Club Fonograma's Best Songs of 2015 (25-01)

025. Sofi de la Torre 
Sofi de la Torre has spent years aiming for #popdoneright so it’s no surprise to hear her Mess EP title track mining the same grandiose pop maximalism of E•MO•TION's deep cuts. This of course means that, from a production standpoint, "Mess" sounds like everything but. It’s tight, clean and gracious. See the the way the chopped and screwed bits contour beautifully on the chorus. Sofi rejects fancy dining while wielding a synth saber, her position is clear: “I'm never gonna change for the better, i'm always gonna love my mess.” Meanwhile, we're swooning. - Giovanni Guillén

024. Selena Gomez 
Oh, y’all thought we were done with Selenita? *Laughs in Spanish* In an unexpected twist, the best song off Revival arrived on the album’s thesis. “Revival” is an assured vision of fortifying R&B. Selena begins reading lines about rebirth and then we actually witness it. The sparse Hit Boy beat sounds like sheet metal struck again and again, assembling in slow motion. We arrive at the end mark with Selena as a finished product. No longer pristine or precious or whatever infantilized impressions people around her projected over the years. It is a portrait of an artist damaged by physical and mental struggles, just like a lot of us. She sounds real. - GG

023. Moisturisin Mini “Tacón de oro” 
Taken from Tacón De Oro’s future rap and reggaetón compilation Joseo De Oro, “Tacón de oro” indulges in both romanticism and materialism. The track opens with an influx of stardust, laser beams – that somewhat echoes Buscabulla's "Métele" – and an autotune anti-boast (“No tengo ni pa’ una’ chancla”). Moisturisin Mini aka El Mini aka Boyito K.R.E.A.M. tales the story of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks that falls for a girl with gold heels, dissecting social structure one biting line after the other. Although future reggaetón’s continues to express a capitalistic dynamic – somehow imposing itself through the logic of money, dominant sex and power – the rebellious and impulsive nature of “Tacón de oro” gives back to the genre its potential to transform social reality. - Souad Martin-Saoudi

022. Ibiza Pareo “Árido Espejismo” 
Tropicgoth duo Ibiza Pareo delivered a quiet hit with their 2015 debut, proving that even dance records in 2015 carried a moodier tone, yet another aspect of the evident trend towards guitars, distortion & melancholy in the Club Fonograma scene. One might start to wonder what the results will be when Ibiza Pareo’s morose dance numbers become more methodical. Ibiza Pareo (the album) had many interludes but the Argentinian duo is capable of precise, guitar driven epics, too. Lyrically devoted to the sun, sand, and air, "Arido Espejismo" is the band's crowning achievement. No precise chorus can be identified, except perhaps Ani & Marina’s vocals drawn out to certain extremes, captivated by anguish but also rapture. “Arido Espejismo” is not complete without an Andean flute (think Shakira’s “Suerte”) that soars high above the heavens like an avian cry full of stoic pain. - Ze

021. Gordi - 
Más que amigos” 
Chilean pop still has plenty of propositions on its sleeve. Sometimes it reveals them in the purest form of novelty (Planeta No), and other times it presents them journeys. G.O.R.D.I., the moniker of Valeria Jara, belongs to the latter. After years of interventions in the scene, providing vocal assistance to contemporaries like Gepe and Adrianigual, Jara has polished a profile of her own. Our initial encounter with G.O.R.D.I. happened almost four years ago, when the track “Suave y Salvaje” made the cut to one of our compilations. What seemed like an act pre-destined to follow the folksy neo-andean trend has come to redefine itself as an extravagant addition to urban pop. “Más que amigos” is not an immediate gem - Jara’s vocal delivery is cascaded in such a way that it builds resonance through multiple spins. But once you're able to locate the bridge of the song, there's no way to escape its catchy chorus. - Carlos Reyes

020. Los Zafiros & Kevin Swing “Los Santos Me Acompañan” 
Two ostensible worlds coalesce on “Los Santos Me Acompañan” by the Madrid based Caribbean duo Los Zafiros: the gangsta X the divine. “Los Santos Me Acompañan” is the third song on our radar that is a paean to Ellegua, the Orisha of the crossroads in the Yoruban diaspora. “Think Of You” by Ibeyi was one (which placed at #67 in our Top 100 Songs of 2015) as was the haunting, spiritually opulent introduction to the Ibeyi album, “Ellegua”. All caminos begin and go through Ellegua. All prayers, communication, energies, & actions flow through Ellegua. Whereas Ibeyi’s hymns for Ellegua are devoted to soul music, Los Zafiros (emcees Big Jay AKA Papi Trujillo & Viciou$ AKA Cuban Link) alongside Kevin Swing channel a sanctified trap. Look beyond the clouds of blunt smoke & glasses of Henn: we getting our worship on. - Ze

019. Julieta Venegas “Ese Camino” 
In our review of Algo Sucede, I mentioned "Ese Camino" was the epitome of the foundation behind the "Julieta Venegas sound." Months later, it's remarkable to hear how something so elemental can still sound unique. Per usual: the accordions burst with flare, the guitars quiver in space, the bass is low and flat like a pancake. It's like we're in the midst of some "Norteño-pop" movement, but damn if you can pinpoint any other Mexican pop artist on this level. You know how people praise Spoon for always sounding like Spoon? Well, perhaps we should just start referring to Julieta as "La Cuchara." - AC

018. Maifersoni “Partners” 
I see so much when I listen to “Partners.” I see Slave to the Rhythm-era Grace Jones whizzing through photo shoots, popping in and out as scattered percussion follows behind. I see Primal Scream and Acid House aesthetics. I see the carefree house music of Saint Etienne shot on Super 8. Of course, I could just making shit up and Maifersoni probably never meant to evoke such a wildly specific set of artists and sounds. But that’s the beauty of “Partners.” The song is so in tune with its surroundings, carried by mystery and splendor that the mind races to catch up and make its own connections. - GG

017. Lao “Excursión” 
“You are now listening to the world fucking famous, Lao.” Nothing else this year envisioned a global landscape as menacing as “Excursión.” The song literally treks all of the continents in a feat of great peril and dazzling action scored by dembow. Lao creates these sounds without pillaging or exploiting, the mood is immediately set and he has no time to mess around. In three and a half minutes we move from tundras to desert bazaars. Coins drop, there’s swordplay in the distance, and steel drums coordinate with drum & bass. Together they trigger a sweet pain that’s both piercing and hypnotic. - GG

016. Future Brown feat. Maluca “Vernáculo” 
Not every record on our countdown can credit its music video to the patronage of the Pérez Art Museum of Miami. The visual component for “Vernaculo” speaks the language of the art world well: 'Appropriating the advertising language of global beauty brands like L’Oreal and Revlon, “Vernáculo” is an exercise in capitalist surrealism' reads a text that accompanies the specs and credits of this work of art which debuted at some art world party in Miami that is somehow connected to Citibank. Despite all the hype and some of the shade at Future Brown's pretension, "Vernáculo" is brilliant. It is an oeuvre of ice age reggaetón concocted in a lab of musical polyglots- the #futureclub of Future Brown transcends social constructs like borders and genres, at least on paper. Future Brown's 2015 debut did not live up to its own brilliant (even if art school) vision but this is coming from someone who wants to see their masterpiece come to fruition. Second only to Tink's "Room 302" (because the album version of "Wanna Party" is subpar to the essential version that also features NOLA’s magnificent 3D Na’Tee) "Vernáculo" reveals the enduring virtues of Maluca & the earnest potential behind Future Brown. - Andrew Casillas

015. BFlecha - “Specius Presente” 
"Specius Presente" comes in during the middle of its groove, as if it were transitioning from another track. It's a subtle and brilliant move from an artist in transition. While βeta was as bold a debut album as you could expect, that naturally leaves little wiggle room for a comeback single. And where BFlecha finds the wiggle room, she punches the fuck out of it. There's something fierce about this track--how BFlecha doesn't ride entirely with the groove and keeps her space before that knock-out blow of a chorus. If this is just a taste of what's coming up next, 2016 is gonna be banging. - AC

014. Marineros - “Sueños” 
Whatever praises came their way, whatever they tried to evoke in earlier songs, “Sueños” is the apex of a brilliant vision, everything that Marineros was truly meant to accomplish on their long-awaited debut. Remember the first time you saw Chungking Express? Listening to “Sueños” is like witnessing an endless step printing sequence with Faye Wong and Tony Leung. It’s romantic as fuck. When that chorus swoops in it's a sea breeze that pulls on all of our emotions. Elsewhere the composition treads gently, steadily adding guitars, shakers and claps while the vocals crave adrenaline. Think of the moody & goth turns of “Ciega, Sordomuda”, think of Faye Wong running on a Hong Kong street actively displaying her restlessness.  El amor no es- como dicen que el amor es- GG

013. Neon Indian - “Slumlord” 
Alan Palomo sculpts the sound, varnishes it, lacquers it, scrapes it and transforms it progressively into an art object so unique and personal. On “Slumlord,” an irresistible cross between retro and futuristic sounds off of the scintillating VEGA INTL. Night School, he scrutinizes the microstructure of musical sound, making unexpected qualities surge from within. The Mexican-born, Texas-raised musician has been drawing on synth-pop and R&B codes of the early eighties since Psychic Chasms, but “Slumlord” (and its Dantean finale!) is a lot more then a mere variation on those themes; it’s a pulpy night-crossing of a city and its variegated and plastic world of culture and entertainment, in the glow of its neon lights. “You can go on and on and on, as long as you’ve got the money” he sings over a harrowing synth line. Palomo’s dandy wittiness and false detachment glare out with every inflection, echoing the great Prince, Frank Zappa and George Clinton all at once- SMS

012. Sr. Presidente - 
“La Sociedad (de la tierra plana)” 
"La Sociedad (de la tierra plana)" is a thing to behold: so packed full of hooks, it feels like a constant series of payoffs, a perfectly interlocking set of gears, a perpetual motion machine. Propulsive and varied and moody as all fuck, this track, one of the broadest, hungriest indie singles of the year, is the kind of song so good that it compels you to just end there and preserve the perfection of the experience. - Pablo Acuña

011. Tony Gallardo II 
Juventud Guerrera” 
Another cannon in the arsenal of the #PopInsurrection of 2015 came from the prince of irony, cynicism, (and ruidosón) himself- Tony Gallardo. Sculpted as 80s New Wave, “Juventud Guerrera” was a “call to arms” (as Giovanni Guillen stated back in March of 2015) but also the sublime recognition that we are already here. We have always been here. From the Young Combatants of Chile (contemporary Chilean pop being one of the catalysts that differentiate María y José from his Tony Gallardo II moniker), to the Indigenous / Anarchist youth of Mexico and the Black Militants of Baltimore, Ferguson, and Chicago- Tony’s declaration of anti racism (Tony told me he wrote this song thinking of the Black Uprisings in the U$ against the police) and militancy feels timely but not tawdry. Far from being some cornball ass number, “Juventud Guerrera” acknowledges that we will die in wartime. Your proximity to the battlefield itself is subjective- the psychological and material realm of genocide and trauma is all encompassing. - Ze

010. La Mafia del Amor & El Combo Perfecto - “La Disco Resplandece” 
2015 was the year the club grew up. I’m sure the Big Glitz side of EDM provided record sales for bass amplifier repairmen, but the scene finally began its transition back to lower-key bangers. Hell, even Bieber figured out the plot by toning down the excess. And “La Disco Resplandece” is a perfect representation of what made the world groove. It’s slick, smooth, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and most importantly, it’s fun. Which is precisely what we needed. Enjoy it, y’all—President Hillary may score well with Latin@s, but she don’t know how to work a DJ controller. - AC

009. Empress Of - “Standard” 
While in Mexico, Lorely Rodriguez would pass families on the side of the road selling firewood for pennies when a couple of weeks ago she was in NY buying $4 coffee. In "Standard," Lorely puts herself in their shoes. The artist confessed that the song is a sort of a anthem and motivation to live below the standard with a hunger that feeds the fire. As she literally lives her songs, one cannot avoid been caught with a sinisterly personal edge.- PA

008. Carla Morrison - “Tú atacas” 
In an exercise of hyperbolic writing, I once called “Tú atacas” better than the last two Beach House albums. Carla begins with a lull, drowning in memories: “Tú eres el pasado que mis dedos acariciaron...” and then invites us to slow dance. The dream-pop is there, but it’s just one ingredient in a mixture (really a potion) of golden age cinema compositions. This setup feels critical. Carla Morrison is obviously aiming to keep the tradition of Mexican heartbreak alive. And the honesty she comes away with is not only tragic, it’s disheartening. She confesses her pathetic side, her will to move forward (“Me miento constantemente, me hago la fuerte”), and she does it supported only by the piano’s delicate trot. Save this one to drunkenly sing every Christmas at 3am, along with Lola Beltrán and Pedro Infante. - GG

007. Los Blenders “Volando Bajo” 
“Volando Bajo” is an interesting name for a song that jumps off the ground like it’s on a damn trampoline. Los Blenders grew up this past year. The Jam rip-offs and Diddy videos were fun and all, but you couldn’t get the feeling that they were holding back. But “Volando Bajo” ain’t some basic indie rock banger. This is fingers bleeding on guitar strings, drum fills banging like some “Wipeout” shit. White light, white heat, son. Blenders done good. - AC

006. J Balvin “Ginza” 
Reggaetón is a genre is littered with brash and bold characters, but what it's badly needed is a master of seduction. And on "Ginza," the tightest 3-minute single of 2015, J. Balvin makes like Bosé with bottle service. Backed by lo-fi keys and a slinky marimba rhythm, Balvin is calm, collected, ready with a line--and completely aware that going home with the girl is a million-to-one shot. Just when you think reggaetón can't go anywhere further, a savior appears. And make no bones about it: what J. Balvin's doing is changing the game.- AC

005. Empress Of - “How Do You Do It” 
Sensorially lush and structurally intuitive, the astounding “How Do You Do It” is the indispensable core to Me, Lorely Rodriguez’s first LP – and the materialization of her process of identity building. Essentially intimate, her lyrics move and transform, refusing the false clarity of orderly language, adjusting her writing to her subject. Her vocals, pure and exuding confidence and energy, are haloed by pulsing bouncy sound generated by xylo sounding synths that electrify dance floors. “How Do You Do It” carries in itself the marginal mystic of everydayness of human relations. - SMS

004. Gepe (feat. Wendy Sulca) - “Hambre” 
While prior classic "En La Naturaleza" was praised for it's bold marrying of reggaetón with trad-Latino sounds, "Hambre" pulls the reverse by taking every damn sound possible and letting that dembow riiiiiiiiiiide. If the absorbing mix of sounds weren't head-spinning enough, Wendy Sulca comes right out with "Yo quiero que tu boca se pegue a la mía como un chicle nuevo" in the greatest opening since Jay-Z asked to reintroduce himself. Remember when Gepe was the dude with the pretty acoustic songs? Look, we liked Gepinto as much as you did, but it's astounding that we're in the midst of the "Gepe: Master of the Banger" era. If anything, Gepe should have been the one with an album called "What a Time to Be Alive." - AC

003. Dënver feat. (me llamo) Sebastián “Los Vampiros” 
Milton Mahan sounds more like Miguel Bosé than Elliott Smith these days. A palpitating Europop, Milton’s vocals altered to a 1980s baritone- everything about “Los Vampiros” (except perhaps that melancholic piano) was devised to manifest a reformatting band, a band rearranging itself for bigger stadiums. It wasn’t just that Dënver was playing down the street from my squat in Chicago (thousands of miles north from their usual venues) it was that Milton (charming in a purple disco shawl) was explaining to me Dënver’s desire to hire full orchestras for every live show- “como Juan Gabriel en el Palacio de Bellas Artes.” In other words, “the romantic shut-ins” that CF writer Pablo Acuña alluded to back when we premiered “Los Vampiros” in June of 2015, are colliding with a calculated hedonism unafraid to channel a multiplex of sounds, fearless in their aspirations for glory. The totality of “Los Vampiros” is a statement of purpose (“Somos los que en la pista imponemos el ritmo”), the latest paranormal battle in the mystical war Dënver alludes to from time to time. These are the calculations that Pop Stars are made of. - Ze

002. Natalia Lafourcade - 
“Hasta la Raíz” 
It's a long train ride, steady, quieter than you'd expect, lots of time to think as the landscape unfurls outside your window. When the ticker tape of fields and the wave of hills in the distance lulls you into stillness, it gives you all the room for contemplation and realization. The guitar in "Hasta La Raiz" is the chugging train, sturdy and focused and reassuring. Lafourcade's voice in the verses echoes the determined movement of the guitar. Keep going, keep working, if you're too busy to think about them, you'll forget. But you can't always be resolute as the vehicle carrying you. In moments of stillness you remember. Because some people have a hold on you like that, no matter how much you try or how much you think you've let go. They have roots in you so deep they've become tangled with your own. When the song slows to a stop and you step off the train in a new place you know that, despite the distance traveled, that person remains with you. For better or worse, they're a part of you now. - Blanca Méndez

001. Playa Gótica - “Reptil no gentil” 
It's been 24 months since the rupture created and captured by "Reptil No Gentil", a filmic record with enough dynamite to make its auteurs- Playa Gotica- Club Fonograma’s most anticipated breakthrough band 2 years running. Simply stated, "Reptil No Gentil" is a pop powerhouse. Consider a cinematography of heartbreak that stands naked & raw against the backbone of funk baselines, emblazoned by twangy guitars that sparkle in all the right places & led by a susurrant voice that breathes a soft melancholy into a mesmerizing record that is good for three things: 1) catharsis 2) smoking cigarettes to, dejectedly and 3) dancing. The title of the track is as clever as its amalgamated production (& we've come to expect nothing but innovative pop collages from Umami Records), the cold blooded reptile of today is not the gentle sweet talker of yesterday. Or perhaps viewed from a more esoteric lens- the word gentile here is playfully used in its religious sense, casting the heartbreaker as the infidel, the traitor, the non believer. Suddenly, the desecration of Pope John Paul II in the music video makes more sense- a touch of death to all of our false idols, lovers and otherwise. Based on the quiet despair of the track's lyrics, our protagonist won't be escaping the purgatory of heartbreak anytime soon but the repetitive escape mantra of "alejarme de ti / olvidarme de ti" is fortified by the rapture of noise in the track's culmination. “Reptil No Gentil” is Club Fonograma's pick for Record of the Year 2015, a golden chalice full of bad religion (see track 14 on Frank’s Channel Orange) that captures the despair of bleeding hearts everywhere. - Ze