Club Fonograma's Best Albums of the Decade. Part One.

Universal, 2003. “Dance and dense denso”
These guys dress obscenities and political incorrectness into stunning virtues and victories. We might not have fallen into the “Frijolero” wagon at all (because it’s kind of dumb) but we do realize that's its thing. We can refer to this album as one of the last truly acclaimed rock albums of the so mistakenly marginalized RockEnEspañol tag, and yes, there are some amazing tracks here (“Noko” for example). It will be very difficult for these bad boys to retain a status of an acclaimed sociaal-political-charged band now that the genre feels so absolute and tiresome; the two albums following this one were quite horrid. But during 2003, this was indispensable; it just felt right, and 7 years later, it finds itself as part of the transcendental. CR

Sony International, 2003. “La Procesión”
There’s something about Argentina and music, and it’s that they are damn good at it. The sound quality of this record is mind-blowing. Serious stuff. Clean stuff. The arrangements and performances are impeccable and make the adventure of listening to the whole epic 20 songs more than worth it. I want to go on a road trip devoted entirely to listening to this album again and again! Kevin Johansen (like Lila Downs, though entirely different) has cultural mixing in his genes. Backed by a genius band. Showing off some wild sense of humor in his lyrics in Spanish, English and… well… Spanglish. And singing with a perfect, velvety baritone that’s both sexy and mad. He accomplished a giant masterpiece here. JMT

Delhotel Records, 2008. “amaramA”
We declared ourselves Album fans after hearing this one, in part, it’s the heart of Delhotel Records and we’re glad the band is back on track after a minute of dispersion. On a recent interview, Album defined Cancer Baby as their most experimental album, funny because it’s the most pop-accessible moment of the band. With that said, I wish the band had more moments like this one. This is electronic at its best; it really feels like a field of music trying to negotiate clarity. Incredibly modular, these songs are very up-in-the-air and are scooped through blasts, explosions, suffocation, torment, and yet the result adds up to one fine hydrated pop album. JSB

Sony International, 2005. “En dirección contraria”
It must be hard to be a female child prodigy. I mean, while your male counterparts are the next LeBron James’s and Vivaldi’s, you have to be content being the next Maria Sharapova or {gulp} Condeleeza Rice. But in Natalia LaFourcade’s case, she just wanted to make music for the hell of it, and this feeling permeates all throughout Casa. At times, straight-up Mexican rock music can tend to sound a bit rote and conservative, but this is a shining exception. “Ser Humano” and “El Amor Es Rosa” are devastatingly powerful, and the production is sharp. Plus, you get to hear “O Pato” as a bonus track, and don’t tell me that song never put a grin on your face. AC

Playhouse, 2003. “Dexter”
Not your typical Club Fonograma-approved album, but any work of this magnitude from a Latin musician must be commended. Alcachofa isn’t so much a work of minimal techno as a work of a work of minimalist techno. The structures are completely skeletal, and the tracks contain enough space you’ll swear you’re in a vacuum. But its how the songs begin to construct that makes your eyes open up. The percussion percolates as the odd vocal or synth noise begins to juxtapose into a constant groove. Suddenly, what was previously hypnotic and translucent becomes {gasp} music that you can dance to! Villalobos is one of the preeminent masters of production working today, and this is his masterpiece. AC

Surco, 2000. “Si Señor”
It sure feels like a classic, a double-disc musical interpretation of the movie that served as the kickoff in the nu-wave of Mexican cinema. It’s part compilation featuring among others Nacha Pop, Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas, Celia Cruz and Santaolalla’s original themes. The other part, let’s call it a treasure; original songs from Café Tacvba, Julieta Venegas, Bersuit Vergarabat, Ely Guerra and others. The perfect soundtrack for dislocated politics, also, a set of songs for those desolated souls who think ‘life is a bitch.’ As fascinating as the film’s puzzling narrative, as overlapping in genres and themes as the movie that happens to fall into post-classical narration, I’d say the album surpasses the collision. CR

Sony International, 2006. “Adiós”
They’re extremely rare, but you can still find juggling rock at record stores, few as mesmerizing as Cerati’s Ahi Vamos. This is an avalanche of edgy songs so mirthful one could refer to it as a pop album, or at least his most accessible moment yet (because Fuerza Natural isn’t immediate, it’s empty). “La Excepcion” gives the album its premise: “Y que nos vuele la sonoridad por el aire, un espacio para celebrar, se que esto es grande.” Sure we can go back and discover an entirely new Cerati in Siempre Es Hoy, but this was his return to legitimate rockstar status and we’re in serious need of those. In a few decades when people start talking about him in terms of Spinetta or Garcia, this is will prove to be one of his greatest weapons. JSB

Blue Note Records, 2002. “Velha Infancia”
Have you ever wondered what would happen if three of the most talented, successful and interesting solo artists in Brazil (birthplace of some of the best friggin’ music in the world!) decided to get together and invent a band? Maybe not, but knowing it did happen, you should! And if you haven’t heard Tribalistas yet, you’re missing on some of the most gorgeous, fun and perfect pop ever created. Period. Marisa Monte is a goddess, a siren and a genius producer; Carlinhos Brown has all the crazy rhythms and flavor of traditional Brazilian music running through his veins, and Arnaldo Antunes with that deep, otherworldly voice adds the poetry that will break your heart while you’re smiling in rapture. JMT

Happy-Fi/Nacional Records, 2008. “The Flow”
Not only are they on the shortlist for coolest band of the planet, their albums are allusions of pop’s extravaganza. With two great albums under their belt, it would be obvious to include their debut Wof in the list for its revelatory purposes, but it really is in Nueva America where their ideas expand into actual great songs, even if they have to undergo music form to get there. From the beautiful anthems “Minutos de Aire” and “Breathing” to the glowing “The Flow” and “Showtime”, Quiero Club proves having a spirit is as important as the music composition. A refreshing listen of ageless tropi-pop with a direction, count us in! JSB

Warner, 2005. “Eco”
A clean and even edgy production makes Eco the perfect album to get into Jorge Drexler. It must have sprung from a moment of deep inspiration, and fortunately the outcome was polished by just the right hands and dressed by just the right musicians. The songs shine through above it all, as one should expect in a singer-songwriter’s album. His light southern voice delivers flowing melodies that carry playful & smart lyrics. Subtle hints of almost chill-out, jazzy folklore (a la Bajofondo, which makes sense knowing Juan Campodónico produced) give it a crisp freshness that just adds to the pleasure of listening. A couple of these songs have made me drop more than a couple of tears through the years! JMT

Sony International, 2003. "A tu lado"
This is the turning-point in her career. That legendary line that divides a fan base: some fans said she “sold-out” (whatever that might mean, & as if it were something bad; doesn’t everyone want success? and –to me– this brilliant immersion in the pool of pop just gave Julieta a new, broader freedom to do anything she wants creatively and reach more people than ever before), while many old fans (like myself) simply enjoyed this cool & refreshing album for what it is: intelligent, heartfelt & exquisite pop of the highest quality! Am I allowed to mention that Si marks also the moment she made the whole world notice she’s not only a genius songwriter but also very, very hot? JMT

Elefant, 2009. “Ya No”
Count me in as one of La Bien Querida’s followers who wasn’t all that convinced by Romancero, I guess her demos were so incredibly engaging that the new cuts felt overproduced and drowned by technicality. The songs were always there, and after a period of assimilation one comes to realize this is one amazing glossy breakthrough. It is at the end the move from simplicity to cacophonous density what makes this album triumphant. It’s also positions Ana Fernandez Villaverde as the leading lady of Spain’s indie and a stimulating revival of the romantic Spanish song; ideally constructed out of pure lyricism and good vocals. Bonus points for the Ranchero hints and the great one-liners. CR

Oveja Negra, 2009. “Ayayayay”
Fucking awesome! That’s what comes to mind first after being asked to describe this album. These strange times shaking the world of music now have created an overflow of new stuff that’s sorta disposable often, and I can’t but thank the heavens above when I find something that’s endlessly interesting. This debut album is apparently quite traditional in its songwriting, by this I mean it draws from classic rock, pop, folk and blues to give its great songs a backbone, flesh, booty and blood. Lyrics are a heavy part of its unique genius, and I can’t stop talking about how much I admire lyricists who can make you laugh while talking about the most tragic, existentialist, sad shit. Bravo, Pedro! JMT

Universal Latino, 2007. “53100”
It’s a recurring, and sometimes valid, complaint that venerable rock bands “lose the plot” at some point in their history. Luckily, Café Tacuba has yet to reach this moment, as evidenced by Sino, their veritable tribute to their classic rock idols. From a Bowie-indebted epic ("Volver A Comenzar") that both distills and usurps everything the Killers have and ever will do, to a peak-era Who stomper ("53100") that oozes confidence, to the overall vibe of the Beatles’ Abbey Road that permeates throughout the whole album; Café Tacuba proved yet again that rock music can't be limited by any language or country, for it is truly the greatest barrier-breaker of the past half-century. AC

036. CALLE 13. CALLE 13
Sony International, 2005. “Sin Coro”
Two half-brothers visiting each other from time to time, one flourishing into a lyricist and the other, one of those grandeur sound gurus we get once on a lifetime. “Quien fue el que provoco el accidente!?!” This is by far one of our dearest albums, we weren’t here by the time but through other forums we defended this album to death. One night “Querido F.B.I.” leaked, the next day it had Puerto Rico on fire, from that moment, Calle 13 became one of the most anticipated albums of the decade and they didn’t disappoint. It’s a remarkable revelation from what is probably the best Latin urban act ever. Many overlook this album for its reggaetonesque values not knowing it self-archives into the historical document it is. CR

Umvd Labels, 2005. “Widow”
At the beginning of 2005, I thought of the Mars Volta as many things: they were a Hispanic prog-rock band who made a pretty good first album; they were half of the defunct At The Drive-In, a great band that never reached their potential; yet I never really thought of them as a great band. The key reason being that progressive rock sucks. Then I heard a bootleg copy of Frances the Mute. Wow. Consisting of 5 songs in a 77 minute period, listening to this album is not a journey for the faint of heart. But those willing to experience it will be duly rewarded. Your ears will bleed for a week afterward, but it’ll be totally worth it. AC

Nacional Records, 2008. “Día Paranormal”
We’re getting stuffed by socially-conscious political albums, unlistenable most often than not. Aterciopelados does it like nobody else, sweet lyrics and adequate rock that never fall into over-sentimentalism. Rio is memorable from whatever side you look at it, for its songs or its good intentions, Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago are still rocking it. Think about it, just this decade alone Juanes and Mana made about a dozen songs trying to save humanity through in-your-face calculations, forgetting music’s own emotional expression. Aterciopelados, hippies or not, work their themes (motherhood, nature, daughters) through personal reach, resulting in pieces as graceful as “Ataque de Risa” or “Hijos de Tigre.” CR

Quemasucabeza, 2007. “Samiroseva”
I can say one thing about Gepe, and it’s that he has a style of his own. He makes faultless pop, keeping it –at the same time– pretty odd. “…al último momento se entiende” he assures in "Esgrima", the first song off this record. Maybe. Or, at least, you definitely enjoy it, tiny-dancing to it, smiling and wanting to sing along even if you’re not sure what he means. Playful lyrics, yes please! Plus Daniel Riveros has a brilliant sensibility that apparently manages to condense the zeitgeist of modern music intuitively while he holds that position of sounding like no one else but himself, and evolves from a critically acclaimed home-made debut into something bigger, badder, more upbeat and fun. JMT

Nettwerk Records, 2002. “Sambita”
This is one of those true breakthroughs in Latin alternative music; a new band making it big with their very first album. By now, we’re costumed to American media basing the breakthrough tag on U.S. distribution but Kinky’s funky electro was great enough to acquire world-wide distinction. Kinky is an ambitious album with great genres and dialogues, futuristic only one the surface because it’s actually very orthodox and that’s ultimately its main force. Whether it had your heart jumping up and down with “Sound tha mi primer amor” or your neck twisted with “Mirando de lado”, the band proves to be way more than a soundtrack commercial band. JSB

Sony International, 2005. "En tus pupilas"
In 2005, Columbian music queen Shakira put out two records with the same title, and released them six months apart. While the English album floundered due to inconsistency, the Spanish album, Fijación Oral was, in a word, brilliant. Pound-for-pound the most eclectic record in her catalogue, the album confirmed Shakira’s genius and knack for discombobulated musical ethos. From reggaeton-inspired pop (“La Tortura”), to Coldplay-lite rockers (“La Pared”), and transcendent French-style lounge (“Obtener un Sí”), she left no color in her palette unused. Shakira may sometimes come off as some sort of sex goddess in the media, but when she really puts her heart into it, she can the routine and normal seem as worthy of excitement. AC

Kompakt Germany, 2009. “Juanita”
Let me tell you about the drunken night in Juarez that helps me reflect on this album. It was summertime, it was hot, and I probably had drunk my weight in Negra Modelo. Thankfully I wasn’t on some chemical substance or else I would have been concerned for my safety. Sometime around 3:30, a wave of people started exiting the club, so me and my hostesses naturally followed suit. For the next hour or so I can remember the clashing sounds of the cars, people, taco carts, and night ambiance racing through my head as we made our way out of the country. It’s that sort of night that Ay Ay Ay celebrates, and it’s a wonder how much Aguayo got the experience right. AC

Nacional Records, 2003. “Alo”
Third album from mavericks Alejandro Rosso and Jonás González, Hola Chicuelos is a bombshell of funky tunes and celestial techno. This set deserves to be here just for “Alo” alone, I might be over thinking but I see it as the song that killed the 90s rock spirit many bands had so forcedly slipped into the new millennium. And let’s not forget about “Peligroso Pop”, which warned us of the dangers of pop taking over, and as a matter of fact, it did. They extract juice from just about anything, and if they don’t, they smack ‘em like they do in “Oxidados” (toma guey! poing). Plastilina has the beats, Plastilina has the girls. JSB

RCA, 2007. "Alegrias del incendio"
If you think you don’t like Los Planetas, listen to them again. Let’s be real, they sound boring as hell or at least that was my first impression when I first heard La Leyenda del Espacio, my first true encounter with the band. But I remember going back to it over and over, it was a magnetizing experience where everything started to flourish into deeply moving songs, once it grabbed me it shook me and now it’s hard to leave its galaxy. They’re Spain’s high-profile landmark, the required reference when discussing Spain’s rock and its aesthetics. The band released two other albums (along with some EPs) during the decade, but nothing as subliminal and visceral as this, talk about spaceship! JSB

Crepus, 2008. “Escuela de zebras”
Joe Crepusculo is one asymmetrical bright dude; I once described him as Ricardo Arjona on laxatives. Entering the Crepus world is a bizarre experience, uncomfortable even, but once there it starts to build boundaries for the unexpected. It unrolls itself like a hyper kid who isn’t rebelling towards traditional music; he’s just making music from the heart. He is a story-teller, one that accentuates details and harmonizes them like no other.. It's a mechanical album full of transitions and synthesizers, sometimes correlating towards the same direction and others collapsing into the electronic fields of the bizarre. Escuela de Zebras indeed feels very animalistic in its wild approach to hug pop. CR

Laptra, 2008. “Verano Fatal”
By far, this is Argentina’s most promising rock band (sorry Norma, sorry Banda de Turistas). Many don’t quite understand them or understand the passionate followers; let’s say that when you’re walking through Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New York or any other of the big metropolis it’s a chilling and moving experience. I would go as far as endorsing it as a university album, just like Wavves or The Smith Westerns, these guys sound great on crowded campuses and those walks around bikers and skaters. “AV Corrientes” was one of those hits so immense (within the scene) that it overshadowed the rest of the album, and believe me, they’re no one hit wonders. CR