Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Even more annoying lists...

So, when I did that list of songs I played the most in my set, there were a bunch of other really good songs left behind because they couldn’t quite match my DJ set or please my musically retarded audience. Hence, here is a list of songs released in 2008 based on their videos instead of their spinnability. Anyway, long introductions aren’t read by anybody so let’s go straight to the point, actually to the eleven points.


1) “El Niño” by Mustafá Yoda
Back in the day people used to say that Mustafá was the best freestyle rapper in Argentina and I thought well, I gotta meet this guy. So I did and I was the first journalist to interview him and his crew La Organización. In my article I bluntly stated that these guys -who didn’t even have a one-song demo- were the best thing that could happen to the then-agonizing local hip-hop scene and of course that ended up bad because all the other rappers got jealous and called me names and basically wanted to shove the Obelisco up my ass. The thing is La Organización never got the chance to actually materialize my prophecy and prove they were the best, because they broke up before releasing an album. Mustafá became a solo artist and the rest became Koxmoz. With this first single of his second solo album Mustafá helped Argentinean hip-hop reach it’s adult age, specially thanks to the amazing video that’s definitely the best video an Argentinean hip-hop has artist ever done and it’s by far the one I’ve seen the most times during 2008.


2) “A Veces” by Anita Tijoux
I fell in love with Anita the first time I heard a bootlegged cassette with her voice rhyming in French during an underground concert in Chile that a Chilean reader once sent to my magazine way before Makiza became the best thing to ever happen to Latin American hip-hop (wow that happened ten years ago already!). She has been my muse ever since. This is the third single (I didn’t cared much for the second because of her guest) from her solo debut and it’s my favorite track from that album because it reminds me of that introspective Anita I first fell for during the Makiza days.


3) “Volumen Xero” by Koxmoz
You see, three videos so far and all of them are South American hip-hop, I guess one can’t escape their roots. This one has also some personal feelings involved and forgive me for getting so nostalgic and sentimental. I love Koxmoz like if they were my sons because in many ways they are my sons, after all I paid for and released their first album myself (buy it here bitches) and I hooked them up with Gotan Project for that amazing song that was in everybody’s top ten a couple of years ago. Plus, they are my close friends. So I can’t by objective on this one. The only reason this video is not on top of the list is because it came out two years too late and by then I was already sick of listening to the same song again and again; and also because it’s one of the songs I like the least in that awesome record.


4) “Bruja” by Orishas
Orishas can’t rhyme shit compared to the three people I mentioned before, but they are way more successful because they mix it with salsa, thus making their rap easy to swallow by non-rap-listeners. But Orishas has usually some pretty amazing videos and this one here has to be their best ever because of the obvious references to Russ Meyer’s masterpiece Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill. I mean, yeah, Babasónicos already did a tribute to Tura Satana many years before and quoting Russ Meyer on a music video is not an amazingly original idea (see: The Pipettes “Pull Shapes” where they trace frame by frame the classic scene from Beyond The Valley of the Dolls) but who can resist this Rossy de Palma? Even if the rap is primitive, you can’t just stop watching this video.


5) “Renacer” by Seo2
Well I guess if I’m gonna include two videos by two former-La Organización, I might as well go ahead and include two videos by two former-Makiza. After all, those are two of the best hip-hop crews of the southern cone and nobody really listens to them in the northern hemisphere, which I find so unfair. Anyway, I never cared much for the post-Makiza work by Seo2 but this video shot in Buenos Aires is pretty damn good. There you have me being nostalgic again. What the fuck is wrong with me these days dude? I don’t recognize myself!


6) “Politik Kills” by Manu Chao
His last album was so weak that the EP of remixes of this one song was way better than the whole Radiolina whatever. And this song wasn’t even really new because he already sang the same lyrics in Amadou & Mariam’s Dimanche A Bamako. However, the video is pretty good when you play it on a loop without sound on the projector while you are throwing a party. People think you are so socially conscious.

7) “Pa Bailar” by Bajofondo (no embedded video available for this one)
I remember when I reviewed Bajofondo’s second album for the top ten of 2007 and I said I was relieved that this album included collaborations with everybody EXCEPT Julieta Venegas, because you know, Julieta Venegas happens to be guest vocalist in every other album of the past couple of years and honestly, I’m sick of her already. Like if she was the only female singer out there. She’s not the best. She’s hasn’t got the nicest voice. She’s not particularly good looking. So why the fuck does everybody have to invite Julieta Venegas to their albums? Whatever happened to Ely? I don’t get it! The thing is I loved Bajofondo’s “Pa Bailar” in their original Julieta-free version. Why did they have to mess it up adding her voice on top of a well-finished song? I guess I should invite Julieta to guest write on my blog sometime and see what the whole mystery is about. Maybe she gives free head to her hosts...

8) “Pijamas” by Babasónicos (blame the fuckers of Universal for the lack of embedded video)
There’s way too much surrealistic weird shit on this video. Even a furry bunny with a growing-pixelated-hard-on. We get it, you are weird, you do drugs, what’s next?


9) “S.E.X.Y. R.O.B.O.T.” by The Pinker Tones
The song might not be as catchy as the amazing “Sonido Total” and no video will ever be better than “Karma Hunters” but I still have love for this Barcelona guys, even if they crossed over to the gringo-hipster crowd and they have a song in the soundtrack of a teen rom-com. They are still the best thing to come out from Spain since paella.


10) “Katia, Tania, Paulina y La Kim” by Mexican Institute of Sound
When you are the wackiest rapper to ever grab a microphone in the whole continent and you still insist on rapping on your record, you better not take yourself too seriously. This guy knows he sucks, he has no skills, no wordplay, no swagger, no nothing. He’s like that weirdo compulsive-masturbator-nerd from your elementary school class that you all used to make fun of while he tried in vain to bust a move at the dance parties. He was very well aware that you and your buddies where making fun of him when you encouraged him to dance in the middle of the circle but he didn’t care and he still danced. He was having fun. He wasn’t taking himself seriously. Now that dude’s the A&R of some major record label and he scores way more pussy than you and me and all our buddies put together and we all wish we had his job. So he can very well go and rap all he wants with his wacky no-flow and we can keep on making fun of him. But at the end of the day, he wins and we are the losers. 


11) “Las Cosas Que Dejé” by Zambayonni
This one has no official video so it goes like a bonus track in the eleventh position but it is by far the video I’ve seen to most during 2008. Way more times than Mustafá’s “El Niño”. For about two months I used to wake up, bring my laptop next to my pillow and watch this two or three times before getting up to go to work. It’s pure genius.

Monday, December 22, 2008

BEST 11 LIVE SHOWS OF 2008

1) Bajofondo at Stern Grove
Yes, I know at the end of my first post in this same blog I stated that the whole electro-tango thing was dead. But I haven’t seen this guys live yet. I always considered them a second-rate version of Gotan Project, but when it comes to live shows they kick Gotan’s ass big time, and Gotan shows are fucking mind-blowing. So yeah, best show of the year goes to Santaolalla and friends.


2) Rodrigo & Gabriela at Outside Lands
I simply love the fact that the most successful Mexican rock band nowadays doesn’t come from Mexico but from Ireland. Nobody cares about Rodrigo and Gabriela in Mexico and I like it that way. So you can go to their shows and not be surrounded by annoying flag-waving mexirockers. For example you go see Cafe Tacuba and yeah, they put a great show, they play very original music, they are the biggest rock-en-español band among the critics, but you can’t enjoy their concerts because of their fucking annoying crowd who are only there to mosh during the played-out silly hits from the nineties, ignore all the new more interesting music and shout “culero” at the end of the performance. On the other hand, you go see Rodrigo and Gabriela and they put a fucking amazing show, they are equally original and loved by the critics, but if there is one Mexican in the whole crowd he’s the one who’s complaining between teeth “ugh, gringos only like them because they come from Europe, if they stayed in Mexico nobody would care much about them”. And you know what asshole? It’s true! Because if they stayed in Mexico they would still be playing fucking trash metal and who the fuck wants to see the Mexican clones of Slayer? Not me.


3) Babasónicos at The Elbo Room
You could argue I’m partially biased on this one since I was the DJ opening for that show but the thing is I really love this guys and even their worst live performance is musical heaven for me. I saw them live for the first time in 1994 opening for Depeche Mode. What a concert! Since then I’ve seen them many many other times, in Buenos Aires, in Los Angeles, in New York and now, for the first time in San Francisco. My only complain is that they only played songs from their post-Jessico era and I was hoping for some oldies. I was their biggest fan during their Trance Zomba/Dopádromo days and the nostalgic in me was expecting at least one song from those times. But anyway, Jessico (their best album ever, period) changed them forever and they don’t seem too willing to experiment with weirdness and unpredictability anymore. Still the new material is all pretty damn good and you should listen to it more frequently if you haven’t done so lately.


4) Silverio at The Red Devil Lounge
Thanks to the fact that I was also hired to DJ at this show I got to see for the first time this guy whom I would’ve probably ignored otherwise. He really opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities of the music business. I mean, he just goes on stage in costume, he pushes play on a CD player and starts screaming while getting naked. I could totally do that! And I definitely look a lot better naked than him. You’ll see.

5) Thievery Corporation at the Greek Amphitheatre.
They announced Seu Jorge would be there too but he only showed up for one song. I bet all the flag-waving Brazilians where hella mad! Fuck them too. I hate all sorts of flag-waving crowds. People that go to a concert with a flag don’t care about the music, they just wanna meet other people from their same stupid country and I don’t know... pretend to be patriotic while living in exile which is like the biggest oxymoron. I love Seu Jorge but I also love Thievery Corporation too so I didn’t really care, I still had a great time.

6) Rachid Taha at Stern Grove
I once interviewed this guy, like 7 years ago or so, in fucking Los Angeles. He was barely waking up and he was totally hung over. I was like, this is the type of drunk uncle I’d like to have, instead of you know, the other type. Anyway, his show that night was dope and I was addicted to his music ever since. I didn’t get to see him live again until this past summer and I was so happy that I dressed up as a Palestinian terrorist and rode my bike all the way to the park by myself and it didn’t even matter that I had to go home without one single phone number of a middle-eastern chic.


7) Boom Boom Kid at The Oakland House
I’ve been following this guy from close since somebody gave me a tape of Fun People’s Anesthesia back in 1995. Fun People, for all you misinformed jerks, was the greatest hard core punk band ever to come out of Latin America. Don’t even try to argue that. The only competition they get are Los Crudos who were from Chicago. Anyway, Fun People was fucking awesome and I still listen to their albums (in vinyl, bitches) and they still sound great. Their singer, Nekro, later went solo and changed his name to Boom Boom Kid and since then he delivered a consistent amount of awesome records. I recommend Smiles From Chapanoland if you haven’t heard any. Going solo was simply the best thing he could’ve ever done because now, when he goes on tour across the world, he just has to pay one plane ticket and it’s always easier to find some couch to crush when it’s just you and you don’t even carry any instruments or equipment. He just comes to the US, finds a couple of unemployed mexipunks, forms a temporary band and goes on tour coast to coast giving some of the best live performances you’ll see in your whole miserable insignificant life. That’s the way to do it! For the last three years I’ve seen I didn’t miss any of his shows in the Bay Area, this one was in somebody’s living room in Oakland. That’s fucking rock and roll. 101%


8) Toy Selectah at Tormenta Tropical
Not actually a live show, more like a DJ set but still, what an amazing set. Toy is THE MAN and you all know that I love this guy if you’ve read at least a couple of posts in this blog. Tormenta Tropical is always a great party to go, but that night in particular was even better. Toy Selectah is the living proof that musical genius can actually be found within the dump of horrible music that is Mexico. All these other chuntie motherfuckers polluting the airwaves should shut the fuck up and learn from this dude, he’s the fucking mero mero (whatever that means, I never figured it out but that’s what they all say when they refer to their boss and Toy Selectah is the fucking boss of neo-cumbia and by extension of all Latin Music).


9) Cansei De Ser Sexy at Treasure Island
These guys are to Brazilian music what Rodrigo and Gabriela are to Mexican. You wanna go see a great Brazilian band without being tormented by flag-waving pizza-delivery assholes and distracted by super hot chicks in too-close-to-nudity-tacky-colored outfits? CSS is the best choice. Anyway, all those girls are not gonna go with you at a Brazilian music concert, so don’t waste your time with Samba and cheesy Pagode. Cansei De Ser Sexy are truly Brazilian without sounding samba-ish at all, why? Because if you go to the real Brazil (not the tourist infested beaches) that’s what’s up. Young people listen to hip-hop and electro and death metal. The whole Brazilian music thing is just a scheme for tourists and nostalgic emigrants.


10) Buraka Som Sistema at Tormenta Tropical
This African girl was so excited with the Angolan music that she went all National Geographic and took her shirt off and started dancing topless on stage. That, plus some amazing music, and you have yet another great Tormenta Tropical night.

11) Metallica at Oracle Arena
OK, these have nothing to do with Latin music, except for the fact that the name sounds sort of like a Spanish word and maybe their new bass player is half Chicano but he looks all Native American to me. I went through a metal phase when I was like 18 or 19 like everybody else, and saw live shows by Black Sabbath, Sepultura and a bunch of others but I’ve outgrown the übermacho metal posturing ever since. Now my little brother is 18 and he’s going through that exact same phase so I took him to see that show and it was fucking awesome. I just wished I dropped acid first. I would’ve been so much more fun.

Other good shows I've seen this busy year: Manu Chao, The Ting Tings, Fauna, Los Amigos Invisibles, Rupa and the April Fishes, Nortec, La Plebe, Little Brother, Chico Mann, Federico Aubele, Si*Sé, Los Materos, Tom Petty, etc.

Friday, December 12, 2008

CALLE 13 – Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo (Sony BMG)

I’ve been away from hip-hop for a while, I grew up I guess, because I find it more and more childish every time. However, I still love battle rhymes. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s that testosteronic 18 years old Neanderthal we all carry inside, but whenever I hear an MC dissin’ another MC on a lyric I can’t help it, I have to pay full attention to the verses, syllable by syllable and I find infinite delight on every punch-line. It’s like watching a street fight, you can’t just look away and pretend everything is cool, you wanna see blood, pieces of teeth bouncing on the sidewalk and all that morbid shit. So even if one day –I really doubt it but it might happen- I stop listening to rap music all together and I decide to erase all that crap from my hard-drive to make more room for more “mature” music, I’m pretty sure I’ll still keep my top-eleven favorite diss rap songs. Among them you’ll definitely have Nas’ “Ether” and Canibus' “Second Round K.O.” but there will be a few in Spanish too, like Antipátikoz’ “Así”, Sindicato Argentino del Hip Hop’s “Piénsalo” (which disses ME!) and most probably Calle 13’s “Que Lloren”.
All the rest of the album is great Calle 13’s usual greatness with no filler but that song in particular, I had to listen to back-to-back for a whole afternoon. It represents what we all feel about 99% of the wacky reggaetón scene: they are a bunch of undereducated posers manipulated by record label execs claiming they are from the ghetto while dressing in designer jeans and getting their eyebrows done. Residente is one of the wisest wordsmiths in the rap game and he is the ideal candidate to take on this battle against the reggaetoneros. So every punch he delivers on every verse I feel like shouting “yeah! fuckers you got it coming!” while I, myself, punch my pillow imagining it’s Daddy Yankee’s face.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yet another annoying best-of list

The other night I ran into my friend Sr. Oz and he asked me if I was going to do a Best Of 2008 for my blog and I was like “really?” Meaning, you know, “does anybody really care?” or “aren’t you fed up with all the Best-Of-Whatever articles published during this month in every single magazine and blog?” But since I haven’t been publishing pretty much anything lately on any of my blogs because my internet at home got disconnected, and I’ve been too busy having a life, and also, since I started this blog a year ago with a list of the best ten albums from 2007, well, I guess in the end it would not such a bad idea. Thanks Sr. Oz.
So, first I thought I should do a list of the best ten albums, like last year, but it was really hard to come up with ten albums, because, like I anticipated in the intro from last year’s top ten, albums are a dying format and with so much downloading and free MP3, most of the new stuff I listened during 2008 was not part of an actual album, or was part of an album that I never listened to as a whole, or like in most cases I only saved one song from the album and discarded the rest to make more room in my hard-drive.
Anyways, I decided instead to make a list of the eleven (fuck ten! what a boring number) new tracks released in (or discovered during) 2008 that I’ve been playing the most in my DJ sets during 2008. This means, there were probably some other really good songs out there that I listened to a lot, but will not make it into this list because they were too slow or too fast or to weird or too boring to blend into my DJ set. OK, here we go.


1.- Sonidero Nacional – “Grande de Caderas”: Toy Selectah and his combo Sonidero Nacional are by far the most prolific neo-cumbia purveyors out there and I’ve been playing non-stop all of the remixes they delivered during 2008. In fact, they were so many that it would be more accurate if at least the ten first selections of this top-eleven were Toy/Sonidero songs, but it would not be fair for the other artists and then I’d be accused –again- of sucking too much on Toys cock. But the thing is, this guy is a fucking genius. He has been ahead of the game for over ten years pioneering rap in Spanish, reggaetón and now neo-cumbia, a whole hybrid genre that he himself basically started. If you ask me, he is the most influential artist in Latin music right now. So if in 2007 the most played song in my sets was Sonidero Nacional’s remix of Julieta Venegas “Eres Para Mí”, this year the award goes to “Grande de Caderas” an awesome cumbia released as part of a tribute album called Tributo Al Más Grande, but I have no fucking idea who el más grande really is. I just know I love playing this track at the beginnings of my sets because it’s the one that gets the people instantly on the dancefloor.


2.- El Hijo De La Cumbia – “La Mara Tomaza”: If I’ve done a top-eleven of albums instead of songs, like I originally intended, Zizek’s compilation Cumbia Digital Vol.1 would’ve been number one for two reasons: 1) I’ve been playing constantly in my sets at least four tracks from this comp and that’s much more than any other album released this year and 2) Sonidero Nacional hasn’t release any official album, yet. This Hijo track is definitely the best in the album and his best track too. It works great with both the neo-cumbia hipster crowd and the traditional tacky cumbia dancers. The vinyl version of Cumbia Digital Vol. 1 includes a longer intro to this track, which makes it even better.


3.- Samim – “Heater”: Love it. The bouncing club four-to-the-floor beat matches the vallenato accordion so perfectly that many neo-cumbia producers must wish they picked up this classic sample before. It’s way up in the 120’s BPM which is very helpful when it comes to blending it into a lot of different other stuff (most neo-cumbia averages at 90 BPM which gets boring after a while and it’s hard to migrate forward in the set to the up-tempo beats). I recently mashed-it up live with Los Piojos’ “El Farolito” with great results. By the way, there is a remix by Toy Selectah and Diplo that’s way better than the original but I didn’t wanna be redundant.


4.- DJ Negro – “Suave”: Of all the neo-cumbia producers coming down from Argentina, DJ Negro is definitely my favorite. This is his cumbia version of Calle 13’s old hit and it’s probably not the best Negro track (currently I’m a lot more into “Lluvia” and “Carmelita Dios”) but this is the first one I found earlier this year, hence it’s the one I played the most and I’ll keep on playing it for a while because it will still sound fresh three years from now.


5.- Quantic & Nickodemus – “Mi swing es tropical”: The first time I listened to this song it was being played by DJ Sabo during his set in Tormenta Tropical. A couple of months later I saw him playing again at another party and he started his set with this track. I HAD to download it and since I’ve done so, I haven’t stopped playing it. It has a classic break-beat as skeleton, which makes it easy to beat-match but the flesh is all traditional Latin shit, which makes it ideal for when you have to deal with the annoying Central American salseros interrupting your DJ set to request something they can dance to. Here you have, now can you please stop bothering me and/or learn how to dance to other music styles besides salsa and merengue!


6.- Eduardo Mateo/Martimat – “Hype Yulelé”: The fact that Latinos don’t respond to songs like this one as they should, is what make me hate the fact that I mostly play for that crowd. Sometimes they are so narrow-minded when it comes to new beats, it drives me crazy! I can’t understand how could someone not like this track. The thing is, even though the lyrics are in Spanish, Latinos don’t recognize this as familiar Latin rhythm, so they don’t know how to dance to it. Hence, after I tried a few times, I desisted. I don’t include it in my sets anymore when I play for Latino dancers, but I still play it in my lounge sets.


7.- DJ Raff – “Flying Away”: I already said it here before, I love DJ Raff’s album and I’ve been playing many of his tracks in my down-tempo sets, but this one in particular got more play than any other. Once again, if I’ve done the hypothetical top-eleven of albums mentioned above, DJ Raff would not be on top but, unlike any others he would be featured twice, once because of his album Raffolution and once because of his contribution to Mustafá Yoda’s masterpiece Imaquinar (me dear friend Musta won’t be included in this list because, even though I love Imaquinar, there isn’t one song there that I’ve been able to include in any DJ set, but if I was to make a top-eleven of videos his “El Niño” would be there for sure).


8.- Nortec Collective – “The Clap: This one drives the Mexicans crazy but it doesn’t work with other crowds. I tried. I played it when I opened for Babasónicos and it had almost no response, except for two Mexican girls screaming in the front lane. I played it again when I opened for María Daniela y Su Sonido Láser and it worked perfect with the mexi-hipster crowd. I noticed it also works with the paisa taquería workers because it’s not techno enough and it’s got plenty of ranchero accordion which they can relate to. The lesson here is, only Mexican people can tolerate Mexican traditional music. Which we already knew. Anyway, I only play the first minute of the track, before it gets really annoying. Any more ranchero accordion would taint my DJ set.

9.- Alex Pastermak – “Pajariton”: Ladies and Gentlemen please give it up for Bersa Discos, the best new Latin independent record label in the US and the first one releasing only neo-cumbia and in vinyl! These are the guys to blame for the crossover of the neo-cumbia phenomenon to the US underground and during 2008 they introduced us to a lot of amazing new artists, dj’s and producers like the above mentioned DJ Negro, the Texan DJ Panik and this one track by this Alex dude, who I don’t know where the fuck he came out from but it blew my mind since the first time I heard Oro 11 playing it at Tormenta Tropical.


10.- Palenke Soultribe – “The Color Of Your Dreams”: These Colombian guys living in Los Angeles have been making quite a name for themselves releasing several vinyl singles and CDs on their own label. For some reason they haven’t broken into the neo-cumbia scene yet, maybe because their sound is more on the techno and house side, instead of the dominant hip-hop-dancehall-reggaetón-mash-up. But they have plenty of cumbia elements in their tracks, particularly in this one, which I included in many of my sets and mixtapes.


11.- Wisin & Yandel – “Sexy Movimiento”: When it comes to dancefloor-oriented reggaetón production nobody does it better than these guys. Yeah, they are hella cheesy and maybe even homoerotic (nowhere this song fits better than at a gay club with greasy go-go boys in artificially-stuffed fluorescent thongs) but hey, this is the best peak-of-the-night song of the year (if you happen to be forced to play for a crowd whose music taste is dictated by mainstream radio). Oh! and it works out great as a transition from the mid-tempo to the up-tempo part of the set.