Video: Calle 13 - "Prepárame La Cena"

While Entren Los Que Quieren hasn't shed any of its initial criticisms upon release (a few of which you can find here), Calle 13's latest video from the Grammy-hoarding record, "Prepárame La Cena," is a sublime reflection of the album's most sublime track. The calm, almost robust song is greatly enhanced by its parent video. The video contains sanitized, yet undoubtedly powerful images of teenage human trafficking in Latin American countries. Special attention goes to the steady and nuanced cinematography, which walks that fine line between reality and propaganda. So we can sit here and complain about the band's crappy collaborations or how Residente has lost his fastball, or we can just sit back and enjoy one of the band's finer moments. We're hopeful its a sign that great things are still on the horizon for one of the single most influential Latin acts of the past decade.

Las Liebres - Xauen

Xauen, Las Liebres
Triple RRR Discos, Argentina
Rating: 69
by Carlos Reyes

Folk rock: the self-assured music medium that’s so persistently and intensely beloved and yet so difficult to be prolonged by those artists with conceptual ambition. Hailing from the province of Corrientes, Argentina, folk-rock duo Las Liebres makes a brave attempt to divulge folk rock continuum in their second full-length installment, Xauen (named after the Moroccan city). In all its creative mettle, the trio is devoid of interesting ideas, but those ideas don’t necessarily translate to a grand melodic harmony or self-sustainable songs.

Back in 2009, Iñaki Zubieta and Federico Delbon released a wholly naïve three-track demo (recently re-mastered and re-released by Mexico’s Rock Juvenil) that gathered them attention from art curators, indie rock tastemakers, and even a few publications from the conservative bunch. Early comparisons pointed all over the place; some claimed they were the cousins of MGMT, while others assured they would be giving Grizzly Bear a run for their money sooner or later. All the scorching interest and artistic uncertainty eventually found its direction in their gorgeous 2010 debut, El Arroyo de la Miel. The band has since added Augusto Peloso to its formation, growing into a deeply contemplative act that now swirls between ascetic folk and psychedelic rock. As their recognition rises, the band has delivered the kind of album you're more likely to respect than sing along to.

Swimming against the escalating idea of rock pieces lasting only a couple of minutes, Las Liebres’ nine-track and full-served Xauen feels quite muscular. The blossoming synths that open “Montaña Anti Atlas” are suspenseful and immediately hooking, but they don’t quite prepare you for what the band has in mind. This track has texture, space, and dream-like sequencing. At their best, Las Liebres have probably made the most danceable prog rock piece to come out of South America since Gustavo Cerati’s “Cosas Imposibles.” Album highlights “Esta Noche” and “Detras del Sol” are also fine examples of the band’s rich sonority, but it’s structure in which the band lacks command. Too often in Xauen (especially in its second half) the band lets its ideas loose and they get lost in deliberation. This is a case scenario where an album just sounds much better whenever it's not as experimental. Unlike its predecessor, the uneven Xauen is more about notions than about actions in a sonic landscape that's braver than anything we could ever find in our self-ordered, common world.

Video: Vincent Vega - "El Piso Se Va A Manchar"

It was a bit disappointing to find out Uruguayan duo Vincent Vega wasn’t actually named after the most intriguing character in Pulp Fiction (played by John Travolta). And that’s as far as I can go with any kind of distress on this one. Like their compatriots Franny Glass and Carmen Sandiego, melody makers Matías González and Mauricio Sepúlveda have a serious affection for the serene surface of “la cancion melodramatica popular.” As the pair gets everything ready to publish their sophomore album early next year, they’ve handpicked the breakup song “El Piso Se Va A Manchar” as the last promotional stop of their 2009 self-titled debut. Using Max Fleischer’s rotoscoping techniques (tracing over live-action footage), directors María Noel Silvera and Sebastián González Majo have crafted a clip that lives and breathes through the lure of storyboards and motion tracking.

Anntona - Grandes males, remedios regulares

Grandes males, remedios regulares,

Gramaciones Grabofónicas, Spain
Rating: 77
by Pierre Lestruhaut

There’s a particular sample in Grandes males, remedios regulares, the latest release from Anntona (guitarist of Los Punsetes), that serves as an interlude between the two-songs-in-one “ECI/Amorcitos,” and in which we can hear a man with a heavy French accent saying “I want to fuck her” in regards to an American woman who’s obviously shocked by the situation. Had I not been a huge Gainsbourg enthusiast I would have completely failed to see the origin of the uncredited sample and, thus, would have never been able to make reference to his well-known encounter with Whitney Houston on French TV. The reason why I focus on this 30-second sample isn’t for pure Gainsbourg-ian geekdom, but because it actually feels revelatory in how the man is somehow important in the way Anntona and Los Punsetes approach pop music.

Serge Gainsbourg was a '60s French pop idol whose early songs were generally very much in line with what the rest of the yé-yé crowd were doing, but as much as his name was engraved in that particular '60s pop aesthetic, he is mostly remembered for having France Gall implicitly and unawarely sing about blow jobs (and swallowing), making Jane Birkin moan with pleasure in a highly erotic internationally banned but later to become hit song, and, in his most accomplished work, conceiving a full album around the sole theme of statutory rape. Anntona and Los Punsetes on the other hand, are sonically placed along the line of Spaniard indie pop, praising the melodic simplicity and charm of Donosti Sound, devoting themselves to the uninterested and lazy vocal styles of Sr. Chinarro, while also holding onto the Casio synth packaging of Family. Still, the main reason why we love these acts so much is that they can somehow pull out something as charming as “Tú hueles mejor” or as haunting as “Cien metros para el cementerio,” while still giving out vocal hooks like “que le den por culo a tus amigos” and “todo el mundo tiene porno en casa,” which are both hilarious and excessively crude alongside the overall romanticism of Spaniard indie pop.

Grandes males, remedios regulares starts with the same raunchy resentment displayed in “Tus Amigos” with Anntona declaring, “Hay un montón de mierda en el fondo del pozo [...] he cogido un puñado y os lo voy a tirar,” while “Arruino todo lo que encuentro” turns the exasperation towards himself and his own insecurity issues. “A68” sees Ariadna Punset take a guest spot and leaves us wondering just how great a less guitar and more synth-driven Los Punsetes album would be, while final track “Norman Bates” has Anntona showing off a great ability in the rarely explored territory of electronic-driven Spanish indie pop. Other tracks are less effective in their use of electronic sounds. “Millones de chicas” is a song you’ll want to skip by the time you hit the second “1,2,3,4” Flaming Lips sample, and vocal manipulation feels mostly like a failed experiment on “Qué verde era mi valle.” Still, in the end, where Anntona will mostly have our admiration is for songs like “Caramelos con droga,” the kind where he can display his great handling and understanding of traditional forms (in this case new wave), while leaving his own (and Los Punsetes') singular imprint of obscenely hilarious lyricism with an opening line like “A mí el fin del mundo me pilló cagando.” Some may judge this as terribly lowbrow...we’ll call it auteristic.

Fonocast #6: It's Not Me, It's You

Fonocast #6: It's Not Me, It's You
by Blanca Méndez and Andrew Casillas

Not to be a total downer, but I want you to think back to your last breakup. Or, better yet, your worst breakup – the one that redefined and intensified your definition of heartbreak, the one that made you feel as if the sky was literally falling and the universe was slowly closing in on you and there was nothing you could do but wait for that crushing end in the bathtub in the dark with a bottle of Malbec and Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” on loop. (I don’t want to be all by myself either, Celine!) Breakups can be rough, but out of that pain we have gotten some of the best, most honest music. Like Alex Anwandter says in “Que se acabe el mundo,” “se me parte un poco el corazon, pero es gasolina para hacer canciones.” For this podcast, we brave that dangerous territory of past heartaches with Franny Glass, Carla Morrison, and Pepe Aguilar.

  • Maria Rodés - "Lo que hay que oír" (BCORE DISC, SPAIN)
  • Julieta Venegas - "Me Voy" (SONY, MEXICO)
  • Caetano Veloso - "Shoot Me Dead" (POLYGRAM, BRAZIL)
  • Franny Glass - "Hoy no quiero verte nunca más" (CONTRAPEDAL, URUGUAY)
  • Jessy Bulbo - "Maldito" (NUEVOS RICOS, MEXICO)
  • Control Machete - "La Lupita" (UNIVERSAL LATINO, MEXICO)
  • Rocío Dúrcal - "Déjame" (BMG, SPAIN)
  • Carla Morrison - "Lagrimas" (COSMICA RECORDS, MEXICO)
  • Alejandro Escovedo - "Take Your Place" (BACK PORCH, USA)
  • Pepe Aguilar - "Miedo" (SONY, MEXICO)
  • Bronco - "Que no Quede Huella" (FONOVISA, MEXICO)
  • Odio París - "Ya no existes" (EL GENIO EQUIVOCADO, SPAIN)

Video: Las Ardillas - "El Tren"

Anxiety is an insidious and treacherous feeling. Opening the doors to nothingness and feeding on your afflictions, it can choke you and leave you without indicating the nearest exit. "El Tren," first single and closing number off of Las Ardillas' self-titled LP carefully dissects this ravenous beast, without foreseeing any hope. The video clip, directed by Dede Ene, who conceives many videos for other Boricua punk rock acts, such as Dávila 666 and Los Vigilantes, has an aesthetic and graphic approach that echoes Hitchcock’s Psycho. In fact, like the main characters of this horror film, bassist/vocalist Koki appears to be submerged in destructive behavior and inner conflicts that may be too severe to resolve.

Las Ardillas (who share two members with Dávila 666) address their apprehensions and fears with a screwy roughness and a lugubrious quality. While words like “estamos llegando a la claridad” can give the impression that there is still some hope remaining, the title itself rather seems to refer to a more misanthropic perception. The "light at the end of the tunnel" may simply be the headlights of an oncoming train.

Adrian Juárez - Tu Nombre Es Fresa

Tu Nombre Es Fresa, Adrian Juárez
Frigida Records, Argentina
Rating: 81
by Carlos Reyes

The indie kid totem is such a scary and sensible topic. It’s hard to imagine anyone arriving at progressive pop without ever going through the cutesy twee, folk-inflected initiation. When going back to it, you could either cringe (taking part in the collective backlash) or feel nostalgic, but once in a while an exceptional album comes along and you can’t help but to shoot back up into the dreamy clouds of indie pop and adjusting alarm clocks. On his first proper record, Argentine songwriter Adrian Juárez offers an irresistible music sachet of seemingly harmless (yet heart-arresting) melodies in an album that’s ready for the winter gift wrap.

There’s nothing really groundbreaking about Tu Nombre Es Fresa musically, aesthetically, or in its personality, but look further into its proportions and you’ll find an album that’s been gorgeously mounted and predestined to abduct a handful of your senses. Adrian Juárez makes music that’s so proficiently assorted and so soothing to the ear that it almost makes for an uncomfortable experience. For those of us more inclined toward gothic and unpolished fashion, listening to this album is like finding a good old portrait of yourself and recognizing that image as a past gesture that still lives in your hopefully brighter and less diffident present. Guarded by all the guns you would find on a music pilgrimage, Juárez also recruits squeezing toys and detonating objects as part of his miniature wonderland.

The album opens with Juárez describing his mundane physical features (“tengo ojos y una nariz”), going on to more extraordinary grounds as he claims to have a heart that beats his drum. On first impression the approach seems bulletproof, but just when you’re about to dismiss it as a possible knockout, the storyteller has already dissected his veins in front of you, creating abnormally gigantic fireworks in the process. But Juárez doesn’t settle down with the unveiling of his flesh, he goes into full-confessional mode later on in “Canción Locomotora.” In this track, he also bares his mind, singing “Soy Adrian y tengo miedo,” almost justifying his physical existence as one with the sole purpose of that of a container. Just like Luciana Tagliapietra in “Las Carreras” or Installed in “Que No,” Adrian Juárez has sung and shared from the most vulnerable vein in him.

Tu Nombre Es Fresa is filled with memorable tracks, but the gargantuan-winking-at-minimal orchestrations in “Bufandas” make it the album’s highest peak. This branch seems like it was cut from the same tree as some of the most endearing songs from Gepe. In its most subtle numbers, comparisons to Emilio Jose’s Chorando Aprendese and Caetano Veloso’s Cinema Trascendental wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Adrian Juárez tiptoes his keen sense for instruments with the embedded sorrow of music programming. Albums that assume their melodic conditions usually don’t go to far around these parts, but everything about this album (from its pretty cover to its all lowercase form) flows just right.

Video: Dënver - "Los Bikers" (Segundas Destrezas)

In the latest video from Dënver, band member and music video visionnaire Milton Mahan approaches the psyche and carnal turbulence of a young renaissance in a clip that is beyond an aesthetic exercise. Carrying Música, Gramática, Gimanasia’s well-deserved status of a young adult masterpiece, Mahan has crafted a video that is full of corporal movement and still has the luxury of carving emotion through its soaring stillness. One year ago we described the song as one set “on midair tones, elliptical to its own tragic story,” and this clip (shot at Santiago's Museo de Bellas Artes) accomplishes just that.

Like its thematic cousin from earlier this year (Carmen Sandiego’s “Mi Novio Gremlin”) and the Catholic youth-in-revolt images from Almodovar’s La Mala Educación, Mahan and DP Cristobal Portalupii have plenty to say about a handful of uncensored canvases in masculinity and dramatic space. “Los Bikers” (along with "Segundas Destrezas" as its sublime encore) is emotionally pulling from every one of its four corners - with every one of its shots ready to be hanged on a wall. It’s so tender to look at and so unassuming of its own glorious architectural beauty that warning you about its subtle NSFW ecstasy only seems unfair (but yes, someone has to do it).

Video: Varias Artistas: Emme - "El Día del Zarpado"

“When describing a female artist, unless she is a child, do not refer to her as a girl, always use woman” noted our dear copy editor Blanca Méndez on one of my recent published posts. She's completely right. Gender terms are to be taken seriously, especially in their representation in pop culture. Among the many fascinating things about Lucas Marti’s Varias Artistas, is the opportunity it provides to many of us in need to reflect on gender representation and idiosyncrasies. It might not be the most intricate song in Se Puede, but Emme’s contribution to the album might be its most confident number. A song as dynamic as “El Día del Zarpado” deserved an equally active clip, and director Ezequiel F. Muñoz was not intimidated in the very least. The clip seems like a bundle of easy frames, but it’s actually quite militant in its anti-role commentary. But as with most videos from the Varias Artistas clan, it’s the singer who owns every single shot. Emme is a tour-de-force here, and I don’t think we’ve seen such a hot performance in a video all year long.

MP3: CLDSCP - “Sintonía Americana”

In our mildly enthusiastic review of CLDSCP’s Niños Azules, we criticized the band’s methods of paralleling sonic and lyrical literacy for the sake of acquiring catchy hooks. In the last line of that review we also predicted Leopoldo de Sarro and Andres Andinach would find gold the minute they found a channel for melodic succession, and that’s exactly what they offer us in this stunning cover of “Sintonía Americana,” a daring, almost heroic cover original to Argentine '60s rock icons Miguel Abuelo & Los Abuelos de la Nada. This track is one of the first unveiled cuts from Mas Mike, an unofficial tribute to the rock legends by contemporary indie acts.

The original track has always struck me as one of the most sheering songs for the forever mystified “Sueño Bolivariano” (Bolivar’s dream of uniting all Latin American nations into a one-standing federation). All political discourse aside, what CLDSCP have done here is quite remarkable. Indeed, they have followed the core of the lyrics making a song that truly gladdens the heart. This is instrumental and misty-eyed shimmer bursting across the wide scope of a profoundly touching song that as my colleague Jasmine Garsd (from NPR's Alt.Latino) gorgeously describes, as a “beautiful and sensual ode to Latin America, as if it were a woman rather than a continent.”

Babe Florida - Depois Eu Te Explico Melhor

Depois Eu Te Explico Melhor, Babe Florida
Transfusão Noise Records, Brazil
Rating: 74
by Carlos Reyes

Unlike album length, individual track timings are often discarded as narrative tools, even by the bands that employ them. Rather than swallowing the idea of it being pure personal choice, I prefer to romanticize this palpable artistic preference. In his debut film Asi, Mexican filmmaker Jesus Mario Lozano applied a 32-second margin to all of the shots of his film, on the studied notion that that's the amount of time needed to breach someone’s attention span. Hailing from the lovely lo-fi house of Transfusão Noise Records (our favorite Brazilian print), Babe Florida's latest EP, Depois Eu Te Explico Melhor, approaches track timing with that same celebratory tone of glowing, short-lived experiences.

Pointing to the same pocket-sized narrative structures of bands like Argentina’s 107 Faunos and Spain’s SraSrSra, all the eight tracks that comprise Babe Florida’s sophomore release are about a minute long. The title of the album (“I’ll explain better later”) immediately suggests these intentional exercises of cursory melodies (in exceptionally tiny pieces) are only strips of something bigger to come. Babe Florida is the vehicle and the excuse for a group of friends to create fuzzy and compelling music, one they have so fittingly described as an “organized mess.” Opening track “Gigante Vermelha” does a fine job introducing the band’s forte: stomping rock harmonies and ascending chord progressions. The oomph is carried on to the next few tracks, but, eventually, it’s hard to come to terms with some tracks that lack narrative appendages and fall into the interlude archetype.

With such shortened conditions, the band exploits its own survival with the same urgency that is felt in our youth. For the band members, living and dying next to your music siblings is the only option. These might be tiny songs, but they’re wholehearted. It may not seem like a reasonable number, but the band member credits enlists a total of 14 names that include Lê Almeida, Wallace Costa, and I would assume everyone involved in the music production and mesmerizing aesthetic work. The album’s most accomplished tracks, “Balas Mastigaveis” and “Coleção de Amigos," succeed because of the vigorous disposition to carry on with a concept as well the tremendous use of group-like backing vocals. According to the label, this EP was conceived as a chapter of a soon-to-arrive full-length. If the preliminary plan is still in action, we can confidently say Depois Eu Te Explico Melhor is a confident 10-minute contribution of ecstatic lo-fi.

Video: Fakuta - "Aeropuerto"

December approaches and, in our landscape of music junkies and media publishers, it means it’s time to sit down to contemplate best of the year lists. Among the many names that put out debut albums this year, Chilean indie sweetheart Fakuta seems like a sure bet to attain ranking omnipresence across the Americas and overseas. The closing piece and second single off Al Vuelo has been given the audiovisual treatment in an exquisitely framed and remarkably nuanced roadtrip by directors Pablo Muñoz and Rosario González (who were as whimsical in the clip for "Armar y Desarmar"). In this video, Fakuta & The Laura Palmers, in full coalition with the directors, take the concept of “ascending without fear” to heart by merging aerial imagery with seemingly ephemeral vignettes from the road. Even more absorbing than the beautiful polar scenery is the composition of the gangster-looking ensemble, particularly in the elaborate narrative use of that gorgeous wardrobe.

Alex Anwandter - Rebeldes

Rebeldes, Alex Anwandter
5AM, Chile
Rating: 90
by Blanca Méndez

The title of Alex Anwandter’s latest work for me immediately triggered memories of the hugely successful teen drama, Rebelde. And not just for the obvious reason but also because the music on Rebeldes feels so youthful, so idealistic in its pursuit of what feels right. All ridiculous drama aside, the characters in Rebelde were ultimately all teenagers with teenage concerns and teenage desires in a world that revolved around these concerns and desires. Anwandter, by going back to pop basics, has created that same kind of self-centered world with Rebeldes. The album may strike some as too straightforward, but the music’s beauty lies precisely within that simple framework of lustful melodies, romantic strings, and direct lyrics.

The title track could easily double as the Rebelde theme song, its together foreverness like a high school BFF pact, linked pinkies and all (or like the engagement ring Miguel gave Mia at the end of the series). But perhaps the most Rebelde-appropriate track on the album is “Tatuaje.” The “tatuaje de nuestra epoca mas gris” is like the scar that Miguel’s accident left on his relationship with Mia. When Anwandter sings, “pon tu mano en mi pelo, conecta el sentimiento,” I see Mia at Miguel’s bedside, desperate for him to remember who she is. But as much as I’d like to make this entire review a discussion of Rebelde (and I can tie every single song on this album back to the show), I will spare you.

The nervous percussion of opener “Como puedes vivir contigo mismo” serves as an undercurrent to the song’s “Luz de Piedra de Luna”-evoking disco strings, like the jittery pulse beneath the rapture of the if-this-is-wrong-I-don’t-want-to-be-right sentiment of “aunque sea pecado yo me siento en el cielo.” The music is layered so meticulously that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in that same sentiment. (If this song is wrong, I don’t want to be right either, Alex.) The peppy syncopation of the percussion in “Felicidad” sounds like it could be in a retro aerobics video, but the slight dissonance of the piano chords, drone of the synth, and the drunken confession-emulating sloppiness of the trumpet save it from venturing too far into shiny spandex territory. For album closer “Fin de semana en el cielo,” Anwandter dabbles in the kind of sultry melancholy that Ely Guerra does so well, with morbid declarations like “tu y yo nos vamos al infierno” and “si tu avion se cae, aunque me disparen, te quiero” that are at once frightening and hopelessly romantic.

We all know Anwandter is a musician who is always exploring. Even though we loved Teleradio Donoso and mourned its end, the marvelous and fascinating dystopian landscape created by Odisea last year quickly healed that wound. Not one to lag between ideas and inspirations, Anwandter has, this time around and with the help of Cristian Heyne, crafted an album that seems to almost retreat into simplicity. But when you hear the bare honesty of it, it’s a purity that’s almost virtuous, and you know that this is no retreat. Alex Anwandter only moves forward.

Fauna - Manshines

Manshines, Fauna
ZZK Records, Argentina
Rating: 76
by Pierre Lestruhaut

If you happened to undergo your teen years as an indie rock fan (with most of your friends being roughly into the same kind of music) in Latin America somewhere around 2005, then you probably were the kind of kid staying as far away as possible from all the dem bow and cumbia rhythms that could be emanating from any speakers. Yet six years after suffering at every possible reggaetón- and cumbia-infused party, indie rock fans like me now see ourselves facing weird looks for having Calle 13 on our iPods or blasting the latest hot banger of cumbia digital from our own speakers. And, of course, trying to justify why something like the ZZK crew makes this type of music sound more fresh, hip, and cool than any other popular act did back in 2005 isn’t particularly easy considering that not everyone shares a conception of coolness that includes DJ /rupture quotes, Pitchfork reviews, and artsy album covers.

But what’s also atypical about some of the producers and DJs from the ZZK crew, like Chancha Vía Circuito and El Remolón, is that they don’t precisely rework cumbia for dancing or partying purposes, but instead they do so in a much more downtempo fashion, making way for music that feels atmospheric and meditative. The latest release to come from the ZZK catalog though, Fauna’s Manshines, is here to remind us that ZZK records hasn’t completely forgotten their initial purpose of taking us to the dance floor. Before the passing of Federico Rodriguez (aka Catar_sys), the album was already in its post-production phase, and a few months later they were hitting us with the first single “Para Mí,” a dance floor banger of ragga-style vocals, dancehall inspired rhythms, and a crazy psychotropic video to go with it.

In tracks like opener “E” or “Hongo x Hongo,” we see the duo coming back to the ragga cumbia style they helped pioneer in their debut, La Manita de Fauna, dropping bass and synth lines that would fit more among the more populist cumbia villera style than with the ZZK catalog, while the rest of the album rarely slows down the tempo and sustains itself on a variety of rhythms like kuduro and dubstep that the duo allegedly picked up while touring heavily around the globe. It’s precisely that sense of variety that makes Manshines a tireless front-to-back listening experience, the kind of record that could keep any party going no matter how many skeptical rock fans might be in attendance.

Video + MP3: Marian Ruzzi & Sr. Amable - Una Pieza Más

Early this year when we heard Marian Ruzzi & Sr. Amable were making music together we couldn’t help but to raise some eyebrows. They might share their native place of origin (Chihuahua, Mexico), but they couldn’t be more apart when it comes to music taste. On one side we have an all-pop, multi-instrumentalist woman who is part of the band that accompanies Julieta Venegas and, on the other, a seemingly hedonistic guy whose dreams mostly evoke Piyama Party and 107 Faunos. With both artists growing into their craft and senses, we knew they would make an interesting collaboration, but never expected something this good. “Una Pieza Más,” the track that opens the second half of Los Herederos, is a galloping and up-the-ante slice of glass-eyed pop. Under the format of a short animated feature, illustrator Luis Safa and the magic house at BASA studio have provided the song with the most beautiful visual cushions. The dissolving illustrations and out-of-the-horizon narratives work wonderfully for a song that is as fragile as it is muscular. “It’s life, not death what keeps us apart.”

Bigott - The Orinal Soundtrack

The Orinal Soundtrack, Bigott
Grabaciones en el Mar, Spain
Rating: 75
by Carlos Reyes

Unlike any other critics’ darling artiste in our field, Borja Laudo has the heretical ritual of releasing full-length albums every single year. Rather than annual artistic reports, Bigott’s albums are like heartwarming, homemade music greeting cards – they’re silly and overly polished, but they’re also the season’s most comforting embraces. Any well-groomed moustache suggests concern for aesthetic, and Bigott has made sure to play with that in much depth. In the past three years we’ve seen Bigott’s album covers transcribing the music inside them. We’ve seen him getting a suntan in an open coffin, posing with a black eye (while keeping a neutral, passport-approved facial expression) for a painting, and on his latest album, The Orinal Soundtrack, we finally get to see him as the world’s most badass muppet (one with sunglasses of course).

In the past, Bigott has doubted comparisons to Bonnie Prince Billy and some of this generation’s most folk-solemn and serious-looking folks. This is the album in which he fully divulges the irony, cynicism, and comedic idiosyncrasy of his musical backyard. The man with the deep, roaring voice usually assorts his melodies in crisscross motion, but you would never see him stepping down from his own dramatics. In The Orinal Soundtrack, the fifth album in his career, Biggot shakes off much of the winter souvenirs and goes on to chase new findings in quotidian topics that are still very close at heart in his approach. If you’re asking how stripped down this really is, let’s say that not enough for him to shave, but enough for us to stop calling him a sweeping pessimist. And if that’s still not enough of a guidence, there’s also an all-branching, percussion-clashed song called “God is Gay.”

Whether you think the album title is a grammatical approximation to “the original soundtrack” or you’re more pulled by the likeliness of the “the urinal soundtrack” theory, this 10-track album makes impressive cases for both. Hit single and soul lifter “Cannibal Dinner” has a two-to-one ratio between strings and wall-of-sound bangs, an unlikely measure among Bigott’s career repertoire. Other tracks, like “Bar Bacharach” and “Tree Gone Motion,” will resonate more with those of us who are still more deeply intrigued by Bigott’s more restrained and morbid incarnations. In the process of making something as polished and naked to the ear as The Orinal Soundtrack, we lost a bit of the inside-joke fun, but it’s not a tragedy whatsoever. This is a great slice of high-flying pop and renaissance flirt that leaves you with the same feeling you get when your unsteady server tells you your three-gigabyte file was successfully uploaded.

María y José - "Rey de Reyes"

The infamous Tony Gallardo has had one hell of a year. Well, maybe not in a profitable sense, but anyone following his steps (and his sudden social network deaths and resurrections) has seen him treating this year with the introspection of a giant. We can easily say that his next album is already our most anticipated record of 2012. María y José has not only kept momentum through the release of two of the best pop jams of the year (“Granada” and “Puerto Alegría”), but as predestined by its cult status, his 2010 debut Espíritu Invisible also enjoyed a well-reserved resurgence in popularity. Originally, the ruidoson father had contemplated the idea of releasing an EP this year, but through a holy and illuminating call, he has opted to redirect his mind to his much anticipated sophomore album. Unlike the negligence of attention to his debut (the world just wasn't ready), this time around he’s got plenty of fans and publications watching carefully.

In an impulsive stroke of creative temperament, Gallardo decided to go ahead and self-leak what seems to be the first single off his new album. “Rey de Reyes” is the unforeseen and outlawed anthem of this winter season. This is the first time in which we see María y José (whose veins carry royal blood) immersing fully in 3Ball territory (if you don’t know, the ruidoson and 3Ball kids are each other's biggest supporters). This piece is the sole definition of SWAG, and it’s so brutal to the dance floor, that it might steal some of the heat off the totally-gone-mainstream hit, “Inténtalo.” Well, at least creatively. The way Tony’s vocals chase the Aztec rave beat while dragging some elements of ruidoson into the ritual speak of an artist ready for his own crown and a steel shield next to his torso. Through comedic hubris and some corrido-striking guts, “Rey de Reyes” is the idolization of the forbidden fruit.

♫♫♫ "Rey de Reyes"

Los Mundos - Los Mundos

Los Mundos, Los Mundos
Independiente, México
Rating: 82
by Jean-Stephane Beriot

“It’s just that I can’t wait to see your face again,” claim Mexico’s newcomers Los Mundos in a climatic state of angst and clouded strings. Their name might be a derived fanatic upshot for Los Planetas, and the album cover of their self-titled debut might have a post-adolescent Little Red Riding Hood on it (well, that or some type of hipster witch, or nu evangelist). Yes, there are already too many maybes up for second-hand conclusions in this review, but really, what is shoegaze more than just a hazy feeling that is also, floating in the mist of pop music, awaiting for the endorsement of a generation of romantics to swell its transcendence to the rest of the pedestrians.

Hailing from the north of Mexico, Los Mundos is almost like a super group. Piyama Party’s Luis Ángel Martínez and En Ventura’s Alejandro “Chivo” Elizondo don’t necessarily make an unlikely pair, but their two-man congregation does make for one remarkably pleasing surprise. We’re talking about a major indie romance here, considering En Ventura grabbed a spot in CF’s top ten albums of the '00s and house favorite Piyama Party, which seems destined to grab a few rankings on the next one. In a healthy year for Mexican rock (the year that holds Telememe, Futura Via, and Meaningmore), the arrival of Los Mundos serves almost like a disenfranchisement of our own knowledge of Mexican rock. For one, because for the first time this year (and in a while), we’re in club-consensus worship of an album that doesn’t carry credits from either Martin Thulin or Mou in its production tags.

From its initial spins, Los Mundos showcases a band that can evoke amorphous feelings in an effortless fashion. Whether in daydream (“No Me Grites”) or midnight doom (“Fuera de Horas”), the band crafts songs that are as noisy as they are gorgeous. Further contemplation of the album also reveals a certain affinity with tragedy themes; taking the shock factor out of them and making them feel habitual in an ultimately deviant world. Among those tragedies, “Ni un segundo sin musica” is like a dark, life-at-2:00 AM prolongation of Odio Paris’ anthem, “Cuando Nadie Pone Un Disco.” With so much confidence and good taste, it comes as an off-putting surprise they decided to self-title this album, (a no-guts, no-glory practice in the title would've been nice).

Los Mundos only suffers from two things. First, the lack of an out-of-this-world single that could’ve been referenced for years to come, and from a slight disjoint in the articulation of the music and the lyrics. There isn’t much to say about something that’s missing (although “Punk Soccer” and “El Sol No Sabe” come pretty close), but, for the other flaw, the band attributes the dislocation of its texts to the fact that this album was made at distance (with Chivo doing the music and Luis providing the vocals and lyrics, both working in different cities). Los Mundos carry their influences with so much charm that pointing them out would come off as obsolete. Impeccably timed and devoid of any fillers, Los Mundos is delightful - a work about the visibility of crescendos in a world of hazy melodies, topped by the duo’s assessment to make every action part of their idiosyncrasy.

nnnaaammm - Bites and Colores

Bites and Colores, nnnaaammm
Jacobino Discos, Chile
Rating: 69
by Carlos Reyes

On his latest multi-lingual and subtitle-defiant motion picture, Film Socialisme, veteran nouvelle vague icon Jean-Luc Godard coats himself in counter-revolution subversion (in full disclosure) to talk about a new freedom of ownership, copyright, and intellectual property. Although not as assaulting or brainwashing in his approach, Chilean experimentalist Pablo Flores (nnaaammm) shares that unorthodox (and rutted) frame composition in Bites and Colores to speak volumes about the infrastructure of computer software as a transitory work in progress and a form of social application.

For those of us who only have the nerdy looks but don’t necessarily bite into the conceptual entity of software and patented algorithms, the nonfigurative premise of Bites and Colores seems more alienating than it actually is. The eight-track album is more confronting than comforting, but having Flores as the cosigner of the journey certainly helps. Even if you’re only trying to understand chain letters or why there are weekly edits to Lana del Rey’s clip of “Videogames,” this album pushes you to contemplate ownership as part of the creative spectrum. After building pedestal blocks of sequencing and allocated space, nnnaaammm explicitly makes note of the unauthorized use of all its integrated samples. Through this courteous (if minimal) disclosure, nnnaaammm goes on to sample sound schemes from Windows’ most infamous operating systems (XP, 95, and Vista), and having authoritative guest lectures by the likes of Bill Gates, Brian Eno, and most captivatingly, the illuminating harangue from software freedom activist, Richard Stallman.

Musically and conceptually, Flores seems to be in a predisposition to bite off more than he can chew. While fascinating in its generational discourse, this is the kind of album that, deliberately or not, puts the authorship of the artist in question. In the track “Piratas y Recetas,” Flores juxtaposes his condition as a sound designer with the creed of data configuration and continuum. In a humorous turn of events, the track (which is more of an interlude rather than a song) tackles the misconception of millennial software add-ons as a form of piracy, “ser pirata es atacar naves…compartir programas o recetas con su progimo es muy bueno.” Other more developed tracks like, “Burning and the Explorer" and "Modem Castle," showcase signs of Flores as a stylist of soundscape amalgam, particularly in the latter song, where the virtual windows are sorted in such a way that the melody lines impersonate the free-reed breath of an accordion. Flores, who also released an EP earlier this year via Michita Rex as Namm, certainly explains the intricate expansion of its moniker. Sure, this is alienating, but as far as Creative Commons-licensed albums go, Bites and Colores is a good piece of channel flow that highlights the hand-to-hand romance between music and software, for once, making it feel tangible.

Chucha Santamaría y Usted - Chucha Santamaría y Usted

Chucha Santamaría y Usted,
Chucha Santamaría y Usted
Young Cubs, Puerto Rico/USA
Rating: 78
by Carlos Reyes

While the faux Latin pop stars contemplate and exploit the fictitious renaissance of the lambada, there’s a new act in town worthy of the arched legs and the tall, chandeliered ballrooms. Puerto Rico’s Sofía Cordova and New York’s Matthew Kirkland have created a nest of up-scale and rule-breaking songs on their self-titled mini LP as Chucha Santamaría y Usted. Based in Oakland and enlisting Disco Tex and The Sex-O Letters as a prime influence, this pair of gleaming musicians (who point to an audiovisual experience at all cost) has a serious talent overseeing rhythmic momentum and nourishing their cadenced possession.

When trying to describe the band on their Facebook profile, the married duo redirects us to a quote from Howard Hawk’s adaptation of Raymon Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep. “She tried to sit on my lap when I was standing up!,” perhaps you need the context of the story to fully appreciate the give-and-take dialogue that’s happening here, but when trying to grasp the highly stylized ecosphere of Chucha Santamaría y Usted, understanding the fundamental and ultra contrasting elements of noir (as a brutal mood rather than a genre) comes in handy. Knockout single “Fiesta Tropical” fulfills the premise of the duo employing dualistic noir haze as if it were part of their negotiating terms to find sonic mantra. The track is happy catchy on the surface and wildly contemplative in the backdrop, just like the tropical fever they so ecstatically warn us about.

Although they sound urban, it would be somewhat of a stretch to say Chucha in the same breath as Santigold or M.I.A. (for one, because there is no anti-establishment or third world commentary here), but if publications abroad need that kind of guidance, well, there you have some. In all the Spanish-language pieces (but especially in "Fanta Fabuloso") the duo is closer to the reverse-shot-reverse pop structures contemplated by bands like Pau y Amigos or even María Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser, bands that, let’s be honest, make some of the most digestible pop on our continent. It’s the quieter (mostly in English) pieces in which Chucha really explores all corners of composition. Particularly in the anthem-striking “Bright Young Light Pt.2,” which unfolds beautifully with its semi-dub, semi-balladry articulation. Chucha Santamaría y Usted is onto something. With both members sharing custody of a love story, the future seems even more promising. For now, they’ve managed to visualize and endure the landing of a butterfly onto a girl’s hair just so the insect could whisper into the girl's ear that everything will be okay. Yes, they’ve made that superfluous thought believable.

Astro - Astro

Astro, Astro
Discos Río Bueno, Chile
Rating: 84
by Carlos Reyes

Crowds of deer running towards the golden sun, armadillos used as cannon ammunition, legged snakes with flashes on their heads, and watermelon tree branches growing out of the human body are only a handful of the fantasy cards that comprise something Astro has come to describe as “La Super Felicidad.” The self-titled, first full-length album by Chilean pop excursionists Astro is a liquefied, never-restraining plate of polyrhythmics. Designers of one of the most universally beloved indie hits to come out of South America in years (“Maestro Distorsión”), Astro is also the protagonist of one of the most divisive young careers in our Iberoamerican pop landscape.

Having the melodically belligerent Le Disc De Astrou under their pair of full-spread wings, the lurching of Astro is just what’s needed for fans and retractors to sort things out. Colossally imaginative on every track and contentiously militant with its resources, Astro is beyond what’s suggested; it’s earnest. It might not be the mind missile-booster that is Bam Bam’s Futura Via, but it’s very similar to the experience of consuming peyote in the way it manages to extend its psychoactive charms straight from the fertile soil and up high to your subconscious. First long-winded single “Ciervos” simulates the spacing, elevation, and movement of a post-industrial world where the variables of a natural environment and a human-built environment are still struggling to find order. And just like that, frontman Andres Nusser and his Astro clan make it really clear that they’ll use every technique they know (even if they turn out excessive) to force you to puke all logical narratives and all your city demons. Only through this kind of cathartic command is the band able to provoke its listeners to make room for new forms of subsistence, and that’s already more stimulating than anything schemed in your outdoor weekend.

Despite the chronic use of repetition and the daring expenditure of the vernacular, Astro is not an easy band to follow. Sure, it’s easy to develop an abrupt fondness to something as the Ruben Blades-would-totally-approve “Colombo,” but in the process of memorizing the lyrics, the ride can turn awkward very easily. This is where Astro’s subjective flaws are most evident, in their unmeasured tendencies to validate pop exuberance with even broader lyrical framework. Thankfully, they got enough tokens in this album to override the uncomfortable margins (and those interludes really help). Where Astro really shines is in the fold of introspection. The way “Manglares” is conceived and carried out is visceral, almost poetic. This track invigorates junks of synth drops and turns them into stirringly unique bites that together make for an inevitable, yet seductive decomposition.

Amongst the many chirpy passages in Astro, one track stands above the rest. The chaotic, cherry-overdosed “Pepa” does something really weird; it presents its synths in angst instead of washing them out. Because of its intensity and its placement nearly at the end of the album, this piece plays like Astro’s last shot to provide themselves with some well-deserved hubris. Many things are set clear in Astro, starting with the acknowledgement of the album as the band’s very first chance at achieving melodic medley (because although it’s hard to single out any song from the lo-fi, passive half of the album, those moments are certainly there, and they are awesome). Astro is multifarious in its arsenal, defeatist at times, but above all, it strikes for grandiosity, and we don’t get a lot of that around these parts.

El Buho - A Guide to the Birds of South America

A Guide to the Birds of South America, El Buho
Rhythm 'N' Roots, Argentina/UK

Rating: 72

by Carlos Reyes

Like most printed navigational maps, the use of commercial study guides as means for academic support and specialty research has not been vanished by electronic tablets, but it has made the itinerary industry less profitable. The distribution of field guides in our present techno world has turned into a peer-to-peer sharing practice that has killed the middleman and used his ashes to flourish the possibilities for a sonic travelogue.

UK-based spacious producer El Buho crafts a world of rainforest techno in his beautifully conceived and well executed debut EP, A Guide to the Birds of South America. “What better place to search for melody than in birdsong?” asks the continent-hopping voyager, and he might be right. Combining blocks of programmable landscapes with bird calls from the Amazon, this five-piece EP proves to be a great accompanying reference to the existing 500-page guide with the same name by Italian American ornithologist, Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee. Chopped and dragged opener “Spix’s Woodcreeper” is profound to the artist’s premise but also reveals a lack of aseptic conditions as El Buho decides to syncopate vocal samples that don’t necessarily take away from the appealing concept, but they do push the efficiency of the guide into a broader survey.

Less intricate in the search for personal language than El Sueño de la Casa Propia or Chancha Via Circuito, El Buho does carry that role of a zoologist, but that doesn’t mean that he is less ambitious. In fact, when it comes to the assortment of root music taking part in a global techno scene (pay special attention to “Pauraque” and “Tropical Screech Owl”), the techniques used by El Buho are more palpable to resonate with a middle-of-the-road audience than with techno buffs. More than a teaching guide about taxonomy or bird call recognition, this guide is all about building melodies inside of a technological environment. A Guide to the Birds of South America is not only a fine exercise of the Amazonian atmosphere, it’s also a fine example of music as a sort of dissertation for El Buho, who for the past year has built his credentials as the sharp and seemingly hidden author of the blog Rhythm ‘N’ Roots.

Featured: Pájaro Sin Alas - "Alfombra Mágica Mental"

You know that feeling when someone has haunted your thoughts and affected your emotions in such a potent manner that inevitably you become dependent on that person in a certain way? It might be vulnerability, but you’ve fallen so hard? It can turn into something cyclic and painful when the other party doesn’t seem to respond, yet with any small manifestation of interest, time stops and idyllic fantasies blur consciousness and reason. Pájaro Sin Alas is the project of Ciudad Juárez’s 18-year-old Rodolfo Ramos Castro, who’s crafting surprising bedroom pop with his computer and some keyboards (think of a mournful María y José). He’s opened his heart and soul with the devastating “Alfombra Mágica Mental,” an extremely personal track whose written lyrics could be read as a poem, revealing the tragic existential crisis the singer is undergoing.

This is a disrupting voyage to an unstable, insecure mind. First thing you’ll notice is you’re magically transported to the desert just as sunset is occurring. Pájaro Sin Alas built “Alfombra Mágica Mental” over Madlib’s “Sitar Ride,” smartly utilizing the sample as the base of the song, constantly repeating it but constructing tension and anxiety as it progresses by adding melancholy and tragedy in strategic moments. “Me elevo gracias a tus alas,” the singer wishes he’d admit to his muse. This quote also directly, and probably unconsciously, makes reference to his artistic name and proves how personal this project is. As Ramos Castro described, “Pájaro Sin Alas symbolizes what I feel.” “Contigo me elevo/contigo me muero/alfombra mágica estar en tus besos,” he sings and reaffirms during the emotive climax, as the psychotic organ accentuates the crooked, yearning psyche of the artist as he envisions the narcotic effect of floating while being under his beloved’s kiss. Pájaro Sin Alas so far only has two tracks available on his SoundCloud, yet he’s already an exciting revelation whose sensitivity is arousing.

♫♫♫ “Alfombra Mágica Mental” | Facebook

Video: Pamela Rodríguez - "Ligera Love"

“It takes me back to so many artists I like that it’s impossible not to surrender to her charms,” says the always spot-on El Amarill0 referring to new Peruvian indie-pop darling, Pamela Rodríguez. She’s got a little of Natalia Lafourcade, bits of Francisca Valenzuela, and seems to be a very close cousin to Ana Laan. A best new artist nominee at the 2006 Latin Grammys (seriously, who knew?), she seems to be on her way to finding the cultural and critical credentials most LARAS members don’t ever aspire to. Folk-inflected pop is greasy enough by itself, but it’s even more dangerous when you add colorful feathery aesthetics to the equation. Being the visual-invertebrate buff that I am, I was ready to hit Safari’s red bubble very early in the oh-so-catchy “Ligera Love.” The flowery setting was expected, but when that synchronized mask hop showed up, well, let’s just say it’s a regression from our quest to find pop progress. Thankfully, director Anais Blondet juxtaposes the sugary sequences with other sexually suggestive shots that are worth the washing machine ride. "Ligera Love" is open for download (in the exchange of an email) and is the first single off Rodríguez's third album, Reconocer.

The Beets - Let The Poison Out

Let The Poison Out, The Beets
Hardly Art, USA
Rating: 79
by Souad-Martin Saoudi

The Beets could easily be described as just another innocent lo-fi act from New York, but this Jackson Heights band of outsiders manages to compose atypical tunes that create an inimitable and infectious slacker rock garage sound and a delirious washed out image. Their loose, laid-back approach has influences as broad as The Ramones (their self-proclaimed idols), The Beach Boys, Queen, Uruguayan cult band Chicos Electricos, and singer songwriter Eduardo Mateo. The band was formed in 2008 but the journey started when Juan Wauters, who emigrated from Uruguay, met José Garcia, who shares both Bolivian and Colombian origins, in art class at LaGuardia Community College. Since then, they have been making reverb and distortion drenched garage pop. Unfortunately, since their first show in May of 2008, The Beets have gone through at least ten different drummers. The release of their third LP demonstrates the band’s incremental improvements and also suggests they have found in Chie Mori the perfect percussive match. The band can also count on the Matthew Volz’s collaboration, who creates all of the cover art and plays the recorder from time to time.

Spit in the Face of People Who Don't Want to Be Cool, their first LP, has baffled more than one listener. Through Wauters' rare nasal melodies, almost screamed gang vocals, and mid-tempo percussions, The Beets have shown how far a lo-fidelity, effortless production can be taken. And as much as it annoyed me not to understand exactly what they were doing, I found myself having the urge to listen to this 30-minute album about "being cool” over and over again; I wanted to feel like I was finally a part of this crazy bunch that stands up in the face of adversity and gives the finger to all the posers and lame fools out there trying so hard to be relevant. Their second album, Stay Home, whose title is an allusion to the Ramones' Leave Home, which had comparably messy psychedelic melodies. Though the sloppy chords and muted vocals felt familiar, songs such as “Watching TV" and "Pops N Me" wisely advise us that it’s sometimes better just to stay home and hang out with the ones we love.

While maintaining the inclination for short and playful songs loaded with heartwarming lyrics, Let the Poison Out, with its occasional overdubbing, has a much clearer, cleaner sound. The title references an illustrious radio moment on Howard Stern’s show. The phrase was uttered by Dave Lampert, dance instructor and creator of the Sybian saddle (an imposing masturbation device) during a demonstration by a famous porn star. Recorded in two days at Marlborough Farms by Gary Olsen of Ladybug Transistor, Let the Poison Out still has a shambolic DIY vibe, yet the indolent chanted lyrics have gained a decipherable quality. Chie Mori's sweet vocals also give the band a new edge. While the not so buoyant opener “You Don’t Want Kids To Be Dead” plays with our conscience and alludes to Sid Vicious and Frankenstein, “Now I live” gives us a much better feeling with its higher tempo. Words like “I’m cloudy, but inside I’m only sun” make the tambourine-inflected “Let Clock Work” an instant sing-along. Wauters’s ability to sincerely depict the ordinary is asserted in “Doing As I Do,” their first single. Kicking off with “don’t be afraid you will not die, and if you die, whatever,” Wauters expresses, with a rather existentialist viewpoint, his thoughts on the meaning of life. The song asserts that in order to survive in this absurd world one must do what one wants and be free because Jesus, God, and Satan don’t really care. The lovesick, metaphorical “I Don’t Know” and accelerated “Friends of Friends,” with their solid chord changes are definite standouts. True to their habits, The Beets' newest LP contains a song in Spanish about being drunk and killing your neighbor entitled "Preso Voy" and the experimental interlude “Eat No Dick 3.” This kind of quartet with lots of attitude reiterate with this third LP their great dedication to making art together.

Some may unwisely peg them as always sounding the same, however, the band’s charm lies precisely in their capacity to draw listeners into their surreal and absurd world. There is a disconcerting authenticity and simplicity about them that perhaps only their live shows can reveal. With a kitschy Native American doll decorating the stage and Volz’s banners proclaiming auto-derisive slogans like “I’d rather watch paint dry,” Wauters, Garcia, and Mori’s evident chemistry and stage presence make these spontaneous performances seem like big dislocated parties where you feel happy you got invited. The whimsical, folksy experiment of Wauters once again captures the feeling of a chemically altered campfire sing-along session on Let the Poison Out, an album “about getting everything out of your system,” being yourself, and being free, which is arguably the best “collection of songs” the Beets have produced yet.

Amor Elefante - Amor Elefante

Amor Elefante, Amor Elefante
Independiente, Argentina
Rating: 76
by Pierre Lestruhaut
There’s not much you can say about a band like Amor Elefante in terms of their background. A quick search will have you confronting a scarcity of information on their social network profiles, a few amateurishly shot live performances from a year ago on YouTube, and a couple of blog interviews where they seem to dismiss the usual boring questions with goofy and ironic answers. Which is why, just like it happens with a lot of stuff we review on CF, we’re left with the impossibility of building a write-up from the detritus of online criticism and blog posts. So, instead, we must figure out our own superlatives and references from whatever it is we were downloading last month.

Amor Elefante is not the type of band that makes this task particularly easy, although upon first listens you can tell that they're the sort of act that effectively assembles guitars, horns, and pop melody in a way that could fall somewhere between Tender Trap without the obvious C86 roots, The Lodger without the bittersweet anxiety issues, Carmen Sandiego without the witty remarks and sonic experimentation, or Aias without the lo-fi aesthetics. In other words, they sound just like most of your favorite recent indie pop acts stripped down to their rawest elements (i.e. sweet pop melodies), holding onto kid aesthetics as a solid groundwork that’s filtered through enough DIY, self-awareness, and playful naive musical sensibilities to the point that we can’t really figure out how much of an inside joke their self-proclaimed Xuxa influence really is, though the feeling most of their songs transmit is that very same whimsical indifference they display in their interviews.

Singing cheerfully along playful melodies about savoring the banality of life (“Hola” is pretty much about being invited to a party, and “Hoy es hermoso” is exactly what its title suggests it is), yet sounding even more joyful when they let cheery horns and wordless hooks attract all of the attention (“Fue Perfecta” and “Merienda Mucho”), while also being able to display a more passive approach to their songwriting as seen through their couple of piano pop ballads (“Desayuno un poco” and “Dejémoslo”). The album really makes a case for most lighthearted record of 2011, mainly because Amor Elefante have decided to simply shoo away all wistfulness and apprehension Stuart Murdoch might have ever given to indie pop, instead going for a very straightforward twee record that will make you love all the mundanities of life just as much as you love good infectious pop melodies.

Rebolledo - Super Vato

Super Vato, Rebolledo
Cómeme, México
Rating: 89
by Andrew Casillas

Somewhere out there is a room that’s darker than anything in Entertainment 720’s color palette, where aged whiskey and justifiably-priced champagne flow like lava. Where lights exist for the sole purpose of looking cool. A place where shiny shirts are banned in favor of comfortable, tucked-in button downs, and where nothing matters except how deliberately outmoded your hairstyle is. This is the coolest room in the world. And, right now, Super Vato is spinning on the P.A. in an endless loop.

The debut full-length from Xalapa, Mexico’s own Mauricio Rebolledo is a confident, irreverent, and fundamentally funky slice of new world techno. While other producers are equating “progression” with “throwing extra shit on top of my old shit,” Rebolledo, a former industrial designer, is finding reasons to fit disco, funk, synth-wave, rock and roll, and street festival cacophony into the same space. Rebolledo’s approach sacrifices the “globalism via multiplicity” that his mentor, Matías Aguayo, rode to success with 2009’s Ay Ay Ay, instead going for a thematic, more emotive approach. Think more “epic film score” than “battle of the bands.”

Not that Super Vato (which is, quite honestly, the most bad ass album title of the year) isn’t assertive. The album seemingly begins while it's already in progress with the woozy and buoyant “Canivalen.” Amidst its fat percussion, minimal keyboard notes, and boogie sound effects, the track doesn’t seem to go further than having Rebolledo coo about “Antonio’s dance party.” But as the track plays out over the course of five minutes, the beat builds and builds, the pitch of the bass and additional FX gliding in and out of consciousness until there’s no recourse but death. And it ends. So goes Super Vato at its best, where a seemingly endless sound gradually changes until its organic flip into mayhem and raw energy. Hear “Steady Gear Rod Maschine” transition from ice cold synth muzak to high tempo dance floor banger to a syncopated, almost-militant denouement in under six minutes and how “La Pena” blends horror film suspense with hypnotic proto-reggaetón, seemingly under cover of night. “Super Vatos” lifts the organ from Phantom of the Opera with disco beats. The reason? Because Rebolledo fucking can.

If there’s a flaw to Super Vato, it’s the lack of a breakout or out-of-this-world track. Nothing on the level of “A Paw in My Face” or “Love Cry” or “Hyph Mngo” or other recent tracks to escape the beatz ghetto. The closest that Super Vato gets to an ace go-to track is “Corvette Ninja,” which is indeed a highlight amongst highlights. But its “Miami Vice Theme­-but-with-balls!” motif isn’t going to set the world on fire. Regardless, the only argument against this record is “why isn’t it more awesome?” Whether you’ve heard enough techno to get excited about Superpitcher cameos or how this stacks up with the Sepulcure LP, or just want something that sounds good out of your car stereo, there’s certainly nothing on the techno scene quite as funky or cool as Super Vato. And there’s very little out there that’s as good. In any genre.