Club Fonograma's Best Albums of 2014

40. Eclipse total 
del corazón
LOS WALDNERS
INDEPENDIENTE. COSTA RICA
From their first single, "Ella Usaba Vestidos," everything about Los Waldners seemed like a considered and ingenious decision: their name's undertones of both facelesness and creativity (named after the Swedish table tennis player Jan-Ove Waldner known as "the table tennis Mozart"). They came, a gang of four, like a beam of enlightening warmth into the detached coldness that characterized the Costa Rican music scene last year. Led by Luis Carballo, an eccentric loner who seemed destined to drift towards a more healthy career as a ping pong player and whose youth-love relationships naturally spread into his cutting lyrical work, Los Waldners is like a package that opens up and brings us something. Something triumphant. Los Waldners have had reached a remarkable status with their debut, Eclipse total del corazon. And this isn't easy for a Costa Rican band, it is something far more intriguing and off-kilter, it is indie-pop at its most stirring and enduring. This is the sort of record that will probably improve with age. It will sound even better next summer, the summer after that, and hopefully five years from now, when no one remembers or cares what label the group was signed to, but only the near pitch-perfect pop they put down on tape. Pablo Acuña

39. Souvenance
KALI MUTSA 
SHOCK. CHILE
Everyone's favorite "ninety-four year old" Chilean gypsy princess Kali Mutsa, aka Pharaoh Koralle Esperanza del Carmen Pantic, has finally released her first LP, Souvenance, over a year since this reviewer commented on first single "El Jardín." Before we go any further, it must be said that this is divisive artistry. It's unlikely Souvenance will impress those that have not jumped on board Kali Mutsa's particular/peculiar style already, and for those of you who do "get" it - there's much here to surprise, exhilarate, and perplex you even further. Moving away from the EPs' more cabaret lounge style - easier to digest, left-of-center world music stuff (it always teetered precariously towards that) - Souvenance intimidates, getting right in your face from the beginning and rarely letting up the attention demanding beats for its forty minute run time. Kali Mutsa's music is perfect to pull out when you want to impress with a "new sound." Any track fits that bill - go on, insert them into a mix tape, get that double-take - but finding the pleasure points on the album - and treating Souvenance as such, not just a collection of cool new sounds - requires the track to restrain itself to an extent. Sam Rodgers

38. The Sea
BEACH BEACH
LA CASTANYA. SPAIN 
Balearic quartet Beach Beach are back after two years with an album that excels at extending the summer into the first warnings of the fall with songs made of jangle-y guitars and power pop riffs. This music may fool us and give us the illusion of prolonging the summer mood and softening the return to school and work, but the luminosity of the melodies is in fact masking the feeling of melancholy and gloom expressed in the lyrics. If their last album, Tasteless Peace, recalled Teenage Fanclub, Teardrop Explodes and Dinosaur Jr among others, The Sea tosses in The Hit Parade, Josef K, the Beach Boys, Orange Juice and some kiwi pop references to lighten things up. Considering the evolution, it looks as if The Sea would mark a turning point in Beach Beach’s style. I hope it doesn’t, because I really like the blend of nineties rock clichés with kiwi pop details and the nice, well-sung, voice tracks that were already the trademark of their previous album. I do like their new poppier songs “White Clothes” or “Busy Lips,” but they have a more evident revival taste that doesn’t make this album as convincing as it could be. However, even if it is not a risky or radical change, the evolution towards a more mature sound is interesting and, above all, effective.Gloria Guso

37. Delta Venus
DELTA VENUS
INDEPENDIENTE. ARGENTINA 
Produced by Will Berman (MGMT), mainly recorded at Gustavo Cerati's studio Unisono, and presented on an opening show for Tame Impala, the self-titled debut album by Delta Venus sure carries some very impressive credits. Beyond the novelty by association, the Argentine band lives to the promise. Delta Venus is one of those rare bands that are able to convey a joyful rhythm through a sad lyric. How can something so painful give life to something so beautiful? Bipolarity is not an easy place to get to through music. If we were to hear to this music with a cinematic sensibility instead of just consuming the songs through the ears, we would found ourselves in the middle of a realist film, but also a romantic one. And when the credits begin to slip, within us there is a feeling that something/someone was hurt -reminding us of the humanism of a world full of sensibilities and panful beauty.   - Jeziel Jovel

36. Tambor, Canción 
y Danza
KANA KAPILA
BEAT GENERATION/LA VIDA ES UN MUS. SPAIN
With Tambor, Cancion y Danza, Kana Kapila has reached the stability to record an album that shows a very positive evolution from their very lo-fi beginnings –not to have it confused with maturity in the sense of losing freshness.. there's no maturity of that kind on here. I refer to the positive evolution in how they play way better now, and, even if I miss their old raw and sometimes shabby sound, I must say that this album shows a good digestion of that "beach-extravaganza"(and here I'm quoting Carlos Reyes) that related Kana Kapila to the tropical trend in fashion some time ago around Barcelona (Extraperlo, El Guincho, and others). Kana kapila have gone deeper in their search for African references, acting like purist melomaniacs or freaky anthropologists (remember "Merienda de Blancos"?), mixing them with a clear do-it-yourself spirt that results in a very original "tropical punk" blend, as they call it themselves, which leaves them out of that poppier trend. Kana Kapila hits the right chords whether approaching the lyrical or rhythmic fabric of their craft. So be it! Gloria Guso


35. Retroterapia
LOS MUNDOS
BUEN RITO/MINTY FRESH. SPAIN
Like many newcomers, Los Mundos' real task was a sophomore album that didn't feel as unvarying as their debut. Don’t get me wrong, I love the first record, but Retroterapia truly represents the ample canvas eagerly expected from Alejandro “Chivo” Elizondo and Luis Ángel Martínez. Improving their long-distance songwriting formula, Retroterapia finds the duo displaying a gorgeous throwback of delightful compositional dexterity and impossibly amusing lyrics, culminating in the glorious pairing of two of Mexico’s most offbeat minds into full creative synergy. Retroterapia stands out as a robust smasher, a vigorous portrayal of splendid songwriting skills dressed by filthy abrasiveness, whimsical self-reflection, and plenty of cranky wit. It seems like Los Mundos’ discourse is finally acquiring some necessary roundness. Retroterapia may carry its flaws, but they ultimately end up overshadowed by the LP's own distinctive energy and alluring delivery, nurtured via the exploration of broader subgenres. Truth is, with this reference—an irrefutable testament that exposes their noteworthy stateliness—they have reaffirmed themselves as an essential force that’s translating many great ideas into magnificent pop tunes, paving a privileged, not-to-be-missed trail in the process. - Enrique Coyotzi

34. Moctezuma
PORTER
INDEPENDIENTE. ARGENTINA 
“There can’t be Porter without Juan Son. Juan Son was Porter,” exclaimed Camilo Lara on a recent conversation about Mexico’s low output of self-sustaining rock albums. That is a thought shared by a majority regarding Porter’s controversial decision of giving the band continuum with a new vocalist. You can’t blame the band for wanting to expand their discourse, but you can’t blame the skeptics either. There is a romance and loyalty to Porter’s magical, albeit short, lifespan –and that comes attached to Juan Son’s vocal and narrative compositions. Porter’s reunion at Vive Latino in 2012 had fans feeling ecstatic and hoping the reunion would become fruitful past the event. The reunion was a rocky road all along that seemed to have unveiled past wounds. Porter has since, recruited a new vocalist and tackled on the unlikely task of convincing the skeptics. Moctezuma is a huge surprise, if only for the fact that it strikes to be ambitious (reconciling rock with native roots could've been so scandalous at the wrong hands). In fact, on a couple of songs Porter steps into a template of tourism theatrics, and somehow, at the cost of grandeur, they're actually able to get away with it. This is of course, a lesser accomplishment than Donde Pastan Los Ponys and Atemahawke, but we all expected nothing and were granted a handful of gems. - Carlos Reyes

33. Love and Sex
PLAN B
PINA RECORDS. PUERTO RICO 
After crafting one of the best reggaeton songs of all time ("Si no le contesto"), and tailoring the encounter of the reggaeton beat with  folk ("Zapatito Roto"), the expectations for Love and Sex were just a bit too high for Plan B to meet. The sooner you accept that there isn't a track as accomplished as their previous hits, the sooner you realize that Love and Sex is still pretty damn entertaining. The best reggaeton album of the year, by far. The sounds and themes presented here aren't much too hype about, but you can count on Plan B delivering hook after hook like there is no tomorrow. Seriously, Plan B is the equivalent of Miranda! or La Casa Azul when it comes to executing a catchy chorus. Love and Sex (not to be confused with Enrique Iglesias' Sex and Love) is raw and frenetic, but articulated enough in its dembow structure to become self-sustaining -exactly what reggaeton needs: more rounded executed full albums. And did you ever expected to see Yandel listed in any of Club Fonograma's Best of the Year lists? Plan B is dragging peers of doubtful pedigree into earnest relevancy.  Carlos Reyes

32. Las Caras de 
la Muerte
NVA ORLEANS
INDEPENDIENTE. CHILE 
Although Dënver is, by popularity and output, Mahan’s main endeavour, his share of side projects have made him the sort of restless artist unafraid to venture into unknown territories. Aside from being part of retrofuturist and a little too overstuffed techno duo De Janeiros, his solo project Nva Orleans (previously Nueva Orleans) had shown signs of promise with a solid pair of singles. Despite making music that initially strikes for grandeur, Mahan has claimed that the reference point that got him starting the Nva Orleans solo project was his admiration for the tonada, the Latin folk style of music that acquired great popularity in the 1960s. Las Caras de la Muerte is a record that certainly carries with it the imprint of the sorrowful troubadour, but its heartache and isolation is more textural than lyrical. His resolution on citing the tonada as a main inspiration for creating Nva Orleans talks about a musician that’s fixated with the lyrical qualities and affections of Latin folk, yet, sonically, Mahan remains a devotee of electronic gadgetry. Pierre Lestruhaut

31. Internet Lust
BBRAINZ
INDEPENDIENTE. ARGENTINA
Have you ever been in a fancy hotel elevator eating a strawberry ice-cream, dressed with your most beloved tropical shirt? Well probably the soundtrack to this scene will be made it by Argentine producer bbrainz. Hard not to think of his music as exotic and technologically decadent -traits of a good soundtrack to sext someone at midnight. The density and the convenience of the melodies, in a set of 13 songs, hook this LP into its own chillwave. There is melancholy in some parts that transport you to an empty dance floor with a disco ball spinning in the music space. Other digital bloomings like that of highlight track "Luxury" are perfect to undress your girlfriend. Internet Lust carries that wit of his past releases while pushing for a more mature scope like that of "Home Design" (selected on our Papasquiaro compilation) where you can experience an affinity for 80s-inspired chillwave and modern sounds. Where things change is in his artistic choice of keeping the same musical aesthetic while shaping an audiovisual pretentiousness (for good or bad) that somehow makes it more elegant. Stella Vasquez

30. Diez Primeras 
Canciones
LAS CHAQUETAS 
AMARILLAS
INDEPENDIENTE. CHILE
While far from the attraction and assaultiveness of Ases Falsos, the first record of Las Chaquetas Amarillas is an enchanting collection of songs that merits a proper listen. When approaching Las Chaquetas Amarillas, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow and question whether the conception of this band was even necessary. Briceño already has an output for arena-rock anthems with Ases Falsos, and a channel for exploring melodramatic popular songcraft with Los Mil Jinetes. Finding the purpose of Las Chaquetas Amarillas becomes a nuanced and challenging task. While I could suggest a stretchy theory about the need of its mere existence, it’s best to follow the band’s advice of “keeping it simple”: Briceño likes to write songs (and this is the ninth album he’s written in seven years). Diez Primeras Canciones starts with the stark, self-reflecting ballad “Cuando nuestras mentes,” which initiates a twofold narrative that is both personal and pedestrian. From social-political boiling pots (“Has Hervir” & “Tierra Robada”) to a self-parody episode (“La noche que te conoci”), this is a round record devoid of content. Carlos Reyes

29. Mi Technobanda
SANTOS
TROPIC-ALL. MEXICO
Where Santos introspects the skeleton of ruidoson and embeds it into long-lived narratives like that of banda music. A thick, blood-curling organ line traces across the album’s opening piece “El Infierno.” Santos contemplates it for a moment but is quick to approach, confront, provoke and break it down. We can track that same organ line throughout the album, sometimes acquiring visibility (“Luna Llena”) and sometimes percolating as a ghostly echo to make room for vocals (“La Chinita”). When was the last time someone nuanced the word “sensual” and actually managed to sound sexy doing it? The vocal unfolding of Mi Technobanda is exciting and heroic; this includes the narcotized voice-of-reason found in “Éxtasis” and a couple conversations with the devil in “San Cristóbal” and “Romeo.” Santos is often referred as an understated artist (particularly when compared to his ruidosón peers). I think he had been been building up to deliver something as fulfilling as Mi Technobanda –an album that proves ruidosón is still going strong at a delightful level of indiscretion. Carlos Reyes

28. Envalira
DESERT
BUEN RITO/MINTY FRESH. SPAIN
Desert first grabbed our attention in 2012 after the dissolution of Granit gave light to a new project and a hardened but beautiful single (“Camins”). Back then the duo exuded mystery as to their purpose, and it could only be solved with blogger speculations and obligatory comparisons with anything and everything. Cristina Checa and Eloi Caballé have since traded their internet/producer mystique for a more straightforward presentation of their music, embracing pop and electronic templates and revels in its limitless potential with their newest release. The strongest moment on Envalira continues to be where there’s more at stake. I first described the majestic “Saps prou bé” in an earlier post as a “chariot ride through an arid landscape at night.” An image which I think still stands as appropriate but misses the true scale of the track. Most ballads rely on face to face contact to become effective torch songs, and yet “Saps prou bé” with its orbiting unceasing pace gives the impression that we never quite make that connection. In fact, the attempt is as futile as our hopes of reaching celestial bodies that have long-ago disappeared and whose light has barely reached us. Envalira, however, doesn’t mourn this loss. It celebrates that it existed in the first place. Giovanni Guillen

27. Matucana
PLANETA NO
INDEPENDIENTE. CHILE
Chile ain’t dead yet. Just when it seemed that the unprecedented wave of Chilean pop superstars was dwindling, Planeta No swooped in to prove that the kids are alright. At a little over 12 minutes long, Matucana, their debut EP, is little more than a teaser. But what a tease! Opening with “Señorita,” one of CF’s top tracks of the year, an emotional, but danceable, wallop of pop, the band lets you know from the start that they’re going to spend the entire EP tattooing its heart on wax. This is followed up by the wailing “64” (whose verses mimic those from “Take My Breath Away” [yeah, the Top Gun song]) and the giddy “Ya No Veo Mis Zapatos” (whose production mimics that from 1989 [yeah, the Taylor Swift album]); each of which shows the band’s inherent melodic prowess. But it’s the closer, “Casa Okupa,” which forms the real heart of the EP. With a rollicking bassline, precision drumming, new wave synths, and power ballad guitars, the track shows that there’s actual talent brewing within this nugget of an EP. With any luck, we’re only two or three years away from falling in love with this band as they seem to love themselves. - Andrew Casillas


26. North American 
Poetry
JUAN WAUTERS
CAPTURED TRACKS. USA/URUGUAY
When it comes to achieving true simplicity -one that can only be attained by gathering, digesting and unifying the infinite complexities of human reasoning, the Jackson Heights-based fellow with the nasal vocals and minimalist guitar arrangements has become an expert. After several listens, his "collection of 12 songs about the coldness of winter and the warmth of a scratch-off nickel," which were all recorded at Gary Olson's Marlborough Farms studio between 2010 and 2012, uncovers the songwriter’s proficiency to understand and expose complex situations with an idiosyncratic lyricism that remains engaging.N.A.P. North American Poetry (out via Captured Tracks) closes with a rough but spirited cover of Los Piojos "Ay Ay Ay". The pressing guitar arrangements on this song are about someone who strives to survive outside of an alienating society, but inevitably comes back to it -giving it greater depth. Patti Smith in Just Kids explained that “to be an artist was to see what others could not.” Juan Wauters does precisely that: managing to hold the listener spellbound with few chords and a feeling. The candor and artisanal approach of his collection of thoughts permeates the ordinary to better transcend it. Souad Martin-Saoudi

25. El Príncipe del Mar
BILL YONSON
CUU DESDE EL ESPACIO. MEXICO
At less than three minutes long, “Chola” initially seemed like a teaser of what we would find on Yonson’s latest album, El Príncipe del Mar. Truth is, you won’t find a better or catchier song on the album. Yet the songs that surround it, make the single acquire an ever bigger lush and purpose. Paying an out-loud homage to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on its aesthetics, this is a work that surveys popular culture without fully conceptualizing it. Yonson’s approach is not vague either. Whether singing/poetizing about Whatsapp (a good companion to the surprisingly entertainment hit, “Los Mensajes del Whatsapp” by El Cartel de Santa), or giving a shout out to Tex-Mex diva Selena in “Triangulo,” Yonson comes off as a leisure-loving chronicler more than just a pastiche/opportunist. Comedic hubris goes a long way in times of memes and vines. It’s not an easy swallow, and doubting its cultural appropriations seems appropriate. Perhaps Bill Yonson’s biggest accomplishment here is referring to his music as pop music –serving and contributing to the all-encompassing opportunities offered by the word itself. Carlos Reyes


24. Mover Canival
NUNCA FUI A 
UN PARQUE 
DE DIVERSIONES
INDEPENDIENTE. ARGENTINA
Every so often we stumble upon a potentially great album that makes us feel uncomfortable because of how similar it sounds next to other contemporary works. I’ve always bragged of belonging to the school of thought that not all music needs to be inventive, and that the concept of originality is banal and subjective. During the first spin of Mover Canival, by Argentine band Nunca fui a un parque de diversiones, I found myself betraying my own beliefs and finger-pointing the band’s influences (El Guincho, Animal Collective, Sigur Ros), with little disposition to become receptive of the band’s immediate text and pedigree. Further spins have displaced that focus away from the derivative, and have illuminated the path to what makes Mover Canival so grand: its execution. The album is a conglomeration of vocal melodies working at the service of harmony. Even if overworked at times, bringing shape to these songs required borrowing narrative tools from some of their contemporaries, and that’s ok. At the end of the day, this is an album that sounds influenced by the avant-gardness of Lennox, but also by the earth-loving grace of someone like Juan Luis Guerra -not to mention the andino weight in songs like “Chupetines Violentas” and “Papa Pelo Largo.” Carlos Reyes


23. Texturas
CLUBZ
CASETE. MEXICO
Over the course of a year, the regiomontano duo CLUBZ became one of Mexico’s most promising acts, delivering infectious synth pop that shared its spirit with ‘80s new wave aesthetics and sounds, impressing with electrifying live performances, but mostly enamoring with their stellar debut EP, Texturas. Coco Santos and Orlando Fernández’s synergy functions gorgeously on this notable release, crafting lush soundscapes mixed with simple yet affecting lyrics, writing extremely enchanting melodies intertwined with mellow guitar chords, and pumping rhythmic patterns via drum machines which inevitably recall the work of The Human League or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Presented on a gorgeous, booklet-like Tumblr page, Texturas turned out to be a hit-packed marvel where each of the songs was essential. First outstanding singles “Golpes Bajos” and “Celebrando” are to be encountered in the first minutes, leaving space for the best discoveries at the end. “Nudos” manages to be bitterly hurtful while strangely empowering due to the stridency of the guitars, the charming instrumental “Paracaídas” is a free-falling force, and the excellent closer “Visiones” hits as a painful goodbye message dulcified as deluxe pop. Texturas is certainly an overwhelming debut for one the greatest promises in Mexican pop—an exciting release that borrows its influences sublimely to create something truly special. - Enrique Coyotzi


22. No todo 
lo puedes dar
XIMENA SARIÑANA
WARNER MUSIC. MEXICO
With time, what worked best on Mediocre was Sariñana's knack for a biting lyric and memorable melody set to the moodier compositions. Here she seemed more genuine: whether it's because of the naturally dour timbre of her voice, or the slightly jarring nature of genre-hopping, it's unclear - but Sariñana could've been doing Daria-chic years before a certain New Zealander claimed it. Pop audiences can be unforgiving if an artist doesn't encapsulate an archetype, so it goes that her quest to be three-dimensional may have been Sariñana's undoing in the strictly pop world. No Todo Lo Puedes Dar is Sariñana's most personal offering - there's definitely a more mature, experienced element to the lyrics, rather than the 'Life, In General, Can Suck It' grandiosity of youth - and Sariñana reports she produced 70 per cent of the album, steering it with more confidence, and presumably towards a more consistent sound. The first single, "Sin Ti No Puede Estar Tan Mal", stomps around the bedroom in cherry Doc Martens more than it skips, and the strangled self-confidence of the lyric reveals a self-aware petulance of those who've recently lost the beginnings of something. There's a (perhaps annoying) parallel with Taylor Swift's recent "Blank Space" in its tone, but the track is by no means a snapshot of the rest of the album. Sam Rodgers


21. LPIV
LOS PUNSETES
CANADA. SPAIN
Los Punsetes have come back two years after Una montaña es una montaña to sneak last minute in our list of the best albums of the year. Newly signed by Canada, LPIV (once again produced by Pablo Diaz-Reixa) is a collection of sarcastic, full of ugly truths, songs like the ones we were already used to. “Opinión de mierda” and “Arsenal de excusas” reveal all the things you don’t want anyone to say to you, “Me gusta que me pegues” tells everything no one wants to recognize. With their cynical but at the same time humorous tone, Los Punsetes throw a bunch of poppy anthems you can just not get out of your head. But this is not just pop music: we can see here a lot of shoegaze and punk references that, in combination with the monotonous and –why not say that- high nasal tone of Ariadna’s voice, contribute to a record not made only to please but above everything to provoke a reaction, a reflection, and to épater. Whether it is a positive or a negative reaction, I bet you are singing one of the songs in your head right now. Gloria Guso


20. Últimos días del 
tren fantasma
107 FAUNOS
DISCOS LAPTRA. ARGENTINA
Do we have to keep digging into the intentions behind 107 Faunos’ obsession at crafting snippets rather than round songs? Maybe we should embrace the cult and look past it already, but when a band attains to a reputation of not following recognizable structures, the critic must consider this as an earnest provocation (at the very least). The band surpassed the three-minute mark not once but twice on their last EP, which redirected us to calling it their most adult record yet. With their latest record, the band rejects prescribed expectations keeping the tracks near the two-minute mark. Unfortunately there isn't a grand peak single for the masses. This doesn’t mean the band is rewinding on the maturity of their discourse, if anything, it strengthens their artistic assertion. Not that it makes the music any less subversive (the lyrics for one can get to be quite eccentric). Últimos días del tren fantasma doesn’t acquire greatness just because the band sticks to its guns. Their previous works seemed to shade away into existential despair, but this time around they’re employing human effort as the vehicle to encounter grandeur. Mostly whimsical, although at times on a deadpan tone, Últimos días hardly negotiates with the zeitgeist or the idiosyncratic. In fact, they chop the spacious discourses of their much-celebrated peers (Él Mató a un Policía Motorizado, Valentín y Los Volcanes, Los Reyes del Falsete) and not only get away with it, but sound truly proud of their own bearings. Carlos Reyes

19. Metallic Butterfly
PRINCESS NOKIA
INDEPENDIENTE. USA 
“This is your brainwave reaching the fifth dimension, this is the metamorphosis of the 22nd century, transmuting a higher frequency for the world to thrive on. Welcome to the Metallic Butterfly, where you are now free. On this planet you are now release of all plague and disease. You are now one with yourself and the master creator. It is time that you utilize your greatest potential before it is taken from you forever” declares Princess Nokia (Destiny Frasqueri’s newest alter ego) on the EP’s transcendental yet somehow dystopian opening. The cyborg-esque anime empress, collaborating with producer OWWWLS, brings before the world a hybridization of break beat, R&B, techno, tribal rhythms and psychotronic – a sound that mirrors her own hybrid identity. Like a crossbreed of afrofuturism and cyberfeminism, Princess Nokia catalyzes a symbolically transgressive iconography, articulating powerful female agency and building new truths outside of the dominant cultural narrative. Metallic Butterfly is a post-chrysalis odyssey of punkoïde energy, sonic audacity, and heartbreaking sensuality that stealthily redefines pop culture. Souad Martin-Saoudi

18. Amansará
CHANCHA VÍA 
CIRCUITO
WONDERWHEEL. ARGENTINA
If there’s an album from this first half of the decade towards which the staff’s consensus has evolved from initially favorable-yet-not-so-enthusiastic towards possibly best-of-decade it’s Chancha Vía Circuito’s Río Arriba. It doesn’t mean we were wrong about it back then (is there a way to be wrong about subjectively ranking albums anyway?), but rather that the album took a long time to affect us deeply in order to rightfully show itself as the landmark work of Latin electronic music that it is. Four year’s after that game-changing album, and Chancha’s third album Amansará isn’t really that much different from Río Arriba. Sure he explores new geographical territories in his sounds and melodies, but the building blocks and the underlying concepts remain untouched: this is still the music of South America’s deep roots re-assembled with digital technology. Though this concept is something that’s far from being done exclusively by Chancha, the Argentine produced remains at the top of the game with Amansará precisely because he avoids the instant gratification and obvious dancefloor-filling gestures of most digital cumbia producers. It’s the confirmation that he makes something a lot more substantial than simple genre bending at the service of dancefloors, in fact, he’s one of the few musicians that successfully keeps alive the elemental warmth and sorrow that has been paramount in Andean music. Pierre Lestruhaut

17. Double Youth
HELADO NEGRO
ASTHMATIC KITTY. USA
Helado Negro’s cover for Double Youth is a childhood picture of Roberto Lange and his cousin with painted faces, a picture that he describes as a forgotten memory. In a physiological sense many believe that forgetting is regulated by hippocampal neurogenesis, in other words, the creation of new memories degrades old ones, thus making us forget. Double Youth is a continuation of Helado Negro’s unique and tenacious sound that deserves to be remembered as one of the best albums of the year. If there's any obstruction in front of the album is its close proximity with Invisible Life. Did it arrive just a bit too fast? Maybe. But on second thought, we'll take as much music from Roberto as he is willing to give us. Helado Negro has proven to be a master of synths and loops but without a doubt his greatest instruments are his voice and his manipulation of languages. There is no one else that can seamlessly overstep the natural boundaries of linguistic meaning and sound, perfectly exemplified in songs like “Are I Here” (No. 40 in our favorite songs of the year). Double Youth is filled with dreamy, sexy, and reminiscent electropop choruses that create mesmerizing evolving soundscapes that transform listeners into earwitnesses. Ricardo Reyes

16. Chromatism
COHOBA
STEREOTIPICO. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Taking the easy route of describing the most obvious sonic elements and references in the mix — there's the sonic palette of "Flames" that sounds inspired by both Night Slugs and Fade to Mind, there's how "Wings" is all Tri Angle eeriness but with rugged trap-like vocal samples, and then there's the Beyoncé sample in "Just 1" that gives the EP its most sugracoated and poppier incarnation — ends up feeling like a disservice to the music. Having good taste isn't a musical talent per se. As the previous paragraphs show, writing about electronic music really ends up being more of an exercise in contextualizing the work, of finding connections between different scenes no matter how distant. Cohoba is an alumni of the Red Bull Music Academy, so it's no surprise he's been exposed to that kind of critically acclaimed and blog favorite brand of UK electronica. But what ultimately makes Cohoba both pleasurable to listen to and intriguing to think about, is that he's part of the group of artists who refuse to participate in the subgeneric dividing that makes electronic music somewhat impenetrable. Instead he focuses on the tangible spaces between scenes and subgenres, the moments of chemistry that can often be formulated between disparate sounds. In other words, he's striving to find the common ground where trap, grime, and Beyoncé can quirkily coexist. Pierre Lestruhaut


15. Vista Pro Mar
SILVA
SOM LIVRE. BRAZIL
On 2012's Claridão – SILVA's bedroom project and first LP – the artist showed a knack for creating epic, heralding melodies, among quieter, moodier tracks crafted for repeated listening. Again, with Vista Pro Mar, the 25-year-old (!) shifts around with immediacy and intimacy, but with the through-line of the sea (seaside sound effects fill the gaps between songs): sometimes he's on a precipice overwhelmed by the horizon, other times, he's picking his guitar by a beach bonfire. Unlike Claridão, Vista Pro Mar's melding of styles doesn't deviate from a singular, signature sound. Where it was hard to introduce a 'typical SILVA' track to new listeners from the first album (the single "A Visita" was glorious, except it sounded nothing like the rest of the album), with each track on this one, the newbie gets a more succinct example of SILVA's aural-vision. We don't get too many Brazilian acts playing on the Fonograma stereo, which makes it all the more exciting to promote one as talented as SILVA. That his music is still resolutely Brazilian is promising –Fernanda Takai duet "Okinawa" offers, at least superficially, a current cultural snapshot of the nation, for example. Tapping into the country's ocean of musical styles and history seems only logical, but breaking free of the World Music tag and turning a myriad of influences into a sneakily near perfect pop record is SILVA's and Vista Pro Mar's greatest achievement. Sam Rodgers


14 .Tormenta Solar
FAKUTA
QUEMASUCABEZA. CHILE
When realizing the opening track of Tormenta Solar is called "Guerra Con Las Cosas" you have to ask: Is this a Chilean pop or an anarcho punk / metal record? Fortunately for us, the Chilean pop gods at work on Tormenta Solar take us to a starry disco that beams back from the funky 70s and synth driven deep cuts from the 80s all in the service of what Fakuta (Pamela Sepúlveda) has described as "space pop." This time around the space like or cosmic offerings of Fakuta's album are more conceptual and lyrical than sonic- there are (sadly) not as many satellite like whirrings or spaceship take offs as on Al Vuelo. Missing too are what CF writer Enrique Coyotzi described as the "architectonic" pop landscapes that made her debut such a heart stopping future pop record back in 2011. Fakuta's ideas on Tormenta Solar are more direct and humanist than ever before- but gone are the adventurous and breathtaking sound collages of Al Vuelo- there is nothing that sounds like a space station disintegrating into dubstep (talking about the great "Las Partes" here) on this album. Despite Tormenta Solar not being as heroic sonically as its predecessor, Fakuta's meticulous space pop continues her legacy as a sonic constellation that shines along the brightest amongst her peers.Ze Garcia


13. Ciudad Dormitorio
CARMEN SANDIEGO
INDEPENDIENTE. URUGUAY
Five years and four releases into a band’s life, it’s way more common to hear of reshuffling or downsizing than, say, expansion. And yet Carmen Sandiego did the unthinkable: it doubled in size in between 2010’s Joven Edad and Christmas Eve’s Ciudad Dormitorio - their most accomplished work to date. The outcasts, antiheroes, and daydreamers populating this ‘Bedroom Community’ evoke post-adolescent lust, ennui, and restlessness from the inside out, and the band behind this world fuses lyrics and melodies of equal emotional weight to construct solid, multi-dimensional narrative statements. At the risk of taking its title too literally, Carmen Sandiego’s latest reminded of several surburban rock quartets. The overall catholic coherence felt Tacvba-esque. The jangly guitar hooks in “Ocupaciones y Oficios” and “Chocotoño Killer” had DNA smatterings of REM. And the retro, lo-fi feeling “Generacion 2002” and “Fiat 600” recalled the Ramones and Beach Boys. And yet that’s all to say that the Uruguayan quartet’s new work is in storied company and essentially captures something all those groups have before them. In Ciudad Dormitorio, they use a potent symbol of guarded idealism, beauty, ugliness, idyllic emptiness, nostalgia, rage, sadness, and ambivalence to reflect on all of the ordinary humanity wandering about. Monika Fabian


12. EP
BUSCABULLA
KITSUNE. USA/PUERTO RICO
Buscabulla, this years breakthrough tropical dream pop chanteuse closes her already iconic debut with "Sono" a sonic tropical paradise that would make J Dilla proud: golden hip-hop samples and Andean flutes customized to sound like a Curtis Mayfield. Is it weird to think about how in an alternate universe Buscabulla is performing "Sono" at an awards show and then the guitar part right after her tripped up & pitched down vocals is being played by Cristobal Briceño or some other "Latin" virtuoso to widespread audience acclaim? EP is lush, vibrant, mellow, immersive. Buscabulla's sparse vocal manipulation add so much detail to her compositions. This isn't Fever Ray psychological inner torment- these are decorations for "the trouble maker's" pastel island pop. On "Metele" she coos - "ooh baby"- funky lofi synth pop finesse. And her Caribbean accent really shows here: "metele (echoes) esta noche-hey!- me pongo los tacones..." ;) OMG I want to be walking Santurce smoking a blunt with you rn, Buscabulla! "Temporal" is fine aural pop made up of contemplative & effective samples. Synths elevate- our psychedelic tendencies enjoy this viginette- a single horn adorns her closing sighs, like a ghost ship trailing the Caribbean coastline. In this same alternate universe where the #ClubFonogrammy's Awards Show is real & Buscabulla has been nominated & is performing, Buscabulla has also taken the prize for Best New Artist. Indeed the only tragic thing about Buscabulla's first release is its brevity. Ze Garcia


11. Canciones
MKRNI
INDEPENDIENTE. CHILE
Opener "Cama Nube" starts with deep synth stabs and tantalizing electro that somehow diffuses into a tender ola-chill number. Late 70s / early 80s synth pop & lazy beach music are the two arenas that set the the context for the chillwave (revival?) sophistication of Canciones, MKRNI's most essential release so far. Things get serious on the second track "Dime Que Si" -an angelic powerhouse of nostalgia-pop goodness, sounding much like our wistful divas de jour (Buscabulla, Fakuta). Album gem "Media Vuelta" or the way I read it at first- kinda turnt- sounds blissed out and pink, flooding and trickling synths- a reeling & luminous greatness that might one day propel this track to generational anthem status. Now picture yourself driving forward in that 1979 Mustang on lead single "Inercia," then perplexing strobe lights/fog in a banging club (oceanside) on the excellent (Talking Heads esque) "Calor." "Mi Cuerpo Pide" is another winner, sounding like the Millennial synth pop incarnation of Locomia at first but then completely immersing itself into trippy & balmy euphoria. By the end of this digi rave we are reminded of Mena's current mantra: "que el ritmo no pare, pare." "Corazon de Piedra" sounds like club goth- her voice manipulated, steady. Album closer "Shy Me" actually sounds pretty stoic. Canciones is an album that might be easy to overlook given previous (inconsistent) efforts by the band. But does anyone else hear Kisses' beautiful self titled album with some Gary Numan on this? After an earnest listen or two, Canciones slowly reveals itself as an infectious record full of retro synth pop anthems. MKRNI approaches their first truly outstanding album with both nostalgic introspection & dance-floor-by-the-ocean assault. Ze Garcia

10. Terror/Amor
AJ DÁVILA
NACIONAL RECORDS. PUERTO RICO
Diverging from Dávila 666, the Puerto Rican maverick has stormed the blogosphere with an album that feels anything but distant to the common labor of the contemporary independent musician throughout Iberoamerica. Terror/Amor is a collaborative, important record that not only lives up to the hype, but also matches its ambitions. Subscribing to an integrationist ideal, AJ Dávila recruited an impressive line of collaborators that take part of the Terror/Amor discourse. They didn’t come together to make a statement. Their presence is born out of true mutual admiration. Having people like Alex Anwandter, Juan Cirerol, and Black Lips’ Cole Alexander is still attractive as hell. Add Sergio Rotman from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and we can talk about a generational reconciliation that's alluring and romantic. But when the novelty of the collaborations wears off, we find a truly bold and round record that’s more compassionate and tender than the blood-spatter in the album cover is capable of outlining.There’s far more love than terror in Terror/Amor. The warmth of its construction pays off in a big way as we witness what could’ve been a sidekick/novelty record turn into an essential record to understanding the new wave of Iberoamerican rockers. Furthermore, it’s an album filled with catchy gems that embraces its terrorized visceral beauty and never rolls back into silence. Carlos Reyes


09. Volveremos 
a ser amigos
ESCUELA DE TRANCE
INDEPENDIENTE. ARGENTINA
Argentina's Escuela de Trance had more ambition under their arm than we could have ever guessed. When the band unveiled [Volveremos] a ser amigos back in May, I celebrated the release but with reservations. Quoting my own review: "It's missing a bit of roundness, and maybe a little more attention in the aesthetics department. Little did I know that what seemed like a notable EP was only the first chapter of a three-part record that would be unveiled throughout the year. And so they did, and with every part, we felt in love with each narrative of the puzzle. For starters, it's awesome to find a jewel on every chapter. The colossal "Tan magica, tan especial" in part [Volveremos], the collective/militant beauty of "Combate" in [a ser], and the emotional rollercoster of "Tan Bien" from [amigos], made the individual parts exciting and wholesome. And although the retriving and joining of the album appendages can be a bit of a hassle, this is a storyline that is well worth the effort. The fragmentation of the narrative isn't a gimmick, it's an algorithm with a whole lot of warmth and heart behind it. Escuela de Trance, Buenos Aires, Argentina (the full name of the band) shows plenty of musical command and a lot of bravery in the topics and texts they choose to tackle on their near obscene, uncouth quest for harmony.  - Carlos Reyes

08. Like a Mexican
KAP G
INDEPENDIENTE. USA
The debut mixtape from Kap G, 19-year-old Atlanta-based Latino rapper, starts with words from DJ Drama: “One thing about the rap game that’s always respected is authenticism.” It might sound like the old maxim that prophesizes how music should be judged mainly on its realness, yet no matter how many thinkpieces get regurgitated about the conflicts of authenticism in art; you can always grasp flashes of authenticism in the details. The best street life rap albums, from Illmatic to The Luca Brasi Story, are the ones that carry the vivid imagery you only get from living that kind of life. Rest assured, Like A Mexican is no Illmatic, but it’s the promise and first step of a rapper whose depiction of street, family, and party life, carries the rough and rich storytelling that’s usually the imprint of good rap. Even if lyrically it seems to have been made in the US-Mexico border, sonically this has Atlanta’s imprints all over it. What initially hits you while listening to the mixtape, is just how extremely well surrounded Kap G is. There's beats provided by the likes of Bangladesh, Pharrell (yes Pharrell), and Drumma Boy, and guest spots by Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy. But it’s the production that’s particularly admirable. Even if the mixtape is a success mainly because Kap G has managed to acquire a top-notch set of supporting guests and producers, at such a young age he's got the delivery and shout-along hooks that make his peers right in placing such trust and hopes in him. - Pierre Lestruhaut

07. ep
LAS HERMANAS 
DISCOS MUERTOS. COLOMBIA
On first impression, Las hermanas is an act that bursts with inventiveness: soul and jazz strings cut and pasted into breathtaking soundscapes, bolero vocal samples laid over música de plancha orchestras. And all of this supposedly coming from the sampling of old vinyl records, hitting the luscious sweet spot between the crate digging swagger of Stones Throw and the hazy abstraction of vaporwave, but with a tinge of Latin pop in its palette. I'll be honest, I initially didn't want to find out who was really making this music, and was willing to not only accept, but feel rather intrigued by the fact that I wouldn't know who was behind this intoxicatingly arcane music. But eventually, such desire for abstruseness lasts little in the internet era, and I quickly stumbled across an interview for Vice where it's revealed that a certain Diego Cuéllar (from previously unheard of noise project Mc Perro) is the man behind Las hermanas. EP is a hip-hop album in the same way most of the Stones Throw and Brainfeeder catalogs are: it's not hip-hop in the institutionalized form of breakbeats, sellin' dope, and gang signs, but rather hip-hop as the communion of diversity that is achieved by looking elsewhere for inspiration. In the context of contemporary Latin electronica, it's a stellar addition to the crop of producers that are successfully revamping the nucleus of past Latin pop music into something completely new. - Pierre Lestruhaut


06. L'estat Natural
UNIVERS
FAMELIC. SPAIN
L’estat Natural benefits from generational friction. It’s a record that feels simultaneously borrowed and new. Where melody breathes and travels through the haze. The songs are anguished and longing, but not in the hot pursuit for privileged platforms but rather with the purpose of marrying the pleasantness of pop structure with the noise and aesthetics of shoegaze. Nothing is particularly catchy here, yet everything resonates. Greatness is not the most suitable word to describe the first album by Univers. As giant as might get to be at times, it's a record that has a small-scale realism to it –its detachment from social anxieties puts the light on what fellow Fonograma critic Pierre Lestruahut referred to as “that unequivocal gorgeousness of those true bare bones post-punk classics.” At 33 minutes long, L’Estat Natural unfolds quickly and gracefully. It isn’t that the album discloses its beauty unobtrusively, it’s missing risk and uniqueness to touch elbows with say, the two first albums by Triángulo de Amor Bizarro. But that doesn’t stop it from being one hell of a knockout. An even greater achievement considering this is Univers' debut. Call it rock music, shoegaze, white noise, or post-punk, the breaking and sheltering of up-tempo guitars rarely sounds this gorgeous. It’s earnest and an interlocking romance. - Carlos Reyes


05. Conducción
ASES FALSOS
QUEMASUCABEZA. CHILE
If you listen to Juventud Americana back-to-back with its follow-up record Conducción, you’ll notice that Cristóbal Briceño and his band are turning the cathartic and revolutionary knobs a few levels down. It’s not just the shift in mood here but also the shift in content: going from subversive youthful energy towards adult apprehension. A lot is made of Cristóbal Briceño’s magical mystery mind from which emanate wonderful words and melodies, but the quality of his accompanying band here is often understated. The band’s sonics are perfectly in step with Briceño’s simple ideas, and Conducción is yet another work of timeless and well-crafted pop music, romantic lyricism, and sociopolitical reflection. Briceño himself has talked about how the surface should be just as important as the content, and there may not be an explicit reference to Juan Gabriel here, but more than ever, Ases Falsos show the same obsession for melodical efficiency that Juanga always did. Ases Falsos has always been a sensory experience as much as an intellectual one: strong powerful poignant content that gives it its cultural relevancy, but always presented in a shiny glittering surface. And it’s that surface that has you eventually coming back to the songs months or even years after they were released. - Pierre Lestruhaut

04. Xen
ARCA
MUTE. VENEZUELA
Xen, Arca’s debut LP, finds Arca at his most repulsive & introspective -it is a malformed triumph for queer electronica. Yes, Ghersi used to love the Spice Girls (I was more into the S Club 7 myself), yes Ghersi is queer, and yes, Ghersi looks great wearing only a jockstrap. But Xen isn’t Channel Orange, so Ghersi’s queerness is merely anecdotal. For this music journalist, it will be very difficult to separate Xen the album from “Xen,” the androgynous post human entity Arca described in his interview with The Fader earlier this year. “Xen” is always in the public limelight, at times grotesque, at times sensuous. Even though Xen is not a woman (or human?) she is more comfortable with female pronouns. Xen is a state of mind for Arca and I am drawn to something he said in the interview, talking about his childhood in Latin America: "I loved the idea I could let myself operate in openness to both science and superstition.” In many ways, this is the essence of Arca: the science of skilled music production and the superstition of allowing sonic spirits to operate through him. Arca is the conduit for the most intriguing & menacing music available right now both for perceived mainstream listeners and music connoisseurs alike. Ghersi is an "Arca de Noé” of sound if you will. Yes, it can be that monumental. - Ze Garcia


03. ¿Dónde Jugarán 
Los Cueros?
WHITEST TAINO 
ALIVE
STEREOTIPICO. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Dominican newcomers Whitest Taino Alive join Füete Billēte and Buscabulla as one of the most memorable emerging acts of the last few years. Led by the equally prolific and abrasive producer Cohoba, and branding on the idea of providing the audience with something they call Choperia Fina (rocking beats while wearing leather), WTA afford to sound truly colossal on their debut album. Featuring a grand-sound design and an ambitious composition, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? is an album that sounds nothing short from pristine (and puts the latest Calle 13 to an even bigger shame). We wouldn’t expect anything less from Cohoba, whose stellar EP Chroamatism earlier this year has profiled him as the Dominican Republic’s most distinguished music maker since Rita Indiana. For a producer with a fondness for rapture and visceral banging, he is faced with the task of negotiating his beats for the vocal dissertation of WTA (conformed by Cohoba, Blon Jovi & Dominicanye West). The results are valiantly tackled and arresting for the most part. Lyrically, the album delivers plenty of hilarious one-liners, but frequently struggles to accomplish roundness in the storytelling. The narrative is still wonderfully uncompromised in both, their outburst and restrained lines of attack. And that’s perhaps WTA’s biggest attraction, its ability to position itself as understated text and then become a major threat to the dancefloor by the very next track. - Carlos Reyes


02. Otra Era
JAVIERA MENA
UNION DEL SUR. CHILE
For her new album, Otra Era, Javiera Mena chooses to ride the formula to its purest version. Otra Era is the sensational dance-pop classic in the vein of Kylie Minogue’s Fever and the Pet Shops Boys’ Very, combining the giddy bombast of the former with the pulsating Euro-dance rhythms of the latter. Indeed, this is the first Javiera Mena album to reject disco as a foundation. Instead, Javiera reconfigures her sound to fixate on either house music rhythms or frenetic dance-pop. The result is a bouncy, confident beast of a record, and the most uniform-sounding Javiera Mena album to date, with grooves and hooks creeping at every turn. Making a fun dance-pop album is not hard so long as you remember that people want to dance. But making a great dance-pop album requires the artist to have the confidence to establish an identity and not cater to the lowest common denominator. Otra Era is a great album, genre be damned, because Javiera Mena knows what she is and what how to package her sound. This is why “Espada,” almost a year after its release, still sounds urgently brazen and satisfying far after it’s debut. Javiera’s artistic maturity has allowed her to tinker with her formula like an aural wizard—knowing when to let hooks sink and when to unleash her bag of tricks. Now, let’s make this clear: Otra Era is not the equal of Mena. But very few albums are. And even after the inevitable nitpicking, Otra Era still sounds like a modern classic from one of the classic artists of this generation. One that is clearly on the road to immortality. - Andrew Casillas


01. Constante
DIOSQUE
QUEMASUCABEZA. ARGENTINA
Since its birth, Constante aligned itself for a healthy, vibrant life. Not only is it Diosque’s revelation piece, it’s also Quemasucabeza’s best release since Audiovisión. Whereas a title like Constante would make you think he would subscribe to form and shift towards more stable and digestible narratives, Diosque gold-brushes and shines his sequencing tools, placing a rare faith in the listener’s aural sense. From its very first track, Constante reveals itself as a puzzling work. Album opener “Fuego” is chopped and tormented –as if Diosque wanted us to see the unlikely construction of his composition (perhaps hoping for a deconstruction of our own). We may question his methods of storytelling, but it’s that progressively unlikeliness of Diosque’s melodies and hooks that brings it its appeal. That incessant search for a chorus and its half a dozen rhythm shifts make “La Cura” a marvel of a song. What’s truly interesting here is the almost anti-climatic approach on its fast-paced canvas. Structurally, “La Cura” lacks a chorus. Making that realization is as distressing as it is fascinating. The vocal decoding in the second half of the song is the most heart-breaking digital mumbling since Kanye West’s “Runway.” The song hits its peak on its final output through a couple of NASA rockets (digital raptures) that Diosque treats beautifully – glimpsing them only once and resisting to make a loop out of them like everyone has done ever since “Midnight City.” It’s beautiful to see the discourse of Constante unveil before our eyes. Diosque chooses its moments and chooses them well. Moments like the “papapahs” in “La Verdad Rota,” the disco rapture of “Soy Las Seis,” and the intoxicatingly beautiful elevation of a bridge cascading itself up to a climax in “Broncedado.” Perhaps what gets Constante further than other recent works from Diosque’s contemporaries like Coiffeur and Helado Negro are its monumental pop pieces. “La Cura” and “Broncedado” are as grandeur as any single by Javiera Mena or Astro, and that make Constante truly stunning to behold even during its uncanny moods and quietly gripping conclusion. While it might be the most individual/intellectual album released this year, it's also the most collectively-felt and that on itself grants the masterpiece classification. - Carlos Reyes

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