Video: Babasónicos - "Tormento"

How Babasónicos has been able to keep it cool for over 20 years (with virtually no creative flops) is something almost inexplicable and remarkable. Just last year, the legendary band was one of the few experienced acts to attain critical success in an Iberoamerican pop scene that's mostly packed with young blood. In an album where potential hit singles are omnipresent, it doesn't come as a surprise to see the A Propósito's compositional womb getting the promo spotlight. In this golden, ornate clip for "Tormento," the band goes historical and futuristic, in the best of the Babasónicos aesthetic. Clip directors Sole Calvano and Anibal Santangelo juxtaposed the verbal proximity between "tormenta" (storm) and "tormento" (torment) and came up with a foil-wrapped, platform-hoping depiction of a new kingdom. It's also great to see Adrián Dárgelos owning up to the mythological shepherd/hero image he has cultivated all these years. That is, of course, if you can focus your attention away from that belly button.

Karakoram-Mekong - Mekong

Mekong, Karakoram-Mekong
Independiente, Chile
Rating: 77
by Pierre Lestruhaut

Sometimes it just seems that everyone on the Internet likes Astro. Seriously. It's understandable when tracks like “Maestro Distorsión” or “Ciervos” have all the pop exuberance and irresistible hooks that you’d expect from an immediately striking and spin-all-you-can hit single that easily spreads among young listeners. And, last year, Astro just couldn’t stop dropping those kind of tracks, the ones that have all the melodic urgency of a one-hit wonder or an underground pop gem like Phedre’s recent “In Decay,” while also displaying enough extroversion for arena rawk grandeur and showing off lots of muscle to fill in their sophomore effort with great deep cuts and compelling hooks everywhere.

Which is why it’s hard to situate this thing—frontman Andrés Nusser’s new solo project intriguingly named after an Asian river and a mountain—alongside Astro’s two previous releases, just as it was hard and frustrating enough for music writers to find any rightful and satisfying link between “Maestro Distorsión” and “Ciervos.” Mekong is, like Astro, unabashedly catchy, exulting, and lyrically naive, but just as it gleefully surrenders to pop music’s leaning toward providing instant pleasure, it also eludes its very own classifications such as “chorus” and “bridge.” Like Furland’s “Faladó Falá,” it happens to do an admirable work at blending electronic and folk while making it all sound so natural and effortless, with Nusser dropping layer upon layer of sound and somehow finding room to fit intimate acoustic guitar progressions alongside Kevin Barnes’ style pitch-shifting vocals and all of the technological psych swirl of an Animal Collective track.

Karakoram-Mekong is certainly not likely to disappoint any Astro fans (or at least any Astro fans), since it’s here giving us four considerably well crafted songs that would have been a very interesting starting point for an eventually well accomplished Astro follow-up. Even though musicians alternating between solo projects and regular band releases is very common practice these days, some people might initially be scratching their heads at the idea of this solo project and its less-than-fussy release. Yet, we would guess Andrés Nusser just seems to be the kind of person that’s not able to fulfill all of his creative ambitions by simply playing in one band. I would even go as far as saying that Mekong is the most inventive work Nusser has been involved in so far. Perhaps it’s not long enough to be as accomplished as Astro, but it certainly does a good job of summarizing everything his band has done well so far, and hopefully points the way for his band's future.

♫♫♫ "Mekong" | Download EP

MP3: Esponja - "Fucking Pony"

Mama Vynilia Records started the year on a high note with that impressive Telephone Rouges vs. Piñata 7’’ split, which encouraged us to dig through some of its obscure-yet-stirring catalogue. The tiny Barcelona-based print released Esponja’s HyperVigil late last year (late enough to be dragged into this year) and, although a quick spin revealed it’s an album that’s too thematically all over the place for its own good, it did, however, reach melodious grandiosity at least once in the instrumentally soaring and emotionally towering “Fucking Pony.” Believers of the post-Loveless order of society (compensating music and vocals at the same frequency/distortion) and classmates of nimble hazy rockers Odio París and Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, this Barcelona trio made a flawless, oddly-titled track that skips all the shoegazing souvenirs to inroad to firmament proportions. Great artwork also.

MP3: Leidi Li - "Maté a mi novio"

After singing about sex, love and rumba, the lies of politicians, and the female obsession with physical beauty, Bomba Estereo songstress Liliana Saumet gets her hands dirty with a new track on murder. Under the name of Leidi Li, Saumet takes the warm voice-controversial lyrics combination to the next level. Through a trip hop, downtempo beat, produced by no other than Saumet’s sweetheart (Pedro D’Alessandro under his own alter-ego, AOIM), Leidi Li coolly describes by what means she proceeded to heartlessly murder, chop up, and bury her fiancé. “Maté a mi novio” explores manslaughter through graphic rhymes, punctuating the track with soothing water sounds; this juxtaposition creates a weird, comforting, yet chill vibe. Dedicating the song to all the bored girls - las chicas que estan aburridas - Saumet cleverly plays the doppelgänger card and leaves us all remorseless for the fallen evil twin.

Juan Cirerol - Haciendo Leña

Haciendo Leña, Juan Cirerol
Intolerancia / Vale Vergas Discos, Mexico
Rating: 78
by Jean-Stephane Beriot

“A storyteller, a romantic, and a stylist of the popular song,” wrote Carlos Reyes about Juan Cirerol when introducing that masterpiece-by-a-débutant named Ofrenda al Mictlan. As dramatic and divisive as the music of Cirerol is, I think we all can agree he’s the definition of an endearing success story – one in which you can’t help but to be emotionally invested. In little over a year, the Mexicali hero went from a roaring tiny venue performer to becoming one of this year’s biggest attractions at Vive Latino.

Dynamic vocals, mad guitar skills, and a cordial understanding of the vernacular don’t even start to describe the artistry of Cirerol, whose folk faculty and generation timing constitute for a career that is as much about philosophy as it is about pop culture. If his debut was a set of one-man symphonized offerings to Mictlan (the underworld of Aztec mythology), Haciendo Leña is the subsequent campfire that summons a man’s carnal disposition with his surrounding chaos. The music of Juan Cirerol has surpassed all notions of novelty and vanity, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped appraising methods for artistic arrival. Most decisions made on the album work, while a few sit in grey areas between auteur modesty and melodic banality. In the album’s opener “Hey Soledad,” we find Cirerol giving a name and physicality to an emptiness in the heart. Soledad refers to that loneliness that accompanies, in this case, the lingering feeling that has followed a border musician into his new residential metropolis (Mexico City).

Another huge peak is "Se Vale Soñar," (reminiscent of Juan Luis Guerra's "Ojala Que Llueva Café") which paints a criminal landscape where Cirerol prays for a rain of perico (cocaine) and for rivers of cerveza. Where the singer falls a bit short to envelop is in the lighter, heart-on-his-sleeve moments (“Mi Corazon Lloró” and “Mi Amor Acabará” in particular), where the chords and lyrics lose their incisive histrionics and are substituted by a widespread of the broken heart. As far as composition goes, Haciendo Leña displays fondness to certain genre niches not easily spotted on Cirerol’s debut. Highlight tracks, like the narcotic “Corrido de Roberto” and the whimsical-arriving-at-bluegrass “Canción al Ocio,” unpeel a punk essence in an artist that once recorded drums for Monterrey’s dismantled punk cult band, Mama Burger (Nene Records).

Despite the punk resurgence, Haciendo Leña is a record that was (perhaps mistakenly) preoccupied with a glossy production (the same way The Tallest Man On Earth only reaches the outstanding with low-key demos and live performance). The transition from a resourceful DIY session into a proper recording drowned some of the effervescence and charm (yes, I miss the guitar’s quasi wall of sound, the accidental drunken burping, and the unprompted howling). Still, Cirerol’s contribution to music this year is remarkable. Somehow, it seems that the expansion of Mexican folklore to the cool kids of the world is no longer exclusive to Café Tacvba, but has found a new blessed emissary (with an increasing cult following), that as title of the album claims, is kicking ass.

Video + MP3: Foeme - "No Tan Terrible"

Now, this is a band that knows how to twist and rejoice the indie clichés and hipster totem. Foeme is a five-piece band from Mexico City whose identity and sonic premise is given through their introducing motto “Somos Una Banda de Rock.” It’s exactly this unfussy, bare-to-the-eye and bare-to-the-ear approach that screams sincere and earnest. Clip director Kiko Morah has captured the band’s all-around charm assembling a video fanzine for Foeme’s standout track, “No Tan Terrible.” The footage has a nice This Is It warmth to it and illustrates the band as one that could easily hang out with Los Romanticos de Zacatecas and Real Estate. It had been a while since a video featuring a deer head and sketching won me over this easily. On top of delivering great harmony, these kids also dress really nice and have the most awesome band website. Not terrible at all.

Video: El Orgullo de Mamá - "Alfajorcito"

Como Asesinar Felipes and El Sueño de la Casa Propia have a serious challenger to take the prize for the coolest band name in South America. El Orgullo de Mamá (remember that song from Hombres G?) is an unabashedly weird new act that’s been earning plenty of word-of-mouth buzz lately. “We are Agus and Fran. We’ve been long-time friends and this year we made a rap band,” states the press kit. The fact that they call themselves a rap band pretty much outlines a case that blurs the lines between leisure and gimmick (if you're thinking Flight of the Concords, you're on the right track). But, don’t worry, these guys are plenty of fun (douchebags who can't rhyme, but fun nonetheless). Their first single, “Alfajorcito,” is like an overdose of saccharine desserts and sounds like a track out of the Plastilina Mosh and Pipe Llorens repertoires. We can’t tell how much pride their mothers feel for them, but they've got some serious child-actor confidence. And, now, two questions: First, would you date them? Second, is this the first track to ever reference Taringa?”

Video: Banda De Turistas - "Cada Día"

It might be disingenuous to categorize Banda De Turistas by U.S. groups they relate to (i.e. the Southern Cone Strokes*), but it would be criminal if I neglected to acknowledge their exaggerated appropriation of UK pop, a staple in the decades-old musical diet of Argentines. In “Cada Día,” the group is stripped of their Sgt. Pepper uniforms and left with casual street wear. While their outfits reek of '90s nonchalance, director Alaviu (Martin Bordini**) exerts a surplus of intellectual and skilled labor with new media technology in the likes and on the levels of Radiohead’s “House of Cards.” Similar to the data-mashed “El Rogadero,” the group willfully serves as a guinea pig for a new media experiment, in which color warmth—of photographic faces and bodies—is transformed into a gridded curtain of light-signifying points. In turn, the light points are given their own life as time-enacted, ambisonic sine waves (a total abstract breakdown of a Gestaltian whole). Don’t worry if you can’t make out their faces, I’ve seen them live, and they are gorgeous***.

* I couldn’t resist…Buenos Aires Beatles. Burger Record Rock Cannibals!
** I should recognize and send much love to the fellow new media collaborators: R3nder, Alex Dogrush, Salome, Valeria Laura, Estado Lateral, and the MCCWN community.

Video: Installed - "Brochacho"

One of last year’s biggest revelations was Chicano Fernando Álvarez’s enveloping project, Installed. This week, the astonishing follow-up to the emotively quaint Plancha, Paisajes de Invierno, was released through netlabel Grabaciones Amor. Based on Installed’s first official video and EP’s witty lead single “Brochacho,” we can add him without hesitating to the list of artists like María y José or Rebolledo that naturally exude swag. Armed with a classic Death to the Pixies t-shirt, a “THE MAN!” sign, and some epileptic badass moves, Álvarez humorously sings about those youngsters (well, brochachos) pissed off about nothing, keen on absurd art (“hay que comprar focos en la tienda para quebrarlos”), and whose subsistence plan doesn’t imply getting a job (“quiero ser rico pero no quiero trabajar”). In a minute and a half he succeeds with an entertaining, simple clip for this kick ass track. Oh, and I would also totally love if my caguamas were served by a guy in a suit and in such a fashionable way. Makes it look expensive. After all, Installed is The Man.

☯☯☯☯☯ FESTIVAL NRMAL — Lineup 2012 ☯☯☯☯☯

MP3: Los Embajadores - "Peso"

Danae Morales has a voice that naturally lends itself to fragile, urgent pop ballads. Her heartbreaking performance in the brilliant “El sol” by Niños del Peru illustrated emotional defeat while advancing a loose narrative on two compilations concerned with “ the end.” The end of an era on Los Herederos (the final Fonogramáticos) and the end of the world on Michita Rex’s Música para el fin del mundo.

“Peso,” the first proper single from Los Embajadores, shows Morales channeling the same fragility that marked “El sol” but with a newfound strength thanks to the aid of some beautiful and focused production from other band members, including Cristóbal Gajardo of Voz de Hombre. This is a song that confronts the weight of the world with serious restraint, then progresses into a celestial time-lapse. Pure joy. Los Embajadores will soon release Faisanes, their debut LP, and “Peso” has quickly converted it into one of the most anticipated records for 2012.

Andrea Balency Trío - "Lover"

Andrea Balency’s race to stardom seems unstoppable. “Lover,” the second single (and last one with her band before going solo) from her forthcoming EP under the same title, makes it evidently imminent. Following the gorgeous “El Desorden,” and as classy as we’d expect from the ensemble, “Lover” is a crestfallen chamber pop track, which encounters the leader’s melancholic heights-reaching singing manner in one of her very best performances. Like a spy film, the initial guitar base suggests mystery, which is quickly suppressed as the other instruments–piano, accordion and Balency’s blissful voice–fall effortlessly into place and draw nostalgia as the song potently progresses into an emotional ride where tears might be shed and susceptibilities may be affected. Andrea Balency Trío, which lamentably will dismantle after this release, already possess a characteristic sound of their own and, based on the two tracks released so far, Lover EP appears to be the work where they’ve fully polished without venturing into eccentricity or unnecessary experimentation, simply with a lot of class.

MP3: Carrie - "Boats" (feat. killyourcat)

It’s been four years since the release of Carrie’s superb 1981. As we waited for a follow up, Guadalajara’s melodically refined Laura B. has announced the unforeseen departure of this project. But it’s not all bad news. She promises to come back stronger than ever with a new project and is giving the Carrie era a soothing closer with one last single. “Boats,” unlike most of Carrie’s shy-at-heart singles is significantly plainspoken. The quiet vocals are still echoing from the artist’s fountain of naïve pop, but, lyric-wise, she has grown in temperament. As she sings “I don’t care about boats, I don’t care about cities… not anymore,” you can tell Laura B. has scattered Carrie’s ashes into far-reaching emotional waters. Boats’ instrumental B-side, “Pendulum,” plays as a cleansing encore of the remains. Grab the single + its b-side HERE.

♫♫♫ "Boats"

MP3: Mañaneros - "Baby Tropical"

When Mañaneros’ grandiloquent hit “El Volcán” came our way, I think we all cringed a bit. Here we had an out-of-nowhere band that was so loud and so monstrously into themselves that they had us saying, “Jeez! Chileans are also freakishly great at tribal.” In a weird way, “El Volcán” officially took Chile’s indie from an all-the-family pop scene into a prospecting and more diversified field. The four-piece act is prepping the release of their first EP, Levantate y Come, and has unveiled another badass single that intermingles tribal dub with merengue and polka. “Baby Tropical” is a subsequent home run for Mañaneros, who score another hit devoid of any templates, instead surveying as many platforms as Edgar Wright in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. “Baby Tropical” is like the meeting of Proyecto Uno and Das Racist, so blissfully satanical and so celebratory of the morning erections.

MP3: I.E. - "Smartphone"

With great pleasure, Club Fonograma introduces the Angeleno techno-chola, I.E. Margot Padilla might already be known for her crude humored homage to “Party in the U.S.A” in “Party in the 909,” a (brown) Skins-like weekend bender with the super vatos of the Inland Empire. After expatriating to the Los Angeles punk scene, Padilla has quickly established herself as the female counterpart to Captain Ahab. This is a fitting match when considering the sugar high that is “Smartphone,” off of Choose Your Own Adventure and released on Deathbomb Arc Records.

Happy to be Hardcore, “Smartphone” plays like a Mario Kart 64 marathon on Rainbow Road, colored in with gabber, IDM, and general techno. Her J/K pop infatuation explains her blissful autotune chorus, “You can look at me if you feel alone/ if you’re feelin shy or paranoid/ I love you I’m your android.” The song plays on the techno-mysticism of our time. It misdirects the listener to infer that android relates to a new transhumanism (or a entirely social life online), but instead photoshops together a new anthropomorphic and angelic companion, your 4G smartphone! As Dan Deacon says, “Enjoy your future while it lasts.”

♫♫♫ “Smartphone” | Facebook

MP3: Tony Gallardo II - "Líder Juvenil"

Ruidosón emperor María y José, responsible of our most anticipated album of 2012, has a new project under the artistic name Tony Gallardo II. Through social networks, he openly expressed his adoration for two of the best records of last year, Rebeldes (Alex Anwandter) and Super Vato (Rebolledo), and warned that both were the primary inspiration for this side project. Under this context, “Líder Juvenil,” the first single from his upcoming, self-released EP Líder Juvenil as Tony Gallardo II, is definitely the culmination of his obsession with those two albums and a departure–but not a drastic one– from his trademark María y José sound. Packed with Rebolledo-esque refined techno nuanced with Christian Heyne-like disco strings production and Gallardo’s distinct vocals, the not exactly optimistic, yet funky and hilarious “Líder Juvenil” is another delicious slice of genius from the extensively creative mind of Tony Gallardo.

♫♫♫ "Líder Juvenil"

Mujercitas Terror - Excavaciones

Earlier this month we wrote about an editorial guilt for not giving Félix y Los Clavos’ Continuara the amount of attention it deserved. Well, there’s another superb Argentinean album out there that we simply failed to come across. Mujercitas Terror’s Excavaciones is so good that we just can’t keep on posting 2012 material without at least winking at it through this tiny blurb. Excavaciones is, like the title suggests, a down-to-the-bone excavation to gnarled sensibilities and wounded shoegaze. How we’ve failed to acknowledge this band for years is a bit discomforting but it’s also stimulating to know there’s so much industrial music out there we still need to hunt for. The good news is we’ll get a chance to redeem ourselves soon as Mujercitas Terror will share a 7’’ split with the great Mueran Humanos, and they’ll be doing it that through Vale Vergas Discos (Juan Cirerol, Mentira Mentira). The scene as we know it is bound to strip off its couture and go darker, hopefully for the better.

♫♫♫ "Excavaciones"

Treli Feli Repi - Massacre EP

Massacre EP, Treli Feli Repi
Transufão Noise Records, Brazil

Rating: 71

by Pierre Lestruhaut

You wouldn’t think that extremely short releases of a few under-2-minute scuzzy lo-fi numbers sung in a language none of us really understand would be motivation enough to write a whole review, yet what the kids from Brazilian label Transfusão Noise Records have been doing with the awkward form is riveting enough to have another CF writer excited about discussing it. A few months after Babe Florida’s ten-minute, 14-people-involved EP, Treli Feli Repi comes out as a more personal enterprise (the increasingly common one-man rock band), with Lê Almeida himself taking on all vocal, instrumental, and songwriting duties.

Because of this EP’s striking similarities, in form and references, to Babe Florida’s debut EP, I could have probably gotten away with just paraphrasing everything Carlos said in his review of Depois Eu Te Explico Melhor about the use of track timing as a narrative tool for short lived experiences, that judging by the album description and song titles, are apparently related to women (“Muitas Garotas,” “Laura”), death (“Cardiopatia,” “23 Suicidio”), and alcohol (?).

But, as much as I like both EPs for their strict adherence to a seemingly unpolished and unusual M.O., the guy's lack of interest in long-form composition makes it hard to like it specifically for this concept. Which is why, as obvious as it may seem to drop a Guided by Voices reference right when their “classic lineup” releases a new record, this is an album that’s held together by the charm of the individual riff, the killer chorus, or even the 30-second fuzzy outro - all the elements and loose ideas spread around the EP that have you constantly coming back to it for the same reason die-hard GBV fans keep randomly coming back to individual tracks in any of their “classic” records.

This is not the kind of album you need to go to if you’re looking for a satisfying front-to-back listening experience or a well thought out concept record, or even the occasional two or three hit singles you’ll be playing on repeat. But, despite the album’s general lack of focus and development, you might just find yourself interrupting your daily activities to rediscover that melody you were humming all day, or that riff you couldn’t get out of your head. Even if it’s only for a minute and a half.

Video: Los Ginkas - “GIN-kanarama-Gabba-rama-MaNIA!!!”

Even if you’ve been living under a rock and feel like you don’t belong to an Internet community, chances are you are still intrigued by today’s all-across blackout regarding SOPA and PIPA. This is something that will affect everything, from your visually discreet homepage to your crowded digital suburbs. Instead of joining the blackout today, Club Fonograma has opted to make a brief case on the kind of material that would be deeply hurt by a legislature that threatens creativity, innovation, and a generation’s welfare. A few days ago, Spanish gum pop revivalists Los Ginkas released a perfectly-synced collage clip for their new track “GIN-kanarama-Gabba-rama-MaNIA!!!,” an ode to B-movies and the gimmicks of William Castle, is an obvious multi offender of service terms, but one that still sustains intellectual composition in beautiful ways. To legally persecute something like this means to persecute our understanding of pop culture. But this isn’t even a worst-case scenario. It’s the too wide-ranging and vague language of the bill that we should be worrying about. The ideas of massive censorship, corporate abuse, and the punishing of individuals and global domains for human-celebratory leisure simply goes against our sacred “Internet Is Ours” living model.

Telephones Rouges vs. Piñata - Max Split

Max Split, Telephones Rouges vs. Piñata
Mama Vynila Records, Spain

Rating: 75

by Carlos Reyes

As pop music writers, we should strike for broadcast vigilance. That is, to involve oneself beyond what’s presented. For better or for worst, those of us putting it in practice have become more seduced by structures, print commissions, and formats than by the actual songs that comprise unorthodox releases. And that’s okay. Sometimes songs are only suggestive paradigms of a larger cause. Shared artistic references carry a need for deeper assessment, especially when printed on something as amorous as a split vinyl.

Following the recent wax smackdowns of Kana Kapila vs. Los Claveles and Manos de Topo vs. Tarantula, two of Spain’s hottest emerging bands have co-signed on a split album that should rise above and beyond its novelty significance. Cacophonous divers Telephones Rouges and tropical punkers Piñata have come together not for the sole reason of splitting the costs of an album, but to share guardianship of a tiny scene, a label (Mama Vynila Records), and a band-to-band bromance. Through the premise of this release one could presuppose these are two bands hailing from the same tree, but it’s this same medium that allows both groups to grasp for identity and biosphere bonding.

Within a couple of spins of Max Split it’s easy to understand the success of this relationship. On one side, we have a band that strikes to be cerebral, even if swimming under nocturnal depth. On the other, there is a band that points to propulsion at any cause. Telephones Rouges is aptly smoky in the industrial punk opener “Gute Krankenheit” and then makes smart use of space by flipping the coin in the seemingly mournful, yet all-colorful “Ei Meu.” Piñata’s side (produced by Telephones Rouges’ Matias Unruh) is equally striving, sounding more teen-spirited than usual in a proper recording of rising hit “Tambourine” and the incredibly catchy “Cadillac.” In a weird way, Max Split is the venerated progression from a split gig to a split album. Beyond its well-crafted, catchy songs, this is a vinyl that breathes brotherhood and potential.

Video + MP3: quieroStar & Mamacita - "Destrucción total"

Multiple changes of exquisite wardrobe (from goth glam to elegant aristocrat), stellar projections of space, and an overall aura of darkness (take a look at those sexy-creepy shots of Mamacita and Sofía Oportot glamorously dressed in black) take place in quieroStar's video for “Destrucción total,” which features compatriot and sensational progressive pop diva Mamacita as a vocal guest. Kitschy as it comes and sensually defiant, “Destrucción total” is a highly infectious, bubbling synth-fueled track. Mamacita's vocoded entrance sets a weird tone (Mamacita vocoded?), subtly embellished by Oportot's serene performance. Meanwhile, the sticky chorus merges their voices and transforms this track into something truly great -dramatic electropop that invites you to the dance floor and confidently intones “sólo te pido que no me dejes de amar.” While we're still waiting quieroStar's Lo Haré Público, “Destrucción total” has got us craving for even more. Mamacita, on the other hand, recently shared the 7'' split Humedad/Sentir Amor with Chilean friends Makaroni, via Ku De Ta.

Video: Pedropiedra - “En Esta Mansión”

When CF writer Pierre Lestruhaut wrote about Pedropiedra’s sophomore record, Cripta y Vida, as a departure from his debut’s comedic hubris, he also did a fine job highlighting what have since become the album’s singles. Lestruhaut described third single “En Esta Mansión” as a track that “delves into that old human incongruity through which wealth and boredom are often strongly related to each other.” The idolization of wealth as means of contentment by the working class has been a recurrent thematic source for Pedropiedra, whose involvement in Sebastian Silva’s La Nana might have added to the craftsmanship of psychotic characters that linger between tragedy and absurdity. When Pedropiedra wonders if boredom is a feeling (or state of mind) derived from foolishness, he turns to clip director Pedro Vial and a varied army of wildlife figurines, only to find out he’s been self-absorbed and self-resolved all along.

El Guincho feat. Javiera Mena - "Novias"

During the weekend, our inbox flooded with emails from readers asking about an out-of-nowhere collaboration between house favorites El Guincho and Javiera Mena. Apparently the track received a quiet run on Mexican FM airplay last week. The pairing of these pop virtuosos shouted historic (both artists have had #1 albums with us) and, although we were hoping for a new track made from scratch (to prevent all aural and sentimental attachment), this is still material worthy of some excitement. This collaboration comes just in time for Mena's planned U.S. tour and El Guincho's current visit across Latin America. Well, to be fair, we could hardly call this a collaboration because its tags should read more on the lines of, "the Javiera Mena Remix."

This new edit of Pop Negro’s catchy as hell “Novias” (premiered by Spain’s Esta Pasando!) is a bit misplaced: it's spotty in its production, conservative on every turn (for a rework), and perhaps even unnecessary. But it does push the right buttons when expanding its percussion lines into an interestingly dense, boy meets girl narrative. The jumpy, almost uncomfortable vocals by Mena make this version seem more like a b-side out of Piratas de Sudamerica than something from the almost flamboyant Pop Negro. Yes, this is forgettable and middling at best, considering we're talking about indie royalty, but El Guincho doesn’t collaborate too often, and we’re glad he’s chosen ladies like Julieta Venegas (“Mientes”) and Javiera Mena for his intercontinental affairs.

Video: Félix y Los Clavos - "Babel"

It might be a case of editorial guilt or the fact that it’s a pretty darn good album, but lately I’ve been spinning Felix y Los Clavos’ Continuará with the kind of dedication that any under-the-radar marvel deserves. When describing the outstanding single “Sensacional,” we claimed the Argentine act had “surpassed narrative curiosity and climbed all the way up to the melodic skyscraper.” The same could be said by the equally stunning “Babel” or any other song on the album – they crafted a conceptual album like very few could last year. But enough said about the negligence, the album has all its ligaments in place to transcend on its own. On a recent visit to Chile, the band stopped by the infamous Radio Horizonte (Chile’s ultimate indie broadcast) and recorded Tras la montaña, an electronic-inclined set featuring Continuará’s biggest highlights. This clip documents the live recording of “Babel” in a blown-up version that is even better than the original.

MP3: ...Al Cruzar la Calle - "Romanticismo Ultravioleta"

Venezuelan indie darling Linda Sjöquist (…Al Cruzar la Calle) made quite an impression on all of us with 2011’s miniature-turned-colossal track, “Asuntos Internos.” The rising singer seems determined to translate momentum into a new year that seems especially promising for a line of featherweight troubadour ladies that includes Argentina’s Lucila Ines and Dominican Republic duo Las Acevedo. Unlike the giant, all-consuming poltergeist hidden in her hit, the new single, “Romanticismo Ultravioleta,” is a see-through manifesto where demagogy drives artistic populism and the virtuosity of an entire generation is put into question. “Soy tan facil de amar y tan facil de olvidar,” she sings. We strongly disagree with the latter. Romanticismo Ultravioleta (a two-sided release with her two published singles) is the latest reference from Maracaibo’s recently emerged label Entorno Domestico, where Al Cruzar la Calle shares a home with fellow Venezuelan acts Jan Pawel, TLX, and Ulises Hadjis.

Video: Dani Umpi feat. Marabish - "3 Pasos"

Uruguayan polyrhythmic maniac Dani Umpi is celebrating the release of his first proper reference the only way he knows how to: contemplating (and eventually exploiting) pop as a fetish. Countdown pop numbers are always fun, and although Umpi’s clip for first single “3 Pasos” is decoded in a simple one-two-three bracket, it gives Beyonce’s “Countdown” a run for its money as far as stylistic narratives go. Brand sneakers, soccer jerseys, and cool haircuts outline a street transaction led by the singer who seems to have visited Yo Gabba Gabba! (or the Derbez sitcom) right before paying his gangster duties. Novel director Luciano Demarco is the sober-yet-fearless accomplice someone like Dani Umpi needed to transpose his eccentric proposals. The chronic use of polivision (the neglected tool of the aughts) here is quite intriguing, mainly as it’s used as a prime meridian rather than a time partition. “3 Pasos” is the first single off Umpi’s Mormazo, which is severely weird on every track and features guest appearances by Fito Paez, Lido Pimienta, and Wendy Sulca.

Lila Downs - Pecados y Milagros

Pecados y Milagros, Lila Downs
Columbia, USA/Mexico
Rating: 70
by Andrew Casillas

Lila Downs might be the most underrated Latin musician of this young century. Since 2000’s Tree of Life (Yuyu Tata) she has evolved album-by-album-by-album, gaining confidence and fine-tuning her command over various pop styles. This culminated in the borderline-masterful 2008 album Shake Away, one of the highest-rated records from the early days of Club Fonograma (that review features a reference to MySpace, no less!).

So anticipation was high that the follow-up, Pecados y Milagros, would continue this ace winning streak. However, anyone with hopes that this would serve as Downs’ masterpiece will be left disappointed. Pecados y Milagros is as nuanced and eclectic as any of her previous albums, but leaves her trademark sense of vibrancy at the door. Not that the record lacks quality tunes. The opening 1-2 punch of “Mezcalito” and “Tu Cárcel” definitely fit into the peak Lila Downs oeuvre. The former is a punchy Mexican romp (as evidenced by the title), while the latter is the sort of tender ballad someone like Downs could do in her sleep. Goddamn is it captivating.

But from there the album never really clicks. Downs continues the global music sample sale she came close to defining in Shake Away, but the resulting pastiches don’t capture the spirit of the original genres or their interpreter. Something like “Zapata se Queda,” her tribute to Celso Piña-style cumbia (which includes a cameo from the man himself) doesn’t get off the ground after the first 10 seconds, languishing in the middle of the road. Her '80s pop kick, “Solamente un Día,” suffers from schizophrenic production (either play up the electric drums or the bachata rhythms, but not both), even though Downs turns in a pretty solid vocal.

Indeed, Downs herself is still on her game. She gives 100% to every song, but the songs just don’t give back. Her vigor alone saves many of the tracks and helps shine substantial light on the record’s other solid songs, such as the shimmying “Palomo del Comalito” and the passionate “Cruz de Olvido.” Perhaps a letdown was inevitable after sustaining such previous highs. And it’s not a crime for a musician to make a record that’s not as good as their previous record (unless you’re The Strokes). Besides, Pecados y Milagros isn’t a BAD record—but it’s definitely underwhelming. The problem is, underwhelming isn’t a word you would have ever thought of ascribing to a talent as vivid as Lila Downs.

Club Fonograma's Best Films of 2011

01 Jodái-e Náder az Simin (Asghar Farhadi)
02 The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
03 Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
04 Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
05 Nostalgia de la Luz (Patricio Guzmán)
06 Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan)
07 Morrer Como Um Homem (João Pedro Rodrigues)
08 Tomboy (Céline Sciamma)
09 Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)
10 Copie Conforme (Abbas Kiarostami)

11 Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz)
12 Las Marimbas del Infierno (Julio Hernández Cordón)
13 La Vida Útil (Federico Veiroj)
14 Kyatapirâ (Kōji Wakamatsu)
15 Las Acacias (Pablo Giorgelli)
16 El Sicario Room 168 (Gianfranco Rosi)
17 Octubre (Daniel Vega Vidal & Diego Vega Vidal)
18 Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
19 Presunto Culpable (Roberto Hernández)
20 The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (Göran Olsson)

Album Reviews

★★★ Natalia Lafourcade - Mujer Divina
★★★ Los Románticos de Zacatecas- Ya lo dijo Rufis Taylor
★★★ Los Claveles - Mesetario
★★★1/2 Selma Oxor - User 69
★★★★1/2 Ases Falsos - Juventud Americana
★★★1/2 Helado Negro - Island Universe Story One
★★★ Linda Mirada - Con Mi Tiempo y El Progreso
León Larregui- Solstis
★★★1/2 El mató a un policía motorizado - Mujeres Bellas y Fuertes
★★★ Los Punsetes - Una montaña es una montaña
★★★ Los Wendys - Cumbia Nacar
★★★1/2 Tego Calderón - El Original Gallo del País
★★★1/2 Los Blenders - Ah Oh 
★★★ Album - All-Stars
★★★1/2  Napoléon Solo - Chica Disco
★★★1/2  Ave Negra - Sensaciones Juveniles
★★★ Mañaneros - El sonido de lo inevitable
★★★1/2 Cut Your Hair - Utah in Pictures
★★★ Miguel - Art Dealer Chic (Vol. 1, 2, & 3)
★★★1/2 Josué Josué - Linus EP
★★★ Ñaka Ñaka - Telenovela Fantasmux (I, II & III)
★★★ Mujeres - Soft Gems
★★★1/2 Los Ginkas - Ginkana-Rama-Gabba-Rama-Mania
★★★ El Cuarteto de Nos - Porfiado
★★★ Protistas - Las Cruces
★★★1/2  Silva de Alegría - Geografia Nacional
★★★1/2 La BIG Rabia - La Bestia  
★★★ Installed - Paisajes de Invierno
1/2 PXNDX - Bonanza
★★★1/2 Carla Morrison - Dejenme Llorar
★★★1/2 Las Ligas Menores - El Disco Suplente
Selena- Enamorada de Ti
★★★ Piyama Party - Culipandeo EP
★★★1/2 Ernest Gonzalez - Natural Traits
★★★★1/2 Pegasvs - Pegasvs
★★★1/2 Siete Catorce - Siete Catorce EP
★★★ Capullo - Testigos del fin del mundo
★★★ Arca - Barón Libre
★★★1/2 3ball MTY - Inténtalo
★★★ Granit - Granit EP
★★★1/2 Ana Tijoux - La Bala
★★★1/2 Bosques - Eomaia Nam
1/2 Bebe - Un pokito de rocanrol
★★★ John Talabot - ƒin
★★★1/2 Diosque - Bote
★★★ Tony Gallardo II - Líder Juvenil
★★★1/2 Karakoram-Mekong - Mekong
★★★ Vampire Slayer - Dumb Death
★★★1/2 Juan Cirerol - Haciendo Leña
★★★1/2 Treli Feli Repi - Masacre EP
★★★1/2 Telephones Rouges vs. Piñata - Max Split
★★★1/2 Lila Downs - Pecados y Milagros
 2011 Album Reviews