Monthly Music Roundup With Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras offers a playlist of music that's comforting him and his listeners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Monthly Music Roundup With Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras

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For many of us, music has been an indispensable companion throughout this pandemic - a way to raise our spirits, soothe jangled nerves and remind us of better days. And if, like me, you're turning to music, are you going back to your tried and true songs, or are you looking for something new? Our friends at NPR Music's Alt.Latino are doing both, and host Felix Contreras is here to tell us about it. Hi.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good morning. I understand that, while just about the entire world is on lockdown or on hold in some way, artists are still out there, creating. They're doing what they always do. Tell us about that before we jump into the music you brought along this morning.

CONTRERAS: OK. Normally, this time of the year is full of new releases. It's the spring rush for musicians who want to become the soundtrack for the summer. And, you know, a lot of the releases were planned before the virus outbreak, so I think that after a week or two of trying to figure things out, a lot of this music is coming out anyway, and that's not bad for two reasons. First of all, love songs and existential topics are always healthy subjects for songwriting. And those themes can be transposed over our current personal dilemmas. And also, as you said, new music can help take our mind off of things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So what is out there? What are you bringing in to Alt.Latino?

CONTRERAS: The last couple of recent podcasts featured calming music - comfort songs that I put together along with songs sent in by listeners. And we also do a weekly playlist of new music on Spotify and Apple Music, and we've been featuring independent artists that you can support by streaming and buying their music because there are no more gigs anywhere and that's pretty much the only way they can help support themselves. So we're helping them out by presenting their music.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is a good point. All right. Well, let's listen to some of that new music. What you got?

CONTRERAS: OK. Here we go. Check this one out.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cool. What's that?

CONTRERAS: This is Ambar Lucid, or Amber Lucid. She's an 18-year-old Mexican Dominican vocalist. She's part of a way cool wave of old-school soul singers from Latin America. There's a whole bunch of them. She released an LP last year, and it caught our attention on Alt.Latino. She's got a new full-length album called "Garden Of Lucid," and the songs are based on her meeting her dad in Mexico. He was deported when she was 8. And last year, they had a meeting for the first time. So all of the songs are very emotional, full of introspection and celebration. This track is called "Cuando" or "When."


AMBAR LUCID: (Singing in Spanish). Here I see the truth. How do I...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Beautiful voice.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What are we going to hear next?

CONTRERAS: OK. Now we're going to feature an artist that we have featured here before - Cuban artist X Alfonso. Again, he's doing something pretty fascinating. He's releasing a single a month until we have a full album's worth of music. He started last September, and he'll finish this coming September. He has a long track record of making music that stretches boundaries going back to the 1990s. And getting an album one song at a time reminds me of the old-school days of dial-up Internet, when the screen would populate little by little until you got the full image. That's what this feels like. New track is called "No Hay Azul Sin Ti" - there is no blue without you.


X ALFONSO: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: This is an old-school love song. Check out these lyrics. You are the reason we understand love without speaking. You are the sunshine that touches me, kisses me, saves me. You are greater than the stories of love that little children dream of.


X ALFONSO: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So before you go, I think what we also need to hear is some of the comfort music, right? Songs that help us cope.

CONTRERAS: I think that that's going to be a theme for a while. We don't know how long this is going to go on. And people, like you said, are turning to music. This week's show features songs sent in by listeners. One of the songs that was sent in is a beautiful ballad featuring Uruguayan songwriter Jorge Drexler and Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte. It's a song called "Asilo" or asylum. Now, it could be a love song between two people, but it could also be a love for something familiar - something secure - something that makes us feel whole. And the partial lyrics saying, give me a night of asylum in your lap. Tonight, for example, let's leave the world outside. Open your arms and close them with me inside. Alt.Latino listener Jordan Reeves (ph) sent this one in. And in the note that he wrote to us, he said the irony is that we're in physical asylum, but I still need emotional asylum from the world's current insanity. This song provides it, no matter how many times I hear it. We thanked Jordan on the show for sending it in. This is called "Asilo."



AMBAR LUCID: And we open our arms to you, Felix Contreras, the host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast, which will continue to offer solace and comfort as well as musical discovery during this lockdown period and beyond. (Speaking Spanish).

CONTRERAS: (Speaking Spanish).

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