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Written by the La La Lista Music Writers staff: Evy Duskey, Jorge Farah, Jamie Larson, Emilyann McKelvey, Ezequiel Mancilla, Pablo Pérez, Julián Alejo Sosa, Margaux Williams.
Welcome back to La La Lista’s Monthly Music Roundup, where we share with you all our favorite songs to be released in the independent scene during the last month. We’re heading into chillier days with these awesome tracks that came out during the month of May.
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.
Riel – “Blanco & Negro”
It’s always interesting to watch a band grow, and alternative rock duo Riel have been shedding their musical skin for quite a while now. Sometime between 2016’s Sueño Eléctrico and 2019’s Espacio Interior, the band’s 90s noise rock aesthetics slowly shifted in favor of a more post-punky, dream pop-y sonority that is more present than ever on “Blanco & Negro,” their first single of 2021. Almost gone is all the dissonance that characterized their earlier albums. Instead, shimmery guitars shiver overhead, synths flourish in the background, and beefy power chords introduce the anthemic chorus—a rallying cry denouncing modern society’s political polarization. Of course, at this point I feel like I should clarify that, notwithstanding some minor cosmetic changes, it’s still a bona fide Riel song: Mora’s stellar guitar work and German’s relentless drumming are still at the center of the band’s sound. But it’s really refreshing to find that even after years of recording and performing together, they can still find new ways to challenge their musical identity while staying true to their DIY philosophy.
Mariana Michi – “New Age”
Mariana Michi has long been one of our favorite musicians in the local scene. Whether as a member of MUGRE or as a solo artist, whether as a singer-songwriter or as a multimedia innovator, there’s a wide-eyed freshness to everything she does. Her new single “New Age” is no exception — a bouncy blast of nervous energy that almost feels like the hyperpop aesthetic filtered through indie rock instrumentation, with off-kilter arrangements and unexpected sounds popping up throughout. A wonderfully catchy little number that reminds us of the work of Micachu and the Shapes, popping and bubbling and sizzling and scratching its way into our subconscious.
Era de Menta – “Volcán” (ft. Piel Reloj)
Progressive rock power trio Era de Menta has existed in a liminal space of being and not being ever since they announced and released their first and last album last month. Truth is, though they have all moved on to different projects, their track “Volcán” stands as a testament to their utter brilliance. The song is about an ancient tribe who used to sacrifice little children by throwing them into an active volcano and the solemn and ever-increasing tension of the tune drives the point home. Era de Menta goes from emotional soft piano sections to a searing and relentlessly epic John Frusciante-esque solo in the span of 4 minutes. Somehow, they manage to escape the common trappings of prog rock by peppering the song with elements of piano-based tango, reversed guitar embellishments by Piel Reloj and distant noise swells that ebb and flow naturally through the song. The drum and bass combo, whilst succinct at times, provides a solid foundation for the ending’s guitar freakout and the use of dynamics is spotless through and through. Volcán is cathartic, gutwrenching, and explosive. The band might be dead but their bones glow under the rumbling ground of the Argentine independent music scene.
Milagros Majó – “Ópalos”
Milagros Majó burst into our radar with the song “En Los Bosques de Álamos Plateados,” one of the most beautiful songs to come out of the local scene in recent memory (we featured it in August’s installment of our monthly music roundup). The accompanying album, Füryü, has just been released, and we are pleased to announce that it lives up to the lofty standard set by the aforementioned track. Among the collection of songs that exist in the space between otherworldlyness and rootsy folk is “Ópalos,” which continues Majó’s exploration of nature as muse and metaphorical device. This gorgeous composition is driven home by an ethereal instrumental backing and Majó’s uncanny ability to convey emotion with her expressive voice. Keep an eye out for our upcoming interview with this utterly unique talent.
Tani – “Random No”
Who doesn’t love pads? Shoulder pads for swagger. Knee pads for rollerblading. Synth pads for creating little spaces of feeling where we feel simultaneously light and airy, warm and fuzzy. In “Random No,” the new single from her upcoming and highly anticipated album — the latest to be released since Mew in 2018 — Tani explores a sonic landscape of her own making. Taking a leaf out of Juana Molina’s playbook and leaning hard on the simple pleasure of repetition while leaving plenty of room for playful arrangements, she continues the treacly twee sweetness of previous releases while moving firmly away from the lo-fi tendencies of her earliest work. The result? A lush look into the quirky and melodic inner world of the young artist — illustrated perfectly in the Wes Anderson-esque music video embedded above.
Zezé – “No Veo Nada”
Zezé, our favorite blind poet, is no stranger to the Buenos Aires underground arts scene, and has been featured on this website before for non-music-related endeavors, but this month marks their first musical release. The single “No Veo Nada” (“I don’t see anything”) is the result of a transcontinental collaboration between Zezé, a Peruvian-Argentine, and San Francisco-based artist and producer Razteria. Over four minutes of chill yet mysterious dub-reggae groove and Razteria’s backing vocals, Zezé opens their heart in an improvised poetry that is uplifting and mystical, complete with the elements of mythology which are a staple of his poetry, and a cosmic perspective based around unity and love, and the power of the human heart and mind. In a world where most people experience life saturated by visual stimulation, Zezé’s words bear a strong reminder of the beauty and meaning that exist beyond what the eye can see.
Arde la Sangre – “Hijos del Dolor”
For those of us who are interested in the Argentine heavy music scene, it was a bummer when Carajo announced their split at the start of 2020. However, this provided an opportunity for its members to explore new musical horizons, with the band Arde la Sangre surprising us with a four-song live EP. This release is accompanied by a video of the EP’s four songs recorded at the Malvinas Argentinas stadium, where they demonstrated their ability to project energy and aggression, making us want to and make us want to start a mosh pit in our living rooms. The EP’s opening song, “Hijos del Dolor,” features one of my favorite moments on the EP: the solo. It is not common to hear solos in this style of music, but rather heavy and dense breakdowns. So when it appeared, it was a very pleasant surprise. The vocals sometimes even feature certain trap overtones, an interesting mix that doesn’t feel at all out of place. The idea of making a live debut is very much in line with the times we live in, since it makes it very clear that the concerts are going to come back stronger than ever (you can read our article on that here).
Distor – “Trae El Mar”
A haunting 80’s oscillating slasher-film synth is what guides you down the dark creeping path of “Trae El Mar,” with a motorik beat forcing you through the branches of wavy crashes. There is something oddly familiar about the sound, but what that is I’m still unsure. Lingering alongside the rhythmic pulsing bass is the crushed synth. Meanwhile spectral vocals breathe on the back of your neck as you lose your footing on that weirdly placed log in your escape route with the momentum only faltering upon reaching the conclusion. Distor, previously releasing music within the group Jota Distor y Los Esqueletos, has already hinted at more new music to come over the next coming months and I’m certainly excited for more moody goodness.
Cariño – “Modo Viajero”
We wrap things up this month on a peppy note. “Modo Viajero” by Cariño is a jaunty little tune that evokes the feeling of anticipation and excitement of a wide open road ahead. The singer-songwriter, formerly of the band Wanna Wanna, does a fantastic job at conveying the wide-eyed optimism of the song’s lyrics through the melody and performance. The instrumental arrangement, courtesy of producer Martín Longoni, is similarly bubbly, starting with a bed of acoustic guitars before progressing into an electronic beat, with synth lines and background vocals carrying us through. It’s a type of vibe that, after eighteen months of on-and-off isolation and limited social interaction, we could all use.