Diandra’s 2017 in New Music

Down in Brazil, there was MC Livinho continuing the chilled loverboy baile funk/funk carioca sound of his 2016 album with the hit Fa [zer Falta [MV]. The music video becomes very positive and female-friendly by removing much of the male gaze of the lyrics. Two lines of its chorus became a minor meme:

Se teu hobby é sentar, não vou te criticar/Tá de parabens

(If your hobby is to sit, I won’t criticize you/I congratulate you).

On the other side of the funk carioca spectrum, there are the dense and fast rhythms of Wile Out on Dos Flakos – Pa Dançando [1].

Staying closer to MC roots was Rincon Sapiência, who released Ponta de Lança (Verso Livre) [MV] on December 26th of 2016. The lyrics ruminate on the rapper’s street life and Black pride. The track was later given a carioca funk club remix by Leo Justi of Heavy Baile. Justi was matched to the urban dance movement “passinho” in this video for Larga o Aço, and was co-credited with Lila on the consent anthem Não é Não [MV]. Moving to other Brazilian MCs talking about female sexual agency, Karol Conka’s Brazil-viral video for Lalá [NSFW MV] preceded Charli XCX’s Western-viral Boys [MV], and though it lacks the latter’s diversity, it exceeds in…suggestiveness.

Across in Argentina, Chocolate Remix makes brazen lesbian alt-reggaeton. Sátira starts off with the earlier, cumbia-inflected explicit single Como me gusta a mi [very NSFW MV]. One of her newer tracks is Ni Una Menos [1], which speaks out against harassment. For something more atmospheric, Benjamin Biolay continues to bridge Buenos Aires and Paris in the cinematic cumbia chanson Hollywood Palermo (ft. Ambrosia) [1]. Another connection, between New York and Colombia, defines the origins of Combo Chimbita, who play their own type of psychedelic “futurism” cumbia, as shown in Pachanga. [1]

Returning to popular music, Willy William’s Voodoo Song transformed into Mi Gente [MV], by both William and J. Balvin. Balvin’s reworking may be more lyrically simple, but I appreciate its positive message and the fact that it didn’t have to add any English to become a US and global chart-topper. Both videos have vibrant, fantastic aesthetics as well. The song was later remixed by Steve Aoki [MV], and then re-released (featuring Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter) to aid relief efforts for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Punk rockers At the Drive-In re-reunited for their first album in seventeen years, and I like the stop-motion animation for Hostage Stamps [MV] and Call Broken Arrow [MV]. However, the best Omar Rodríguez-López-affiliated music this year came from Crystal Fairy. His fellow band members here include Les Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender (a.k.a. Teresa Suárez) and The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover. Their self-titled album was put together in only a week, but their skills cohere well together in the rampage of tracks like Bent Teeth [1] and Secret Agent Rat [1].

Alexandra Savior’s debut album Belladonna of Sadness provided a studio version of Mirage [MV], a song I highlighted in last year’s music post [1]. Sadness ends with the dreamy ballad Vanishing Point [1], whose lyrics include one of the most accurate descriptions of watching the night fall during a desert car ride:

Spectacular blacklight poster neon sky/To which the sun so quickly unsubscribes.

(Which reminds me: will co-writer Alex Turner ever really leave the SoCal desert?)

Another debut came from former 2NE1 member Minzy, who brought the bright single Ninano (featuring Flowsik) [1] to lead the album Work 01 Uno, whose lyrics she wrote entirely herself– aside from the guest rapper spots. The boy band Brockhampton managed to put together three albums in 2017, and give me ‘90’s vibes in Boogie [1]. Amy’s recommended trip-hop stylist Ding Wei began her career in that decade, but continues to make music today, with tracks like So I [1].

I was surprised to see Alaskan indie folk-ish rock band Portugal the Man crack the Top 40 charts with Feel It Still [MV], although their sound had started to hew closer to popular styles in recent years. This video becomes interactive at the website feelitstill.com, although you can cheat by seeing all the possible actions here. No matter the degree with which you agree or disagree with all they support, even controversy is publicity.

Riff-strong rock trio Little Barrie, who gained some notice for creating the Better Caul Saul theme song [1], strummed forward with new album Death Express, their fifth album and the first they produced by themselves. Here is the title track performed live, and this is the music video for Produkt. Unfortunately, their drummer Virgil Howe died several months after the album released.

For everyone who wanted violinist Andrew Bird to abandon vocals and become his surname, Echolocations: River might be the closest you’ll get to your wish. Over half of the tracks, recorded by the Los Angeles River, are named after birds, such as Black-Crowned Night-Heron [1]. Other tracks, like Ellipses [1], are named after other sights at the site. Here is a short preview video of Bird at the recording site:

Norwegian pianist and composer Jon Balke, with the help of Mona Boutcheback on vocals and oud, led his Siwan ensemble to another exploration of the music of Spain’s Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus era: Nahnou Hou, meaning “We are them.” According to Allmusic, Balke kept this question in mind: What would the music of Europe, and the world in general, sound like if “Islam, Judaism, and Christianity had managed to co-exist in the aftermath of Al-Andalus?” Castigo [1] takes its lyrics from the poetry of Ibn al-Zaqqaq, while the dramatic, jolting Sin Nada Querer [1] is derived from words by St. John of the Cross.

Thanks to Amy [1], I learned about the music of Wen Cheilun, who blends traditional musicianship with modern sounds of China and the West. His latest album is named Think, Miss, Sorrow. It hearkens back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and its tradition of “ci” lyric poetry, with titles and influence from the most renowned female poet of the time, Li Qingzhao. Su Shi’s poety is also mentioned by some as inspiration. Go to Amy’s blog to see the translated track titles!

Here is Happy Meeting: Wordless, A Lone Ascent Up the West Tower:


Celebrated drummer Tony Allen innovates within classic jazz and Afrobeat on The Source. Intertwining Nigeria and Paris, the whole album is alert with excellent musicianship from all involved, including co-writer and saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz. Tony’s Blues [1] is a great example of what the tracks have to offer, and Ewajo [1] pulls off a cool coursing current of sound. Damon Albarn even shows up on piano on Cool Cats [1]. Watch the performance music video for Wolf Eats Wolf [MV].

Trumpeter Keyon Harrold is also keeping jazz alive, crafting with a melodic hip-hop sensibility. Wayfaring Traveler (ft. Jermaine Holmes, Georgia Anne Muldrow, & Robert Glasper) [1] is a solid introduction to his work, while Ethereal Souls [1] has more of a midnight vibe. There are even short tributes to the Black Lives Matter movement with Lament [MV] and When Will It Stop (ft. Guy Torry) [MV]

Further on the experimental side, there’s Mario Batkovic and his accordion on Quatere [1], as well as Colin Stetson and saxophone on Like Wolves on the Fold [1]. Avant-garde pianist Kelly Moran adds a light electronic touch to prepared piano for a flower-themed album that includes freesia [1] and title track bloodroot [1]. For a more industrial sound, the duo Emptyset composes heavy textures within strict parameters. Descent [1] unfurls into a dance rhythm, while Speak [1] or Axis [1] could accompany a chase scene. Their album Borders builds up to the thundering thrash of Dissolve [1]

Diandra Rodriguez

Proudly Latinasian NorCal American.

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