Club Fonograma's Best Albums of 2011

40. Antoine Reverb - Everything is a foreign language to me
In the best of Club Fonograma tradition, every year there's an album in our list that, at least for publishing purposes, we like to refer to as the "hot potato" record of the year. Antoine Reverb's Everything is a foreign language to me was the one record every writer on our staff got its hands into at some point or another, passing it over and hoping the next person would do something proper with it. We couldn't get around it to review it, but collectively, we can pretty much agree this is a close to outstanding album. Perhaps it's the over-assumed outlandish feel derived from its title, or the fact that it's got a song titled "No Universals," but this is the kind of alienating text that first pushes you away and later on reconciles with you through its seasick, extrapolating melodies. In all its profound ambition, the band is unyielding of providing a crowd-pleasing experience, but cloaked-clouded albums can be beautiful too, especially when embroidered in this amount of rococo pop. - Jean-Stephane Beriot



39. Javier Estrada -
Ritmos del Mundo (Series)

Mixes, remixes, refixes, and originals from DJ Javier Estrada have been giving Soundcloud’s bandwidth a run for its money. Also catapulting his name to the frontlines of almost every relevant urban publication out there. The Monterrey-based DJ is building an impressive resume, melting genres and cultures alike with culinary effervescence in his series Ritmos del Mundo. Even more interesting is the fact he’s currently the melting pot of the nu-rural world villages, communities that include digital cumbia, guaracha, tribal, moombahton, ruidoson, and third world hip-hop. Estrada drops more mixes than we could possibly review or the general cumbia lover could hear, but he has recollected an impressive body of work in the four published volumes of Ritmos del Mundo. Estrada is still in limbo when it comes to approaching actual structures and space, but with the expert advice of Diplo and Toy Selectah, he seems destined for an even brighter future. - Carlos Reyes



38. Torreblanca - Bella Época
With exceptional talent, determination, and passion for creating music that transmits vivid imagery and sensations through finely crafted melodies and precisely chosen words, Torreblanca has rapidly become an audience favorite delivering highly complex pop music combined with confrontational structures that incorporate a great palette of musical influences like swing, jazz, and alternative rock. Torreblanca’s first full-length, Bella Época, is a captivating work crafted by a five-piece of distinguished musicians that, under the direction of visionary leader Juan Manuel Torreblanca, have created a record whose compositions, with a certain level of obscurity and irony, remind us of past eras that appear to be distant, comfy, and sometimes scarily violent. - Enrique Coyotzi



37. Mexicans With Guns - Ceremony
It's weird: it's usually the po-faced residents of the World Music ghetto who get caught up in some misbegotten politics-of-representation stuff, but this is as perfectly Europhilic, and apolitical, a bass record as anyone's made; how this has gotten filed under "música mexicana" so often is a little inexplicable.What Ceremony is most like, in fact, is an oughty-teens update of the nineties-era Mo' Wax/Ninja Tune template: stylistic shifts through all the colors of the electronic-music rainbow, peppered with exoticism like falling confetti, and focused on very-Now fractal syncopation and American-style trunk rattle. I might hazard that it matters some that he's a native of San Anton', but I'm pretty sure it doesn't, anymore than it matters that dyed-in-the-wool guarachereño Untold went to Mexico that one time. In the end, Ceremony comes hard enough to render its own presentation obsolete, and these days, that's saying something. - Jeff Siegel



36. Voz de Hombre - Hombre Solo
Though lately many of our favorite releases from Chile have been using disco as their ground for crafting great pop songs, Voz de Hombre’s first release, Hombre Solo, displays a different concept for creating great timeless pop music. Like many of the “michitos," Gajardo sets his music’s backbone on a ground constituted by minimal techno and its child branches of electronic music in order to give birth to songs that are traditional in structure and interpretation. Just think James Blake or Jamie Woon and all the talk there’s been about them reworking dubstep around traditional song forms and you’re actually not too far from what Gajardo’s doing here. Hombre Solo is the kind of album that manages to display a personal vision of pop music amidst a great deal of nods and references to other types of music, a release that can only make us feel more hopeful for the future of the idiosyncratic roster of the Michita Rex label. - Pierre Lestruhaut



35. Selena Gomez & The Scene -
When the sun goes down

When the Sun Goes Down is expertly produced and executed with the kind of poise and professionalism that can only come from having gone through the hated Disney machine. Riddled with cliches like "diamond in the rough" and "we'll sleep when we die," the album doesn't exactly reach great lyrical heights. But musically, When the Sun Goes Down is smart and well-crafted, a solid work of pop with plenty of party potential. I know many (or most) of you are skeptical. You may dismiss Gomez as just another product of the Disney machine, one that consumers will get bored with and discard in favor of whatever fresh-faced, wholesome youngster Disney is grooming to be the Next Big Thing. And you may be right. But, for now, it's great to have a young Latina so prominent in mainstream American music, especially one who such is a veritable force in pop, not just on Radio Disney. - Blanca Méndez



34. Las Ardillas - Las Ardillas
For over 10 years, Puerto Rican enfant-terribles Las Ardillas have not only shown signs of that runaway diaspora link, they’re so consciously into it that they’ve actually looped its urgency notions into noise-auteur transcendence. The self-titled debut record from Las Ardillas is a daring and sonically traveling piece of noise punk. Sharing two members with the universally beloved Dávila 666 (which has reached a must-enlist status in the music festival circuit) means a few things in the consolidation of Las Ardillas: 1) it has prepared them to contemplate a fondness for an intercontinental stage, 2) it has forced at least two if its members to make a homecoming to earlier roots (in sound and in mapquest), and 3) it has thought them about intellectual reshuffling. The unlikely entourage comprised by Gianky, Koki, Raul, Gio, and Latin Snake may lack the bushy tail appendages of the rodents they’re named after, but at least in perception and spatial memory, they’re more than assuring with their noise punk ecosystem. - Carlos Reyes



33. Violeta Castillo - Uno & Otro
At first listen, the 10 songs that shape Uno and Otro (five in each one) may not be particularly grabbing. This happens due to the length of the pieces (the majority of them last less than three minutes). It may be difficult for the listener to find something instantly memorable to grab onto in such a short time (although “Mi Cárcel” is an evident exception), especially considering that, while these are pop tunes, the structure they are built under is somewhat atypical. But Violeta's sharp craftsmanship is truly hunting. Presenting top-notch production by Tucumán’s psych-poppers, Monoambiente (Castillo’s favorite band), this is a provoking release that draws spectacular sophistication in the instruments it utilizes. There’s a placid flow throughout both EPs, ornamented by sharp electronic bleeps, texturized glossy synthesizers, and noteworthy rhythm bases that accentuate Violeta Castillo’s delicious guitar playing skills, as well as her sensitive fiber-moving singing. - Enrique Coyotzi



32. Kali Mutsa - Ambrolina
Celine Reymond, a Chilean popular telenovela actress, has smartly taken advantage of her performing capacities and elaborated the alter ego known as Kali Mutsa. Her imaginatively invented background indicates she’s a famous 90-year-old performer, yet she was absent from the musical world for decades, until she recently made her comeback to present Ambrolina. Each of the five songs included in her exotic EP are grabbing on their own, charged with unpredictable flavors ranging from Bollywood-esque essence to Andean music, nuanced with gypsy vibes and sophisticated quirky electro. Similar to what the Sri Lankan controversial rapper (M.I.A.) did with her debut album, Kali Mutsa’s expansive spectrum of influences result in a highly original work. - Enrique Coyotzi



31. Los Claveles - Nacional 42
The return of the 7’’ single is nowadays, one of the few current glimpses of the romanticism of the record. Empty alphabetized CD shelves are the horrific ruins of the physicality of commercial records. Indies are however, on a journey to become music collectors. If such transition causes a generation of MP3 & OGG buffs to start archiving music through discs you can actually touch or lineup, than let’s welcome such consumer conduct with open arms. One of the bands doing their share to prevent the record slaughter is Madrid’s new sensation Los Claveles. Their rock takes them back to the early (and dusty) progression of “new wave”, to a time-gap of stand-by insecurity regarding the genre’s future. The wave found glory with its contextualization of electronic equipment, but as Los Claveles show, the movement also left some string-wavers behind. - Carlos Reyes



30. Caravana - Caravana
It’s a beautiful thing when the personal approach becomes universal. I can’t remember the last time I heard a line diagram of bird chirping, bird calling, and bird singing and actually found it cute. This is the gorgeous vignette that surrounds Caravana, an album enriched by melodic muscle and moody cohesion. Quemasucabeza’s music director, Rodrigo Santi, departs from his previous music adventures (Congelador, Paranormal, Barco) to find his most intricate project yet, Caravana. Recruiting the MVPs from the prestigious label (Gepe, Pedro Piedra, and Fernando Milagros), Caravana is the extension of the one-man band into a perfect-pitched pilgrim. Caravana is woody but also garnished in an evocative fatalist crimson. It’s also the kind of half-broken album that’s more about its space than about its spirits. Slow-paced and obliquely self-indulgent, Santi’s solo return to the front stage plays as a surreal garment of compositional prowess. - Carlos Reyes



29. Varias Artistas - Se Puede
Four years ago, prolific Argentinean singer-songwriter Lucas Marti formed Varias Artistas, an ambitious project showcasing some of the finest and most buzzworthy female singers in the Latin pop landscape.Varias Artistas second collection, Se Puede, continues the momentum Martí established with the first album, Papá (Popart, 2007). However, where the first record was seemingly focused on influencing a non-starter of a gender politics debate with its song collaborations and subject matter, Se Puede is a far more celebratory affair, reveling in the sheer talent at its disposal. Indeed, the intonation from track-to-track shifts like the tide off of a coastal wave. The mix as a whole runs the heady gamut from precociously coy to sexually charged, and at no point does it ever feel disarmingly jarring. Varias Artistas project develop into something quite promising, and into something that smart and keen fans of outside-the-box pop music will hopefully have to look forward to for years to come. - Andrew Casillas



28. Adrian Juárez -
Tu Nombre Es Fresa

The indie kid totem is such a scary and sensible topic. It’s hard to imagine anyone arriving at progressive pop without ever going through the cutesy twee, folk-inflected initiation. When going back to it, you could either cringe (taking part in the collective backlash) or feel nostalgic, but once in a while an exceptional album comes along and you can’t help but to shoot back up into the dreamy clouds of indie pop and adjusting alarm clocks. On his first proper record, Argentine songwriter Adrian Juárez offers an irresistible music sachet of seemingly harmless (yet heart-arresting) melodies in an album that’s ready for the winter gift wrap. There’s nothing really groundbreaking about Tu Nombre Es Fresa musically, aesthetically, or in its personality, but look further into its proportions and you’ll find an album that’s been gorgeously mounted and predestined to abduct a handful of your senses. -- Carlos Reyes



27. The Beets - Let the poison out
The Beets could easily be described as just another innocent lo-fi act from New York, but this Jackson Heights band of outsiders manages to compose atypical tunes that create an inimitable and infectious slacker rock garage sound and a delirious washed out image. There is a disconcerting authenticity and simplicity about them that perhaps only their live shows can reveal. With a kitschy Native American doll decorating the stage and Volz’s banners proclaiming auto-derisive slogans like “I’d rather watch paint dry,” Wauters, Garcia, and Mori’s evident chemistry and stage presence make these spontaneous performances seem like big dislocated parties where you feel happy you got invited. The whimsical, folksy experiment of Wauters once again captures the feeling of a chemically altered campfire sing-along session on Let the Poison Out, an album “about getting everything out of your system,” being yourself, and being free, which is arguably the best “collection of songs” the Beets have produced yet. -- Souad Martin-Saoudi



26. Babasónicos - A Propósito
A Propósito marks the band’s tenth studio album, yet another success in their fruitful career. Babasónicos understands the basics of discography digestion and, after a trio of precedent establishments (Infame, Anoche, Mucho), they’re back into the field of narcotized rhythms and baroque distortions. Babasónicos makes the most sylvan and thorny sexual songs (see the album cover), but this time around they all come with an extra sense of ceremonial hunch. These tracks include the masquerade-erotic suggestion in “Fiesta Popular," the love-on-a-boat shipwreck in “Tormento," and the savagely romantic “Barranca Abajo.” Babasónicos has never been the most optimistic band out there, and they almost go emo on this one. But there’s not much to be worried about; worst case scenario is you empty a bottle of wine and declare war on humanity singing to “Ideas.” A Propósito will hardly earn Babasónicos any new fans, but for those of us already on their bandwagon, it is a great chance to fall in love with them all over again. -- Carlos Reyes



25. Fother Muckers -
Entrega Tu Espíritu

The demise of Fother Muckers seems deceptively bittersweet in many fashions. For one, they aren’t exactly going away—the band has already announced plans to reassemble under the moniker Los Ases Falsos. As for lamenting their musical legacy…well, they hadn’t really built a substantial one. While they were certainly active in their time, releasing nine proper albums and EPs, they weren’t going out in some Relationship of Command-like last gasp. Fother Muckers was a good band that was getting progressively and measurably better but never quite hit that ceiling. It’s sad that this incarnation of the band is quitting while they’re ahead, but they aren’t exactly going away or squandering their potential. In that context, Entrega Tu Espíritu serves as a proper denouement to the Fother Muckers era, while slotting neatly into the band’s musical progression. The end-of-the-world vocals, the witty lyrics, the classic rock posture—the aesthetics are rote and familiar. But this record also packs in the most professional work in their catalog.-- Andrew Casillas



24. Poliedro - La Manifestación
The kick-ass album cover of La Manifestación makes the idea of the auteur-technician a reality. If you’re ever at an arthouse and you realize the sound isn’t as crystal-clear as in most Hollywood films, realize that burning-sound has an idea behind it. As far as breakthrough albums go, Poliedro’s La Manifestación is the embodiment of those grainy brave ideas comprising a truly great first album. Working with the most stripped-down tools of the lo-fi methods, this new Chilean one-man act has crafted a rainbow-hued EP built from all the corners of sonic complexity. And he does that, through atmospheric lens. Despite all the songs feature (some form of) vocals, not one track goes beyond the 16-character word count. The album’s title suggests the idea of a manifestation; a sign of existence, spiritual appearance, or the materialization of a revelation. Poliedro’s auteur approach to the premise is essential to the album’s triumphant results. -- Carlos Reyes



23. Hypnomango - Hypnomango
From Monterrey, Mexico rises René Rodríguez’ noise pop project Hypnomango. Rodríguez has recently become the guitarist and newest member of soon-to-takeover indie rock pioneers Bam Bam. Earlier in December of 2010, ClubFonograma's editor Carlos Reyes commented that Hypnomango EP killer-opening track “El Mundo No Es Real” “could translate into ‘No Hope Kids’, but this one is actually alive”, and I agree. Unlike Wavves’ Nathan Williams whose work, at its worst, can be perceived as a soulless experience (see 2009’s Wavvves), there’s plenty of life and mind-bursting energy in Hypnomango EP to assure Rodríguez as a passionate artist, one that might be seeking to achieve Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo status in the future. This EP might be just a warm up for the real deal, but what an amazing entrance to rock & roll. -- Enrique Coyotzi



22. Escuela de Trance -
Doktor Van Der Ger Ger Ger Ger

With acts like this, it’s really not difficult to feel excited about the young crowd of Argentine indie bands that have been blossoming these last couple years. But Escuela de Trance are really onto something of their own, to the point that sometimes they even remind me of the unfuckwithable band that is Deerhoof in pretty much everything I described in this review: being decidedly cute, pleasurable, nice to hear, but also straight-out nuts and incoherent. Still, what I like the most about these guys is that they actually managed to simultaneously create the album I was hoping other bands would: the erratically beautiful record Prietto Viaja al Cosmos con Mariano couldn’t pull off, the childishly charming Los Animales Superforros sort of failed at, and the musically challenging that La Ola doesn’t really seem to want to make. In the end they’re so terribly great because they’re making ballsy pop music like we rarely hear coming from the South American indie. And they’re actually succeeding at it. -- Pierre Lestruhaut



21. Helado Negro - Canta Lechuza
At this juncture in time, there is an overlapping presence of traditional instruments and electronic production tools. Yet, only a few folk artists play around in the surmounting pile of electronic gadgetry. During this embargo, we find an exception and a pioneer in Roberto Carlos Lange as Helado Negro. While previous work, Awe Oak, introduced an already dynamic Latin American folk artist, Canta Lechuza audaciously navigates through a new fertile territory in the same Latin folk vehicle, now powered by electronic energy. Canta Lechuza is a digital time-lapse photograph of the surrounding natural environment, which was taken during Lange’s month-long residence in Connecticut. While Lange actively processes his surrounding space and its organic life, he anachronistically places sound sculptures to visualize anatomical and atomic structures of nature. -- Adrian Mata Anaya



20. Luciana Tagliapietra -
Diagrama de Ben

Of gargantuan confection and gorgeous sophistication, Luciana Tagliapietra’s sophomore album, Diagrama de Ben, is an astounding collection of sonic motifs packed with enough progressive elements for an individual’s revolution and a collective warfare. Recorded in the fertile Tucumán Province in Argentina, this record nuances the solidification of Tagliapietra as one of the most exciting new voices on the continent. Targeting personal overhaul rather than crowd-pleasing delegacy, Diagrama de Ben arrives at grandiosity with a lavish orchestration worthy of a Renaissance affair and an allocated space in its digital environment. Tagliapietra’s instrumental wardrobe is rich and eccentrically hermetic, like a demoiselle’s turnaround toward social interaction. Yet, it is the songstress’ analog lyricism that also finds her as an immaculate renegade. -- Carlos Reyes



19. Los Mundos - Los Mundos
“It’s just that I can’t wait to see your face again,” claim Mexico’s newcomers Los Mundos in a climatic state of angst and clouded strings. Their name might be a derived fanatic upshot for Los Planetas, and the album cover of their self-titled debut might have a post-adolescent Little Red Riding Hood on it (well, that or some type of hipster witch, or nu evangelist). Yes, there are already too many maybes up for second-hand conclusions in this review, but really, what is shoegaze more than just a hazy feeling that is also, floating in the mist of pop music, awaiting for the endorsement of a generation of romantics to swell its transcendence to the rest of the pedestrians. Los Mundos carry their influences with so much charm that pointing them out would come off as obsolete. Impeccably timed and devoid of any fillers, Los Mundos is delightful - a work about the visibility of crescendos in a world of hazy melodies, topped by the duo’s assessment to make every action part of their idiosyncrasy. -- Jean-Stephane Beriot




18. El Medio - El fin del sueño del helicóptero personal
Leonardo Velázquez’s approach to songwriting is as personal as you can get. His subjects of interest are his own life, memories and experiences; his favorite medium to express them is a room-constructed arrangement of string instruments and ambient synth washes that are finally shaped in the form of a lo-fi home-recorded product uploaded for free on bandcamp. As much personal as it is DIY, yet it’s through his own DIYness that his songs excel as universal entities. Take his outstanding single “Que bueno que nadie piensa en mí” from last year. While its whole construction responds to all these different levels through which Leo developed his very own personal vision of loneliness, its appeal eventually resided in how it managed to transcend the small sphere of the songwriter and actually become a universal manifesto for the lonely kids of the digital era. The ones who would rather spend a Friday night listening to the stuff they downloaded through the week and waiting for a (1) to appear on their twitter account. -- Pierre Lestruhaut



17. Anna-Anna -
Last night I lit the moon

The woman behind this project is Manuela Leal, a Brazilian visual artist who moved to the U.S. as a teenager, but later returned to her home country, where she’s been making “indie electronic” music for less than a year. Her debut EP, Last Night I Lit the Moon, is the sort of record that’s immediately striking for its outstanding uniqueness and, because of this, it's a record that can be enjoyed both as an easy listening experience and as a wholly immersive one, where her distinctive soundscaping and jaw-dropping lines hit you even harder. Which is why easy comparisons can be drawn between Manuela Leal and other women making avant-pop, like Laurie Anderson, Trish Keenan (Broadcast, RIP), or even the rising Claire Boucher (aka Grimes). Yet, these comparisons would seem to be a lot more fueled by gender and overall edginess, than in an actual similarity in their distinctive approach to song-crafting. -- Pierre Lestruhaut



16. Mueran Humanos -
Mueran Humanos

For most publications writing about Mueran Humanos, an Argentine couple based in Berlin, it’s precisely their move from New World to Old World that has raised some eyebrows, primarily in how their music seems so tied to the musical heritage of Berlin and Gemany, despite them not totally dismissing their Argentine roots by writing their lyrics in Spanish. One might also easily see this as being in hand with the duo’s unearthly aesthetics, as most of these musical references refuse, or at least try to separate themselves from, the effortlessness and melodic appeal of pop music in general (though without wanting to explore the limits of noise either). Yet, in their greatest songs, Mueran Humanos actually find their beauty behind the heavy melodic work in their use of vocals and how it eventually manages to share pop music’s desire to gratify its listeners by treating them to something that is ultimately very pleasurable to listen to. -- Pierre Lestruhaut



15. Adrianigual - Exito Mundial
The national idiosyncrasy is the heart and cerebral consciousness of a country’s musical legacy. That secretive, almost tabooed understanding of existence and infrastructure gives music a national aroma. This is not a reflection of national pride, but a common denominator in how the romanticism of the arts is inclined to a form of collective absorption. In the words of Club Fonograma’s chairman, Carlos Reyes, “Chileans carry the poetic vein.” Almost mirroring the history of Chilean diplomacy, Adrianigual has decoded their storytelling abilities, appreciation of the music form, and techno-anthem ambitions into the realm of pop expression. Éxito Mundial feels like a tailor-made blockbuster full blown into a pop record. Adrianigual’s practices are often questionable and relentlessly aggressive, yet for every midnight escapade they also kiss the sun. Self-empowerment at its core. - Jean-Stephane Beriot



14. Astro - Astro
Crowds of deer running towards the golden sun, armadillos used as cannon ammunition, legged snakes with flashes on their heads, and watermelon tree branches growing out of the human body are only a handful of the fantasy cards that comprise something Astro has come to describe as “La Super Felicidad.” The self-titled, first full-length album by Chilean pop excursionists Astro is a liquefied, never-restraining plate of polyrhythmics. Designers of one of the most universally beloved indie hits to come out of South America in years (“Maestro Distorsión”), Astro is also the protagonist of one of the most divisive young careers in our Iberoamerican pop landscape. Having the melodically belligerent Le Disc De Astrou under their pair of full-spread wings, the lurching of Astro is just what’s needed for fans and retractors to sort things out. Colossally imaginative on every track and contentiously militant with its resources, Astro is beyond what’s suggested; it’s earnest. -- Carlos Reyes



13. Mentira Mentira - Meaningmore
Back in the winter holidays of 2009, before the exile of the Monterrey indie scene to the Mexican capital, our circle of trusted tastemakers made sure to build significant buzz for the new great band in town, Mentira Mentira. Two years later, the promising band has proven to be more than a stroke of infernal glow. The opening sequence in MM’s debut LP, Meaningmore, is a combustive line of resonant drums where MM’s conductor, Gaby Noriega, makes us jump drastically into a blood-rushing chase that seems to be spiraling from many blocks away. When the melody mutineer shouts, “Let’s keep on waiting!” one learns to recognize this procession as an admonition to formative rock and an amendment to the Mentira Mentira jargon. Meaningmore is the bewilderment of feeling meaningless in an absurd world. -- Carlos Reyes



12. Odio París - Odio París
Here’s a quick summary for the simpletons in the audience: Odio París’ debut full-length sounds pretty similar to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. So however you feel about that band’s first record, this album will leave you with pretty much the same taste in your mouth. Thanks for reading Club Fonograma! Alright, for the rest of you, here’s the low-down. This Odio París debut LP is fantastic. Like the sort of fantastic that makes you want to go to sleep ASAP so you can get up and go play this record for all of your friends the next day. Some people out there may instantly turn off when they hear white noise; some may still listen to Loveless once-per-week (for real, I know you’re out there). Whatever your previous experience is with this sort of rock music, Odio París is definitely a band that’s worth giving a precious listen to. Who knows? You may fall in love with them, or they may fall in love with you. -- Andrew Casillas



11. Juan Cirerol - Ofrenda al Mictlan
Think of Mexicali, then think of Nashville. Think of Michael Salgado, then think of The Tallest Man on Earth. You might feel like I’m adjusting your ink cartridges but I’m just setting the tone for this one (cheesy enough?). You could consider this as an exercise for the extension of the mind (and the music horizon), but that would be somewhat offensive, instead, think of it as a warm-up for one of the warmest, most heart-felt albums we’ve received in a while. But we can’t go on into a rave review without making a confession; it’s distressing to know just how much we like this, it’s quite disturbing actually. Mexicali’s Juan Cirerol could be classified as a Norteño folk troubadour, a storyteller, a romantic, a stylist of the popular song. Ofrenda al Mictlan is an emotional album that reconciles Mexico’s popular music with country blues. The tactics are questionable, barely authentic, but show brilliance through every decision Cirerol and his spirited guitar take. -- Carlos Reyes



10. Fakuta - Al Vuelo
It's a magnificent work constituted by ravishing pieces, precisely built under a meticulous architectonic conception. In a year where guitar-driven acts have dominated our radar, Al Vuelo’s intricate playfulness, larger than life audacity, and math pop grandiosity, arrives like a deep breath of sweet, fresh air. Ending a long, anxious wait, Al Vuelo is a masterful breakthrough which possesses the chances to harvest international success. Longtime Fakuta followers will most likely be already familiarized with the majority of these songs, since live recordings have been floating around on YouTube for a while, but every track is executed with current freshness that it seems incredible they’ve been in gestation for such a long time. With its mesmerizingly clever compositions, the blissful majesty that is Al Vuelo will position Fakuta in the line of cream of the crop of Chilean stars, in the meantime bringing us transcendental anthems of monumental proportions. -- Enrique Coyotzi



09. Installed - Plancha
Listening to his intimate music you get the sense that it betrays him, like it’s revealing secrets that he didn’t intend to disclose. But he’s more in control than that. At times the intimacy is even mischievous and wry. In Plancha, Installed knows the ins and outs of his conflicts, acknowledges the battling states within him, and delivers this awareness so intelligently and poetically, it might just break your heart. That remote feeling in the music is present on much of the album, acting as a foil to the personal lyrics. And a lot of the album is made up of elements that contradict each other, but somehow harmonize in the soundscapes that Alvarez creates. As tumultuous and haphazard as it all may seem on the surface, what Alvarez has orchestrated is an album of delicate balances much like the meticulously crafted turmoil in the poetry of Anne Sexton (though perhaps not quite so dark). Plancha is a bold exploration of sound and self and one of the most ambitious albums of the year. -- Blanca Méndez



08. White Ninja -
Sounds Like Cocoon Fever

Musical and visual composition tends to respond well to otherworldly abstraction, especially when the surfer of its wavelength is in full dialogue with the human condition. Part space opera and part velvety chillwave, White Ninja’s sophmore album is a triumph of gorgeous digital sequencing, analog proverb, and individual grooving. Two years ago, Leo Marz astonished us with his debut Guacala Los Modernos y Su Electro, a spellbinding record we described as “a series of adrenaline rushes, jammed technos, and unbounded clutter.” Marz’s comeback is less militant in its execution, equally intricate in its assortment of beats, and more affecting to the creator’s well-harvested, shoegazing morph. -- Carlos Reyes



07. Neon Indian - Era Extraña
In many ways Era Extraña is a far more serious album than its predecessor. Thematically, it tackles heavier topics and emotionally it explores much deeper than Psychic Chasms. It has a more defined concept and narrative and approaches the experience of heartbreak, which countless of artists have undertaken in their art, in a way that hasn’t really been done before. At least not in the precise and nuanced way that Palomo has. Perhaps the most notable difference, most noteworthy growth, is in the album’s production. Even though there are still just as many elements this time around, they are much more refined, much better orchestrated, and much more indicative of Palomo as an artist. When you speak to him you get the sense that there’s so much going on in his head, but he somehow filters all of it into thoughtful, articulate, and engaging conversation, which is exactly what he did with Era Extraña. -- Blanca Méndez



06. Dávila 666 - Tan Bajo
In Tan Bajo, their second LP releaed through In the Red, the guys from Puerto Rico show nothing to get rid of that idea, in fact they had rarely sounded this much like a garage rock revival act. But this is also probably the album where Dávila 666 has finally managed to underline the difference between being a revival retro-rock act in the wrong place, and appearing as an out of time channel for dazzling rock songs and impossibly catchy hooks. Because even if their vastly discussed “Menudo on drugs” self-description sounds a lot more like a gimmick than anything else, Dávila’s approach to songwriting doesn’t differ significantly from that of the popular boy band. Take Menudo’s use of lyrical repetition and playful melodies in “Subete a Mi Moto” as a frivolous conduct for teenage love angst and compare it to Dávila’s abrasive yet very catchy mourns of “Esa Nena Nunca Regreso” and “Eso Que Me Haces” and you’ll see that structurally and lyrically they’re on a very similar page. -- Pierre Lestruhaut



05. Rebolledo - Super Vato
Somewhere out there is a room that’s darker than anything in Entertainment 720’s color palette, where aged whiskey and justifiably-priced champagne flow like lava. Where lights exist for the sole purpose of looking cool. A place where shiny shirts are banned in favor of comfortable, tucked-in button downs, and where nothing matters except how deliberately outmoded your hairstyle is. This is the coolest room in the world. And, right now, Super Vato is spinning on the P.A. in an endless loop. The debut full-length from Xalapa, Mexico’s own Mauricio Rebolledo is a confident, irreverent, and fundamentally funky slice of new world techno. While other producers are equating “progression” with “throwing extra shit on top of my old shit,” Rebolledo, a former industrial designer, is finding reasons to fit disco, funk, synth-wave, rock and roll, and street festival cacophony into the same space. -- Andrew Casillas



04. Algodón Egipcio -
La Lucha Constante

Like the well-packaged titles of his songs, Algodón Egipcio’s shrewdness for craftsmanship is of inner expression and experience, but also attentively in dialogue with its era. In dialogue, but not in tune; Cheky’s platforms neither practice nor reject vocation, - they’re just ‘flowy.’ All these conditions allow for such a song like “La Transformación” to be read as a piece about the alteration of data, genetics, your virtual 'Second Life' character, or a full metamorphosis (and how sadly, there is no 'back button'). The cultural epochs in La Lucha Constante aren't allocated to a time frame; instead, we get a comprehension of its installment through the negotiation of rhythms that are presented to us. It’s as if Cheky’s infamous afro was the epicenter for sylvan ideas and actions. The execution of such ideas - and how they come to action through the music- is more suffocating than nurturing, but trust me, for a visionary fascinated by The Smashing Pumpkins, Akron/Family & Destiny’s Child, the outcomes are phenomenal. -- Carlos Reyes



03. Jessy Bulbo - Telememe
A few years ago during the MySpace golden age, a hot punk girl showed her panties to the world, as you would assume, she got herself a few millions of profile views. But once you actually sent her a friend request, she would respond back with an automatic message celebrating the new friendship with an excerpt from Timbiriche’s “Somos Amigos.” This is the kind of personality switch that makes Jessy Bulbo such an interesting character in Latin Rock music, many have not realized it yet, but nowadays, she is Latin Rock’s most talented lady. In 1998 Julieta Venegas and Ely Guerra appeared on TIME magazine’s cover as the publication announced the surfacing of the ‘Era of the Rockera’, if the TIME was to recreate the cover today, Bulbo should be leading the pack. Telememe is a round record, perhaps the first Jessy Bulbo that actually feels complete. The album cover outlines the album’s roundness, and as it suggests, she seems to have found a sense of absolute freedom. -- Jean-Stephane Beriot



02. Alex Anwandter - Rebeldes
Anwandter, by going back to pop basics, has created a kind of self-centered world with Rebeldes (the very first album under his name). The album may strike some as too straightforward, but the music’s beauty lies precisely within that simple framework of lustful melodies, romantic strings, and direct lyrics. Rebeldes feels so youthful, so idealistic in its pursuit of what feels right. We all know Anwandter is a musician who is always exploring. Even though we loved Teleradio Donoso and mourned its end, the marvelous and fascinating dystopian landscape created by Odisea last year quickly healed that wound. Not one to lag between ideas and inspirations, Anwandter has, this time around and with the help of Cristian Heyne, crafted an album that seems to almost retreat into simplicity. But when you hear the bare honesty of it, it’s a purity that’s almost virtuous, and you know that this is no retreat. Alex Anwandter only moves forward. -- Blanca Mendez





01. Bam Bam
- Futura Vía
Albums that are determined to become legendary milestones seem to be appearing less frequently during the 21st century. With the immediacy of the Internet, as listeners, we consume a bigger number of projects than we did during our adolescence by just watching MTV. In the thousands of MP3s by countless artists, most are forgettable, ephemeral movements whose days are numbered. But a few reveal themselves as classics that may even transcend into consolidated sub-genres. Monterrey’s beloved indie rockers Bam Bam surprised music blogs with their fascinating self-titled debut EP, astonishing the indie circuit geeks with fresh, out-of-this-world grooves. Although their success was moderate, hopes for the regiomontanos to release an even more impressive first full-length were in. And Bam Bam has surpassed all expectations, opening an exciting new chapter in Mexican rock history with the stellar Futura Vía, a psychedelic pop record equivalent to an intergalactic experience. Futura Vía is bound to be a reference in years to come, a majestic exercise about the universe, a meticulous work in conceptualization, and an undeniably fantastic achievement in the psychedelic field. - Enrique Coyotzi

25 comments :

Andrew Casillas said...

The right album landed at #1. Rock and roll esta muerto. Viva rock and roll!

DECIREVES said...

sigo diciendo que Futura Vía es una de las obras maestra del rock hecho en México. Al tiempo...

Muy buena lista, como siempre es un gusto leerles masters.

Solo ese prurito de Selena Gomez pero bueno, son los gustos de cada quien.

Gazete Garza said...

JESSY BULBO!

El Gus said...

Futura Via! Bring out the fireworks everyone!

Anonymous said...

Julio Pillado (SHANTELLE) dijo:
muy acertado el lugar que se gano FUTURA VIA, bam bam podria ser la banda mexicana del año, pero lo que no me gusto fue que EXITO MUNDIAL (que es mi disco favorito del año) este tan abajo, es incluso mejor que el de alex (y eso que el tuvo muschisimo que ver con el de ADRIANIGUAL, pero en fin buen top y es el mejor top de este año, la verdad el de videos ni canciones me gusto, cheers anyway! :D

Brenda said...

You guys kept it quite suspenseful. It seemed it was a Rebeldes vs. Futura Via showdown (both got same grade, but Anwandter had 3 tracks on the songs list).

What a great .GIF!

Anonymous said...

Como chingados que Selena Gómez? luego el de Juan Cirerol es del 2010, el del 2011 es haciendo leña!!!! si van a ser hipsters háganlo bien!!!!

atte.

Click Masta Joe

Anonymous said...

W E P A !

Humbert Hayes said...

So glad you guys didn't actually overlook Antoine Reverb! that was one of two albums I was afraid CF had overlooked. The other one: Fernando Milagros' San Sebastian, much much better than the Selena Gomez pick (not hating on her, I just think her album had some surprisingly GOOD-TO-GREAT singles, but the album as a whole is just not strong enough).

The coolest pick in the top 10, Installed's 'Plancha' it's so tragic, so commanding and vivid.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate tastemaking latin blog. Yeah, I'd say pretty good. Perhaps it's missing that super cute Los Ginkas album, and that other Mentira Mentira record at Vale Vergas, but the list is ROUND and BOLD all around.

Nacho Lieberman said...

QUE GRANDES!

Anonymous said...

Escuchar esas ultimos tracks, con ese gif, maximo!

Nacho Lieberman said...

Bam Bam is such an interesting band. Alienating at first, but always strong. Earlier on we had people like Cafe Tacvba's Joselo and Julieta Venegas jumping to their wagon, but the album slowly transcended into something truly important.

1320 said...

AL VUELO DE FAKUTA!!!!

Anonymous said...

jodidos elitistas, este continente no es solo chile, argentina y mexico.

Cristian Feliani said...

no conozco la mitad de los discos, pero la otra mitad si y me encantan, quiere decir que tendre que buscar muchos links!!

Bones said...

Qué horror que no pongan a La Casa Azul y sí pongan a Selena Gomez. En serio qué tomada de pelo.

Pablo DRX said...

Me encanto la lista de principio a fin.

Ghost said...

incluir a selena gomez en una lista es ya de por si desmerecer el resto de los participantes, una buena lista tirada a la basura por falta de cohesividad...

Anonymous said...

Juan Cirerol - Ofrenda al Mictlan es del 2010, si no lo pusieron en su año déjenlo vivir en paz. El de este año de Juan Cirerol se llama Haciendo leña.

chenn said...

Triste al no ver a Le Butcherettes en la lista. Saludos. None the less, great list

cami_o said...

FALTA "cripta Y Vida" de PEDROPieDRA!!! :S

El fayuco said...

Igual, Juan Cirerol es del 2010. La lista esta muy floja, sigo pensando que BAM BAM es una copia mala de sus paisanos En ventura. Esta bueno el disco. Donde quedaron los años dorados de Club fonograma? Esperemos el 2012..

Anonymous said...

El problema no es Selena Gomez, es Selena Gomez ganandole a Torreblanca!!! Esto no es MTVV tr3S?

DanielFlamencoOz said...

I have to say, Latin American music was disappointing this year and your list just confirms it. I mean Selena Gomez... really????? And I know i'm supposed to love Neon Indian, Algodon Egipcio and Bam Bam but I just can't get into them.

I mean do you not include Brasilian albums fro review? Because the best album from Latin America this year wasn't even on this list... Cicero – Canções de Apartamento was a masterful work worthy of a review and surely would have made the top 5. I don't speak portuguese but brilliant is brilliant. Mark my words, you should all listen to this great work.

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