This is a weekly compilation of bite-sized song & EP reviews from our music writers. Discover new favs, read nuanced criticism of the week’s hottest releases & more. Follow our playlist featuring these tracks and more on Spotify or Apple Music.
Rafa Pabön – "La Cartera"
The dembow riddim has been the backbone of reggaetón for decades, and the bread & butter of hundreds—if not thousands—of songs over that time, making any track recognizable from afar. It seemingly has no expiration date, and with “La Cartera,” Rafa Pabön eagerly leans into its omnipotence. It’s fitting that Pabön is, in turn, one of the most omnipresent artists around, showing up in dozens of songs and albums and sprinkling them with his unique lyrical charm. Here, he drapes himself in full reggaetón sonic and aesthetic regalia, offering up a club banger in a summer desperate for them. —Juan Arroyo
El individuo & Mediopicky – "El Que Sabe"
Cuban MC El Individuo and Dominican producer Mediopicky have teamed up for a jagged new single. “El Que Sabe” is a trans-Caribbean reminder to all the youngins dropping bars and beats to find their own voices instead of copying each other for cheap Internet clout. Built on a spectral dembow beat turbo-loaded with unsettling echoes and distortion, El Individuo and Mediopicky take turns alchemizing boastfulness into poignant wisdom that newcomers would do well to absorb. —Richard Villegas
Iza – “Gueto”
Over the past five years, Iza has paved a blazing, colorful path to the top of the Brazilian music scene. With an acute sense on how to deliver political statements on blackness and navigate shallow waters (such as hosting TV shows), she seems self-aware of owning a place among the new hotspots of pop music. On “Gueto,” the dancehall upbeat keys that seem tie-knotted to her work are still there—except now, they merge with baile funk, frantic beats and trap drum rolls so Iza holds her ground as a woman born and raised in the ghetto—wherever in the world it’s located. —Felipe Maia
J Balvin, Jay Wheeler – “Otro Fili”
A few months after dropping Colors, J Balvin began working on his next album and revealed, in an interview to Rolling Stone, that this would be his most personal release to date. “Otro Fili” makes the cut. The sorrowful song feels like it was made in the blue days following a breakup. Here, Balvin gets the help of Jay Wheeler and his sorrowful, broken-hearted voice to sing about the loss of his loved one. This song is the right pick for those who are down in the dumps but don’t want to give up on reggaeton beats. —Felipe Maia
Junior Mesa – "Listen Close"
Bakersfield-born, LA-based artist Junior Mesa found the sweet spot between old- and new-school indie rock on his new single “Listen Close.” Here, Mesa thinks of his relationship with music as toxic, and although we don’t see that as being fun at all, the song surely is, as well as its insane self-directed music video. —Cheky
MOÜGLI – “Respirar”
Coral reefs have existed for millions of years, providing a home to exceptional biodiversity, serving as a buffer for shorelines, and countless other benefits to our existence as a whole. Unfortunately, human impact on coral reefs is jeopardizing their survival, with 70-90% of all existing coral reefs expected to disappear in the next 20 to 30 years. In light of that, Colombia’s electronic duo Moügli teamed up with Corales de Paz to release an ode to marine biodiversity. In “Respirar,” we’re submerged into an underwater adventure to show the beauty and importance of coral reefs. A reminder that, in nature, everything is there for a reason and we must do our best to preserve it. —Joel Moya
Chicocurlyhead - "POV"
Atlanta-raised, Panamanian artist-on-the-rise Chicocurlyhead honors both of his hometowns on this suave bilingual track that straddles the lines between cocksure and eager (today’s synonym for desperate), and R&B and reggaetón. The young artist does so gracefully and relatably on an iLL Wayno-produced track that solidifies his sound as a global one. It will be interesting to see which of the two genres he dives fully into as his work garners attention. My vote goes to the road less traveled. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo
Picante – “Strawberries and Cream”
When is a torch song not a torch song? Portland-based duo and IRL couple Mia Lentz and Zac Bron aim to trace an answer in your hearts & minds with “Strawberries and Cream.” Channeling Memphis soul and filtered through a contemporary sound production, Lentz croons like a modern-day Sarah Vaughan about that intoxicating moment you become so smitten you paw at heartstrings too soon. But in Picante’s world, that may not be such a bad thing after all. —Juan Arroyo
Señor Kino – "Kino"
Hermosillo quintet Señor Kino just dropped their third album Aurora Boreal, their new opportunity to show people why they need to turn their heads and ears their way. Sitting seventh in the tracklist is “Kino,” a short, shoegazing coming-of-age story set at Sonora’s Bahía de Kino. With crunchy guitars and a tight rhythm section as their backdrop, they let a beachy outing with friends sink in, falling into melancholy rather than excitement, as they know things will never be the same again. —Cheky
Abbie – "No Te Olvido"
Over the course of the pandemic, guitar-pop pixie Abbie has asserted herself as one of the brightest young talents rising in Costa Rica’s fabled indie scene. This week, the artist showcases her versatility with a new single titled “No Te Olvido.” Switching things up from her usual high-energy earworms, the new track reveals a softer side of Abbie, who delivers an angelic heartbreak ballad that rushes out of her heart on sparse guitar plucks, droning drums and soaring high notes. —Richard Villegas
Weapons of Mass Creation – “All I Do”
Weapons of Mass Creation are here to keep it all in the family. Composed of Southern Californian siblings and relatives gifted with the sound of music, the ultra-smooth supergroup are the peak definition of feel-good vibrations and fresh-fitted demeanor. Fusing the sultry stylings of R&B with traces of jazz, hip-hop and electro-beats, the group takes you on a journey of embracing the highest forms of self-love. —Jeanette Diaz
Un reve – “Para Convertirse en Flores de Mezcalapa”
The best experimental music triggers something in your emotional core that makes you think about the little details of life. “Para Convertirse en Flores de Mezcalapa” is a great example—a haunting piece of music built from a murmur before it soars into a delicate crescendo. Mexico City’s Un rêve builds an experience that makes the listener feel enraptured by the beauty of the world around them. —Marcos Hassan
Lika Nova – “Una Apuesta”
With this fresh track, Bogotá’s Lika Nova prove they know a thing or two about writing songs that sound like getting ready to hit the club. “Una Apuesta” features prominent elements of ‘80s pop like gated drums and digital synths, possessing a youthful quality that brims with energy and anticipation. This sets the stage for the irresistible catchy hooks that the band displays, making “Una Apuesta” a song that begs you to sing along with it. —Marcos Hassan
Feid – “Fumeteo”
Feid is the Colombian reggaetonero that can be traced as the mastermind behind many recent reggaeton hits from J Balvin to Anitta to Maluma. He has now released his latest single as his own frontman with “Fumeteo,” a tease of what’s to come on his forthcoming album. Breaking down reggaeton to its melodic roots, the track lays down a simplified, yet infectiously catchy rhythm that makes it the perfect versatile summer jam—whether you’re in the mood for good vibes hasta arriba or a risqué perreo hasta abajo. —Jeanette Diaz