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Alt.Latino Switches Up And Does A Blind Musical Taste Test

May 14, 2017
Originally published on May 14, 2017 6:07 am
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now to something a little bit different - a magical mystery, Alt.Latino. Our friend Felix Contreras wanted me to curate this week's Alt.Latino musical discovery segment, so he put together six tracks and asked me to pick out my favorites. The catch? I was given no titles or artist or album info. It's a blind musical taste test. And in the studio to tell me about the tracks I picked is Felix. Good morning.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What led you to these six songs?

CONTRERAS: There's a range of different styles. And I thought, now, let's just see where she's - what she's interested in and which ones pop out. So...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK.

CONTRERAS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Should I tell you which ones I picked?

CONTRERAS: Yeah. Let's go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Here we go - drumroll - No. 1 (laughter)...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EN SUENOS")

VINCE MIRA: (Singing) Lost in this place, I am losing my way. Lost in this place, I am losing my way.

CONTRERAS: OK. Listen to that voice. Right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know. It's such a great voice.

CONTRERAS: OK. So what did you hear in it that you liked?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This just seemed to me like a kind of a fusion-y (ph) thing. And it just hearkened back to rancheros but also just music of Texas or something.

CONTRERAS: OK. So this guy's name is Vince Mira. He is from the Pacific Northwest. You know, he was busking on the streets. Somebody saw him, got him in a recording studio. He did a killer Johnny Cash thing, very country. They made a record. And then he took time out. He fell in love. He started a family. This is his comeback record, so to speak, even though he was never here. Right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right.

CONTRERAS: It's due out in June. It's called "El Radio." And I was completely blown away by his voice...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: ...And the jazz trumpet. It's this really crazy, cool mixture of stuff that I really liked. And I wanted to throw it your way 'cause I thought you might dig it, and you did.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I did dig it. All right. My second choice is musical mystery No. 3.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APRENDIMOS")

JENNY AND THE MEXICATS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if you want to know my musical sweet spot, this is it.

CONTRERAS: Really?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is the kind of stuff I grew up listening to.

CONTRERAS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love this kind of stuff, yeah.

CONTRERAS: OK. So this is Jenny and the Mexicats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: OK? All right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I didn't grow up listening to her. I've got to be honest.

(LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: Jenny Ball is a woman from England. She's a trumpet player.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: From England?

CONTRERAS: From England. OK?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lordy, I really didn't grow up listening to her.

CONTRERAS: She went to Spain. She met these guys who played flamenco, two of which were Mexican guys in Spain. Right? So they formed a band. They taught her Spanish.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They taught her Spanish?

CONTRERAS: They taught her Spanish. They taught her flamenco. She brought in her jazz and her indie rock thing, and they put it all together. This is their second record. They're a phenomenal live act - Jenny and the Mexicats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love it.

CONTRERAS: Right? It's, like, a great concept.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is, like - this is definitely, like, my favorite.

CONTRERAS: Oh, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Now we're going to go to No. 4.

(SOUNDBITE OF , "")

CONTRERAS: This was a no-brainer for you, I knew it. Listen to that. OK. So does it remind you of your days in Brazil?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It definitely does. Once I heard the Portuguese, I was like, this has got to be one of those choices that I make.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOCE NAO E INSUBSTITUIVEL")

FORRO IN THE DARK: (Singing in Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If you can't see me, I'm bopping up and down.

CONTRERAS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A little bit of a headband thing going.

CONTRERAS: The head nod going (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOCE NAO E INSUBSTITUIVEL")

FORRO IN THE DARK: (Singing in Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So who's this?

CONTRERAS: OK. This is a group called Forro In The Dark. OK? That's F-O-R-R-O. in the Portuguese. Forro is a type of percussion-based music in Brazil. These three guys live in New York. They're expatriates. David Byrne saw them, helped them out with their first record. They do this way cool mix of Brazilian music, indie rock, electronic, quirky lyrics, quirky rhythms. And they have a new record coming out. And it's - I think, it's the best example of what it is that they do so well, this mixture. But it's still decidedly Brazilian.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Definitely makes me nostalgic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOCE NAO E INSUBSTITUIVEL")

FORRO IN THE DARK: (Singing in Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I'm curious - what do you think my picks tell you about me?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's have a little bit of a therapy session.

CONTRERAS: Well, you went for the very pretty vocals, except for the Brazilian. OK?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I like vocals in my music.

CONTRERAS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's true.

CONTRERAS: And to me, it just shows, like, your very calm...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: ...Manner - right? - you know, 'cause deep down, where we are in the...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is - anyone who knows me would never say that about me.

CONTRERAS: But listen - no, but listen. But where we are in the newsroom and what we do for a living - because you have been in places where, you know, that's - it's required. But deep down, I really think that this music reflects who you are, where you are deep down inside.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right.

CONTRERAS: So whenever...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'll take it.

CONTRERAS: Yeah. So that's what...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'll totally take it as a thing.

CONTRERAS: That's what it says.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APRENDIMOS")

JENNY AND THE MEXICATS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Felix Contreras is the host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino. And this week, he let me choose the music for this segment. You can find Alt.Latino at npr.org/altlatino or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Felix, thank you so much.

CONTRERAS: You're welcome. And I let you choose it because it's Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So it is. Thank you so much. And Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the moms in my life.

CONTRERAS: Same here.

JENNY AND THE MEXICATS: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.