20 AlterLatino Rock en español or Portuguese albums I like (on eMusic & Bandcamp).
I used to get most of my music from foreign countries either at great U.S. stores or by actually going abroad and doing record store tourism, but that’s gotten a lot less fruitful in the past decade with brick and mortar record stores becoming endangered species. Amoeba Music in CA helped a lot, too, and while I’d love to do a Motorcycle Diaries-style tour of Latin America, I hear it’s kinda dangerous. One can only fit so many cds in a suitcase, so I’m grateful eMusic and Bandcamp can lighten my carbon footprint.
In approximate order of how much I like them…
1. “Travesuras” - Ángel Parra Orrego (2019). Mostly instrumental, but occasional vocal numbers (en español) are quite well done even as moods shift drastically. This is sentimental, mischievous (to fit the album title), funky, folksy, laid back, and kooky in equal measures from track to track, a longer album that’s, as they say, greater than the sum of its parts. Unexpected instrumentation abounds, with organs, vibes, pedaled and slid guitars combined soothingly with Southwestern or Latin flavor, electronics as often as vocals. Unfortunately pricey, and as with anything that could be called fusion there are cheesy moments, but fans of Friends of Dean Martinez or Calexico will be pleased.
2. “Derivacivilização” - Ian Ramil (2015). What starts as a clunky, ramshackle sound of a rock band going mad builds by “ba ba bas” to a tightly controlled climax that makes fine use of silence. The title track follows, with an electronic rhythm and longing vocals rising, with backup, into the falsetto range, again building to the end. It’s a formula that is repeated over the course of the album, and it works because the guy has command of a near infinite array of ways to be quiet and loud, with anthemic structure and scope in the middle. By the third track, the going actually gets strange, with a tinkling harpsichord and what sounds like monks chanting “ooo ooo ooo.” The whole album is punctuated by odd, non-musical sounds and soaring choruses that pop up out of nowhere. A model in building and releasing tension through song and how to spice up rock and roll for the 21st century. Mighty fine for over nine dimes or NYP. https://ianramil.bandcamp.com/
3. “A Noite e Mais Eu” - Bruno Chaves (2019). Rock with synths that switches from acoustic to electronic and back within songs on a short album for 99 cents. The instrumentation and vocals sound like nothing but himself. Quite inventive but also inviting to hum along to his harmonies. https://brunochavez.bandcamp.com/music
4. “Traditore” - Juan Diamante (2016). Fun, distinctive covers of indie and alt. rock, etc. en español. It may be especially enjoyable for those who don’t speak Spanish to identify the songs without understanding the titles or the lyrics! This is not your cousin or your high school classmate posting his/her favorite song using silverware or otherwise novel “instruments” on YouTube but rather is nicely produced, and the novelty of translating the lyrics is enough to hook me. This is right in the middle range between a short album and long EP. NYP on Bandcamp. https://juandiamante.bandcamp.com/album/traditore
5. “Percepção” - Poty (2018). It’s hard to get a feel for this album just from sampling it. The opening track isn’t representative b/c it’s ramped up and strung out, but the mellowest tracks are equally extreme. There’s psychedelia, blues rock, “dad rock,” soft rock, and other styles at play from track to track. Good-old-boy rock is not something I expected to hear from Brazil, but it’s here, too. The singer’s voice can sound strained to the point of breaking, but overall I find it a perfect complement to the spare instrumentation. It knows how and when to let loose, even if it means going just slightly off the rails with guitar noise. It’s subtle and it’s cool, with the total listening experience making a strong argument for the preservation of the rock album as a holistic art form, rather than just individual songs. And it’s 99 cents. https://poty.bandcamp.com/album/percep-o-2018
6. “Abandono” - Semente de Maçã (2018). A somewhat trip-hop but also lighter, psychedelic rock EP I feel like I can put on almost any time. It and potentially the listener float gently into the sky like a soap bubble. I’ll have to check out the others in the discography on Bandcamp on a NYP basis. https://sementedemaca.bandcamp.com/album/abandono
7. “Neuro” - Juliano Guerra (2018). The penchant for sudden pauses and shifts in instrumentation or song structure on this album might make a listener uneasy or feel unbalanced, and that’s before taking his voice into consideration. His vocals often play with the beat rather than trying to sing specific notes, but I wouldn’t call it rap. Then he invites a lady to sing a duet with him on the sentimental “Fica.” Brass usually but not always takes a back seat to guitars. Psychedelic guitars over Latin rhythms are always a treat, and I’d call the whole experience quite pleasant and even uplifting, especially the closing title track. Being a long album makes its 99-cent price extra nice. Or try this one NYP https://julianoguerra.bandcamp.com/releases
8. “Pedaço Vivo” - Tagua Tagua (2018). They’ve got several singles and two 99-cent EPs of a little over ten minutes for three tracks of innovative synth-rock. Impossibly glam. Keyboards with twang?
9. “O Gole Que Presta” - Bel (2019). Female vocals with attitude over slow tempo rock guitars and just a pinch of synths. A bit darker and with elements of shoegaze/dream pop. Spacey, abstract undertones are allowed to bloom on the short third song. NYP https://quente.bandcamp.com/album/o-gole-que-presta
10. “Um Dia Que Já Vem” - Mão de Oito (2012). I quite like the easygoing reggae rock of “Sai Dessa,” and the rest rocks inoffensively enough for most anyone, more in the alt. rock vein but with one foot still in Jamaica, funk, or something else flavorful. The single “Beats” reimagines Jack Johnson as Portuguese hip-hop. Overall highly recommended for anyone who likes brass with their upbeat soft rock. A fine 99-cent album, as with many, many others on the Laboratório Fantasma label.
11. “Cicatrices de un Cuento (III)” - Los Caramelos (2020). A dude with a pretty low voice croons and tells stories over understated synth-pop, resembling The Aluminum Group at times. Layering the vocals, all his own apparently, creates a bit of an echo chamber effect. Hummable and harmless, sometimes in a way that seems like turning the volume of a dance party waaaay down. There’s actually quite a bit of variety in the accompaniment, but putting the vocals always most prominently in the mix leads the songs to blend a bit, though hardly unpleasantly. https://discoswalden.bandcamp.com/album/cicatrices-de-un-cuento-iii-2
12. “Bambini” - Caetano Malta (2018). Surprisingly little tropicalia made it onto this list or into my collection, but the first track here is strongly flavored that way on a long EP or short album for 99 cents. The tracks that follow are more rock oriented but with throwbacks like a moody saxophone solo. A duet and an acoustic instrumental close out the proceedings quietly. https://pipamusic.bandcamp.com/album/bambini
13. “Ese es el Cielo y Este tu Lugar” - COLONIkOCOLOkIO (2013). Judging by the cover, one expects acoustic folk music, but from the opening track, electronic elements actually are the foundation of these rather long, interesting songs on an unusual album. The opening instrumental actually reminds me a bit of Telefon Tel Aviv, though on a lower pay grade. TransAm again comes to mind on the shorter tracks, and overall it’s kind of minimal synth-rock with a consistent but not overwhelming beat, except the Latin reggae of the closing track. This won’t blow anyone away, but it’s a nice listen I don’t mind having paid $3 for despite it being free on Bandcamp (where I would never have stumbled upon it). Their 2016 follow-up improves the production by leaps and bounds, and most of the Rompe label is also well worth a listen for free. https://rompecrea.bandcamp.com/album/ese-es-el-cielo-y-este-tu-lugar
14. “Haciendo el Fuego” - Peregrinos (2018). Acoustic guitars carry this one from start to finish, but the album overall fits best on the fringes of progressive rock (despite iTunes categorizing it as jazz). Vocals are introduced in the second track, which sounds almost like an Irish folk song. At just half an hour, it’s over by the time most albums are just hitting their stride, but at $3 it’s still a bargain. https://peregrinosmusic.bandcamp.com/album/haciendo-el-fuego
15. “Lanalhue” - Dadalú (2020). This band is an outsider, lofi folk rap powerhouse. Their simple guitar parts can carry two-minute songs themselves or work in tandem with electronics. Definitely not for everyone, but there’s a rawness here that appeals like the best of bedroom pop. Flaring the last syllable on their vocals is a thing they do on the opening and closing tracks. NYP https://dadaluuu.bandcamp.com/album/lanalhue-ep
16. “S/t” - Gravitones (2015, free on Bandcamp). I made a whole post dedicated to rambling about this as being priced unusually and representing obscure albums that stream for free in their entirety here https://www.reddit.com/r/eMusicofficial/comments/gltw9o/the_curious_case_of_gravitones_fully_streamable/ But I didn’t actually describe the music other than as being “progressive folk.” There’s an alternation throughout the album between instrumentals and vocal tracks, and the overall vibe is pretty upbeat. Electric guitars are introduced on the third track, which is closer to jazz fusion, shifting seamlessly and beautifully to post-rock after about seven minutes, then back again before the 11-minute mark before closing on a quiet note. That and the final track are each over 15 minutes long, allowing the band to unwind and explore different styles in the same song, something I support anyone with the chops to include on any otherwise conventional album. In the middle tracks, there’s a campesino ballad similar to DePedro, a Latin math rock instrumental akin to Beaten by Them or Ui, a longish and minimalist meditation, and a short, playful vocal track. In sum, quite an enjoyable hour-long journey full of experimentation. https://gravitones.bandcamp.com/releases
BANDCAMP ONLY… (all NYP)
17. “Nuestros Días de Invierno” - Chico Bestia (2018). I’m not generally a fan of emo, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t heard much of it en español. Or maybe this skirts the edges of emo right in the sweet spot. Finding the right balance in rock between abrasiveness and actual noise is something every individual needs to grapple with, and this album is ecstatic to help, and they’ve brought some lovely guitar ala Explosions in the Sky and Shimmering Stars. https://sellorecolector.bandcamp.com/album/nuestros-d-as-de-invierno
18. “A través de tus ojos” - Degong (2019). A bouncy EP w/ m/f duet vocals. Upbeat indie pop rock on the first track, followed by a mix of the same and sentimental acoustic numbers. Nice bells on “Tu nombre,” and “Escapar” is based around a piano. https://registromovil.bandcamp.com/album/a-trav-s-de-tus-ojos
19. “El primero es el último” - Shaman y los Pilares de la Creación (2018). I’m kinda torn about this one b/c the variety of instrumentation was enough to entice me to buy it without sampling first, but I have limited appreciation of the singer’s delivery in a very low register something like Murder by Death. Fully and maximally chamber pop, the baseline is as likely to come from an upright bass, cello, or tuba as a combination of them. Maybe Voltaire or Loch Lomond is the model to emulate, and I strongly prefer the latter over the former, with this album coming in third. The guy’s vocal affectations seem to me to carry more melodrama and histrionics than genuine emotion. It’s never unpleasant, sloppily arranged, or out of control, but a different mix or production would help, IMO. https://discosdeshaman.bandcamp.com/album/el-primero-es-el-ltimo
20. “Rampas y tuneles” - Cromattista (2020). I actually like this one a lot more than most, but it’s the only fully instrumental entry and so doesn’t quite fit with the rest. Post-rock like this needs to be heard and highlighted not only to beat back being engulfed by “crescendocore” but also to keep rock music itself vital. The high-wire circus fantasy of “Fellini” is also a good reminder that the saxophone used to fit well in rock and roll. Most of the tracks are pretty brief other than the conclusion. Highly recommended. https://discosdelsaladillo.bandcamp.com/album/rampas-y-tuneles
On other lists: “Maiúsculas Cósmicas” - Walfredo em Busca da Simbiose (2019). “Narcisos” - Caco (2018). Los Amigos Invisibles. Francisco y Madero. Fasat Alfa. Peces Raros. Laboratorio Fantasma label and several more discoveries from the past six months need to be added to this list I haven’t updated my list of labels for a long time, but it seems to be mostly intact. https://www.reddit.com/r/eMusicofficial/comments/cst70g/estudios_hisp%C3%A1nicos_emusic_labels_from_the/.
Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMuReddit.html
& by my evaluation http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMusic%20Labels.html