It’s that special time of year–the time to revisit some of our favorites listens from 2014, as well as some things you maybe haven’t heard yet, but definitely should check out. It’s always a challenge to create a list that speaks to the vast regions and styles that we cover here at Remezcla, and while we do our best to catch as much music as possible every year, surely there’s some greatness that might’ve slipped through the cracks. However, we hope that this list is representative of the beauty of working with a team of writers spread out internationally, bringing us radically different tastes with their expertise spread through scenes around the map.
In setting out to create a list that encompasses the regions, genres, and scenes leading the pack, here are the top 30 tracks we’ve been feeling in 2014.
Buscabulla – "Caer"
Holy moly, does music get any dreamier than this? Girlfriend-and-boyfriend duo Buscabulla (Luis Alfredo Del Valle & Raquel Berrios) dropped this beautiful gem on us featuring Latin-rooted instrumentation, shimmering guitar chords, and angels up on high dropping all kinds of lush goodness. I bet this is what the inside of a diamond sounds like. –Afroxander
Arca – "Thievery"
Having worked on last year’s monolithic Yeezus, as well as this year’s debut by 2014 darling FKA twigs (a collaboration with Björk is to be expected next year), Alejandro Ghersi knows a thing or two about staying ahead of the game and doing it on a big scale. For his own turn at the plate, he has crafted something that could have ended up beyond anyone’s grasp. The melody on this track seems to be constantly on the verge of slipping into complete noise, but something keeps it in check and remains contagious and catchy; the synthetic soundscapes defy the conventional. For its part, the rhythm pushes the music from the avant-garde fringe into a relatable dance floor. It could have been too much for many but instead, Arca keeps the listener challenged while giving them a unique experience. –Marcos Hassan
Helado Negro – "I Krill You"
Months ago, Roberto Carlos Lange presented the first off his fourth Asthmatic Kitty album Double Youth, “I Krill You,” with a little help from his friends Adron Parnassum and Jaytram. Having released Invisible Life just a year before and a couple of EPs and collaborations in between, Helado Negro showed no signs of slowing down. The main part of the song shows a less ethereal Lange, with a more thumping beat, but still singing beautifully on top. The catch one-line vocal hook is particularly stunning. But this track has a couple of unexpected moments. The gorgeous choral middle section and the funky/weird final breakdown seem like they come from completely different planets, but they make perfect sense. –Cheky
Chancha Via Circuito – "Jardines" ft. Lido Pimienta
Chancha Via Circuito’s release this year, Amansara, floored me, delivering 11 tracks packed with firsthand digital recordings gathered in his trips to the jungle, original instrumentation, and unmatched production skills. Since leaving from ZZK Records to join Nickodemus’ Wonderwheel Recordings after a three year hiatus from releasing new materials, Chancha apparently lost no time expanding his breadth as a producer, and “Jardines” is proof. Chimes glide through a crawling-paced track with chant-like vocals from Toronto-based, Barranquilla-born artist Lido Pimienta, amounting to a soothing, futuristic rendering of cumbia. –Sara Skolnick
Ibeyi – "River"
On “River,” French-Cuban sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Díaz bring a stunning vocal transmission over a rigid beat in English, wrapping up with a ritual chanting in Yoruba. Ibeyi’s debut EP Oya comes via XL Recordings, which is also home to FKA twigs and SBTRKT. The equally-striking video is also featured on our Best Videos of 2014 list, showing the sisters–who are the daughters of legendary Cuban percussionist Anga Díaz–undergoing a purifying baptism ceremony dedicated to the river goddess, Oshun. –Sara Skolnick
Sonora – "Mercedes Sosa"
A few tracks on this list pay homage to those who came before them, but none more vehemently and with more reverence than Sonora’s take on Mercedes Sosa’s cover of Violeta Parra’s “Qué he sacado con quererte.” Sonora is perhaps Peligrosa’s most ingenious crew member, coupling nostalgia and general swooniness with thick, sweaty, urgent beats (recall his work with Zuzuka Poderosa). “Mercedes Sosa”‘s wink at the past only gives it that much more gravity, more space for it to completely transfix and transport you. –Paola Capó-García
María y José – "Plato o plomo"
Sirens blaring, shrill synths, Tony Gallardo, and quotably fucked-up lyrics. I’m all in. María y José might not have released a full album this year—2013 got that honor with C L U B N E G R O—but he did do some groundwork hyping what’s sure to be a Gallardo-heavy 2015 (Gallardo for president?). “Plata o Plomo” was hands-down the most danceable track of the year. But more than merely making you grind and mosh, it made you think, react, and forget, all at the same time (fair markers of a politically complicated message). Every time I lose my shit to this song I feel a heaviness set in, a discomfort I wasn’t ready for, things I’ve come to expect and appreciate from María y José’s personal brand of ruidosón dystopia/euphoria. –Paola Capó-García
Maluca – "Trigger"
In a world of female rappers feuding relentlessly against each other, relying on shock value to make their tunes more appealing, and even trying to ride the waves of Plátano Power, one of them tough girls consistently stands apart only with her music. Maluca hasn’t released a full album yet, but every track she drops becomes an instant club banger. “Trigger” shows a new maturity and dexterity on Maluca’s trademark sound, blending some elements from old-school reggaetón (with a nod to the mighty El General) with a fresh croon that turns into a high magnetic force throughout the song, making every self-proclaimed princess in the kingdom of Girl Power know she’s the true Dominican one. –Gabriela Aguirre
Whitest Taino Alive “Mi Bandera”
WTA is what happens when you throw DR’s fresh to death set in a studio to play with chill trap paraphernalia and spit rapid-fire “español aplatanado” tinged with the island’s oh so clever sense of humor. It’s not that “Mi Bandera” is better than any of the other outstanding tunes featured on ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?, it’s just that we had to pick one, and “Mi Bandera” is that one song off the LP that makes you stop everything you’re doing and TURN IT UP. This tune will have you singing “no me mates la vibra” in total Dominican flow, all hyped up with your hands in the air for sure. –Eric Gamboa
Gabriel Garzón-Montano – "6 8"
Gabriel Garzón-Montano was a late in the year discovery for me, but I’ve played this song enough times to put it toward the top of my 2014 favorites list. The opening track from Garzón-Montano’s debut album Bishouné: Alma del Huila, “6 8” is a languid slow-burn, the song equivalent of satin sheets. It starts off spare, nothing but his cool countertenor–which could almost be mistaken for a woman’s voice–glides over a hard stomp-clap beat. But slowly, piano chords warm things up, and by the time the bass arrives at the 2:15 mark, the track blooms like a lit match.
García-Montano references the slightly jazzy, ’90s R&B lounge sound that duo Rhye successfully resurrected last year, and the end result is so seductive, it’s easy to overlook the heavy-handedness of lyrics like “Rock me real slowly/Put a bib on me/I’m just like a baby drooling over you.” Garzón-Montano is quietly putting slow jam points on the board, so don’t sleep on the man. –Andrea Gompf
Zutzut – "Tu No Tiene View"
Very few tracks worldwide could serve as an example of where music is at the moment: A Mexican remixes a Dominican track using the instrumental of a Mariah track and the results are a stunning, instantly memorable track that sends listeners into a dancing frenzy. With “Tú No Tiene View,” ZutZut is posed to get some well-deserved international recognition, just as much as the NAAFI collective he hails from. His methods and execution are the results of more than a decade of bastard pop and xenomania, music not bound by time or space, nationality or style, but pure timbre and rhythm, geared for a dance floor full of listeners and audiophiles ready to shake their booties. Combining the posh and the grimey, everything about “Tu No Tiene View” is a statement, and yet the track is very much simple and straight to its commitment (which is, to get you moving). It’s irresistible, pure attitude. (It was also the soundtrack of our relaunch video). –Marcos Hassan
Dengue Dengue Dengue – "Banana"
This one’s different as far as this duo goes. We fell in love with these two Peruvians thanks to their very dark, very psychedelic, very neon-lights-en-la-selva. “Banana” is definitely the latter and not so much anything else. The duo switched things up with this very minimalist track that takes over a minute to build up. It’s a rewarding experience for us, the patient ones. –Afroxander
Salt Cathedral – "Tease"
OOM VELT is a small but mighty thing. Salt Cathedral’s August-released EP showcased just how magical Juliana Ronderos’ voice is, how tightly woven Nicolas Losada’s compositions are, and how absorbing the combination of these things are. “Tease” is OOM VELT’s favorite child: The one that does everything right and continues to surprise you with each listen. It’s a good measure of 2014’s powerhouseness, marked by its sad-faced bright beats and that Ronderos magic. –Paola Capó-García
Enrique Iglesias – "Bailando"
At this point you’re probably wondering why Enrique Iglesias’ mega mainstream hit “Bailando” is on this list. Well, to be fair, and more importantly, honest, we didn’t include Descemer Bueno’s original version because that would be lying. Actually, we totally sang and sorta danced (strictly during late night shifts) to Enrique’s cover at the office enough times to legitly nominate it to this list. Hands down. This joint venture caught us off guard and we can’t deny it as much as we want. Heck, even Dubbel Dutch and MLKMN remixed it. Come on, give pop a chance. –Eric Gamboa
Ana Tijoux – "Vengo"
A lot of exciting things happened in Latino rap this year. In Puerto Rico, we saw a new scene take shape, one that was hell-bent on reinventing what we’ve come to expect Latin American hip-hop to sound like–i.e. old-school, politically conscious boom-bap–by giving it a club-ready trap makeover.
But while Ana Tijoux might seem easy to lump in with the vieja escuela of rap en español, her fourth full-length album Vengo finds her forging an original sound that is exciting and innovative in its own right. Hip-hop is just one ingredient in “Vengo”; the boom-bap is also laced with the sounds of the Andes–charangos, pan flutes–and an explosive horn riff that recalls the Major Harris sample in Dipset’s 2003 track ‘I Really Mean It.’ Rapping about orgullo indio and the beauty found in ‘nuestro pelo negro [y] pómulos marcados,” Tijoux encourages us to decolonize our minds–but her tone is introspective, not didactic. The track is early 2000s Roc-a-Fella Records with a bracing gust of altiplano air–a true future-roots feat. –Andrea Gompf
Frikstailers – "Crop Circles"
Colorful Argentine production duo Frikstailers returned in 2014 to show us that they are not just about cumbia. Well, they kind of are, but not entirely. They manage to blend it with different rhythms and genres, and the results are a wide variation of a common theme. “Crop Circles” is a perfect example of this. The track that gives title to their latest ZZK-released EP is heavily influenced by 80s synth-pop and electro, but, of course, using signature cumbia elements and organic percussion samples. The sound palette, along with their look, seems as alien as the song title suggests. This is dancefloor-ready. – Cheky
Princess Nokia – "Bikini Weather Corazon en Africa"
Princess Nokia’s applauded club banger “Bikini Weather Corazón en Afrika” brings us the artist showing off her uptown pride with a “qué bonita bandera” chant before breaking off to a batucada beat that loops her back to her African roots. Princess Nokia teamed up with producer OWWWLS for her Metallic Butterfly album, which is a hectic yet cohesive mix of early 2000s nostalgia, anime references, and that beautiful NYC cultural collision. –Sara Skolnick
Teen Flirt – "Her Fake Name is Sophia"
Most of what makes the music of Teen Flirt so intriguing is its ambiguity. Theres a lot of different elements going on at the same time in most of David Oranday’s music. There’s no better example of this than “Her Fake Name Is Sophia,” a track that sonically combines a yearning melody with dance til the sun comes up rhythms. Hello Seahorse!’s Denisse Gutierrez sings a melody that could have come out of Agustín Lara’s songbook (or a smoky jazz bar), yet most of his production skills take notes from the global bass phenomenon circa 2014. It’s timeless and timely, nostalgic and current. It’s warm, yet bouncy and digital. It demonstrates that hip-hop, dance music, and “alternative” songwriting (whatever that means) are not mutually exclusive and can yield deeper sentimental results than most conventional music. By fusing so much while keeping rhythm and songwriting in check, Teen Flirt demonstrates that you can take the past to move forward into the future. –Marcos Hassan
Columpio Asesino – "Babel"
The incessant industrial pulse of “Babel” alerted us to the coming of El Columpio Asesino’s Ballenas muertas en San Sebastián. It also alerted us to one of the year’s most riveting tracks, from start to finish. “Babel” feels like an action movie, like a montage of suspense, like the soundtrack to a heist. It’s just constant and aggressive enough to get you jittery without completely unraveling you. –Paola Capó-García
Danay Suarez – Yo Aprendí (released in 2014 by Universal)
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re about to say, “but this is not a 2014 song, in fact you guys reviewed it already in 2011.” And it’s true. But it wasn’t until 2014 that Universal Records signed Danay Suárez and officially released her (remastered) masterpiece of a debut album and that gave us an excuse to make the song qualify for our Best-Of list. Also, the song is still one of the finest pieces of rap lyricism ever recorded in the Spanish language and hasn’t aged badly at all. Many of this generation’s aspiring femcees rapping over booty beats would benefit to listen carefully and take note. Actually scratch that, the lessons learned by Danay apply to almost all human beings, and that’s what makes this song perennial and universal. –Juan Data
Quantic – "La Plata" ft. Nidia Gongora
Props to Will “Quantic” Holland for basically making the Colombian version of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” “La Plata,” a Get Money, Get Paid mantra in the form of folklor caribeño, is a tropi-pari track primed for dance floor bodyrolling. The song riffs on chirimía, a musical genre from Colombia’s coastal Chocó state with a marching band-style of percussion and brass, and sees Holland flexing his confidence with the regional sounds of Colombia. The propulsive snares set the mood, but it’s singer Nidia Gongora who really steals the show; her playfully tossed off “mi money money” is now what I gleefully sing to myself every pay day. –Andrea Gompf
Deers – "Bamboo"
Hey, Patrick J. Carney, the drummer of The Black Keys, recently said this was one of his favorite songs of the year. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that “Bamboo” made it to our Best Tracks of 2014, too. And why wouldn’t it? After all, with only a few songs to their name, Madrid’s darlings have managed to touch the very heart of UK/US’ DIY rock community thanks to their blinding twee enchantment and the garage pop vibes they naturally radiate in general. I mean, listening to “Bamboo” totally kicks in like a 40oz after a rough day in school. Not many songs have that effect on us. Hope to see them again among our 2015’s favorites! –Eric Gamboa
Álvaro Díaz – “La Milla de Oro"
“Mañana” may be the track that finally got Puerto Rico’s Álvaro Díaz on the radio this year, but if any track embodies the DIY grind he was on in 2014 – and his sky-high ambitions – it’s “La Milla de Oro.” As part of Lv Ciudvd collective, Díaz and his collaborators have set out to bring the sounds dominating rap on the mainland (808s and hi-hats, sticky synths, pitched-down, chopped and screwed vocal samples) to la isla del encanto, where reggaeton has ruled the roost for the last 10 years. Alongside producers Caleb Calloway and Young Martino, he’s been churning out tracks all year that would sound at home on Hot 97, filled with clever bars and club-ready beats.
But Díaz is out to prove he can do more than clone U.S. party trap, and “La Milla de Oro” hints at this potential. Here, he slows down his sinuous flow, showing he’s got the chops to sit on a slow beat; and though he hits well-trodden rap territory (ex-girlfriends who ain’t shit, dreams of buying his mom a jag, puff-chested boasts about his skills) his punchlines keep things fresh. Then, about 3 minutes in, things take a hard swerve into grime, transforming what would have been a solid blunt-rolling track into something more than the sum of its parts.
In our Trilligan’s Island feature, Díaz explained “All the artists I truly admire – MIA, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar – they didn’t sound like nobody, that’s my main goal. They only sound we’re trying to do is the Álvaro Díaz sound.” If he keeps pushing in this direction, he’ll be on his way. – Andrea Gompf
Andrea Balency’s – “You’ve Never Been Alone”
The return of French-Mexican chanteuse Andrea Balency was an unexpected one. We, and everyone who’s familiar with her previous output as a member of the Andrea Balency Trio and Torreblanca, were caught off-guard with the release of “You’ve Never Been Alone,” the first single from her Airhead-produced EP Walls. Here we have her, in a full current R&B mode, sitting next to acts like AlunaGeorge. Production is on point, and Balency’s voice is still as versatile as it ever was, ranging from the subtle whisper to the controlled power vocal performance. The song was the first taste of her new direction and set of influences, and it was a pleasant surprise. –Cheky
Las Robertas – “Marlene”
“Marlene” is quite possibly Las Robertas’ best song to date, and so for that alone it makes the list, because the best Robertas song is better than many, many, many things. Off their sophomore LP, Days Unmade, “Marlene” does the scuzzy flash-garage thing extra well, laying it on thick with the hazy/lazy vocals, competing instruments, and distortion. It’s all charm, all the time. –Paola Capó-García
The Guadaloops – "Ven"
Odds are y’all probably slept on The Guadaloops what with 2014 having given us so much hip-hop to absorb. Thankfully, we got you covered with this year-end list. The Mexico City trio of Ferdinand González, Fermín Héctor Sánchez, and Franco Genel (alias Tino El Pingüino) are giving us a real mindfuck with their style of hip-hop/R&B thanks to some hella sexy classical guitar work. It’s a wonderful fusion of the old and new. –Afroxander
Ratking – "Canal"
Bow down y’all. NYC finally has its new kings of Hip-Hop in Ratking, a.k.a. the trio of Sporting Life, Wiki, and Hak. The trio took the world by storm thanks to their debut album, So It Goes, earlier this year packed with choice cuts like the very frantic “Canal.” Everything on this track flies by in a New York minute (do people still use that phrase?), what with Wiki and Hak’s rhymes flowing against and trying to catch up with the beat and that weird tire-skid sample. A track like this would fall apart in the hands of mere mortals but, thankfully, we’re dealing with some pros here. –Afroxander
Erick Rincón and Siete Catorce – "Espectro"
Erick Rincón and Siete Catorce teamed up for the collaboration of “post-nortec, post-tribal, post-ruidosón, post-whatever era” dreams to bring us “Espectro.” Rincón–one of the artists that brought the tribal guarachero sound to the mainstream alongside his 3Ball MTY mates Sheeqo and DJ Otto–shows here that he still remains connected to the pulse of underground Mexican culture, even after significant radio and commercial moves. Here, he’s collaborated with ruidosón guarachero innovator Siete Catorce, and the two have integrated noticeably dark, heaving undercurrents into the pre-hispanic rooted aesthetic that continues to be reinvented right along at the lightspeed pace of digital music culture. –Sara Skolnick
Bomba Estereo – “Qué Bonito”
Could they have come up with a better title? I think not. Seriously, everything about this track screams beautiful feelings. Linking Afrobeat with old school bachata (no, not you Prince Royce), the band has written an irresistibly song for all the lovelorn lovers and smiling people to get together and dance really close. The synths feel organic, the guitars are insistent, and the rhythm is tight, but that’s not what makes the track special. “Qué Bonito” effortlessly conjures a feeling of ecstasy and happiness that few pieces of music can. The song is hard but it’s also sunny and joyful. It captures the immortal feeling of a great party where everyone is having the time of their lives and there’s nothing to hold them back–it’s a simple feeling but one we can all relate and use in our lives. It’s a celebration, it’s a riot, it’s a memory happening in the moment, getting etched in our brain forever. –Marcos Hassan
Romeo Santos feat. Drake – "Odio"
Haters, you are formally invited to hate. Okay, we’ll give you that the opening spoken lines “Hate is a sign of admiration/ Hate is the epitome of destruction” hint at a Zoolander-y cadence, but it only gets better from there. As it’s always been, pop culture and the underground in actuality have never been that far apart from each other, and that “bachata bass” could be coined a thing signals a quick-moving approximation of the two blending together. I’m welcoming of the idea that high-brow and low-brow (and all of their implications) are terms that can soon be forgotten. What we’re trying to say is, let’s just have a good time to a quality track, regardless of its pop culture positioning. –Sara Skolnick