Catalan! Arts

Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2014
Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2014

Pop Rock from Catalonia 2014: tracks selected by Borja Duñó (music journalist) in collaboration with Anna Cerdà (coordinator, Pop Arb Festival), Jordi Herreruela (coordinator, Cases de la Música), Albert Puig (music journalist), Marta Salicrú (music coordinator, Time Out Barcelona), Guillem Vidal (music journalist) and ICEC.

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Za!: El Calentito #1 (4:03)
CD: “Wanananai”
Author: Za!

With a live set that is always amazing, Za! is possibly the most original band to have ever come out of Catalonia. Their music is experimental, psychedelic and funky, and includes free jazz, electronic music, Latin rhythms and African sounds. Above all, however, the duo, made up of Spazzfrica Ehd and Papa duPau, defies any attempt to pigeonhole it. They do everything using a guitar, a drum kit, a trumpet, effects pedals, a synthesizer and a loop station.

La figura del buit
El Petit de Cal Eril: Lleida frega Fraga (2:54)
CD: “La figura del buit”
Author: Joan Pons Villaró

That Joan Pons is a wizard of folk pop is something of which his fans are already aware, but La figura del buit has exceeded all expectations. It is a comprehensive work, featuring unforgettable songs, of the kind that only get better with time. Featuring an apparent hint of naivety and trips into the psychedelic realm, Pons transports the listener on a journey into his unique imagination full of rural imagery and adorned with incandescent arrangements.

La lluminosa
Esperit!: Bottle “D” (2:08)
CD: “La lluminosa”
Author: Dalmau Boada

Esperit! is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Mau Boada, an outstanding musician who, alone out on stage, is capable of improving on the full band experience. His psychedelic folk rock with African detours is constructed on a foundation of bass, guitar and drum loops performed live without adhering to any rules. The playful, spontaneous spirit of his music, which is heavy on groove, is a feast of delights for his audience.

Anímic: Wooden Gun (4:28)
CD: “Hannibal”
Author: Anímic

Anímic is more than a group. It is a collective of well-defined personalities that, together, explore the miracle of a healing brand of folk music that is a shining light in the darkness. On Hannibal, singer Louise Sansom has also picked up the drum sticks and her minimalist percussive style has taken the band in a new direction. There is also plenty in the way of electric guitars, with which the Collbató-based outfit have added intensity and immediacy.

Baile Masái
Espaldamaceta: Habla el experto (3:22)
CD: “Baile Masái”
Author: Espaldamaceta

Tarragona-born singer-songwriter José Juan González Nieto could still the breeze and charm the birds out of the trees with just his voice and a nylon-string guitar. That was a time when lyrics such as ‘Now that I'm up to my ears in shit’ were creating a storm on the underground scene. Now, on Baile Masái, he has swapped the classical guitar for an electric trio and his songs are a multidirectional explosion.

Sometimes Too Much Ain’t Enough
The Excitements: Ha, Ha, Ha (2:54)
CD: “Sometimes Too Much Ain’t Enough”
Author: Enric Bosser

The Excitements is the soul revival band that has perhaps most successfully understood the primal spirit of this type of music. Focusing on the late '50s, and ignoring the evolution of the genre towards pop through the efforts of labels like Motown, this band from Barcelona reflects the rawer and more intense spirit of early R&B. The electric voice of Koko-Jean Davis is a true revelation. This group sounds more like the genuine article of the era than a copy.

Nova Creu Alta
Refree: Kikirikí (3:59)
CD: “Nova Creu Alta”
Author: Raül Fernàndez

Raül Fernández, a.k.a. Refree, is one of Spain's best-known musicians and producers, but he has also carved out a career for himself as an indie singer-songwriter. Over the course of his six albums and 10-year career, Refree has flirted with pop, with string arrangements and jazz, but Nova Creu Alta returns to his rock roots as inspiration for his new brand of songs featuring guitar sounds reminiscent of Sonic Youth.

Atletes, baixin de l’escenari
Manel: Quin dia feia, amics… (3:59)
CD: “Atletes, baixin de l’escenari”
Author: Guillem Gisbert

If there is one paradigmatic pop group that has come out of Catalonia in recent years, it is Manel. They broke sales records all over Spain despite singing in Catalan and the fact that their lyrics are an important part of their message. Their style continues to be based on river songs that take the listener on a journey into fascinating stories of relationships, with subtle, non-confrontational arrangements, which make them even more of an achievement.

Happy Days
Ramon Mirabet: A Song Stuck in Our Head (3:04)
CD: “Happy Days”
Author: Ramon Mirabet

Ramon Mirabet has experienced both sides of the music world. From busking in the street he went on to have a dalliance with fame as one of the finalists in the TV competition Nouvelle Star in France, but a sense of authenticity took him back to the street, where he earned himself enough to record this album. This young singer and musician, who has an exceptional voice, delivers the wow-factor with the energy of his songs that move through pop, soul, New Orleans jazz and funk.

Llamp de Déu
L’Hereu Escampa: La feram (2:38)
CD: “Llamp de Déu”
Author: L’Hereu Escampa

A guitar and a drum kit are all Carles Generó and Guillem Colomer need; the more powerful duo on the 'do it yourself' scene in the Vic region. They call it punk, but in their shouted melodies served up with an abrasive edge there are echoes of the early days of emocore (Rites of Spring, The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids...), from a time when it was a style seeking to provide depth to the hardcore without any trace of pop.

Les dones macabres
Nico Roig: Les dones macabres (2:35)
CD: “Les dones macabres”
Author: Nico Roig

After living in Brussels for several years where he was part of the experimental music scene, Nico Roig returned to Barcelona having become not only a phenomenal guitarist, but also a unique singer-songwriter. His stories, which lurk in the murky lands of strangely pleasant nightmares, are told with just a few simple elements by which Roig conjures up an air that is as beautiful as it is disturbing.

Mosques de colors
Pau Riba i Pascal Comelade: Taxista (5:10)
CD: “Mosques de colors”
Author: Pau Riba

A magnificent collaboration between a Catalan-singing rock pioneer and a master of musical minimalism. Each in his own way—one using words, the other sounds—Riba and Comelade are artists who like to play with different poetic dimensions within music. A work open to a myriad of interpretations and destined to live on as long as Taxista, of which they provide a reinterpretation on the album and which Riba first released in 1967.

We Must Fight
The Pepper Pots: Good Times (2:45)
CD: “We Must Fight ”
Author: Adriana Prunell, Gerard Xifra, Antonio Miguel Muñoz, Roger Montsant, Joan Vergés, Ireneu Grosset, Lluís Rodríguez, Salimata Sima Fatty, Enric Fluvià

If The Excitements represent the most raw incarnation of soul, The Pepper Pots reflect their most elegant and refined version. Following a 10-year career and collaborations with Eli 'Paperboy' Reed, Binki Griptite and The Impressions, this group from Girona continues to evolve. Three voices are now two and the group's lyrics reflect a mix of concern about social problems and the desire to dance and have fun in a quintessential Motown style.

Dentro de la luz
Standstill: La casa de las ventanas (4:58)
CD: “Dentro de la luz”
Author: Enric Montefusco

Standstill is probably the best live band in Spain. Those who have seen them know them to be the perfect vehicle for the epic existentialism of their singer Enric Montefusco. Increasingly intimate and laid back—they started out almost a screamo band—this Barcelona group is ambitious by nature, both in the concepts behind their albums and with regard to the visual dimension of their shows.

València, Califòrnia
Senior i el Cor Brutal: La bomba de plaer (3:07)
CD: “València, Califòrnia”
Author: M.A. Landenete Giner

Miquel Àngel Landete is passionate about American music, although he does not limit himself to playing it, but uses it to find new meanings. Committed to the issues pertinent to his home, Valencia, Landete this time travels to a utopian California which provides him with an escape from a politically and socially oppressive reality. Rock, for Senior, is the road to freedom, and while it sounded like The Band or Crazy Horse before, it is now more like Dylan.

The Leap Year
Furguson: My Body / Story / Jewish & Sun (2:44)
CD: “The Leap Year”
Author: Furguson

This band from Gurb now has a rawer edge compared to its early sound. While in previous works Albert Romero's synthesizer hinted at new wave nuances, now, rearranged as a quartet, the group sounds like a desert sandstorm. On The Leap Year, the line-up has put together a strong collection of post hardcore with a rock rhythm edge and a post-adolescent urgency that is impossible to ignore. This is what rock 'n' roll used to be.

L’àrea petita
Els Pets: Blue tack (3:38)
CD: “L’àrea petita”
Author: Lluís Gavaldà

Mainstays of the Catalan rock wave that was huge in the late '80s and early '90s, Els Pets have made the move towards a unique and individual brand of signature pop with now very established Anglo-Saxon influences and its own universe, inspired by everyday life, which has become common heritage for thousands of fans. With barely a trace of the fighting spirit that marked its beginnings, this band from Constantí has the art of pop almost down to perfection.