Club Fonograma's Best Songs of 2015 (75-51)

XUXA Santamaria (FKA Chucha Santamaria Y Usted) went down as the most slept-on act of 2015. The esoteric and memorable BILLIONAIR RAINBOW reshaped the duo’s tropical ambitions to include scaling tundras. “BELSHAZZAR” tightropes between an accessible front full of night club beats and an avant-garde performance. Singer Sofía Córdova is a raconteuse tracing historical myths under black lights, winter condensation, and ritualistic drums. These are ceremonies that we’ll never miss or be late to again. - Giovanni Guillén
 (via Bandcamp)

074. Piyama Party - Vampiros y plantas tropicales
Beneath the lo-fi technique, Piyama Party have always excelled at creating delicate worlds. "Vampiros y Plantas Tropicales" stands as one of their finest singles, marrying a brisk sneer with enough angular trademarks to make Gang of Four proud. And then there's that hypnotic, endless guitar chord, which makes everything sound like it's beaming from another galaxy. A galaxy replete with leather jackets, but another galaxy nonetheless.- Andrew Casillas
 (via Bandcamp)

073. Malportado Kids - Bruja Cosmica”
Malportado Kids delivered their noteworthy “tropical punk” debut album right before summer 2015, in the midst of many conversations surrounding anti blackness and white supremacy across the “U$A”. Total Cultura tells us that it is possible to fight the power structures of capitalist white supremacy with the cosmic brujería we already possess. Lead single "Bruja Cosmica”- a digital trojan horse floating through the universe- is full of coruscating electronics that give way to un pasito medio banda, and back down lead singer Victoria Ruiz’s cosmic tongue who shouts hexes along the way. The warning is in the lyrics: the witch could be she who makes your bed.- Ze

072.  Dani Shivers - Sometimes”
“Witch House” came and went, but Dani Shivers is very much still around. The album Syzygy was as dark as anything we expected from her, but on songs like “Sometimes”, the Mexican singer showed us what a bit of light (via woodwinds) could do. The title straight up recalls MBV, the aftermath in the destruction heard on “What You Want”. Dani isn’t pressed to rebuild yet, she explores the wreckage for her own amusement and in the process finds enlightenment in dance music. It’s a naive blend of house à la Saint Etienne, but still uniquely Dani Shivers.- GG
 (via Bandcamp)

071. Destiny - Orange Blossom
Invoking the soul of disco divas of days gone by, "Orange Blossom" sounds like a vintage r&b dream. Taino warrior Destiny (FKA Princess Nokia, FKA Wavy Spice) says Black & Brown liberation & expressions of joy & happiness were at the forefront of her psyche during the making of her album, Honeysuckle. And although the rest of the record did not reach the luminous heights of “Soul Train”, “Orange Blossom” will forever be a testament to a summer in 2015 when r&b was injected with the spirit of liberation reminiscent of the 1970s- a time of both celebration & militancy. "People expect us to forget and not over-exaggerate the pain and sadness of oppression and genocide, and I think that's bullshit.” Destiny explained in an interview. “I have an obligation—not only to the women in the last two generations of my family—but to my ancestors, so that they are proud. I incorporate my love for their values in my work. I'm black as hell, and I'm so prideful to be a black woman." - Ze

070. Bairoa - Sumersión”
With "Sumersión" Bairoa joins Buscabulla at her trippiest- part of a nascent island scene that could be perceived as a psychedelic revival in Puerto Rican pop music. Tropicália comes to mind in textures and atmospheres but not in politics- at least not yet. "Sumersión" begins with distortion & guitars à la Maggot Brain before the heartbeats of Afro-Caribbean drums begin their cyclical & meditative loop. Bairoa's dreamy vocals at times rupture, becoming those same guitars & far out electronic distortion. Bairoa sounds like he is attempting to convey the mysteries of the cosmos, so many porous vignettes of 1970s psychedelia come to mind. - Ze
 (via SoundCloud)

069. Empress of - 
Water Water”
"Water, Water" is a highlight on an album that merits many accolades: album of the year, a house classic for the 21st Century- either tag could apply. Me is without a doubt a great dance record (reaching #5 on the Billboard US Dance / Electronic Albums Chart) but a dance record full of singer songwriter genius in equal measure, exemplified by the album's leading single. A wordless voice drowning in aquatic sounds (the chorus of the song, actually) gives way to some of the most vociferous verses of the year. There's global comprehension of water politics: "water is a privilege", paired with a snide remark towards middle class aspirations, "just like kids who go to college." There's disillusion: "you used to whisper knowledge", and arrogance: "you're just a heart to break, easy to manipulate. I want to care much more, but I'm feeling less and less." "Water, Water" is simply a rush- a house tour de force of brutal honesty. - Ze

068. Mala Rodríguez - 
Mátale (feat. D.Gomez)
“Mátale” stands as a testimony of the impressive musical evolution of a thirty-something-year-old rapper in full control of her craft. The fact is that La Mala Rodriguez has learned a lot over the years, both as a MC and as a womyn. Renewing her collaboration with PXXR GVNG’s Steve Lean (who produced “Egoísta”) and recruiting PG’s D.Gómez (aka Kaydy Cain) La Mala juxtaposes her warm voice to some death-drive lyrics. She kept her rough lyrics and aesthetic from earlier stages, but traded her angry flow for a more contemplative, dopey one. With this entrancing Trap number, she offers a contemporary eclecticism (those Moorish sung surges!), fruit of a desire to say something (even if it is not quite clear what).  - Souad Martin-Saoudi

067. Ibeyi - Think of You”
“Think Of You” by Ibeyi begins with a reverence to the Orishas (there exist different relationships to the orishas within the Yoruban diaspora- think of the Orishas as spirits- a set of oral histories as opposed to monolithic deities): rivers, fresh water-Oshun. Dancing, music, thunder- a Yoruban king who was granted the status of orisha in the 1400s- Shango. The ocean mother, Yemaya (think of the transatlantic slave trade and the importance of the ocean to the Yoruban diaspora in the Caribbean). But the first Orisha Ibeyi appeal to is Ellegua (Moyuba Echumingua)- the orisha of the crossroads. The backdrop of “Think Of You” is a fractured hip-hop, the vocals are soulful yet downbeat- the mood is bewitching and full of doom. - Ze

066. Adrianigual - Nunca Vienes A Mi Casa”
Oh man, Adrianigal. Diego Adrián, you got GROOVES, son. One of the most pleasant comeback singles of 2015, "Nunca Viences a Mi Casa" beams in warehouse techno and twists it into a rusty pickup truck of dance beats and washed-out synths. That the dude seems to be bleeding his heart out also adds to the dime store epic quality of the entire thing. Adrián may not know what love is, but he sure as hell knows what it sounds like. - AC

065. Jessy Bulbo Alma Traviesa”
Jessy Bulbo alongside Toy Selectah and Emilio Acevedo created a shapeshifter with Changuemonium. Too cursi for some, too fucking weird for the normies, too pop for narrow minded punks, too punk for all of y'all!!! Will Changuemonium ever find its target audience, a proper home? Already a cult classic, Changuemonium is either Jessy Bulbo's best or Jessy Bulbo at her most elusive. No matter how you feel about the rest of the album- the impish brilliance of the funky cumbia salsera of “Alma Traviesa" cannot be overstated. Back break horn sections fit for a Blaxploitation film, Bulbo’s idiosyncratic voice sounding like a submerged mermaid, cover art that has Jessy looking chola health goth, the religious fever of that keyboard organ, “Alma Traviesa" is lit. I see you, Jessy. - Ze

064. PXXR GVNG - Como el Agua”
"Se han mezclado muchas realidades" PXXR GVNG declare on the introduction to Los Pobres, an album that is full of decent highs but also some overarching lows. But this isn't yet another thought piece on cultural appropriation, this is for those "Latino" af branded publications that lazily fawned over the often problematic phenomenon of PXXR GVNG. And indeed, PXXR GVNG / La Mafia Del Amor is a social phenomenon: perfectly encapsulating a populace escaping a failed society and an ever militarizing police state via turning up + molly. PXXR GVNG have translated the misery of life under "economic austerity" into mad YouTube hits, thousands of concert goers and a record deal with Sony. All the cultural appropriation and misogyny aside, PXXR GVNG do go to the source for some of the material across Los Pobres. Trap hit makers like 808 Mafia and Southside are on deck. Lead single “Como El Agua" (the best song on Los Pobres) isn't short on nefarious aesthetics, the trap siren, or even poetic illustrations (however dark): "como el agua que baja del monte, esos junkies bajan a pelear su dosis." It isn't just $pain, the ruins of neoliberalism are global and no one else in the Club Fonograma scene is speaking so viscerally about poverty and the thirst for stardom as is PXXR GVNG.- Ze

063. Trillones - No Te Acabes Nunca”
No Te Acabes Nunca. The words reflect anxiety, a plea against reality. (“Don't you let out that antidote”). But as the memes have shown us, we can only numb ourselves for so long. With Trillones, the Mexicali producer responds to this plea with hypnosis. The fractured, intermittent sighs and beats accelerate (“Turn Up”) until they are made calm by a guiding synth hand. Over five minutes, Trillones stays true to his mission of making music “with cold machines to warm your soul,” until the matutinal ceases to be scary. - GG

062. Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser - Muéveme”
Radio Pop is having a weird moment. I really don’t know what i’m supposed to do with songs like “Lean On” or “Sorry” (sorry). The MO behind “Muéveme”’ is simple, and the screams that accompany that chorus are only meant for one thing: deschongarse. After all, “Los chicos quieren guerra”. Maria Daniela’s High Energy is simple, but never run-of-the-mill. In embracing the dance floor as a wrestling ring, her performance is given the clear to be as over the top and to actually have fun with it. God, I miss Ke$ha all of the sudden. - GG

061. Helado Negro - Young, Latin & Proud”
“Young, Latin & Proud” is a motivational song that doesn’t see the need to kick you in the ass. But do not mistake its slow, seductive beat for indifference. This song is about waking up every day with complete self-recognition and realization, while knowing that there is a community of millions ready to stand with you at any given moment. That’s not to say that it’s about revolution—pride does not equate with unrest. It’s not even about age—youth is a relative concept. And it’s not necessarily about being Latin, because there is no exact cultural definition. Indeed, it’s about simultaneously being young, Latino, and proud, and never being afraid of exhibiting all three at once. The message may be a spark, but it’s incendiary nonetheless, and Robert Lange is letting you hold the matches.- AC

060. Lust Era A Thousand Rainless Years”
Rock Song of the Year and the second best song on The Lost Art of Murder LP (the top spot undoubtedly goes to "Baila Conmigo"), "A Thousand Rainless Years" is the epitome of post-punk, synth-rock grandeur. The lower registers of David Arraya's voice are a dark seduction, full of an indomitable echo. It wouldn't be too much to email David rn and ask him to play my basement, would it? Lust Era hail from the island of Borinken- the most tropicgoth band on Club Fonograma's countdown. - Ze
 (via Bandcamp)

059. Dënver - Mai Lov”
On “Mai Lov”, Dënver are through playing games. Mariana sings as if she’s cloned herself and formed her own girl group. The beats are mindlessly simple, promoting instant gratification to an almost unsettling degree. If listeners were shocked by the Europop indulgence of “Los Vampiros”, then “Mai Lov” will surely send them running. We can sit here and throw out names of everything from PC Music to Perfume but it’s still a Dënver production. A song to get lost in with images of high speed adrenaline (“Vamos acelera / Va- vamos acelera / Mai lov...”) while tempting fate (“Que la muerte nos espera”). Who Needs Guitars Anyway?- GG

058. Whitest Taíno Alive Ding Dong
One of the few names already familiar to us on Tacón De Oro's mostly reggaetón Joseo De Oro compilation, Whitest Taíno Alive are brilliantly true to ​form on "Ding Dong". The verses mix in a playful vernacular that's heavy on pop culture with an added sinister delivery, no doubt owing to its Heavy Machinery beat that aims for a rousing chorus. "Ding Dong" also offers proof of earned longevity from a rap group that others might've dismissed at other times. Of course, after seeing them live at NRMAL 2015, we knew that they're not going anywhere. - GG

057. Silva - Eu sempre quis”
"Eu sempre quis" exists in a vivid, emotional dreamspace, lucidly ruminating upon love and longing. Completely awash in a beautiful synth pad, a haunting guitar line and, of course, Silva's dramatic, distinctive, and–let’s face it–incredibly sexy voice. Surreal but disarmingly direct, and transparent about fear of human connection. We are so hopelessly for you, Silva.- Pablo Acuña

056. Mourn - 
Gertrudis, Get Through This!
Teen angst rockers Mourn struck gold: glowing Pitchfork reviews, signing with the indie pop rock hipster moguls at Captured Tracks- their youngest member is 16 years old. They strike gold again with "Gertrudis, Get Through This". Authors of songs such as "Boys Are Cunts", these Catalan youth have something to say. The message behind "Gertrudis, Get Through This!" is universal: resilient perseverance. But Mourn is also abstract: "You don't have to involve a body and a hole" Jazz tells us. This line is subjectively sexually explicit. - Ze

055. Elysia Crampton - Axacan
A whimsical otherworld, medieval even, gets overtaken by cumbia and canned FM radio interludes on American Drift standout track, "Axacan". But wait! There's más! Lil Jon's trademark "WHAT?! YEAH! OK!" enters the frame. Elysia Crampton sustains this bizarre cacophony for an entire 2 minutes before the second phase of this vallenato reassures us of the steps we need to be taking on this chimerical dance floor. The rhythm of "Axacan" is a huayño, reflecting Elysia Crampton's Indigenity- the self proclaimed "transevangelist" from Peru. - Ze

054. Julieta Venegas - Parte Mía
Time stops on “Parte Mía”. It could’ve well been included on Xavier Dolan’s Mommy soundtrack for a chance at a perfect montage. Listen to the way Julieta belts out “Te quiero siempre así / Cerca de mí” and then review the climactic scene where for one moment Steve is freed from all barriers in his life and escapes the 1:1 format. For Julieta, The use of “siempre” is no accident. In its brevity, “Parte Mía” knowingly clings to the impossible. This can be devastating to think about, but in the three minutes of perfect pop that she gives us, it’s impossible not to celebrate and to not want that “siempre” also.- GG

053. Los Blenders - TJTQ
Fuzzy chords coast in start-and-stop strumming patterns while a tastefully sunny guitar, clean and reverbed, flutters around in down strokes.What Los Blenders do is raw and simple, together through their sound and lyrics they manage to accomplish an incantatory power. "TJTQ" accomplishes more than simultaneously be refreshingly familiar and urgently new. And the same can be said for the band themselves.- PA

052. Natalia Lafourcade - “Lo Que Construimos”
There are some songs whose visual pairing becomes inherently linked to our impressions of them. In the case for all the singles from Natalia Lafourcade's Hasta La Raíz, this was definitely a good thing. It's impossible to say whether or not the song would've become as effective without its mini-masterpiece of a clip, but it doesn't really matter. “Lo Que Construimos", with its ridiculously simple arrangement and heartbreak theme still got to us. It made us feel the supernatural in the mundane. It made us cry. Academy, just give her all the Grammys next time. - GG

051. Piyama Party “Fiesta Illuminati”
Another true highlight from Álbum De Oro, “Fiesta Illuminati” sounds as slouchy as it does effortless. It’s a meeting of 60’s sensibilities with 90’s apathy. A piercing organ dominates the track, and all Luis Angel Martínez can do is contemplate. His lyrics reflect armchair depravity, waiting for entertainment, waiting for anything to happen. Just like in “Vampiros y plantas tropicales” this approach requires a special commitment, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Piyama Party.- GG



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