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Argentina’s Indie Scene: 10 Bands You Can’t Miss

What are some of the most exciting bands on BA's independent scene?

By | [email protected] | March 26, 2019 12:37pm

riel2Riel, photographed by Dana Ogar
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Welcome back, dear readers, to another one of our guided tours through the exciting world of Argentine music. We’re here to fill you in so you don’t look like a complete newbie when discussing this country’s vibrant music scene. In the last few months, we’ve covered everything from cultural touchstones such as Charly García to innovators such as Juana Molina, as well as a couple of bands that have made a name for themselves subverting genre expectations, such as Miranda! and Babasónicos.

This time around, though, we’re zooming out to take a broader view; not of a single musical artist, but of a specific scene. Rather than veer into the nooks and crannies of an individual tenured musician’s career, we’re going to explore ten younger artists that represent the current face of Argentine indie music.

Ahh, “indie.” That confusing catch-all term that seems to be used capriciously and with no regard to any actual dictionary definition. The only “music-genre-but-not-really-a-music-genre” that could reasonably be used to describe things as sonically diverse as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and the soundtrack to Juno. What even is indie, anyway? Does the label hold us as any sort of useful descriptor that actually talks about the music? Or has its use been so completely watered-down – even being applied to major-label bands such as Oasis and Coldplay over the years – that it has lost all meaning?

Well, in this case, we are sticking to the definition of the word that stands for “independent.” These are musicians that are out there, sharing their art with the world without the backing of a giant corporate entity. That means that they’re able to follow their musical curiosity wherever it may lead them, without having to compromise their artistic integrity by writing focus-group-tested pop hits. That said, there’s a huge amount of independent music out there, so we’re also going to lean on the secondary definition of the term “indie”: which is to say, bands that share a certain “quirkiness” and can’t be neatly categorized into umbrella terms such as “pop” or “alternative rock.”

These are ten selections of bands that have caught our attention over the last several years. Of course, it goes without saying that this doesn’t even begin to scratch at the surface of the huge wealth of bold, creative and forward-thinking music being made out there. There are so many more artists we could have included. However, we do consider that if you’re just a newbie who wants to start exploring Argentine indie music, this diverse group of musicians represent a good starting point.

As always, we’ve included a nifty playlist with some highlights from each artists’s discography. Follow us on Spotify for more cool playlists like this one! There are also links to each artist’s individual Spotify profile, for more in-depth exploration.

El Mató a un Policía Motorizado

It had to start with the boys from La Plata. The group, led by frontman Santiago “Motorizado,” has over the last decade become practically synonymous with the very concept of “Argentine indie” (which, come to think about it, should probably be made into its own portmanteau – “argentindie”? Does that work? It kind of works, doesn’t it?). A hugely influential group that has been at the forefront of the movement. With an arsenal of memorable, catchy songs that are as emotionally stirring as they are fist-pumpingly raucous, these guys have taken all the most effective elements of the 90s indie-rock explosion of the United States, mixed it with some of rock nacional’s best tendencies (huge choruses, guitar leads that you can actually sing along to) and synthesized it into an utterly irresistible, instantly recognizable sound. Check out their Spotify profile.

Amor Elefante

Amor Elefante started ten years ago as an all-female power-trio; the partnership of Rocío Bernardiner, Rocío Fernandez, and Inés Copertino. A few years later, they were joined by bassist Andrés Merlo. Over the span of their time together, they’ve released four excellent albums, each one more polished and fully-realized than the previous one. Their music is firmly planted in the pop tradition, though a kind of pop that favors idiosyncratic songwriting as well as an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to its arrangements. They manage to be wistful and whimsical and poignant and fun in the span of a single track. These are thoughtful, interesting songs that scratch their way into your consciousness and take up residence there for a while. Check out their Spotify profile.

Atrás Hay Truenos

Atrás Hay Truenos – or, to their friends, simply Los Truenos – are a band from Neuquén that has, for the last six years, made music that toes the line between post-punk aggression and synth-pop ear-candy. Of course, it only takes a quick listen to a mid-80s album by The Cure to realize that these concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, but the grace with which los Truenos traverse those sounds sets them apart from the throng of New Romantic soundalikes. This is a band that’s interested in exploring specific emotional spaces with each one of their songs, and aren’t afraid to veer far from their core sound. So while their 2014 album Encanto (linked above) is loaded with high-tempo, power-chord-driven post-punk, their new album Bronx finds them exploring moody ambient pieces and stretching the limits of what a song can be. Check out their Spotify profile.

Guli

Guli is a project led by Agustín Bucich. Its music could best be described as a kind of psychedelic, acid-washed funk, with incredibly catchy choruses and Bucich’s Prince-like falsetto anchoring songs that in many cases sound like they could’ve easily been translated versions of 70s radio hits. For its first two albums, it was an entirely solo-driven project, with Bucich recording every instrument on his own home studio. As those songs went on the road, so did the Guli project expand, incorporating various members of the Elefante en la Habitación roster into its lineup. The new album Yate is much more of a collaborative work, taking on some of the properties of the live version of Guli, and it’s a top-to-bottom delight. Check out his Spotify profile.

María Pien

María Pien is one of those Elefante en la Habitación artists who became a part of the aforementioned Guli. The singer-songwriter, who has been releasing music under her own name since 2012’s excellent debut La Vuelta Manzana, has become one of the most prominent figures in the current Buenos Aires folk scene. Her songs are gorgeous, evocative, and heartfelt; even at her most abstract (as in the Tres Poemas EP linked above), there’s an undercurrent of earnestness that runs through all her music, an absolute conviction to find and communicate truth in song. Whether that means expressing the emotional truths in her own original work, or – as is the case in her most recent album, the all-covers collection Afuera El Sol Estalla – conveying the truth in someone else’s words. A consummate storyteller and poet, devoid of artifice or affectation. Check out her Spotify profile.

Mi Nave

Tom Waits once described the music of singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop as sounding “like taking a swim in the lake at night.” Add in the influence of psychotropics and you’d approximate the sound of Mi Nave. Hailing from Rosario, the band has successfully mined the darker contours of the early-80s post-punk sound and melded it with the sonic textures of shoegaze and desert rock to create its own signature sound. This band also crafts albums that seem like a deliberate provocation in the era of pick-and-choose playlists, as their albums take you on a journey that can’t quite be replicated by just listening to a few scattered selections; this is why we recommend listening to the albums in full, such as last year’s brilliant Ojos Cuadrados (linked above). And yes, we realize we are including a playlist that is made up entirely of choice cuts. Yes, this makes us hypocrites. Check out her Spotify profile.

Las Ligas Menores

There’s something to be said about making listlessness both tuneful and exciting. Las Ligas Menores have been doing exactly that over the course of their career, winning over the hearts of most everybody who ever came upon their particular brand of turbocharged-yet-laid-back punk-influenced alternarock. The tension in the Ligas Menores sound comes from the contrast between the band’s energetic, power-chord-driven music– which recalls bands such as Archers of Loaf and the more straightforward parts of Sonic Youth –  and Anabella Cartolano’s vocals, whose sweet-but-ennui-ridden tones flirt with languidness. With lyrics that deal with anxiety, depression, romantic upheavals and tiny victories of everyday life, Las Ligas are plucky, punky, and profoundly likeable. Ultimately, their songs leave you with the notion that, yeah, life can be a bit of a drag, but we can try to make the most of it while we’re here. Check out their Spotify profile.

Tobogán Andaluz

Tobogán Andaluz sound like they mean it. Whether they’re pleading for emotional intimacy over an upbeat punk backing or providing words of comfort to a crestfallen friend over a gentle acoustic backing, the sound of Facu Tobogán’s vocals feels visceral and real, providing the band with an added element of poignancy that only further elevates their music. Combining influences from the anti-folk scene as well as the mid-80s college-rock boom, and adding in a healthy amount of Americana and autochtonous sounds, Tobogán Andaluz’s sound is completely and genuinely their own, and last year’s brilliant Fuego en las Naves is their most sophisticated and well-fleshed-out album yet. Check out their Spotify profile.

Riel

Riel is a power duo consisting of Moria Riel and Germán Loretti. On the surface, their music is as bare-bones as their line-up; guitar, drums and vocals, often playing straightforward chords and rhythms. However, the pairing of their songwriting and Moria’s urgent, unadorned vocal style manages to transcend the limitations of their sonic palette, resulting in music that is vibrant, intense and often emotionally resonant in a way that you wouldn’t quite expect from bands that fit this particular aesthetic. Moria’s cascading guitar lines, often recalling the approach of bands such as Television and Wire, finds its ideal accompaniment in Germán’s frenzied drumming. Just like the bands of the proto-punk movement their music harkens back to, Riel is all youth, enthusiasm and grit; their music will take you right to that space. Check out their Spotify profile.

archipiélagos

It wouldn’t feel right to do a write-up of the Argentine indie scene without mentioning its burgeoning math-rock movement; a scene led in large part by the artistic collective known as anomalía. As you can see, this isn’t a scene that isn’t very fond of capitalizing their names. archipielagos is one of the bands on anomalía, and they’re a perfect example of a math rock band that isn’t immediately intimidating to someone who’d never heard of the genre; their approach to the highly technical music genre is one that’s more rooted in melodicism and feel, rather than simply sticking to twinkly arpeggios over music in non-isochronal time signatures. Incorporating crowd-chanted vocals as well as some rather eclectic instrumentation for the genre (a trumpet actually serves as melodic hook and harmonic accompaniment for several of their songs), archipiélagos manage to create powerful and enduring musical moments over movements that never feel like haphazard patchwork. Close your eyes and let yourself be taken down the rabbit hole of their serpentine song-mazes. Check out their Spotify profile.