Best Songs of 2013

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This is the one song I keep coming back to, the one I keep finding new ways to articulate how much it means to me. It’s the most overtly political track featured on this list, but even in its obviousness it resists being didactic. Maybe it’s because its politics aren’t just neo-liberal babble proclaiming art can save the world or some fluff. It’s an elegy for the way we relate. It’s a cry for awareness and response, a refusal to bow down. Raúl Querido, in a deadpan gargle, aggressively thanks the exploitative regimes above him, equating money to God and swallowing to accumulation. It’s desperate, smart, and rattling. –Paola Capó-García

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With their mixture of rock, pop, and electronica with regional Mexican genres, Centavrvs have managed to conquer our hearts because they’re so unexpected when it comes to their music, as evidenced by our favorite “Por Eso.” Even when you can hear a prominent accordion and a subtle guiro, “Por Eso” has the dramatic and visceral quality of a tango. It’s a song about lovers with so much history, so much violence, restraint, and love that you can only marvel at how Centavrvs managed to pack all of those conflicting feelings in under five minutes. As an added bonus, the track features Hello Seahorse!’s Denise Gutiérrez’s beautiful voice, dangerously throwing the needle toward the red. If there was an intensity thermometer for music, “Por Eso” would’ve broken it, hands down. – Amaya García


If Grises’ “Wendy” redefines the word “buoyant,” then Los Wálters’ “Cuadrado Redondo” makes the word its bitch. It’s the kind of insta-pop-classic that just makes you feel really good when you listen to it. And that’s OK. I like a good mope fest here and there (read: anything I’ve ever written), but when a song lifts you up the way “Cuadrado Redondo” does, you have to tip your hat to that. Crafting a non-ironic, purely euphoric pop song without tipping over to the this-is-so-earnest-I’m-going-to-puke side is not an easy thing. And yet, you’re utterly charmed, so disarmed and open to the anthem it inspires. And it inspires many. – Paola Capó-García


You don’t even have to watch Blaya’s music video for “Superfresh” to know that she’s a badass Queen B with attitude dripping from every orifice. The Brazilian/Portuguese rapper makes her way through the kuduro trap track with ease, talking over exotic bass beats and dirty sounds, which is no surprise: 2013 was the year of trap and, personally, I couldn’t be happier. Fresh off the same-titled EP, “Superfresh” can transcend time and space with sounds reminiscent of grime tracks you’d find in the back of a London underground club while the sun is coming up. It’s pretty consistent (no huge drops or “OMG” moments) making it not so much a club banger, but maybe more of a back-of-the-limo party banger instead. – Stefa Alarcón


“Eras” is an excellent song (and video), but to truly experience the Juana Molina genius, look to “Sin guía no.” She’s at her best when she waves her freak-folk flag and she lets it all out on this track. It’s a schizophrenia-induced episode turned sweaty nightmare turned lullaby turned witch burning turned final breath. It’s a lot. But in such a controlled, measured way that you’re with it at every turn, feeling the craziness and whimsy wash over you. It fuels our fiending need for Wed 21 that much more. – Paola Capó-García


OK, so we’re kind of cheating on this one. Technically, this track came out in 2012, but its album, Memoria y profecía de Doña Petita Pantón, came into our lives in 2013, so we’ll allow it. And can you blame us? “Chanteoma,” Fabrikante’s calling card, sounds like it comes straight from the soul, a gut-busting burst of personality that makes other songs near it pale in spirit. It’s a picture of DIY perfection, weaving together lyrical leaps, corporal instrumentation, and, judging by the video, a lot of facial dexterity. Fabrikante is a walking art project, an artist who immerses himself into the world of his curious and exciting creation. Here’s hoping 2014 is filled with more Fabrikante. – Paola Capó-García

4. BFLECHA / “B33” [ESP]

Where was the finest romantic party this year? In Vigo, via BFlecha, a dreamy project led by Belén Vidal, who gave birth to the lovely βeta, a 10-track LP that boasts a big variety of styles, trends, and forms of lavish synth ornamentation. But…the crunkest song of them all?Unquestionably “B33,” the one that the melancholic love set alight, with a tumultuous 808 drum machine arranged between a sexy R&B feeling melted to the core, and a futuristic tender sound generously sprinkled with pop cosmic rays. Sounds too complicated? Just wait until you hear the rest of βeta. – David Meléndez


For the Spanish-impaired out there, this tune may sound like it’s all about ’70s disco glamour. It’s hard not to dismiss it as just a tribute to ABBA when the synths in the intro make you wanna start singing “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.” But it’s in the contrast with the dark lyrics where the real genius resides. And the video does an excellent job exposing this contrast, between the sublime beauty of the young gymnast and her creepy, abusive trainer. The Chilean indie-pop duo are no strangers to our Best-Of lists. In fact, they took the trophy in 2010, so finding them here shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Still, I get the feeling that lots of you out there have yet to discover them. – Juan Data


It’s fun, it’s original, it’s clever, it’s cliché free, and it has the catchiest beat of 2013. What else can you ask for from this new school chilango rapper? A dope video? You got that too! “Ve Nomás” was one of the greatest surprises of the year. I hadn’t even heard this guy’s name before, so I was a bit skeptical when my editor assigned me the task of reviewing it. Then the Spanish guitar loop started and I was hooked. I became a Pingüino insta-fan. This guy can really rhyme and he has a unique flow that makes it hard to pinpoint influences. But my favorite thing about him is that, regardless of his obvious intelligence and verbal dexterity, he never sounds preachy or pretentious. – Juan Data

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At its core, “La Rata” is not about joie de vivre. In parts it’s bleak, worrisome more often, but mostly it’s a stern look at the world circa 2013. María Rodríguez Garrido has something to say about a million things: herself, the economy, the world at large, and even mortality. This is nothing new for La Mala (or hip-hop itself), but it doesn’t just narrate the situations, it presents them with emotion that makes you want to rush to the streets and grab life by the cojones. “La Rata” is a personal statement about the times we live in, a postcard signed by a charismatic individual that manages to inject excitement with each turn without you noticing. – Marcos Hassan

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