Your Best Bad Friends

Las Malas Amistades. This is the name that a band of Bogotan art-school students chose to make music under, that either means the “Bad Friends” or the “Bad Influences,” depending on who’s translating. I’ll accept either, as both make for excellent band names.

Apparently “active” since 1994, the experimental, cumbia-tinged folk group has released three records on various labels (including Psych-O-Path, who’s put out Dan Deacon among others), but has recently teamed with Damon Albarn’s UK-based Honest Jon’s Records for their latest 2012 release, Maleza. According to the group, Maleza means “unwanted weeds” or “undergrowth,” which they describe as the unsightly, inedible plants that sprout up instead of the fruitful, edible ones you intend to grow.  But most importantly, there’s beauty in these weeds too.

On one level, “unwanted weeds” is a funny title to give one’s latest collection of songs, as it implies that they’re the bastard children of a recording session gone awry.  But on another level,  the title is more telling of the record’s lyrical themes, which seem to dwell on doomed, painful relationships; the ones that both parties intended to turn out well, but instead failed miserably.  However, the music often feels light and hopeful, suggesting that strained, imperfect relationships can be beautiful and meaningful depending on what you take from them, just like an album recorded in an apartment with pawnshop acoustic guitars, beat up casios, melodicas and minimal percussion.

Here’s Maleza’s opener, and my personal favorite, “Apociliptica” or “The Apocalyptic.” Its sorrowful melodies and tender, finger-picked acoustic guitars make for a beautiful track with a sense of  heartbreak and loneliness you can feel, even without an understanding of the lyrics.

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