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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! It’s been a hot minute. How are you? You look great! What’s been happening? Did you get vaxxed yet? Your hair is different than I remembered!
Yes, we took a little bit of a break from sharing the very best of the new releases from the local scene, it’s true. We were away for a little bit but now we’re back and ready to show you the treasures we’ve collected along the way. This installment of the Monthly Music Roundup encompasses July, August, and September.
Try as we might, we know we’ll still come up short, because the local scene is a true embarrassment of riches right now. We’ll show you the songs that caught our attention over the last couple months, but know that we’ll surely be uncovering even more gems as the days go by. It’s part of the magic of what we do here at LLL: you’re never quite done finding new treasures.
Remember: we do this (just about) 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.
Automail – “Primavera”
More often than not, song titles serve as a hint, introducing an idea that englobes its themes and overall feel. However, that’s not the case for Automail’s “Primavera,” whose wildly misleading nomenclature clashes with the menacing undercurrent of unease that permeates the entire song. Adopting a trap-adjacent sonority—a logical progression for the Buenos Aires-based duo of Rosalba Menna and Franco Calluso, who have been offering their own left-leaning take on urban music since pretty much their debut in 2018—“Primavera” makes sophisticated use of all the genre’s most common tropes (the rapid-fire hi-hats, the rumbling 808 bass, and gelid synths) without ever sounding derivative, while Menna delivers spine-chilling lines like “maybe it’s because I want to bury what sleeps in my bones before spring comes.” Those looking for a good time might not find it here, but if you’re comfortable sitting with your own darkness, you’ll find plenty of things to dissect on this creepy banger.
Caffé Galaxy – “Appia Tour”
Buenos Aires music scene veteran Diego Petrecolla (previously of the space-rock band Furies and Gaucho-meets-Spaghetti-Western project Sombrero) has returned with a new project, and it’s nada que ver with its musical predecessors. The composer and journalist relocated to Rome a few years ago, where he founded the sound design and music studio Buden. The change of hemispheres and new projects appear to have fostered fertile ground for his compositions: “Appia Tour,” the first track of the album, is a perfect introduction to the minimalist yet lush ambient meets experimental pop soundscape that Petrecolla has crafted here. His soft intonations of the chorus “bicycle ride in the road,” accompanied by plaintive synth lines and crunchy percussive details transports the listener to a place of tender nostalgia — think Panda Bear at his most sentimental, or Aphex Twin at its most minimal and warm.
Magalí Cibrián – “La Primavera del Desencanto”
Magalí Cibrián, a Buenos Aires-born and raised singer-songwriter returned with a 3 track drop in late July ahead of the release of her second album. Each song was written in a different language, allowing her to explore not only different tones but also express different ideas. The standout track of this collection being “La Primavera del Desencanto,” an unabashed ode to tango. The slow-building intro with delicate percussion soon turns to the entrance of dark piano stabs and solemn violin dancing along with the emotive rises of her voice. The layered instrumentation comes to a point of chaos with it pulling back for a final bridge stripping back to a fluttering violin before its eventual crescendo.
Emma & Olga – “Piano”
Much like finding a cracking bootleg in the back of your friend’s car I was blown away when I first came across Emma & Olga, the band came onto my radar with the discovery of “Piano.” A punky jam with all the tasty goodness of bands like Пасош and other power pop contemporaries. A vicious drive with the chugging bass and kick-ass plodding drums maintains a non-stop energy that is palpable throughout. Also, kudos needs to be given to the sick riffage of Andrés Plá who provides some incredibly catchy melodies. This is the kind of band which I know won’t be fully given justice in recordings but has certainly given me an itch that I need to scratch by attending one of their live shows.
Jazmín Esquivel – “No Puedo Volver”
If ever there an album title that perfectly captured the vibe and sound of the music therein, Jazmín Esquivel’s sophomore effort Medianoche Radio Club is it. A collection of silky-smooth, darkly alluring tunes with a real after-hours feel, the songs dealing with desire, relationship dynamics, and the ups-and-downs of a night out where lines get blurred and allegiances keep changing. “No Puedo Volver” was one of the immediate highlights for me, a song that drips with anxiety and anticipation, a combination of excitement and dread. The song’s tense, plodding rhythm gradually evolves into a rolling tumble of syllables and layered vocal lines, cementing it as one of this talented songwriter’s most interesting and evocative arrangements.
Hijxs Malones – “Sol”
“Sol” is the latest release of the nascent alternative rock band Hijxs Malones. With an atmosphere that resembles some of the most outlandishly progressive tunes of The Flaming Lips while still being grounded in a pop-esque structure, “Sol” breaks into the scene with an immediately recognizable sound. Ivan Llave’s vocals beacon the listener with his distinct voice and you can even hear Nahuel Briones do some backing vocals (as well as being in charge of the production). What truly sold it for me was how the song features so much texture in every single section (and believe me, there are many), the bit-crushed synths, and the blaring saxophone all add to the huge sound that Hijxs Malones bring to the table. A must-listen for those in search of something off-kilter to scratch that itch.
Medalla Milagrosa – “Rival”
Sometimes all it takes to get out of the doldrums is realizing that our biggest enemy is ourselves. I know that was the case for me and it felt incredibly serendipitous when I listened to “Rival,” Medalla Milagrosa’s first single since their 2019 EP Pasadizo Aumentado, a song that finds the indie rockers on a journey towards self-knowledge. Even though not much has changed sonically for the four-piece—the solid block of hazy guitars, lush synths, and minimalist percussion that characterizes the band’s output is still there— but this time the lyrics purposefully eschew their previous sci-fi and esoteric musings in favor of heartfelt reflections on human nature. Clocking in at 5:40, “Rival” is less of an attempt to transcend commercially and more of a declaration of principles from a band that has always prioritized atmosphere and texture over commonplace pop structures.
Nadar de Noche – “Todas Las Luces”
Playing to their math-rock and dream-pop sensibilities, Nadar de Noche, drop yet another song in a string of singles they’ve been releasing this year. The distinct production style oozes melancholy while the fierce bassline propels the track into an upbeat groove that seems to defy the general tone of the track with its punchy bass and drum interplay. Meanwhile, the guitar lines weave and intertwine throughout the whole track, providing some surprising counterpoints, particularly the wobbly right-panned guitar lick that shows up through most of the track. I adored the soft but present synth pads that help mellow out the more angular guitar passages of the tune. Nadar de Noche is certainly bringing the big guns with these singles, so we are eagerly waiting for the album sometime soon. Here’s a little bit to whet the appetite of the impatient.
Javi Punga – “Covid Surf”
A song for the stage with sweat dripping from every inch of the room, “Covid Surf” incorporates every element that I love about the noise-punk sound without being inaccessible to the everyman. The electronic drums only serve to build up the vocal gruff of Javi Punga, who as a mover and shaker of DIY certainly stands tall in this track which is an unabashed anthem for the lo-fi crowd. The crunchy muffled guitar then kicks things into gear with a bridge incorporating wailing synths and then further barreling down the road at pace with crashes breaking the robotic 4/4 before kicking straight back into a fuzzy verse. Ultimately a fun ferocious track not trying to be anything but itself and one of the many great tracks on El Ultimo Primer Dia (ECF) (Vol.9).
Milagros Raffaelli – “Represión Emocional”
In a world where it is much too common to believe that sensitivity and vulnerability suppose a kind of weakness, Milagros Raffaelli is fed up with relating to people who are incapable of feeling things and expressing them directly and authentically. “Represión Emocional” is the second single by the young singer-songwriter from La Plata, after her debut release “Derrumbe” earlier this year. People who really value themselves, having done the internal work necessary to get there, won’t wait around for others to make the extra effort to compensate for their lack of relational skills and emotional self-knowledge. And Milagros makes it very clear, you don’t get anywhere by hiding what you feel, limiting the affection you give, or not saying what you believe. Clean up the mess in your heart, before it’s too late.
Bela Zugasti – “Ánima”
“Ánima” is a fantastic debut by the singer, songwriter, and artist Bela Zugasti. A murky, hypnotic, layered and many-´textured whirlwind of a track, inspired by the work of Carl Jung and exploring the various facets of the female figure in our culture. The song’s rich production and lush arrangements manage to distract from the fact that the compositional base of the song is made up of exactly two chords. Sometimes, that’s all you really need.