Best Songs of 2013

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It was hard enough choosing the best music videos of 2013, but now you expect us to choose the best songs, too? You’re getting greedy, readers. Being the hard-working, benevolent little brand that we are, we’ve decided to give you more than just a year-end listicle. So what’s better than a roundup of the 30 best tracks to hit our ears this year? A roundup of the 30 best tracks AND a downloadable playlist of said 30 tracks (well, 27, labels be difficult, yo!). We know, we know, it’s almost too generous. But we’re in the holiday spirit, so for the next 48 hours have your way with 27 of the 30 tracks, the cream of the Hispanic crop.

Every year we try to resist total subjectivity by surveying the general impact of these songs. The best track on this list isn’t the best because it was our “favorite” (we each have our own personal favorites). It’s the best because it represents something about, not only the artist who created it, but the world in which they created it. It’s the track that feels quintessentially 2013. And while some of our personal favorites might have been left out altogether (Café Tacvba’s “Olita de Altamar,” No Fucks’ “Vegetal Tropical,” AJ Dávila’s anything), this list, to us, feels like a geographically wide, mixed-genre-inclusive encapsulation of the year that was.

You can now stream our Best Songs of 2013 on Spotify.


“Tristeza” is Empress Of’s breakout work in 2013 but “Realize You” proved how deep her talent runs. Lorely Rodríguez, the empress who dons the proverbial crown, crafted her own version of a dance club jam with “Realize You.” Hers is a laid-back, unknowingly (and innocently) sexy tune that can stand a few repeat listens. Rodríguez’s tongue-twister lyrics are cleverly employed, lending themselves well to emotional collective chanting (“Crying is a crime because you love to do it all the time,” “Freedom ain’t free if I can’t be free with you,” “Have you been you with you lately because you haven’t been you with me”). – Paola Capó-García


Siete Catorce – who we boldly dubbed “The Future Sound of Northern Mexico” earlier this year – says he makes dance music that is “to think to at the same time.” In which case, this hypnotic ruidosón track would be what you play post-spliff, when you’re bopping around your room late night, contemplating your mortality. The slow-building song is like a seven layer dip; hazy synth chords are coated with slowed down cumbia snares, sprinkled with a percussive melody, topped with more glitchy beats, and melted with ghostly, warbling notes – the layers building and dropping out as the song progresses. The end result? A tasty track that just might hypnotize you into a food coma. – Andrea Gompf


Vocalist Gabriel Alcala explained to Rolling Stone that “Double Vision,” the first single from his band Jacuzzi Boys’ new self-titled LP, was born after a night of creating tequila sunrises (tequila + orange juice + a splash of cherry something). He wasn’t kidding. The song has an incredibly chill vibe of late nights skating past all the bars around Santa Monica pier (or whatever the Miami equivalent is). It sounds a bit similar to all that wonderful psychedelic surf rock that came out of Mexico this year as well. Perhaps there was some unknown psychic connection between them all. Bookmark this track for the good times to come in summer 2014. – Afroxander

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A few months ago, at a Madison Square Garden concert called “La Salsa Vive!,” I found myself grimly pondering the future of the genre. Young faces were virtually nonexistent both on stage and in the audience, and the vibe was one of a music whose heyday has come and gone. But a few days later, La Mecanica Popular’s debut LP dropped and changed my mind about salsa’s trajectory. A much-needed gush of new blood, the multi-national collective’s track “La Paz del Freak” is an acid-laced take on classic salsa dura, layering conventional rhythms with experimental, custom-made synths and software. The end result is a highly danceable “psychedelic-salsa-meets-70s-barrio sound” that is grabbing salsa by the hair and yanking it into 2013. We’ll be looking forward to whatever is next from these guys. – Andrea Gompf


Parallels to tUnE-yArDs are fair game when discussing Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos. They both share that bold quirkiness and propensity for non-linearity that make each song its own experiment and logic. “Whirlwind” asserts all of these principles, giving us no actual words or themes, just noises. Wonderful noises. Here her voice works the way Marco Buccelli’s drums work: they incite. –Paola Capó-García


As far as first times go, my first time listening to Miss Garrison was a satisfying one. “I” introduced me to this Chilean trio (led by Francisca Straube) in a very pronounced way. It felt confident, wounded, and different from a lot of other stuff around. Straube’s voice is so gorgeous you don’t care what she’s saying and the momentum the song stores up makes you well up. Sometimes when you say certain songs are “headphones” songs what you really mean is, “The production value is shitty so you need headphones to hear any kind of detail.” But that’s not the case here. “I” is a headphones song because it’s so transporting and transcendent nothing else matters. It places you in a vulnerable spot, all the while chipping away at your armor. –Paola Capó-García


Few songs in 2013 made us feel like we could fly. You can hate me for that statement. It’s probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written (and I’m guilty of self indulgence). But listen to “Wendy,” just once, and try to tell me that that is not the fucking catchiest shizz you’ve heard in a good while. I fully believe that it is capable of inspiring multiple flash mobs of cathartic dance breaks all across the universe. I believe it can incite peace treaties far and wide. I believe it can mend fences (both metaphorical and literal ones). Just last week I got into a fight with my boyfriend, but then I played this song and four minutes and 13 seconds later we were making out. It’s a damn magic trick, this song. – Paola Capó-García


If there’s anybody out there who caught the attention of younger audiences—who don’t care much about rap en español (if anything at all)—and made them turn to Puerto Rico’s new hip-hop scene, it’s definitely Füete Billete. And even though their lyrics are controversial to some, one thing’s for sure: Füete’s boricua R&B flavor and crunk-fueled rap music will have us talking for a long while. So, finding “La Trilla” listed among our favorite tunes of the year shouldn’t come to any of you as a surprise, for it is indeed the one gem that came with their debut. – Eric Gamboa


There are very few songs that feature a killer bass line, an even more striking guitar riff, and a saxophone that sound as tight as URSS Bajo el Árbol in “Hilos de Dios.” Clocking in at a few seconds shy of six minutes, the song is (1) a rarity in the era of radio-ready singles, and (2) so epic that it feels like it’s never ending. Samuel Cervantes’ voice feels like it’s coming from his gut, so powerful and emotional that it’s nearly impossible to ignore him. The abrupt ending gives it a sense of urgency to the point where you feel Cervantes is going to choke. Following in The Mars Volta’s footsteps, the track has a slow buildup that becomes a theme throughout the rest of the song. After the first listen, you can’t help but listen to it again and again while looking for the nuances. – Amaya García


Not too much is known about the creative genius behind beGun. The work comes from a Barcelonero named Gunsal (actually Goncal) Moreno who is also one half of the duo known as SuperCola (not to be confused with the rock group from Japan with the same name). Gunsal/beGun went solo this year and has two EPs to his name, including one that bears the title to this favorite track of ours. “San Francisco” can lay claim to the new rising scene of electronic musicians that include YYXXYY, Faded, Young Cvlt, and others who experiment with tons of synths, keyboards, drum pads, and hip-hop/R&B samples. We hope there’s more like this next year. – Afroxander


The indefatigable and prolific musician of Ecuadorian descent, Roberto Carlos Lange, didn’t slow down a bit this year, releasing the second part of his double album and magnum opus, Island Universe Story, and a brand-new album, Invisible Life, under the Helado Negro moniker. “Dance Ghost” is the outstanding track of his latest album: a melancholic, dreamy, and vibrant window into the mind of an artist at the peak of his creative powers. Even as many of Helado Negro’s musical peers and contemporaries have migrated to other genres or dropped out of the game altogether, Roberto keeps carrying the fire, and will continue to, for the time being. – Manuel Ibarra

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