2018 is coming to a close and my what a year it’s been. From collapsing economies, to seas of green panuelos— there have been highs, lows, and everything in-between. But the amount of great music that came out this year has been our saving grace. Here are our subjective staff picks for the best of what this ripe local music scene has sowed.

Mi Nave | Ojos Cuadrados

Clocking in at a concise 26 minutes, Mi Nave’s latest effort is an exercise in sonic texture and poetic imagery like no other. The lyrics, strikingly simple yet cryptically loaded with meaning, evoke moments of lucidity amidst the intoxicating soundscapes that resonate throughout the album, oscillating between pure, unadulterated dream pop (“Amuleto”) and more dancy post-punk numbers (“Redondel”) that make the album’s pulse irresistible.

Tani | Mew

A sophomore album can be a challenge – how do you meet past listeners’ expectations, but not fall into the trap of being too expected? In Mew, the 23-year-old Tani sidesteps this conundrum with a collection of songs that were first written before her young debut album, but fleshed out and polished to pop perfection over the last couple of years with producer Diego Acosta. Switching from guitar to keys, the 7-song album maintains the charm and naivete of her previous work but reaches a new level of sophistication due to its lush instrumentation and higher production value. Whether this next step speaks more to her precocious, preternatural songwriting abilities or her previously untapped potential as an artist, we’re not sure — but we know one thing: we can’t wait to hear what happens next.

Enelotromundo Cuarteto | Posdebut

The debut album by Enelotromundo Quarteto is filled to the brim with unusual sounds. The kicker is that said sounds are unusual both for an album of chamber music and for an album of pop songs. That’s because it’s both, and it’s also neither. Instead, it’s this odd kind of in-between: a collection of off-kilter and adventurous yet gorgeous and wholeheartedly tuneful songs that stretch the limit of what you’d expect from a string quartet. Their playing is as fluid and dexterous as their compositions, which manage to resonate emotionally in a way you wouldn’t expect from an album this experimental. It is also a wonderful album from a purely sonic standpoint; seriously, slap on some headphones and let the sounds of glissandos and pizzicatos whisk you away.

Jazmín Esquivel | Púrpura 

Jazmin Esquivel’s debut LP Púrpura is a lush, enthralling collection of guitar-based folk songs that shimmer and shake with a sense of mythology, mystery and allure, featuring lyrics that blend the first-person confessional and third-person storytelling aspects of the genre. Largely acoustic in nature, the songs feature a mix of folk, rockn’roll, rockabilly, and various traditional autochthonous rhythms, all channeled through Esquivel’s expressive and skillful voice as well as producer Lucy Patané’s tastefully-employed orchestration.

LUCIA TACCHETTI | VOL.3D

Brevity is the soul of wit, and, as it turns out, also of pop music. Lucía Tacchetti’s third album VOL.3D is 27 minutes of synthesized pop bliss, from breathless and anthemic to understated and laid-back, but always vital and alive. Tacchetti’s confessional lyrics are punctuated by snappy beats and adorned by arpeggiated synth lines. Just under half an hour of pure toe-tapping ear-candy.

Jorge Arias y los Pampeanos Galácticos | El Corazón y el Perro

Although not the first of works by Necochean composer Jorge Arias, El Corazón y el Perro is the debut album of the collaborative group Jorge Arias y los Pampeanos Galácticos, released in March of 2018. Thematically, the songs deal with questions of a more cosmic scope – the grand mysteries of life, and the interconnectedness of the universe – instilling a sense of wonder and profundity into listeners, while drawing on imagery and metaphors inspired by the Nocochean landscape and pampas. The name “Pampeanos Galácticos,” in this sense, is no misnomer. These themes are equally as evident in the music and arrangements of the album as they are in the lyrics. The album plays with a constant interaction of acoustic and electronic sounds, intertwining references to folklore and traditional music and rhythms with ingeniously incorporated synth sounds and electronic warbles. Often the synth is heard surprisingly strong in the mix, wailing a seemingly-disconnected yet strangely-complementary melody over a verse or chorus happening underneath, effortlessly and unexpectedly tying everything together. 

 

Penny Peligro | Selfies desde el Patrullero

Penny Peligro’s debut full-length album Selfies desde el Patrullero was released in September under BPM Discos. It features 9 tracks, each one a testament to the artist’s affinity for major keys, and delivered in her signature vocal style, steeped in innocence. The skillful production of Sebastian Beretta and Ignacio Maqui, and the scrupulous guitar lines of Matías Figueredo add a power, depth, and dimension to Penny’s songs. Each track explores distinct melodic facets and plays with structural dynamics, to ensure that the catchy, bubble-gum pop melodies never go stale. Thematically, the songs are intensely relatable. Although based on personal experiences from the 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s life, the songs maintain a healthy balance between the specific and the ambiguous – vague enough to be applied to a situation in the listener’s own life, but personal enough to still be uniquely hers. Penny’s lyrics are deceptively simple, with a superficial appeal that draws in the idle listener, and an underlying poetry that rewards the literary-minded.  

ESCALANDRUM | STUDIO 2

The jazz sextet returns with another offering of vibrant performances, this time focusing entirely on their original compositions. Likely a result of playing tunes that are entirely theirs, the band sounds sharper, more focused, and at the same time more free-flowing than ever, following each composition down harmonic, rhythmic and melodic paths, and never dropping it until every corner of its emotional space is examined. The originals songs range from bright, sunny and tuneful to dark, foreboding and serpentine, operating at the intersection of tango and jazz, but pushing ever forward.

María Pien | Afuera el Sol Estalla

An unlikely covers album featuring compositions by fellow independent artists such as Chaucoco, Lucila Pivetta and Jeaninne Martin, Afuera El Sol Estalla finds singer-songwriter María Pien in pure performer mode, inhabiting the songs of her peers to craft a series of deeply-affecting musical moments. The album also showcases her talents as an arranger, as she — along with co-producer Agustin Bucich — employs various instrumental and sonic approaches to showcase each individual song. Outside of last year’s excellent Tres Poemas EP, Pien has never sounded this visceral and immediate. A lovingly-crafted tribute to the joy of sharing music.

Valeria Cini | Buen Gusto Y Malas Costumbres

Valeria Cini’s fifth album is an ode to everything. It references women such as Virginia Wolf, Susana Thénon and Violeta Parra; pays tribute to poetry (the female warrior as per her own words); moves swimmingly along different languages (Spanish, English and Portuguese), speaks of resurrection journeys and oscillates between genres all the while. She takes you from a chanson to a guaraña of her own and then downstream on the Paraná river with Jangadero. The guitars and Cini’s voice are the stars; the first so clear and gentle yet upfront; and the latter so powerful, even when soft.

Mariana Michi | Cayó el Valiente

The first solo album by Mariana Michi is all about the act of unveiling. In a folk rooted and electro-modern key it is the expression of a long coveted and successfully conquered willingness to just let oneself be. This album is a meditation of letting the universe take over for once and for all and doing away with the “Oh, yes, I’m so brave” suit which we wear.

The release travels and breathes on sweet acoustic guitars that float along with synths and killer percussion, accentuated by powerful and perfectly syncopated drums. Exquisitely produced this album creates an ample space to live with the honest and beautifully unpretentious lyrics after stripping off that deceitful suit.