Monthly Music Roundup | August 2020

One of the worst parts of aging is coming to terms with the notion that seeking out new music will very soon stop being a driving impulse in the way it used to be. Eventually, most of us retreat to comfortable ruts of the same dozen or so albums by the same dozen or so artists. Musical comfort food, and only musical comfort food, forever. But we can fight this. We can pry ourselves off that comfy armchair of stagnation. There’s a lot of wonderful, inspiring new music produced in the Argentine independent scene, and we’ve made it our mission to bring it to your attention each and every month. Here are our picks for favorite releases for August of this very calamitous year!

Remember: we do this every month, so click here if you want to check out our selections from past months. You really should, because they’re really good. And hey, not only that, but we also very recently published our list of our favorite albums of 2020 so far — do yourself a favor and go give that a peek. There’s so much good stuff out there.

Oh, and one last thing — are you an artist? Do you have a recent release that you think we absolutely should check out? Hit us up on Instagram, or by emailing team@lalalista.com. There are no guarantees that we’ll pick it for the column, but we will listen with open eyes and open hearts.

Maria Codino – “Loop en Mi”

You burnt the coffee; you’ve asked your coworker to repeat themselves three times; you can’t sleep. But that message, with its unticked glaringly not blue checks, is repeating itself over and over. That one person keeps entering your brain at frustrating frequencies. And you want to shake them out of your head. And you want to distract yourself from wondering what they’re thinking. And you want to think about just about anything else. But you become addicted to that loop— a comforting, addicting dose of anxiety. Maria Codino’s second solo release this year loops the same 80s drumbeat over layers of languid pedaled guitars. As the brains behind De Incendios’s composition, her shift to this solo project feels more minimalistic, more intimate, and we are happy to be invited in. While the rhythm keeps us jogging towards resolutions, her soft melodies ease us into the unknowing.

Shu – “Purna”

“Purna,” the debut single by hungry new four-piece Shu, takes everything you thought you knew about pop songwriting and throws it gladly out the window. More interested in creating evocative soundscapes than sticking to any kind of structural stricture, the band dazzles with a series of discrete instrumental sections punctuated by brief vocal passages, creating a hazy, psychedelic ambience. Sweltering synthesizers, a veritably jazzy electric piano, expressive drumming and silky basslines guide us along, exploring the corners of the song’s harmonic contours. It is a mostly placid journey, dipping temporarily into a murky sea of dissonance that never quite manages to knock this ship off its sails, a sultry sax line signaling the way to dry land. 

Poncho ft. Karina Vismara – “Sola por la Ciudad”

It’s hard, at times, to not feel a little trapped in this city, stuck in the stasis of this neverending quarantine. But on my bike, I feel free again. Every inhalation is a relief, every exhale a sweet release. This fleeting catharsis is precisely channeled in the new electropop collaboration by electronic artist Poncho and singer-songwriter Karina Vismara, who stars in the track’s music video as a lone cyclist traversing the city in a MOD-inspired onesie. The driving rhythm and country-esque guitar line is the perfect accompaniment for Vismara’s checkered silhouette swooping around street corners and zooming across pedestrian bridges. And while the lyrics speak to trying to get home safely, there’s something in Vismara’s voice that makes us think her desired destination is less than literal. Put this one on your pedaling playlist (at a safely low volume please) — you won’t be sorry.

Les Presentes – “Animal”

Les Presentes have achieved something remarkable with their debut EP Estructùa I. Prog-rock often gets pegged as an inaccessible, niche genre. With their opener “Animal” as a proud example, Les Presentes have struck a balance between prog’s nuance and its supposed inaccessibility. Jaz Pimentel’s piercing harmonies and Mailen Eliges’ drumming benefit from the clean stereo mix as the track kicks off. The chorus-infused guitars give off a Spinetta Invisible era vibe with a twist, as do the fluttering cymbal rushes. Building off of that, the basslines are playful enough to add a layer of spiciness while still being able to frame the tune’s solidity. As if that weren’t enough, near the song’s tail end, a frickin’ salsa section propels the guitar solo into early Santana territory. There’s truly lots of stuff to love about where Les Presentes are going with their debut, and we are eager to see if there will be an Estructùa II in the future. Until then, “Animal” proves old-school prog snobs they weren’t “born in the wrong generation”. 

María Pien – “Una Película”

Everybody knows that feeling. Realizing you can’t quite make sense of what’s going on around you, unable to understand the full breadth of implications or discern the best path forward. Whether it’s due to world-stopping event (like, say, a global pandemic) or smaller circumstances of one’s own personal life, we all know that disorienting sensation of stepping outside of ourselves and thinking “this is like watching a movie”. Singer-songwriter María Pien has long been an inspiration for this magazine, not only because of her music as a solo artist and a member of Ruiseñora, but also because of her tireless dedication to lifting up the independent scene and championing her peers therein. Her incredible new track “Una Película,” the title track to her brilliant new EP, explores the disquieting strangeness of that near-dissociative state, the constant questioning of it, and the desire to break free. 

Severina Secundina – “Jaula de Cristal”

Severina Secundina is like if Mad-Eye Moody had listened to a lot of Leo Masliah and Serj Tankian before running off to join the traveling circus in a live action Tim Burton film starring Dracula. Creepy yet lovable. Off-putting to the ego yet pleasing to the soul, as any misunderstood masterpiece should to be. The song “Jaula de cristal” (glass cage) is one of the singles from the trio’s upcoming debut album, Un Anticipo del Final (an advance on the end). The lyrics, structured between tango-y, polka-y, Balkan inspired dance interludes, spin riddles about the key to cracking the code of life. The whimsy of the genre and vocal delivery whisks you off to another reality, where you start to see things a bit too clearly to continue tripping out on the status quo.

Milagros Majó – “En los Bosques de Álamos Plateados”

Swirling strings. A dissonant horn. By the time the brusquely-introduced piano comes in, the singer’s voice already has you hooked. Inhabiting the blurry line between a distant childhood memory and the realm of oneiric symbolism, Milagros Majó’s “En los Bosques de Álamos Plateados” is an exquisite exercise in style. Drawing inspiration from both South American folklore (Violeta Parra and Leda Valladares come to mind) and African rhythms, Majó constructs a timeless macrocosm that’s both intriguing and undeniably her own. Deeply rooted in the music of the Argentine litoral, the track immediately gives off folktale vibes mentioning “silver poplar forests” and “a blue horse galloping on the shore,” a notion that’s reenforced by Majó’s whimsical delivery. Imagine a parallel universe where Björk grew up listening to Mercedes Sosa and you’re almost there.

Less than halfway through, we’re presented with a gorgeous, percussion-heavy instrumental break that seamlessly flows back into the main theme, taking us back inevitably to “las noches de luna entre los álamos” (the moonlit nights between the poplars). Right before dwindling down, Majó changes the scenery once again and takes a brief detour into electronica and ambient music, stretching the fabric of the song in a mesmerizing, echo-laden outro.

Gladyson Panther – “Alguien Se Tomó Mi Alma”

Someone took my soul, lied in your face and enjoyed it. But who is that someone? And what exactly was enjoyed and by who? And who is you? I love lyrics that lend themselves to a rabbit hole of possible interpretations. In this song there are various figures at at play: a first person, a second person (or entity), and a third person (alguien). But the relationship between the three is not quite clear; right now I’m flashing that they could all be the same entity. The name of this album, No Me Pidas Perdón, can be thought of two different ways, in English: either “don’t tell me you’re sorry” or “don’t ask me for forgiveness.” The name of the album is spoken at the end of this track, by a robot voice, not a real person. Wouldn’t it be nice to always know when words are lying? “Alguien Se Tomó Mi Alma” is the second of ten tracks on the new album by teenage rosarino pop/rock sensation Gladyson Panther.

Fernando Alemán – “Temperley”

Making a stark departure from his work in Deportivo Alemán, we find Fernando Alemán turning to a sound more befitting of sentimental ballads rather than the Krautrock drive we are accustomed to hearing from him. The result is a compact, satisfying collection of songs on his new album MMXII, which takes you through 9 songs that wrap up in the space of 16 minutes. What it lacks in running time, it certainly makes up for in infectiously catchy pop structures and toe tapping pace. The stand out track is easily “Temperley,” which evokes feelings of yearning for lost memories and is interrupted by a sudden kitschy washboard that inserts itself into the flowing folk feel, lifting this already grin-inducing song to even greater, happy-go-lucky heights. 

Pablo Barone – “Montag”

Pablo Barone’s Formas is a glorious, dynamic, thoughtfully composed and fluidly performed jazz EP. It traverses a series of emotional soundscapes, features dazzling musicianship, and scratches that very specific part of my music-listening brain that gets its kicks from the convergence of the cerebral and the visceral. It is a happy addition to my music-listening life, and I found it by clicking blindly through Spotify. That’s right. Here in La La Lista we have our ear to the ground on a lot of fronts, and our team of writers has a number of connections to the various scenes that we cover, so we have no real trouble keeping abreast of the most exciting releases every month…  but, every once in a while, we are reminded of the sheer enormity of music, and we stumble blindly upon a gem like this. It’s a happy accident, sort of like the 21st century equivalent of buying an album just because you like the album cover, Listen to the beautiful “Montag,” track 2 from Formas, and follow it wherever it takes you.