I came across an album by Esteban Morgado, "Milongueros", from 2007. It's full of original compositions that have a unique characteristic - they're all very happy-sounding, cheerful and optimistic.
The album title suggests that the dancing public was in the author's focus, and I its contents confirms that.
It's populist in that it wants to put a smile on your face and put and keep you in a good place.
I haven't heard about this artist before and don't have any special insights. His website is only in Spanish and the discography page has no links. I'll update this post once I know more.
Opening the tanda is Milonga de la Puteada. The key is A-major and the tempo about 105 BPM. This tune has a slow intro, hence its placement.
Following is Agarrate Catalina!, which has a somewhat urgent start but then goes about its business in a decidedly relaxed way. The key is A-minor and the tempo about 101 BPM.
The closer is Morena, a tune I've heard a few times before in other arrangements. Very catchy if not cheesy, but that's alright by me. The key is E-minor and the tempo drops slightly to 99 BPM.
Objections, arguments against
I see several arguments why these are not proper milongas, and want to address them preemptively - and also to clarify my own thinking.
The beat. The flow suggests a 4/4 time, which has a different cadence than the 2/4 more common in tango music. The rhythmical signature of a milonga is not very pronounced:
The instruments. We have the violin often taking the lead, then bandoneón and a guitar, plus percussion that never takes center stage but it's there most of the time. Percussion instruments are certainly rare in tango music, and give this tanda an exotic feel. In my estimation, they are helpful in supporting a cheerful milonga atmosphere.
The progression. I've written that I don't like milonga tandas that have a downward slope in tempo (from faster to slower), and this one does. Here, I feel like the dancers will expend a lot of energy on the first two songs and that the last one should not exhaust them. Also, the slow-down is barely noticeable.
This is not a tanda for a traditional 3-hour milonga. It has a party feel to it that fits better a more relaxed, cross-over or nuevo event. I have one coming up in a week and that's where I'm going to test it.