The Spanish indie pop group conquers and divides with the world's most, um, unique style of singing
Name: Manos de Topo
Most Like: Magnetic Fields, Moldy Peaches
When They Started: 2003
Genre: Spanish Experimental Pop
The Sound: The response of some kind of rare tropical bird when threatened.
When I ran into the members of Barcelona’s Manos de Topo recently at the Vive Latino festival in Mexico City and asked them what kind of music they make, lead singer Miguel Angel Blanca shrugged his shoulders and said, simply, “pop.” Then he thought about it a little harder and added, “pero un pop bizarro.” “A bizarre kind of Pop.
A quick listen to Manos de Topo, whose name means “Mole Hands,” and you’ll hear that the sound is heavy on the bizarre, not so much on the pop. In the background, there are perfectly ordinary orchestrations on twee guitars, tinkling glockenspiels, and lush violins. But then there’s the voice. Miguel Angel’s voice doesn’t quite sing so much as warble hysterically. It sounds like the mating call an alien species might make, or perhaps could be likened to a drunken car alarm.
Somehow, however, the voice has a way of getting under your skin. There’s something so honest and vulnerable about this overweight, fro-headed man getting in front of massive audiences and letting that voice out into the world. It expresses some kind of existential suffering in a way a normal singer never could. The singer himself said he doesn’t sing, he cries.
The voice has also made them a polarizing force in the Spanish indie scene: some love the band dearly; others think they are the worst thing ever. It’s a battle that unfolds in YouTube comments and in the press, but three albums later and Manos de Topo is still going strong. One thing is certain: nobody has ever sounded quite like this, and that’s saying something in today’s over-saturated music scene.