Currently Tuned Into – Mon Laferte, Twice, Flo Milli, James Blake & More
Written by Leslie Campos on August 16, 2019
Hello everyone, this is a segment called “Currently Tuned in to” where I post the songs and pieces that I’m really feeling and vibing with at a certain time. Just a fair warning my tastes have been described as a bit eclectic but I hope that you resonate with at least one song and that I can put you on to new things! So check ’em out below!
Disclaimer – Some of this material contains mature language.
Mon Laferte – “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue”
To start off, we have the song “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue,” by Chilean singer/songwriter Mon Laferte off her 2017 album La Trenza. The title translates to “where did they go?”. The track is a sad, realistic, and relatable portrayal of a child yearning for an absent father, with lyrics like:
Mientras se me cae la cortina
Yo trato de encajarte en mi vida
Ya hice mal porque ya te perdí
Sabiendo que envejeces por ahí
Which roughly translates to, “while the curtain is falling, I try to fit you in my life, I’ve done bad because I’ve lost you already, Knowing that you’re just growing older out there,” along with:
¿Te has puesto a pensar que vas a hacer cuando estés viejo?
¿Quién te cuidará?
Como primavera entrecortar yo me quedé a la mitad
Meaning, “have you put any thought as to what you’re going to do when you get older? Who’s going to be taking care of you? Just like spring breaks off, I’m left halfway.” The original track has a much livelier sound than the lyrics, almost as if hiding itself behind the cheerful instrumental. My personal favorite rendition of this piece is the one performed with Columbian singer Juanes at her NPR Tiny Desk Concert last year. It feels like the most authentic interpretation: there’s no masking her feelings or cowering behind other sounds. It’s just Mon’s voice with the accompaniment of her guitar.
Just last month she dropped a music video for the song “Chilango Blues,“ which, as you could probably guess, has a rich bluesy focus. Topped off with a weak and seductive voice styling that often trickles into a rock-like raspiness, Mon Laferte is just too good and somehow manages to keep getting better.
If you wanna catch her live, she’ll be in Houston on August 24th at the revention music center. Buy your tickets here!
Grupo Pegasso – “Yo Comence la Broma”
I’ve been on a oldies kick lately and I recently came across this gem. This is legitimate old school Mexican music. Both of my parents are Mexican (repping San Luis Potosi and Vallehermos, Tamaulipas, hehe), and I would say that music is a huge part of our culture — definitely within my household. Everyone sings, everyone dances, everyone in my family has a special place in their heart for music, so it’s no surprise I’ve ended up so obsessed.
This group specifically is called Grupo Pegasso. Grupo (obviously) translates to to group and Pegasso translates to something along the lines of “big hit” (or in more modern terms, a “banger”), implying that all their songs are hit tracks. Pegasso is one of my mom’s favorite groups of all time; like, she’s literally gone to dozens of their concerts. That’s how I was exposed to this great song. The song was released in 1982 — a good 15 years before I was born — but classics like these stand the test of time.
I only recently discovered that his piece is actually a Spanish version of the Bee Gees’s 1968 track “I Started a Joke,” the same title as Pegasso’s version. The Bee Gees’s original has a much more raw feeling, making the song almost too heartbreaking considering that the lyrics circle around a person’s lifespan and try to make sense of the experiences they faced throughout it. It has a classic, vulnerable sound that I believe is indicative of the 1960s. You need to give the original a listen as well, because it’s absolutely fantastic!
The Spanish version, however, centers around love and more specifically heartbreak. Lyrics detail how the singer, in this case, made a joke that went too far and his love doesn’t want to speak with him, leading him to realize how much he needs her around. Of course, within the context, the message is delivered in a super romantic way instead of the slightly possessive and manipulative way I may have directly translated it as.
Both versions are beautiful, but I have a particular bias towards Pegasso’s version because it fills me with so much nostalgia. Make sure to check out both versions, compare them, and see what you like better!
Amanda Miguel – “Él Me Mintió”
Yes, this is another Latin 80s song. They’re really good, get over it.
This song, whose title directly translates to “He Lied to Me,” is so good that I couldn’t pass up putting it on this list.
First, the artist: We have Amanda Miguel who is an Argentinian performer with powerhouse vocals. In this piece in particular, she showcases the way she’s able to manipulate her voice and switch from a clear tone quality to her super sick, scratchy voice across her entire range.
Next, let’s just take a second to appreciate the visuals here. UGH, so powerful. I personally love the fluffed out and puffy curly hair with the heavy makeup. I think it’s so on trend with the 80s, yet could also totally be rocked today if toned down. And if you watch the video, the shots are classic. A tad bit cheesy, yet effective.
But the best parts of the visuals are Miguel’s delivery. The title of the piece is pretty self-explanatory: he lied to her. The lyrics go on about how she was just a game to him, he didn’t really love her. And I love how mad she is! I love how she uses this song to express her anger, and only Amanda Miguel has the dramatism to convey this message. She serves face, she serves a walk. She gives the vibe that if anyone messes with her again, they’re goners. As a sucker for powerful women who kick men to the curb, I’m really feeling this piece.
Baekhyun – “UN Village”
This past July, we saw the solo debut of Byun Baekhyun, a main vocalist from the talented K-Pop group EXO. He announced this debut with his mini-album City Lights, and oh my freaking God. Bop after bop. I was so surprised to hear this style from Baekhyun. I mean, EXO has their fair share of R&B styled b-sides, but hearing Baekhyun isolated vocals just hits differently. In “UN Village,” he frequently switches between singing barely above his regular speaking pitch to a high, silky smooth falsetto while showcasing his control of a softer tone quality. *Chef’s kiss* I also highly recommend delving into the realm of K-R&B, a genre very well displayed within “UN Village,“ in which the chords regularly differ from that of typical states-side songs. The blending of K-Pop and American R&B always seems to go where you don’t expect it to, making it extra fun for the listener.
Twice – “Breakthrough”
One of my favorite comebacks! This is Twice, South Korea’s national girl group. Yes, the national girl group. I will not be accepting your takes on this, I said what I said. End of discussion!
A month ago they released their Japanese single “Breakthrough.” If you’re wondering why a Korean group is making songs in Japanese, many companies within the Korean pop music industry try to additionally monetize the popularization of their artists across Asia. Many Korean artists regularly drop material in Chinese and Japanese to further saturate their markets.
Twice is mainly known for their cute-girl concepts, giving you the sweetest bubblegum pop you’ve ever heard. They know what works and they stick to it, and I’m totally not complaining because it’s fun to have such lighthearted songs in my repertoire. While I would still consider “Breakthrough” within that mold, this is definitely a variation on that. Sonically, this is a darker sound for them. They opted for lower pitches vocally, unlike their previous releases. They create movement by using more staccato notes across their range. Furthermore, and probably most notably since their April comeback “Fancy“, there is a visually darker tone, with more emphasis on them being young women instead of little girls.
It’s refreshing to see that while their music maintains its signature positivity, the girls themselves are evolving and not being forced to be “frozen in time.” They are being guided to appropriately display themselves as they age. In life and in the entertainment industry itself, it can be difficult to develop one’s image. Take a look at Disney stars or Nickelodeon actors adapting to adulthood: most of the time it takes a drastic reveal. I think “Breakthrough” is one of the most successful transitions I’ve seen.
Frederic – “Only Wonder”
Japanese rock, oh how I love thee. Let me count the ways! Okay, but seriously, J-Rock is a wave you need to ride if you’re not already. While there are variations of J-Rock like psychedelic (see Kikagaku Moyo) or even Kawaii Heavy Metal (see Babymetal), the most popular form is usually something like the above: relatively high-energy with bright vocals and instrumentals to match. The reason I’ve been so obsessed is because of how pumped this makes me. Almost all Frederic songs make me want to bounce around and break into a full choreography (which, thankfully, the accompanying video provides). Frederic also creates great bridges that act as fantastic build-ups to the final chorus, feeling like a calm before the storm.
Take a look at another one of their songs. This is “oddloop“ from the correspondingly named 2014 album Oddloop. I don’t think there’s a way to sit still while listening to this. It’s physically impossible… If you wanna prove me wrong then you’re going to have to give Frederic a listen first before coming for me.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome – “Watashi Igai Watashi Ja nai no”
GESU NO KIWAMI OTOME. God bless. “Watashi Igai Watashi Ja nai no“ is another Japanese rock song, but with a slightly more electronic infusion. The title translates to “no one’s me except for me.” The track features lyrics that revolve around an introspective look at one’s life and giving our all, even if we don’t have it all figured out. My favorite part of the song is the call and response section between the female singers and the lead male singer that takes over the second verse. Furthermore, the sprinkles of mini-breakdowns, as well as the background sustained chords in the chorus, are such ear candy. There are so many elements of this song that make it incredible, it’d take forever to break them all down. That being said, I highly suggest you try to!
Flo Milli – “Beef Flomix”
FLO MILLI, oof. What can I say? This has been on repeat. I’ve never heard a beat so off-putting yet addictive. I feel like it shouldn’t work, but it is so intentional that I can’t argue with it. And then we get to the vocals! First of all, let me say that I’m loving this increased visibility of female rappers, particularly Black female rappers. There is so much variety in the material they rap about, their flows, their deliveries, their images, but there is one that is undeniable: they completely eradicate any desire I thought I had for male rappers. Truly, they’re on another level. Within this song, Flo Milli‘s voice is so bright and highly performative that you can tell she’s having so much fun doing what she does. Her energy is contagious. I can’t wait to see more from her.
Tierra Whack – “Unemployed”
Tierra Whack does not care what your takes on her art are. She knows it’s good and you’re just expected to take it — and you better be grateful! Tierra Whack is a visionary. No one in the industry has the visual creativity that she possesses. Couple that with her sick delivery and she’s unstoppable. In “Unemployed,“ she raps with an almost monotone voice that does not let up an inch, all the while running circles around you with her wordplay. Her foot stays on my neck and I’m thankful. She is one of those artists that create such a new space all her own that it’d be an injustice to compare her to anyone else. Keep an ear out for more of her material because you won’t regret it.
James Blake Feat. Rosalía – “Barefoot in the Park”
This is “Barefoot In The Park,“ by English singer-songwriter James Blake featuring the Spanish singer Rosalía. This song comes off of Blake’s newest project titled Assume Form, which dropped January of this year. I never in a million years would have expected this collaboration. Blake is typically known as an electronic artist — I particularly love his song “Retrograde“. On the other hand, we have Rosalía, who specializes in a more Flamenco-inspired pop sound. The two unlikely artists came together for this song and created an absolute masterpiece. I personally love how James Blake manipulates vocal samples and injects them into the background of his work. The song to me gives me a feeling of vulnerability, of fragility, like you could break it if you touched it too hard. Luckily, if you wish to see either of these gifted singers live, you’re just in luck.