Fonocast #10: I Told You I Was Freaky

Fonocast #10: I Told You I Was Freaky 
by Blanca Méndez & Adrian Mata Anaya 

It's no secret that we are fans of pop here at Club Fonograma. Aside from the fact that pop is fun to listen to, its familiar structures and vocal styles can be comforting. But sometimes we need to challenge ourselves with sounds that are a little bit out there, maybe hard to understand at first (or ever). Which is not to say that pop can't get kooky sometimes (Shakira, anyone?), but it's good to take a break once in a while. What I've enlisted Club Fonograma's resident weirdo, Adrian Mata Anaya, to help me do is push your boundaries of comfort a bit, to get you wondering what exactly you're listening to. With tracks by Leidi Li, Xenia Rubinos, and I.E., we hope to do just that.

  • LATA - "Ink Jet Fiesta" 
  • I.E. - "Smartphone" 
  • FLYBVCK & Jairomendez - "Water Resist" 
  • Capullo (feat. Lido Pimienta) - "A quién amas en realidad es a mí" 
  • DJ MkC - "Smells Like Cumbia Spirit" 
  • Meneo - "& ya" (Choles Records remix)
  • Leidi Li - "Mate a mi novio" 
  • Chico Ye - "Colegiala Dub" 
  • Nina Sky - "Day Dreaming" 
  • Xenia Rubinos - "When You Come"

Video: Violeta Castillo - "Afilados"

“Time will show us how Castillo’s artistry evolution will bloom,” I wrote in my review of Violeta Castillo’s wonderful EPs Uno & Otro. And time has demonstrated how this young songstress is walking a path to an even more prosperous road, thanks to her mesmerizing songwriting approach, which, based on Horizonte’s EP promo cut, “Afilados,” is acquiring a more proper, direct structure, one that reflects emotionally-grabbing immediacy and flirts with supremacy. Recorded for Chile’s Radio Horizonte in December of 2011, Horizonte finds Castillo one step ahead in her career sound-wise, accompanied by a full-band of exceptionally talented musicians. It includes choruses by Luciana Tagliapietra, recorded during the mixing of the EP, and consists of three essentials from Uno & Otro, in addition to two fantastic new songs that give us an idea of what’s coming next. There's the dazzling “La magia” and Castillo’s best single to date, “Afilados.” The bedroom rock, unabashed bittersweetness of this song is its main virtue. The omnipresence of those arousing electric guitar riffs, precise gleaming percussion, and Castillo’s comfortable vocals make you forget at times this is (although considerably post-produced) a live recording. Under Roberto Doveris’(responsible for Castillo’s “Alfiler” clip along director Nicolás Guzmán) accomplished realization, the video of “Afilados” attractively documents this radio presentation's standout.

Video: Arca - "Ass Swung Low"

With the release of the Stretch 1 EP, the producer behind Arca seems determined to keep his identity on a black canvas–perhaps his way to attain absolute freedom in an electronic field where entity seems to be more about wit than accommodation. After a mesmerizing initiation of space-less and loose-cannon minutes in Barón Libre (released earlier this year), and a pound-to-the-guts remix for Korallreven, the Venezuelan producer has released yet another dose of segmental hip hop. “Ass Swung Low” is the promotional cut off Arca’s latest EP, and it comes with a disturbing and sense-abducting clip by Jesse Kanda. All the cultivated mystery of the act works as Arca takes the role of a sinister ventriloquist (not to say demon right away). These are by far the scariest looking and acting kids since Jesus Camp.

PXNDX - Bonanza

Bonanza, PXNDX
EMI Music, México
Rating: 19
by Enrique Coyotzi 

PXNDX is one of those bands that, mostly for worse, continue to build a solid legacy within a certain sector of listeners who is generally poisoned by MTV's limited music content and Los 40 Principales' brain-killing programming. The band’s main audience, during 2005 and their release of their official jump into the mainstream, Para ti con desprecio, principally consisted of the new wave of emos–a fleeting fashion pioneered by the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars, My Chemical Romance, amongst other horrors. Even though they were accused of plagiarizing some of these bands, PXNDX adepts grew even bigger, somehow finding meaning in their inoffensive punk rocky tunes, whining lyrics, and lead singer José Madero’s raspy and occasionally emotional singing.

It’s been a while since that trend disappeared for good and since
Para ti con desprecio (which, alright, still has a pair of okay tracks) came out. Afterward, PXNDX went from moderately ingenious to blatantly predictable and irreparably mediocre, while their followers seemed to remain the same: forever depressed, with a perpetual apathy toward life, just minus the emo tag and haircut (and there are persons worried about the supposed “Generación Zoé”? Take a look at these guys, people). Last time we knew about the Monterrey natives, they had recorded an unnecessary MTV Unplugged, which managed to be even more unnecessary than the live album they had previously released. Following that disaster, they return with their sixth studio album, Bonanza, an absolutely uninspired catastrophe which basically feeds the listener more of the same pop punk, plastic tunes they’ve built their name on. But this time around with lyrics that go from abundantly lame verses to cringe-worthy metaphors. This obviously doesn’t mean PXNDX has ever been good, but, as time has proven, the horrors that envelop Bonanza simply culminate into what Carlos Reyes had smartly predicted: they’ve finally become the punk Maná.

Re-repeating themselves instead of giving a chance to reinvention, PXNDX offends with a collection of 13 songs we've already heard, either from their own not-so-genuine authorship or from countless groups that could be mentioned. And there’s no problem with borrowing ideas from other sources, but there is with being a copycat, and these guys have succeeded at that, even becoming a parody of themselves. First single “Envejecido en barril de roble” has to be one of the most uninspiring songs about alcoholism ever written, a real offender to magnanimous pieces of art that deal toughly with this issue like Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” or popular folk theme "The Moonshiner." “Latidos bombean alcohol con tal presión,” sings Madero in an entirely unmoving manner. You’d think he just assembled some ideas from a La Rosa de Guadalupe episode to manufacture this cliched trash that could maybe pass as an average Green Day piece.

Best moments on the record come when other band members step in and save Pepe’s well-known vocal tricks and groans, somehow reinforcing the mess with heartfelt choruses, like in acceptable-yet-stupid tunes like “Pensándolo bien, pensándolo mal” or generic opener “Huésped en casa propia.” Titles like “Romance en re sostenido” y “Las mil y un camas” try so hard to be smart, but are instead painfully obvious. Listening to them turns out to be insulting, like when you know what a terrible joke’s conclusion will be before it's even over. And
 it gets worse as it progresses. For a record that lasts 50 minutes, PXNDX evidently administered the most rentable tracks for the first part (kudos to “Color negro pasión,” the only memorable and slightly touching thing out of this fiasco) and reserved the most yawn-inducing numbers and intolerable garbage for the second half. “Bella en mi cabeza para siempre” sounds like something Allison would’ve popularized, “Ilusión, oh iliusión” is some cheesy crapfest that resembles Camila going punk pop (please, never let that happen), and hideous closer “La vida en el barandal” begs for this shit to come to an end already.

It’s funny. In the press conference surrounding the release of the album, Madero explained how the group wanted to go back to their raw origins with
Bonanza, which they never really did. Firstly, because they have never been hardcore, like, at all. And secondly, because this record feels so clean and harmless, you’d have to think he wasn’t being serious when he emitted that thought. He also states how PXNDX doesn't mean to transmit a message, and you have to give him credit for admitting it. They absolutely don't, and we're lucky for that. After the total embarrassment that Bonanza is, you can’t help but lament that these dudes are still taken seriously. But if Maná is, why can't PXNDX be part of the club? Long live rock and roll.

Carla Morrison - Dejénme Llorar

Déjenme Llorar, Carla Morrison
Cosmica Records, México
Rating: 71
by Andrew Casillas

Carla Morrison has something to say. And when she does, time usually stands still. Atmospheric pressure quells, and the resulting space makes nary a sound, give or take the flicker of an insect. It’s a very brief period, less than a measure of a second. But when Ms. Morrison finally utters a word, the retroactive effect reverberates through the ensuing three and a half minutes of aural beauty.

The preceding paragraph was an exercise in time-honored critical hyperbole. But to a devoted sect of the listening public, Carla Morrison really does change the world every time she utters a word. This group, largely but not exclusive female, reacts to her depiction of the world with the allegiance of a Community tumblr admin. And with good cause—Morrison’s music speaks to the romantic optimist we’d all like to be, yet grounds itself in the stark realism that similar pop stars deliberately avoid. Her characters have loved and been burned by love. They’ve imbibed to celebrate, and drunk themselves to shame. They want to share everything inside with the world, but the world isn’t always ready or wanting. And Morrison dresses it up in bright, deep colors—always centered by her voice. Her sweet, gorgeous, every(wo)man voice.

After years of struggling to make a place in the Latin music scene, she hit pay dirt with her debut album, Mientras Tú Dormías…, a pitch-perfect record for the transformative soul. Tearing the shackles of precociousness frequently levied against female indie pop singers, Morrison showed that shiny pocket symphonies could co-exist with straightforward, down-to-earth, ideas reserved for more spiritual or folk works.

This grand sense of pitch-perfect newness doomed her new album, Dejénme Llorar, from the start. But, even then, the end result is disappointingly straightforward. As a whole, the album frequently purrs when it should roar and plods along without payoff far too often. Not to say it’s boring, which would imply that Morrison sought to rapture her attention. This is obviously a more brooding and meditative work, one that rewards its most attentive listeners. It’s akin to following up Pet Sounds with Blue. Just compare the deliberate upright bass slapping that opens Dejénme Llorar with the instant drumming of “Compartir.” Not the natural move, but one that deserves praise for bold thinking. And, indeed, Morrison’s voice remains in top form, emoting without resorting to empty histrionics. But there’s the still the matter of overall execution; the key word being “overall.”

For one, the thematic unity of the songs is nearly non-existent. For an album titled Dejénme Llorar, there are very few tearful ballads or songs about flamed-out love. If that’s reading too far into the title, then where’s the connection? Mientras Tú Dormías… was a rumination on love across the entire spectrum: highs, lows, long-term, fleeting, etc. What connects the songs on Dejénme Llorar appears to be that these are Carla Morrison’s latest songs, packaged together on one LP. Which is fine. But, in that case, we need to address how there is a lot of filler on this record.

There are certainly a handful of songs that will sound great on a Greatest Hits package. The jazz-influenced “Me Encanta” and its deceptively buoyant percussion; the jaunty, gorgeously melodic “No Quise Mirar;” the '50s slow dance/burner “Eres Tú;” the precision swing of “Hasta la Piel;” and “Tu Orgullo,” which is the closest this album gets to Mientras in spirit and sound. All of those are very good, if not great, songs. But there are still nine songs remaining, ten if you count the hidden track. These remaining songs either fail to engage the listener or indulge in MOR cadence. If this weren’t following up such a grand, unique debut, then this sort of thing would be forgiven, we’d post our three-star review and move on. But with Carla Morrison…

Really, that’s the issue. This is Carla Morrison’s second album. And it’s not as good as her first one. Where the debut was short, sweet, and full-bodied (seriously, try to find a song you could cut without compromising the whole thing), this album is full of clutter. Very pleasant clutter, but even a koi pond can get crowded. Maybe we’ll realize in a few years that Dejénme Llorar was the set-up for a truly groundbreaking smash. No one denies Carla Morrison’s talent and potential, and she’s still one of the most dynamic young talents in pop music. But there’s only so much time when the world stops to hear you speak.

Las Ligas Menores - El Disco Suplente

El Disco Suplente, Las Ligas Menores
Laptra, Argentina
Rating: 77
by Pierre Lestruhaut

Las Ligas Menores, El Disco Suplente. And so much for ambition. Twenty years or so after Sarah Records and company set the course for numerous followers that perpetuated a fondness for melodic virtue through neat simplicity and structural limitations (and thus rejected the intensity of punk, the proficiency of prog-rock, and the frivolity of mainstream pop), in comes a band from Buenos Aires who sets out those distinctive features of indie pop as a parallel to professional sports’ inherent hierarchy. It's worth mentioning how much being a faithful follower of indie pop (this coming from someone who dove far into the more inessential releases of twee pop) often requires the same devotion and sacrifice that comes with supporting a lower division team, knowing that there are probably far more interesting things going on outside of it, but always showing your allegiance no matter what.

Formed less than a year ago, Las Ligas Menores open their debut EP with jangly number “Accidente,” which sets the tone for the rest of the EP with clean guitar chimes, sparse drumming, and the vocal fragility of a Le Mans song, slowly building up towards a hummable break that lends the amateurish charm of early C86 recordings. “Buscando” is the only occasion for the sole male component of Las Ligas Menores to take over vocal duties in another sharp display of the band’s knack for classic pop melody and structure, while “Movimiento” makes way for the only keyboard lines of the record, injecting a great deal of melodic ingenuity into a song I could totally see Carmen Sandiego performing back in their early days as a drum-less duo.

Although the lyrics are far from being the centerpiece in El Disco Suplente, the young band doesn’t take too many risks in this field and limit themselves to some kind of variation of teenage anxiety in the form of growing up (“Está muy mal si ya no creo en ciertas cosas como el cielo es azul”), breaking up (“Solo admito que no puedo resignarme y solo verte marchar"), and being lonely (“Espero sentada todo el día a que vengás”). The distinctive lyrical sharpness of fellow Laptra bandmates, from 107 Faunos’ vivid imagery to La Ola’s jagged nostalgia, has yet to grow on Las Ligas Menores who in the future will hopefully show a little more depth than that of Best Coast’s high school-level one-dimensional musings.

Eventually, “Crecer” closes the record in a texture-mounting number that climaxes around its series of coos and unexpected tempo shifts as Las Ligas Menores show off an intriguing sense of contrast in this last song. As with everything that’s part of the Laptra catalog, this isn’t a record that looks to go anywhere beyond the three-chords-is-all-you-need ethos, or that expects to work in the field of cleanly polished hook-depending pop. But, while staying true to their own aesthetic, Las Ligas Menores deliver a collection of six faithfully performed, charmingly executed, and carefully crafted songs that make for a very assured debut EP, especially one coming from such a young band.


♫♫♫ “Crecer” | Download Album

Korallreven - "Sa Sa Samoa" (Arca remix)

If you happen to frequently read any of the same influential online publications that we do, then chances are you’ve already run into a few pieces about some of the remixes for Swedish bedroom pop duo Korallreven’s “Sa Sa Samoa,” particularly Elite Gymnastics’ BNMed jungle-y remix. Mysterious Venezuela-via-New York producer Arca, whose debut EP, Barón Libre, seriously impressed us a couple of months ago, was part of the handful of artists who participated in the remixes that were included in the official “Sa Sa Samoa” single release on Acéphale Records.

While being an anonymous electronic producer will immediately have people misjudging you as inconsequentially trying to walk under Burial’s shadow, Arca’s remix of “Sa Sa Samoa” has enough crackle and ghostly voices in its first minute and a half that he’s going to be inevitably shelved as Burial-esque. But as the track later welcomes a drowned out uptempo breakbeat and some really heart-wrenching piano notes, Arca reveals himself again as the all-encompassing descriptor-elusive producer that he’s been so far. Here, he’s made, in less than five minutes, a tune that will haunt the night bus loners as much as the bedroom daydreamers.

Video: Sonido Landon - "Melancólico"

One of my favorite EPs from last year was Sonido Landon’s picturesque Pequeños Defectos, which, for whatever reason, was never properly released. He teased (some) listeners with the mellow pop rock “Sombras y Ramas,” (also one of my most beloved tracks of 2011), then made the EP available on his SoundCloud. But later on (for remastering reasons), he made it private again. Andrés Landon, accomplished multi-instrumentalist (responsible, along good friend Juan Manuel Torreblanca, for producing Carla Morrison’s first full-length, Déjenme Llorar) hailing from Chile and residing in Mexico City, has become well-known for accompanying Carla Morrison as the bass player in her live band.

When the video for the gorgeous folk pop standout cut “Melancólico” was released, I couldn’t have been more excited. Firstly, because I went to Landon’s SoundCloud and found out the whole EP is available once again. Secondly, because I hadn’t heard these songs in a while and, as safe as they might seem at times, revisiting them makes me realize how fresh and comforting they sounded when they were a new discovery, and how they keep a current quality within their casual '90s alt-rock revivalism and funk-nourished spirit. And thirdly, because I’m convinced Sonido Landon’s moderate fame should resonate more in his personal work rather than on the collaborations he’s become known for (Orlando’s cover of Los Rakas' “Abrázame,” Torreblanca’s rendition of Gepe’s “Por la Ventana,” but principally his work as producer and band member with Morrison). “Melancólico” is a beautiful introduction for those who are not familiar with Landon’s
solo work, delightful singing, and charming tunes.

Directed by Guillermo Llamas Altamarino, this pretty clip finds Landon as a piñata-human under the Melancólico tag at a shop window. He’s selected by a girl, who is later revealed to be piñata-headed, just like her friends, who beat the sweetness out of Landon at a backyard birthday party, literally extracting candies and tearing his body apart. It's depressing and amusing at the same time. The conclusion, with the singer's body parts strewn on the ground, is somehow reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll,” but with some real depth attached to its development.

Video: yiLet - "ENA"

A year after Adrianigual’s captivating video for “Me gusta la noche” was showcasing stirring dance music as an unusual lens for outlining decaying traditional downtown neighborhoods, director Romina Davis has taken Buenos Aires trio yiLet’s laid-back synth pop song “ENA” as a backdrop for handsomely framing three bored to death yet cool-looking women hanging out in front of monotonous shopping mall windows. Taken from the 2009 album Mensagem, at which time yiLet was merely the heavily Mena referential and lyrically intimate solo work of Marina La Grasta, this is the first time the band has ever been featured on the blog and that perhaps is due to the fact that, in Internet years, 2009 feels like a decade away from the time we started realizing how much Argentine indie pop was its own burgeoning entity made of uncountable netlabels. Succeeding as both eye candy indulgence and urban ennui critique, the video for “ENA” should be reason enough to expect good things from director Romina Davis’ future work, as well as yiLet’s eventual follow-up to Mensagem.

Mañaneros - "Cisco Router"

At this point it’s unclear to us whether Mañaneros are planning to ever release an EP or full-length, or if they’ll just be content with dropping puzzling tracks on SoundCloud until the platform becomes obsolete. Last year, “El Volcán” was the first tribal track to ever make it into a Fonogramáticos compilation, and, like CF's Adrián Mata Anaya said in his year-end blurb of it, "Chilean pop holds more tribes than we know of." Oh, and if you still aren’t familiar with any of the tracks these guys have put up so far, then go listen to “El Volcán” right now and, if you can, please send us a snapshot of your facial reaction. “Cisco Router,” the latest track to show up on the Chilean band's SoundCloud, sees them starting to expand their sonic palette beyond the indubitably weird, messy, and fucked up tribal and global bass of their initial tracks, thus showing off that they’re not content with being seen as the kids jumping on the dance du jour.

For someone who’s built most of his record/mp3 collection out of listening to bands playing guitars, the track feels like something out of Can’s Future Days had laptops been available and had they decided to record it during a memorable peyote-infused trip from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego (I’ve obviously never taken peyote). Like most of Can, “Cisco Router” is popular and avant-garde, primal and progressive, 4/4 music and free-form music. More precisely, it’s some spacey shit dressed up in an indigenous outfit, capable of showing off the genre-hopping versatility of Tony Gallardo and the psych-prog ambition of Bam Bam. It actually puts Mañaneros in the oddly unusual place where all of our musical tastes meet, as if they’d somehow found the jarringly pleasant sweet spot where 3Ball MTY and Pegasvs finally meet.

SXSW Entry #9: Natalia Lafourcade, LA ENTREVISTA

Photos by Daniela E. Galindo

A lot of us already know that Natalia Lafourcade will soon release the highly anticipated follow-up to Hu Hu Hu. But, up until a few weeks ago, basic details about the record felt like a complete mystery. Luckily, Club Fonograma got a chance to speak with Lafourcade about the new album following her outdoor presentation (a day performance of Torreblanca & Amigas) at Auditorium Shores. Many thanks to Lafourcade for the interview (and for the nice words about the blog) and to her manager for making it all possible.

Giovanni Guillén: How would you describe this new record?

Natalia Lafourcade: This album is going to be very different from the other ones. It’s a covers album. It’s a tribute for this artist and composer, Augustín Lara. Augustín is the inspiration for the record. And also, the artists who are collaborating with me because every artist had something to do with the way the songs sound. I have a collaborator on every song, mostly male singers.

GG: With these collaborations, would you say you're continuing to produce–like what you did with Carla Morrison and Ximena Sariñana?

NF: Yeah, I love it. I love producing people. Probably as much as I love singing and being on the stage. And it’s a thing that I just started to do, like, a year ago with Carla and Ximena. I don’t think I would do it with a project I don’t really like because you put a lot of energy–you have to focus. (Like) when we finished Carla Morrison’s first album, I was so emotionally involved that at the end I was exhausted! But in a good way. It’s just because I’m like that. I’m very passionate about things that I like.

GG: Do you know what kind of producer you are?

NF: I don’t know if I consider myself a producer yet. I love producing people but I don’t know how to do it. I just go in and tell them my opinion. I have a good team with my engineers, my studio, and some other friends and musicians that will help make the song. I remember when I was making my first album, I had this difficult time with the producers. It’s very difficult when you, as an artist, want to do something with the sound, and then the producer has another vision and they don’t let you go where you want to go. And I think that, I mean, I don’t know how to produce but my intuition tells me that you have to let the artist go where the artist needs to go. That way you build the perfect environment. To get it there, to get it right, in the end, it’s their album, not mine. When I worked with Ximena and Carla I was just giving my opinion. We could do this or go there but, in the end, the decision was taken by them.

GG: You mentioned Augustín Lara, and I know you performed at the Bicentenario. It seems to me that lately you're getting more in touch with your Mexican roots.

NF: Yeah, definitely

GG: What inspired that?

NF: The Bicentenario. Totally. Before I was more like, “Oh, yes. I want to go out of my country."

GG: Places like Canada?

NF: Well actually, Canada is a part of my heart. Definitely. I need to go back to Canada and be there for a while because I miss it a lot. But, when I was working with Alondra de la Parra on the Bicentenario, on the show, she told me, "You should go and reach some composers and writers–Mexican writers. Not just, like, José Alfredo Jiménez, the ones we all know. You should go and reach for someone that you don’t know and see if you can find a song that you want to sing." And then I went on the Internet, on YouTube, and I started searching names and I ran into Augustín Lara. I heard all the songs from the past that we know, but I also started listening to the songs that I didn’t know and I fell in love. Especially with the way he used to write. I was like, "Wow! This is so amazing!" The music, the harmonies, the lyrics, the poetry. And I was so impressed that we had that talent in our country. I also wondered if the people my age would know his music and his compositions.

GG: So, you're also trying to introduce him to another generation?

NF: Definitely. I wanted to do another thing–working on a covers project–but I didn’t want to do just any covers. I was actually thinking about Violeta Parra. La Chilena. But I also wanted to expose something from Mexico. So, when I ran into Augustín’s stuff I fell in love. Hopefully there will be someone who'll feel connected the same way that I did.

GG: I know that Augustín Lara composed a lot for films, is that something you want to do? Soundtracks and movie scores? For me, Las 4 estaciones del amor sounds like a movie soundtrack.

NF: I hope one day I can definitely do that. I imagine myself living in a small cabin in the fields, taking care of children and making music for movies, you know? (Laughs).

GG: But then where would you perform?!

NF: Well, I love performing too. But it’s in my list of dreams. It’s something that I love. To me, music, the images, and all of that come together. When I’m writing, I’m also imagining a video to the song, I’m thinking about the images. Also, when I build the concept. I guess it all comes together and, eventually, I see myself working on soundtracks.

GG: Your last album, Hu Hu Hu, was full of organic sounds. But then there was this b-side, "Lluvia que cae," which featured electronic music. Is that also something you want to experiment more with?

NF: Yeah, probably yes. Especially now I feel like I want to go there. It’s funny because this new album doesn’t have that at all–it still has this organic thing that was in Hu Hu Hu. It's as if Augustín Lara and I would’ve sat together and written the songs. It's very pretty.

Selena - Enamorada De Ti

Enamorada De Ti, Selena
Capitol Latin, USA
Rating: 23
by Andrew Casillas and Blanca Méndez

It has been decided that Andrew and Blanca will do joint Gchat reviews of all legends-plus-unworthies albums, and it’s especially fitting that the two Texans and Selena devotees discuss the latest affront to the Queen’s memory. So, they both signed into Spotify (because the album is not even worth the illegal download) to spare you the pain of actually listening to this atrocity.

Andrew: Alright!

Blanca: YES

A: No, no.
We gotta SAVE our outrage.

B: Fine.

A: I love how classy this album starts.
With the "solo piano" version of "No Me Queda Mas."
It’s like christening a Chick-fil-A or something.

B: Gross.
My thought was, why are we turning this into a piano lounge song??

A: What genre is this supposed to be?

B: Not this.
This is a song that always makes me cry.
And now I'm crying for all the wrong reasons.

A: Who the fuck is Samo?!
And why is he fucking up my favorite Selena song?!

B: From Camila...

A: Oh, cuz that's a relevant guest star.

B: This was the first duet to be released, I think. I heard it a while back, and it made me want to break things.


B: His vocal style is almost repellent.
Okay, not almost.
Actually repellent.
Especially this hushed part.
I'm sure it works for his usual audience.
But keep it out of my Selena song.

A: I...I have no words for this "Tus Desprecios" piano thing.

B: For me it's this backup vocals thing.

A: Nothing about the music and the vocals go together AT ALL.
It sounds like Pink interpreting "Someone Like You."

B: I just can't.
I can't even imagine what whoever produced this was trying to accomplish.

A: This?

B: Besides that.

A: OK, FINALLY they put the piano away.

B: But now we have Cristian Castro.
Who cannot handle this song.

A: Yeah, he sounds terrible.
But at least there's INSTRUMENTS in this.
You know who could have pulled this off? Pepe Aguilar.
But, of course, why get anyone who can handle the song, right?

I like the Kumbia Kings-style guitar pickin'.

B: This is probably the least offensive duet.

Was Pee Wee too busy?

B: Seriously.
Also, that name always cracks me up.

A: Don Omar? I know.

B: I like that he says thanks for this opportunity. So polite.



A: I'm just gonna sit back and let you talk for four minutes.

B: I’d already seen videos of Selena Gomez covering this song.
Like, at rodeos and stuff.
(Of course.)
So, I had an idea what to expect.
And, obviously, I’m partial to my girl Selena G.
But I’m not gonna front like this is a good duet.
Even though I like how she says "razona," like in Italian or something.

A: OK, I'm not gonna front—I laughed so hard at that.

B: But, I mean, it's kinda like Selena herself, how she wasn't fluent in Spanish.
But people gave her a break.
People need to give Selena G a break.

A: She can buy a break with that Disney money.

B: Selena kind of paved the way for a Selena G-type star.
And even though Selena G didn’t make her name in the Spanish-language market, she still identifies as Latina and clearly values that identity.
(I’ve watched a lot of interviews.)
But other Latinos don’t really embrace her,
which I find troubling.
Because having a Latina teen pop star in the mainstream is HUGE.

A: Latino people are harsh on one another?! WHO KNEW?!!

B: These "updated" songs just don't do anything.
They just suck all the life and joy out of the music.

A: Just an FYI: this currently has seven five-star reviews on Amazon.
Seven people out there think this is a first-rate pop album.

B: I feel like there might be two extremes with this album:
People like us who are, like, HOW DARE YOU,
and people who will love anything Selena-related no matter what.

A: So, it’s been 17 years since the original "Techno Cumbia."
In which time, they've actually created and PERFECTED combinations of techno and cumbia.
And yet "Techno Cumbia 2012" sounds NOTHING LIKE FUCKING TECHNO.

B: I know!

A: Where is the Los Macuanos remix of this shit?!

B: They need to get on that.
I’m all for updating this track.
But this does not feel new at all.

A: Thing is, the vocal masters are obviously in PRISTINE shape.
And Selena had a great disco-ready voice.
I mean, you can hear some Lady Gaga-foreshadowing cadence on this track.
But where is the BIG BOOMING BASS?
And arpeggiated arpeggios?
Someone get 2 Chainz on the phone for the rap verse while Tony Gallardo lets his pet gerbil purr over the beat!

B: This is terrible.
It's like if Jason Mraz did a version of “El Chico del Apartamento 512.”
Which should never ever happen.

A: Couldn't put it better myself.
Do you catch the synthesizers in the background?
Stolen from a public access biography of Carl Sagan?

B: That's kinda perfect.

A: Finally—the last song.


A: The sax is back, Blanca. Don't you remember "Midnight City"?!
The only song in history to consist of ALL CHORUS.

B: Oh, I I don't think I made myself clear.
I am pro-sax.

A: I'll be honest, I think this is the best thing here.
Mainly because they're using an ACTUAL DJ to remix the song.
Someone whose name is attached to the thing and thus gives a shit.

B: Yeah, I’m into it.

A: Thank God.
It's over.

B: I guess all I have to say after that is: What an insult to Selena's memory.
I’m glad I never have to listen to this again.
Though, I might get that Selena G track just because.

A: I'd like to go on the record saying that I'll always love Selena's music, for both nostalgia and quality reasons, but this was a disgrace on so many levels
But the people who made this don't care...we know what they're up to:

Video: Jennifer Lopez - "Dance Again" (ft. Pitbull)

Jennifer Lopez’s new video for “Dance Again” is all about decadence. From the extravagant mansion setting to the anti-gravity acrobatics to (especially) the pile of half-naked anonymous bodies writhing on a marble floor and the shimmering body paint (anyone else get Marina and the Diamonds “I Am Not A Robot” vibes?). Visually, it’s some of Lopez’s best work. Even Pitbull’s requisite skeeviness doesn’t ruin it. “Dance Again” isn’t anything mind-blowing, but as a getting-back-on-my-feet/the dance floor song, it does the job, and you can bet that I will do the hands-in-the-air, this-is-my-jam move when it comes on at the club. Even though the song is pretty generic beats-wise and harmless melody-wise, when Lopez and her boo break it down with that seriously sexy dance routine…Damn. And the blindfolds bit! (Is it hot in here?) All I have to say is DO YOU JLO.

Vive Latino 2012: Day Three

by Claire Frisbie

While Saturday at Vive was all about the new class of Latin American musical innovators and something of a serious continuous musical high, Sunday was very much (though not entirely) the opposite. I’m not sure how they determined the lineups for each day, but Fatboy Slim was the “headliner” on Sunday. ‘Nuff said.

Unfortunately, we got there just after the one actually relevant mainstage act (Hello Seahorse!) had played. Word has it that Denise got very emotional and cried while she sang and jumped into the crowd at one point. I also missed Tropikal Forever, whom I would have loved to check out, but a gal needs her beauty rest and chilaquiles.

So after some Balkan bouncing around in the sun to Gogol Bordello, we hit up a very full Carpa Intolerante for some cumbia cósmica from Toluca. Sonido San Francisco had people moving. Alternating between Colombian-style cumbia mixed with electronica to something of a rebajada rock fusion with matching psychedelic visuals, they were tons of fun. Unfortunately we left early because I insisted on catching Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas for some reason.

I feel like I need to justify myself somehow. IKV was very much a part of my adolescence. Knowing all the words to “Abarajame” was like a rite of passage. I understand they’re ridiculous—they always were (funk meets kung fu movies meets “hip hop” and an eager libido? Che, why not?). But “Coolo” is an awesome party song, and “Jennifer del Estero,” my favorite, is hilarious. Plus, I was a huge fan of Emmanuel’s solo pop effort a couple years back. My expectations were unreasonably high.

Illya Kuryaki’s entire set felt like a painful throwback. None of us needed to go through that. Leather pants with white fringe, never-ending guitar solos, unsexy pelvic gyrations, mediocre sound, unjustified ego. They seemed to play all their “obscure” songs that no one knew—including a new track (they’re baaack!) that was thoroughly forgettable—, so by the time “Coolo” came around, we were all so relieved that we danced, more out of bored nostalgia than actual enjoyment of the performance. Dante and Emma, I love you guys, but this was not a good idea; some music should just remain in one’s adolescence along with braces and unfortunate hairstyles.

After the IKV debacle, I really needed something to cleanse my palate, and Spanish experimental pop outfit Manos de Topo did just that. I wasn’t familiar with their music at all, and I’m still not sure if I could really listen to it on a regular basis, but I definitely appreciated it. Singer Miguel Angel wails all the lyrics in a desperate, shrill crying voice (how do you say “chillar” in English? ‘cause that’s what he does), apparently mocking super sappy pop music. It’s almost performance art, and I was impressed with how many fans they had because, frankly, it’s really weird. In a good way.

We got so caught up in the Manos de Topo bizarreness that we almost missed Pedropiedra, who had drawn quite the crowd over at la Carpa Intolerante. We got there just in time for "Vacaciones en el más allá," which had all eight black and red-clad band members owning the stage. Gepe played drums. I developed a serious girl crush on the back-up singers. Everybody was dancing. They closed with Pedro and Gepe's song "Oh Oh," and we all sang along. Pedropiedra's generally not my cup of tea, but I really really dug this show. Refreshing!

After a much-needed break, we mosied on over to the Escenario Indio Blanco for some Austin TV, who are always a treat. They ended up starting about twenty minutes late—the first delay in the entire festival for me—, and finally appeared on stage in all-white with what looked like big marshmallow samurai ghost bobble-heads, which mostly came off after the first song (making them look a tad klan-like in the white pointy hoods they wore underneath, eek). But they were all about positivity and love, urging us to “sing along” to their moody instrumental rock however we wanted to, and to make sure we made at least one new friend that night. Good vibes, good vibes. Their set was solid, with a pretty significant crowd, which they were clearly very appreciative of, given Molotov was already playing on the main stage.

We too felt the need to catch the massivity that was the Molotov performance and headed back to the main stage to take it all in from high up. It was just about as packed as the night before, with a lot more testosterone in the air. Everyone was super into the show, moshing and chanting along, fists in air at all the right moments for “Gimme Tha Power,” “Voto Latino,” and “Frijolero” (etc.). Decked out in matching denim vests and looking a wee bit past their prime, the Molotov dudes seemed kind of like a parody of themselves. But I suppose in a way they always have been? The whole show just seemed a bit stale and irrelevant, although not lacking in rockstar bravado. Even their attempts at being political seemed almost farcical to me. My own cynicism and jadedness aside, though, the roar and energy of the crowd was undeniable ("Puto" felt like a an aftershock from Tuesday's temblor), and perhaps a little Molotov does a body—or soul—good, given the current political climate.

Molotov would have been a weird way to have ended my Vive Latino weekend, and Fatboy Slim even weirder. Luckily, much of the overflow from Molotov ended up at the smallest stage of the festival, and everyone was dancing as Mexico City rockabilly group Rebel Cats rocked out like it was 1955. In pompadours and matching sequined red blazers, the three young guys and a dad (!) put on quite the show, standing on top of the upright bass and jumping down into the crowd. I didn't catch any of Fatboy Slim's set, but I think it's safe to say that the Rebel Cats had a better dance party going. This was definitely the right way to end my Vive weekend.

And so, as cleanup and disassembly crews arrived at Foro Sol to take apart the festival, we made our way home, ears ringing, feet sore, musical appetites satiated. Almost two weeks later, I think I've finally recovered.

Video: San Pedro El Cortez - "Por El Destino"

While San Pedro El Cortez has been around for some years now, my obsession for them has only recently started when my friend Meche (of Las Robertas) recommended them to me. (They were actually included in a mixtape back in 2010, but I must have missed its launch.) In this hallucinogenic clip directed by Paolo Zuñiga (Juan Cirerol, Marquez!), the band executes a proper play back performance for a dizzying confession of desamor. The lyrics show a disconcerting honesty, remaining faithful to their raw and hard-edged style. From the first few notes of "Por El Destino," it’s clear that the band doesn’t just come from Tijuana, they also apparently hail from various periods in the past, simultaneously channelling the rawness of the early ‘60s wild garage/surf and the heavy use of reverb and drones of ‘70s psych rock. "Por El Destino" effortlessly conveys the same vibe as the short and playful melodies of northern Mexico's rocanrol golden age, making us nostalgic for an unknown time.

Festival Nrmal 2012, Part Four: Los Rakas, LA ENTREVISTA

Photos by Luisa Luisa Martinez

Upon recovering from a come down that lasted well over two weeks, it dawned on me that I had a nice stack of interviews in my friend Luisa's iPhone that were just waiting to be transcribed. One such interview happened to involve Raka Rich, who was flying solo in Monterrey on behalf of his main project, Los Rakas, for this year's edition of Festival Nrmal.

After figuring out five minutes into the interview
that the recorder was off, we managed to get a nice flow of conversation going, whereupon I learned everything I wanted to know about the Bay Area act but was afraid to ask (seriously, it took me about 10 minutes to finally muster up the courage to interrupt Rich's FIFA ’12 match). Thanks to Rich for sparing some of his prized XBOX360 time, and to Natalia for setting up this lovely rendez-vous. Oh, and props to Luisa for making me look so smart with those hand gesture shots.

Conejito Colvin: Alright, I’m just gonna put this here and then we can talk.

Raka Rich: Yeah.

CC: So yeah, the "Copita de Champaña" [video], ‘cause I mean, you guys have quite a few videos out there, and I wanted to ask you, for this video, and the other videos that you’ve done, how much goes into it from your guys’ ideas?

RR: Well, a lot.

CC: Would you say it’s like your concept and you just like…

RR: For the most part, yeah, except every video that we’ve done has pretty much been us telling the other directors what we want, you know, and we have a lot to do with that, that’s why we independent so we know how we want to present the world, how we want to present ourselves to the world. The only video we didn’t have a lot of control with is like "Barrio" and "Gangsta," which is our new video.

CC: And what did you think of the result?

RR: Oh man, those are my favorite videos, you know what I’m saying?

CC: (laughing) The ones you had nothing to do with were your favorite videos?

RR: (laughing) Yeah, the ones I had nothing to do with were my favorite videos. It was tight.

CC: But when you do tell people what you want…I mean I can sorta get it cause I’m in an independent band too…

RR: Yeah.

CC: And we manage ourselves, and we give the concept that we want to the directors and we’re always having some kind of say in what we do, 'cause like you said, you want to present yourself in a certain way, and that goes in the music, it goes in the PR, and it goes in the videos, and in everything that you do.

RR: Yeah.

CC: So, what do you think is the...I don’t want to say the concept...but when you participate with these directors, what is it that you wanna, like, maintain there?

RR: Just keep building relationships, man, ‘cause those directors are like top of the line, you know what I’m saying? They do big things, so they gonna keep getting better, and we’re also learning from those kinds of directors, ‘cause we pretty much direct our own videos, so it's like we picking up little things here and there, and that’s important, man, especially in the music industry. You wanna learn as much as you can, so…

CC: If you can do everything…

RR: Especially independently, ‘cause we’re independent, so it has a lot to do with it. You know we don’t have a label behind us [saying], "A'ight this is the director you’re gonna work with, this is the songs, this is the producer." Nah. It's real, everything is real, we have good chemistry with these individuals that we work with.

CC: So you feel that that way it keeps, I don’t know, the idea, the music, more pure…?

RR: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know why? It's because when you doin’ it like that there’s no rules, you know? You’re not really thinking about the money, you just thinking with the passion. You love it.

CC: You’re doing it ‘cause you like to do it.

RR: Yeah, these labels look at you more like a dollar sign, and I have nothing against labels, you know what I’m sayin’, if they’re fair…

CC: I mean they’re struggling right now. Like, for example, my friend (who shall remain nameless), they really did change after they signed to a big label, and everything they do now is with some kind of commercial end. I mean they're enjoying it, but at the same time I feel like they feel like, well, you know, "I’m doing this because it makes money, because it's commercial." They don't really have as much control now as they used to when they did it because they liked it.

RR: They gonna tell you everything, man. "Oh no, that’s not the song that we should put out, we should put out this song." I don’t want that problem. I’d rather just stay independent and do what I do and make my own choices, call my shots.

CC: That, that’s cool, I admire that.

RR: Yeah.

CC: That’s the way to go. So tell me a little about the video "Ta Lista," You guys kinda feature this Mexican iconography, you got the Mexican flag and stuff. Is there something, some kind of relation that you guys feel you have with Mexico, or is it just coincidental because you’re in Oakland?

RR: What happened was, we wanted to do a video for ''Ta Lista," and it just happened to be Cinco de Mayo, so we just went and celebrated with our people. Didn’t really have nothing to do with the video, was just something about…like I said earlier, working with record labels, they’re gonna tell you what to do and how to do it, we just did whatever we wanted and just had a good time, man, and that’s the kind of vibe we give out. And Cinco de Mayo, we’re celebrating with the Mexican people, you know what I mean?

CC: I used to live in Oakland, actually. I lived there for the last semester that I was in college. I used to go to Berkeley, so I know you guys play shows there all the time. I got to see you guys at Tormenta [Tropical] once, a little while ago. It was the last time you played at Tormenta. And I know from being in Berkeley, you guys aside from playing a lot of local shows, you play a lot of free shows…

RR: Oh, yeah, yeah!

CC: Going back to that idea of community, like you said you celebrated [Cinco de Mayo] with the Mexican people, would you say that community is like a big role in your music, or not just in your music, but in the way you guys put yourselves out there?

RR: Yes! Yes, because in the community is where we learned how to do this independently. There was a youth center, Youth Uprising, in East Oakland, and it’s a community center, so we went in there and learned how to record and really just got to record our music in the studio and got to develop and evolve. You know, studio time is very expensive. We used to go in there for free, you know what I’m saying, 'cause it was a part of the community, so from there, they’re teaching classes on how to independently sell your music.

CC: So, in the way that you guys have developed, community is like a huge role…

RR: Yeah it’s a huge role in everything we do! We plan on building a youth center eventually for the community.

CC: I was gonna ask you about that. Do you feel that in the future you’d want to do more to give back to the community?

RR: Of course. Yes, I would because it’s like, I’m so grateful for that, why wouldn’t I want to share that with somebody else?

CC: So, do you feel you represent your community in the Bay Area, in Oakland, more so, 'cause you guys also do mentions of Panama and stuff in your music? I mean, how do you feel about that? Just being a Latin artist, do you feel you’re representing the Latin culture or do you feel it’s more of a local thing?

RR: I feel like I’m representing the Afro-Latin culture.

CC: Why?

RR: 'Cause, you know, a lot of Afro-Latinos, you don’t really see them in the mainstream TV or Latin TV, and we come out here to live the American dream, you know, as Latin people, and being in Oakland, being Black, there’s already a lot of Black people. They have erased us, 'cause you know we get their attention. “These are some Black people speaking Spanish!” So, they welcomed us, we one of them. We Black, so, we’ve been able to showcase that with them. And it has grown, you know. Latin people start coming, Filipinos, white people, now we just gotta go touch our Latin folks…

CC: Is that a motivation for playing shows like this one, festivals like this one? Coming out and just being known? 'Cause you guys have gotten a lot of hype in the Latin community, recently. For example, Club Fonograma, which is U.S. blog but geared toward the Latin community, and a lot of people got to know you in recent years from Mexico, and stuff like that. I mean, how do you feel about that?

RR: It feels good! 'Cause you wanna touch the people. That’s a great feeling, man, people recognizing and just liking the music, 'cause that’s what we do it for, for you to like it and hopefully take it to the heart, 'cause we do it from the heart, so that’s how we want people to receive it.

CC: Do you wanna play more shows in Latin America? Like, in Mexico?

RR: Yes! I would because, look, the people we perform for, the majority in the U.S. are English-speaking people, so it's like they just like it because they can feel it. They don’t understand the lyrics, but they can feel the music, so, just imagine if they understood what we were saying. We feel like the Latin people, they need to hear this. 'Cause they will understand it, they will embrace it as well. Our style of music, you know, it’s hip hop, R&B, you don’t really hear that in the Latin gang. I feel like we have that to bring to the table.

CC: Yeah, that’s more American, I think.

RR: More American, yeah. I feel like we can be the ones to break it in to Latin America, you know?

CC: Hip hop and R&B?

RR: Hip hop and R&B.

CC: Cool. You have a solo project too, right?

RR: Yes.

CC: Is that something you do because it's something you can’t do with Los Rakas?

RR: It’s because we’re always in the studio, we got so many songs, like, as Los Rakas. If you listen to the Panabay Twist 1, even though it says Los Rakas, we got songs on there that I’m not even on, or [Dun's] not even on, but we still put it as part of Los Rakas, 'cause it’s just one, you know what I’m saying? And we just have to sometimes just do our own thing, you know?

CC: Yeah.

RR: We started as solo artists, we wasn’t a group, we started as solo artists. Then eventually we became a group. And do I put this? Sometimes you just gotta get it out there yourself, you gotta do your own thing. And, it don’t mean we’re breaking up or nothing, he does his own thing, I do my own thing.

CC: I know what that’s like. My band played this festival last year, but this year it’s only one of my bandmates with a side project. He’s doing it 'cause, like you said, he has to put himself out there, do his own thing.

RR: Yeah yeah yeah.

CC: It’s understandable, especially when you’re a band, sometimes there can be friction, and stuff like that…

RR: Exactly, it’s like some of the greats man, Willie Colón y Rúben Blades, you know. They were a group, they separated, did their own thing as solo artists, then got back together y así. The Willie Colón and Rúben Blades movement continues, even stronger, I think. So it’s even more music, we got so much music we gotta put it out there.

CC: Yeah, I’ve thought about that. It’s stronger because it’s a larger kind of a scene or group of people doing stuff. So, right, you did the Raka Love EP.

RR: Yes.

CC: Do you feel that with every new release you’re doing something different? Like some evolution of the sound that you guys are doing?

RR: Yes, but not intentionally.

CC: It just happens organically.

RR: It just happens, man. This CD Raka Love is more like an R&B CD. We wanted to showcase that 'cause we didn’t showcase that we could do reggaeton. We didn’t done reggaeton, hip hop, we didn’t done R&B, we got some merengue stuff. We just wanna showcase that we can do any genre and make it sound good. There’s a lot of people that can only just do one genre, R&B or reggaeton, and that’s it, that’s all they can do. You put them on a hip hop video, and they gonna be lost. We can do it all.

CC: So how do you feel about the scene right now? I mean I’m vaguely familiar 'cause I’ve played with [Uproot] Andy and Geko [Jones] in New York, in ¡Que Bajo! I know them, I know Tormenta, I saw you guys play there, and there is kinda like a little circuit of like-minded promoters. How do you feel that scene? I mean it used to be a lot stronger than it is now, how do you see that scene now?

RR: How do I seen it now?

CC: Yeah, how do you think, I mean, just like, an assessment of what’s going on?

RR: Well you know, I was in Colombia with Geko a few months ago.

CC: They’re always going down there right? Andy and Geko.

RR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I mean, I don’t even know what’s going on with that situation over there, but every time I link up with them we have a phenomenal time. Geko is like my brother, he’s a big part of being successful in Latin America I feel, 'cause he has his connections.

CC: And he does both sides, right? He’s got his cult following in the U.S., and he plays and has his following in Colombia and Latin America. That’s pretty cool. I think if you can achieve that I think that it’s pretty cool.

RR: Yeah he’s dope, he’s dope.

CC: So, I mean, anything else that you’d like to add?

RR: Man, just, uh, go to the website.

CC: (laughs) Go to the website.

RR: Check out and we always got new downloads we got about 80 downloads for free on their they can download, we got the Soy Raka shirts, $7, get it, get it real cheap while it’s for a limited time.

CC: Well, can I ask you really quickly about the free releases? Is that something you do…do you have a position on that? Do you feel like music should be given away?

RR: When you’re starting up as an independent artist you have to give the music away for free.

CC: There’s no choice.

RR: There’s so much music that people don’t wanna give you a chance. They’d rather listen to the stuff that’s on TV they already getting brainwashed with. So I feel that if you give it to them for free they might listen to it. Now if you selling it to them, they’re NOT gonna listen to it, they’re not gonna know who you are.

CC: There’s no chance.

RR: So, independently, yes, I feel like I'll be giving music away for the rest of my life. BUT I will sell some of it. You gotta understand that, independently, it’s not, it’s not…

CC: It’s not sustainable.

RR: It’s not sustainable. I need you to help me out and support the movement so we can keep the movement going.