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Archive for the ‘Chicano Batman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HELADO NEGRO-Tiny Desk Concert #632 (June 30, 2017).

It’s unfair that I have recently really enjoyed songs by Chicano Batman because Helado Negro sounds so much like Chicano Batman that I would certainly have guessed that’s who this was (although Chicano Batman is a bit more catchy and groovy).

Helado Negro is a band: [Roberto Lange (vocals, guitar); Nathaniel Morgan (sax); Angela Morris (sax, violin); Ben Lanz (bass guitar); Weston Minissali (synthesizer); Jason Nazary (drums)] and this is what Felix has to say about them

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

But that’s not what you’re getting here — instead of tinsel, we get Roberto standing behind Bob Boilen’s desk in a t-shirt that says “Young, Latin and Proud,” the title of his most recent single. That’s the essence of the songs he chose to play (and really, his entire catalog), music about being a young American with Ecuadorian parents, singing about life in here in the U.S.

Our little concert here also shows off an acoustic treatment of Helado Negro’s vision, and it’s just as compelling without the electronics. In fact, it’s as if the songs reveal a different aspect of themselves, the lyrics intimate and laid bare. Personally, I loved the sound of the alto and tenor saxophones playing harmonies in place of a bank of keyboards. As you’ll see, the entire band perfected that delicate balance of intensity and low volume, letting the music and ideas breathe.

They play four songs.  They are all mellow

“Transmission Listen” opens with Lange singing and playing guitar and then the full horns kick it, and that’s when it sounds like Chicano Batman (in a good way).

“Young, Latin and Proud” is very catchy.  This song reminds me of Sandro Perri–mellow and gentle with his smooth voice rising above it all.  I like at the end that he mentions his audience: “Felix is young Latin & proud, mi abuela is young Latin & proud.”

For “Run Around” he doesn’t play guitar.  There’s a nice use of violins instead of strings in the beginning and some cool synth sounds.  I liked the squeaky violin noises at the end.

“It’s My Brown Skin” is a happy song–indeed I love that he loves who he is and where he comes from: “My skin glows in the dark / shines in the light / its the color that holds me tight.”  The ending melody is really pretty (played on sax and violin) “I love you and I can’t miss anything about you / you’re stuck on me and all this time I’m inside you  / And its your brown skin… it’ll keep you safe.”

[READ: April 4, 2017] “Necessary Driving Skills”

This story was, wait for it, all over the map (ha) in some ways.  It is all about driving, (see, ha).  But it is about much more than driving.  It is about relationships, friendship, business and of course, driving.

It even starts: “This is the story.”

It continues: “Kim Le Bouedec and I run the Finchley Mint.  And I’ve just kissed his wife.”

The narrator, Neil, and Kim were friends in college.  And it follows that thought with this: “You see, this is the paradoxical thing about my age group (and yours–if it hasn’t happened yet, it will.) The more we settle, the more opportunities there are for disruption.”

Neil details: Simon and Maxine are married with a ten month old daughter.  Luke is married to Helen (who worked with the Neil’s wife Jill), there’s Kim and his wife Sasha.  “My circle of friends, turning square.”

Neil and Kim work at this Mint. It’s a business in which they sell “die cast model cards by mail order. Don’t laugh.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #613(April 17, 2017).

In the blurb for this show, Felix says that he was sol by their name.  And I am too.  It’s a great name.  And yet it is not entirely useful in terms of musical style.  But he summarizes pretty nicely:

a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceañera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

That lounge sound is completely evident with the keyboard tone–old fashioned and bachelor pad-like.  But this is no bachelor pad music, because behind the keys are some groovy and at time funky bass (from Eduardo Arenas) and some cool guitar wah wahs (from Carlos Arevalo) and more.

Holding it all together is Gabriel Villa on drums and then on keys and guitar and vocals is Bardo Martinez.  Martinez sings in such a cool, laid-back manner.  It’s often a gentle falsetto but it always feel like he is just chillin’ and singing these groovy songs.

And they also wears suits with bow ties.

“Freedom is Free” is a delicate and groovy song with lots of wah wah guitar and a cool echoing guitar solo.  It’s also got a great bass line.  The song is sweet and catchy with a great wah wah build up at the sudden ending.

“Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” has been quite popular on the radio here and man is it catchy.  The loungey organ and vocals are a great start, but the way the chorus just burst forth after the first verse–the backing singers (Nya Parker Brown and Piya Malik) hit the marks perfectly and then the staccato guitar riffs after that.  Its irresistible. (Parker Brown and Malik are from the band 79.5 and have been touring with them).

The ladies leave for the final song, “Jealousy.”  There’s a great funky bass line and fun drums before the song turns rather mellow.  I love the between chorus riffs.  Although I find the main song a little too slow, it probably works well between faster songs.

And they are all so polite and charming, I’m sure I’d enjoy seeing them live.

[READ: February 20, 2017] “The Prairie Wife”

I recently read another story by Sittenfeld in the New Yorker and really enjoyed it.  And this one was not only great and wonderfully written, it was full of surprises.

It’s hard to write about without giving away some of the surprises because they were so good.

But here’s a spoiler free attempt.

Kirsten is married with two kids.  The family has a routine and it involves Kirsten waking up and getting the boys up in time for school.  But lately she has been using her morning time to look at Lucy Headrick’s Twitter feed. (more…)

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