Helado Negro Explores the Intimacy of Music Creation & More in New Music

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This is a weekly compilation of bite-sized song & EP reviews from our music writers. Discover new favs, read nuanced criticism of the week’s hottest releases & more. Follow our playlist featuring these tracks and more on Spotify or Apple Music.

Helado Negro – “Sound and Vision”

 It might not be obvious but if you think about it, Roberto Carlos Lange shares some key similarities with David Bowie; both artists’ music embrace the possibilities of pop melodies and approach human emotions with compassion. This is why Helado Negro’s version of “Sound and Vision” works so well; by creating a quiet and minimalist arrangement, Lange explores the intimacy of music creation. It’s one of those cases where the choice of artist and cover song are almost too perfect. —Marcos Hassan

C. Tangana, Eliades Ochoa – “Muriendo de Envidia”

The prolonged breaths on this track allow for each exhale, or new instrumentation layer, to feel as cathartic as the lyrics intend for it to. Cante, clapping, crisp guitar riffs and more create a nearly flawless modern classic base as a smooth lover sways his mate with the notion that, come hell or highwater, “nothing will matter as long as you wake up by my side.” Its visualizer, a simple pairing that likely includes hues and items from home as you know it, pull at a heart string. This track is a beautiful merging of two artists’ respective cultures with seasoned Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa carrying this track to the best of the crop of what is already an excellent re-introduction to an artist who has come into his own. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo

Durand Jones & The Indications – “Cruisin’ to the Parque” feat. Y La Bamba 

Durand Jones & The Indications enlisted the hauntingly warm, yet powerful vocals of Y La Bamba’s (Luz Elena Mendoza) to reimagine their ode to classic Chicano cruising sounds while on a dreamy ride through the streets of Los Angeles. Adding a bilingual revamp, Mendoza’s Spanish verses delicately dance around the retro-soul inspired melodies to create quite the alluring song: perfect for falling in glistening, candy-painted love. —Jeanette Diaz

Ezmeralda – “Fresco 333” 

Following the disbandment of La MiniTK del Miedo, Colombian producer Nicolás Vallejo spent four years looking for answers to his existential questions through sound until Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Nada, his first album under the Ezmeralda moniker, was born. With its atmospheric synths and reverbed effects, “Fresco 333” is a great introduction to this new project: new age cumbia rebajada for liminal dreaming. —Cheky

Julia Mestre – “CONFORMÓPOLIS”

This song was first released by Brazilian soulman Di Melo in 1975 as a tetrical, tango-esque intermezzo for an album filled with joyful tracks. Julia’s version strips out the original arrangement, but doesn’t lose density. She rebuilds that tense atmosphere with her breezy voice and cyclical chord progressions, just like a clock. The tale of a city—the Conformópolis ruled by the unbearable sameness of labor—becomes a modern tale of many cities where working is the only consistent thing throughout the pandemic. It’s gloomy; a raw portrait that makes sense even years after its first release. —Felipe Maia

Brian Rodsal – “Girl Of My Dreams”

With Valentine’s Day fading into the sunset, Dallas crooner Brian Rodsal has dropped “Girl Of My Dreams;” one final anthem of love before bidding farewell to cupid until next year. Written and produced by Rodsal, the swelling torch song is dedicated to the woman igniting the flames of joy and ambition in his heart, kicking off as a slow burning R&B jam and switching gears into minimalist rap and exploratory trap as it progresses. Considering how much romantic pop of the digital age seems laced with sarcasm and cynicism, the unguarded earnestness of “Girl Of My Dreams” shines with refreshing, almost old-school charm. —Richard Villegas

Policías y Ladrones – “Depresión”

Depression might be running rampant nowadays due to *points at everything happening right now,* so it’s fitting that Tijuana’s Policias y Ladrones new single channels feelings of despair and apathy through their signature dream pop sound. The whispery ballad full of interwoven guitar melodies might not be an ideal replacement for a therapy session; however, “Depresión” delivers sweet relief through sadness. —Marcos Hassan

Soy Os ft. Safree, Roxes  – “Guay!”

With the release of last year’s criminally underrated 2: Irreversibilidad EP, Mexican singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Soy Os showcased his versatility within a plethora of musical languages bouncing from cumbia to R&B and reggaeton. Subsequent releases have further showcased his voracity; on latest single “Guay!,” a sugary collision of pop punk and trap chart the early stages of online courtship. To achieve as full a sound as possible Soy Os recruited his former bandmates from Roxes, a pop punk band active between 2008 and 2012, as well as a verse from Safree, a Spanish rapper and vocalist who provides a blushing contrast to his digital advances. —Richard Villegas

Mare Advertencia Lirika – “Se Busca” 

Commissioned by Técnicas Rudas and Deutsche Welle Akademie, Mare Advertencia Lirika’s new single “Se Busca” is a harrowing view on forced disappearance in Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca and Coatzacoalcos. With every single line, she delivers over the old-school hip-hop beat produced by Ese O, the Zapotec rapper cries for justice for the victims and chillingly describes the realities experienced by their families, all the while she puts the mirror in front of a society rapidly becoming insensitive to this devastating issue. —Cheky

Rachel Reis, Zamba, Cuper – “Saudade”

As she sings “Saudade,” Rachel Reis sounds far from being a fresh-faced artist with barely three singles released. She masters her voice like an experienced singer, avoiding mannerisms or excessive ornaments while chanting on a sweet spot between chest and head voices. When the track’s washy dembow beat encounters the slowed-down pagodão bridge, you know the vocal smoothened shifting melodies are also within the music heart—the rhythm. The high-pitched Caribbean guitar lines close the mix and make the song the right choice for every summer-Sunday-morning playlist. (Brazilian people love to brag the word saudade only exists in Portuguese, but, truth be told, the saudade’s bittersweet nostalgia feeling is universal.)  -Felipe Maia

SoftGlas – “Rust”

Cuban singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Soft Glas (Joao Gonzalez) provides a taste of his upcoming LP How Strange with leading single “Rust.” The song meets at an intersection of bedroom pop lined with jazz and electronica influence; the result serves as a solacing, mellowed bedding for the storyline, which follows a ruminating mind lost in memories of the past. A common hobby for the quarantined, this song reminds us that looking back can provide us tender comfort amidst prevalent, rapid changes that inevitably occur around us and, oftentimes, within us. —Jeanette Diaz