2009 was a very exciting year in Latin Alternative music, with fantastic releases from established bands and brilliant newcomers demanding a spot among the top. We saw the rise of Hello Seahorse! and the resurgence of Brazilian legends Os Mutantes, as well as the revelation of Natalia Lafourcade as a bona-fide musical prodigy.
My top-10 list has one main rule: all albums included were released in the United States in one form or another (digital or physical).
1. Hello Seahorse: Bestia (August - Nacional Records) Dark and nihilistic, “Bestia” is easily the best Latin Alternative album released in 2009. Their gloomy music, combined with stunning, haunting vocals by lead singer Dnis Lo Blondo blend perfectly in an album that is both brilliant and depressing. In my view, it will stand the test of time and I’ll be listening to this album for many, many years.
2. Natalia Lafourcade: Hu Hu Hu (June) – Lafourcade is not an easy artist to categorize, but with this album she has claim her spot as a tremendously talented indie darling. Channeling Juana Molina, Björk and PJ Harvey, as well as using her own distinctive style, Lafourcade has delivered and her most musically complex album and her best work to date.
3. Love of Lesbian: 1999 (March - Warner Music) – Being a fan of Love of Lesbian, this was the album I had expected the most in 2009. And they did not disappoint me one bit. 1999 is a music marvel, a love story told in several chapters over the course of 14 tracks. This Barcelona band was able to deliver a concept album without even trying.
4. Adanowsky: El Idolo (Feb 2009 Disques Motor) Until earlier this year, I had no idea that the son of famed director Alejandro Jodorowski had a band. After I read a lot of positive reviews of his Vive Latino performance, I found his album available at an online retailer and it has been on constant rotation on my mp3 player. “El Idolo” is a refreshing and satirical effort, heavily influenced by the soundtracks of his father’s films.
5. Cerati: Fuerza Natural (Sep 09 – Sony International) The Argentinean music prodigy who is used to have his eclectic albums praised by critics and fans alike, decided to take a step into a territory most of his fans never expected him to try out: Pop Music. And the result was “Fuerza Natural”, an album manages to shine above others, even thought it has catchier melodies than previous efforts by Cerati. I had mixed feelings about it when it came out, but the more I listen to it, the better I like it and it has become one of my favorite albums of the year.
6. Quiero Club: Nueva America (Nacional Records) – Quiero Club is not a “serious” band, they enjoy making fun, upbeat music and they do it with style. On their sophomore album, they decided to take a more experimental approach without hampering the technique used on their first album. Their songs “Guam” “It’s all about Dundun” and “Minutos de Aire” are essential tracks that defines them as a powerhouse indie band in Mexico and all of Latin America.
7. Juan Son: Mermaid Sashimi (March – Universal Music) – Personally, I think Juan Son tries too hard to sell an image, and he shouldn’t have to. His audience follows him for his voice, not his looks. With that being said, Mermaid Sashimi is a phenomenal effort, a unique album to be listened to in its entirety on a rainy day or a road trip at night.
8. Rodrigo y Gabriela: 11:11 (Sep – Rubyworks) My fingers hurt just by listening to this album, Rod y Gab really make those guitars howl and get the sounds they want out of them. Yes, it’s been done before, but nowhere near as polished as these two accomplished Mexican guitarists are doing it. There is a reason why they sell out arenas around the world and 11:11 is more than enough proof to validate them.
9. Os Mutantes: Haih Or Amortecedor (Sep – Anti/Epitaph) The comeback band of the year, Os Mutantes returned to the music world with a loud bang. Their trademarked amalgam of funk, tropicalia and psychedelic rock sounds are still there, even after a 35-year hiatus.
10. Los Amigos Invisibles: Comercial (May) – A must-have at any party around the world. This album is a perfect example of what Los Amigos do best: combining danceable rhythms with sexy, fun and provocative lyrics.
5 Honorary Mentions:
* MIS: Soy Sauce (March – Nacional Records)
* Cineplexx: Nuevahola (May – Chery Red Records)
* Cola Jet Set: Guitarras y tambores (February - Elefant Spain)
* Fangoria: Absolutamente (February – Warner Music)
* Zoe: Reptilectric (April – Emi Music) – I found this album for sale in 2008 at an Austin record store. However, it was officially released in the US on April 2009.
Best 2009 albums NOT released in the US
* Paté de Fuá: El Tren de la Alegría
* Banda de Turistas: Magico Corazon Radiofonico
* Triángulo De Amor Bizarro: Triángulo De Amor Bizarro
Disappointments of the year:
* Vicente Gayo: Vicente Gayo (March – Independent)
* Manos de Topo: El primero era mejor (March – Sones Art)
* Rudo y Cursi Soundtrack (May - Nacional Records)