As the conversation on Latinx music continued to surge in 2018, it seemed like a sea change was finally underway. In this complex global music moment, it seems the mainstream music industry is ready to blur borders, languages, and markets more than ever. But with this shift comes responsibility: it remains more important than ever to unpack the actual quality of representation our community receives. The forces of colorism and gender-based discrimination continue to shape the Latinx music industry, and creating a better and more inclusive future for the most marginalized members of our community is far from over.
With that goal in mind, we’ve assembled a list that attempts to capture the complexity of this musical landscape, cutting across region and genre and featuring the sounds and scenes we believe are leading the pack in different diasporas. Whether it was the continued ascent of música urbana or the rising wave of indie pop and R&B acts, this year had plenty of sounds and movements worth highlighting. Ranked by our editorial and freelance staff, these are the top 50 songs of 2018.
Check out our genre-based lists in punk & garage, urbano, folk fusion, electronic and indie pop and R&B here, and scroll down for the full list. Stream the 50 best songs of 2018 on Spotify or Apple Music.
Perra Vida - "Célebres Plumíferos"
You can taste the anger and adrenaline from the first syllable Diana Matos screams into the microphone: Matos and her partners in Perra Vida are not here to play. The lyrics of “Célebres Plumíferos” rail against those who stand silent against injustice and oppression, the consequences of inaction turning to shit because of the celebrated feathered creatures that give the song its title. In an era of heightened racism, misogyny, homophobia, white supremacy, and far-right mobilization, “Célebres Plumíferos” transcends Perra Vida’s specific political context of Peru, becoming a universal anthem for all marginalized folks. The band’s musical approach matches the song’s lyrical content – raging chords, hardcore breakdowns, crust punk guitars and riot grrrl-inspired vocal power – but as much aggression as there is, the message arrives loud and clear. It doesn’t dilute their criticisms with melody, but rather reinforces it. Lyrically, the song ends in doubt rather than sloganeering, suggesting that without thoughtful action, screaming about injustice will only do so much. –Marcos Hassan
Rosa Pistola - “Y Que Lo Mueva" ft. MC Buseta (Prod. By Ynfynyt Scroll)
When we asked Rosa Pistola about her role in the curation and execution of her mixtape La Linea Del Sexxx earlier this year, the Colombian-born DJ told Remezcla, “I’m like the reggaeton DJ Khaled.” And despite not being a single, “Y Que Lo Mueva” stood out amongst a pack of songs curated by the budding reggaeton selector, which included the title track and the mixtape’s surprisingly satiating intro.
With production from Ynfynyt Scroll and bars from Brazilian vocalist MC Buseta, the reggaeton oscuro banger signals promising futures for everyone involved. Though the song relies on a classic reggaeton dembow riddim as its foundation, the nu-cumbia lead synths and trap-inspired undertones signal the forward-looking spirit of “Y Que Lo Mueva.” There’s also an “emo” remix on Ynfynyt Scroll’s own Summer ‘18 Mixtape. Expect to hear a lot more from the Peruvian producer, Brazilian MC, and the Colombian-born DJ in 2019. –Eduardo Cepeda
Ladrones - “Tropimuerte”
Songs about partying are, on the surface, simply odes to good times. But considered in context, you might find that partying is political – like on “Tropimuerte,” from San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Ladrones. Existing in that undeniably fun sweet spot of punk and rock ‘n’ roll fusion, where pogoing, slam dancing, or moshing all make sense, this dedication to the island’s tradition of el jangueo could easily go unnoticed for what it really is: A declaration of individuality defying any demands for conformity.
We know that rigid gender roles and normative sexuality translate to diminished or altogether obliterated rights for anyone who isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual man, and that their enforcement facilitates rape culture. Women who are out by themselves at night are “asking for it.” Queer people who publicly display their sexuality to any degree are provoking straight people. If you’re a trans person who can pass as cisgender, any violence that comes to you is a result of having deceived someone. Folks whose gender presentation doesn’t fit the societal standard quo are subject to the same cruelties.
There’s no such thing as a place where anyone is completely protected, but the spaces where we come together in rejecting those oppressive rules outright are safer ones – and that can include communities concentrated in nightlife, like San Juan’s independent music scene. “Tropimuerte” is a way of carrying your chosen safer space with you everywhere, of embedding in your state of mind that you should never apologize for being who you are while you do exactly what you want. We only wish we could blast the growl of singer Valeria Sánchez – “Y si la paso cabrón no tengo que disculparme” – into the ears of the people who uphold a society that makes it dangerous to live those ethos literally, and everywhere. –Jhoni Jackson
Entrópica - "N"
Opening with a bass-heavy beat and rich, full analog synths that hit the inside of your chest, “N” delivers a meandering melody punctuated with joyous claps, the perfect match for dancing – or lying in bed contemplating your tiny place in the vastness of the universe. “N” is the first track from Chilean producer, singer, and sound engineer Francisca Bascuñán’s NARF EP. Released on Chilean electronic record label Pirotecnia, the EP is Bascuñan’s first fully instrumental project.
Initially produced with the intention to add vocals, Bascuñán noticed that each track worked on its own, so she ultimately decided to release them as they were. This decision has given Bascuñán a chance to flex her production muscles; while she has always produced and been at the forefront of each painstaking stage of her work, throughout her career, she has been outspoken about people’s (misogynist) assumptions that someone else is behind her sound. NARF leaves no room for such questions, and firmly establishes Bascuñán as the force she is. – Verónica Bayetti Flores
Aliment - "Flesh and Gold"
Everything the Girona, Spain band did this year was striking. From the art that accompanied the releases to their actual music, nothing about Aliment seemed to suggest they left anything up to chance. Three years since their last big release, “Flesh and Gold” indicates that the band is making up for lost time, imbuing new maturity into their songwriting and making their work more compelling, dramatic, and much more punk. Taking their cues from the spikier corners of post-punk giants like Devo and Wire, the trio apply a sense of atypical musicality into a hardcore groove, and sprinkle it with dissonant guitars that update this unnerving rock genre into the present. Aliment offer targeted anger, an emotional release that zeroes in on sentiments we might not find the words to express. They start a racket, and we can see ourselves losing it in the pit. It could well be the sound of so much frustration over the senselessness of our times, where violence and injustice seems to be hanging in the air. –Marcos Hassan
Zeta - "Completar"
Venezuelan experimental punk collective Zeta have built an outstanding international network of multidisciplinary artists and fans across the world in their 15 years of existence, which has allowed them to play over 200 shows in 2018. If you consider them the sons of Venezuela’s complex socioecomonic crisis, which has forced them to leave their home country, it makes sense – they are hungry to blur borders through their music, and their latest record, Magia Infinita, is their most emotionally raw and honest effort to do just that.
“Completar,” the second single off Magia Infinita, encapsulates both the essence of the whole record and Zeta’s core sound and vision. The song’s thunderous drumming and Afro-Latino percussive elements evince the band’s mestizo musical identity, and its hardcore growl is the ultimate vehicle to convey their message of resilience, which, as Ecuadorian troubadour Ricardo Pita says, reminds us of our own mortality and propels us into action. Zeta refuses to let hardships bring them down; instead, they use them to fuel their journey. “Completar” functions as the hand of a friend that helps us get up from the mud, and considering what 2019 holds for us, we could definitely use it. – Cheky
STEFA* - “Sepalina”
Queens-born artist Stefa Marín Alarcón wrote “Sepalina” after finding out her grandmother hailed from the Emberá-Chamí tribe, a discovery that changed her life forever. While researching the Emberá people online, she encountered a traditional chant that she transcribed and adapted for “Sepalina.” Both the track and the album tell the story of an amnesiac “native alien” who washes up on the shore of an unfamiliar world, stripped of her memories and her language. The alien tries to piece together her background, creating a thinly veiled metaphor for STEFA*’s own story. On “Sepalina,” STEFA*’s multi-tracked vocals summon forebears she will most likely never know, a choir of ghosts responding to her own call through harmonies and ecstatic hollering. Her vocals are the musical setting for her ancestors to connect to a modern world that doesn’t fully accept her, but they also transport her to a new life. For generations of immigrants, refugees, and colonized people both old and new, disconnections between the past and present are all-too-familiar. STEFA* manages to harness this sentiment into a restless, naturalistic, and futuristic song to which so many can relate. It’s an ambitious undertaking that hits its emotional highs with intensity. – Marcos Hassan
Hidden Memory - "Ritmo Oscuro"
Nothing makes a person seek a deeper connection to their roots than distance from their homeland and culture. Venezuelans have learned this the hard way, with a continually worsening immigration crisis. Producer Emmerson Hernández fled Venezuela 10 years ago, and after cutting his teeth abroad while dabbling with experimental club music, he relocated to the Netherlands this year, just in time to unleash Hidden Memory, a new project where he reconnects with his own Afro-Venezuelan ancestry.
“Ritmo Oscuro,” from his debut Dark Rhythms EP, is the best example of this quest to embrace his heritage and spark a dialogue between afro-diasporic genres. His use of raw percussion samples from the black Venezuelan coast sound perfectly at home when paired with a dark, heavy-hitting gqom beat, especially when layered with echoes of ritualistic chants from Mali’s Dogon tribe. Thanks to his profound understanding of bass music, Hernández can twist these sounds to find a home on international dance floors, where his music can accomplish its main goal: uniting people and celebrating a sense of community through the use of ancestral rhythms. – Cheky
Huaira - "Ochiemay"
For many of us, Nicola Cruz’s 2015 single “Colibría” was the first introduction to Huaira. Just in time for the summer solstice, and backed by musicians Diego Illescas and Pablo and Julio Vicencio, the Ecuadorian vocalist released her debut EP Ñuka Shunku (“I’m all heart” in Quechua). Its second track “Ochiemay” conjures vivid visions of the Americas, as well as its wild and ineffable landscapes and indigenous cultures.
“Ochiemay” radiates healing energy, as Huaira brandishes plucked strings, Andean flutes, and Afro-Ecuadorian rhythms to summon Mother Nature, even if we’re trapped in concrete in the middle of a harsh city, illuminated by a laptop screen. The lyrics, sung both in Quechua and Spanish, are charged with symbolism, resembling a prayer that honors nature and our ancestors. We can feel the warmth of the blood running through our veins, and in a world that’s growing colder by the day, who doesn’t need that? – Cheky
Tomás Urquieta – “La Sustancia de la Materia”
When Tomás Urquieta’s “La Sustancia de la Materia” begins, we find ourselves in the middle of a bleak, sordid landscape like the ones the Chilean producer has masterfully constructed in his previous EPs Manuscript and La Muerte de Todo lo Nuevo. The experience is chilling; in this frigid atmosphere, doors close on us like the rejection we frequently face as human beings. But Urquieta has a punk rock soul, and he turns rejection into his fuel, creating an explosive composition of industrial techno that functions as the dynamite we need to detonate every obstacle in the path to freedom.
As most of the music found on Dueños De Nada, his official debut album on Infinite Machine, “La Sustancia de la Materia” isn’t exactly a pleasant listen, and in that way it mimics life in an oppressive system. But deep in its dark heart, the production is actually a call to liberation – one that can begin right now, on the dance floor. – Cheky
Cuco - “Sunnyside”
Omar Banos – better known as Cuco – often builds his music alone in his bedroom, playing and recording each instrument on his own. However, as the lyrics of “Sunnyside” attest to, it can get lonely. Over a dreamy, prog-rock haze, Cuco sings of yearning for someone he can’t find, feeling blue all the while. The song’s lyrics are simple and direct, but they resonate profoundly – a songwriting gift that has helped cement the 20 year-old as a heartthrob who steadily packed venues with love-struck Latina teens in 2018. This was a break-out year for the Chicano artist, which saw him headline the Together Tour, play Coachella and Governor’s Ball, and release the 6-track EP Chiquito. But the momentum didn’t come without difficult moments; in May, he tweeted about struggling with substance abuse and mental health, and in October, Omar and his band were involved in a serious car crash that prematurely ended their tour (everyone is now thankfully recovered). You can hear this blend of light and dark moments in his music, woven into his signature woozy, off-balance sound. While Banos never finds the love he yearns for on “Sunnyside,” the keyboards are rays of sunshine that pierce the haze during the song’s chorus, crescendoing in a guitar solo that rises like dawn breaking after the darkness of night. The result is a song of hope in which words are not needed to show the light. – Marcos Hassan
Los Mundos - "Amantes de la Sangre"
While the eyes and ears of the music cognoscenti usually linger over Mexico City, the northern metropolis of Monterrey remains an untapped haven of talent and diversity, boasting vibrant rap, reggaeton, and punk scenes throughout. No conversation on Monterrey is complete without a nod to Los Mundos, the duo comprised of Chivo Elizondo and Luis Angel Martínez. Their latest album, a 40-minute pummeling titled Ciudades Flotantes, highlights the band’s fascination with psych, doom, and sci-fi, coming together as a defining mission statement in “Amantes de la Sangre.”
The track is a devilishly seductive love letter to creatures of the night, empathizing with the blood-sucking proclivities of vampires and their ilk. Embracing his inner Nosferatu, Martinez sings of Christian symbolism and deliciously throbbing necks all the while Elizondo’s hellish and melodic riffs pour from a roaring guitar. It’s astonishing just how appealing Los Mundos are able to make the prospect of feasting on a warm stream of blood, but for a band that has crafted a concept album based on the works of HP Lovecraft and are currently recording their next record in an abandoned mine, “Amantes de la Sangre” is just another excellent day at the office. – Richard Villegas
Tali Goya - "Eh Mami"
On “Eh Mami,” production team Noc & LinkOn seamlessly layer a sinister funk carioca rhythm with Tali Goya’s salaciously guttural bars and call-and-response background vocals, spawning a trap-carioca mutant that showcases transculturation at its finest. “Eh Mami” signals the ongoing evolution of baile funk, as Dominican dembow producers continue to explore the overlap between these sounds. Goya frequently weaves between dembow, trap, and funk carioca in his repertoire, and it’s because of this versatility that the 28-year-old Dominican rapper is quickly proving why he’s on the vanguard of urbano’s rising wave. Blast “Eh Mami” on only the bass-heaviest of systems, and try not to incite an impromptu living room perreo function. Or, you know, do. –Eduardo Cepeda
Carolina Camacho – “Tingó”
One of the year’s most poignant pieces of social criticism came from Dominican leona Carolina Camacho, who, on “Tingó,” her sole release of 2018, unpacked and eviscerated oppressive patriarchal structures while promoting empathy in lieu of anger. “Tingó” is inspired by and dedicated to Afro-Dominican activist Mamá Tingó, an influential figure of resistance who was murdered in the 1970s while defending her land. Beyond presenting a straightforward feminist anthem, Camacho aims to break the silence that women are subjected as a consequence of machismo-driven violence. “Quítame la mano de la boca/la venda de tus ojos/y camina conmigo,” she sings, inviting men everywhere to join her on the path to freedom, equality, and self-love. Camacho’s musical choices should not be overlooked either, as highlighting her Afro-Caribbean heritage continues to be an essential component of her sound. Blending traditional tamboras with trap production and the faintest whisper of West African guitar picking keep “Tingó” firmly rooted in Camacho’s musical birthright, while paving new avenues for innovation and self-actualization. – Richard Villegas
Trillones - “Ir Hacia El Miedo”
Mexicali producer Polo Vega has turned heads with his output as Trillones since the project’s inception. Relying on dreamy, affective soundscapes and unstoppable electronic beats, Vega has explored the territory between contemplative tracks and party music in his work. This year’s Tal Vez No Existe integrated both styles, allowing the tension between melodicism and rigidity to collide in unexpected ways, and in turn generating a heat seldom heard anywhere else. There’s a feeling of luminosity in “Ir Hacia El Miedo” amid the baile funk-adjacent percussion, as melody blooms between the cracks of booming electronic drums. This textural quality makes “Ir Hacia El Miedo” a work of art that evokes a sensorial and subtly surreal narrative, one that unfolds without clear lyrics or even melodies. It reveals itself like a painting, as the listener gives it sense and purpose. But “Ir Hacia El Miedo” is more than just abstraction or intellect; it’s a rush of dance floor adrenaline, guaranteeing the night will endure. – Marcos Hassan
Balún - “El Espanto”
In the face of withering economic woes and natural disasters, diasporic melancholy has become an intrinsic component of modern Puerto Rican music. We’ve seen profound storytelling emerge from the indie world in bands like Buscabulla and Los Wálters, who throughout their careers have reconciled lives on the US mainland with the emotional beckoning of their Caribbean homeland. This year it was Balún’s time to shine, refracting the countless sounds, emotions and experiences of the Boricua diaspora on their spectacular sophomore album Prisma Tropical. The Brooklyn and San Juan-based ensemble gave us several high points to choose from, with “El Espanto” standing out as the purest utterance of the band’s penchant for experimentation and bold fusions, playfully dubbed ‘dreambow’ – a collision of dreampop and dembow.
“El Espanto” pushes Balún’s avant-garde ambitions to the edge, kicking things off with timid synth stabs and rapidly graduating to digital horns, an infectious reggaeton beat and rapturous IDM crescendo. Despite its danceable nature, sorrow inevitably rears its head by virtue of Angelica Negrón’s ethereal vocals and poignant lyrics. “No ser, ni estar en un lugar / Desvanecer, terror multicolor,” she whispers innocently, capturing the unmistakable inner turmoil of displaced people around the world. – Richard Villegas
Cremalleras - "Nada Que Decir"
Cremalleras’ speed is a trained kind of breakneck, each furious track its own reprisal against a specific source of oppression. Together, the individual scouring bursts of Mercado Negro, the Mexican duo’s June LP, feels like a blueprint for dismantling society by destroying it altogether. Its unremitting feminism is contagious and invigorating.
So when Cremalleras released a split cassette with Heterofobia, of which drummer Dani is a member, finding “Nada que decir” was a surprise: It’s markedly more melodic than anything else they’ve released. And there’s no apocalyptic imagery (plagues, ashes, infections), unlike what they previously employed. Instead, this is a straightforward requiem for all the gifted cassettes and records collecting dust at the house of a former partner who never bothered to listen to them even once. And Violeta isn’t even fighting to get back this lot – instead, she waits in silence for this person’s inevitable exit from their day-to-day thoughts.
How does “Nada Que Decir” contribute to the patriarchy’s destruction? We could argue that the music lost to the terminated relationship might be, like most Cremalleras tracks, ready tinder for feminist fires. But let’s not. Instead, “Nada Que Decir” should be a reminder that those who work to engage feminism in defying and thus breaking down harmful, exclusionary, and violence-enabling norms have lives, too. We cannot expect 24/7 activism from anyone; it’s not a sustainable way to live. Your favorite feminist punks are also actual people, and like anyone, they have memories of relationships in need of purging, and cassettes and records they’re still bummed about losing. – Jhoni Jackson
Chancha Via Circuito - "Ilaló" ft. Mateo Kingman
“Ilaló” opens with what could be an Andean prayer, a plea to divine figures and the morning star to deliver light and calm. There’s no context for why the song conjures tranquility and good vibes, but we’re living in a time where peace and illumination are needed everyday, and procuring these forces gets more difficult with each passing moment. Chancha via Circuito offers an escape, a response to the entreaty recited by Ecuadorian musician Mateo Kingman in the opening moments of “Ilaló,” giving us a musical backdrop that continues to evolve the subgenre the Buenos Aires artist helped pioneer a decade ago. But on “Ilaló,” the pair has found fresh ways to arrange folkloric instruments with electronics – there’s not a second in the song that sounds like generic electrocumbia. Through percussion of the past and beats of the present, the track is an invitation to revel in nature, one that leads to a sanctuary for the soul, like a psalm for the elements. – Marcos Hassan
Rubio - “Hacia El Fondo”
Fran Straube has been a mainstay of Chile’s vibrant indie scene for years, first capturing our hearts and ears as the drummer and frontwoman for Miss Garrison. However, Straube’s growing sonic curiosity eventually coalesced into her riveting solo project Rubio, where she swapped traditional rock structures in favor of more experimental textures. This shifting perspective has unfolded in a dramatic fashion across a series of micro-releases, giving fans a bird’s-eye view into Straube’s creative process, perhaps best exemplified by her early 2018 work “Hacia el Fondo.” Produced in conjunction with Pablo Stipicic, “Hacia el Fondo” is no doubt Rubio’s best-known release to date, plunging the adventurous roquera into the depths of digital club bedlam by chopping and screwing her signature howls and sprinkling them over a pulsating beat. The track also represents a major leap of faith for Straube, who relies on digital sounds and her musical instincts instead of the impressive gamut of percussive skills that have defined much of her career and Rubio’s ongoing journey. – Richard Villegas
Boundary - “De Mi Ser” ft. Cult Exciter
It’s only logical for artists to start making electronic music at a younger age these days. After all, technology has democratized the way music is produced and shared, and in the Age of Information, you can figure out how to do pretty much everything through a YouTube video. But to make music the way Dominican producer Josué Suero does as Boundary, you must have a different kind of sensibility.
Released when he was only 17 years old, “De Mi Ser,” the second track on his Mi Transferencia No. 2 EP, is all about restraint and effortless structure, something that’s hard for someone his age to commit to. For over five minutes, we float wherever this electronic breeze wants to take us. The vocal contribution from L.A. based duo Cult Exciter’s Z serves as our lighthouse, but when Suero manipulates it into a polyphonic swirl, we’re sent into a maelstrom, only to fall softly on arpeggiated steps. Boundary’s voice is fully formed and clear; all we have to do is listen. – Cheky
Alice Bag - “77”
If this year felt like a bunch of passive aggressive backwash about who could be more un-asleep, Alice Bag had the antidote. No cheesy memes or hard-to-follow speechifying can be found in “77,” just a very honest, guttural scream about making less than men for doing the same damn job. Off her cutting album Blueprint, Los Angeles’ punk grand dame rages against the inequities of the the pay gap over an unrepentant wall of guitar chords, neatly presenting some satirical situations to illustrate her point: “I asked my landlord for discount rent/He said ‘Oh no little lady — pay 100 percent.’” A delightful accompanying video modeled on the Dolly Parton film classic 9 To 5 forecasted the album’s release, including the song’s featured artists Kathleen Hanna and Allison Wolfe (with Shirley Manson thrown in for good measure). A note on why it’s essential that Alice keep on shouting: though the 77 cents figure is accepted by some as the amount that white, non-Latinas make compared to their male peers, the American Association of University Women estimates that non-white Latina women are paid far less — only 53 cents to the non-Latino white man’s dollar, by the group’s count. –Caitlin Donohue
Arca - “Fetiche”
Striking yet nuanced visuals, whether by video or live performance, are intrinsic to the Arca experience, like mental cues shepherding us through the Venezuelan producer’s own vulnerable explorations of emotion and healing from their harmful residues. Sometimes accompanying words are critical to the piece, too – like with “Fetiche,” released in April, where we were offered this instruction: “Look inward, cut yourself loose from your self; tolerate no abuse.” If you corral any wayward thoughts and concentrate completely on that for the entire clip, you might feel changed by the end of its almost 11 minutes.
Created with frequent co-collaborator Carlos Sáez, “Fetiche” shows a pair of legs – presumably Arca’s – interacting with a bouquet. Shiny, beige stilettos crush and smother the flowers. Hands graze bits against skin, then it’s all dropped to the floor for more punishment; the track evolves into crackling near-dissonance. There’s wild laughter, manipulated to an almost ready-to-snap crisp: the bouquet is almost unrecognizable. Arca’s feet gather the mess, but a mesmeric syncopation returns the purpose to crushing them. For the final two minutes, the screen is an opaque blush.
Are the flowers meant to represent the self? Could they be a metaphor for abuse? What about the abuse we inflict upon ourselves? In destroying the bouquet, is Arca obliterating inner negativity? The self? What are the repercussions of not freeing ourselves from either?
Arca’s repertoire – three albums, a few EPs, many remixes, short films – is experimental in the most far-reaching sense – a kind of radical therapy. “Fetiche” is just one session, but if you participate intently, it can be formative. – Jhoni Jackson
Fuego - "Envidia"
From the moment the roaring bachata guitar riffs mutate into razor-sharp 808s, it’s clear that “Envidia” is heralding an irresistible return to form for Fuego. On this track from his album Libre: Fireboy Forever, the Dominican rapper – and the godfather of trap en español, thanks to Fireboy Forever II, one of the first full-length releases in the genre – assures us yet again that he has the prowess to dominate the world of Latin trap, where stale beats and forgettable rhymes abound.
Though “Envidia” tackles a well-worn subject in the genre, the original bachata guitar work and Luyo’s production lend verve to Fuego’s autobiographical bars. Libre: Fireboy Forever marked Fuego’s long-awaited return following his departure from Pitbull’s Mr. 305 Inc. label, as well as his arrival at Universal Music Latin’s Transcend.ent division, presaging a new future for the industry veteran as the album shifts between themes of fledgling romance and newfound independence. Fuego’s slight rasp rides the trapchata production seamlessly, with refrains like “Yo no sé cómo llegué vivo pero aquí estoy” begging to become Instagram captions. “Envidia” is proof the godfather’s still got it. –Isabelia Herrera
Florentino - “2 Late (Don't Call)” ft. Ms Nina
Throughout the genre’s history, reggaeton producers have spliced their flows into electronic wedges, from The Noise’s sample aerobics to DJ Blass’ trance-inspired push for perreo. In fact, there’s never been an era where reggaeton isn’t innovating synth sounds — just ask Luny Tunes. In 2018, these ventures have reached an outer stratosphere best expressed by Florentino’s “2 Late (Don’t Call),” from his EP Fragmentos. The UK-Colombia producer calls in Ms Nina, but instead of giving the reggaeton vocalist the sassy flows and full-throated hooks for which she is best known, Nina is restricted to a quick cellular dismissal of a love too far gone to explicate. With her minimalism, Florentino gives himself space to fill in the plotline with cutthroat finger snaps, mocking phone rings, and an alien’s sense of closure. The producer calls himself “el más romántico de los románticos,” and here he’s captured the sheer heartbreak of modern-day love ambivalence — consider yourself lucky if this track didn’t remind you of anyone in 2018. – Caitlin Donohue
La Armada - "Unquenchable"
With lyrics that alternate between English and Spanish, Chicago punks La Armada produced one of 2018’s most urgent protest songs in “Unquenchable.” The band’s raw metal-meets-hardcore sound belies a sophisticated (and dead-on) lyrical critique, summarizing the sinister design behind the U.S.’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for putting black and brown people in cages. The song focuses on the criminalization of immigration and creeping expansion of the U.S. prison industrial complex to include the mass incarceration of immigrants. Simply but effectively, lead singer Javier Fernandez analyzes the purpose and mechanics of systemic racism. In a strangled whisper, he asks, pointedly: “¿Quién promueve la xenofobia? ¿Quién lucra del odio racial?” And what is behind it all? Put succinctly: “Profit.”
The song, which comes from the quartet’s second album Anti-Colonial Vol. 1, is also one of the LP’s most musically interesting tracks, incorporating folkloric rhythms like palo and gagá from the Dominican Republic, where the members of La Armada were born and raised. The band has been experimenting with blending Afro-Caribbean styles into their hardcore sound for some time, and in “Unquenchable” the result is both a poignant carrier of the song’s message and unlike anything heard in punk or metal, this year or any year previously. – Beverly Bryan