Sunday, December 22, 2013

BEST OF 2013 - Top 11 Latin But Cool Songs

I've struggled to put together this Best Of list like I have never struggled in previous years. There are multiple reasons behind this. One of them, maybe the most important, is that I didn't feel very in touch with the Latin music scene in 2013, that's why I haven't been so active on this semi-agonizing blog. There were some cool things happening this year, for sure,  but almost nothing that compelled me to write on my blog and share, most of the times I felt that I was coming here out of inertia and an obligation to the few readers that still give a shit about my opinions. I was also a lot less active as a DJ in 2013. I didn't have time to put together any mix-tape in the whole year, and that's a first since I started this blog in 2008. I also didn't get to spin music a many Latin parties, so I didn't feel the pressure to keep up with the newest hits in the Latin dance-floors. I've played mostly for mixed crowds, focusing more on funk and hip-hop than Latin music. In fact, a lot of Latin records I bought this years, I did it mostly out of collector's habit, because I didn't get to play them much on my sets. As a result of all this, this year's best of list, unlike its predecessors,  was NOT determined exclusively by my DJ sets, but other factors too, and as usual I don't give a fuck if you agree with my selections or not.  

1.- "Lluvia con sol" - Orquesta El Macabeo: Are you fucking serious? A salsa song is the best song of the year chosen by an outspoken salsa hater? How is that even possible? Well, it's either that it was an extremely lame year and no other music managed to excite me as much as this, or I've experienced an inexplicable change of heart regarding the music genre that defines me by opposition. When I came up with Latin But Cool, it was meant as Everything Latin But... and the list of cheesy genres that followed was always preceded by salsa. I guess I've learned salsa can be cool too. This song at least, gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it and works great on the dance-floors as well.

2.- "Conmemoración" - Hache ST. feat. Bocafloja: Readers of this blog (and all lovers of good international hip-hop) should already be familiar with Argentine producer Gas-Lab, he's definitely one of the bests in the game when it comes to true-school, classic, soulful beats. Here we have doing his thing along with two of the best Spanish-language MCs of the continent, Dominican Republic's Hache ST and Mexico's Bocafloja, the Spanish-speaking Common and Talib Kweli respectively, if you may. The girl with way too much make up singing the chorus in San Francisco's Dolores Park is the same one from Los Rakas' biggest hit. The whole album by Hace ST is actually really good, but this song, and its video, are the best representation of what I would like Spanish hip-hop to be more.

3.- "Chalupa" - Jungle Fire: Jungle Fire is the best new band out there, period. So far they only have a couple of 7'' singles out and a few more digital releases, no debut album. It was hard to pick just one song because, to be honest, I've played them all equally in my vinyl sets during 2013, but I had to chose one and it was "Chalupa."

4.- "Codigo de barra" - Bajofondo: Presente is definitely a superb album, but it doesn't have any singles that easily stand out, it's more of a concept album, meant to be listened to as a whole. However, this track here blew my mind the first time I heard them play it live and then on the CD (why not vinyl?). For days after I've got the CD I blasted it out as loud as my speakers (and my compassion for my neighbors) allowed.

5.- "Entre rejas" - Quantic & Ana Tijoux: This one was chosen as a B-side for the Lauryn Hill cover but I ended up playing it a lot more. "That Thing" is alright, but the chorus in portuguese doesn't do it for me, the classic cumbia cover on the flip side is way better and has more dance-floor appeal. I remember many years ago trying to persuade Ana Tijoux to do some cumbias and she was like "hell no" but Quantic worked his magic and invited her to do a guest appearance Ondatrópica last year and now he got her hooked up. I really hope he manages to convince her to do a whole album together.

6.- "Same old clown" - Chico Mann feat. Kendra Morris: There're definitely plenty more songs in Chico Mann's latest album that would more accurately fit in the Latin But Cool category imposed by the URL of this blog. I know, this one is not Latin enough, but it's the one I've played the most in my DJ sets throughout 2013 so it's the first that comes to my head.

7.- "Cumbia Milagrosa" - La Misa Negra: The whole album by La Misa Negra is pretty dope, and I hate to put the spotlight on the one song there that's a cover, instead of their original compositions, but I gotta be honest, and just like in Chico Mann's case, this is the one I've played the most in my sets during this year, so it's the one that made it into the top10.

8.- "Kool" - Nico Cota: I really want Nico Cota to break into the international funk arena. He really deserves to be known outside of the minuscule funk scene of Buenos Aires, and outside of the Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas entourage. This sophomore album of his really proves that he can totally stand on himself and if it was released on vinyl I've played it a lot in my sets during 2013.

9.- "Todo sobre mi desmadre" - Cookin' Bananas: Fucking genius, man! This is the best team of hip-hop beat-makers from Spain (Cookin' Soul, who else?) with Spanish rap pioneer, Mucho Muchacho (of 7 Notas 7 Colores fame) doing a whole album together, and it's all killer, no filler. This track in particular stands out because of the lyrics, with all the clever references to Almodóvar movie titles. One that I can play to my hip-hop-deficient friends and they can still appreciate it.

10.- "Reza por mi" - Atropolis feat. Lido Pimienta: I didn't care much for the rest of the album, but this one song, I became addicted to it at first listen. I couldn't just stop singing it inside my head.

11.- "Para Papá" - Diana Gameros: In previous years, a song likes this one wouldn't have made it into my Best Of lists, simply because I was exclusively focused on music to make people dance at the parties. But Diana's voice is gorgeous and she's an accomplished composer as well. She played this song live on my podcast and I instantly fell in love with her. She's kinda like a cult artist here in the Bay Area but one that I can clearly see with international projection in the short-term future. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a Latin Grammy nomination in 2014.