Alt.Latino's Favorites: The Top 10 Latin Albums Of 2017 : Alt.Latino In a genre going in as many directions as modern Latin music, how do you narrow a list of albums to just a few favorites? Alt.Latino's host and guests share their attempt for 2017.
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Alt.Latino's Favorites: The Top 10 Latin Albums Of 2017

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Alt.Latino's Favorites: The Top 10 Latin Albums Of 2017

Alt.Latino's Favorites: The Top 10 Latin Albums Of 2017

Alt.Latino's Favorites: The Top 10 Latin Albums Of 2017

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ÌFÉ made one of Alt.Latino's favorite albums of 2017. Joa Rodriguez/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Joa Rodriguez/Courtesy of the artist

ÌFÉ made one of Alt.Latino's favorite albums of 2017.

Joa Rodriguez/Courtesy of the artist

Every year, the Latin Alternative music world seems to get more interesting — more nuanced and complex, entirely setting aside genre limitations. With so much variety, it's almost impossible to define Latin music at all, so how is it even possible to narrow a list of favorites down to just a handful?

To make Alt.Latino's list of the best Latin albums of 2017, I called in some help from two contributors: The Chicago-based host of Beat Latino, Catalina Maria Johnson is an intrepid globetrotter who always seems to end up at just the right place at just the right time to catch just the right band, no matter where in the world she may be, and we've got the ever-curious Marisa Arbona Ruiz, who this year reported for Alt.Latino from the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, interviewed the musical and cultural icon Juanes, and braved the notorious East Coast humidity to file a report from this summer's Nuevo Fest in Philadelphia.

This week, the three of us compared notes on the albums we felt made significant statements about where Latin Alternative music stands today. (The list also includes contributions from Jessica Diaz-Hurtado, who couldn't make it to the taping.) Below, you'll find our top 10 albums, as discussed on this weeks' podcast, plus 13 more honorable mentions that we couldn't let slip by. The discussion kicks off three weeks of end-of-the-year coverage for Alt.Latino; next week, with the help of our friends at Remezcla (who recommended some amazing Latinx music writers), we've got a list of the year's best songs. Then, in two weeks, we turn to listeners to check out what made your musical year.

Note: These albums aren't ranked, and are instead listed in the order in which they came up in our conversation.

Alt.Latino's Favorite Albums Of 2017

dreexler cover Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the Artist

"Salvavidas de Hielo" by Jorge Drexler

  • Song: Salvavidas de Hielo

"A beautifully meloncholic song framed by the harmonies of Jorge Drexler and Natalia Lafourcade..." --Catalina Maria Johnson

YouTube
mon laferte cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"No Te Fumes Mi Mariguana" by Mon Laferte

  • Song: No Te Fumas Mi Marijuana

"A really fun song ... It's got the full use of her vocal expression from playful cooing to growls and howls." --Marisa Arbona Ruiz

YouTube
ozuna cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Si No Te Quieres" by Ozuna

  • Song: So No Te Quiere

"It's reminiscent of old school reggaeton... Ozuna keeps it real by fusing it with the new Latin trap..." --Jessica Diaz Hurtado

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residente cover Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the Artist

"Una Leyenda China" by Residente

  • Song: Una Leyenda China

"Residente can do no wrong! A spectacular record — can't wait to hear what he comes up with next." --Felix Contreras

YouTube
danay cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Preguntas" by Danay Suarez

  • Song: Preguntas

Danay Suarez has entered in a phase of her career in which she is in full command of all of her artist sensibilities and we all benefit from her one-of-a-kind vision. --Felix Contreras

YouTube
dayme cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"La Rumba Me Llamo Yo" by Dayme Arocena

  • Song: La Rumba Me Llamo Yo

"What a voice, what a spirit, what a presence!" --Catalina Maria Johnson

YouTube

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Song
Cubafonía
Album
Cubafonía
Artist
Daymé Arocena
Label
Brownswood
Released
2017

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Cover for The Navigator

"Rican Beach" by Hurray For The Riff Raff

  • Song: Rican Beach

"Alynda Segarra is on her own journey of self-discovery and it's coming out in great music..." --Catalina Maria Johnson

YouTube

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Song
The Navigator
Album
The Navigator
Artist
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Label
ATO Records
Released
2017

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natalia cover
courtesy of the artist

"Tú Sí Sabes Quererme " by Natalia Lafourcade (en manos de Los Macarinos)

  • Song: Tu Si Sabes Quererme

"The juxtaposition of [Natalia's] sweet voice and the vocals of Los Macorinos... it was pure talent and pure heart." --Marisa Arbona Ruiz

YouTube
Cover for Amar Y Vivir

"Leña de Pirul" by La Santa Cecilia

  • Song: Leña De Pirul

"This is serious tequila-drinking music! La Marisoul's voice is a force of nature!" --Felix Contreras

YouTube

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Song
Amar Y Vivir
Album
Amar Y Vivir
Artist
La Santa Cecilia
Label
Universal Music Latino
Released
2017

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Cover for IIII + IIII

"Prayer for Oduduwa" by ÌFÉ

  • Song: Prayer For Oduduwa (Para Merceditas)

"When I heard this record earlier this year I knew it would be my favorite of the year... It's going to be one of my favorite records of all time!" --Felix Contreras

YouTube

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Song
IIII + IIII
Album
IIII + IIII
Artist
ÌFÉ
Label
Discos Ifá
Released
2017

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Honorable Mentions

el buho cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Balance" by El Buho

  • Song: Balance

El Buho ("The Owl"), a.k.a. Robin Perkins, is a British DJ/producer and true citizen of the world, as well as co-founder of Shika Shika, an innovative record label at the forefront of new South American folktronica. Balance reflects Perkins' recent time in Mexico; through soundscapes that are delicately textured with birdsong and other natural sounds, the album showcases that land's indigenous, traditional roots, as well as the beauty of its landscape. --Catalina Maria Johnson

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calma cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"100 Vidas" by Calma Carmona

  • Song: 100 Vidas

A strong statement of Afro-Caribbean femininity and feminism, this album firmly establishes Carmona in the now crowded field of Afro-Caribbean women who dare to challenge. --Felix Contreras

YouTube
Cover for Freedom Is Free

"Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)" by Chicano Batman

  • Song: Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)

The new record from my fav tuxedo'd party band shows they are also deep thinkers, digging deeper into a sound they totally own. --Felix Contreras

YouTube

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Song
Freedom Is Free
Album
Freedom Is Free
Artist
Chicano Batman
Label
ATO Records
Released
2017

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alex cuba cover Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the Artist

"Todas Las Cabezas Estan Locas" by Alex Cuba

  • Song: Lagrimas de que Llora

Alex Cuba's album, Lo Único Constante, is brimming with musicality and soulfulness. Cuba really shines as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, brilliantly weaving together Cuban polyrhythms, lounge jazz-based filin and his beautiful tenor voice that touches hearts with joy. --Marisa Arbona Ruiz

YouTube
Cover for Las Caras Lindas

"Las Caras Lindas" by Flor de Toloache

  • Song: Las Caras Lindas

In their title track "Las Caras Lindas" Latin Grammy-winners Flor de Toloache brilliantly weave a sprinkling of hip-hop and Afro Cuban flavor by Velcro and Pedrito Martinez into their luscious harmonies and mariachi magic. --Marisa Arbona Ruiz

YouTube

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Song
Las Caras Lindas
Album
Las Caras Lindas
Artist
Flor de Toloache
Label
Chulo Recordings

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gabriel garzon montano cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Bombo Fabrika" by Gabriel Garzón-Montano

  • Song: Bombo Fabrika - Instrumental

Somehow Gabriel Garzón-Montano crystallizes all his life influences in his soul-filled musical montages. These include experimentation and minimalism a la Philip Glass (his French mother was a member of Glass's ensemble) as well as the irresistibly danceable Colombian rhythms of his father's homeland and even the sass-filled funk of Brooklyn, where he grew up. Every song in this album is a gem, but in the "Bombo Fabrika" video he visually and musically connects the dots between all of the above and the epicenter of Afro-Colombian music —San Basilio de Palenque—where the video was filmed. --Catalina Maria Johnson

YouTube
diana gameros cover
Courtesy of the Artist

05Tierra Lejana (Mi Ranchito, Cancion Mixteca, Farolito)

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"Tierra Lejana (Mi Ranchito, Cancion Mixteca, Farolita)" by Diana Gameros

  • Song: Tierra Lejana (Mi Ranchito, Cancion Mixteca, Farolito)

Gameros has the kind of voice that deserves to be heard as many people as possible. She has me under her spell, singing some of my favorite rancheras, on her fantastic new album. --Felix Contreras

Cover for Ash

"Deathless" by Ibeyi (Featuring Kamasi Wshington)

  • Song: Deathless

On Ash, Ibeyi once again mesmerizes with its otherworldly ethereal sound — often a slowly layered build-up of electronica, Afro-Cuban percussion and jazz, with French and Yoruba influence under gorgeous and soulful vocals and whispery harmonies. The young and passionate twin sisters bring a fresh multilingual take to Afro-Cuban music. --Marisa Arbona Ruiz

YouTube

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Song
Ash
Album
Ash
Artist
Ibeyi
Label
XL Recordings
Released
2017

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juanes cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"El Ratico" By Juanes featuring Kali Uchis

  • Song: El Ratico

Juanes bravely cast aside his superstardom to explore a very personal inner journey on a perfectly executed concept album. --Felix Contreras

YouTube
making movies cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Spinning Out" by Making Movies

  • Song: Spinning Out

Hard to believe such an accomplished musical statement can be made by a band that is just getting started. I Am Another You astonishes while promising much more to come. --Felix Contreras

YouTube

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Song
I Am Another You
Album
I Am Another You
Artist
Making Movies
Released
2017

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Quantic cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Curao" by Quantic and Nidia Góngora

  • Song: Curao

Singer Nidia Góngora, from the Pacific coast of Colombia, and British multi-instrumentalist/producer Will Holland, a.k.a. Quantic, create irresistible marimba-laden musical fabulousness. It balances the charming chants and percussion of Nidia's riverside mining hometown with Quantic's keen sense of contemporary dance club rhythms, and in the process shines a light on the best of both those musical worlds. --Catalina Maria Johnson

YouTube
Cover for Transparent Water

"Black Dream" by Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita

  • Song: Black Dream

Omar Sosa continues to burnish his reputation as one of the most creative musical minds out there. This time he collaborates with musicians from Africa and Japan, and the results are sublime. --Felix Contreras

YouTube

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Song
Transparent Water
Album
Transparent Water
Artist
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita
Label
Ota Records
Released
2017

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sofia rei cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Maldigo De Alta Cielo" by Sofia Rei

  • Song: Maldigo de Alta Ciello

El Gavilan, which features Marc Ribot, deserves much more attention with its richly textured vocals and instrumentation. Ribot's guitar work is inspiring! It is truly one of the most imaginative tributes to a formidable musical icon — I believe Violeta Parra would have loved it. Brava, Sofia!! --Felix Contreras

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nancy sanchez cover
Courtesy of the Artist

"Domingo Siete" by Nancy Sanchez

  • Song: Domingo Siete

American Novio was one of the surprise albums of the year, winning me over with evocative lyrics performed by a voice tinged with jazz. Sanchez expertly delivers a deeply felt cultural statement. --Felix Contreras

YouTube