Oh 2019, you long and spiny serpent of a year. We’re not sure that any year in recent memory has had so many triumphs or setbacks, from election results and impeachments to economic crises and guitarist deportations (hi, Chris!). But we are filled with optimism, dear reader, and it’s in no small part due to the incredible array of local new releases that have pleasured our ears and soothed our souls during these most turbulent times.
And so our staff has once again whittled down our long list of new local releases to present to you our favorites — 15 albums that, in our humble opinion, deserve to be streamed on repeat until the new year brings us the first wave of fresh new releases.
Anajunno – Fuegoinvierno
In this porteño-centric music scene, it’s always refreshing to listen to new releases from bands outside of Buenos Aires. That’s why we were super pumped to find out about the release of Fuegoinvierno, Anajunno’s proper 2nd LP. In it, the Santa Fe four-piece mixes jangly pop with rich synth textures to excellent results. Their sophomore effort finds the shoegaze act at the peak of their powers, effortlessly switching between Spanish and English in 9 songs dominated by pristine guitar arpeggios and a dreamy atmosphere that will leave you in a trance-like state, wondering if what you just heard was real or just a daydream.
Feli Colina – Feroza
Feroza is an album that immediately knocks you out with two key factors: Colina’s dramatic, often theatrical performance style, and the gorgeous production. Recorded at the mythical Abbey Road studio as part of a competition in the Ciudad Emergente festival, Feroza is a sonically rich collection of carefully crafted pieces tied together by Colina’s expressive vocals and conversational style, with sharp detours into spoken-word sections,that cut right to the core of each song. Elements of folk, blues, rockabilly, and jazz make this feel like an emotional travelogue of sorts, one which is startlingly confessional. It holds nothing back, and it’s all the better for it.
Costas – Haikú
Haikú is the second full-length album by Costas, released by Lagunera Discos. With elements of New Wave, shoegaze and synth-pop, the album seems specifically designed to guide the listener through a hazy sonic journey, suspending them in thin air for the length of its running time, and exploring kaleidoscopic shades of nuance through the course of its 8 tracks. Equal parts experimental pop and psychedelia, the album is brimming with synth flourishes, hypnotic guitar arpeggios, and delicate, laser-sharp arrangements that only reveal themselves after repeated listen, when it’s already way too late to stop humming them.
Delfín – Pescadores
Delfín’s Pescadores is one of the most peculiar and instantly-captivating albums we’ve had the pleasure of listening to in recent memory, and its almost-title-track may be the best distillation of everything we find great about it. Chock full of memorable hooks that sound like they’ve been run through a meat grinder a few times, stuttering stomping rhythms, psychedelic hazy keyboards, melodies that approach poppiness before taking sharp left turns, guitars that sound like vocals and vocals that sound like guitars. You’ll likely have to listen to it a few times to get your head around its odd contours, but you’ll enjoy every second of it.
Folie – El Gran Tornado
A tornado gains power quickly and without warning, and destroys everything in its path. How will you know when the storm’s coming, and what will be left of you when it’s over? Folie’s album El Gran Tornado sucks us up into its vortex with six tracks that whirl around the album’s central concept, developing the metaphor of the Tornado throughout the work. And, like any good metaphor, it works on multiple levels, allowing for an interpretation as vague or specific, superficial or profound as the mind of the listener is inclined to have it. Each song is catchy, beautiful, and powerful in a unique way, evoking a passion, excitement, and feeling of epicness as you sing along at full volume.
Maca Mona Mu – Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe, the third album by Maca Mona Mu, represents a huge leap forward for the singer-songwriter, building on the foundations of her jazz-and-folk influenced rootsy sound and applying a larger sonic palette: pop synths, stomping blues rhythms, loud rock guitars, and even gospel arrangements make their way into the album, and the thrilling “Quién Iba a Decir” is a great example of the sheer power of this release. Produced by Lucy Patané and released by Elefante en la Habitación, the album’s pedigree is as undeniable as its irresistible hooks and clever songwriting.
Loli Molina – Lo Azul Sobre Mi
Lo Azul Sobre Mi isn’t an album that will bowl you over with its eclecticness, its musical adventurousness, or its various peaks and valleys. Instead, it’s one of those musical experiences that is content to find a sonic space and simply explore its various shades of nuance for a while. It’s 34 minutes of delicately-plucked folk songs, gentle melodies, gorgeous arrangements, and hushed vocals. It quietly, and quite confidently, draws the listener into its space; before you know it, the album exists all around you, and you wonder how you ever needed anything else.
Renzo Montalbano – Potente
Renzo Montalbano’s Potente is an album out of time. Seemingly plucked straight out of the timestream, the Gativideo member has put together a collection of songs that shines in all of its throwback, brightly-colored vintage-vinyl glory. And while the album’s general aesthetic finds Montalbano with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, it does not come at the expense of emotional nuance: there are several moments of genuine emotion here. At times a funky, soulful experience and an exercise in Brill Building / Phil Spector pop songwriting, this is a vibrant collection of fun (and immaculately-produced) tunes by an artist unafraid of rebuilding the past in his own image.
Mugre – Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo
A lean and mean release from Barbi Recanati’s Goza Records label by one of this year’s most notable power trios. Featuring six bratty, punky, undeniably infectious songs across 20 minutes, Gracias Por Cuidar El Euqipo is one of our most played rleases from 2019. It’s chock-full of memorable hooks, wryly humorous lyrics, and a confrontational and uncompromising spirit that recalls 1970s New York punk bands. Mariana Michi, Jazmin Esquivel and Sofia Naara Malagrino gave us a lot to talk about in 2019, and we expect even more greatness from them in the future.
Lucy Patané – Lucy Patané
The first solo effort by multi-instrumentalist and composer Lucy Patané, previously of Las Taradas and La Cosa Mostra, is simply fearless. Whether rowdy and galloping or tender and intimate, the entirely self-recorded album is a musical testament to the courage it takes to be true to oneself, whether in a personal or artistic setting. At times Patané channels the playful, folktronic ethos of Juana Molina while at others she seems to tap into her punk roots to great effect. No matter what genres are present in any given track, Patané’s chameleonic vocals serve as the anchor: vulnerable, powerful, strident, and moving, her expressive voice mutates and evolves to support the many breathtaking vocal arrangements that cemented this record’s place among our favorites of 2019.
Ruiseñora – Viaje Al Centro de la Selva Eléctrica
One thing’s for sure: 2019 was an incredible year for impressive debuts. Ruiseñora started as a collaboration between singers-songwriters María Pien and Lucila Pivetta; the project soon expanded to include Natalia Spiner on guitar and vocals, and Melanie Willams on drums. Viaje Al Centro de la Selva Eléctrica, also released through Goza Records, is unburdened by the typical tentativeness of a debut album; instead, it’s a collection of thoughtfully composed and exquisitely performed songs, managing to sound both expansive and laser-focused all at once. With moments of punky straight-ahead power-chord rock as well as instances that recall the sounds like dub and even samba, the album happily announces itself as a genre onto its own; a joyous, brilliantly radiant collection of instant classics. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
Los Subtitulos – Ep 2
To label Los Subtítulos as merely a Tobogán Andaluz side project would be doing them a great disservice. Even though what they do could be easily dubbed as indie rock by the unaware observer, the three-piece are in a category of their own, blending the genre’s most common tropes with a pinch of dark humor and plenty of gravitas. On EP 2, they conjure feverish universes where the characters are deeply flawed, sleep-deprived, and consumed by their poor decisions, giving the songs a sense of urgency that doesn’t let up even in the album’s quietest, most melancholic moments. The band’s smoky indie noir sound provides the perfect setting for these hopeless stories, alternating between guitar rock a la Sonic Youth (‘Pampa’) with darker, more dramatic numbers that defy easy categorization (‘Confort’). All in all, Los Subtítulos’ EP 2 might not be an instant classic but it’s a daunting piece of music that manages to shed some light into the darkest corners of the human soul.
Melanie Williams & El Cabloide – Comprensión1
As one listens to Melanie Williams & El Cabloide’s phenomenal Comprensión1, there are times when it feels like you’re listening to a greatest-hits compilation. The melodies in this album are so natural and effortless that they burrow their way into your consciousness like a glorious earworm. This is contrasted with the instrumental sections, which — while earwormy in their own right — are decidedly left-of-center, popping and plucking and skipping along with elements of funk, math-rock, shoegaze and dream pop. With its incorporation of found sounds and an icy, ethereal glaze of reverb lining every song, Comprensión1 feels like a journey to some other dimension. It’s brief, breezy, moving, and catchy — increasingly so with each repeated listen.
Candelaria Zamar – Una Linterna
When one dives into Una Linterna, it’s clear that the experience will be one of a kind from the get-go. Every track from this veritable masterpiece is filled with somber, mysterious and at times painfully vulnerable moments. From the incredibly catchy Quien, to the solemn and heartfelt Blanca, Candelaria manages to keep the instrumentation extremely simple and deliver fleshed out and genuinely interesting, puzzling harmonic landscapes without losing her pop sensibilities. Upon repeated listens, Una Linterna proves to be one of those very few records that actually manage to pull off the concept of restraint by flirting with melody, instrumentation, and production in a way that holds up the very universe that the album constructs around itself.
Carola Zelaschi – Panal
Carola Zelaschi has collaborated with a number of musical groups, including serving as the drummer of Lucy Patané’s band. Panal, her first solo release, establishes her as a bold and unique artistic voice. Inspired by the energy and landscapes of traveling through Mexico, this completely instrumental record dives into new and exciting waters, bending genres, and taking us by the hand into a symphonic dreamland orchestra. Whether through delicate flute and harp arrangements, rock-forward compositions, or horn-heavy groovers, this is as much an album as it is an immersive experience. Violins, clarinets, guitars, synths, and all manner of sounds — Panal has an instrument to match every emotion evoked throughout. Meanwhile Carola sits smiling unabashedly behind the drums propelling it all forward.