Club Fonograma's Best Albums of 2013

40. Música Negra
Michael Mike released Música Negra last summer through CD Baby, and the response (if any) was lukewarm to say the least. With no way to stream the album in its entirety, the audience and media outlets regarded the release as something inaccessible. Then late in December, the Argentine act put a stop to self-sabotage by making public a Mediafire link to download their album on their website. And what a difference has that smart move made. While the timing of its scratchy release certainly hurt the album’s success at zeitgest, Música Negra is a bold, disco-effervescent album that’s transcending the year-to-year transition by its own merit (the reason why publications have regarded it as 2013 album). The six-member act evolved the menacing canvas of their last record Nena o Neno, and turned into something less threatening: a nuanced pop proposition. Michael Mike finds themselves critically involved in the fetishization of a disco pulse as applied to emotional discourse. We'll take that over the ideologically-bruised and misplaced propositions made in that comeback album by Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas any day. Música Negra is an example of how when the music is reachable and up for grabs, anyone can be a critic. Carlos Reyes

39. Baile de Magos
The punk troubadour, as we used to know Joe Crepúsculo back when he started doing music solo, comes back with an album that is clearly inspired by the Spanish techno of the '90s. Thus he completes the slow transition from his first lo-fi punk recordings as an outcast songwriter into these more deeply ironic canned techno rhythms as a satirical disco commentator. Composed and recorded in Mallorca, Baile de magos has a subtle Balearic taste expressed in very pushy synthetic progressions, sometimes mixed with a slight touch of free jazz and house sounds, but never abandoning the jokey, somewhat cryptic and rather philosophical tone of his lyrics and the scratchy, unprocessed voice. Baile de magos is about dancing in every way, starting with the reminiscences of the bakalao club culture and even the references to popular music and cumbia, like in “Hoy no me quiero levantar,” continuing with the structure of the songs, all of them having a strong climax that pushes us to dance (or at least to move our head back and forth), and ending with the epic lyrics of songs. Glòria Guirao Soro

38. CVMC
A lot of us around here hadn’t heard about María Magdalena, the Chilean singer-songwriter who between debut and sophomore releases made the transition from electric guitar to music sequencers as her composition tool, until her single “CVMC (Cada Vez Más Cerca)” dropped earlier this year. In retrospect, the song isn’t just a tour de force, it’s also a reinvention of the artist. Her self-titled debut album was mostly made of organic indie pop balladry and led by her own vocal melodies, so, in a way, this new CVMC EP feels like the work of an artist that's gone from indie pop songwriter to disco pop diva. The kind that can get away with having her songs featured both on Niñas Mal and a Club Fonograma compilation (for what it’s worth). CVMC is proof enough of María Magdalena’s huge potential for creating pop gems. What she lacks in Icona Pop-style sing-along escapist pop she makes up with her ability in song crafting, and what she may lack in Charli XCX-style glistening, off-kilter, post-internet pop she makes up with an aesthetic that sounds both timeless and placeless. - Pierre Lestruhaut

37. Creaturas
San Pedro El Cortez's Creaturas explores the hardships of a youth searching to escape absurd realities imposed on them, a sonic youth’s robbed soul that fights against the fears that now make the punk zeitgeist seem loveless. Produced by Dr. Bona (Los Fancy Free, 6 Million Dollar Weirdo), Creaturas is a notable step forward in sound from San Pedro’s first release, El Vals Mefisto. Explosive guitar riffs pristinely combine with primitive drums in fast-paced songs like “Castañeda” and “Chica Mala." It may seem like the least thing to expect, but the assembly of their instruments showcases a band that’s resourceful and attentive of your attention span. San Pedro El Cortez share a similar escapist urgency with other contemporaries like fellow punks Ave Negra, their profane compatriots Calafia Puta, or even the acoustic norteño strings from Juan Cirerol. Coming from the absurd, chaotic, and dirty things of routine life, every track on the assaulting Creaturas feels like a platform where the band unloads their daily share of mental sickness. There’s nothing poetic to overanalyze—San Pedro El Cortez kicks and bites, and they’ve found a channel for escapism and rebirth in the warm yet cruel infrastructure of that almighty genre we call rock and roll. - Jeziel Jovel

36. material.
material. begins in lower case, just like the album. We delve straight into the slightly tipsy first track's smoke machine fog, as if walking into Memo's set halfway. We've just arrived to hear the Austin-native's defiant and somewhat petulant claim: “You are not the end of the world.” This universally relatable phrase is repeated in an almost anthem-like chorus, but Memo Guerra doesn't seem concerned with fashioning a swaying, sing-a-long stadium hit. Listen closer; these lyrics aren't pussyfooting. This is a personal album and, at times, a private one, highly confessional, yet abstracted. The author has been jotting every thought down, from banal observations to poetic entendre, and these form the material for each track. While no doubt meant to be jarring, whether or not listeners dig being frustrated by the artist will determine how material. is accepted. It could be argued that Memo has designed it so, playing with the fine line between sincerity and pretense. One wonders what his past loves would have to add to the picture, but perhaps they were just as simultaneously intrigued and baffled by this–nonetheless sympathetic–anti-hero. - Sam Rodgers 

35. Cachanilla 
y Flor de Azar
We’re unaware of the timing between this release and Juan Cirerol's induction to a transnational label, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find a correlation between the two. Cachanilla y Flor de Azar feels like it was put together as one last offering of informality. It’s hardly an album; it’s actually a mixtape of sorts. The 14-track package is disorienting to say the least (a possible outcome of not having Vale Vergas’ Txema Novelo overlooking the details this time around). The album is impulsive (abrupt sequencing), disorganized (muddled iTunes tags), and aesthetically indifferent. But beyond its manufacturing flaws, this is also Cirerol’s most punk moment yet, something of great regard in his young yet prolific career. “Soy un junkie cualquiera,” he confesses after rowdily wounding the soundscape with his harmonica. His grasp of the vernacular had rarely been this frank and uncouth. We’re sure Cirerol will overcome any future label confinements he might stumble upon. Cachanilla y Flor de Azar’s production is a great departure from the glossiness acquired in Haciendo Leña and is a comeback to the DIY assembly of Ofrenda al Mictlan. It’s Cirerol’s most wild and busiest collection yet, and that’s enough for it to transcend beyond a novelty release. - Carlos Reyes

MCMXCVIII (or 1998) had been in production for years, with Ibi Ego's proclivity for perfection keeping their light in the dark, so much so that their debut album was becoming more and more of a far-fetched idea. It took time for the Tijuana band to burnish sound and deliver an album encompassing high caliber production, sound, and overall quality, but, thanks to Tijuana cassette label Prima Crush and Mexico City's renowned Discos Tormento, the album finally came to light. A debut album is the hallmark of the sound of a band, but most importantly, it establishes the foundation for further output. With no doubt, Ibi Ego has not only reaffirmed their talent in execution, but has also pushed the boundaries of sound to deliver an album whose clashes and contrasts, like a risky chemical reaction gone surprisingly right, surpasses conventional formula and structure to create something new and exciting. It forces the listener to expect the unexpected, to believe in the surreal, and to embrace it all. This is what dreams are made of, and MCMXCVIII is the laboratory where it all happens. - Marty Preciado

33. En Son de Paz
Frikstailers' latest, En Son de Paz, is quintessential ZZK: wild, idiosyncratic, and catchy as all hell. Of course, there are the highlights, starting with “Los Originarios Ver 2,” which recreates the madcap atmosphere from King Coya’s Cumbias de Villa Donde, but incorporating Frikstailers’ more traditional discoteca rhythms. “Hazlo Tu Mismo” brings the noise, blending reggaeton and Major Lazer down to the core, and then laying on jungle sounds—it’s like Jumanji come to life as something other than a terrible Robin Williams family film. “Batuqueando” is a dizzying ZZK throwback: trad-cumbia mixed with sound effects, but utilizing a military drumline sound takes this to another level. The beat builds and builds for what seems like hours, until it reaches fever pitch and all hell breaks loose. And then there’s “Otra Vez,” a bubbly, slow burning techno showcase perfect for all quinceñeras and Christmas parties that only serve pisco and tequila. - Andrew Casillas

32 Meta y Dinero
Following last year's brain-blowing, hysterically euphoric Ah Oh, the happy-go-lucky youngsters quickly come back with Meta y Dinero, a slice of three radiant pieces that remove the destructive guitar noise of its predecessor, substituting it with a chiller attitude, shinier hooks, and a stickier approach (as more recently accomplished in "Yumbinha"), upholding a tail of fierce, carefree adolescence, a feeling of momentary freedom enveloped in less than ten minutes. What's next for Los Blenders? Hopefully they’ll soon release a proper full-length. In the meantime, I can't wait for the summer to see how Meta y Dinero develops; heat must reveal these grooves' balmy aspects. The title track is a straight sunny season anthem, all packed with LSD and MDMA consumption lyrics. "Surf de Amor," the best song in here, could reasonably turn into a spontaneous visit to the beach for riding the waves while being fucking high (I would do it, with a lover), and "T&T" slaps any of Best Coast's or Wavves' efforts in the face. This is how it's done, guys: genuine and heartfelt rock and roll playero. - Enrique Coyotzi

31. Apar
It’s been quite the eventful year for Delorean—at least if you consider a Mexican kidnapping an “event.” But they certainly shined in the music department in 2013, with their magnificent Apar. Further demonstrating their knowledge and command of early 90s dream pop, Apar is a shimmering, gilding hunk of tinny techno wrapped in saccharine melodies and full-body production. Even though the album adds new wrinkles to Delorean’s sound—particularly the guest female vocals by Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek—the essential bits remain deliciously unchanged. This is still the same band based on punchy hooks and crowd-pleasing beats that could juice up crowds both festival and coffee shop sized. Is it a bit formulaic? Sure. But you could say the same thing about many of these guys’ contemporaries (e.g., Cut Copy) or idols (e.g., late-80s New Order), and it wouldn’t be a negative. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy the lean and dance.  - Andrew Casillas

30. Semillas
“It turns out that my neighbor’s tree grew so much recently that one morning I woke up to a large tree branch in the kitchen of my house,” sighs the producer in the EP’s fantastical premise–it was a magical tree full of empathy and disposition to spread its knowledge. Beautifully nuanced and carefully structured, Semillas could’ve easily been a transition EP or an exercise for distillation purposes. It is neither. Opening track “Burkina” underpins Chancha Via Circuito's expertise at romanticizing beats through space and time. Continuity is the source and desire of this short release, and so, this is an album that transitions from resourceful to profuse. Album standouts “Vaina” and “Hipopotamo” manifest Chancha’s most sacred approach to cumbia–Canale’s ability to conceptualize cumbia before digitizing it. These rumbling and all-circular numbers contemplate the natural world and offer it synthesized journeys. “Tornasol” is equally accomplished and the EP’s most ambitious number–Chancha has never shown so much interest for lyrical militancy. From my experience with Chancha, the worst you can do while listening to Semillas is to sit there and wait to be rewarded for your patience. This is a work that’s eloquently structured and needs no unfolding to cast its spell - Carlos Reyes

29. Syzygy
Syzygy defines a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies, such as the moon, the sun and the planets. The title Colombian musician Lucrecia Dalt has chosen for her third album gives us already a hint about the character of this record, released by Berlin label MEH last month. After having spent the last years in Barcelona, where she released her first two albums (Congost, 2010 and Commutus, 2012), Lucrecia has since moved to Berlin. Syzygy was recorded in her apartment in Barcelona and reflects an atmosphere of loneliness and intimacy, of experimentation and a wish for abstraction. The songs in this album present a union of opposites by being suspended (in-gravity) and heavy and solid, at the same time. Singing in the lowest register, Lucrecia’s voice blends with the bass loops creating a dark and intimate soundscape. Syzygy is an album about loneliness, confusion and estrangement, a collection of very solemn musical episodes that wrap the listener with a mantle of gloom and gravity. Lucrecia Dalt mixes here a multiplicity of sounds, effects and variations coming off to an apparently very intuitive composition that is actually an overly calculated process of abstraction. Glòria Guirao Soro

28. Stars Dance
When "Come & Get It" was released back in April, we knew Stars Dance, her first album without The Scene, would be a Moment for Selena Gomez. Though always poised and graceful, we had yet to really see confident from Gomez, who hadn't quite found her place in pop music. "Come & Get It" was it. Selena Gomez had found her swagger. Sexy and assertive "Slow Down" takes us to the club and demands a song to get lost in, while "Like A Champion" fulfills the self-esteem jam requirement and delivers a sly "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" wink. On the album's title track, Gomez sounds positively dreamy. Her normally weighty voice takes on a new color in the fragile layers of the song, reaching ethereal in its soaring chorus. Then on "Undercover," Gomez takes that newfound vocal agility to "Loba"-esque heights that we don't want to come down from. Not only did Selena Gomez find solid footing in her music with Stars Dance, she made an excellent dance pop record that reached more than just the Selenators (and initiated a few ones). Blanca Méndez

27. Panal
Although highly recognized and admired, Panal is Nicole’s first introduction to music’s newfound consumer hierarchy. Not to say the music industry is fully dependent of hipsters, but when it comes to endorsement and relevancy, tastemakers and music geeks have climbed way higher up the ladder than the last time Nicole was around. She couldn’t have found a better guide and associate for this new landscape than the man who has triggered the sensibility of a generation: Cristian Heyne. Departed from the major-league labels that surrounded her renowned, yet inconsistent, discography, she’s back in the game with her best work in over a decade. Just like that lovely, back-in-the-womb music video for “Baila” suggested, Panal is Nicole’s gleaming renaissance. Needless is to say that Panal sounds truly pristine. Yet the album is a little more than what it appears to be. Beyond the splendorous spectacle lies an album that’s truly contextual in both its literal and figurative ambitions. Nicole recently celebrated her first 20 years in entertainment. Whether Panal will constitute a new parting point for Nicole remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it seems like she’ll be more than fine with any future urban tribes threatening to gain control over the zeitgeist. - Carlos Reyes

26. Mala
Mala, Devendra Banhart's eighth studio album is so thematically deep and sonically enduring to distill any skepticism. Sounding ambrosial in barebone acoustics (“Daniel”) or plainly twee in strummed melodies (“Your Fine Petting Duck”), Mala feels like the work of an experienced artist who has acquired cosmopolitanism through the arts. By now we’ve come to expect Banhart singing in Spanish at least on one track of his albums. And they usually turn eventful. Such is the case here with the lovely “Mi Negrita.” It’s an unconscious habit, but Banhart always puts on his crooner voice whenever he sings in Spanish. It’s not a pose, it’s a loving way to show respect to his identity, an identity he can grasp and contribute to through either bolero or Americana. The song is also a great companion to Banhart’s recent collaborations with Natalia Lafourcade and Adanowsky. You can’t say the man isn’t trying to get more involved with our soundscape. Mala might not be Banhart’s strongest hour, but it’s easily his most respected work yet. He’s no longer filling the freak folk quota at your local artwalk or the young man putting a magnifying lense to his roots. When Banhart sings “you’re a young man on a dancefloor,” it all becomes clear—Mala is disambiguated and beyond earnest.  - Carlos Reyes

25. Un EP Irrelevante
Un EP Irrelevante transcends as a deeply attaching, not-to-be-missed work of art. By personal experience, I’ve discovered that the ideal moment to go back to it is after hours is. Marco Polo Gutiérrez is a genre-hoping chameleon that blazingly sparks in each of his varied projects. His stupefying output as Den5hion definitely exhibits introspectiveness united with body-motion discovery—music that feels extremely intimate yet so comprehensively embraceable. The sentimental potency of his mind-fucking artistry somehow evokes the illustriousness of Richard D. James’ wizardry in Selected Ambient Works. And while his musical spectrum is clearly influenced by Burial’s opus, Den5hion’s encountered a personal trademark that’s transparently distinguishable and uniquely his own. Throughout these five hallucinogenic pieces not only does Gutiérrez dares the listener to succumb inside a full self-examination journey, his production also impacts as a senses-arousing catalyzer. With its title, the brilliant producer might dismiss this release as irrelevant, but I dare you to find an EP this year that possesses more emotional tissue than this one. - Enrique Coyotzi

24. El Techo es el Suelo
There are no exact guidelines, but Quiero Club has pointed to the permutation of genres as they set themselves to create, demolish, and subvert their own trace on their third reference, El Techo es el Suelo. Quiero Club's aim at grand lighting is as polished as ever, but they’re working on a new canvas. Whereas in Nueva America the band shot for integration (a collectiveness in themes, genres, and structures), El Techo es el Suelo is concerned with order (owning a determinate, often individualized physical space). This is not to say Quiero Club stopped extending its scope or went all Tea Party on us, but the album is assertive at owning its soundscape, and that’s an introspection that allocates to a physical space where literally, the ceiling can be the floor or vice versa. Charmingly confessed very early in the album, “this beat goes to the deepest places of the human soul.” It’s hard not to affiliate Quiero Club with abrasive, pool-of-music narratives, but they’ve tweaked their expedition for an intrinsic search, and that’s a choice that’s nothing short of commendable. As contested and challenging as it may sound on initial spins, El Techo es el Suelo charms more than it alienates–it’s a generous record, by Mexico’s best pop band that pours pop wisdom to those willing to do an introspection of their own. - Carlos Reyes

23. The Visitor
By releasing what amounts to the synthesis of five years worth of sights and sounds from around the globe, it would appear that Matias Aguayo is more interested in context than concept these days. Each song on The Visitor has the feel of a vignette (and the qualities of a flash street party, too)—bursting with frenzied color and energy, but done as if on-the-fly. Gone is the sophisticated simplicity of “Rollerskate.” (Less, no longer more, has evidently skipped town and discovered the world in all its messy, organic glory.) In its place, we have beating (and breathing) layered beats, tonal textures, and multifarious rhythms from Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Medellin, and elsewhere in Aguayo’s travels and psyche. Paradoxically, the LP’s best tracks remind of the lone, measured Aguayo of yore, but also the beauty in analog and digital collisions and realtime chaos. The percussive punta-led, laser-accented jam “Llegó El Don” is Aguayo at his finest on this album in this respect. On the following track, the early-aughts-esque pop song “Una Fiesta Diferente,” a beguiling Aguayo sings in Spanglish with Timberlakean flair about heading to a party “that’s not bad, but just not for me.” Lead single “El Sucu Tucu” and “El Camarón” are highlights not only because they’re funky and incredibly infectious, they also demonstrate that Aguayo’s vocal percussion is like no other in dance music- Monika Fabian

22. Teorema
We first heard Samanta opening Michita Rex’s excellent compilation, Musica para el fin del mundo Vol.2. “Ropa Nueva” (aka "Caminar") seemed like the blueprint of a singer-songwriter who had found an ally in the acoustic guitar to tackle on broad themes like consumerism and its disproportion with the industries. Samanta turned out to be not the mononymous work of a songwriter, but an actual band that had yet to unlock its resources. Under the assistance of De Janeiros (Pablo Munoz and Milton Mahan) on its production, Samanta reveals and detonates a lavish arsenal of synth pop and continent-hoping sequencers on their debut album Teorema. From sunny ("Playa") to corporate darkness ("Oficina"), Samanta just seems to push the right buttons to support their melodic discourse. Just like its palatable album cover, Teorema is a collection of songs that truly sound luxurious. It’s somewhat cruel to talk about art as currency, but sometimes culture needs to mediate itself through other narratives to become affordable. At least metaphorically, Teorema seems to have been given the deluxe treatment from its mere conception. - Carlos Reyes

21. La Fuerza 
del Cariño
Ever since La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau started making music, every single release by the Argentine act has been covered by a photograph that’s shimmering with the heartwarming reminiscence that can only be found in a dusty album of old family photographs. Their origin is easy to guess and rarely matters at all—you’ll find they’re usually childhood photos of some member or acquaintance—but the sense of borrowing an image from an old collection of photographs is an interesting analogy for how the charming guitar-based indie pop La Ola makes seems to borrow so much from a fine record collection. Though it’s surprising just how shameless they are about it. La Fuerza del Cariño starts with a bold recognition of their own tendency to draw inspiration from the past, as meta-song “Canción robada” speaks of how it’s easier to just steal a song when inspiration for writing a new one is hard to find, all of this while claiming to reuse a melody from The Cure’s “In Between Days.” But where La Ola’s use of amateurish vintage-looking photographs as cover art finds itself even more attached to the kind of music they make is in the sense of nostalgia and longing for a previous time in their lives—one filled with unbridled joy, wholehearted naivete, and devoid of any serious responsibilities—they’re so aesthetically fixated on. - Pierre Lestruhaut

20. Whoa!
Alizzz’s 2012 release Loud EP earned him a name as a promising name in the market of Rustie-like digital maximalism, and the laptop producer’s influence is still present on Whoa!. Eponymous track blatantly bluffs the listener with a laid-back synth intro that’s more suited for downtempo yacht rap, before revealing itself to be an epic build-up towards a maximalist drop that’s given a testosterone boost by adding a bro-ish “Whoa!” chant. But gladly enough, the EP’s biggest strength relies in managing to get rid of all the Rustie comparisons. “In Chains” (Alizz - “In Chains” get it?) weaves a polyrhythmic dancefloor banger around a rave synth sample and female R&B coos, while “Turquoise” is all about downtempo lush 80s synths beauty that can only make you wonder how awesome a collaboration between Alizzz and Madrid hip-hop crew Agorazein could end up being. As a whole, Whoa! works so well because it stimulates so many musical g-spots in such a short of amount of time, making it clear that Alizzz is just the kind of producer that can easily have a solid output on the label by consistently putting out his own instrumentals. - Pierre Lestruhaut

19. El Origen
It’s hard to think of El Origen as Los Macuanos’ debut album (or even as an album at all) given the fact it’s a compilation of recordings from the 2009-2012 period. Still, it actually functions well enough as a selection of songs played in a certain order, but also as a comprehensive testament of the evolution of their sound during its formative years. Whether neatly presented, arranged, and sequenced for your own effortless consumption, or brokenly scattered among soundcloud pages, YouTube videos, and blog posts with broken links, it’s the songs that really matter here, and although we’ve been listening to them for years now, they do deserve one last round of appraisal. The ghastly bolero “Alma” sounds like what you hear at an actual “bar de mala muerte” at 4 in the morning, “Ritmo de Amor” is probably what tripping balls on molly and mezcal feels like, and “El Fantasma / La Maquila” is just the juncture of all things that make us hopeful for Los Macuanos’ actual upcoming debut: hauntology, cumbia, and sociopolitical comments. - Pierre Lestruhaut

18. 12:68
The prolific Edgar Mota (aka Colateral Soundtrack or cltrlsndtrck), member of the disappeared Los Amparito, is one of Mexico's most accomplished producers. As Fonobisa, Mota’s been restless. He’s offered three compelling EPs in 2013, where he has explored from crazy, kinetic footwork (Frecuencia errónea) to weird-as-fuck, chopped postcard experiments (Abstracción). Still, his most absorbing contribution appeared between these both, with the playful, jaw-dropping 12:68. Under the mixtape format, the producer expertly tests his poppiest facet yet, along with a top-notch selection of collaborators, including Matilda Manzana, Pájaro Sin Alas, Onenina (Capullo’s Cris), and Marinero (Francisco y Madero’s Jess Sylvester), while devoting himself to a concept that feels both flexible and wide-ranging, allowing the listener the possibility of free interpretation—a circular release that can truly be perceived as cyclic, as well as mind-expanding on its own. Up to this stage, it’s fair to establish the incredibly creative Edgar Mota as one of Mexico’s top electronic underground figures. His cerebral approach is defying as well as inspiring, and no one around sounds like him right now. One must check out his whole body of work to actually understand (and taste) his entire artistry. However, with 12:68 he’s crafted a sensationally contagious and outstanding entry point to discover what his challenging music is all about. - Enrique Coyotzi

17. Arre Krishna
Upon first impression, Arre Krishna, Bam Bam’s most recent EP and follow-up to Futura Vía, feels not like the triumphant return of one of our most beloved bands, but more like an overly delayed release of outtakes from the Futura Vía sessions, which, in comparison to Bam Bam’s couple of excellent albums they had released so far, feels rather disappointing. In terms of the average bulk of Latin rock releases we tend to come across, we couldn’t be happier to have new material from the regiomontano quartet. To compare Arre Krishna to its immediate predecessor would be putting it on an uneven playing field and also overlooking how it’s, in its own right, a solid collection of four tunes and an 11-minute psychedelic trip. Regardless of whether Arre Krishna will turn out to be an interlude amidst a continuous series of aesthetically similar works or the epilogue closing a period and making room for a new one in the oeuvre of Bam Bam, the EP lives up to both parts well enough. It’s a short record that reminds us how much we can enjoy good rock and roll and its whole spectrum of primitive, urgent, emotional, and left-field forms. - Pierre Lestruhaut

16. EP2
Ruidosón’s youngest exponent is an unstoppable, youthful prodigy. Simultaneously working on many completely opposite but just as relevant side projects (Den5hion, Sin Amigos, Ignxrnce, amongst others), the ingenious boy has enjoyed major success while embarking seriousness under the Siete Catorce pseudonym. Unlike his eerie but still highly upbeat first EP (which was backed by a unsettling tale of the artist murdering his entire family), Siete Catorce goes into gloomier, regularly depressive spaces in the sturdy EP2, whose progressive production manifests growth, vision and freakish craftsmanship through far reaching guapachoso rhythms mixed with avant-garde soundscapes. Everything points that Siete Catorce’s career is destined to take off into even larger heights. Not only has he proven to be a one of a kind revelation, the skillful visionary’s also settled a standard of execution, idiosyncrasy and inventiveness pretty difficult to be matched. Fact is, it doesn’t seem crazy to state that with the prominent EP2, Gutiérrez (who's already preparing a third installment) has, for sure, dethroned Erick Rincón as Mexico’s youngest, smartest and most forward-thinking producer. Enrique Coyotzi

15. Systems
Of. Like 23-year-old Lorely Rodríguez, I am a native-born U.S. citizen whose first language was Spanish. Over time, school and friends naturally forced new dimensions onto my cultural identity. While this is, for the most part, a wonderful thing to experience, it definitely has its downside; for instance, in cases where others attempt to define that identity for me (“you don’t look or act Mexican…”). Released on Terrible Records, the same brand attached to an impressive roster of Brooklyn cool kids (Chris Taylor, Chairlift, Blood Orange), one might be tempted to make similar false judgments towards Empress Of and her debut EP. Lacking an obvious Latin background, somehow it would then be fair to characterize her in another extreme: a trendy product made to blend in with the rest of (mostly) white indie culture. Systems, thankfully, is none of that. Written and self-produced, Rodríguez offers a unique glimpse inward: her bilingual thoughts, her own experiments, all while simultaneously challenging ideas about what a Latin@ musician should look and sound like in 2013. On paper that already makes this four-song release a success, but the true achievement, of course, behind Empress Of lies entirely in the quality of the music. Giovanni Guillén

14. Alex & Daniel
Chilean idols Gepe and Alex Anwandter deliver on their first collaborative album and it's a pleasant little trip filled with oneiric and seductive gems. From the time it was announced, Alex & Daniel felt like a bold career move. It wasn’t failure that it risked, but the possibility that as an experiment it would struggle to find a place among either artist’s oeuvre. It certainly isn’t as ambitious as Odisea, nor does it contain the raw and personal narrative found in Rebeldes or GP. Not as a whole, anyway. What Alex & Daniel does accomplish is effortless studio magic, two friends at their artistic peak going with their gut. No sonic impulse is ignored, every idea feels necessary: a saxophone to close out things (“Cada vez que invento algo sobre ti”), steel drums to illuminate (“Mejor que yo”). Another worry that was much-discussed between CF writers was whose presence would overtake the album. First impressions viewed Anwandter as the main character, but as we listened more the dynamic became clearer. The compositions on Alex & Daniel truly resemble double exposures, no foreground or background; their appeal would be lost or at least incomplete without each contributor.  Giovanni Guillén

13. &&&&&
Conceptually, &&&&& could be read as either Arca’s most selective release yet, or as its less official work yet. Considering he had three releases last year, we could make the case this is his most collected reference yet. In the other hand, this one has been structured as a mixtape, and thus, it doesn’t carry the essential assertion of an official release. Whichever way it was conceived, &&&& is far from a novelty. From the get-go, it’s best to make peace with the mixtape's dense inscrutability. Ghersi’s experimental endeavors here are interchangeably exciting, maddening, perverse, and terrifying. The fact that the mixtape isn’t fragmented by individual tracks makes it hard to pinpoint to precise hotspots, and that actually makes things exciting. At 25min. long, Arca's mixtape is ever-peeling but not superfluous. There’s an emotional restraint/awakening in its genetics that resonates well with the human condition. Like its artwork, &&&&& is cacophonic, broken and grotesque. Arca provokes and dislocates, but also provides shelter under his umbrella. It’s like imagining Werner Herzog and David Lynch sharing a seesaw –like taking a peek into a future that’s already here. - Carlos Reyes

12. Conquista de 
lo Inútil
Conquista de lo Inútil is Coiffeur’s first full-length record on this new, avant landscape. There was undeniable warmth in the echoes of his acoustic guitar, but that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning sensitivity. He’s just using a different vehicle to move forward. Coiffeur’s approach to disco and dance music is one where he still wears his heart on his sleeve. Conquista de lo Inútil starts with bare vocal harmonies announcing concepts about space, time, movement, and density. Shortlisting the themes in the first breath of the album is a crude way to negotiate with form, but Coiffeur somehow gets away with it. As he extends his harmonies, the concepts begin to personalize and, in a miraculous, almost sexual way, we hear synthesizers welcoming the emotional discourse. That acceptance from the canvas to his illustrator is a beautiful thing to witness. Virtuosity and palpable artistic choices take care of the rest. Coiffeur is still verbalizing universal feelings regardless of the vessel he is surveying. At its most accessible numbers, the album deconstructs the no-strings-attached (to verbal and lyrical context) notions that inhabit dance music. Coiffeur wants emotional strings attached, the whole ball of yarn in fact. And it’s ultimately this conscious (if outright romanticized) choice that makes Conquista de lo Inútil truly essential and transfixing. - Carlos Reyes

11. Doble Ola
For a man who claimed Valparaíso’s musical scene seriously lacked pop, it’s no surprise that for his latest short-form release, Doble ola, his aesthetic is becoming increasingly hook-centric, even if his modus operandi remains in the vein of glitchy sample-fueled electronica. The glitchy manner in which Cerda has always manipulated and presented his samples could also see words like “noise-influenced” being associated to ESDLCP. The first 20 seconds of “Balbina” come as close to noise as anything else in Doble ola, but by the time the piano arpeggios hit the surface there isn’t a single doubt remaining: José Manuel Cerda isn’t here to indulge in fist-fucking your ears, he’s here to give you a 4-minute session of continuous eargasms. Trying to discuss the work José Manuel Cerda Castro in the context of Latin American electronica feels a bit pointless. Standing at the margin of both Latin folk-infused electronica and new world techno, ESDLCP is still confidently owning its own private island of holy-fucking-shitdom, holding sway over weird-as-fuck Latin American electronic music territory. - Pierre Lestruhaut

10. Victoria Mística
Victoria Mística is a concept album of sorts—spirits, magi, and human unrest all come into play—but lyrical themes matter nothing to the ownage within. While their previous two albums contained a handful of marvelous lyrically-driven songs (including the untouchable “El Fantasma De La Transición”), their latest operates best when left to their histrionic id. Gone is the primal (but still of its time) group from the self-titled debut. Instead, TAB is delineating the terms of this party. From the opening shred of “Robo Tu Tiempo” to the closing lilt of “Clara,” Victoria Mística swirls and shreds its way into your skull for a half hour, without letting up. TAB is far past the point where you can point to your favorite My Bloody Valentine album track as proof of quality. Where MBV and their other heroes have long since given up musically evolving and their sonic contemporaries escaped the nostalgia wave, TAB keep propelling themselves past black sunglasses and evolutionary scuzz. Instead, this is a band quickly reaching new and longer-sustaining peaks. Don’t get lost in the haze. - Andrew Casillas

09. Hexágono Final
To be fully appreciative of Mañaneros' own musical nomadism and all over the place references requires not only the browsing habits of a twentysomething musical dilettante but also the hunger for obscure novelty of a music blog crate-digger (or should we say link-clicker). What makes Mañaneros ultimately better, weirder, and cooler than your average world beats troops is how they understand the importance of selectivity, depth, and inventiveness in an era where everyone can build a palette with infinite possibilities. Their beat selection is diverse enough for them to be stylistically a little too all over the place, considering how in less than 45 minutes there’s cumbia, Andean folk (including a condor calling), tribal, and rapping. Just as the omnipresence of Latin folk in their palette is more of a vessel for beatific gratification than it is a gimmick for indigenous digital quirkiness. They’re the kind of musicians that are likely to recognize what Tego Calderón has brought to Latin music more than they’re willing to stand for the more proggish waves of digital cumbia. Hexágono Final is not the kind of album that’s likely to propel the artification of Latin folk forms via electronic experimentalism, it’s actually a record that speaks volumes on the capacity of digital Latin folk to be great pop music. - Pierre Lestruhaut

08. Los Momentos
Los Momentos is a mesmerizing surprise. While the singles (+ the presence of Javiera Mena and Gepe) pointed us to a Chilean pop agenda, Julieta has triggered the edge of her past and reconciled it with the zeitgeist. Purists won’t agree, but Los Momentos is Julieta’s first rock album in many years, and arguably her best since Bueninvento. This is not coming from a rockosaurio who’s been longing for Julieta’s return to rock music, but rather from someone who’s embraced the cultural significance of Julieta’s tour de force pop ventures. Her sixth studio album negotiates its themes with its subjects at such clarity that the emotional landscape truly feels universal. The album’s complexity comes from the small gestures offered by Julieta’s well-thought out choices. Gestures like the extension of vowels, the making of bridges from the back vocals into the foreground, and the prioritizing of melodramatic flairs over centerpieces. Working on a commercial venture that reconciles artistic possibilities with mass absorption, Julieta’s Los Momentos, is a triumphant gesture of the artists’ sensitivity, and dare I use the word, intelligence. - Carlos Reyes

07. Wed 21
Juana Molina warrants many descriptions: composer, noise stylist, humanist, beat maker and former comic. But we often forget to reference what makes her divine to the great spectrum of pop culture. Molina is a master of horror. Molina’s uncanny sensitivity is the rumination of our daily appointments with existential terror. Her latest record, Wed 21, makes emotional devastation sound monstrously beautiful, in a deceptively simple manner. Conceptually and aesthetically, it’s one of Juana’s boldest provocations, and it’s far from being a shortcut to aural ecstasy. Throughout the record we find an artist who is compassionate to the medium, but who dares to be abrupt and compulsive for the greater service of emotional unease. There’s a metaphorical pull in Wed 21 that stops it from being read as a mere brainteaser. Molina fills the space with sound. A whole lot of sounds in fact. When deconstructed, the swarming conditions come off as inner wars of spiritual proportions. It’s a turmoil of an album—assaulting and frightening—and one of Molina’s most accomplished vehicles for letting out some steam. - Carlos Reyes

06. Sentimiento, 
Elegancia & Maldad
As cleverly stated by reggaeton scholar Raquel Z. Rivera, “folks have been pronouncing reggaeton dead since before it was even called reggaeton.” As we’ve been predicting throughout the years, Arcángel (Austin Santos) is the one name capable of amending the future of the genre. Arcángel just released the best reggaeton album since, well… La Maravilla. It’s nowhere near flawless, but it had been a while since an album of the eternally-controversial genre felt this complete. At 18 tracks long, Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad is not an easy album to dissect despite the fact that it holds some of the catchiest, funniest, and most hybridized songs released this year. SE&M is not set up to revolutionize the genre in the way his debut endeavored. Arcángel instead, puts on a historian outfit and makes an index of sorts of when the genre started, its absorption by the mainstream, the moment it became a monopolized mafia, and its subsequent, sugar-coated dissolving with synth pop. But what makes SE&M so special is how Arcángel envisions the future of the genre: reggaeton transcending from a beat to an increasingly versatile genre. - Carlos Reyes

05. Club Negro
Let’s face it: Tony Gallardo’s ear is full of some pretty fucked up sounds. But they’re damn good sounds. And in the case of Club Negro, these sounds are downright masterful. Before diving into the specifics of CN, it’s helpful to put things in context. Specifically, what makes María y José’s collected output, and much of pop music’s canonized “weird” music, so...palatable? Weirdness isn’t the result of some hidden desire to top the pop charts but an uninhibited desire to force mass audiences to come to you. With this album, Tony Gallardo takes that next step: his music is important. He is no longer the resident weirdo at the Iberoamerican pop banquet table. He is the visionary. For all the deserved praise and artistic growth that Tony Gallardo has experienced over the past half-decade, it’s hard to imagine that the mainstream public will readily embrace Club Negro and its brilliant weirdness. Then again, did anyone think the Flaming Lips would be prime festival headliners? María y José’s path is limitless—it’s all a matter of whether he’ll be embraced today or tomorrow. But I doubt that Tony Gallardo really cares about these things. Anyone who makes music this weird, this confident, and this good surely doesn’t think of himself as a part of any time, place, or pop music trend. Because honestly: Fuck a movement. - Andrew Casillas

04. Invisible Life
Helado Negro’s Invisible Life is the scoping of small gestures working for broader themes. But to read Invisible Life simply as a metaphor (of big or small scales) limits the absorption of a work that rises above a sonic thesis. Striving for emotional intricacy, Roberto Lange poured his ideas on humanism, spiritual awakenings, and the painfully familiar into a subdued yet quite illuminating phantasmagoria. Heartbreakingly mysterious and brooding in silences, Lange’s dreams make an improbable organic whole. In some ways it’s smaller and simpler than Canta Lechuza or any other Helado Negro release, but the narrative display and rhetorical flourishes accomplished here are fantastical and unmatched. Invisible Life reveals itself through a nuanced rhythm where spaces, layers, and melodies have an opportunity to breath and build/unfold before our eyes. While most synth folk albums are preoccupied with surveying a landscape, Invisible Life doesn’t just float around, it acquires physicality. This is no happy-go-lucky moment though. Invisible Life is estrangement set in motion. Luckily, Helado Negro illuminates the path towards the presentation of his themes by directing the blood flow of his audience, quietly guiding us to leave our own spiritual comforts. - Carlos Reyes

03. Fuera de Campo
Fuera de campo, the San Felipeans' elegant third studio album, encounters beauty within restraint and delicacy, demonstrating refinement in the magic enveloping the beloved duo's striking art. The album is paced gorgeously through a cohesive ordering of heavenly songs, which electrocute, emote, and caress the deepest fibers, allowing each composition a place to breathe on its own—the Dënver way, one of the most sumptuous imaginable. According to Mahan, the conceptual Fuera de campo, which is linked to a story of a war, is structured in a “very narrative sense.” Listeners will have to be attentive to the lyrics to fully catch the warlike storytelling, which makes itself first present on “Las fuerzas” and the line “No gana la guerra quien más soldados ni armas tenga” and detonates violently in the battle-reminiscent “El árbol magnético.” With Fuera de campo, Dënver may not have not surpassed the greatness of Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, nevertheless, they’ve accomplished a well-thought out, charmingly-crafted follow-up. Most importantly, they've proven that their spark hasn't gone anywhere. - Enrique Coyotzi

02. Musica de Capsulón
After some months of waiting, the superb, scandalous, hit-packed mixtape Música de Capsulón is finally here, marking the boldest debut release by any Iberoamerican artist this year. Hate them or love them, there’s no denying this first reference is a hell of an accomplishment. Whether it's with the assistance of Freebass' luxurious beats or Overlord's under-purple-drank, stoner production, Füete Billēte's vast musical spectrum, which ranges from '90s rap, to crunk, to contemporary hip hop, stands out throughout, revealing new genius in every spin. From the Fugees’ inspired album cover to the notable invested labor in its conception and brilliant nods to its influences, everything about Música de Capsulón feels meticulously mastered and conferred. Even though it's conceived as a mixtape, just like BFlecha and her panoramic βeta, Füete Billēte confected a release that surely feels like an album in the whole extension of the word. Inescapably irresistible, potentially controversial, and already exuding timelessness, Música de Capsulón certainly establishes one of the greatest hip hop careers in years to come. - Enrique Coyotzi

01. βeta
With βeta, though, Belén Vidal made the kind of record that’s an internet-era music nerd’s wet dream, but whose craft is also populist enough that it shows no signs of underground snobbery. For all of BFlecha's referentiality and hard to nail down references, her music is embedded with the kind of larger-than-life qualities that can reach out to both electronic aficionados and dabblers alike. Her DJ sets are said to be eclectic and know-it-all as fuck, yet always focused on the purpose of getting people to dance. It’s this willingness to conjugate underground innovation with the biggest ideas and best hooks of pop and electronic music that make her a truly unique force in Spaniard music. βeta's recurring references to space travel invites comparisons with Alfonso Cuarón’s nearly-universally loved film Gravity (I know, what a critical cliché to compare it to the biggest space-based massive pop cultural phenomenon going on right now, but bear with me here) in how these are two works that don’t really excel in neither narrative, nor concept, but in execution. Even though one could argue BFlecha has somewhat made an album album—with an intro, outro, concepts, recurring themes, interludes, thus being more than just a collection of songs—its biggest strength relies in providing an experience of immediate awe and bliss. Like Gravity, it's the perfect alignment of genius and present technology, the kind of masterpiece that could only come from an era such as the one we’re living in. - Pierre Lestruhaut



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