Best Songs of 2013

Read more


“Brujas y Magas” is one disconcerting track on all fronts. It’s a wildly experimental/glitch track that’s way closer to the current wave of Russian electronic music than to anything on this side of the hemisphere. With each misplaced laugh loop, clap, and mysterious marimba sounds, he steps farther away from hip-hop than anything I’ve heard this year. This seemingly non-sensical cut-and-paste technique (also used by Kanye West on “Bound 2”) is what makes the track a standout, even more so when you add Josué Josué’s slow, poetic lyrics about a city populated by dodgy characters and even stranger situations. I have a feeling only this guy can get away with putting black mambas, witches, magi, rituals, sacrifices, and social critique in the same story and keep it awesome. – Amaya García


Chile is really gunning for Sweden’s throne as World’s Best Pop Peddlers. The last few years have seen a slew of catchy synth-pop acts emerge from this sliver of land, and María Magdalena is the newest kid in the club – a singer whose pirouetting falsetto sounds like the cousin of Canadian songstress Grimes’ voice. The debut single off Magdalena’s second album “Cada Vez Más Cerca” is a buzzy, chameleon of a song that somehow feels perfect for a million contexts; its dark, rushing synth is at once nostalgic disco, a euphoric drive down a city street, the closing credits of a poignant coming of age movie, and the score to the video game you just can’t quit. You’ll play it back. More than once. – Andrea Gompf


Protistas seems to get overlooked in favor of other Chilean musicians, not through any fault of their own but probably because there’s so much to choose from that region nowadays. Hopefully we can correct that mistake by including the group’s “Videocámara.” The song is simultaneously off their 2010 debut Nortinas War and 2012’s Las Cruces, both chock-full of delicious lo-fi tunes such as this one. “Videocámara” is probably the catchiest pop tune to come out of Chile this year, a delightfully fun track in the vein of early Sub Pop bands and The Flaming Lips. – Afroxander


We knew Los Macuanos as the Tijuana-based trio of producers behind that tribal guarachero viral hit “Bandera,” and maybe we dismissed them as just a momentary fad because of that. We were wrong, because with their 2013 Nacional Records-released official debut album, El Origen, they proved that they were a lot more than mere bandwagon riders of the latest blogosphere-patented electropical trends. And that was mainly thanks to this one epic song. Flipping a familiar sample from Los Angeles Negros (Damien Marley did it first!) and adding the haunting vocals of Colombian-born Lucrecia Dalt, Los Macuanos caught us off guard with a trippy downtempo gem that rivals the best work by genre rulers Echocentrics. Welcome to post-Nortec Tijuana. – Juan Data


“Club Negro” is the song they’ll be playing at the hottest dance club in hell. It embodies everything that makes María y José—real name Antonio Gallardo—María y José. It doesn’t skirt around the topic, instead, it charges toward it with all its might and self-aware malice. Gallardo’s music is about crafting an identity amidst violence and excess and “Club Negro” does an excellent job of recreating a state of horror and hypnosis where we’re all asked to give up our identities and bodies for a higher (evil) cause. Even the drumline intro alerts us to the song’s not-fucking-around-ness. It’s an important moment in music in 2013. – Paola Capó-García


“There’s no democracy here, there’s consensus, no mystery,” spits Bocafloja at the end of his first verse, and if consensus really exists about something, it should be this: when you get the best MCs from Dominican Republic and Mexico together on a track—produced by the best beat maker from Argentina—magic happens. No mystery there.

Just a decade ago, a transnational collaboration of this kind (Favi does her chorus thing all the way from Dolores Park in San Francisco, CA) would’ve been really difficult to orchestrate. But thanks to globalization and the gravitational rules of the virtual multiverse, talented people, no matter where they are geographically, tend to congregate online and end up doing wonderful things together. I used to be very disenchanted with the state of Latin hip-hop (with all those fools following mainstream Anglo trends and talking about swag, cars, and gold teeth) until this beautiful, soulful song gave me hope and made me swoon all over again for my first love. Thank you. – Juan Data


Dang, Spain, why you so good rye nao? 2013 yielded A LOT in the way of an ’80s revival and we’re not talking about Aqua Net, ridiculous hairstyles, or fishnet tops. We’re talking about the good stuff, like post-punk and shoegaze. There were lots of great groups who pumped out a number of quality tunes that recalled the days of dudes standing on stage staring at their bajillion guitar pedals and playing very loud, distorted guitars and spooky bass lines. Triángulo de Amor Bizarro is at the top of that list of bands, especially since they forced us to wait three years for some new material. This is the moment when we beg them to tour the USA: PLEASE COME PLAY SHOWS HERE NEXT YEAR!!!! – Afroxander


Without resorting to hyperbole, Orquesta El Macabeo’s “Lluvia con sol” is the anthem of this generation of young Puerto Ricans. Hell, if it were for me, I would replace our national anthem with this, a salsa song so beautiful, so earth-shatteringly honest and, above all, so poignant that it hurts. You can’t help but play it on loop. Behind the painfully happy tropical rhythms, the sudden plena, the tinkling piano, and resounding cowbell lies an impeccably worded take on Puerto Rican idiosyncrasy: “Saliendo temprano y llegando tarde / lluvia con sol, sin wiper y sin aire.” The cheeriness of the music might sound a little ironic, yet it speaks perfectly as to how we, as a nation, deal when the deck is stacked with crappy cards. At the end of the day, you play with whatever cards you have left, dance the night away, and do it all over again the next day. – Amaya García


Juan Cirerol spent many years as a guitarist for a death metal group (or was it thrash metal?) before tossing all that aside for an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Well, that and a shit-ton of drugs and alcohol as he’s seemingly confessed in his latest album, Cachanilla y Flor De Azar. Failed relationships, drug use, life on the road…he’s Jack Kerouac with a guitar confessing his vices to the world. No song is as “confessional” as “Ahí Te Va Llegar El Cheke,” in which the Mexican Johnny Cash goes on for six minutes about being “anti-todo” and his life as a junkie, pero no como “un junkie cualquiera.” It’s cathartic, it’s intense, it’s uniquely Juan Cirerol. – Afroxander

[insert-video youtube=BxkksqLB07g]

1 2 3