Aiko El Gupo, en espanol, Islandia Nunca Quema, Juvenilia, Lisasinson, Los Andes, singing in Spanish, The Silos
Spain is undeniably the continental European country most holding down the power pop fort. Just why this Iberian locale is so taken with jangly guitars and hooky melodies is unclear. But to honour their commitment today’s post celebrates melodic rock and roll sung in Spanish. Whether the bands come from within or outside Spain’s national borders, no matter. We’re ready to hit play.
Lisasinson hail from Valencia and come on like a female version of The Happy Fits. In other words, slightly punky, cleverly melodic and irrepressibly energetic. Their 2021 debut album Perdona Mamá is like a shot of adrenalin with jumping dance numbers like “Corazon” and “Discoteca.” But then there’s the more subtle Pixies-like musical hues all over “Todo Me Da Igual” and “Canción Para Mi Crush.” This year has seen the release of a few new singles that suggest a new musical direction, like the “Dear Prudence” vibe haunting “No Sé Muy Bien” or the dreamy pop aura coating “Últimamente.” Heading into central Spain we can spend some time with Madrid’s Aiko El Gupo. Described as pop-punk by their record label, what I hear on their 2020 album Va Totalmente En Serio … is some pretty tightly focused fun. With a lot of guitars. “Quiero conocer (por tu actitud)” just rockets along while “Me parece muy fuerte” floats on a cushion of vintage organ (and more guitars). “Amigos para nunca (confía y te la lían)” ups the pop quotient in a thoroughly delightful way. “La Peste” has that late 1960s garage pop feeling. Basically you can press play on this album and let it wallpaper your space.
Slipping over toward the jangle neighbourhood of Madrid we find Juvenilia. On their self-titled 2016 release there’s trebly guitars and more than a bit of retro rock and roll sound, leaning hard on a particularly sharp but pleasing organ sound. Hear how the band use it to drive “Tu Esqueleto.” By contrast “Extraños” lets the retro guitar take the front seat. My favourite tune has to be “La Oscuridad” with its great 1960s guitar licks, though “Fiesta Secreta” comes a close second. Those harmony vocals! The record ends impressively with “La Reina Del Sol” and its almost “Chimes of Freedom” melodic arc ringing out. Returning to the Mediterranean coast we can visit with Islandia Nunca Quema (translation: Iceland Never Burns) in Rues and Tarragona in Catalonia. On their recent self-titled album we find a different take again on the poprock genre, a bit more loose, not in as much of hurry to get anywhere. I love the easygoing rhythm of “Elgin Baylor” with its Yarbirds-meets-Dire Straits atmosphere. The guitar tone on this album is utterly beguiling. What’s not to love about the almost pop jazz elan of “Ego Trip”? So seductive. “Camisa de cuello Mao” turns up the jangle without increasing the pace all the much. Altogether this is a warm album to enjoy being around, with stellar guitar shading and a strong vocal presence.
It will take a jet plane to get to our next act who reside in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But it will be worth the trip. Everything about Los Andes fits out brief. This year’s Backgammonesque doesn’t just riff on the title of Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque, its got the sound down cold. “Julie” busts out like the hit single headed straight for AM radio, a relentless less-than-two minutes of song with some light FOW shading here and there. “Mirinda” has a more laidback TF tempo until breaking out a bit more in the chorus. Another should-be single is “No hace falta el mar,” featuring the fabulous Hank Idory. Other highlights include “Fuera de control” with its Dropkick-meets-late Beatles feel, particularly on the background vocals, and the 1960s folk rock-inflected “Yo sabia.” You won’t go wrong with this album – every song is a delight. Wrapping up our Spanish tour we travel to New York City. Surprising? Not really. NYC is where every language lands when it touches down in America. This time our Spanish language song is courtesy of The Silos from their wonderful new album Family. Again, we can see here how serious but careful organ work makes a good song great. “Puede Sur” wends along, supported on a foundation of warm, retro organ, occasionally kicking up some exciting guitar solos. And the rest of the album is damn good too (though sung in English).
You don’t need to speak Spanish to feel the love on these recordings. Thank you Spain and Spanish singers from around the world. Long live Spanish poprock!
Top illustration: fragment of Buen Humor cover by Castillo c. 1926.