Lê Almeida - covers (pt. 1)
So, I’ll declare it straight away: I’m truly mesmerized by this collection. Cover releases are something to be skeptical—a dangerous territory to step in. Despite my distrust, attentively examining the possibilities, it shouldn’t necessarily turn out into something disastrous. It was proven by Cat Power. She broke hearts with the marvelous 2000 must The Covers Record, where she adopted twelve compositions by other artists while making them totally her own. A similar panorama surrounds discordant boy Lê Almeida’s (covers) pt. 1 EP.
Packed by five distortion-fed, electrically scrumptious, non-hits belonging principally to bands blooming in the early ’90s (save for Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”), the Transfusão Noise Records’ founder accentuates why noise is an accompanying trademark for his netlabel. Bringing to the table the stripped-down elements utilized in Chan Marshall’s eminent The Covers Record, digging a whole different spectrum, Lê Almeida also adapts a homogeneous flavor through a short but electrifying ride, each of the songs (recorded between 2009 and 2012) in his unpolished, lo-fi style, standing somewhere between No Age’s sweatier, head-hammering slices off Nouns, and Ty Segall’s ever permeating playfulness, shaded by rancid alcoholic breath.
Two personal favorites attracted me initially to explore this gem: Nirvana and Pavement. “Marigold” and “Loretta’s Scars,” a pair of die-hard fans’ treasures of these legends, sound surprisingly correct under the garage rocker’s precise English diction and filthy chords that feel like home. They resemble a time machine traveling back to the ’90s, reminding us why this music shaped us thirsty, raw guitar work lovers in the first place. The most pleasant discoveries come via bands I had never heard of before. Bunnygrunt’s “1000% Not Creepy” doesn’t upgrade on the original version, yet sparks as the EP’s most savage slap. However, the cooled-down take on Brazilian cult ensemble Second Come’s classic “Run Run” won my heart. Speaking to fellow Fonograma writer Pierre Lestruhaut regarding my excitement for discovering this track, he stated how Second Come had “nothing to envy Pavement.”
And neither does the devoted dirty guitar-licks conjurer. Following “Run Run,” the EP properly concludes with the California hipsters cover—faithful to Slanted and Enchanted’s version, simultaneously transmitting a refreshing, up to date air. (covers) pt. 1 shines a green light of why we should be expecting a second offering. If it’s as good as the first one, we wouldn’t mind Lê Almeida to keep gracing us with familiar mementos of missed, simpler days where an outstanding riff perpetuated, unlike many of the gone with the wind Internet buzz.
Dënver - “Revista de gimnasia”
It’s finally happening. And, as expected, it’s beautiful. Almost three years after releasing their monumental sophomore album, Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, the continually-growing Chilean darlings Dënver unveiled yesterday “Revista de gimnasia,” first single off their upcoming album, Fuera de campo, which is tentatively slated for June.
Encountering the duo in full-form inside a kaleidoscopic disco music realm, “Revista de gimnasia” is HUGE. Charged by rich instrumentation, it makes them sound like an even bigger creature. Mastermind Milton Mahan, leading a mellow, impossible-not-to-fall-for naïf tone, assumes the protagonist vocal role, while Mariana Montenegro’s gentle interventions emerge to reinforce her male counterpart’s caressing cadence, sprinkling an androgynous tessitura structured by seducing hooks. In such carefully executed strings and wind arrangements, this song’s splendor comes in part thanks to the twenty professional musicians which, according to Super 45, were recruited for the album.
Nonetheless, its most remarkable charm is in Mahan’s lustrous production. At first listen, one would’ve imagined that super producer Cristian Heyne was behind it. But no other than Mahan, an expanding visionary, took care of this track and of the whole LP. In “Revista de gimnasia,” acrobatics and gymnastics blend and stretch out in almost four minutes of flawless lyrically oneiric (“Un chico que explota/En medio de la cancha/Y apenas lo notas/Hay trozos por tu espalda”), effervescent pop ready for a flashing dancefloor. It’s bound to make you feel psyched out, unconcerned, and, primarily, alive.
MP3: O Tortuga - “Foránea”
“Urban pop punk and marine flavor from Pantitlán” is the description on newcomers O Tortuga’s Facebook page. Similar to colleagues Los Blenders, O Tortuga is a chill four-piece that also remains like a best kept secret in Mexico, but eventually, is bound to fucking murder it. Despite not owning a Bandcamp or a Soundcloud account yet, two appetizers published on YouTube were exciting enough to get us pumped and to ask drummer Osmar Espinosa for their outstanding first single, still in demo form. And it’s ferociously catchy. One second in you’ll find yourself absorbed, wildly nodding your head, perhaps wanting to smash something. But it comes as something natural—pungent, full-bloodied energy, such as the one found in Las Ardillas’ or Los Vigilantes’ hardest smashers, inevitably fuels the listener into frantic agitation that tastes like coconut bubblegum. Assembled with buddies Ave Negra and Los Blenders, O Tortuga appears to finally give birth to a new fraternal, lo-fi, garage punk sacred triforce.
The History of Apple Pie - Out of View
To be completely honest, I had never heard of The History of Apple Pie until a couple of weeks ago, when Gozamos’ music editor Ilene Palacios pointed out their debut LP Out of View to me.
The first thing I thought was “damn, that’s a silly name.” Indeed it is. But, surfing under the great fashion of extravagant, often dull and off-putting, yet inviting contemporary indie rock band names such as …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it would be unfair to dismiss THOAP’s efforts simply based on how they’re called — the typical “don’t judge a book by its cover” conflict. When a band’s press release claims they have Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine influences, you can be sure you’re in for something potentially exciting — even if at first glance they don’t seem that intriguing.
However, these references weren’t just thrown in to create some hype. Having no previous knowledge of the (relatively young) 5-piece London-based group, I found myself dazzled by their candy-flossed, noisy first album. Apple Pie successfully celebrates their idols’ aesthetic: the Sonic Youth Dirty-era turbulent yet poppy walls of noise; My Bloody Valentine’s heavily layered, shimmering guitar licks; Apple Pie vocalist Stephanie Min’s incredible similarity to Kim Deal’s timbre and luscious singing style.
Their sound was led by tremendously cool and almost palpable harmony between the musicians (yeah, that romantic relationship between guitarist Jerome Watson and Min can be perceived in their concordant songwriting capabilities). While allusions to late 80s-early-90s noise rock and shoegaze pioneers are the primary influences to its aesthetic, the real core of The History of Apple Pie’s debut album is Stephanie Min’s melodious (though at times over-sweetened), honeyed, twee-injected vocals. They rely on an alluring playfulness, which, if you’re a sucker for pop, won’t be hard to fall for.
For their part, the band establishes itself in the vein of other noteworthy, growing London acts, like rebellious youngsters Splashh or lo-fi popper Gross Magic. Comprised of ten sticky songs, Out of View should allot THOAP the acquirement of transcontinental conquers along with some likely radio play. This shouldn’t come as a difficult task, considering their three previous 7” singles released sold out. Tracks like the dreamy “See You”, jangle-poppy “Glitch” or the staggeringly hard-hitting smasher “Do It Wrong”, are strong contenders to be college hits. Min’s adolescent, not so meaningful lyrics that reveal ties between nostalgia and naiveté should easily click with scruffy, disheveled rockers spending too much time in their bedrooms.
While not precisely reaching a memorable status, Out of View is a pretty solid full-length piece. Its charm is divulged upon first listen, exuding glossy, pink color, together with yummy, sugared torrents nuanced by a deliciously savory teenage flavor.
Adrián Juárez - “Calculadoras”
2012 was a rather slow period for Club Fonograma. Even though we tried to redeem ourselves earlier this year, truth is, there was a bunch more of outstanding records we didn’t get to properly review (and didn’t make our Overlooked Albums list). Adrián Juárez’s follow-up to 2011’s debut Tu nombre es fresa, the ambrosial sophomore Marimba, is one of those gems that ultimately deserved more recognition.
Good news is La Plata’s winsome singer-songwriter works at a fast pace, reclaiming his virtuoso-skilled status in our blogosphere. The frisky self-released single “Calculadoras” encounters Juárez allowing new chances to his sonic explorations, embracing 8-bit rhythms along with sharp-eyed, chirpy, videogame-evocative experimentation. Preserving his signature sound while stretching his canvas, the results turn out gleefully overwhelming (think Sufjan Stevens jumping from folk to electro). The track stands in a similar territory as I.E.’s “Smartphone,” but where the frenzy of “Smartphone” recalls mental noise via gadget abuse, Juárez’s notorious comfort, riding his poppy vessel, resembles commodity towards life-simplifying machines in “Calculadoras.” The lyrics (“Súbete a mi moto / Aunque tengas otro / Aunque la tristeza avance / Aunque pronto nos alcance”) exhale romanticism. Yet, despite their poignant message, the sudden desire of playing Super Castlevania IV blooms as a logical aftermath.
AJ Dávila - “Animal”
It’s been almost two years since Dávila 666’s breakthrough Tan Bajo graced us with absolute freshness in its own unadulterated rock revivalism spirit. Ever since, the Puerto Rican ensemble has maintained a pretty active rhythm, gaining success after success. Following last year’s split with The Coathangers and the explosive 7” Pa Qué Vives, 2013 is the year that finds rebel singer-bassist AJ Dávila taking a shot at his own new solo project.
This news comes as extremely exciting for our staff. Considering the list of collaborators that will take part in the boricua’s upcoming debut album, we’re in for a real treat. So far we can confirm contributions of many of CF’s favorites, like Chilean pop prince Alex Anwandter, country prophet Juan Cirerol, Las Robertas’ badass Mercedes Oller, synth punk femme fatale Selma Oxor (who AJ has confirmed as a band member), amongst other thrilling names, including Black Lips’ Cole Alexander and Juanita y los Feos’ singer Juanita Calamidad.
First appetizer “Animal” is a ferociously wild pop banger. From the murky voice effect that takes place in the initial seconds, to the Menudo-esque melodious skeleton, this breezy tune grabs you by the neck while injecting a feeling of savage royal autonomy (“Yo soy un animal/Y yo soy el rey”). Although it preserves the Dávila 666 essence all the way (San Pablo Dávila is on the drums), AJ unleashes such unique confidence in this first cut that we just can’t help but recognize it as a single-mind idea. In its classic punk rocking fashion and fleeting duration, it principally resembles the work of recent contemporary darlings Ave Negra and Los Blenders. An irresistible immediacy is revealed in the first listen. Further plays mark “Animal” as an anthemic enduring candidate, up there with Hypnomango’s “El mundo no es real” or even Dávila 666’s “Esa nena nunca regresó.”
El Medio - “No tengas miedo al Amor”
“Don’t be afraid of love” is the forthright premise of El Medio’s second effort this year (without counting that recent lovely split with Sr. Amable). Following the abundantly bleeping, synth-led, at occasions Wendy Carlos-esque EP Crónicas del hombre orquesta vol. 1, the Boricua affecting composer Leonardo Balasques adapts a more customary, acoustic instrumentation (fiddle and wind instruments), along with post-rock winks, twee breaths and his ever tender harmonies in the heartbreaking “No tengas miedo al Amor”. The quotation marks in the title are to be highlighted, just like in David Bowie’s “Heroes”. A popular phrase among daydreamers, it’s not to be interpreted here as something imperative, but rather inviting to something passionate, profound and surely tumultuous: the great chance of falling in love, assuming all of its consequences, whether good or bad.
There’s a devastating story to be found in here. A dramatic arch nuanced from the first to the last track. Wind blowing exhibits a desolate state of being in first seconds of opener “Hasta Caer”, where, brightly, solemn drumming and shining guitar strumming announce the new-found infatuation of our perceptive protagonist. The singer raises his hopes high, picturing absolute surrender (“Tomar su mano/Dejarlo todo”), yet realizing the sacrifices this decision will imply, foreseeing future –and for a fact inevitable- changes and losses. After warming violin presence, courtesy of Balún’s Angélica Negrón, boisterous electric guitar soundscapes à la Slint, injected of raucous distortion stain this blooming whirlwind of emotions, resembling internal turmoil. Continuing songs, in a heartwarming fashion, retake the possibilities of a beautiful pair up, at the same time leaving behind a bittersweet taste. “La máquina lo hace todo mejor” is pretty, melodious and certainly acutely sincere (“Hoy la noche no acaba/Siempre que hayan momentos como éste”), while “En primavera” captures the love-is-in-the-air essence of this season accompanied by a sunny, joyful beginning infused by synths and güiro, culminating in a colorful explosion of electronic gravity.
Afterwards, the record goes in decrescendo acquiring a much more melancholic tone. Short emotive piece “’ ‘” is a striking exploration of heartbeating affection expressed through body discovery via touching. “’Alguien’/El tierno retorno” is the central backbone of “No tengas miedo al Amor”. After an enchanting introduction based on Paloma San Basilio’s “Alguien”, El Medio displays his soul in a naked, personal declaration of letting in someone new into your life, to the point where happiness may be too much to handle. “Alguien nuevo llega a tu vida/ Y quieres que se vaya ya,” he declares in the final line as the marimba-like outro partially sweetens. Wind blowing once again is present in “Distancias pares”, only this time around the circumstances have changed. Over a minimalist simple-chord structure, the artist laments what could have turned out into an enduring friendship, but now is blackened. In “Todas las cosas”, which strongly evokes Sigur Rós’ ( ) era, he furthermore deepens into his now dissolved, intense relationship, asking his ex-lover to value the things learnt. “Es bueno seguir vivo/Ver qué queda por vivir,” he claims looking forward to the future in a probably hopeful, but ultimately self-convincing manner -self-defense all the way. Fortunately, the album ends in a blissful note with favorite “Publio Ovidio Nasón”, making a magnificent return as a sort of savior following such a depressing final ride.
“No tengas miedo al Amor” is a deep work fueled by vast honesty and many of El Medio’s best songs to date. It’s best enjoyed during lonely, cold nights where a bottle of cheap wine or a pair of caguamas are the only and best friends. With this album, Leonardo Balasques reaffirms his status as one of our favorite songwriters. And while it may not be a very drastic improvement to his previous releases or incorporate few new ideas to his music, its universal discourse, transparent frankness and powerful development are the main qualities why this revealing piece is not to be missed. Clearly one of the year’s most despondent achievements and another essential in Balasques’ transcendental career.