Video: Antoine Reverb - "Memory Interrupted"

Lately I can’t seem to get enough of Antoine Reverb. After witnessing the two last songs they performed at Festival Marvin’s second edition, I became deeply engaged with the Guadalajara five-piece ensemble's goosebumps-provoking capability. Even though we didn’t get the chance to review their second record, Everything Is a Foreign Language to Me, it still remains one of last year’s most compelling works, and the release of the first single, the heavenly psych-pop cut “Memory Interrupted,” is here to remind us why. Making their influences clear, the group revives the greatest qualities of Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest (you can hear a bit of “Two Weeks” in the choruses) and The Beach Boys' melodic grandeur, adapting them into something splendidly genuine. With some of the visual tricks introduced in Bam Bam’s hallucinatory “Hipnódromo,” Proceso Inútil confounds and gives the chills with this ghostly high school troublesome love clip.

Video: Trasvorder - "Mientras"

It’s no surprise that sometimes we overlook great albums here at Club Fonograma. Argentinian composer Mariano Pacinetti, under the Trasvorder pseudonym, released his magical first full length, Salimos de la tierra, last year, and it went unnoticed by most of our staff. Yet, newly released first single “Mientras” and its eye-catching video, directed by Galel Maidana, has entirely changed this panorama and commanded our full attention. It’s hard not to fall in love with Trasvorder’s melodious dream pop beauties, charged with sweet hooks and romantic emanation. The exemplar “Mientras” is the perfect proof of Trasvorder’s beguiling capacities, and its delightful clip, with the superimposing of medusas, cloudy skies, and volcanos erupting, a suitable visual translation of the song's warmth.

Los Ginkas - Ginkana-Rama-Gabba-Rama-Mania

Los Ginkas
Spicnic/Chin Chin, Spain
Rating: 78
by Pierre Lestruhaut

For a band, finding a specfic sound in which they can cement their own aesthetic can be as easy as coining a term like pop-abily, yet reinforcing it and fully developing it through the course of several full-length records requires a lot more creativity than that. With already an EP and a full-length in less than two years, Pamplonese six-piece outfit Los Ginkas' (name taken from the Gin-Kas cocktail) obsession with both many kinds of '60s and '70s sounds (from stomping rockabilly and yé-yé to the current girl group revival) and the so-called Tonti pop (a melodical and naive sounding form of pop that emerged in the late '90s in Spain) made them sound like a band so obsessed with the past that it was difficult to see them take any other possible direction in the future.

Keeping up with the admirable pace of one release every year, eponymous first single and its respective video showed Los Ginkas intentions of picking up right where they had left, putting up a collage of B-movies and William Castle gimmicks, and shaping them together at the foreground of their already distinguishable Ginka sound. Shrugging off the more literary approach to songwriting most Spaniard indie relies on, Los Ginkas is the kind of band that would rather embrace the arbitrariness of pop lyrics, picking up (or making up) words purely for their formal qualities (“Ginkana-rama-gabba-rama-mania”, “Heca-tom-tom-b”) and letting them outline the inherent bliss underlying in their series of hooks.

As a band who’s always been honest in showing off its own musical fandom and wearing its influences on its sleeve, there’s a total of 3 covers in Ginkana-Rama-Gabba-Rama-Mania: “Sé de un lugar” is a cover of Marta Baizán’s yé-yé-but-in-Spanish version of English composer Tony Hatch’s piece “I Know a Place,” “Pim-pam-ville” is their own reinterpretation of The Illusions’ sixties garage rock piece “City of People,” and “Un vermouth (corto de cinzano)” is essentially a wine-infused party to the rhythm of NRBQ’s “Captain Lou.” Yet high points in the record come at the more versatile moments. “Una y otra vez,” sung by a guest singer has one foot standing in the American South and the other well in the Basque country, putting together country licks alongside Donosti Sound and Elefant Records’ trademark melodical charm, while “Heca-tom-tom-b” closes the album with a clean instrumental surf rock number.

Overall one could reproach Los Ginkas for being uninterested in developing any kind of forward-thinking sound, lyrical depth or affecting storytelling. And for anyone not very enthusiastic about the whole 60s revival it will probably be a difficult album to relate to. In Mad Men’s recent recurring Heinz pitch storyline, we saw the show’s copywriters trying to sell an ad for baked beans using artsy motifs (a bean ballet) and sentimental taglines (“Home is where the Heinz is”), yet their client has a fixation that the ad should just look and sound “fun,” appealing to young people. It’s in this concept of embracing the “fun” behind something (in this case making retro rock/pop) that Los Ginkas differentiate themselves from most revival acts. Where others may have ambitions of sounding artsy by adopting a lo-fi sound, or emotional by writing songs about boyfriends, Los Ginkas are only worried about discharging on their fans all the fun that can come from playing simple gum pop.

Video: Pegasvs - "Brillar"

As soon as Pegasvs’ gorgeous vinyl hit our door, we felt like it needed to be in a gold mosaic frame (after a few dozen spins of course). With almost half of 2012 behind us, Pegasvs’ debut album is still the most accomplished record we’ve heard this year. Up to now, the band had kept a minimalistic aesthetic approach but, with the vigilance of transgressive production house CANADA, they’ve stretched their crescendos to gleaming visual hues. When we called Sergio and Luciana a pair of Renaissance artists, these images are close to what we had in mind. “Brillar” (a melody with flying wings) evokes a sci-fi saga where knights hold the guard but relinquish to a woman’s beauty. As audacious as it is ambitious, this clip has a spectral poise from bone to skin–a colossal awakening achieved through an immaculate valiance.

Video: Alex Anwandter - "Cómo puedes vivir contigo mismo?"

Continuing the cycle of the passionately awe-inspiring Rebeldes, Chilean pop genius Alex Anwandter keeps taking giant steps and sets the ideal template for this upcoming summer with the official release of colossal second single, “Cómo puedes vivir contigo mismo?” The track, which made its way onto our best songs of 2011 list, feels like the next logical promotional choice in a record replete with hits. Its accompanying video is a faithful tribute to Jennie Livingston’s legendary documentary about ball culture in New York during the '80s, Paris Is Burning. With a present day bar in Santiago de Chile as the setting, the second visual installment from the artist's label, 5AM, gracefully pays homage to this transcendent work, both in style and spirit (including a mini heart-throbbing testimony that could’ve been extracted from the film itself). A fervent defender of gay rights, Anwandter reintroduces a valuable document of the LGBT community and cinema with the excellent production we’ve come to expect from him. Download the single and remixes from Rebolledo and Tony Gallardo & DJ Nombre Apellido at Anwandter's website.

Matilda Manzana – "Pez Espada"

Matilda Manzana’s brand of fragile tropigaze has always flirted with pop music. But the past year, as seen in his recent collaborations and left-field, often brilliant covers, prove that things are getting pretty serious. This courtship is especially evident in the new single from his upcoming album Conjuntos Cartográficos. “Pez Espada” is a song that indeed recalls a visit under the sea. A swim right along the ocean floor, where marine life dances and the sun’s light rays are refracted into beautiful patterns. Between the drums (courtesy of Tony Gallardo) and the kazoos, Óscar Rodríguez builds up a soundscape that hints at something fantastic but ends just before exploring what it is. Like any glimpse underwater, it lasts only until the need for air takes over and one is forced to leave.

♫♫♫ "Pez Espada"

Video: SraSrSra - "Putos Señora"

As the ongoing stream of intriguing releases by bands from northern Spain doesn’t seem to stop, Discotéca Océano’s own minimal (in every possible way) punk duo SraSrSra dropped the first video for their upcoming LP Puchao. While most Spanish mediums have been describing it as a spoof-like homage to cine quinqui (a subgenre of crime film that emerged in Spain in the late '70s and '80s), those living on the eastern side of the Atlantic, and born after 1985, might think more of a sort of Captain Ahab doing their own Starsky & Hutch remake. Compressing a baiting series of shenanigans in their less-than-two-minute clip (funniest ones have to be the laser-firing woman and the lone subtitled frame), the song and its video start to reveal themselves not only as the visceral experience one would expect from garage or punk rock, but rather as something far more intriguing and uncommon: conflating the genre’s bare musical structures and stripped-down instrumentations into plain visual and lyrical absurdity.

Los Claveles - "Estafas"

How excited are we to present the new single of Los Claveles? Well, considering they delivered the best song of 2011, yes, we are very excited. The stakes are high for any band that crafts an instant classic, but it’s especially remarkable when it comes from a band that has yet to release a debut album. Over the past four years the Madrid rockers have released a handful of singles, splits, and EPs, making a memorable repertoire with discrete resources. The time has come for Los Claveles to make the big step—releasing a proper full-length album with proper production values and, in the meantime, moving their craft from outbursts of novelty to referential.

“Estafas” is Los Claveles’ first promotional single off their forthcoming debut album, Mesetario (out via Gramaciones Grabofonicas in June, and on presale now). The band makes a few statements in this song. First, the development of a pristine production—they sound less nostalgic, but it’s a smart move as the glaze is accessible enough to push them into the elite of Spanish indie rockers. The other obvious extension is in the band’s approach to form—Los Claveles releasing a song that’s four minutes and a half speaks of a band that’s ready for the maximization of their scope. “Estafas” is a purification piece that slathers aural beauty with measure and clarity. Los Claveles are still string fetishists, and for that we’re eternally grateful.

♫♫♫ "Estafas" 

Mujeres - Soft Gems

Soft Gems, Mujeres
Wea, Spain
Rating: 64
by Souad Martin-Saoudi

As certified by their Facebook page, Mujeres was formed in 2007 when four friends who met in film school began composing tunes for their movies. After graduation, they decided to follow their creative dream by pursuing rock and roll. With Yago Alcover and Martí Gallén on guitar and vocals, Martín Gutierrez on drums and howling, and Pol Rodellar on bass, this Barcelona-based garage rock act had humble beginnings, basically learning to play their instruments while practicing. But with over 500 shows under their belt, including the inevitable pilgrimages to SXSW and Primavera Sound, Mujeres has acquired a privileged status within the growing lo-fi vintage rock scene.

While their live shows exalt the brute, nervous and playful energy that inhabits each and every one of their songs, the production of the band’s second album seems to dilute their identity. Released in late March, Soft Gems covers most contemporary rock and roll in half an hour. Mujeres dirty racket, which fuses old time rock, rockabilly, punk, garage, and country, echoes acts like Black Lips, King Khan, and Demon’s Claws a little too much. It may be the abundance of easy-to-parse influences, but their sophomore album makes such comparisons inevitable.

The nervous cadence of the snare, tangled with the countrified guitar runs of “Soft Gems Pt. 1,” excites and inspires. This energetic album’s opening captures the explosive nature of the band, pronouncing a refinement of the recording sound without compromising their indecipherable rasps. But, after a strong introduction, the album withers under the weight of all too apparent musical references. “Salvaje,” the only song in Spanish, is a nod to the fathers of garage rock in Spanish: the title is simply borrowed from a Los Saicos song and the guitar replicates the one found on their 1965 single “El entierro de los gatos.” The rough treble and jangle in “Far Away” follows the drunken country blues twang of Black Lips’ “Cold Hands.” A sense of discomfort persists in “How I Am,” where Mujeres borrow the first notes of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and play them in the happy sing-along style of The Beets. Then on “Seattle Waves” Mujeres flirts with the ever-present surf rock craze.

Soft Gems also exposes the band’s early rock influences. In the psychedelic country jam “Ride a River,” the band revels in Wanda Jackson’s hypnotic “Funnel of Love,” in the nostalgic rockabilly “Heat and Shame” Mujeres echoes Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line,” while “I’m Over With You” recalls the jukebox serenades of Billy Fury, Del Shannon, and Ritchie Valens. While the quartet imprints into the listener’s cortex the name of many of its predecessors, it fails to embed its own trademark. “Calabrese Fingers” and “See the Light,” both soaked in reverb, redeem Mujeresexhilarating and party hard qualities.  The closing number “Soft Gems Pt. 2,” a soothing youthful surf ballad, brings us back to Mujeres initial raw, fun and unpretentious musical approach. The band has an undeniable knack for creating instant hits, although the sonic collage of Soft Gems sometimes lapses into scrapbooking. Mujeres comes off as one of those bands you absolutely have to see live in order to realize the strength and energy that has earned them public acclamation. 
Calabrese Fingers by PlayGround

Video: Gabriel y Vencerás - "Palacio"

We’re not sure what’s the story behind Barcelona’s newcomers Gabriel y Vencerás, but there’s enough buzz around them to claim them as one of the not-to-be-missed bands this year at Primavera Sound. For a band whose debut album, Ácido Niño, is only a few days old, they seem strangely confident. The three-piece band’s first promotional clip, “Palacio,” was mounted by Borja V. Conde and shows footage of guitarist/vocalist Jorge (aka “Gorpel”) at the religious ceremony of his First Communion. While the use of old grainy footage usually falls into mere faux/framed nostalgia, this clip shows just how gratifying family stocked recordings can be. There’s a bit of Catholic guilt in all of us, and Gabriel y Vencerás have no remorse earning absolution through edging riffs. The clip ends, as every sacrament of the Holy Eucharist should, dancing merengue with the entire congregation.

69 Presents: Serge Gainsbourg Degenerado

Womanizer, alcoholic, child exploiter, provocateur. There’s so much scandal attached to the legacy of France's favorite sleazeball/pop star/sex symbol Serge Gainsbourg, it’s easy to let the exploits outshine the musical prowess. But twenty years after his passing he continues to inspire, as made quite clear in this collection of covers from the folks at Peruvian blog 69

Ranging from almost literal note-for-note renditions (nice) to creative jumping-off points (incredible), the participating artists dabble in a range of musical styles that would have made Gainsbourg proud. Highlights include La Familia del Arbol’s melancholic translation of “La Chanson de Prévert,” Algodón Egipcio’s beautifully layered “Color Café,” and Odio París’s shoegaze badassification of France Gall’s naive “Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son.” Lido Pimienta’s eerie echoing take on the controversial “Les Sucettes” will give you goosebumps.

The attitude and spirit of Serge haunt all twelve tracks, but perhaps what's most telling is that you don’t even need to be a Gainsbourg conoisseur to appreciate this—the songs stand very much on their own: sexy, classic, and somehow so current. Hardly a degeneration, I’d call this a veneration of the highest order.

Video: Los Punsetes - "Alférez Provisional"

Unlike many of you, I’m nowhere near getting tired of CANADA’s celluloid approach. Beyond the familiar aesthetic motifs (the horizontal panning, abrupt close-ups, character bondage, etc.), there’s a physicality to their videos that’s really hard-hitting. Their latest knockout, “Alférez Provisional,” is like a recipe for disaster that turns into a gemstone because of its shared unsentimental recital with the song. The return of Los Punsetes is exciting by itself, but knowing Pablo Diaz-Reixa (El Guincho) is at the helm of their third album, Una montaña es una montaña (out later this month through Everlasting Records), makes things even more attractive. As always, the band is outspoken and play the sport taking multiple kicks and punches (Ariadna especially, looking stunningly beautiful with the new haircut). Like most of the CANADA catalog, this clip doesn’t shy away from objectification–but rather than being gratuitous, they’ve managed to use folk magic as a narrative tool and as visual ammunition.

Video: Cut Your Hair - "Utah in Pictures"

Part of eclectic Fonogramáticos Vol. 13 last year, Cut Your Hair’s “Utah in Pictures” stood out as everything great recent indie pop had been: grandiose guitar riffs working as addictive hooks in simple song patterns. But, while the North American crop of indie-pop revivalists (Beach Fossils, Beach House, Surfer Blood) would set their collection of breezy tunes as the background for pleasant seaside lethargy, the Catalan trio were instead inspired by decaying images of Salt Lake City they found online. Directed by Barcelona-based photo studio EskenaziEncursiva (collaborative effort between Adriana Eskenazi and Laura Encursiva), the video captures the childlike essence behind the three young characters’ picturesque time together. Restrained in its storytelling, yet unobstructed in its visual expressiveness, the video intends to construct a storyline out of Canada’s trademark frame-to-frame aesthetic exercises. But as it refuses to reveal more about the nature of the intriguing relationship between the characters, it instead leaves us with a mixture of shots somewhere between eye-catching composition and suggestive sensuality. Released by Mushroom Pillow, home of some of the least Spaniard-sounding bands from Spain, “Utah in Pictures” is also the band’s debut single (which features a couple of catchy B-sides as well) and has all the potential to successfully launch Cut Your Hair into English-speaking audiences.

El Cuarteto de Nos - Porfiado

Porfiado, El Cuarteto de Nos
Warner Music, Uruguay
Rating: 64
by Carlos Reyes

Although active in the rock & roll excursion for over 30 years, Uruguay’s El Cuarteto Nos didn’t become a serious export until their 2006 hit “Yendo a la casa de Damián” became as solicited as Stacy’s mom. Prompting a creative resurgence with the help of compatriot producer Juan Campodónico (Bajofondo, Campo), the band holds enough motivation to give their renaissance a continuous stream on their latest effort, Porfiado. Motivated, but not too eloquent, in progressive ideas, El Cuarteto (which is, ironically, now a five-piece band) has crafted a thirteenth album that is (as always) amusing but, this time around, not particularly outstanding.

El Cuarteto’s fundamental (perhaps romanticized) audience consists of groups of men who play in local amateur futbol leagues and have drunken encores consisting of televised matches, male bonding, and deep-cut conversation. Yes, I’ve pretty much described half of what Latin rock bands are mainly about, yet there’s a fundamental sketchiness to El Cuarteto’s cheerful hues that have elevated them from the rest. It’s a sensibility to embrace populist, happy-go-lucky milieu that has brought them this far. Like its fitting title, Porfiado is an opinionated chapter of mere idiosyncrasy. With lines such us “seguire pensando en que pensar” and titles like “Lo malo de ser bueno,” composer/vocalist/rapper Roberto Musso confesses to being at the mercy of duality. That feeling (which goes along with the lovely album cover) translates into the quality of the album, whose novelty evaporates rapidly as it seems to be more concerned about lyrical merriment and technical form than moving forward.

There’s still plenty of wit and wisdom all throughout Porfiado for future revisions. Overqualified to play fetch with genres, the album works best in tracks like the bohemian cumbia “Enamorado Tuyo” and especially in “Buen Dia Benito,” where the vocals and magnified cacophony step into Calle 13 territory. At the end, is “No te invite a mi cumpleaños,” the set’s most catchy track, where El Cuarteto shows they’ve learned new tricks to build bridges and stir their one-of-a-kind loopiness with pseudo universality. Porfiado is a flawed effort patched by its comical compass. Perhaps that’s enough for many people, but if, like us, you’ve been distorted/enlightened (in rationale and in spirit) by Piyama Party, than you ought to ask for something more than glee or reachability.

Protistas - Las Cruces

Las Cruces, Protistas
Cazador, Chile
Rating: 84
by Pierre Lestruhaut

It’s 2012, and what has there been to be genuinely excited about in Latin American indie rock these past couple of years, outside of Bam Bam’s ambitious venture into interstellar psychedelia, and–at the diametrically opposed corner of indie–Piyama Party’s absorption of pop culture consumerism into sluggish indieist desolation? My experience writing and listening to Latin indie rock records for over a year can be summarized in the unvarying initial reaction I have about most records. It goes something like: “not bad, maybe something around 72, could drop a small Pavement reference somewhere.” Which is why this new Protistas record, for someone who grew up on indie rock, is part of those that strike the kind of pleasure that can only be found deep in someone’s own formative experiences: a band shaping the instant familiarity of their sound from understated guitar complexity, arpeggiated grandeur, and into the mere extent of their own performers’ aura.

It should take about 15 seconds into first track “Rosetta” for most folks with a deep love of '90s indie rock to get seriously hooked into Las Cruces, as the accessibility of their own nostalgia starts to be revealed as the framework of their interweaving guitars and romantic lyricism. Yet it’s the inner-war mayhem treatment Protistas give to most of their songs (and that has distinguished them from most indie rock acts in South America) that reveals itself as the connecting force and recurring theme between songs. As if the band, following in the steps that made Nortinas War such a solid debut, was made solely for militant anthems such as “Granada," moving for how visceral they are and admirable for how unpredictable their series of peaks can turn out to be.

“Comiendo hostias” and “Tatuaje conmemorativo” bring down the intensity from the loud verse, louder chorus motion of the first tracks, as the latter finally hints at the origin of the album’s title. Setting the scene at Chilean seaside locale Las Cruces, the song is a captivating number of slow-paced melodies and charming guitar licks. Where Real Estate would use such cycling and gentle guitar work as a background for suburban mundanity and slackerism, Protistas aim to paint half-erased memories of a distant place/lover (“Nos tatuamos en el antebrazo medio corazón, pero la sal lo borró”). For the rest of the album, topics hang in between storytelling about uncommon characters (“Supertroll,” “Huesos de cristal,” “Mysterious Skin”) and themes of mind/body liberation and imprisonment (“Enfermo y atrapado,” “Granada”).

The low end here might be a little too vapid, and the vocals are neither ear-catching nor delivery-striking, but that’s because they are only aware of those two guitars, keenly submitting themselves to their dictions and always setting them as the song’s foreground. Even in the least sumptuous tracks like “Napas subterráneas,” the guitars’ aforementioned understated complexity is diffused by the lush production and balanced into an effortless fluctuation that sways around Álvaro Solar's previously militant now heart-wrenching vocals, Solar occasionally peaking at the right moment and duly retreating.

Protistas have often been described, either by themselves or fellow critics, as a brave, wild-sounding, and militant rock band. I’ve obviously never had the chance to see them playing live, but I can imagine, given their songs’ proclivity towards showmanship and thoroughly arranged catharsis (via an inclination for Cobain riffs, a self-declared intention to aim for Arcade Fire-esque grandeur, and a Juan Son-like passionate delivery) that it’s the ideal stage for experiencing the great series of songs that these guys have piling up since their 2010 debut. Word is that their recording sessions with Astro’s own Andrés Nusser were intended to capture the boisterousness of their rollicking live shows.

It sure as hell looks nice on a press release, though I was never one to think that an album’s background story or recording details should, in any way, influence (too much) a listener’s opinion on the finished product. Yet in an era where music software allows more than ever for a myriad of possibilities of sonic exploration, to think that this beautiful collection of songs, this delightfully touching music–religious in its grandiosity, uncompromising in its restraint–can be performed by humans with nothing but actual rock instruments is simply at the crux of its own poignancy. That it isn’t particularly innovative, thought-provoking, or cool (qualities which can be found elsewhere among our high-rated albums) shouldn’t undermine just how much simple indie rock can be so overwhelming.

Silva de Alegría - Geografía Nacional

Geografia Nacional, Silva de Alegría
Independiente, Mexico
Rating: 79
by Carlos Reyes

It’s hard not to feel relentlessly amused when talking about Sergio Silva. Over the last few years he has percolated into the cream of the crop of Mexican pop, gaining fans and guides along the way like Natalia Lafourcade, Café Tacvba, and Julieta Venegas. And yet he keeps both feet outside of the pop elite, standing on a precursory position as a conciliator between rock stars and songstresses. He has certainly made good use of that site. As the leading composer/vocalist of Furland, Silva has engrossed the attention of an intercontinental audience and should have no problem doing the same with his solo act, Silva de Alegría.

Silva is a Renaissance man, and unlike fellow Mexican caballeros Juan Manuel Torreblanca and Tony Gallardo, he claims to be whistling from joy. His debut four-track EP Geografía Nacional seems unaffected by the nation’s political environment or concerned for thematic escapisms. But don’t ever think of Silva as an insensitive man, think of him as a performer pitching emotion through his symphonic heart. Silva’s composition is one of personal crest, crafting self-serving orchestrated journeys that are eventually wrapped around lyrical landscapes to travel abroad. The way “La Campana” travels from whimsical doubt to a volatile benediction shows just how well measured and in control the artist is.

While Silva has the voice of an eternally pre-pubescent boy, one should not doubt his skill for diverging sounds to be actively accessed and engaged. In this regard, the colossal-sounding title, font, and surrounding yellow frame go from campy to proficient–even if only in the melodic world. Geografía Nacional is aware of its miniature size against a scientific nature and surely blooms from its epic nature. The jointed track “Otra Vez / Crayon Pony Fish” starts classicist (and on a somber note) and builds up to beautiful kid imagery (with great Paul Simon and Sufjan Stevens harmonious ideas put into practice). There’s a distinctive resourcefulness to this music (he really knows how to landscape sound), and, luckily, he keeps things accessible enough for anyone willing to grasp.

The second half of the short EP is a paean expedition to slower and miniature times. “There’s nothing better than happiness. Nothing that can buy the calm of having seen love,” sings Silva as he also describes a scenery of flourishing moments accompanied by birds, urban machinery, and sunrises. Closing/bonus track “Lento” is a special track here at Club Fonograma, as it was the opening track on our celebratory compilation Nosotros Los Rockers. During the selection of the tracks Silva de Alegría might not have been our immediate choice to do a cover for Café Tacvba, but, really, who could’ve described the walking of a caterpillar from a leaf’s stem to the humid, resting soil with such lucid simplicity? Silva’s livelihood in the expansion of folk mediation/meditation seems somehow assured. Even at its 15min length, Geografía Nacional is beautifully weathered–the beginning of a tender expedition and a lot of greatness to come.

♫♫♫ "La Campana" Download EP

Video: Violeta Vil - "Lapidas y Cocoteros"

In case you didn’t quite grasp it, 2011 was the fertilizing year for tropical goth. No band had more say in the fusion of the sound’s gametes as up-and-comers Violeta Vil. Great storytelling (“Amish”), bone-deep communion (“Toronjil”), and plenty of nostalgia (“El Reloj” cover) are only a few of the attributes that are likely to disembark on their forthcoming debut album via Discoteca Oceano. A standout from their demo, the proper edit of “Lapidas y Cocoteros” (“headstones and coconut”) is the ideal first single to showcase the band’s dualistic scope. The Spaniard/Venezuelan band is young-blooded but already transgressive. Violeta Vil’s first audiovisual offering is an unbridled frame of conception symbolism–one that serves its aesthetics strictly from what it beholds. Bandleader and director Monica Di Francesco is remarkably contemplative, even if wounded in the immersion. This is a clip that tricks the eyes and succeeds austerely by the poetry of its script.

La BIG Rabia - La Bestia

La Bestia, La BIG Rabia
Algorecords, Chile
Rating: 70
by Carlos Reyes

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that Los Saicos were on active duty for barely two years. Sometimes that’s all it takes to change the gears of music. The academic appreciation for the inadvertent proto-punk pioneers rises through the years, and the Saicomania gains cult followers by the minute. Whether for the regional proximity or the sound alone, Chilean newcomers La BIG Rabia will eventually be pushed to make the conversation on the authority of their influences. Particularly as the band doesn’t disclose the Peruvian legends as a direct weight in the backbone of their storm-of-disease and very Saico-esque debut EP, La Bestia.

While it’s discomforting to inherit a debt, and there’s not a sealed-and-approved list of bands to add to a band’s press kit, sometimes absences make themselves too notorious (particularly in rock & roll). “A new rabid discourse” is La BIG Rabia’s seemingly outspoken premise. A bold (to the books), yet eyebrow-raising (for the punk fans) argument as they flirt with the positions of being rocanrol social activists and/or plain pupils. The vision is dim for almost any band claiming to bring a new message but, when you think about it, an actual rock act living through the glorious years of Chilean pop is quite enlightening. For a band that opens the show with a call-for-action piece called “Para todos los Hijos de Puta,” the band sounds aptly grumpy. La BIG Rabia offers no lube to its frustrations and plows everything from politics to love–this is music that exists and rises from the angst of corruption.

La Bestia is obscure in its own contempt, and that works wonders in favor of members Sebastian Orellana and Ivan Molina, both from the also generation-squashing band Philipina Bitch. These guys are raw in shock value and smitten by nature–in other words, the idyllic band for a '60s punk revival. Album best “Nos gusta que sea asi” is a raucous groove about the joy of losing control. The sexual and motorized journeys in this track will have you thinking you’ve finally lost sanity and encountered the true root of evil. It’s ultimately tracks like this that overpower any mortification on the band’s referential. Because even in all its posture, La Bestia is more than just a successful introductory EP–it’s the raging, commanding start for a band that isn’t exactly ready for its demolición moment just yet, but doesn’t seem to mind the pinching of the diseased roads ahead either.

                                      ♫♫♫ "Nos gusta que sea asi" Download (Short Version)  Facebook

Poliedro - "NUR"

It’s been a little more than a year since we last wrote about Poliedro, yet considering the one-man project from Santiago is responsible for not only the most demanding album on our Best of 2011 list, but also for some of the most captivating artwork we’ve featured on this site (Plancha and Los Herederos for starters), it’s been fairly difficult to get him out of our heads, despite the lack of new material. Poliedro’s latest track, “NUR,” just hit his own Bandcamp, and, although we weren’t expecting it to be particularly accessible, a seven-minute jam blending a steady bass line with sporadic guitar and synth lines, glitch noises, and unearthly vocals didn’t seem like the path he’d follow a year ago either. Considering how much Poliedro’s own introspective mindset and idiosyncratic detachment sacrifice the vivid communal space most pop artists seek to comfort their audiences with, the uniqueness of his sound and art remain at the core of both his fascination and his divisiveness. And with “NUR,” he has finally shaped the fibers of this intriguing artistic persona into his own singular interstellar abstractions.

Video: Shakira - "Addicted to You"

Even casual fans and borderline haters should give props to Shakira. When the 2010/11 party months were crowded with Ke$ha and David Guetta-produced house, Shakira opted for rhythm and a refreshing take on merengue. Ultimately, it was the strength of her singles (yep, even the title track grew on me) that redeemed the uneven but really-not-that-bad Sale El Sol. Now, as summer approaches, Shakira concludes and celebrates the success of Sale El Sol with one last single. At two and a half minutes, "Addicted to You" doesn't carry the same potential her last hits did but, as the layered "oh, oh, ohs" indicate, the song is more of a victory lap. And a well-deserved one, too.

As for the accompanying clip, it’s harmless eye-candy. Enjoyable even. Pop videos and I have a complicated relationship. In high school, I had nothing but contempt for the common pop video. I cringed at the sight of lens flares, slow motion shots, and product placement. In other words, exactly the kind of videos director Anthony Mandler has spent a career making. But even I’m having trouble hating on this. Mandler's shots accompany Shakira through gorgeous and colorful locations. And yes, we get the obligatory lens flares, but at least we're spared any melodrama. This one is just fun.

Installed - Paisajes de Invierno

Paisajes de Invierno, Installed
Grabaciones Amor, USA
Rating: 82
by Carlos Reyes

Sometimes it’s best to sell yourself short and surprise the hell out of them. Whether it’s watching a seemingly self-effacing, but virtuous, contestant on a reality show, or finding out Jessica Alba has great taste in music, eventually one comes to find out that the unveiling of our multi-layered personas is a response straight from the intellect. As far as layered and unassuming characters go, Chicano newcomer Fernando Alvarez has the skill to intertwine the expressive chords between the thinker and emotional self. Installed’s debut album, Plancha, was last year’s overlooked indie jewel–a record whose prolonged recognition equals its profound meaning and reasoning. Early this year, Installed released his second installment, Paisajes de Invierno, a shorter package that is nonetheless earning the atemporal description already.

Installed’s second set of songs plays like a winter afternoon at the kite park. Tethered aircrafts whose success at showmanship depends not only on the pressure of the wind, but also on the touch of the person holding the string. It’s the world of ambiance–unmeasured excitement in uncompromised surroundings. Installed’s musical proficiency isn’t constituted by the methods of his approach, but rather by the pouring of melodic incentive. Paisajes de Invierno is expansive and unsealed. When Installed questions “A donde va a el sol?” in the view-adjusting opener “Oso,” he does it in an ascending way–like setting up the imminent journey to self-realization as he expands “sol” into “solo,” sighing, “cuando ando solo me siento mucho mejor.” Very few things are assorted here, and yet it’s the assembly of loops and constitution of vocal sampling that ultimately give Installed a pair of wings.

Left-side ideas and detonations of literal patterns would deflate if it weren’t for the fact that there is melodic content throughout the nine-piece album. Fernando Alvarez is versatile in his vocal delivery–the dude cries, grouches, croons, and exorcises in accord to his melodic mood. He plays Twister like Matias Aguayo in “Paz,” goes skeletal like Bradford Cox in “En Mi Cuarto,” and swims in the mellow infrastructures of Café Tacvba in “Un Amigo.” In the same way, the indiscrete and less-than-pristine production demands this album to be transferred (or at least imagined) to all existing physical formats (CD, vinyl, and cassette). Yes, it’s nostalgic in all surfaces.

Paisajes de Invierno’s beauty is also lyrical. Promotional single “Brochacho” carries the anthemic feel of a newly formed fraternity–one based in the exploitation of wealth, unwarranted revelry, and laziness. It is, however, the breathing-through-the-wound ballad “Siempre” that becomes the heart of the album. This is the track where Alvarez grasps from the nuance and the raptorial. Pop auterism at its best. In all its magnetism, it’s hard to come up with a prefix for someone like Installed. He’s too extroverted to be a songwriter and too withdrawn from technique to be a producer. Installed is probably not confused or even bothered to find the proper depiction, as it is unlikely he would add his musical leisure to his business card anytime soon. Although he probably should–he makes music that is unforgiving, and that’s a trait that shimmers from his egoless heroism.

♫♫♫ "Siempre" Download Album