Catalan! Arts

Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2015
 Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2015

Pop Rock from Catalonia 2015: tracks selected by Joan Pons  (music journalist) in collaboration with Anna Cerdà (coordinator, Pop Arb Festival), Jordi Herreruela (coordinator, Cases de la Música), Borja Duñó (music journalist), Marta Salicrú (music coordinator, Time Out Barcelona), Guillem Vidal (music journalist) and ICEC.

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Sílvia Pérez Cruz and Raül Fernández Miró: Mercè* (5:42)
CD: “Mercè*”
Author: Sílvia Pérez Cruz and Raül Fernández Miró

Categorical claim to performance as a creative driver. These two performers call on the experience of many years together on stage to reinvent other people’s songs in different styles and origins. In Mercè, they deconstruct the traditional recipe of a song by Maria del Mar Bonet like chefs of the nouvelle cuisine. A tremor that arises with only two ingredients: voice and distortion pedal.

Tres puñales
Maria Rodés: Tres puñales (3:02)
CD: “Tres puñales”
Author: Maria Rodés

The copla is a traditional, almost archaic Spanish musical genre that today’s artists would do well to go back to more often. Maria Rodés, for instance, has dusted off a song by Rafael de León and Juan Solano to show us that copla lyrics are like little short films, all drama, staging and passion. No reason to envy country murder ballads. And, what’s more, they lend themselves easily to rock interpretation.

MOURN: Otitis (2:30)
CD: “Otitis”
Author: MOURN

These guys are very young and it shows. They’re aged between 15 and 19 and their rock knows no complexes or vices or ... limits. An interest in artists like Nirvana and PJ Harvey brought Carla Pérez and Jazz Rodriguez together in secondary school. Their shared love of these idols gave rise to songs like this: a song-metaphor that uses physical pain to speak of a state of mind. It was single of the week on prestigious website Pitchfork.

Univers: Minerals (3:35)
CD: “Minerals ”
Author: Univers

The wall of sound. Distortion pedals and guitars pile on top of each other like bricks. If you close your eyes, you could believe this pop steam is by some C86 Brit band. Indie-noise with a high percentage of purity of heart. But Univers are not just noise and fury: these guitar ornaments are more subtle and sophisticated than you might think.

Ya-Ya Trueno
CaboSanRoque: Ya-Ya Trueno (3:11)
CD: “Ya-Ya Trueno”
Author: CaboSanRoque

You’re as likely to find CaboSanRoque in a modern art museum installation as on stage at a rock festival. Because, although it might not seem to be so, the sound R&D lab led by Laia Torrent and Roger Aixut is also rock. Twisted, abrupt and experimental, but rock nonetheless. Their songs are mechanisms that sound as though a factory assembly line had some sort of premeditated sense of rhythm and harmony.

Fantasmas de tus agujeros
Manos de Topo: Fantasmas de tus agujeros (4:10)
CD: “Fantasmas de tus agujeros ”
Author: Manos de Topo

They might appear to be a one-trick pony: a satire of namby-pamby pop with projected groans by singer M.A. Blanca as a send-up of the injured male. But on their fourth album, Manos de Topo make it clear that their chronicles of the absurd and the pathos of romantic relationships have plenty of life in them yet. The pop love song still has too many chiaroscuros to be explored. Shock music and lyrics, in shock.

Two Steps towards the Infinite Path beyond Oblivion
Me and the Bees: Two Steps towards the Infinite Path beyond Oblivion (1:54)
CD: “Two Steps towards the Infinite Path beyond Oblivion ”
Author: Me and the Bees

The branches of this Barcelona band’s family tree reach into pre-Nirvana hardcore, pop-punk and alternative rock. You can follow the tracks of all those styles in this song. A track against the nap where the syncopated guitar riff is sweetened by the vocals and where each arrangement is a surprise. Not much more can happen in just under two minutes.

Desert: Quars (4:30)
CD: “Quars ”
Author: Desert

The title of this duo’s debut EP is an invented Catalan word that mixes two verbs, embadalir (to enrapture) and delirar (to rave): Envalira. And their music seems to have exactly those effects at once so concrete and so intangible. Precious dream-pop that, although it seemingly floats on air, has a very clear aim: to pursue the less obvious forms of musical beauty. The historic Chicago Minty Fresh label has already signed them up.

Miquel Serra: Dents (3:30)
CD: “Dents”
Author: Miquel Serra

Miquel Serra believes that experimentation is a whisper. In the aesthetic revolution that is La felicitat dels animals there is hardly any shouting, but a lot of murmuring. Playing with the perception and apriorism regarding listener’s folk, this Majorcan believes that every song should be like flaky pastry, with several layers of harmony. Music with blurred outlines where the melody ebbs and flows like a wave.

Pau Vallvé: 17820 (3:11)
CD: “17820”
Author: Pau Vallvé

He is not a singer-songwriter; he is a self-sufficient one-man band. Pau Vallvé does practically everything all by himself. Even the album packaging is handcrafted by the artist. A creator who avoids clichés of more orthodox songwriting like the plague and approaches the hypersensitive pop of Elliott Smith, Bon Iver or John Lennon post-Beatles. His low-temperature songs are ideal company with which to spend the winter.

La filia i la fòbia
Joan Colomo: La filia i la fòbia (2:58)
CD: “La filia i la fòbia”
Author: Joan Colomo

A homemade big bang to ask oneself questions on elective affinities? Sure! A philosophical essay to skipping folk rhythms? Why not? Joan Colomo is a freelance heterodox talent who starts off his fourth album by confessing that he’s misanthropic, bipolar and grumpy. Although he has the solution, so he never stops smiling: every single day has a spark of happiness that lets fondness to beat the phobia.

La promesa
Mazoni: La promesa (3:55)
CD: “La promesa ”
Author: Mazoni

Ten years and seven albums, and Jauma Pla is still a singer that slips through your fingers: he can change styles up to four or five times, often in the same song. Impossible to categorize, Mazoni’s music is like a living, mutating being. La promesa, for instance, starts out as a protest song with string arrangements, continues like an epic pop anthem and ends like a disco hit.

L’arbre que vol ser humà
La Iaia: L’arbre que vol ser humà (4:11)
CD: “L’arbre que vol ser humà ”
Author: La Iaia

This band has become a pop phenomenon in Catalonia, and rightly so. Every song by this trio from Vic is like a conjuring trick: the words repeat like a spell, the instruments burst in like special effects and, although full of sound interference, its musical poetry takes off with the grace of a dove emerging from a top hat. Prestidigitators of pop to seduce the masses.

Mai més*
Mishima: Mai més * (3:07)
CD: “Mai més*”
Author: Mishima

They’re clocking up years and clocking up albums, and Mishima still can’t put a foot wrong. L’ànsia que cura is their seventh album and, although they are becoming ever wiser, they still have the drive of the newcomer. Mai més and its unforgettable drum roll is one of those songs that picks you up on a Monday morning. Or the way the prefix emo continues to be valid if it’s synonymous with lucidity, honesty and well-understood optimism.

Green Grass
Joana Serrat: Green Grass (3:04)
CD: “Green Grass”
Author: Joana Serrat

Where did this girl come from? The first three self-released albums by this artist from Vic flew under practically everyone’s radar. That ‘practically’ is important: Howard Bilerman, a Canadian producer who has worked with Arcade Fire, decided to get involved with the recording of Dear Great Canyon after hearing a demo she sent him herself. There’s talent, originality and sensitivity here by the bucketful.

An Ice Rose
Beach Beach: An Ice Rose (3:01)
CD: “An Ice Rose”
Author: Beach Beach

Turbo pop. These Majorcans insist on making us believe that perfect songs have no time to fool around, that it’s healthy to mirror New Zealand bands that we should remember more (The Chills, The Bats, The Dead C, Tall Dwarfs...) and that the sun comes out every time they pick up their instruments. Their second album, The Sea, isn’t a CD: it’s a vitamin shot.

Lonesome Cowboy, Solitary Peggy Sue
The Free Fall Band: Lonesome Cowboy, Solitary Peggy Sue (3:25)
CD: “Lonesome Cowboy, Solitary Peggy Sue”
Author: The Free Fall Band

Sometimes it seems as though this Maresme quintet’s songs are a map of a song that’s not quite finished. And that’s part of the fun: with a few quick scrawls they’ve got enough to capture all the rhythm, the essence and the character of the best pop. Because amateurism can be very expressive, and superproductions are always denatured. Crazy, with no make-up, like on their second album, they are more themselves.

El cel de les Illes Caiman
Senior i el Cor Brutal: El cel de les Illes Caiman (3:51)
CD: “El cel de les Illes Caiman”
Author: Senior i el Cor Brutal

Ever since they put Valencia on the Catalan rock map in 2009, the band led by Miquel Àngel Landete has put out almost an album a year. But El poder del voler is not just another album: it’s the album on which the band becomes aware of these times of political unrest and concludes that you have to take a stand, like in this sadistic fantasy about taking revenge on all those white-collar criminals. Modern classics? Furious classics!

Zoo: Estiu (3:36)
CD: “Estiu ”
Author: Zoo

This positivist rap dressed as reggae is an invitation to forget all the clichés about ‘summer songs’. An ode to the dolce far niente of the hottest days of the year that dodges neither political commitment nor social commentary. This personal project by Panxo (Orxata Sound System and Riot Propaganda) is organized like an artistic group headquartered in Gandia that defends that fact that the revolution will be a ballad or it won’t.