Required Cinco de Mayo Listening: 10 Essential Mexican Bands

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Feliz Cinco de Mayo, muchachos! It’s America’s favorite non-obligatory Mexican federal holiday! Today, we gather to swill Corona, don sombreros, and address each other in fractured Spanish. Plus piñatas! It’s also, unfortunately, the day of the year you are most likely to get stuck listening to your friend’s beatbox remix of “La Cucaracha.” But fear not: We have, after the jump, ten much more exciting Mexican musicians that will tickle your orejas.

1. Silverio

The cracked alter-ego of Julian Lede, Silverio sounds like a demented electronic mishmash of Iggy Pop, Wesley Willis, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. His live shows are the stuff of legend: He apparently almost always finishes the last song in nothing but his skivvies. Silverio’s single “Yepa Yepa Yepa” swept the European club circuit and features a woman screaming in a way that’s weirdly catchy.

2. Kinky

This Monterrey-based quintet is the Mexican alternative scene’s favorite party band. Their sweaty, funk-infused electronica and frantic dance moves have earned them a solid international following: In 2002, they toured with the Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse.

3. Café Tacvba

The grandaddies of Rock en Español, this quartet has been going strong since 1989. They’ve collaborated with David Byrne and played live with Beck. Suffice to say that they’re kind of like Mexico’s U2, minus the self-congratulatory, perpetually-sunglassed lead singer. Their video for “La Ingrata” (below) may be the first in history to include both chicken butchery and bicycling.

4. Mexican Institute of Sound

The project name of Mexico City-based D.J. Camilo Lara, Mexican Institute of Sound mashes up electronic music with classic Mexican tunes in the vein of The Go! Team and Girl Talk. As rock critic and Mexico City resident Elizabeth Wade told me in an e-mail, at Mexican Institute of Sound shows, “a conga line is inevitable.”

5. Toy Selectah

Antonio “Toy” Hernández, a.k.a. Toy Selectah, is one-third of Control Machete, one of Mexico’s most famous hip-hop acts, but he also has a formidable solo career as a D.J. and producer. Toy Selectah’s signature is a revamped cumbia sound that he blends into hip-hop remixes. The newest Vampire Weekend CD included two of Toy Selectah’s “megamelts,” master tracks that reduced Contra to its hook-filled essence.

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6. Zoé

Psychedelic rock outfit Zoé broke into the charts in 2006 with their third album Memo Rex Commander y el Corazón Atómico de la Vía Láctea. Their sound is a little dream-pop and a little stoner-rock, equal parts of The Stone Roses and Pulp.

7. Los Tigres del Norte

Formed by a group of Mexican-American brothers in California in the late 1960s, Los Tigres del Norte is one of the most widely known norteño bands — a style characterized by bajo sexto and some serious accordion. The Tigres are famous for their narcocorridos, ballads that chronicle the exploits of drug traffickers. In October, the group pulled out of an awards show after the government, cracking down on drug cartels, refused to let the Tigres play their latest single, “La Granja.”

8.Chikita Violenta

If you didn’t know that Chikita Violenta was from Mexico City, you might guess that they came from Toronto. Their lush, effervescent songs and all-English lyrics make them sound like the Super Furry Animals’ next door neighbors, thanks in part to producer David Newfeld of Broken Social Scene fame, who worked with the band on their 2007 debut album The Stars and Suns Sessions.

9. No Somos Machos Pero Somos Muchos (NSM PSM)

Mash-up artists extraordinaire, NSM PSM started as DJs and morphed into a full-on party band. Their first album, Music vs. Music, samples everyone from Fatboy Slim to the aforementioned Café Tacvba. Their video for”Clap Your Brains Off” took six months to make: it’s strung together out of hundred of still images, based on a mysterious mathematical formula.

10. Sweet and Tender Hooligans

It might be cheating a little, it might even be counterintutive, but you can’t do Cinco de Mayo right without mentioning Morrissey and his enormous Mexican fan base. Sweet and Tender Hooligans is LA’s premiere Smiths cover band, headed by Jose Maldano, the Mexican-American Morrissey.