The 50 Songs We Loved in 2015

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There was nothing quite like Latin music in 2015. Fifty years ago, we were on the verge of a salsa revolution. Boogaloo was in its prime, LA Chicanos were sneaking their way into rock music, the seeds of punk were sprouting, and bachata was still rocking campos back on the island. It’s safe to say that we had no idea what Latin music would look like in 2015, or the fact that the term itself no longer does justice to a musical landscape that encompasses 20 countries, hundreds of languages, and millions of people. Who could have predicted the radiant, skygazing pop of Marineros, the fractured apocalypse of Rizzla’s beats, or the future folklore of Bomba Estéreo? Not us, but no matter – this year, we relished them all.

Like last year, this list sketches a portrait of the sounds and scenes leading the pack, cutting across region and genre. We hope that these 50 songs match the reality of what it’s like to make music in 2015, and represent the tastes of a writing team that hails from every corner of the globe. Here’s hoping Latin music continues to challenge us in 2016. –Isabelia Herrera

Stream the list on Apple Music.
Stream the list on Spotify.


"Young, Latin and Proud" - Helado Negro (Ecuador/US)

A quietly stunning single, Helado Negro‘s “Young, Latin and Proud” landed like a subdued, atmospheric bomb at what felt like just the right moment. Roberto Carlos Lange croons the lyrics with soft confidence, over a minimal, cinematic funk production, casually snaring the listener and warmly embracing them with his voice. As if telling himself and the listener to remember who they are and take strength from that, he sings, “You are young, Latin, and proud,” going on to affirm and reaffirm a message of community and identity not often heard in the American indie milieu of which Lange is a part. From the first hesitant synth notes to the trippy Spanglish outro, it’s mesmerizing, beautiful, and moving. Many writers and listeners were struck by the strength and clarity of his statement, as well as the understated way the independent electronic artist chose to make it. It will be remembered as one of 2015’s important and subtly watershed musical moments, a sign that things are taking shape, both in Lange’s music and the wider culture.–Beverly Bryan


"Ginza" - J Balvin (Colombia)

“Ginza” is so huge that it inspired endless freestyles, remakes and remixes – including one that featured reggaeton’s entire royal court. (Not to mention all the bootlegs that have plagued SoundCloud and YouTube since the day it came out.) There’s something about the song’s nasty lyrics and fiery beats, courtesy of Infinity Music, that make reggaeton lovers go wild, allowing them to get in touch with their rawest animal instincts. Even the “reggaeton is dead” haters sing and dance along to “Ginza,” after you play it for them more than twice. 2015 was a big year for J Balvin: it saw the parcero jamming on Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” mega hit, kicking off his first US headlining tour, and jumping on stage with Major Lazer at the Latin Grammys. “Ginza” had a lot to do with his success this year, and the rise of Colombia as reggaeton’s next creative hub. –Eric Gamboa


"Hambre" - Gepe ft. Wendy Sulca (Chile and Peru)

“Hambre” is the first single off Estilo Libre, Gepe‘s fifth studio album, and it’s one hell of a kick-off to this new chapter in the Chilean folk-fusion master’s career. Following the sensual and more dance-oriented territory explored on GP (2012), “Hambre” has a mature pop feel with sophisticated production and a chorus that builds to an earworm the size of Chile. However, the poignant moments come from the song’s bridge, with impeccable guest vocals from Wendy Sulca, whose immense talents have been lumped with kitsch acts for far too long. Horns blare, drums boom, and Sulca’s voice soars, pleading for a lover’s touch and ecstatic to finally be taken seriously. Acting as both an anthem and vehicle for redemption, “Hambre” is without a doubt one of the year’s brightest moments of pop brilliance.–Richard Villegas


"Somos Dos" - Bomba Estéreo (Colombia)

It’s hard to pick just one great single from Bomba Estéreo‘s major label debut Amanecer, but “Somos Dos” is an unforgettable jewel. An uplifting party jam made for dancing close to someone very special, it is, like all the songs on the Ricky Reed-produced album, built on big dance beats and wrapped in a glossy pop sheen, but it retains the beating heart and explosive energy that have made the Colombian duo international stars. Crystalline champeta guitars sparkle and Liliana Saumet’s vocals bubble over with emotion. The whole song seems to undulate and shimmer. True to the group’s psychedelic side, it becomes about something bigger than a single romantic relationship. Intensely evocative, it’s the sound of the moment when you realize love really might save the day.–Beverly Bryan


"Ridin' Round" - Kali Uchis (Colombia/US)

Last year, Colombia-born, Virginia-raised singer Kali Uchis made our Breakout Artists of 2014 round-up, and this year we saw her live up to the promise of the nostalgic R&B-meets-soul-meets-reggae sound she’s been honing. Her debut EP Por Vida was the sonic equivalent of hard candy: sweet but sharp enough to pierce a gum if you bite it wrong, delectably packaged in videos and creative that she art directs herself. Though I had the entire thing on heavy rotation, single “Ridin’ Round” best captured the blend of bubblegum and grit that makes Uchis so appealing. Singing over a lopsided beat made for bumping in lowriders, her vocals are sweeter than frosting. But then you hone in on the lyrics: “Baby, understand – I don’t need a man: Fuck me over and I’ll fuck you worse, then take off to Japan,” she sings. It’s baby doll meets bruiser, and I am very here for it. – Andrea Gompf


"Bruja Cosmica" - Malportado Kids (USA)

The Latin-infused electro-punk party of Providence’s Malportado Kids is a purposeful, politically charged one. Victoria Ruiz and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco are activists, and also members of Downtown Boys. Along with the rest of that political punk band, they teamed with the Future of Music Coalition and Impose Magazine to launch Spark Mag, a radical culture and music website helmed by Demand Progress.

So, basically, the Malportado Kids are actually the most awesome kids. Rage against colonialism with them via “Bruja Cosmica,” a wild, futuristic fiesta replete with accordion and thumping bass from their sophomore EP, Total Cultura.–Jhoni Jackson


"Annie" - Neon Indian (Mexico/US)

2015 marked Neon Indian‘s triumphant return to the spotlight with his latest album, the outstanding VEGA INTL. Night School. Conceived as a best-of compilation of an imaginary band, Alan Palomo went all out on this record, exploring elements of disco, techno, funk, and more, while staying true to his psych-pop heart. Sonically, first single “Annie” certainly stands on psychedelic ground, but shows an affinity for reggae and cumbia that he hadn’t channeled in his previous work. The playful track about a runaway girl called, well, Annie, features a ridiculously infectious chorus and a riff you’ll find yourself singing for days. It’s an immediate dance floor hit.–Cheky


"Borró Cassette" - Maluma (Colombia)

This jewel off of Maluma‘s second album Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy hit Colombian reggaeton like Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey. I never saw it coming from this young pana, but once I heard “Borró Cassette,” suddenly everything else I’d been listening to dropped out of rotation. This song works wonders for those who have found themselves in an all-too-familiar situation: You know, the one where you thirst for an amazing woman during a lit club night, but she gets so drunk that she claims that she doesn’t remember you the next day when you call her. But Maluma’s not one to throw in the towel easily, which is what makes this song so perfect for the stubborn ones who just refuse to let that one girl get away. We’re not sure if Maluma will ever drop another bomb this big, but if he does, we’ll have it on repeat for weeks, just like “Borró Cassette” was.–Eric Gamboa


"Agua Agua" - Empress Of (US/Honduras)

I was thirsting for new Lorely Rodriguez (aka Empress Of) music in 2015, and she answered my call with “Agua Agua,” a shower of rippling synths and thumping beats that channels the off-kilter, experimental pop sensibility we’ve come to know into her most club-friendly track to date. “Agua Agua” was originally released in English as “Water Water,” but like most things, it sounds better in Spanish (and 2015 was nothing if not the Year of the Spanish Remix). To be honest, it was hard to pick just one track off Rodriguez’s impeccable album Me – which she wrote, performed, produced, recorded, and engineered – but I had to give it to this one, for getting us to lose ourselves on the dance floor to highly personal, inward-looking lyrics that reflect on the things we take for granted (“Agua es un privilegio.”)–Andrea Gompf


"Iron Cages" - Rizzla feat. Odile Myrtil (US)

Boston’s Rizzla excels as a one-man source of excellence in melding the past, present, and future of bass-friendly Afro-Latino riddims. The progressive producer’s Iron Cages EP was released for Kingdom’s forward-thinking Fade to Mind label in 2015, and the eponymous lead single is a winner. The bottom end of the track blends Dominican dembow with bubbling Dutch house, and an ambient energy usually reserved for the heaviest of tech house occupies the melodic top end alongside skittering synths and a dusky lead vocal from Odile Myrtil. From working with Kelela on her exquisite CUT 4 ME album to pushing his sound even further on this release, Rizzla is standing out.–Marcus K. Dowling


"Coffee" - Miguel (US)

Although Miguel technically dropped “Coffee” in December 2014, the original was a rough-around-the-edges cut that in no way measures up to the pristine urgency of the 2015 version. In June, LA’s sexiest Blaxican released Wildheart, a sublime exercise in documenting the pleasures of love and lust, searching for an authentic sense of self, and staying true to your roots. No song from Wildheart captures these tensions quite like “Coffee;” theatrical guitar lines lift twinkling synths and skipping drums, cutting you right in the jugular. Lyrically, Miguel wrestles with convention, at once drawing lush sketches of love (“peach color, moon glistens, the plot thickens”) and offering just the right amount of predictable flattery (“I wish I could paint our love”) to keep ears pricked. Amid the nasal falsettos of The Weeknd and the subdued sex jams of Jeremih, the song’s retro sensibility stood out among its R&B peers this year.–Isabelia Herrera


"Un Beso" - Carla Morrison (Mexico)

Sometime between her 2012 debut and this year’s follow up, Amor Supremo, Carla Morrison lit her inner fire – like, Olympic torch style. “Un Beso” is exemplary of the confidence borne of that; she’s assertive and self-aware. She relates intense desire, but shows the distinction between indulging in emotions and the kind of submission that yields powerlessness. She chooses the former.

With this effort, Morrison is charting entirely new ground. She’s forgone the filament-thin arrangements of works past in favor of the lush instrumentation and soaring choruses – like that of “Un Beso,” which opens the album. All the grandiose backdrops heighten the delivery of some of her most emotionally cognizant lyrics to date – and, as a whole, the strongest version of herself yet.–Jhoni Jackson


"Mátale" - Mala Rodríguez ft. Pxxr Gvng (Spain)

In 2015, Spain took to trap music like few places outside of the Dirty South have, thanks in no small part to Pxxr Gvng. “Mátale” features a beat made by the Gvng’s Steve Lean and a verse by D. Gómez, giving them a bigger stage to show us what they’re made of, but Mala Rodríguez is the one who seizes the opportunity here. Having nothing to lose (after all, we’re talking about someone who made a song Barack Obama included on his official White House playlist), she trades her usual jazz and funk productions and really goes for it. In turn, she sounds reinvigorated; her rapping is fresh, her singing more daring, and her lyrics more introspective. Through her new partners in rhyme, La Mala has opened an exciting new path of possibilities, and we can’t wait to hear what she’ll do next.–Marcos Hassan


"Secretos" - Marineros (Chile)

New Chilean dream pop duo Marineros dropped single after single over the past two years, before finally releasing their debut album O Marineros at the end of November. “Secretos” was the penultimate track to be released, and one of the most tantalizing. It’s still a standout on an album that boasts several single-worthy tracks. The uncertain love song contains all of the threads that make their music truly great: gritty post-punk roots and bold bass lines juxtaposed with heartfelt lyrics and professional-grade pop songwriting. Their shoegaze-indebted sound has a nostalgic edge, but their world weary yet romantic spirit fits our current moment completely. Musically, it’s precisely the kind of quality one would expect from a Santiago band working with Cristián Heyne. But their slightly tough, rough-around-the-edges rock feel makes them stand out endearingly from the rest of the sublimely pop Unión del Sur crowd. Perhaps they are bridging the gap between the old guard and a brave new wave.–Beverly Bryan


"Boy De La Costa" - María y José (Mexico)

Finding an inexplicable middle ground between bachata, trap, and chiptune, María y José took our summer playlists by storm with the release of his Boy De La Costa EP. The title track off this excellent mini album might be the high point of his various surftastic sound experimentations, taking the Anthony Santos classic “Me Enamoré” and sampling it to create the song’s downright spastic beat. Perpetually swerving between violent dance music and moody, tropical love song, this track falls into the latter category, telling the story of a drowning lovestruck surfer. Whether he’s drowning literally or figuratively is up for the listener to decide, but between the subject matter and production, “Boy De La Costa” feels like one of María y José’s sunniest and freshest efforts to date.–Richard Villegas


"Garden" - Hinds (Spain)

This year has been a whirlwind for Hinds, surrounded by plenty of media buzz and a massive swell in their fan base. The Madrid-based garage-pop group is currently wrapping up an expansive worldwide tour that included a festival in Hong Kong, another on a Vietnamese beach, and the Paris leg of Pitchfork Fest. They released an EP on Mom + Pop, then a split with The Parrots. A few months back in Vancouver, they were interviewed by Nardwuar, who gifted them with a bunch of Julian Casablancas and Strokes stuff. On their way to LA during their tour of the States, they were temporarily stranded in Tehachapi when they found themselves smack-dab in the center of the dangerous flooding and mudslides of mid-October. And just recently, they were nominated for NME’s Best New Artist award.

“Garden” is more than just a mellow, bittersweet garage-pop love song. Released as a preview to their highly-anticipated debut full-length, Leave Me Alone, due January 8, the track is a guarantee that their debut will live up to all the hype – and that they’ll only amass more from there.–Jhoni Jackson


"Faithful" - Ibeyi (Cuba/France)

“Faithful” is an extract from Ibeyi’s eponymous debut album, which wasn’t released as a single, but still captures the duo’s core essence. Jazz, soul, and a hint of pop come together in this track, with a special focus on sisters Naomi and Lisa Kaindé’s beautifully harmonious vocals. They melt together like dripping honey in our ears, asking their lovers for loyalty as the only requirement for their love, backed by scarce instrumentation. Piano, cajón, bass, and a little glockenspiel are enhanced by minimal beat programming, with swooning results. The only things missing are their Yoruba chants, but this is a fine, elegant track that sums up why Ibeyi had a fantastic 2015.–Cheky


"Bassically" - Tei Shi (Argentina/US/Colombia)

One of this year’s quiet winners is Tei Shi and her stunning EP Verde, which showcases the many sides of the Argentine-born, Colombia-raised, and NYC-based singer. From sultry R&B to catchy pop numbers, Valerie Teicher made sure she peppered each of the tracks with plenty of attitude. “Bassically” was Verde’s first single, and it is one hell of an electro-pop number. She doesn’t give it her all right from the beginning; on the contrary, dynamics are her best friend here. She starts off in a quietly seductive, almost whispered voice, then progressively turns up the intensity, until she belts those final wordless choruses, showcasing what a powerful and versatile singer she is. Paired with its kick-ass sci-fi music video, “Bassically” is just invigorating.–Cheky


"Hasta La Raíz" - Natalia LaFourcade (Mexico)

2015 will be remembered as the year Natalia LaFourcade came into her own as a fully developed, well-rounded, and widely respected musician. Although she had already taken steps in this direction, it took her expansive album Hasta La Raíz for her vision to be complete, and this development is nowhere clearer than on the title track. Fresh melodies abound and ambitious instrumentation serves equally daring arrangements, creating a sense that no one other than LaFourcade could have crafted a song like this. It has been a long but fun journey for her, and a pleasure for her fans join her on the ride, but we’ll remember this as the moment when she revealed herself as one of the best Mexican songwriters of the ages.–Marcos Hassan


"Fight (Nymphs IV)" - Nicolas Jaar (Chile)

Nicolas Jaar has built his cult around his ability to marry innovative uses of technology with an almost unparalleled love for melody. It seemed like 2015 would mark his full transition to avant-garde sound artist, as exemplified by Pomegranates (an alternative soundtrack to a 1969 movie) and his Nymphs 12” series. Yet, the fourth and last entry to the series, released on the iconic R&S label, finds Jaar at his most balanced and brilliant. It’s a cinematic eight-and-a-half minute piece that goes from minimalism to maximalism, from soft chords to scrambled vocals, and from ambience to rhythm. Closer to a prog rock suite from back in the day, it encapsulates everything Nicolas has explored since his emblematic Space Is Only Noise album, including out-there experimentation and Darkside’s groove and melody. It signals a new path for one of 2015’s most impressive composers.–Marcos Hassan


"Tu Pussy Ta Weno" - La Mafia Del Amor (Spain)

Rap and reggaeton are no strangers to life’s most lascivious desires; in fact, you could say it’s their bread and butter. So it’s no surprise that Pxxr Gvng alter egos La Mafia Del Amor penned the year’s pussy-eating anthem, a song that had people talking everywhere, testifying to their 2015 dominance. They took a trap beat, gave it some autotune sheen, and cranked the vulgarity to the max. La Mafia knows that to succeed on the dance floor, they need to get their seduction game right. But somehow their thirst takes over, so they chuck subtlety out the window and approach the object of their desire with a straight, blunt, pussy-eating proposition. It’s this kind of IDGAF attitude that has made them stand out from the crowd.–Marcos Hassan


"I'm Ready" - Twin Shadow (Dominican Republic/US)

After dropping “To the Top” in 2014, it seemed as though George Lewis, Jr. had finally achieved the pop maximalism he’d yearned for all these years. Wrong. “I’m Ready” sees him at his most raw, sweeping call-and-response choruses and all. Haters will lament the disappearance of those quintessentially Twin Shadow moments of lo-fi vulnerability, but in a year where pop music finds itself cuddling up to EDM a little too eagerly, the unapologetically 80s sound that drives “I’m Ready” is a welcome respite from the noise. –Isabelia Herrera


“Finesse” - Bonnie B (US)

As a former member of Neako’s LVLYSL crew and the current first lady of the Bodega Bamz-led Tanboys collective, Bonnie B has proved to be a clutch player for the team on multiple occasions. On her Tanboys debut “Finesse,” she ups the ante by declaring herself the original Tangirl, not content to just be a token female MC but the leader of her own movement. Bonnie’s unapologetic flow and attitude shine over the Trauma Tone-produced beat, and though she might be someone you want to party with, you definitely don’t want to underestimate her skills.–John Calderon


Los Wálters - "Porsche" (Puerto Rico)

A heartbroken, forlorn subject hopes to fill the void of a lover who abandoned him (or her) with material amor in the form of a shiny new luxury car – a Porsche, to be specific. The truly great corresponding video aside, this number is maybe the most memorable cut from Verano PanorámicoLos Wálters‘ sophomore LP, which dropped this year. While the whole thing’s full of sublimely chill, tropically-tinged electro-pop jams, “Porsche” rings so strongly as signature Wálters, it’s easily a pinnacle of their entire catalog.–Jhoni Jackson


“Puente Roto” – Nicola Cruz (Ecuador)

Nicola Cruz is a member of ZZK Records’ new wave, as well as an artist we’ve been wild about all year. We were immediately moved by the dark beats and wind instruments in “Prender El Alma,” hypnotized by the lush Andean forest goddess of “Colibria,” and took a sonic romp through Ecuador on “La Cosecha.” However, it was “Puente Roto” that left us completely transfixed. The track is a psychedelic union of electronic samples and traditional instruments that perfectly encapsulates the new wave of ZZK as a digital reinvention of the wheel, but one that was born out of appreciation and respect for what came before it.–Afroxander


"Chapi Chapi" - Farruko feat. Messiah (Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic/US)

For quite some time, the Uptown music scene was looking for a local hero or messiah. This hero is someone who is able to speak to the masses en el alto Manhattan, and/or anywhere where las chapas can clap. He boasts enough street cred to make us believe that he’s the real deal, and not the product of a well-funded marketing team. In 2015, we first got to know this messiah via a Spanish cover of Future’s “F*ck Up Some Commas,” but that was nothing compared to the triumphant nalga celebration that is “Chapi Chapi.” While searching for my next summer putazo, I came across this song. It’s a collab between Puerto Rican reggaeton powerhouse Farruko and our Uptown hero Messiah. This collaboration allowed Messiah to reach a new audience, and cemented his status as one of the most prominent artists hustling in the Heights.–Joel Moya


"The Feel" - Las Robertas (Costa Rica)

After the release of Days Unmade last year, the Costa Rican trio took off to become a fixture at international festivals, and overall, a much-discussed musical entity on a global scale, thanks to their hard work and infectious garage sound. For those expecting more three-chord rompers from the band, “The Feel” might have seemed like a curveball, but it’s some of the most accomplished music the band has shared so far, combining proto-grunge chords, shoegaze noise, and sweet melodies in a lo-fi setting. “The Feel” sees Las Robertas coming into their own and graduating to a whole new level.–Marcos Hassan


"Vanity" - Arca (Venezuela)

It’s been barely a year after the masterful Xen album established Alejandro Ghersi as an avant-garde producer whose talents extend beyond making beats for big names, and he’s already he ushered in a new phase of his career. “Vanity” rearranges the way we think of songs, melodies, rhythm, and texture, using rumbling bass, synths that function like violins would in a thriller, and minimal, random beats to convey something unfamiliar. This song, and all of Mutant, has further cemented Ghersi’s status as one of the most forward-thinking producers in the world right now, but what makes Arca stand out from even this elite group is the emotional depth he’s been able to inject into his abstract music. “Vanity” sounds like nothing else in the world right now, and it also feels like a personal statement with dramatic impact – the most sincere creative expression an artist can offer.–Marcos Hassan


"Take Off" - Branko feat. Princess Nokia (Portugal/US)

Branko‘s album Atlas is one of 2015’s best, if not also the defining creative achievement of the Portuguese producer and Enchufada label chief’s career. The most pop-ready cut on the release is “Take Off,” which combines Branko dabbling in baile funk with Princess Nokia delivering a bombastic emcee performance that leaves listeners in awe. Soul stands with baile funk for a production that is actually much more than the sum of its considerable parts. It’s a club-friendly cut that could quite easily double as an underground-to-mainstream bridge, pushing baile funk into American pop – a possible harbinger of things to come.–Marcus K. Dowling


"Otra Noche" - Kamixlo (Chile)

Kamixlo, a young, blue-haired producer of Chilean origin, finally released his debut EP Demonico this year through Visionist’s CODES imprint. It’s a brutal sonic assault of massive proportions, condensed in only four songs and a remix that stand right in the middle between Latin tradition and hardcore. But there’s one song in particular, “Otra Noche,” where he practices restraint and lets some other elements shine through. Samples of slowed-down vocals played backwards mesh with the dense and slightly metallic synth clouds to create a devilish atmosphere. The reggaeton-inspired beats are hard but not overpowering, teasing us with an energetic dance party that materializes on the rest of the EP.–Cheky


"More Than That" - Ferraz feat. Alissa María (Venezuela)

Venezuelan producer Ferraz never really stopped putting out hits in 2015. Back in June, he released a brand new EP called Delirious through Dutch imprint Heroic Recordings. We never really g0t over its second track, “More Than That,” and its deliciously laid-back funk vibe. It’s infused with references from disco and pop, but there’s an undoubtedly R&B spirit here, thanks to Alissa María’s vocal contribution. Her saccharine voice contrasts with the sexy, borderline raunchy lyrics, and Manuel Ferraz’s production work shines, featuring some of his now-signature luminous synths, slick bass lines, jazzy chord progressions, plus some funky palm-muted guitar licks. It all ends with a sensuous half-time break, leaving you in the right mood for love.–Cheky


"Ícaro" - Trajano! (Spain)

Spain is no stranger to post-punk music. In fact, it’s probably one of the few places in the world where you can hear repetitive bass lines strumming at music venues every single night. But after the worldwide revival of the genre took the world by storm in the early 00s, it took a special kind of touch to make something stand out from pale imitators. Enter Trajano!, a band that successfully ties post-punk to the first wave of rock en español (a direct heir of post-punk in the first place) and to the irresistible melodicism of new wave. The results make “Ícaro” feel fresh and irresistibly dancey, with a real angsty edge.–Marcos Hassan


“No Es Cuestión De Tiempo” - Hey Chica! (Mexico)

Is there a shoegaze/dream pop musical renaissance brewing in Guadalajara? It certainly feels that way, considering some of the brilliant indie acts currently based out of la tierra tapatía. Like Has a Shadow and Lorelle Meets the Obsolete before them, Hey Chica! is a sonic assault on the senses, filled with walls of distorted guitars attacking from every angle and haunting vocals that seem to float over a dense fog of nostalgia within an existential crisis. “No Es Cuestión De Tiempo” comes from the band’s recent EP, Un Instante, its fourth as a quartet. The album sees the group veering its furthest away from a dream pop/indie sound to the controlled chaos of shoegaze.–Afroxander


"AyAyAy" - Snow Tha Product (US)

Since appearing on the scene a few years back, Snow Tha Product has been quietly building a well-respected catalog of bilingual rap jams, consisting of an independent debut and various mixtapes. “AyAyAy,” the lead track off her June 2015 release The Rest Comes Later, is perhaps the best representation of her immense talent and sly sense of humor. With tongue-twisting, rapid-fire delivery (both in English and Spanish), and an all-too-relatable story about how mamas just don’t understand, Snow showcases her knack for engaging storytelling over a vintage 90s bass-thumping beat produced by Blue the Misfit. It’s like hearing your scrappy little prima rap like Twista, and we can’t get enough of it.–John Calderon


"Summer Now" - El Freaky ft. Gyptian (Colombia)

Colombia’s El Freaky has become one of the world’s leanest party machines. From their singles to their mixtapes, the quartet’s music always aims to have the crowd dancing into a frenzy. As global bass experts, they combine trap, reggaeton, EDM, moombah, and beyond, but what makes them stand out – apart from their boundless enthusiasm and carefree attitude – is their love for Jamaican dancehall, which always ends up drawing out their most brilliant sides. “Summer Now” was originally released to coincide with their six-year anniversary, and it seems to usher in an era of a sound they’ve mangled into their own unmistakable flavor. Full of warm tones that suggest sunsets on the beach and enough seductive energy to resemble a sweaty night at the club, “Summer Now” feels like their first bonafide megahit. It also established the collective as forward-thinking, world-renowned beatmakers.–Marcos Hassan


"Fumes" - STELLA (US)

It’s hard to recall the last time a new artist let her music trickle out so slowly and still managed to generate such an impassioned, enthusiastic response. STELLA, daughter of rock god Carlos Santana, certainly solidified that the demand for her sultry soul music will only continue after she released “Fumes” in November. She weaves her rich, twangy vocals throughout the lovers rock, sax-laden groove produced by Frankie P. Lyrically, STELLA equates a toxic relationship with a dangerous high from which she can’t wait to come down. We, on the other hand, need another hit of her jazz bar-primed music ASAP. –John Calderon


"No Te Acabes Nunca" - Trillones (Mexico)

Ever since Mexicali’s Polo Vega (aka Trillones) began to release material in 2013, he has traced a straight line from respected player in Mexico’s early 00s indie rock scene to talented and prolific electronica producer. Exploring new media and collaborating with acts like Rancho Shampoo, Siete Catorce, and Devol, Vega possesses an ability to infuse his music with everything that surrounds him. His Trillones project sees him growing musically and comically, thanks to his humorous online persona. With “No Te Acabes Nunca,” Polo Vega not only proves that he is a talented producer, but that he is uncompromising in his search for his voice, blending indie rock aesthetics with an almost tribal rhythm section made up of percussive vocal samples and drum machines.–Pablo D


"Woranait" - Frikstailers (Argentina)

Frikstailers‘ anthem “Woranit” has flutes, maracas, and drums played with such flair that it warrants a spot on this list as a top-tier organic cumbia production. But the atmospherics are what really energizes this track. There’s a guttural synth that appears in the bottom end and a searing one in the top-line that offer the song considerable dance appeal. “Woranit” surges like an electronica era anthem, yet also simultaneously lurches along to keep the production consistently rooted in its cumbia origins. When a track is this good, it’s because it’s constantly at war with itself, making the dance floor the biggest winner.–Marcus K. Dowling


"Pal de Velitas" - Mark B feat El Alfa (Dominican Republic)

“Pal De Velitas” is one of the most played songs in the Dominican Republic, something that should come as no surprise when you have Alofoke’s mark of approval. Mark B, who’s no stranger to enlisting collaborators to back him up, hit the sweet spot by pairing up with El Alfa‘s signature baby-voiced falsetto. This is the song that usually comes on in the middle of a quinceañera, wedding, baptism, or even a church posada, and gets everyone in rabandoleo mode.–Joel Moya


"Chanel Bleu" - Audri Nix (Puerto Rico)

Though the airy talk-rap style of R&B has been on the rise for the past few years (see: Tinashe, Cassie, Jhené Aiko, etc.), Audri Nix flips the script by delivering her bars and whispery coos in delicate Spanish. On Nix’s “Chanel Bleu,” off the forthcoming El Nuevo Orden Vol. 1, Audri finds herself drowning in sweet memories of the touch and scent of her príncipe azul. The combination of her mellow, seductive vocals and the dreamy electro-soul production of Overlord, make for a downright mesmerizing result. Seriously, Chanel’s fragrance division should pay the Boricua artist for this bedroom playlist essential.–John Calderon


"Los Tambores" - Carolina Camacho (Dominican Republic)

Last year, we found ourselves drooling all over Carolina Camacho‘s “Ninfa de las Aguas,” so when she released “Los Tambores” back in April, we welcomed it with open arms. She continued exploring her Afro-Caribbean roots in palo and gagá, but here they’re displayed up close, placing the delightfully rhythmic percussion (courtesy of Moisés Silfa) right in front, just like the song title foretells. The air is filled with ethereal synths and precise guitars, providing additional magic courtesy of talented producer Mediopicky. And Camacho’s voice, as usual, steals the show, as she delivers her lines in acrobatics; she shifts between operatic howls that resemble Hello Seahorse!’s Denise Guitierrez and near raps.–Cheky


"Baby, I’m Going Away" - The Holydrug Couple (Chile)

Psych rock in Chile had a stellar year. The South American country became one of the top destinations (sonically speaking) for trippy guitars that aren’t cheap knock-offs. Sacred Bones Records took note, and so did dozens of festivals, publications, and Henry Rollins. One of the most important forces behind this is The Holydrug Couple, whose Moonlust album was one of the year’s most anticipated and overall best. “Baby, I’m Going Away” showcases the band’s brilliance, using familiar elements to cultivate something few would have dared to create: a romantic waltz with effected vocals and irresistible guitars. There’s plenty of tradition, but everything within the song feels like their own, from the melodies to the ambiance. The Holydrug Couple prove that psych rock doesn’t have to be retro; bands can explore more than your run-of-the-mill emotions through the trippy.–Marcos Hassan


"Miseress" – Mueran Humanos (Argentina)

“Miseress” is the title track of Mueran Humanos‘ sophomore album, a lush and melancholic song that explores the dreamier side of cold wave and shines a different light on Carmen Burguess’ beautiful vocal talents. In a less deadpan, lethargic manner than previous efforts, her vocal performance acts as a chilling centerpiece backed by chaotic musical arrangements, featuring Einstürzende Neubauten’s Jochen Arbeit on guitar. Always borrowing from cold wave, kraut, and synth to suit their needs, not only does this track contend as one of 2015’s best, but it also secures Mueran Humanos’ spot as one of the most noteworthy acts in Argentina today.–Pablo D


"Los Vampiros" - Dënver feat. (Me Llamo) Sebastián (Chile)

Dënver, our favorite introspective indie rockers, decided that this was the year they’d get rid of quirky sweater-driven bashfulness and hit us with a straight-to-the-hips dance album, revealing a darker, sexier sound. Decadent to the point of obscenity, “Los Vampiros” is our first taste of the new Dënver, giving us an ode to creatures of the night and asserting themselves as power players among them. With “Los Vampiros,” Dënver have shifted their position from observant storytellers to seductive characters actively inviting you into their web of sin. The beat pulses, and with it come the unholy urges. Lines like “No es amor lo que busco esta noche, amigos” and “Bailamos sin preguntarnos nuestros nombres,” make the track’s intentions clear: Turn up now; sleep never. “Los Vampiros” is a meticulously-crafted pop song, with hooky guest vocals from (Me Llamo) Sebastián and polished production by De Janeiros, resulting in one of the most straightforward and gratifying songs in Dënver’s catalog.–Richard Villegas


“Amalie” – Colornoise (Costa Rica)

Recently, Costa Rica’s music scene has graced us with a healthy outpouring of indie acts and even a couple of impressive festivals. Colornoise were one of the first groups from the Central American nation to catch our eye, thanks to their foot-tappin’, hair-swingin’ rock tunes à la Black Keys and The Stooges. The duo returned as a trio this year, with a new song and distinct but equally evocative musical direction. While their new single “Amalie” lacks the speed and distortion of its predecessors, it boasts a cool, smoky 60s underground bar vibe instead. In other words: badass!–Afroxander


"Lista VIP" - Boss in Drama feat. Karol Conka (Brazil)

“Lista VIP,” the highly-anticipated re-teaming of Boss in Drama and Karol Conka was a summer smash, hyping us all the way up and fulfilling all our disco dreams. The song sells a specific mood without falling into the trap of becoming just another club track. You could hear “Lista VIP” at a club in Miami just as easily as on a Grand Theft Auto soundtrack. The Brazilian DJ and MC have been great friends for a while now, and their chemistry spreads to every beat and verse. Musically, Boss in Drama’s beatmaking is at its peak, with horns right off a Carnival float and a bass line so satisfying it’s like butter to the ears. Conka, on the other hand, is swaggier and cockier than ever, without compromising an ounce of her charm. The two are a match for the ages, and “Lista VIP” will endure not just for its funkiness or catchiness, but also for the dynamic energy shared between these two artists.–Richard Villegas


"Versace" - El Mayor Clásico (Dominican Republic)

With new dembow cuts dropping like café en el campo these days, it’s hard to comb through the throwaways and find the true gems. But “Versace” was a standout moment in dembow this year. Boasting El Mayor Clásico’s operatic vocal antics, grunts that echo the raunchiness of Jersey club bed squeaks, and show-stopping trumpet samples, “Versace” shoves the unbridled chaos of El Mayor’s mind right in your face. El Mayor might be the zaniest dembowsero out right now, El Alfa’s sexy baby voice alone coming in at a close second. Amid lyrics celebrating Italy’s most luxurious brand, El Mayor even crowns himself “el Anthony Santos del dembow,” so you know it’s real. 2014 was a better year for dembow overall (see: Shelow Shaq’s “Llegan Los Montros” and El Alfa’s “Tarzan”), but El Mayor definitely made his mark.–Isabelia Herrera


"Trapanera" - El Dusty feat. Erick Rincon (Mexico/US)

Corpus Christi, Texas-based producer El Dusty made waves with his Aftercluv Dancelab-released breakout single “Trapanera.” Aftercluv is Universal’s attempt to blend Latin-friendly EDM with mass marketing empowerment, and the cumbia-trap combination on the single works magnificently. The bassline shifts and shakes in equal half-time measure, with enough Mexican melodic swagger in the top end – thanks to tribal guarachoso boss Erick Rincon – to put the track completely over the top. As North American EDM continues to prove that its desire to run, and run, and run some more through the trap isn’t dying anytime soon, this one nails the Latin addition to pop’s zeitgeist with tremendous verve and flavor.–Marcus K. Dowling
Corpus Christi, Texas-based producer El Dusty made waves with his Aftercluv Dancelab-released breakout single “Trapanera.” Aftercluv is Universal’s attempt to blend Latin-friendly EDM with mass marketing empowerment, and the cumbia-trap combination on the single works magnificently. The bassline shifts and shakes in equal half-time measure, with enough Mexican melodic swagger in the top end – thanks to tribal guarachoso boss Erick Rincon – to put the track completely over the top. As North American EDM continues to prove that its desire to run, and run, and run some more through the trap isn’t dying anytime soon, this one nails the Latin addition to pop’s zeitgeist with tremendous verve and flavor.–Marcus K. Dowling


“Si Te Mueres Mañana” – Kanaku Y El Tigre (Peru)

Kanaku Y El Tigre’s Quema Quema Quema was the sequel album we didn’t realize we’d been waiting for. Arriving four years after Caracoles, the group’s debut, Kanaku flies its psychedelic, indie-folk flag even higher on its latest venture. Kanaku introduced the world to this album with the lead single “Si Te Mueres Mañana.” It’s one of the mellower tunes on the album, one whose instrumental is worthy of meditation soundtracks. Then again, you may want to leave the vocals on during meditation, considering its free-spirited subject matter (“Si te mueres mañana, no te quedes con ganas de nada”).–Afroxander


"La Berretta" – Zutzut, Lechuga Zafiro, and De La Ghetto (Mexico, Uruguay & Puerto Rico)

Mexico’s N.A.A.F.I. label surged to fame in 2015, on the back of a slew of progressive dance floor slayers like producers Zutzut, Lechuga Zafiro, and De La Ghetto‘s stuttering bleep-bloop of a minimalist groove “La Berretta.” This one has all the shimmer and bang of ballroom house, proto-electro-meets-techno, and Baltimore club-style breaks. Hearing such a wide range of influences retain their own unique spaces in the mix is impressive. However, the track reaches another level of grandeur when these sounds slip over and through each other, becoming one of the year’s finest productions.–Marcus K. Dowling