The reality for most independent musicians in Puerto Rico post-María was a total stoppage of production – the subsequent crisis sent everyone into survival mode, and even as basic necessities became more accessible, life without electricity meant a slow and difficult recuperation for many. But amid that struggle, musicians were actually still tending to their projects: Re-strategizing in-the-works releases suddenly clogged in the pipelines, writing new material, and even playing generator-run shows at clubs, bars, and houses while life was undeniably still in disarray.
Today, almost eight months later, sporadic blackouts persist, and some areas of the island remain without electricity altogether. Water service in some towns remains unreliable, too. Political blows have followed in the form of austerity cuts, and the grip of U.S. colonialism feels tighter than ever. Yet the island’s artists continue, just as they always have, to provide support – emotional release, the relief of temporary diversion, encouragement and empowerment, a sense of solidarity – despite having to also endure themselves. Knowingly or not, that is bonafide compassion on their part.
While not an end-all, be-all list – there are so many more we could include – these 10 releases all surfaced in the wake of María, and each is an example of an unwavering dedication to music, and proof of artistic prowess. Whether included here or not, every project delivered post-storm in Puerto Rico also stands as evidence of the artist’s understanding of how important music really is – both for the listener and the maker.
Un Juego Incierto was recorded during the summer at Santuario Studios with Ruy Andres (the guitarist for longstanding skate-punk band Diente Perro, among others), but the trio’s gift to post-punk fans was delayed until Christmas. Upon its release, the island was still mired in crisis, and anger boiled in many Puerto Ricans – this 2-song exercise in scathing aggression from Desahuciados served as a needed release then, and continues to offer catharsis for the rightfully fed-up and frustrated.
Fronted by Daniel Figueroa of staple indie recording studio Music Dorks, the band melds pop-punk, hardcore, and even elements of primitive rock ‘n’ roll and tempo-spastic prog into feverish, unified fist-pumpers. Compiling show recordings, a song never played live, and previously released tracks once scattered across the Internet, El Minicombo marks Los Dannis’ first EP, and a bridge toward the eventual release of a full-length this November.
This folk-pop singer-songwriter’s debut was released two days post-María; consequently, that immovable pre-scheduling left Tejidos de Laurel unfortunately overlooked. But the intrinsic earthly inspirations in Andrea Cruz’s writing are a poignant, floral-perfumed soundtrack for reconnecting with nature in a way that celebrates its beauty, but also reminds us our responsibility to cherish and protect it.
Prolific beatmaker Recluso named this collection after the Roland sampler used to craft these 29 ultra-chill tracks. Never onstage without his luchador mask, Recluso has been compiling platters as expertly smooth as 404 on a regular basis since 2006.
When Baba Gris landed a sponsored tour in New York, which reunited members with two bandmates who relocated post-María, the experimental troupe didn’t travel solo; they brought along acid jazz act Sr. Langosta, Afro-Caribbean, hip-hop and electronic fusion trio Émina, and Eugenio Torres, ringleader of Latin jazz band Sol Creciente, too. This clip commemorates not only the joining of some of Puerto Rico’s most skilled players, but the collective positive energy captured is also an offering – fuerza for the long road ahead.
Oscillating between gritty, clenched-teeth delivery and the woozy delirium of deep introspection, Fin del Deseo is an alternative pop-rock work of epic proportions. It’s Moreira’s second LP, and the first outing where José Iván Lebrón, who started the project in 2012, is joined by now integral members – bassist and Desahuciados frontman Kevin García and drummer Pablo Prieto, of punk-prog mash-up band Space Corolla.
New material is sporadic and rare for this veteran electronic musician, making the appearance of a fresh track all the more special – and a little mysterious, too. On “2AM” and “Elevarnos,” both released within the past five months, Patzgonemad’s subtle vocal smokiness and her occasional crescendo into high, near-piercing pitches shifts euphoric synth-pop into darker territory – a haunting and hypnotic purgatory of her own design.
Features on tracks by Lv Civdvd collective leader Álvaro Díaz have certainly boosted Deborah Blues’ profile over the past few years, but with “Horas,” that fast-growing following becomes more specifically her own. Vocal maneuvers like ethereal crescendos and lyrical ricochets – and that sultry saxophone spotlight, like a red-light slow dance – make for a magnetic three minutes and, very likely, a promising future.
The solo synthwave project of Los Wálters live band member Ferdy Valls has existed for years, both in recordings and in countless performances, but EP 1 marks Furry Vowels’ first proper collection, grouping last year’s “Talarias” and debuting two new retro-futurist numbers, all of them irresistibly transcendent bops.
Sandwiched between euphoric synth-pop and dreamy dance-rock is “Huye,” the title track from Nutopia’s sophomore album, targets Puerto Rico’s political circus (and, in its video, U.S. colonialism) in its crosshairs, but doesn’t forget to empower reconstruction, too. Released in February, the LP is rife with great cuts, but the duo’s timely, fiery wake-up call stands firm as its most impactful.