Summer Sixteen officially just started, which, if you’re like me, means you’re burning your brain cells listening to J Balvin’s Energía on repeat. Luckily, my job forces me to listen to other music sometimes. In that spirit, we’ve put together a collection of songs we couldn’t stop bumping this month. From the reggaeton rave devotional that is Santa Muerte’s “Trembla,” to the prismatic pop of Los Wálters’ “San Juan,” be sure to add these to your rotation. –Isabelia Herrera
Santa Muerte - "Trembla"
Houston duo Santa Muerte are coming correct. They just set Mexico City on fire alongside Lao, Imaabs, Lechuga Zafiro, and more, at NAAFI’s Cumbre Latinx party. They also just dropped their first original EP, titled Oraciones, and it’s packed with collaborations from the likes of El Blanco Nino, Fake Accent’s Kala, and more. “Trembla,” the lead single, is earth-shaking bliss – pun definitely intended.
“Trembla” is a collaboration between the Texans and French producer King Doudou (Douster’s more tropical alias), and it ensures dark perreo for weeks and weeks. The three created this monster of a track, which combines Santa Muerte’s club influences with some flavorful dembow. The riddim is also taken to a half-sensual, half-nostalgic place through the moody synth melodies that contrast with the harshness of the beat and the incessant reggaetonero “tierra tiembla” vocal samples. –Cheky
BCOTB feat. Jesse Baez - “Easy”
Guatemala/Chicago/Monterrey’s answer to The Weeknd, Jesse Baez came together with San Luís Potosí producers BCOTB. “Easy” builds into a bouncing, swirling message, a surprisingly uptempo ode to moments of gray desperation. “It’s easy for you to say we’re through,” Baez sings, further cementing his growing reputation as Latin America’s sultry R&B sad boy.
The track comes off of BCOTB’s new four-song Angle EP, which also features a collaboration with Mexico City vocalist Samsi. The EP is an excellent place to start for anybody looking to acquaint themselves with the recent wave of Mexican R&B artists who are fusing trap and more experimental sounds with classic rhythms.
I love this song and Baez’s work in general, but I would be wrong not to mention the fact that the voice in the lyrics is that of the most annoying kind of ex: the one who sends you ambiguous, depressing messages about how they’re not quite over you, but never addresses the reasons why you broke up with them or tells you straight up that they want to get back together. “It’s cold out there,” Baez coos. But there’s no constructive mention of where one could find that heat, you know? Real, though.
Real enough that the song’s producers feel like it took a page out of their own books. “‘Easy’ turned out to be a projection of what we live in our minds,” BCOTB told Noisey Mexico. “Not only on the romantic side, but as an interpretation of how the city is surprising you daily.”
The track’s video, directed by Mexico City poet Ashauri López Aparicio, follows fashion designer Raymi Biachelanni through the DF subway system, dreaming about PDAs with his estranged boo. Baez shows up to look at you meaningfully, albeit with his headphones still on, while waiting for the Ciudad Azteca commuter train. –Caitlin Donohue
Tomasa del Real and Deltatron - "Es De Noche"
Tomasa del Real is a tattoo artist from the northern Chilean beach town of Iquique, which from her social media looks like a world filled with white high rise oceanside apartments and house cats. But give a girl a smartphone and she can make magic happen. Tomasa has moved from homemade music videos to international tours and collaborations with Spain’s PXXR GVNG, Mexico’s Chico Sonido and Chile’s Nación Triizy in under two years.
Far from Puerto Rico, Tomasa seemingly should not have been able to seamlessly incorporate herself into the reggaeton world. But that kind of reasoning is retro — the internet does what it wants, and here she is with Peruvian producer Deltatron of Terror Negro Records showing once again that she’s the charismatic queen of the neo-perreo global network.
Deltatron created “Es De Noche” in his Lima studio, building an echoing, nocturnal beat for Tomasa to play with. The Parisian-born Peruvian composes in a lot of genres, from trap to R&B, and left “Es De Noche” with a restrained note, more low-key and reflective than most of the reggaeton that’s out there right now. It’s not the first time the two have linked — last year’s “Drogas” and “Dientes de Oro” proved the potency of the combination. Enciclopedia Color, who tours with Tomasa and puts in work as her DJ, cameraperson, and designer, shot the reel.
The song itself deals with a military clothes-wearing lover you’d rather forget, who you probably could forget after a shower and sleep. But, true to Tomasa’s wi fi-oriented vibes, the world wide web gets a shout-out: “Don’t leave me, without the internet I can’t eat and die.” –Caitlin Donohue
Vainhein - "Gag Order"
Bay Area audiences have been waiting for a minute for the debut full-length album from drag monster Vainhein (“vain for vanity, hein for heinous” his Bandcamp page explains), but at least throughout those suspenseful times there was a lot to stare at. The performer started out on San Francisco drag club stages, lip syncs taking the back seat to Vain’s troublingly sexy freak show looks and unsettling stage presence. But making music has always been as high a priority for the musician as the black, glittering claws they used to pick apart gender norms, so it’s gratifying to hear the sound take center stage with Vain’s new Gag Order EP.
The release’s title track doesn’t disappoint. Dark washes of ambient chords swell behind feathery vocals by California singer-musician San Cha, whose powerful voice slips here into whispers, summoning an unwillingness to be silenced. The reclaiming of one’s voice after abuse is a theme that runs throughout the Gag Order EP, which Vain says was inspired by traumatic episodes that they had recently lived through.
One of San Cha and Vainhein’s last musical projects together was drag punk group Daddies Plastik, whose anti-gentrification anthem “Google Google Apps Apps” defined the Bay’s current era of antipathy towards the tech companies exacerbating its class wars. Before that, Vainhein was best known for combating beauty norms with comic grossness (check the video for “Pussy Juice,” if you feel woke and ready.)
But the Gag Order EP represents an evolution in Vainhein’s messaging, perhaps a pulling-in to focus on the finer points of self-care and survival after years of outward-facing activism. The challenging aesthetics remain — a glance at the album art is all you need to know that we, thankfully, haven’t seen the end of full eyeball contacts or literally torturous accessories — but Vain’s considerable production skills are also allowed to steal the show. –Caitlin Donohue
Los Wálters - "San Juan"
In Puerto Rico, the arrival of the summer solstice is a big deal. They don’t only welcome beach season, but they also honor San Juan Bautista through a tradition that involves partying and diving into the sea 12 times. And even though Boricua beaches can turn a little wild this time of the year, the guys from Los Wálters have decided to celebrate this special occasion with a brand new song, appropriately titled “San Juan,” and a matching video.
“San Juan” is a delicious, tropical-tinted synth pop number from the Wálters brand, and combines the easy and feel-good vibe of the capital’s celebration with the mysticism of outer space. And that’s the mix they’re exactly serving in its music video, co-produced by Ladoscuro and the band members themselves. The visuals are presented in black-and-white – broken sporadically by strobe-like cyan and yellow flashes – and feature Luis López Varona and Ángel Emanuel Figueroa chilling on their silla’e playa, having drinks and performing the song behind palm trees.
Only that they’re not precisely on a beach, but on the rocky surface of a different planet, backed by constellations and mountains. The result is quite simple compared to their other visuals, and it also works as a lyric video, since the words come up as subtitles of a movie. In short, “San Juan” does its job of getting you all ready for summer, San Juan-style. Expect Los Wálters’ new album soon. –Cheky
C. Tangana - “Llámame Más Tarde” (feat. Rosalía)
At this year’s edition of Primavera Sound, Madrid rapper C. Tangana debuted his latest single, “Llámame Más Tarde,” featuring Barcelona singer Rosalía. The song is a seductive number that transports us to those R&B/hip-hop combos from the turn of the millennium – think Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma,” but with an up-to-date, trap-tinted beat produced by Alizzz and Monkey’s Cymbal. The chemistry between these two oozes sensuality and it’s contagious. The music video is so smart, it really feels like it’s a real-life hook-up.
There’s no way a young person living in 2016 won’t identify with the “Llámame Más Tarde” video. It’s actually a pseudo-recording of C. Tangana’s iPhone screen, and you can see him in a smartphone routine that’s awfully familiar. He stalks Rosalía a little on Instagram, listens to songs off Alizz’s new and highly recommended Ocean Drive EP on Soundcloud, shares WhatsApp messages with fellow rapper Pedro Ladroga, and tweets a signature explicit message. Even Pablo Díaz-Reixa, aka El Guincho, makes a cameo in the form of a snap, with a doggy filter and all. Instead of passing as a social media ad, it’s an exercise in seduction that ends up with Rosalía calling him after all. Success. –Cheky
DUVVII - "Playa Triste"
It takes a special level of goth to find a well of sadness by the beach, but this band from León, México have done just that, conjuring feeling of emptiness, nostalgia, and despair while catching some rays. Musically, the band is a far cry from whatever your idea of fun summer music is; their sound more suited for autumn evenings, full of sepia tones from the sun as it sets at the end of the day.
Having said that, it’s not dire or boring, but beautifully arranged; “Playa Triste” is a layered affair full of melodies and gentle distortion that nod to many post-punk and shoegaze bands, especially recalling Disintegration-era The Cure. Even if their music doesn’t reflect it, lyrically they long for a day with their loved one by the shore, watching the stars and playing in the sand, which makes them more hopelessly romantic than terminally darks. “Playa Triste” comes off their Casa Anónima demo and the track comes with a lyric video to match the summer goth vibes. –Marcos Hassan
Useless Youth - "Youth"
On first listen, it’s clear that Useless Youth are not the most complicated band in the world. Their music is pretty straightforward, and showcases enough melodicism to grab the attention of even the most jaded listeners. This very young outfit from Mexico City (bassist Yak just turned 17, for crying out loud) has so much more going on that meets the ear; their sound is very rickety and lo-fi – they recorded “Youth” at guitarist’s Pepe’s parents’ house one Sunday afternoon.
The drums are muted, the instruments tiny, and the vocals are not very polished or rehearsed, yet everything comes together magically, thanks to the cascading guitar hooks and the impossibly melodic/melancholic weaving of Yak and Pepe’s voices. It’s impossible not to draw a line between the song’s theme and the band themselves as they reflect on what it’s like to feel some type of way and seize the moment with their friends, yet there’s a sadness to being so self-aware about being young with nothing to do but hang out. This is the third track they have shared from their upcoming debut, The Coldest Ocean. -Marcos Hassan
Los Esquizitos - "No Chaser"
The four-piece band was founded in 1994 at the height of the Mexican rock movement, one of the pillars of the garage rock scene and some of the most fun people to ever hit a stage. The band has not recorded an album in quite some time, but have been sporadically sharing new tracks – “No Chaser” being one of the best efforts in their career.
While their early music was anchored by surf riffs and guitar noise, Los Esquizitos take a slight detour from their usual path to experiment with a steady beat and bouncing bassline that puts them on the neighborhood of the most driving Pixies songs, showcasing dwelling guitars that switch between punk riffs and feedback. Lyrically, singer Uili Damage begs people to stop giving him mezcal for the sake of everyone, his vocal delivery matching a man losing a battle of steady drinking. The lyric video is a supercut of clips of underage kids drunk off their asses, a funny yet bizarre companion to one hell of a song. –Marcos Hassan