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Written by the La La Lista music staff: Evy Duskey, Jorge Farah, Jamie Larson, Ezequiel Mancilla, Monique Nicholas, Pablo Pérez.
Do you see it, dear reader? There, in the distance? A faint shimmering light at the apparent end of an inordinately long tunnel? A shy speck of hope, tentatively pushing its way past the seemingly unending barrage of horrifying bullshit of 2020? We see it too. And we may be fairly distant from it, but the fact that it’s even slightly in view is more encouraging than just about any piece of news we’ve heard all year. Let’s get through the last of this together.
For our final Monthly Music Roundup of 2020, we’d like to thank every artist who played their part in making this extremely annoying year more bearable. You kept us going when the world kept slinging handfuls of shit at us. You kept us inspired when it felt like we’d run out of things to say. And you kept us jamming out when all we wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and crying desolately. Soon, we’ll be posting our list of favorite albums of 2020, and then in January we’ll come back with a list of notable 2020 releases we missed the first time around (this includes new releases from December — we’re not forgetting you!).
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 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 [email protected]. There are no guarantees that we’ll pick it for the column, but we will listen with open eyes and open hearts.
Mi Amigo Invencible – “Jardín Secreto”
Mi Amigo Invencible is a reliable crowd-pleaser, and their latest release is no different. The type of song that’d fit perfectly in the indie flick’s flashback montage of a broken relationship. The guitar smoothly carries the melody as the couple glides through the first few dates, the tentative kisses, the shy laughter. And like any relationship, it’s when that initial beginning ends that the real quirks are revealed — the ringing synth, the unidentified tapping of something wooden. But throughout a constant groove, a give-and-take of the frontman’s sugary voice and sad realization of its lyrics. A song that lingers for listens after.
Las Luchas – “Continente”
For the last several years, the musical partnership of Maria Morillo and Lisandro Marquez has proven itself to be one of the most reliably interesting songwriting teams of the local scene, first as Los Aullidos and now as Las Luchas. Emotional, evocative, compositionally sophisticated and always effortlessly tuneful, their songs have an irresistibly otherworldly aura to them that keeps us coming back for more. You can always expect certain arrangement or compositional choices that hook you in for the relisten. In the case of their new single “Continente,” it’s the discrete modulation between sections within the same verse, creating a slightly disconcerting effect where the tonal center appears to be continually shifting. When applied to the song’s placid pace, ear-candy arrangements, and layers upon layers of background vocals, it results in this compelling oddity we just can’t get enough of.
Amor Elefante – “Mirandesco”
Get your platform shoes ready and bathe yourself in glitter, kiddos — we’re hitting the club. After delivering two exquisite, forward-thinking pop albums (Oriente and Billetes Falsos), the four-piece from Zona Sur surprises us with an absolute banger. As things start to open up in Buenos Aires and with summer slowly creeping in on us, the track brings us plenty of feelgood energy to deal with the dancefloor nostalgia of these socially-distanced days we’re living in. With a title that pays homage to popular electro-pop duo Miranda!, “Mirandesco” is brimming with funky guitars à la Nile Rodgers, lush synths, and a disco-driven beat — a clear invitation to frantically move your body like there ain’t no tomorrow.
Jazmín Esquivel – “Una Mierda”
Every new song released from the upcoming Jazmín Esquivel album brings us farther and farther away from the sound featured on her debut Púrpura, closer to a whole new sound that features elements of neo-soul, synth pop, and post-punk. “Una Mierda” is, to our ears, the best of these recent releases, a slow burner that unfurls its intensity gradually, seething in anger and righteous indignation throughout. It is confrontational, both in its composition and in its lyrics, with Jazmin delivering a verbal smackdown of startling directness: “Te calmas o te calmo yo. De que mierda estas hablando?” (“Calm down or I’ll calm you down. What the fuck are you talking about?”) Simmering guitar lines and a bed of bass synth guide us through this slow-motion depiction of a lovers’ quarrel.
Delfines Entrenados Para Matar – “Insolación”
Picture yourself laying on the beach, the fiery midday sun casting its light on your entire body – an angry, distant beat approaches your vicinity in the exact moment you realize you’d been chewing on 3 tabs of acid for the better part of breakfast. The music of Delfines Entrenados Para Matar, and more specifically the opening track to their latest album, feels exactly like that very instant. A tasteful mix of punk-tinged bass (which later on morphs into a disco groove), danceable percussion, and The Cure-ish guitar lines set the tone for a track both confrontational and welcoming. As the intensity of the tune reaches its peak, reverb-laden vocal harmonies soar along with the thick and biting distortion tying the whole song in a neat little package. A package that oddly smells like top-shelf weed and warm sea breeze. Drug references aside, DEPM’s latest album is a must-listen if you want to start your summer on the right foot.
Lea Franov – “Mi Búsqueda Preferida”
Don’t search their name. Don’t search their name. Don’t search their name.
Lea Franov understands infatuation. Or at least, with the second solo collaboration with musician and producer Moreu, she has made clear how comfortable she is to wade in it, in the deep glimmering pools reflecting technicolor and static snow. Is it analog or is it digital? Is it real or is it a projection? Is it Franov’s coquettish yet celestial voice, or a sweetly singing synth? Are we more connected? Or ever more alienated? Is this love? Or is this comfort? And when was the last time that you trembled, really? Don’t search their name.
Adrian Paoletti – “Palabras Dibujadas”
Establishing himself in the 80’s, Adrián Paoletti has certainly had longevity, having collaborated with a number of notable artists and playing music as a solo artist for about two decades. It would have been easy to mistake this release as being from a different time. However what Paoletti has managed to capture is the essence of power-pop, which fundamentally delivers an insatiable cross-generational earworm. Produced by Gonzalo Córdoba and accompanied by the vocal prowess of Mailen Gayoso, as well as Jula Raffo on drums and synths, his newest single “Palabras Dibujadas” really scratches the proverbial itch of happy-go-lucky pop goodness. Despite not possessing the archetypal polished lead vocals, Paoletti has found a balance which sits beautifully with the fuzzy guitar tone which in turn supplements the bass into really standing out in the crowded waves of synth.
Hilos – “El Día Sin Tiempo”
Has anyone else’s perception of time been distorted in the past year? So many days like the other that they run together. We are new to this phenomenon, but the mountains are not. Neither are the landscapes nor the forests, the tributary veins nor the stripping wind. It is day or it is night, or it is the space in between the seconds? A day beyond the seconds. A day without time. In our previously reviewed track, we noted that indie folk acts like Hilos can often shine their brightest when they shoot for the cathedral wall – “expansive, immersive and grand.” In “El Día Sin Tiempo,” our thesis is proven a second time with a shimmery ode to living this earth at its own rhythm, tasting from its sweet soil as the stones wax and wane.
Penny Peligro – “Chico de Isla”
Penny Peligro’s brand of whimsy and melancholy-tinged wonder is on full display on her new album La Fuerza Suave, a lovely collection of tunes that plays like a flip through someone else’s scrapbook. “Chico de Isla,” a sort of Christmas song, presents an itemized list of small pleasures and of essentials: cell phone chargers, little doggies being walked on the street, new-years songs, pictures and postcards. Bright arpeggios, sugar-shot keyboard lines, and Peligro’s inimitable delivery. Like the rest of the album, it is irresistibly sweet, recalling bands from the Sarah Records roster. A bright and sunny end to a terrible year.