics. And a lot of the album is made up of elements that contradict each other, but somehow harmonize in the soundscapes that Alvarez creates. As tumultuous and haphazard as it all may seem on the surface, what Alvarez has orchestrated is an album of delicate balances much like the meticulously crafted turmoil in the poetry of Anne Sexton (though perhaps not quite so dark). Plancha is a bold exploration of sound and self and one of the most ambitious albums of the year.

Saúl Hernández - Remando

Remando, Saúl Hernández

EMI Latin, México

Rating: 45

By Carlos Reyes

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Kids, it’s called rock and roll. Rock en Español icon Saúl Hernández recently confessed undergoing more than 40 surgical interventions to remove a series of malignant tumors from his throat, and the man who grasped a generation’s love tales through a wounded, raspy voice is still in action today. It was no one’s surprise to hear 70,000 throats harmonizing '90s nostalgia at this year’s Vive Latino, all venerating the triumphant Caifanes comeback at Mexico City’s Foro Sol. But what fraction of that massive audience would actually care about Hernández’s long-mystified solo album? Well, to our surprise, a lot of them. Lacking substantial radio airplay and any proper music videos has not stopped Remando from becoming a commercial knockout. Saul Hernandez’s solo debut is giving Zoe’s MTV Unplugged: Musica de Fondo a run for its money as this year’s best-selling rock album. Seems like the numerous lip-syncing appearances on all those Miami-based TV morning shows (+ Sabado Gigante) paid off. Needless to say, this is a year of mediocre rock as means of financial enterprise.

For his unaccompanied venture, Saúl Hernández recruited renowned producer Don Was, recognized for his works with the living elite rock icons that include The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson. While the encounter of an established rock star with an A-list producer seemed promising, the final outcome is anything but legendary. The emblematic voice is as intricate in its role of carving emotions as ever, but there are no melodies to sustain it. Even worse, there’s no real sense of thematic exploration other than Hernández’s wobbly sensibilities to describe life after midlife crisis. “El Otro Lado de la Vida” summarizes this album pretty well: cryptic lyrics about a newly found dimension swirling loosely across fractured harmonies. Under a band formation (and exempting Jaguares’ dreadful 45), Saúl had cultivated a real sense for rock distillation; now under anarchic individuality, there’s no one to restrain his howl and, while revealing at times, he is the victim of his own mystique.

Whether it’s the Hernandez that promises to become immortal in “Voy A Beberme El Mar,” or the immigration activist in “Sera Mañana,” one can’t help but to recognize the album’s topics as misplaced and disturbingly stretchy. There is however, an almost outstanding track in the album. First single “Molecular” is, within the framework of the artist, one of his most digestible tracks ever. This track is a clean steady pop song where we get to witness a sober Hernández, who even throws a catchy “nananana” progression in the track’s climax. Throughout our short existence, Club Fonograma has been accused of deliberately panning every new album by established Rock en Español icons, and, while there might be a correlation of that in our track record, it’s self-drowning albums like Remando that make it difficult for us to show the great deal of respect we have for them.

Video + MP3: Maluca x The Partysquad - "Lola"

Self-declared Dominican Princess, Maluca, is finally pulling her claws out publishing her first proper release, Massive Pow Pow EP. In the last couple of years, the Mad Decent sensation has built an enviable reputation as a performer, earning broadcast success with “El Tigeraso,” and keeping gaudy momentum with last year’s sensational China Food Mixtape. In collaboration with Amsterdam-based duo The Partysquad, the Merengue-electrified rebel has unveiled a video for the undeniably catchy single “Lola.” The track is a club banger with the vehemence of a third-world political agenda and a structure as round as Jessy Bulbo’s ever-rolling “Comal.”

Helmed by Bijoux Altamirano and stylized by Jason Farrer, the video glorifies the GeoCities and MySpace glitter era and prevents the end of the summer exploiting the 1-800-hot-call ads that invade every free-to-affordable publication out there. Not only is the video jammed with pop culture references, but it's almost as socially intricate as any scene in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. Massive Pow Pow is not the emblematic debut full-length we've all been waiting for, but it’s Maluca’s first real step in becoming a self-sustainable recording artist. We're also wondering if this will be the album in which she unveils a cover of Gloria Trevi’s “Hoy Me Ire De Casa” featuring L.A.-based NGUZUNGUZU and lauded by everyone (who has heard it live) as “EPIC.”

Fother Muckers - Entrega Tu Espíritu (Muerte a los Fother Muckers)

Entrega Tu Espíritu, Fother Muckers

Independiente, Chile

Rating: 79

by Andrew Casillas

The demise of Fother Muckers seems deceptively bittersweet in many fashions. For one, they aren’t exactly going away—the band has already announced plans to reassemble under the moniker Los Ases Falsos. As for lamenting their musical legacy…well, they hadn’t really built a substantial one. While they were certainly active in their time, releasing nine proper albums and EPs, they weren’t going out in some Relationship of Command-like last gasp. Fother Muckers was a good band that was getting progressively and measurably better but never quite hit that ceiling. It’s sad that this incarnation of the band is quitting while they’re ahead, but they aren’t exactly going away or squandering their potential.

In that context, Entrega Tu Espíritu serves as a proper denouement to the Fother Muckers era, while slotting neatly into the band’s musical progression. The end-of-the-world vocals, the witty lyrics, the classic rock posture—the aesthetics are rote and familiar. But this record also packs in the most professional work in their catalog. For example, the way the vocal harmonies and laid-back blues sound in “Madre del Mundo” effortlessly come together. It’s the sort of flippant ease that lesser bands spend decades trying to cultivate and yet exactly what you’d come to expect from these guys.

In a pleasant surprise, Fother Muckers have finally learned how to craft a proper pop song. “Alzad las Manos” takes a faux-Caribbean guitar lick and ska vocal and plays the entire thing straight, crafting another winner for your late-summer party mixtapes. Indeed, it’s this sort of attitude that exudes itself through the album. “Dios Esta Aqui” ends the Fother Muckers chapter on a proper note. The song reflects much of what gravitated others towards the band—nothing flashy, nothing exaggerated, but still charismatic and delightful. And while not every song on this EP is an outright winner, it’s an almost-great ending to an almost-great band. And it’ll definitely leave you excited for whatever they come up with next.

Fifteen Years Old - The Image Lovers

The Image Lovers, Fifteen Years Old

Buh Records, Perú

Rating: 78

by Carlos Reyes

Fifteen Years Old self-describes as “melodramatic pop and biographical indie from Lima, Peru.” Unmistakably dark and melodically uneasy, Peruvian newcomer Solange Jacobs walks on isolated grounds in her debut The Image Lovers. Photographer by profession and former vocalist of the rock band Tonka, Jacobs is taking chances under the moniker Fifteen Years Old as her country’s newfangled enfant terrible. Featuring dog barking, church prayers, and macabre monster laughs in the background, The Image Lovers is conceptualized as a family memory box. The six-track, all-English language EP is strikingly confessional, haunting, and almost witchy at times.

Jacobs’ surfacing in the emergent Peruvian indie scene is completely unexpected; she’s one of those few artists that can honestly brag about doing something entirely different from the rest of her peers. But outside Lima, Fifteen Years Old has more than a few references in the fast-growing world of eerie and evil-looking new pop divas that include Grimes, Dani Shivers, and Zola Jesus. Jacobs might have the contained and probing vocal chops of a quinceañera, but her topics resonate to the posture of an experienced and well-traveled individual making half-allusive, half-satirical music. Fifteen Years Old brings some of the year’s most theatrical numbers, making a grand entrance with “Imaginary Vals.” This track swings back and forth and side to side as layered harmonies and wraithlike loops synchronize into a wonderfully dramatic Viennese waltz.

The Image Lovers never hides its ambition; in fact, it self-commends when given the chance. Neither a minimalist nor a maximalist, Jacobs is appreciative of a synthetic and architectural presence that enables her to operate between personal anecdote and fictional realism. So, if the menacing “The Beautiful Tailed Vixen” or the motion-forward “The Object” appear to belong to a third person objective reality, it’s because of Jacobs' stretchy disposition. While the emotional clarity and arousing music is hard to resist, the beauty is slightly wounded by the artist’s sketchy enunciation of the English language. I’m not a purist regarding language, but much of the passages here are incomprehensible (especially when you decide to whisper poems along with everything else). The Image Lovers has some clear affected areas, but as a whole, it’s quite impressive and moving. A temporary show-stopper and, at least for us, a serious candidate to take Kanaku y El Tigre’s place as this year’s Peruvian breakthrough.

Mueran Humanos - Mueran Humanos

Mueran Humanos, Mueran Humanos

Blind Prophet Records, Argentina

Rating: 82

by Pierre Lestruhaut

Even at a time where technology and digital media has considerably reduced the barriers that would keep music, and culture in general, to a certain extent tied to a their geographical context, it’s still both difficult and careless to ignore the influence of this context over a specific production. For most publications writing about Mueran Humanos, an Argentine couple based in Berlin, it’s precisely their move from New World to Old World that has raised some eyebrows, primarily in how their music seems so tied to the musical heritage of Berlin and Gemany, despite them not totally dismissing their Argentine roots by writing their lyrics in Spanish.

Part of Italian label Old Europa Cafe and its roster of industrial sounds and dark ambient styles, the album was released in America through young label Blind Prophet Records. And it actually hit our radar through the attention it received from popular tastemaker sites like Stereogum and Altered Zones, thus fitting under the incredibly wide spectrum of what could be rashly referred to as dark music influenced by the post-punk era. Which is probably the kind of music you’d expect from a band whose female half is known for making gore collages out of preexisting photos, hence the album cover, that I would have probably described in very uncreative fashion as “a very fucked up portrait.” But, thankfully, Carlos Reyes managed to put it better as “that Bloody Mary, dissolved, almost vagina-looking cover.”

Initial track “Horas Tristes” sets the cadence for the rest of the album: throbbing beats, and hypnotic sinister synth lines gradually leading the way to a burgeoning guitar strumming as Carmen Burguess delivers horror tale-like readings that finally culminate in the luscious chant, “cuantas horas tristes serán.” That last line then sees itself morphed into a discordant replication, and the track gains in dissonance all the way into its uproaring climax, as Mueran Humanos display their affection for abrasiveness, aggression, and lyrical provocation. Probably the main reason why most people talking about the duo insist on how Berlin, and its role in the development of krautrock, industrial music, and techno, fits so well as a shelter for the Argentine couple.

One might also easily see this as being in hand with the duo’s unearthly aesthetics, as most of these musical references refuse, or at least try to separate themselves from, the effortlessness and melodic appeal of pop music in general (though without wanting to explore the limits of noise either). Yet, in their greatest songs, Mueran Humanos actually find their beauty behind the heavy melodic work in their use of vocals and how it eventually manages to share pop music’s desire to gratify its listeners by treating them to something that is ultimately very pleasurable to listen to. Just like “Festival de las Luces” or “Monstruo," and how they use that industrial minimalist instrumentation, the occasional '80s synth lines, and the doomsday scenarios (“Llueven autos.....llueve sangre...”), all in aid of the pleasure that is given by their use of vocals. Because behind all the macabre scenarios, dissonance, and overall stiffness to approach, Mueran Humanos is simply a record that’s very enjoyable to listen to.

♫♫♫ "Monstruo" | Facebook

Jan Pawel - Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven

Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven,

Jan Pawel

Independiente, Venezuela

Rating: 77

by Jean-Stephane Beriot

Financial advisers and personal motivators promised 2011 would be a year of collective healing, but they didn’t give the specifics on how we would actually get there. Whether it is the year’s pop hit (Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”), or this summer’s indie anthem (Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”), 2011 is turning into one of the most pessimistic years in recent memory. In Latin America, the response is twice as cynical. Please, by all means, blame telenovelas for our inductive, dramatic instincts. For pop analysts, differentiating artists with a real sense for gloomy songcraft from the affected walkers is becoming a thorny assignment.

Venezuelan newcomer Juan Pablo Oczkowski has a real cultivation of intimate and austere landscapes. If you’re up for some down-to-the-bone pieces with a serious affinity for existentialism, Jan Pawel is the real deal. His debut six-track EP, Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven, reveals the starting mark of an artist that’s melodically subversive and thematically disquiet. Late last year, Pawel astounded us with the album’s first single “Hoy Los Muertos Estan De Pie,” described gorgeously by Blanca Méndez as “the triumphant march that announces rebirth.” From the very first cunning punches of the song, you know this is building up to something greater than the common pop song. In its first half, Pawel’s profound vocals seem like dynamite ready to detonate, but in the middle of the song, he lets go, and just as he sings “today the dead stand,” you’re embellished into a climactic religious experience.

Jan Pawel has a legit coordination with emotional resonance, and it’s his understanding of this harmony that truly makes this album a sharp breakthrough. Vocally, Pawel is like the encounter of The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt with Sr. Chinarro, but melodically (and considering his Polish background), I’m guessing he grew up listening to plenty of music from “the old world.” Jan Pawel embraces his individual condition as a singer-songwriter, but as shown in album standout, “Mi Pudor,” he is thoughtful of his surroundings. In this particular piece, he balances rustic romantics with washes of electronic boldness. Also impressive are his collaborations with compatriots Ulises Hadjis and Algodón Egipcio, who are a bit modest in their contributions, but engaging as ever. Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven (with its beautiful Breatheless-reminiscient artwork) is remotely an unassuming folk record and a sonic footprint from an artist already outshining expectations.

Fakuta - Al Vuelo

Al Vuelo, Fakuta
Michita Rex, Chile
Rating: 88
by Enrique Coyotzi
Fakuta’s eminent, forward-thinking debut, Al Vuelo, is without a doubt Club Fonograma’s most anticipated pop album of the year. It's a magnificent work constituted by ravishing pieces, precisely built under a meticulous architectonic conception. Moving away from pop music traditionalism and concentrating on musical form (like compatriots Dënver or Maifersoni), Pamela Sepúlveda has consecrated herself as the main exponent of the Michita Rex netlabel, which has amazed us with a varied family of constantly surprising, intriguing artists. In a year where guitar-driven acts have dominated our radar, Al Vuelo’s intricate playfulness, larger than life audacity, and math pop grandiosity, arrives like a deep breath of sweet, fresh air.

Although the recording process lasted two years, Fakuta is no stranger to the DIY scene. She’s one of the widest known personas in the Chilean indie circuit, having taken part in groups like Golden Baba and El Banco Mundial, being one of the most lauded newcomers by unquestionably credible sources like Gepe and Javiera Mena, and heading her home label during 2010. Fakuta has had music bloggers drooling ever since we heard her first impressive demos (check out the organic take of “Armar y Desarmar” included in our seventh compilation, Los Colores No Dejan de Sonar) and her unique theatrical live presentations beside the inseparable The Laura Palmers, a trio of chorus girls (named after a catalytic character of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks) who resemble The Ronettes or The Supremes in an opposite, obscure manner. Assisted by De Janeiros’ superb production, Fakuta’s carefully fabricated futuristic vision reaches enviable heights, making Al Vuelo an essential tour de force for any true lover of exceptional, cerebral pop craftsmanship.

While this isn’t the type of pop music you will often hear on the radio, Sepúlveda’s radiant compositions are accessible enough to guarantee her a few hits. Pink on the surface but heart-wrenching in its message, first single “Armar y Desarmar” is delicately constructed, starting peacefully, then unraveling in a natural way until the song becomes a head-nodding celebration embellished by heavenly choruses and cotton candy harmonies. In the album’s outstanding numbers, “Estrella” and “Segundando," Fakuta effectuates interesting changes in the mid-section of the tracks; when they have acquired a certain pattern of structure, the songstress throws an unforeseen melody in her synthesizer, which comes out of nowhere but functions magically, adding a completely contrary tone.

As a contemporary industrialized version of well-known copla popular “El Patio de Mi Casa," the cartoonish “Mi Casa” delivers childhood nostalgia emphasized by the employment of string and brass instruments. “Las Partes” is disturbing, noisy industrial pop, like stepping inside a monstrous factory of penetrating colorful sound. The sublime tears generator “Virreinatos” is probably my favorite song of the whole thing. Like dubstep wunderkind James Blake, Fakuta values space and silence, extracting gems out of these qualities. A melancholic realization about how at times we believe we’re indestructible as a fortress (“¿cómo es que tu imperio no ha de caer?”), the glitch fragility of “Virreinatos” is boundless.

Ending a long, anxious wait, Al Vuelo is a masterful breakthrough which possesses the chances to harvest international success. Longtime Fakuta followers will most likely be already familiarized with the majority of these songs, since live recordings have been floating around on YouTube for a while, but every track is executed with current freshness that it seems incredible they’ve been in gestation for such a long time. With its mesmerizingly clever compositions, the blissful majesty that is Al Vuelo will position Fakuta in the line of cream of the crop of Chilean stars, in the meantime bringing us transcendental anthems of monumental proportions.

Hernán Martínez y Las Estrellas - Revolución de Verano

Revolución de Verano,

Hernán Martínez y Las Estrellas

Discos Perinola, Argentina

Rating: 69

by Carlos Reyes

When simplicity alone will do the trick. “It isn’t en vogue, and it isn’t blazing a new trail. Anybody can listen and relate to it – basically, it’s pop music. It’s just really fucking good.” Clever (and up for argument) words from fellow CF writer Andrew Casillas defending the fact that straightforward artists can be as profound and urgent as those layer-over-layer, pop avant acts on your iPod. Argentine pop-rock curioso Hernán Martinez belongs to a new cohort of musicians holding on to normative form as means of artistic expression and generational complicity.

Subtle rock progressions and straight-to-the-facts lyrics prevail on the third release and first full-length album by Hernán Martínez y Las Estrellas. To be fair, Martínez isn’t the most upfront musician out there, but in the context of indie rock, his modesty with words and harmonies could easily get him confused with someone from the frightening field of adult contemporary. Luckily, there’s enough artistic frequency here to care about. The band starts the show imagining the rapture of the world in the vivid “Circulo de Fuego.” The track imagines a horrific scenery during a solar eclipse; the day fire rained from the sun, the day all artists encountered death. While illustrative in its lyrics, the mid-tempo tones and spacious percussion struggle to report on the same story. From there, Revolución de Verano goes into a 12-piece march toward the understanding of the human spirit and its juxtaposition with its brutal and unforgiving surroundings.

Revolución de Verano is irregular with its proportions, but like Venezuela’s TLX and Brooklyn’s Woods, Martínez’s folk-inflected sensibility points to the right directions. Hernán Martínez y Las Estrellas are far more eloquent whenever they equate their instruments to their dramatic, yet always accessible lyrics. They find absolute glory at least once in the jaw-dropping “Habeas Corpus.” At first glance, it seems like the occasional catchy pop song, but repeating spins will leave your eyes swelling from such splendor. This track has all the commonalities of the burning-the-bridges vernacular and goes from dust to melodic gold through chord successions, drum summation, and its flawless accentuation. “Habeas Corpus” pushes itself into your soul as small orchestra that triumphs because of its absorbent normality and feet-in-the-ground freshness. This song alone should earn the band a reserved seat among Valentín y Los Volcanes and Los Reyes del Falsete as some of their country’s new line of promising newcomers.

Featured: Dani Shivers - "Up"

Featured: Dani Shivers – “Up”

Independiente, Mexico

by Enrique Coyotzi

As a somber, sour, hellish nightmare, Tijuana’s evil girl, Dani Shivers, understands how to effectively create spooky synth pop music that manages to be partially playful, yet causing an inevitable anxiety with its haunted house-like arrangements and incessant urgency in lyrical repetition which flirt with melodious ability. The artist’s macabre formula is complemented with her versatile way of singing; Shivers regularly intones certain words in a childish manner, other times she sounds gloomily remorseful, or simply menacing.

One of the standouts featured in our latest compilation, Sebastián, and included in Shivers’ Jinx Demo EP (the final version is set to be released on October 31st), “Up” is a track constructed under a bleak beat box rhythm, alongside a creepy synth line that, during the uneasy chorus, evolves into a goosebumps-inducing cascade of wicked sound and Shivers’ almost palpable, bloodcurdling vocal interpretation. Like watching a top-notch horror B movie (see: Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead), the song’s austere bedroom homemade production makes it an even scarier swallow, as every element in this demo is stripped down to the bone. “I wish I knew what to say," the singer announces diffidently, having lost track without giving a damn; she envisions latent enlightenment going “up, and up, and up," but in the end, her destiny appears to be doomed by a fatidic, grave conclusion, falling “down, down, down, down”.

♫♫♫ "Up" | Facebook

Manos de Topo & Tarántula - Momento Único

Momento Único,

Manos de Topo & Tarántula

Sones/Producciones Doradas, Spain

Rating: 67

by Carlos Reyes

Past CF reviews of Manos de Topo and Tarántula described both bands as attention-getters, dramatic fetishists, and mind-numbing extremists of the Spaniard idiosyncratic. Furthermore, they were the subjects of our own intricacy of trying to figure out the line that divides dramatic novelty and artistic virtue. Well, they don’t make it any easier for us on the unsuspected, and overall chilling 12’’ split, Momento Único. Together, they've made the most exotic creature.

In a joint venture with their respective labels, Sones and Producciones Doradas, the four-track album (with a run of only 500 copies) brings the best and worst out of two bands that level music bravura with their over-the-top personalities. With only two tracks per side, there's not much room for the bands to elaborate, but they give it a try. On one side, we get Manos de Topo sowing sounds as whimsical as those tailored bouquets by Natalia Lafourcade or Sufjan Stevens, and a vocal execution as theatrical as Jason Segel’s Dracula puppet rock opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. On the other, we have the even more divisive Tarántula, who, despite being marinated in the juices of suburb rock and roll, handle their histrionics with melodic diffidence. The odds are clearly against them, but Momento Único is a showcase of well-executed ideas that will threaten to expand your taste through that feeling called charm and that other thing called curiosity.

The album’s press release explains the band’s encounter as the coming together of two of Spain’s most singular acts, and it claims they share “a spiritual zeitgeist.” I’m not sure any of the two capture the feel of the moment, but they’re excellent at romanticizing it. In this celebration, each band brings a superb song paired with artistically flat fillers. Let’s focus on the better half. Manos de Topo’s “Culo de Cristal” is a trip back to their 2007 debut Ortopedias Bonitas, an album where Manos de Topo seemed like the dysfunctional and oversensitive cousin of Shakira. (Don’t believe me? Go back to “Es Feo” and see for yourself.) This is a transitional piece for the band, the sort of anti-single that’s so superbly orchestrated that it becomes a luxury. Tarántula is far more interesting with the lyrically profound “Te han visto Aislada," where the band gets to sound like Morrissey AND Band of Horses. While flawed and precarious, Momento Único is, indeed, unique. There’s real emotional attachment between both sides of the split, and that’s good parenting. Also, fantastic artwork.

Helado Negro - Canta Lechuza

Canta Lechuza, Helado Negro

Asthmatic Kitty, USA

Rating: 83

by Adrian Mata Anaya

At this juncture in time, there is an overlapping presence of traditional instruments and electronic production tools. Yet, only a few folk artists play around in the surmounting pile of electronic gadgetry. During this embargo, we find an exception and a pioneer in Roberto Carlos Lange as Helado Negro. While previous work, Awe Oak, introduced an already dynamic Latin American folk artist, Canta Lechuza audaciously navigates through a new fertile territory in the same Latin folk vehicle, now powered by electronic energy.

Canta Lechuza is a digital time-lapse photograph of the surrounding natural environment, which was taken during Lange’s month-long residence in Connecticut. While Lange actively processes his surrounding space and its organic life, he anachronistically places sound sculptures to visualize anatomical and atomic structures of nature. To do so, mischievously naïve bass lines are placed to elevate jazz-like improvisations of organic computer noises, as found in “Lechugilla.” In a similar fashion to sonar, oscilloscope frequencies bounce off trees establishing spatial dimensions. Climate is quickly actualized by freezing and crisp resonance in opening track, “Globitos.”

By now, readers of Club Fonograma might be keenly aware of Lange's exploits in projects such as ROM, Savath y Savalas, and Epstein. Lange proves that his scope expands beyond these creative endeavors through his powerful ability to reference outside of himself. Appropriating the ocean wave distortions of chillwave, “Regresa” introduces a snowstorm of distortion and feedback. Typical of Wham City’s Future Islands, “2º Dia” rehashes emotional scars with its use of '80s-throwback guitar strumming. In the record’s most impressive display of music knowledge, “Calculas” is an assembly line of sacrifices back to space funk, future bass, and Los Angeles beat makers.

Given that this record was produced in a moment of meditation for Lange, Canta Lechuza features a series of techniques to prevent overstimulation brought on by outside influences (listed above). Each track designates a few quiet harmonic elements to provide breathing room before a casual dance rhythm is introduced. Every accentuated crescendo is consistently dampened with an efficient perdendo. The same treatment is given to Lange’s vocals. While Lange’s love letters (or vague text messages given that this is an electronic record) are sung aloud in a crooning fashion, his voice is often matted as sotto voce, made to pose as a chorus or even an owl singing.

Before Canta Lechuza was released, Helado Negro produced a short record entitled Pasajero. The album could have easily been mistaken for being produced in Connecticut, completely consumable by Club Fonograma readers, and absolutely placed on our blog’s virtual wall of destacados. With the utmost grace and bravery, Helado Negro has recycled a delightful short album and remolded it into a record that is simply beyond our time. As the official mark of creative excellence, Carlos Reyes put it best when he simply told me, “Helado Negro is very Avant.”

Ximena Sariñana - Ximena Sariñana

Ximena Sariñana, Ximena Sariñana

Warner Music, Mexico

Rating: 73

by Blanca Méndez

Those of us who have followed Ximena Sariñana since her Luz Clarita days are holding our collective breath at this momentous and precarious time in the young artist’s career. She is taking that huge step into the English-language market and basically starting from scratch. In Mexico and much of Latin America, she might be a star, but to this new market, Sariñana is a newcomer who will have to earn her keep. And judging by her non-stop touring and press schedule, she’s working hard to carve out a space in the English-language pop landscape. That space has, for the most part, already been carved by other singer-songwriters like Vanessa Carlton, Sara Bareilles (who she recently toured with), Natasha Bedingfield, etc. But Sariñana has the ability to widen that space if she pursues some of the more interesting sounds she’s made on this self-titled album.

She's played it safe with single releases so far; “Wrong Miracle,” “Shine Down,” and “Different” are all agreeable, but not quite inspired. To be fair, “Wrong Miracle,” co-written by Aqualung of all people, is definitely a grower. It can appear trite upon first listen, but after a few spins, you’ll find yourself singing along, though perhaps confused as to what exactly you’re singing. Is the wrong miracle immortality/long life per the line “I am a million years old”? Or is it transformative powers per “I am a ship in a bottle, a monkey’s tail, a blue lagoon”? Kind of weird things to turn into, no? Am I missing something? What is Aqualung even doing these days, anyway? I have so many questions about this song!

“Shine Down” is undeniably the best of the singles so far. The dreamy chimes, skittish guitar melody, and slightly frustrated-sounding, yet still steady percussion clash spectacularly, still allowing the vocals to float effortlessly above the commotion. But there are other songs on Ximena Sariñana that are darker and far more intriguing. “Tomorrow,” with its tinny echoes and start-and-stop beats, feels like driving through a tunnel or like the time lapse of a city at night, while “Lies We Live In,” a frank look at navigating relationships, is one of the tracks most reminiscent of her Spanish-language work in its brassy elements and sly lyricism (“we can stop pretending I know who you are”). Sariñana seems as comfortable with nonchalant directness as she seems uncomfortable with executing choreography (see: the video for “Different”), but it’s still quite far from what we heard on 2008’s Mediocre.

“Different” is actually a pretty good and succinct review of the album in itself. Lines like “failing to communicate” are apt when there are quite a few puzzling lyrics throughout that didn’t quite cross the language bridge. From speaking to Sariñana, you get the impression that she has a strong command of the English language. Considering that and the team that she worked with on the album, I’m not sure why there’s still so much lost in translation. She might still have a lot of work to do lyrically, but musically Sariñana is exploring some truly fascinating sounds and, though I, like many of you, sometimes wish she would return to her jazz roots, I’m still excited to see where she takes her “new” pop career. When she sings “can’t believe all the risks I’m taking” on “Different,” she has good reason to be surprised at/impressed with herself. A crossover is a big move that few have pulled off successfully. But with big risk comes big reward, right? Here’s hoping it all pays off.

Sunsplash - Live in Maracana

Live in Maracana, Sunsplash

Cocobass, Venezuela/Brazil

Rating: 70

by Carlos Reyes

If you attended any party during the ultra-fluorescent early years of The Hype Machine, chances are you danced or fornicated to the rhythm of the now departed Venezuelan sensation, Todosantos. We’re talking serious business here. Five years ago they were the band the middle-class cool kids were listening to, the DJ's best-kept secret, and the talk of the SXSW after parties. After the distressing Todosantos breakup, lead vocalist Alberto Stangarone went on to deliver the single best remix on El Guincho’s Antillas EP, eventually investing his prolific upbeat mayhem along Brazilian dancehall dissenter Clarissa Steed. Together they go by Sunsplash.

Two years ago they released their epically upbeat first single, “Fiera de Vinil,” and, ever since, fans have been eagerly awaiting a proper release. Live in Maracana is the closest they’ve gotten to releasing an album, but it’s not proper at all. Artists and labels that tend to masquerade mixtapes as legitimate releases are the same people that can’t tell the difference between an EP and a maxi-single. I’m pointing to about 90 percent of the self-governed urban pop labels out there, including our beloved half Venezuelan, half Tijuanense tropipop label, Cocobass. Having established my concerns with taking mixtapes too seriously, I’m beyond content with what’s accomplished in Live in Maracana. There’s so much oomph in this thing that they make the premise of bass and banana drums splashing the sun sound believable.

The main dish in Live in Maracana is a spectacular 22-minute steamrolling mix where the unlikely duo pitches a lifetime supply of club bangers, propulsive fusions, and proportionless dancefloor urgency. With inexplicable tracks like “Riva Starr Got Jacked” and “Supersupimpomatic” and superb remixes for Os Mutantes and Jovenes y Sexys, this mix is up there with M.I.A.’s dazzling Vicki Leekx, so radiant and so sweaty it will leave you wheezing. The only real drawback here is the inconvenience of such a lengthy number. I’d be surprised if anyone (who’s not a DJ) actually syncs the whole thing to his or her iPod. Lucky for us, three of the tracks find individuality with the help of some sharp remixers, including Cory Blaine and Jairomendez. This is not the reference album we’ve been waiting for, but it does make us shout, “OMG, they totally got it!”