Helado Negro - "Young, Latin & Proud"

Despite the assurances of many political talking heads on American television, “Latino” is not a one-stop signifier. Similarly, not every “political” song has to sound like bombs exploding in the streets (Julieta Venegas’s latest single should make that clear). Tying these concepts together, it makes sense that Helado Negro should release a song called “Young, Latin & Proud” and not have to answer why it’s not an outright banger.

“Young, Latin & Proud” is a motivational song that doesn’t see the need to kick you in the ass. But do not mistake its slow, seductive beat for indifference. This song is about waking up every day with complete self-recognition and realization, while knowing that there is a community of millions ready to stand with you at any given moment. That’s not to say that it’s about revolution—pride does not equate with unrest. It’s not even about age—youth is a relative concept. And it’s not necessarily about being Latin, because there is no exact cultural definition. Indeed, it’s about simultaneously being young, Latino, and proud, and never being afraid of exhibiting all three at once. The message may be a spark, but it’s incendiary nonetheless, and Robert Lange is letting you hold the matches.

Julieta Venegas - "Explosión"

Julieta Venegas' new single is noteworthy not by its own urgent and charming virtue alone, but because we are living, writing, breathing, dying, and creating in the tragedy of historic times. As humanity edges closer towards proverbial doomsday, our pop stars are illuminating the individual and collective potential to continue challenging the course of neoliberal history - away from the systematic human sacrifices & methodical ecological collapse taking place.

"Explosión," Julieta's second single off the forthcoming Algo Sucede, isn't some cheesy world peace number. It is also not vague about who or what it is talking about. Julieta's singer songwriter genius is embracing the light and the dark, thematically recalling her Tijuana No! days. The chorus paints a colorful hymn: "que todo despierte" coupled with the most necessary nihilism, "que explote todo por aquí." She sings, "Dime si vas a permitir que esto suceda ante ti," speaking directly to our personal comfort, addressing what is left of our tarnished oversoul. Venegas directly addresses the desaparecidos  (it's not just the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, it's over 24,000 since 2005) and the thousands of women and girls being eliminated by a failed society that is raping and killing its own women, the symbolic Maria of the song. "¿Quien les va a pedir perdón o dar explicación?" Julieta asks, as if referring to the parents and loved ones of those directly living the nightmare of the current social order.

2015 is leaving an indelible mark as far as our pop insurrection: Gepe declared that he is not a proletariat but rather a leaf taken by the wind (this is brilliant because worker essentialism is literally so depressing, merci Baudrillard), everything Planeta No is doing, the self organized / corporate-free Pop Fest Santiago, Malportado Kids' anti colonial tropical punk, Fakuta's Tormenta Solar Tour that is full of these transcending gems, and Tony Gallardo's warrior youth anthem. A collective cultural shift is underway and our soundtrack is sounding eclectic, strange, pop. One of the catchiest protest songs of our generation, we are singing along to every word of "Explosión," embracing the necessary destructions that must take place in order for the mysteries of our individual and collective awakenings to continue flourishing. "¡Que el mundo tiemble!"

Planeta no - "Sol a Sol"

"Your enemies made you work from sun to sun to feed them. Now that the land is yours, work from sun to sun to vanquish them."

Planeta No gave us the early Dënver feels on 2014's cute but uneven Matucana. They sang sweetly about Japanese drawings, losing their virginity, soccer teams, essentially being called shameless señoritas and their squatted home.

Never has Chilean pop so clearly articulated a truly anti-authoritarian praxis: The stellar video for "Señorita" was all about empowering trans femininity (the transformation taking place in a beautiful, decaying mansion- presumably liberated from the logic of rent), burning things down like advertising and (violently) robbing yuppies- all while looking extra fly in retro jackets in Santiago- encapuchadxs status.

The band is making all the right moves on their latest offering, "Sol a Sol," sustaining their vision of cutting disco gems like Milton, while singing about depression and self destruction. The bright sounding title of the track is borrowed from a (featured above) super militant worker's liberation graphic posted on their Facebook account. The band also played the ongoing student occupation of the University of Chile with the likes of Gepe. Who said pop music and social liberation cannot coexist?

"Sol a Sol" is the first single from the "super punky" Odio- the band's forthcoming debut LP, scheduled for release on July 20th. 

Selena Gomez (feat. A$AP Rocky) - "Good For You"

Somewhere lost in my email drafts there's a half-finished review of 2013's Stars Dance that made a long-winded attempt to declare the record a near masterpiece. As other blockbuster albums that year settled on disparate imitations, exhaustive features, and an excess of advertising loanwords (2010-2013 radio was OBSESSED with some combination of "tonight" and "live my life"), Stars Dance held on to its dance pop vision with the perfect caliber to pull it off. It was club music for lovers. Skrillex meets Britney Spears. The pop equivalent of a 5 Gum commercial. None of it mattered in the end. Stars Dance practically flopped since 2013 was also the year la maili.

2015 brings us another chance for adult Selena Gomez to have her moment, this time free from Hollywood Records, the Disney imprint that gave us all four of her previous releases. Strangely enough, these were the exact conditions that Miley Cyrus was under when "We Can't Stop" was released. The fact that "Good For You" was produced by Hit-Boy and features A$AP Rocky adds to the peculiarity of the timing.

We don't even have a video yet, but it's unlikely that "Good For You" will break the internet as Miley's once did. Gomez isn't interested in espousing Instagram/Snapchat free spirit tag lines. Instead the song is affected with (PG-13) sensuality, frozen R&B, and a whispery, barely there performance. Admittedly, we've heard this done better this year through artists like Tinashe or Korean girl group Red Velvet. And A$AP Rocky's presence just comes across as extra and outdated. But the moment Gomez sings "Trust me, I can take you there" you can't help but believe it, even for a second.

First impressions on these type of songs are nothing to take seriously. It took us practically a year to recognize the genius of "6AM" or Becky G's "Shower." Just know our expectations are there, and we can't wait to meet Selena Gomez all over again.

Dënver - "Los Vampiros"

There's a lot that feels beguiling about Dënver's music (and the band itself). Their last release, the charmingly-crafted Profundidad de Campo is structured in a very narrative sense and the quirky Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, took on adolescence with all the sincerity of adolescents. Mariana Montenegro and Milton Mahan illustrated their poppy intellect with songs that sounded more and more melancholic every time one heard them. Among the greatness that surrounds Chile's music scene, what made Dënver's first two albums so compelling was its infectious nature and their big up beat emotions. In "Los Vampiros," their first single off the upcoming Sangre Cita, Mahan’s openness also gets the better of his often spot-on taste for musical eclecticism.

"Los Vampiros" opens with blasts of Europop synths that demand to be enjoyed rather than endure. The track counts with the vocal collaborations of Fanny Leona (Playa Gótica), (me llamo) Sebastián and Pablo Muñoz, the other half of Mahan's side project De Janeiros. The lyrics refer to more extreme hedonism and exemplifies, just like a B movie, the night as territory of fantastic creatures, vampires and werewolves in a struggle for pleasure where the battlefield is the disco track.

The community Mahan and Montenegro seem to imagine here is not exactly the twee community of romantic shut-ins that once defined the group’s fanbase. It’s a different version of that group, not necessarily older, but certainly wiser in their recognition of the need to engage the world in order to preserve their dreaming within it. You might not love disco or Europop, but you can still feel that honest, gentle hope that only Dënver knows how to transmit.

Santos - 3106 EP

3106 - EP, Santos
Tropic-All, Mexico
Rating: 86
by Zé Garcia

The skeleton of the underrated Mi Technobanda is intact- all the more restless, tempestuous on EP 3106, Santos' latest offering to the ruidosón deities. The sonic formula remains pretty much unchanged from the days of 2012's Shaka- Santos' first truly formidable release- although the execution of dread & dance this time around hits the highest marks. 3106 isn't necessarily more unsettling or challenging than Mi Technobanda: it is more concise, less redundant & simply Santos' most essential work to date.

In 3 minutes and 33 seconds, “Paris" goes for the purest maximalism of his ghastly tocaditas: “hay mi negrita no te vayas, hay mi negrita no me dejes". The disquieted atmosphere- the technobanda is on 10 right now- and Santos' supplications suggest his amada isn't just going overseas, she's leaving this realm and taking everything with her, namely Santos’ heart and sanity. The seductive “Muevelo” tempts us with its percussion de cascabel, a malefic tribe intoxicating itself with libations of darkness: the disfigured self, the existential demons working through our bodies, against ourselves and loved ones. The catacombs open, a foggy pestilence cloaks the pista de baile: "yo quiero mas de tu boom, boom sensual." Just as you think the spell would be winding down, the percussion clatters, digital culebras emerge from their nest, battle drums: it's hard not to imagine vengeful spirits dancing around the burning ballots of rebel Mexico. A track that could make its way into a family Quinceañera DJ's playlist is "El Rescate”, if only the lyrics were not about a girl being kidnapped on her way to get tortillas. The fanfare sounds like the Reyna del Pueblo making her way onstage to receive her crown, the Banda playing, the uncertain eyes of the town upon her. Santos almost sounds like he’s rapping on this one: "ya planean el rescate pero rescantenla a ella no la dejen morir / no dejen que se la crea por tragico que sea / no la vallas a olvidar como todo su país”. The other side of Santos' psyche bemoans: “tiene miedo a morir, tiene miedo de vivir"- his traditional eerie organ synth dazzles, somewhere between misery and euphoria. The trumpet calls help bring us back from a party in purgatory we might not come back from. An omen- a bird call, a llorona harmonizes: "La Nación” is the soundtrack to the uncertainty of the future and the ever present moral turpitude of a failed society- an inaudible Santos in the background sounding like the sinister evening news, suppressed. The final number “Gladiador" is a sinful noche de cabaret from the 1950s, a deformed cha cha cha: crystalline piano stabs, the smell of decadence, broken tequila bottles on the floor, the fog from the mausoleum indistinguishable from the thick layer of cigarette smoke in the air.

On 3106, Santos seems to be taking cues from the neo ruidosón stylings of Siete Catorce, and to a lesser extent the populist dance sensibilities of Erick Rincon's future tribal to great effect. All of his previous work was leading up to this: Santos' sonic aphorisms pulsate stronger than ever before. As ruidosón makes its way into Europe and across the “border” into the “United States”, EP 3106 signals that Santos is finally ready for the world stage, finding some light on the dance floor without losing his eternal homage to the dark. 3106 suggests Santos is getting closer to creating his magnum opus. The next Santos LP will be released sometime in September.

SILVA - "Noite"

More than a year after launching Vista Pro Mar, SILVA returns with “Noite,” a sensual and magnetic number written between Japan and Brazil. The single, which features collaboration with veteran singer and guitarist Lulu Santos and rapper with growing hype Don L, has a disco funk feel expressed through voluptuous synths and heady back vocals.

The talented composer and producer hailing from Vitória (ES) transcends the limits of ephemeral pop and dreamy electro to offer a romantic ascension to the world of ideal beauty where mundane life fades under a heavy black veil. The blurred edges of “Noite” envelop all things, allowing for fantasies to emerge and the most unreal visions to prevail, leaving open the promise of a fresh LP.

Malportado Kids - Total Cultura EP

Total Cultura - EP, Malportado Kids
Dead Labour, USA
Rating: 78
by Zé Garcia

Newcomers Malportado Kids released their debut Mi Concha EP in January of 2014. Somehow we didn't get the memo. The damn serious video for "Mi Concha" begins with a flashing quote (a visual homage to the first few seconds of Alex Andwandter's "Como Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo” ?) that reads "who taught you to hate yourself?" Who taught you to hate yourself itself is taken from the infamous speech by Malcom X in which he asks his fellow Africans- among many painful questions- who taught you to bleach your skin? Spliced images of white indie bands abound, vocalist Victoria Ruiz exclaims "mi concha no es bastante blanca!" before telling white supremacy "chingate, fuck you güey!" Vicious, cool. See white supremacy is not solely experienced as white men in robes- media, institutions, $ociety, can be much more insidious and discrete. I remember being a teenager who temporarily changed his name to Josh and wanted to shop at places like A&F. Dark days.

Malportado Kids is Victoria Ruiz (U.S. born via Mexico & Puerto Rico) & Joey La Neve DeFrancesco (Ruiz's white accomplice)- “anti-colonial tropical punk" from Rhode Island. They also rage in the band Downtown Boys who are well respected in the anti-capitalist punk underground and just played Old Mount Happy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood- its even older incarnation- Mount Happy- was the first “punk” venue in Chicago I had ever visited back in 2010. Malportado Kids begins their latest EP Total Cultura with "Soy La Pocha”- kindling the "danceable propaganda" fire instantly- Ruiz purrs, the reggaetón throttles, the turn up is inescapable: “Cruzo lo que quiero” Ruiz cries out, “Latina, boricua morena, mestiza, hispana, chicano, POCHA!” Lead single "Bruja Cosmica" is a digital trojan horse floating through the universe- coruscating electronics give way to un pasito medio Banda, and back down Victoria's cosmic tongue, shouting hexes along the way. The warning is in the lyrics: the witch could be she who makes your bed. "1492 Overture" is an interlude that shits on the legacy and memory of that fateful year when the colonists sailed the ocean blue on their imperial conquests. But the legacy of the colonists continues to this day, unfolding in our narratives: “Cabron, colombo ¿Como sigue sin parrar? Cabron, colombo ¿Como sigue near and far?” Malportado Kids must ask: autonomy or patriarchy?

Space odyssey interlude "Bienvenido" interrogates: "que piensas de esta cause perdida?" "Chingona" sifts militantly through the jungle- “no soy Madonna” borrowing keyboards from a mythical anti capitalist lambada coursing through the veins of black & brown bodies across “the Americas” while "Fuego" sounds like Rita Indiana toying with Maria y José's music equipment. "Basta Huedo" (stop whitey! ) has a hint of the baile funk in M.I.A.'s "Bucky Done Gone" with as much swag, and perhaps an ounce more of militancy: "give me back my fucking land!" A guest verse by Norlan Olivio aka Cathawk (drummer for Downtown Boys via the Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico) cries out "I don't need money to love myself"- a bold statement in an age where our self respect and sense of belonging seems to be accelerating further away from currency, especially for those of us who don’t have the monetary kind. “Drones, clones, phones, homes, bones, loans, white zones…they can gun me down or lock me up but I’m still Brown and proud” Cathawk continues. And this shit is real. The prison industrial complex continues swallowing our Black communities, incarcerating our mothers and their children in for profit "family friendly" detention centers- and the threat of being murdered by law enforcement is very real. Anti blackness & near indigenous extinction rule everything around me, yo.

The Knife referenced it in their debut album and made it about school girls on their knees and suicide, album closer "I'm On Fire" is a Bruce Springsteen cover but no one is seriously drinking this white man's "working class" tears. An odd but compelling way to close out an album that insists on rallying against the "modalities of whiteness, imperialism, and masculinity", Malportado Kid's "bad desire" might be the total destruction of those things that have sought and continue to seek our destruction. "Total Cultura" tells the story that it is possible to fight the power structures of capitalist white supremacy with the cosmic brujeria we already possess. The fierce DIY energy of the duo is unquestionable but we have to wonder what the band might sound like with a more polished sound. Or what they sound like en vivo. Malportado Kids will play Chicago's 2040 House on June 10th.