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Mexico has as long a history as any other place of churning out remarkable rock ‘n’ roll, pop, electronic, and even symphonic composers. But today, stellar independent sounds are emerging with incredible frequency, and originating all across the country, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, to Tijuana in Baja California, to the Nuevo León city of Monterrey, and, of course, the capital city. And while it may be misleading to use the terminology around excellent music coming up in “waves” — especially since Mexico’s music scene has been consistent in quality for decades — what makes this era so unique is that many of these bands are starting to influence musical cultures outside the country and make their presence known internationally.
So here’s our veritable “new wave” of Mexican artists that we believe are poised to break out at any moment. And this list could go on for pages, really — but we boiled it down to 10 of our absolute favorites, from fresh-faced dream poppers to new projects from mainstays, plus smooth R&B perfection and a few new and exemplary developments in noise.
1. Young Tender
Necios is the most recent EP from this Monterrey band that’s pushing “sad disco,” the term Young Tender coined themselves for their brand of sleek-but-languid pop. While their beginnings were a bit bouncier, this collection — centered on tales of break-ups and utter hopelessness, and soundtracked by rich synthesizers and shimmery riffs — feels like a modern update on the UK’s ’80s New Romantic movement.
Around a decade back, Bengala was a powerful force among Mexican rock bands, even earning themselves Latin Grammy nod in 2007 for their eponymous full-length outing. While they’ve somewhat dismantled (not officially, they but haven’t played in over five years), the group’s impact continues, and a few members have gone on to release solo works — including drummer Marcos Zavala, whose first EP as Solitario debuted in 2012.
Shifting to a piano-based style, Zavala found soft but powerful introspection, but also tinkered with electronic beat elements, filtering in hints of chiptune and synth pop, and adapted touches of no-wave noise to catchier song structures, too. On two new 2018 singles, “Aquí Abajo” and “Joyas,” that combination is more melodically melded than ever — and that compelling feeling of soul-searching remains intact, too.
3. Girl Ultra
Sophisticated and fresh R&B comes courtesy of Mexico City’s Girl Ultra, whose sophomore EP, Adíos, was released last month via the stalwart purveyors of Latinx urban subculture at Finesse Records. High-octave breathy vocals tingle atop smooth, languid melodies that burn slowly, but thoroughly. Girl Ultra’s tracks are emblazoned in your memory upon first listen, though we highly doubt you’ll listen just once.
4. Wet Baes
Check out Wet Baes for “chill ’80s teen vibez” (their own descriptor) that’s oozing with the same new wave nostalgia that fuels vaporwave futurism. But there’s undeniable disco notes and ’80s radio pop (sexy saxophone occasionally included) in this solo project from Mexico City musician Andrés Jaime, who was a member of the seemingly defunct AFFΣR — a soft disco act that also included the above mentioned Nan de Miguel, a.k.a., Girl Ultra.
This Guadalajara duo’s lo-fi shoegaze sound winds and twists like the memory of a maze, hazy and reverb-heavy but nonetheless transfixing. The 2016 eponymous EP debut from Norwayy — comprised of Rocío Márquez and Gabriela Navarro — culls from other niche sounds, too, with nuances of dark-but-danceable post-punk (“Reptil” and “We Must”) and steady-warbling surf noir (“You Are the Last to Know”).
6. Sol Oosel
Gustavo Mauricio, a.k.a, Sol Oosel, is an incredibly prolific artist. He was a member of ’90s alt-rock mainstays Zurdok, through which, along with two other musicians, he founded Happy-Fi, a Monterrey-based label that’s been delivering top-notch indie and alternative sounds (and festivals) since 1996. Included in that roster is the widely beloved pop troupe Quiero Club (of which Mauricio was also a member), as well as other bands like She’s a Tease, Los Erres, and Black Forest.
As if all that didn’t make for a complicated enough CV, Mauricio is also a multidisciplinary artist working in acting, writing, directing, shooting, and scoring films.
Mauricio doesn’t lack focus, though. Right now he’s readying the release of Janus, his debut LP as Sol Oosel. The flagship track, “The Hills,” feels like ’80s jangle pop for today’s bleaker, more synthetic world. Yet the lyrics are earth-bound, and the accompanying video — directed by Mexican conceptual artist Mario García Torres — is built entirely on catharsis through contemporary dance. This latest incarnation of Mauricio could be his best yet. Sol Oosel is the kind of weird and complicated enigma that keeps you coming back for more.
7. Mint Field
Highly anticipated, long awaited (however you want to put it), folks were fully hyped for the first full-length from Tijuana trio Mint Field. That buzz began around 2015 with the release of their Primeras Salidas EP, and in the years since, they’ve downsized to a duo — it’s just Estrella Sánchez and Amor Amezcua now — and honed in on a particularly mind-melting brand of shoegaze.
Despite the unexpected shifts, Pasar de las Luces did not disappoint fans. The album is rife with haunting introspection, hazy existential strolls, and chaotic clashes and crescendos that sting like grim life revelations. That may sound totally bleak, but Mint Field delivers the downers elegantly, accepting that heaviness is surprisingly liberating, like a burden released, rather than added weight.
“Áfrika” is the latest single from Clubz, a Monterrey duo that, despite having not yet released a full-length, are massively popular. It’s been four years since their EP debut (and a two-song-plus-remixes release the following year), but they remain atop the crest of a wave of covetable festival slots and welcome gushing love from media and fans alike. After all, hits like the shimmering lo-fi earworm “Golpes Bajos” aren’t easily forgotten. In fact, the 2014 release, Texturas, feels like it could be a Greatest Hits album. The pair told Remezcla last year that they “envision everything as a hit, as a single.”
They also noted the influence of La Movida Madrileña, the explosive and celebratory New Wave and punk movement of Spain that emerged in late ‘70s Madrid post-Franco, on their new cut, “El Rollo.” Magnetic hooks are still paramount here (and the sexy saxophone is here, too), and the much-awaited full-length of which this track will be part is sure to be filled with them. Slated to drop this fall, the LP is dubbed Destellos, meaning “flashes.”
Likely the youngest and newest bunch on the list, these four #TeenagersinLove make romantic, flowery dream pop. In December 2016, they released their only work so far, a five-track demo that’ll likely give you Smiths and The Cure feels. Both pioneers of sad romanticism are primary influences for DRIMS, though their approach is a bit more earnest, naturally lacking the cynicism that inevitably creeps in throughout your 20s.
Having performed live for the first time only about a year ago, the Nuevo León group is currently racking up more shows and festivals throughout the country, still sharing that initial collection of deceptively peppy bum-outs — songs they thought “nobody would ever want to hear.”
Mexico’s indie scene really does have noise and shoegaze on lock. And Sadfields stands as another case in point. A debut full-length, Homesick, was recorded two years ago but wasn’t released until last October. The trio noted on the blog Noise Artists that the album seemed to have “some kind of spirit of its own,” with a random power outage and mysteriously missing files at the start, then later, a track that unexpectedly wouldn’t play during a scheduled radio premiere. True or not, that lore adds a supernatural element to the band’s echoing vocals and shadowy minimalism, and a little extra fright to those epic onslaughts of scouring riffage.
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Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-born writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She covers Latinx music and culture for Remezcla, runs a monthly queer party, and also organizes a recurring pop-up feminist bazaar. Until last year, she co-owned a mid-size venue; right now, she’s plotting a new venture. Follow her on Twitter for links to her stories or on Instagram for (mostly) pictures of her cats.