Words by Jhoni Jackson
Language creates its fair share of barriers, but in the arts those barriers can turn wonderfully melty. Especially with music, the strongest of human emotions, such as love and hate, can be expressed without relying on lyrics. In fact, the right melodies can relay so much more than that: Nostalgia for youth, desolation, the itch to let loose and even bitter goodbyes can all be declared without a word. These seven songs illustrate this point, whatever language you speak they can still masterfully convey all sorts of sentiments — no translation necessary.
Quiero Club – “El Techo es el Suelo”
The title track of this Mexico City-based quartet’s third LP is a leisurely dance number guided by vocals that echo like flashes of memories. The proverbial relationship rug has been pulled out from under front-lady Priscilla Gonzalez, but she relates the tale with the anticipation of later nostalgia. Translated to “the ceiling is the floor,” the tune’s handclaps and na na nas shape a punchy beat like a stylish kiss goodbye. Gonzalez has already moved on, and is already looking back like it was no big deal. You’ll likely find yourself engrossed in a similar feeling while shimmying along to this one.
MIR – “Dance”
On the completely opposite end of the club spectrum is this seasoned Tokyo twosome and their spaced-out, almost ambient electronic tracks. They owe much credit to Casiotone equipment for their music-making, particularly on this chopped-up noise excursion, one of several cuts from a new mini-album titled (in English) I Can’t Live Without You. The aesthetic is as disorienting as its disjointed lyrics. It’s like staring so long your eyes glaze over, and a view that was once perfectly in focus begins to fold into itself as if it were layered gauze. It’s a bit perplexing, but still beautifully surreal.
Little Jesus – “Cretino”
The bass line of this Spanish-language indie-rock group’s newly released single saunters around with the same nefarious feel of its insufferable subject: An attention-seeking cretin who’s basically the worst person in any given group. There’s a lightheartedness to it too, though, tipping you off that there are more mean-but-funny jokes directed at this person than active hatred. The band is currently split between Mexico and Boston, however, collectively the band probably knows a lot of people, and yet this individual is still ranked as most intolerable. The jerk in question must be pretty terrible.
Los Wálters – “Toca Madera”
A dreamy love story unfolds in the lyrics of this phantasmagoric electronic pop track — one so ideal it almost seems imagined by the two Puerto Rican guys who penned it. Fittingly, the melody, with its circular ahhs, twinkling chimes and splashes of synth, is beautifully hallucinatory. Knock on wood that you’ll find a real-life romance as fanciful as the one featured here.
Duellen – “Sysslomansgatan”
It’s not for sure that the Swedes are the ultimate partiers, but they sure do seem to know how to hang come nightfall. This troupe, however, offers a different kind of revelry. Duellen find solidarity in sadness, then opt for the screw-it-let’s-party-together solution. Appropriately, there’s a downcast element to the celebration. The electronic bedrock is subtly melancholy and dark in tone, and though touches of sax are uplifting, the joy is only temporary. It’s a song that’s happy in the moment but it contains an awareness that, at some point, the party must end.
Pendentif – “Embrasse Moi”
This stylish dance-pop romp is the lead single from the French act’s debut LP. The inclusion of some English lines aside, the bouncy beat and wispy female vocals tell us that this is about hip-shakin’ with attractive strangers under the bright strobes of an otherwise dark discotheque. It’s club-ready sultriness at its finest.
Samaris – “Góða Tungl”
Like a blend of The Knife and Björk, Samaris is as fantasy-driven as it is brooding and mysterious. Surprisingly, the ultra-polished project, which expertly culls lyrics from 19th Century Icelandic poetry, comes courtesy of a trio of teenagers. This particular gem is word-for-word Steingrímur Thorsteinsson’s gorgeous ode to the moon, and the song’s soft, perpetual boom paired with the mix of high and low-octave whispers capture our satellite’s dark but reflective state.