The small tapas bar in the side street of Barcelona, where the landlord picks up his mandolin after a few Cañas beers and sings about past love. A cortado cafe on Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. The summer snow on Tenerife’s Teide volcano. Ibiza’s dreamy bays. Andalusia’s ancient villages … oh, España.
All these places of longing are currently inaccessible – Corona forbids traveling across the borders to the Iberian Peninsula. So you surf the net and plan your vacation the day after tomorrow. Or you put on your headphones and travel through Galicia, Asturias and Catalonia, from song to song. Here is a selection.
Pauline En La Playa: Salt on your skin, sand between your toes
The problem with Spanish music: With a few exceptions such as Ana Mena or the flamenco innovator Rosalía, it is mostly not Spanish. She is Latin American, Cuban, or Puerto Rican. Even the supposedly Spanish summer hit of 2017, »Despacito«, came from two Puerto Rican singers. But of course there is good music beyond Latin stars like Shakira and the »Despacito« duo Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. For example: the duo Pauline En La Playa.
The two sisters Mar and Alicia Álvarez from Gijón in Asturias play soft pop that is reminiscent of the melancholy power of the Canadian singer Feist, but is rooted in a shimmering Mediterranean folk tradition. The two named their band after the film “Pauline Am Strand” by the French director Eric Rohmer.
The cover of the current, seventh album »El Salto« is then adorned with a drawing of a girl in a red bathing suit in the middle of a dive. Here the sisters show their sense of fragile but powerful melodies, their singing is gentle. With the song “Un Bosque”, for example, memories are awakened of warm sand between your toes, of the smell of sunscreen and salt on your skin. »Auuu« with its bright voices and singing guitars could even be the next summer hit.
Fuel Fandango: Mix of flamenco and house
Spaniards sometimes knock things together that don’t necessarily belong together. Fruit salad is thrown in red wine and served as a Spanish specialty (“Sangría”). Or cola mixed with red wine and kiwi liqueur (!) To make “Calimocho”. One might think that the combination of flamenco and electronic house music also belongs in this series of blends worth considering. But it’s not like that.
The duo Fuel Fandango, founded in Cordoba, Andalusia in 2008, mixes electronic synthesizer sounds with real flamenco guitars. The new album “Origen” features three of the most famous Spanish flamenco artists: Dani de Morón, Rycardo Moreno and Latin Grammy winner Vicente Amigo.
But Fuel Fandango actually consists of producer Alejandro Acosta and singer Christina “Nita” Manjón, who likes to appear at concerts in flaming red flamenco clothes. For ten years, the two have been working on deconstructing the Spanish-Latin American summer hit mainstream. This creates flamenco house pop, magical in the best moments, in which computer rhythms mix with guitars, trombone sounds and the clatter of castanets.
Havalina: Schrammeln in Spanish
Another strange thing about Spanish music is that one of the loudest bands that came from the Iberian Peninsula in recent decades called itself »Heroes of Silence«. Since the Hereos del Silencio (the only world hit: »Entre dos Tierras«) broke up in 2007, here is a current alternative tip: Havalina. This is a band from Madrid that charmingly mixes Spanish pop tenor singing with grunge guitars and a hard rock attitude.
The current album »Muerdesombra« is less recommendable than the debut »Imperfección« from 2009. While Havalina recently slipped more towards plastic pseudo-pop, it creaked, grumbled and rocked fantastically in the early phase of this band . Listening tip: the song “Incursiones” from the first album, on which guitars are played for which the word “scratchy” was invented.
Triángulo de Amor Bizarro: between melancholy and screaming
The region of Galicia is located high in the north-west of Spain. A somewhat bulky area. With a disheveled coastline, which is marked by cliffs and fjords. It is obvious that here, where the wind blows rough from the Atlantic and the mules are particularly stubborn, no Mediterranean summer hits are born that can be danced on on TikTok. Instead, a quartet was formed in A Coruña, stylistically located in the triangle of indie rock, post-punk and ballyhoo beat.
Triángulo de Amor Bizarro was named after the song “Bizarre Love Triangle” by the English new wave band New Order. It also fits, because Triángulo de Amor Bizarro continue where New Order never dared or did not want to go: where it gets louder and somehow free. The current fifth album, the same name as the band itself, oscillates between psychedelic Ibiza sounds and noisy high-speed punk, between fine melodies and crashing thud. So the two front people of the band share the tasks: The bass-playing singer Isabel Cea strikes melancholy, tender notes, while guitarist Rodrigo Caamaño likes to scream. There was a bunch of music prizes in Spain for that.
Lluís Llach: Social critique in beautiful melody
In the hills of the Tarragona province there is a small village called Porrera. It has a population of just 400, people make their living from viticulture and occasionally go to Barcelona, which is 130 kilometers away on the coast. There would be nothing more to say about Porrera if it weren’t for a legend of the Catalan autonomy movement: Lluís Llach, singer, actor, writer. During the Franco dictatorship he worked in exile in Paris, he was not allowed to perform in his homeland, where any Catalan culture was forbidden.
His performance in Barcelona in 1976 after the death of Franco, when Llach only had to hum his liberation hymn “L’Estaca” (“The Stake”), so that the audience would sing it, crying and laughing, will not be forgotten. Lluís Llach is 72 today, still publishes records and writes novels (Suhrkamp published »Die Frauen von La Principal« in 2016).
Two albums from the past are particularly recommended: the live album »Barcelona Gener del 1976« and the 1991 work »Torna aviat«. Here Llach unfolds his art to perfection: packing socially critical thoughts into beautiful melodies, performing them in a warm, slightly dry voice and taking his listeners under the hot Catalan sun.