September 15 marks an important day for Central Americans, as the date commemorates the independence of five countries in the region, including Costa Rica. These national holidays usually leave us with mixed emotions. For one, it’s a massive party where people from all over the nation celebrate their unique customs and complex heritage. But on the other hand, most of us can’t help but reflect on the current political climate, the shortcomings of the government, and social problems at large.

So when we reached out to Pablo Rojas of the Tico band Hijos to make a playlist in honor of Costa Rica’s independence, he shared some words that address this duality perfectly.

“San José, the capital city of the happiest country in the world, seems to be distancing itself from that title. It’s no coincidence that most local artists talk about losing control, abominable storms, and melancholy in the Pacific and the Caribbean, of ‘Lourdes’ and ‘Marlenes,’ and not of beautiful orchards of wonderful aromas and flowers,” he shared.

The former member of Monte and Florian Droids has been flirting with trip hop-laced melodic guitar music washed in 90s nostalgia. But as evidenced by Hijos’ debut album Nu9ve, he puts enough of a personal seal on his compositions that there’s no chance they’ll sound dated.

His playlist is full of familiar names for those paying attention to Costa Rica’s current musical landscape, but there are definitely some gems ready to be discovered. It’s a nice selection that evokes the trouble with celebrating a country that’s far from perfect. In Pablo’s own words, “Here’s a playlist for a dark and suspiciously cheerful independence day.”