Club Fonograma's Best Albums of 2012

40. User 69
In my review for Bam Bam’s 2011 masterpiece Futura Vía, I mentioned how Luxor’s vocal collaboration wasn’t that essential. Nevertheless, the truth is we’ve missed her. A lot. She’s made a proper comeback under the charge of Selma Oxor, the band she once shared along with Alexico and Ratas del Vaticano’s Violeta Hinojosa. We’ve lauded Selma Oxor’s return as one of this year’s best and, as evidenced in her fiery EP provocatively titled User 69, we weren’t wrong predicting it as something exhilarating. Getting rid of the loud guitar noise abundant in the self-titled debut, spanning a poppier sound while preserving an electroclash basis, User 69 finds riot grrrl, scenic artist Leticia Beeton owning the moniker, revamping it into something deviantly appealing, her own. Comparisons to María Daniela may seem obvious, but honestly, quite tired. While their voice timbre might be alike, Beeton’s work isn’t candyfloss electropop. This is filthy, dark, strenuous synth punk that persuades you to get carnal in each pumping, lecherous beat enveloping it. - Enrique Coyotzi

39. Sensaciones 
To (poorly) paraphrase Jon Landau, I have seen the future of Costa Rican low-fi surf-inspired rock and roll, and its name is Ave Negra. This two-piece rawk act ain’t ever going to be confused with Bruce Springsteen, but dammit if they don’t seem capable of melting a stack of Chrysalis records from time to time. Razor-thin sounding, white noise-laden rock has made a big comeback over the past five years, but not many of these acts quite grasp the concept of thermodynamics. Sensaciones Juveniles, the band’s latest EP, sustains a breakneck pace for 10 full minutes without coming up for air because air is ostensibly for pussies. Not that this is rock and roll filtered through machismo—I mean, we already have one Davila 666. Instead, Ave Negra plays pure garage rock with the liberation of a thousand teenagers. This ain’t no place for the real world or anything. - Andrew Casillas

38. Nicole & Natalie
Nina Sky have taken the time they've spent off the map to figure out who they are and who they're making music for. Nicole & Natalie shows a more confident duo, more comfortable with their place in the music landscape. Songs like "Heartbeat" and "Makeover," both produced by Nicole, exemplify this. The latter, with lines like, "make my way to the finish line / you can take your road, and I'll take mine / it's alright cause I know I'll make it there" speak not only of their own path, but also to an audience that does their own thing without compromising vision or ideals. (The Kelly Clarkson nod doesn't hurt either.) The duo has also reached a good place in terms of collaborations that allow them to explore while remaining true to themselves. The Brenmar-produced "Comatose" pairs Nina Sky's top-notch slow jam skills with Brenmar's agility with pristine sparseness for one of sexiest R&B tracks of the year. Maybe it's time to stop hoping Nina Sky will return to "Move Ya Body" form and start looking forward to where they're going from here. - Blanca Méndez

37. Ceremonia
Ceremonia is a risky and fowardthinking step from La Bien Querida. She could have continued in her indie-folk space maintaining and refining the sound that let to her prominence in the first place, but instead, she takes a more progressive step forward, with the stellar production of Sergio Perez from Pegasvs and carrying her influences (The Cure, Los Planetas, New Order) on her sleeves, she finds a space to showcase her pop wisdom with contemporary rhythms that mirror the current tide of Ibero-Pop. Ceremonia conveys the pillars of Spanish Romantic song with emotion, elegance and bittersweet tenderness. As a songwriter, Fernandez is sharp and divisive. In this album you will find Fernandez best moment of her career to date in the stunning synth pop breakup song "Arenas Movedizas," where she showcases true pop prowess constructing one of the catchiest/cunning chorus lines of the year ("y llorar a a a as").While the album's title may be Fernandez's personal homage to New Order, for us, it marks a cermony to celebrate an exciting new chapter in the career of one of Iberoamerica's most promising figures. - Winston Rivas

36. Político
On his latest album, Político, Mexican Institute of Sound becomes the Mexican Institute of Sound. The record announces its theme fairly explicitly, even quoting the Mexican national anthem on its first single. Político centers itself around the pervasive corruption embedded in many facets of Mexican government and the police power. The record doesn’t aim to “solve” anything, though. If you’re interested in the message (especially if you live in Mexico or follow the news very carefully), there are some enlightening takeaways. But HOW ARE THE TUNES, amirite? Well, there are some great ones on here. Lara junks the faux-retro grooves and thick bass for traditional Mexican instrumentation, anonymous (uncleared?) samples, and pinball machines—definitely a more analog aesthetic. And that’s the best thing about Político. Lara has finally conceived a record that’s entirely on his terms, infused with his idiosyncrasies and personal beliefs—but it still delivers one hell of a party. - Andrew Casillas 

35. "No tengas 
miedo al amor"
Boricua affecting composer Leonardo Balasques adapts a more customary, acoustic instrumentation (fiddle and wind instruments), along with post-rock winks, twee breaths and his ever-tender harmonies in the heartbreaking “No tengas miedo al Amor.” A popular phrase among daydreamers, it’s not to be interpreted here as something imperative, but rather inviting to something passionate, profound and surely tumultuous: the great chance of falling in love, assuming all of its consequences, whether good or bad. “No tengas miedo al Amor” is a deep work fueled by vast honesty and many of El Medio’s best songs to date. It’s best enjoyed during lonely, cold nights where a bottle of cheap wine or a pair of caguamas are the only and best friends. With this album, Leonardo Balasques reaffirms his status as one of our favorite songwriters. And while it may not be a very drastic improvement to his previous releases or incorporate few new ideas to his music, its universal discourse, transparent frankness and powerful development are the main qualities why this revealing piece is not to be missed. - Enrique Coyotzi

34. ... al cruzar la calle
I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl like the one who sings in cruzar la calle. I’ll call her “the girl who sings in cruzar la calle” because even though I know she exists somewhere, and has a name, and eats, and breathes, I picture her only through the romantic dying-of-heartbreak poet image she has rhapsodized through lines such as “Ya no quiero amores de cinco minutos, quiero alguien que me bese y me abrace al despertar” and “Los artistas verdaderos están todos muertos, y yo no seré la excepción.” Yes, that’s some corny-ass romantic bullshit, but cruzar la calle is some seriously touching piece of romantic bullshitty music. Everytime my ears lock on the sound of her voice and minimal instrumentation (via Sennheiser headphones), it’s as if the same chemicals our body releases when being in love are pervading mine, and the sheer magnetism of this record could be explained through the same irrationality for which we idolize people simply for being alluring. - Pierre Lestruhaut

33. Inténtalo
Does an album like this—a game changer in the truest sense of the term—even warrant a trite appraisal based on its...what? Musical merit? If you’re part of the one percent of fans out there who have been following 3ball MTY from day one—which I’ll assume, for the purposes of this review, that you exist and are reading this—then I have some bad, and possibly sad, news for you. This is the most watered-down incarnation of their sound that you will hear. BUT, if (like this writer and fellow fan), you came upon them before the bonanza, then I’ll infer that you don’t purchase records in Compact Disc format at your local retailer (which is what these days, Best Buy? Wal-Mart? I’m seriously asking, I don’t know anybody who does this!), but rather prefer downloading your tribal music from the Interwebz and will continue to do so, in spite of Erick, Sheeqo, and Otto becoming the Menudo of Mexican rave music. In which case you should disregard everything I just wrote, and instead refer to the following three words: 3BALL MTY PUTOS! - Reuben Torres                   

32. Claridão
I always wonder what the “meteoric rise” of an artist means, since in my mind, meteors can only fall down to the ground. Strangely, What should be taken as praise from the press can sometime sound like a somber prophecy, suggesting an abrupt end to such a spectacular take off. Silva’s ascent to notoriety has often been compared to the celestial object and not without reason. It’s unquestionable, Silva’s first effort earn some much-deserved attention in and around Brazil, but far from sputtering or dying, its musical trajectory seems to fit more in a context of continuity. As proof, the tracks from his self-titled EP were developed and matured into this year’s release, Claridão, leaving the listener unsurprised, but no less impressed by the song crafting. Rather than make conspicuous changes, Silva focused on establishing his own artist aesthetic. Although every song on Claridão succeeds to unveil Silva’s inventiveness through graceful and heartfelt melodies (and a generous production), the LP is a bit sprawling. Still, nothing seems to tarnish Silva’s initial transient brilliance. His race is clearly towards zenith. - Souad Martin-Saoudi                       

31. Sincronía
Sincronía very often simply erases the memory of the band that was making easily digestible pop last year, it also showcases how much better Las Amigas de Nadie actually gotten at doing just that. In general, Sincronía works much better upon initial listens simply because of its strikingly contrasting aesthetic. Building its own narrative in such chaotic elegance, listeners will be surprised, perhaps even awed, but definitely curious enough for rediscovery. With repeated listens, though, as its surprise factor begins to fade away, and the more puzzling elements start to become more familiar, the album starts to feel rather even, and qualifies better as an immediate experience rather than a lasting one. Although it does't really have any weak tracks in it either (thus working fairly well as a collection of tunes), it also exceeds too much in contrast, thus lacking in connection, and left us wishing it would showcase some content in sacrifice of its own indulgence. It’s in the clash between the upsetting sounds and the melodies that Sincronía stands out as a truly distinguishable work. - Pierre Lestruhaut

30. Días Nuestros
On their wildly successful second album, los Reyes del Falsete significantly lay on the studio sheen and histrionics to the brink of parody—but dammit, the whole thing still ends up as a complete success. As hinted by its album art, Días Nuestros is warm, inviting, colorful, and completely easygoing. But those traits alone do not, by themselves, make a great album—this ain’t an AM fucking Gold compilation. Luckily, the Argentinean trio comes correct, with great songs like “Contale Al Mundo” and its early-60’s surf drums/eternally appealing harmonies. And then there’s “El Rayo,” which marries twee vocals with a Weezer melody and enough bombast to make the Bam Bam guys proud. Perhaps its best element is that, for such a short and easy listen, there’s a lot going on throughout these songs—yet there remains fluidity and precision that’s remarkable upon repeat listens. And the most exciting bit? There’s zero chance this is the best record they will ever make. - Andrew Casillas

29. Conjuntos 
On Conjuntos Cartográficos, Óscar Rodríguez aka Matilda Manzana leads a fearless voyage into the unknown and produces a work that sounds less like a "lonely and fragile human being" and more like an artist becoming secure with himself and his musical ambitions. Even months after its release, the album hasn’t lost a bit its charm, maintaining its ability to transform the ordinary and quotidian into the supernatural. Opener "Ciencias Naturales" is completely enchanting; every beaming and joyous emotion is somehow unleashed and allowed to orbit the mind if only for a couple of minutes. The whirling intensity on "Té de lluvia" recreates crowded metro adventures with hundreds of desensitized commuters and gives it an almost spiritual meaning. While a serious and personal record, Conjuntos Cartográficos is also an inviting and communal effort, containing some of the most seamless collaborations of the year (Crocat, Installed, etc). And let's not forget how beautiful the production is, the record is polished to perfection (production assistance from Tony Gallardo and Fonobisa). More than just an essential 2012 record, it has secured its place as one of the most engaging Iberoamerican records in years. - Giovanni Guillén 

28. Supernatural
Through the years, we’ve learn not to take Andres Calamaro too seriously, but believe every word he says when describing Daniel Melero as “the one that defines what’s contemporary.” Any critical reader could make the argument that Club Fonograma doesn’t review albums made by 50 year olds and it would be pretty damn hard for us to argue against that. Our generational attachment is obvious, but once in a while a musician comes to show us the true meaning of melodic transgression –one that’s not attached to age or generational ideals. Supernatural was recorded in just three days and discretely released very late in December of 2011. The album gained critical approval from Argentine critics, percolating slowly but determingly into other regions of the continent throughout 2012. It’s fair to call it the sleeper album of the year. Highly conceptualized and heartbreaking from start to finish, Supernatural is the journey of an intellectual as he juxtaposes horror, technology and memory to the melody. It’s not an easy immersion, but as Daniel hints on his blog’s memory excersises, “sometimes it’s just a matter of giving yourself the opportunity to reach for the internal memory and intuition, before directing to google.” - Carlos Reyes 

27. Haciendo Leña
Dynamic vocals, mad guitar skills, and a cordial understanding of the vernacular don’t even start to describe the artistry of Cirerol, whose folk faculty and generation timing constitute for a career that is as much about philosophy as it is about pop culture. If his debut was a set of one-man symphonized offerings to Mictlan (the underworld of Aztec mythology), Haciendo Leña is the subsequent campfire that summons a man’s carnal disposition with his surrounding chaos. The music of Juan Cirerol has surpassed all notions of novelty and vanity, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped appraising methods for artistic arrival. Most decisions made on the album work, while a few sit in grey areas between auteur modesty and melodic banality. Overall, Cirerol’s contribution to music this year is remarkable. Somehow, it seems that the expansion of Mexican folklore to the cool kids of the world is no longer exclusive to Café Tacvba, but has found a new blessed emissary (with an increasing cult following), that as title of the album claims, is kicking ass. - Jean-Stephane Beriot    

26. Culipandeo EP
Oh, Piyama Party, how you crack me up. Sometimes, you bring about nasty, kinky feelings. Other times, you make me want to take loads of drugs (any kind accepted) and stay at home contemplating nothingness. Occasionally, it's simply the impulse to listen to some Dinosaur Jr. or Pixies and devour all kinds of junk food. Or my favorite: the image of a crusty lover, a disorganized bed, and being hella high in a favorite songs marathon til dawn. Whatever mundane thoughts they bring to mind, point is, the Coahuila idols, led by witty lyricist and singer Luis Ángel Martínez, shouldn’t be taken that seriously—at least not lyrically, even though it’s crucial to their cleverness. Piyama Party already has obtained a legendary mipster status thanks to landmark indie classics such as “Nosotros los rockers” or “Fan de Carcass.” At this stage, I’d dare to declare them the equivalent of Pavement in Mexican indie rock and, under that comparison, their so-fucking-good, constantly diverse Culipandeo EP would be the equivalent to the California heroes' magnanimously well-thought Wowee Zowee. - Enrique Coyotzi 

25. Bote
Co-produced by Daniel Melero, Diosque’s latest album, Bote, is like the gore-less, musical follow-up to David Cronenberg’s Crash. But please don’t expect motorized collisions or body scarring as the prime stimulants of this ride, we’re dealing with a different kind of impact here. As with most mavericks of lyrical spacing, Diosque plays with timing and tangents more than your average singer-songwriter. In fact, throughout the 13-track album, Diosque’s vocals have a prime mission: catching up to the melody. In an album that pulls its thumps from unconventional corners, Bote feels aptly modulated. Yet, in the ferrying of dualistic ideas, the clashing of folk and electronic shades sometimes only adds up to garment (as exemplified in the album’s conclusive segment of gratuitous experimentation). If after reading this review you’re getting a vibe that Diosque is needy, then I have done a terrible job describing him. Diosque’s music is far from needy; it’s confronting, gutsy, and arresting. Not only do I not mind the emotional trespassing, I’d be willing to experience a fender-bender bump with Bote as my conspicuous, cuddling soundtrack. - Carlos Reyes

24. El objeto antes
llamado disco
And now we know: Café Tacvba five years later sounds a lot like Café Tacvba 15 years ago. Whether this is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective. Many of the songs feel familiar, but a tad less catchy, less raw. The band has returned to the pre-Cuatro Caminos four-core-members-and-a-drum-machine lineup, but instead of the quirky storytelling and earnest experimentation of Cafeta songs of yore, we have introspection and wisdom, nature and spirituality, overall self-reflection. And, alas, minimal innovation. El Objeto antes llamado disco requires some time and a bit of patience. Disclaimer: initial listens might prove unsatisfying, but somewhere around the tenth or eleventh time through, the "object" really starts to grow on you, though the objective might never be clear. It's worth the commitment. Café Tacvba is so revered for their continuous and relevant reinvention, and each of their past albums has had a definitive theme or feel, while managing to maintain a sound that is distinctly Tacvba. El Objeto lacks a strong identity, though one could argue that this is precisely the point: the record as we once knew it is, after all, obsolete. - Claire Frisbie

23. Una montaña
es una montaña
“Que le den por culo a tus amigos,” for better or worse, continues to be both the main reference and entrance point into the Madrilenian quintet’s discography. As opposed to what we were used to in LP and LP2, Los Punsetes seem decided to progress within the confines of well executed clean guitar rock more often than making us feel uncomfortably delighted with their enfant-terrible approach. The latter is obviously the kind of aesthetic that led to all kinds of knee-jerk reactions about the band being simultaneously unique, refreshing, lowbrow and provocative. But the former, even though it has made them overall less interesting and certainly a lot less fun to listen to, is the forthcoming breeze of a band that’s entering maturity. In “John Cage,” Ariadna sings with nihilistic apathy (“Noy hay mejor propósito que no tener ningún propósito”), about a certain acceptance for the certainties of life (“Un hombre es un hombre y una montaña es una montaña"), which makes for a closing number that leaves us to face the fact that every enfant-terrible must inevitably enter adulthood at some point. - Pierre Lestruhaut

22. Mujer Divina
Too often in music, attaining maturity equals compromising the musical search. This might never be the case for our generation's darling Natalia Lafourcade. The follow up to the majestic Hu Hu Hu is a duets tribute album to legendary Mexican composer Agustin Lara, to his ever-peeling melodies and the poetry of his profound words. For the first time in a long time (perhaps since Café Tacvba’s pre-drums era), Mexican indie is witnessing an appreciation for Mexico's music. This observation is of particular significance when considering Hu Hu Hu was the result of Lafourcade’s creative expatriation to Canada. Mujer Divina finds a Natalia Lafourcade that’s less transitional and more acquainted to a classicist artistic scope. She’s quieter than we usually like her to be, but refinement has its perks. Featuring a stellar lineup of accompanying men, this is a record that skips the innate charm of duets and carves for deep emotional exchange. To be totally honest, the idea of a tribute collaborative album never really excited our staff, but we should know better than to underestimate the pulling of our heartstrings at the touch of the eternally consoling Natalia Lafourcade. - Carlos Reyes

21. Mesetario
Let’s face it: Los Claveles can be, if not in the proper mood, a boring band to listen to, at least for the casual pop fan. From Nacional 42 to Mesetario, their growth into full-liberty in a short lapse of time has been revealing. Mesetario politely steps away from the rockers' first releases while polishing a clear-cut, more approachable sound, never losing the intimate qualities that have made them one of our classic revivalist darlings. Gorgeously and invigoratingly reminding us the reasons we've been faithful to them in the first place, the greatly entertaining Mesetario sets Los Claveles as a band that hadn't exploited some of their richer attributes until now. But as proved in Mesetario, one of the year's best guitar albums, along with Protistas' Las Cruces, there's plenty of imagination and endurance to be awaited in these four creative brains. In the meantime, we can always come back and blast this delightful full-length as we are witnesses of how it evolves through time. - Enrique Coyotzi

20. Granit EP
INDEPENDIENTE. SPAIN When “Aresta” surfaced late last year it quickly propelled Granit into one of the more talked about bands on the Ibero-blogosphere. The buzz was certainly well deserved. The Barcelona duo had created a song that was inspired, gave light to a new facet of the Spanish indie scene, and had seemingly come out of nowhere. Amidst all the acclaim and excitement, however, it felt like fans and bloggers were stuck comparing Granit to a certain dream pop duo from Baltimore. There’s no denying the Beach House comparison holds some truth, but what grew frustrating about it was how it minimized the scope of Granit’s ambitions. The thing is Beach House, even at their most resplendent and anthemic have always favored a sense of intimacy, an attachment to enclosed spaces and structures (bedrooms, cathedrals, gardens, etc.) while Granit, on the other hand, seem more engaged with the world around them (nature, the cosmos, the elements). It is precisely that feature which makes Granit’s self-titled EP such a captivating and refreshing debut. - Giovanni Guillén 

19. Telenovela 
Fantasmux I, II, III
Telenovela Fantasmux is the series of works by Jerónimo Jimenez, better known under the guise of Ñaka Ñaka. In the simplest of definitions, the series explores the sonic legacy of the Telenovela. Of course, it’s not so much the concept—which could appear facile on paper—as it is about delivery. TF carves a dimension out of the murkiest recesses of the listener’s subconscious, unravelling hidden links that we had considered all but faded. The lazy music journalist could easily draw comparisons with the work of Leyland Kirby or James Ferraro and call it a day (admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this practice in the past). But there’s much more in the work of Jimenez, so many nuances specific to the listener and the culture, that one could spend entire months unearthing them through repeated listens. More than sheer nostalgia, TF is about the way our brain has been molded through decades of consumption. The cheesiness of these themes—some instantly familiar, others navigating the tenuous line between remembrance and reverie—is not just something we cringe at upon revisiting them, but rather, it unmasks something much deeper within us. - Reuben Torres 

18. Las Cruces
This Protistas record, for someone who grew up on indie rock, is part of those that strike the kind of pleasure that can only be found deep in someone’s own formative experiences: a band shaping the instant familiarity of their sound from understated guitar complexity, arpeggiated grandeur, and into the mere extent of their own performers’ aura. Protistas have often been described, either by themselves or fellow critics, as a brave, wild-sounding, and militant rock band. Word is that their recording sessions with Astro’s own Andrés Nusser were intended to capture the boisterousness of their rollicking live shows. Though I was never one to think that an album’s background story or recording details should, in any way, influence (too much) a listener’s opinion on the finished product. In an era where music software allows more than ever for a myriad of possibilities of sonic exploration, to think that this beautiful collection of songs, this delightfully touching music–religious in its grandiosity, uncompromising in its restraint–can be performed by humans with nothing but actual rock instruments is simply at the crux of its own poignancy. - Pierre Lestruhaut 

17. In & Out
When That Song comes on at the club and everyone rushes to the dance floor, happy to be packed in tightly with perfect strangers, all experiencing the high of dance floor camaraderie, it’s magic. But we sometimes forget that the times that dance music isolates you can be just as powerful as when it brings you together. The industrial soundscapes—cold, vacant, metallic—present on much of Daniel Maloso’s In and Out provoke a retreat into oneself that stimulates a full awareness of one’s body, so focused that it’s separate from an awareness of space and time and surroundings. This is dancing on my own music not because there’s no one to dance with, but because no one else exists. Every element is neatly compartmentalized, and there’s a meticulous order to everything that can be intimidating. That’s because In and Out is an individualistic work. But the individualism has more to do with an acute state of self-consciousness than with selfishness. This kind of introspective dance music can be overwhelming, but the reward for braving the isolation is unmatched. - Blanca Méndez 

16. Delirio Específico
CANADA. SPAIN The main story arc surrounding Extraperlo’s new record is that after breakthrough album Desayuno Continental, as the band was put on halt while each member went its own separate way to work on different projects (Borja Rosal as guitar player for El Guincho, and Alba Blasi as half of Granit were quick to spring), it also gave them the opportunity to mature and evolve as musicians individually. Added to the fact they’ve now teamed up with Pablo Díaz-Reixa as producer for their latest record Delirio Específico, it seems to explain why the most ear-catching divergence from their previous release is just how much cleaner the whole thing sounds. By association, words like accessibility and polishedness start to pop out, meaning that the framework for Deliro Específico is inherently poppier, relatable, and communal. The equivalent of evolving from warm art house films into lush technicolor sagas. Delirio Específico, shows a band that’s still experimenting with expanding their own palette, they’ve succeeded at admirably looking for new ways to conjure leisure-evoking melodical opulence, afrobeat-inspired guitar licks, and 80’s pad beats into truly stuttering internet-era pop songs. - Pierre Lestruhaut

15. Paisajes de Invierno
As far as layered and unassuming characters go, Chicano newcomer Fernando Alvarez has the skill to intertwine the expressive chords between the thinker and emotional self. Installed’s debut album, Plancha, was last year’s overlooked indie jewel–a record whose prolonged recognition equals its profound meaning and reasoning. Early this year, Installed released his second installment, Paisajes de Invierno, a shorter package that is nonetheless earning the atemporal description already. Installed’s second set of songs plays like a winter afternoon at the kite park. Tethered aircrafts whose success at showmanship depends not only on the pressure of the wind, but also on the touch of the person holding the string. It’s the world of ambiance–unmeasured excitement in uncompromised surroundings. Installed’s musical proficiency isn’t constituted by the methods of his approach, but rather by the pouring of melodic incentive. Paisajes de Invierno is expansive and unsealed. Very few things are assorted here, and yet it’s the assembly of loops and constitution of vocal sampling that ultimately give Installed a pair of wings. - Carlos Reyes

14. Herreros y Fatigas
JABALINA. SPAIN Intellectual genre-versatile duo Klaus & Kinski has kept getting better and better in each of its top-notch releases. Masters of eclecticism, the group continues to successfully implement abundantly substantial, vast musical knowledge inside conspicuous, undeniably own compositions. In fact, no other record this year accomplished such exploitation of varied ideas like the monumental Herreros y Fatigas. K&K grandly score respectful shoegaze tributes (“Cumbres profundas”), krautpop enticing progressions (“Daño cerebral”), sweet country structures (“Poderoso caballero”), et al, while maintaining a completely characteristic sound that doesn’t step outside the Spaniard indie pop spectrum, yet shines beyond many of its main exponents. Indeed, this is the formula they introduced since the brilliant Tu hoguera está ardiendo—including Marina Gómez’s ever philosophical and smart lyrics. What’s remarkable is how it doesn’t feel wasted, but instead forward-thinking, polished, current, and ultimately perfected. A great third album isn’t an easy task to attain. However, the pop visionaries exceeded expectations in a fantastically boundless work which can already be perceived as a decade must. - Enrique Coyotzi

13. Lápidas y Cocoteros
If you’re already familiar with Violeta Vil’s sound, you’ll quickly find that it’s one that easily aligns itself with music that, depending on which side you’re fighting for, can be shallowly described as beautiful, dreamy and contemplative on one side, but also as dull, thoughtless and underdeveloped on the other. Yet what’s probably the most accomplished improvement that VV have attained in Lápidas y cocoteros, is in conceiving something that’s so smoothly capital G Gorgeous, but that never sacrifices the band’s flair for idiosyncratic musical ideas. As someone who’s an absolute sucker for all things related to a dreamy-sounding distorted guitar (or to MBV for that matter), it’s one heck of a record. Because they so effortlessly walk the uncanny line between making music that’s pretty and making music that’s challenging, that they’ve put together, in the ears of someone who loves Jessie Ware as much as Phil Elverum, some confoundingly beautiful piece of a dream pop record. Lápidas y cocoteros is not only a vast improvement from their Demo (I), but downright one of the best Latin records of the year. - Pierre Lestruhaut 

12. Líder Juvenil
On his first EP for his new side project, Tony Gallardo II celebrates both the passion of making music and his profound relationship with the Internet. If the title track is, as I had previously described, “another delicious slice of genius” from Gallardo’s mind, then this whole cake divided in four exquisitely sexy pieces is a reminder of why we’re so eagerly excited about where his career might go next. Líder Juvenil is a dazzling achievement that presents the artist’s hottest ready-for-the-dance-floor tracks to date, as well as his impressive submergence into tech-house (“Mi Presa”), mostly inspired by Rebolledo (look for that still of the “Guerrero” video in the booklet) and last year’s unforgettable Super Vato, with Alex Anwandter-esque pop finesse (“Líder Juvenil”) in melodies, and subtle traces of tribal guarachero (“Costa Drums (I Need 2 Let U Go)”). Gallardo is an artist we’ve seen grow through this medium, but who ultimately deserves more exposition. The merits are there. He has openly expressed his desire to become famous, and these shouldn’t be pipe dreams. After all, he’s got the entire arsenal and will to fulfill it. - Enrique Coyotzi 

11. El Sonido de 
lo Inevitable
It’s been a while since a release title had resounded so strikingly accurate to the music it holds. El Sonido de lo Inevitable, Mañaneros’ astonishingly constructed EP, easily works like the sound of a new era–one that couldn’t be avoided, where tribal transcends demographics. Psych rock and krautrock, among other unforeseen genres, subtly merge with global bass and sharp electronica through mind-numbing progressions, resulting in irresistible dance numbers and meditative brain-drillers. The Chilean innovators have crafted a collection of five songs that feel both logical and completely different from any recent fusion you’ve heard lately. It’s the kind of mixture you would’ve imagined after all the tribal boom exploded, but Mañaneros have been part of the game way before that happened and, as proven in highlights “El Volcán” and “Baby Tropical,” have perfected it in their own peculiar style. Considering they came out of nowhere, Mañaneros have expertly made a name of their own in the blogosphere. Pioneers of their own grand movement, Mañaneros demonstrate with El Sonido de lo Inevitable the intelligence of fusion within fresh development, smart genre-inclusion, and boundless talent for achieving it. - Enrique Coyotzi 

10. Testigos del
fin del mundo
Continuing their tradition for assembling catchy, infectious, synth-driven songs, Testigos del fin del mundo finds the Hidrocálidos notoriously improving and aggrandizing their songwriting skills, Isra through richer arrangements and catchier hooks and Cris and Sandunga with luscious vocal melodiousness. Their pop sensibilities have blossomed into smoother, rounder compositions, such as “La Marea” or “Quédate,” or should-be-smash-hits like flamboyant first single “Pretextos,” or “A quien amas en realidad es a mí,” a radiant, dynamic highlight where they team up with Colombian sweetheart Lido Pimienta for an outstanding collaboration. Even more admirable is the neat production level reached, which can be identified from the self-titled opener, a propulsive electronic rendition of Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven theme (aka the infamous Marlboro commercials theme). Each track displays a more defined polished craftsmanship that results in a collection of sheer, gratifying, and finely accomplished pop tunes that, lyrically, don’t speak that much about the world’s destruction, but fuck it, this music makes it sound like Judgement Day would be a sweetly enjoyable event. - Enrique Coyotzi 

09. Kaleidoscope 
For an album that's almost entirely about sex, Kaleidoscope Dream feels surprisingly effortless, less about seduction and more about familiarity. Sure, there's still the sweet talk that comes with the territory--the sexy simplicity of "Adorn" is enough to seduce anyone (that is, if Miguel didn't have you by "Sure Thing")--and the requisite corniness--all of "Do You..." would be laughable if Miguel weren't so charming. But there remains a vulnerability that signals a real connection. Perhaps it's in this vulnerability that the album's greatness lies. When he gives himself entirely to his partner in "Use Me," there's power in him relinquishing his power. When he pleads, "tell me that the pussy is mine" because his ego is too fragile to believe otherwise, he again exposes weakness. It takes profound trust to put oneself out there like that, and it's not easy to get to that place. Lucky for us, Miguel has reached that level where "it feels so good, babe, it just comes natural." - Blanca Méndez

08. Mundo Tan 
Mal Hecho
If there was ever any doubt Los Mil Jinetes were the most culturally aware band of the continent, they’ve reclaimed such status by crafting a dazzling version of 3Ball MTY’s smashing hit, “Inténtalo.” If after watching that clip you’re still up for either comedic relief or deep-skin mantras, immerse yourself in the Chilean crooners latest journey. While Ases Falsos’ Juventud Americana distracted us (in beautiful ways) throughout the year, Cristobal Briceño and company quietely released the most overlooked album of the year: Mundo Tan Mal Hecho, the hypnotic third album by Los Mil Jinetes. We rarely take a moment to acknowledge and value something as imperative as cultural production. Not only did Briceño single-handedly write two albums bound to trascend for years to come, but he was able to make both documents approachable. Mundo Tan Mal Hecho is a pop odissey where samurai swords shake to the sound of canaries, jean jackets acquire prime life meaning, and Inca Cola might just save the world. It’s less scattered than I’m describing it, and more warmhearted than words could ever portray. - Carlos Reyes

07. Con Mi Tiempo
y El Progreso
Listening to Linda Mirada is like traveling back in time and hanging out with Fleetwood Mac and Mecano, which is enough of a selling point without saying that Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso is a beautifully executed pop album that doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. Though certainly more youthful than the other two, Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso would be perfectly comfortable in your record collection between Tango in the Night and Entre el cielo y el suelo. It’s like a time capsule of the late ‘80s, an anachronism that somehow makes sense in 2012, though there’s really nothing new about it. Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso’s brilliance lies in its convictions. The commitment to a sound that to many will register as outdated and unfashionable is the kind of commitment it takes to rock a garish, older-than-you sweater that has been collecting dust at a thrift store. Whereas someone like Javiera Mena takes a fondness for the ‘80s and makes it into something new, for Linda Mirada there’s no pretense of updating a sound or putting a fresh spin on it. - Blanca Méndez 

06. GP
Two years after gracing us with his instant classic Audiovisión, the creative monster that is Gepe returns with his fourth album, GP. It's immediate and friendly and finds the singer-songwriter embracing his innate compositional talents in a logical universe. Considering the approachable intentions of its predecessor, his current music could impact the mainstream (Carla Morrison as a guest singer, reggaeton and moombathon appreciation) due to the smartly crafted, yet natural venture into pop confection, where folklore and novelty comfortably coexist. Gepe has yet to release a weak record. We can describe his flourishing trajectory to this accessible stage as something risky yet impeccable. And, though the free-spirited, unabashedly digestible GP probably will disconcert many fans, there's no denying it's yet another strong addition to the artist's exceptional discography. Most important is the manner this achievement flows. Gepe is a composer who seems to conjure hits effortlessly. Hell, he wrote the majority of these songs during a period of three months, recruited the best producer in the game, and quickly gave birth to a round release that has made us re-evaluate if "El objeto antes llamado disco" is truly obsolete. - Enrique  Coyotzi 

05. La Dinastía Scorpio
Strength and restraint are El Mató’s greatest tools for melodic resonance. But it’s not the tools that make their music poetic. It’s the civility between the lyrical text and the melodic arrangements that makes El Mató’s music truly transgressive. They are civil, but never conservative. For El Mató, rock music is not about give-and-take; it’s about turning whispers into roars (and vice versa) at the very tip of an emotional impulse. La Dinastía Scorpio is deep focused and truthful to the prowess of its lyrics. El Mató continue to sound like a band made of steel, but for the first time in their career, they’ve exchanged dissonant harmonics for structural composition. Not to say they sound any less ambitious, but they’ve added muscle to their rhythm sections and, thus, made themselves a whole lot more reachable. . It's round and expansive, a fully visible work that validates the band’s critical prestige throughout the years. This time around they are far from a band just for critics, and they’re turning momentum into transgressive art. La Dinastía Scorpio is the tossing of lonesome warmth and the entrance to a shared melodic intellect. - Carlos Reyes

04. ƒin
Jungle sounds clash with plucked strings clash with electronic claps until wait for it: a beat. John Talabot sees your ambivalence and accusations of rhythmical homogeny and raises your Super Vato funk. But, lest you think he’s only got the versatility of a relief pitcher, Talabot proves over the course of an hour that he’s working with an array of techniques—suck one, Tom Emanski. ƒin is the culmination of the Barcelona-based producer’s measured rise through the techno ranks over the past half-decade. He’s made acquaintances and worked with a wide variety of artists, such as Delorean and Luke Abbott, while taking a deliberate approach to leaking output under his own name. For his debut full-length, Talabot takes off the slack and lets loose. Disco beats, Middle Eastern strings, head stomping bangers, scuzzy harmonies. It’s Balearic dream house at its most decadent and pleasurable. At face value, this is one of the most satisfying pop albums of 2012. Even one spin of this record will reveal a bevy of deep, yet eager to please, cuts designed for virtually any listener who will have them. - Andrew Casillas 

03. Pegasvs
Like many other shifts in culture, the genre is moving into a more subtle golden wave of progressive pop, one that doesn’t need to push the boundaries of the genre to achieve artistic integrity (the grace of pop music). So much of this swing translates as glory in the Olympian debut album of Luciana and Sergio, two synth junkies that cultivate melodic splendor as the esoteric constellation, Pegasvs. In their provision of debutants, and after many months of well-credited buzz, on their self-titled debut Pegasvs envelops the prophecy of a synthesized riff. Pegasvs harmonizes analog measure with the rumination of moving forward. Although hardly conceptualized in its themes, the nine tracks that comprise the album circulate on a beautiful (yet heretical) landscape of shoegaze orchestration. For referential purposes, it wouldn’t be a surprise (or a blasphemy) to remember this album as a shrewdly mythological box of synth crescendos. But these crescendos are more than tools for melodic ascendance, they carry the emotional force needed for an album that travels on its own atmospheric drift. - Carlos Reyes 

02. Barón Libre
Stretch 1, Stretch 2
Arca has succeeded at blending the gap between the pop fan’s illogical hedonistic enjoyment of the record and the music writer’s indulgence in trying to grasp a logical understanding of his enjoyment of it through his own understanding of past and present music. It would be natural to think that such a wide array of sounds would place him at the heart of eclectic trend-setter coolness, yet it’s his constantly shifting set of moods and the roller-coaster of emotions he elicits that actually responds to the more primal and visceral feelings we seek while listening to music. It’s fair to talk about Swans’ The Seer, a record so uninterested in the current musical landscape people can only talk about it in terms of the whole experience of listening to it, how it focuses solely in getting us to the visceral, the impulsive, and the anxious. Arca gets us there too, yet his M.O. is so broadly absorbent and referential (while also being so damn elusive of trends) that it works so well as both an emotional and a cerebral experience. As his palette continues to gracefully stretch in unexpected directions, it’s safe to say that the whole narrative behind Arca is essentially the expansion of his own aesthetic. - Pierre Lestruhaut 

01. Juventud 
And so it came true, Fother Muckers is now Ases Falsos. Same formation, bolder direction. Fother Muckers always sounded like Juan Gabriel and they borrow his consecrated image on the stellar album cover of Juventud Americana. The transition of Fother Muckers into Ases Falsos brings forward some of the Chilean band’s most illustrious bridges. While a certain infamous band disrespects the legacy of Juanga again and again, Ases Falsos embrace the most beloved songwriter/performer of the Americas through an original work bravely emerged from inspiration. But Juventud Americana is way beyond an appreciation album for the idol, it’s a work about América (the ONE continent), a climbing introspection on our continental idiosyncrasies, and an update to the “We are Sudamerican Rockers” maxim. “No soy y nunca sere un artista nacional.” This is one of many memorable roars in Juventud Americana, but the most significant in the band’s shot at reinvention. They are not kidding around; they’ve arrived in full gear to the post-national spectrum. Like Teleradio Donoso did a few years ago in Bailar y Llorar, Ases Falsos articulate on the thin lines that attach and separate social and personal circuits. Juventud Americana isn’t just a doorway to the renaissance of the Chilean band, it's one the most accomplished albums in our generation. Ases Falsos have crafted a roll-with-the-punches album that blooms in transitions—the end of conservatism and the rise of progressive ideals—specifically as faced by our increasingly nearer continental youth. And yet, there’s nothing technologically accommodated for a Generation X absorption. They’re still using rock instruments as mass-triggering vehicles for emotional discharge and thematic dispersion. Unlike any of their peers, Ases Falsos manage to sound more unapologetic than apocalyptic; they make songs that invite youth for coalition more than we have done in our past. A strong, long hug seems like the first step. A hug to Juan Gabriel = a hug to América. - Carlos Reyes