Best Albums Of 2013

By 20 December, 2013

There is little doubt that it has been a great year for South American music. The proof of that can be found in how hard it was for us to select just 20 albums as representing the cream of the crop. It seems ridiculous that albums we loved by Frikstailers, São Paulo Underground, Coiffeur, Ruspo and Pablo Malaurie are not even featured here, but unfortunately we had to be pretty tough and we’re sure you’ll agree that the final list is one pretty awesome selection of releases, with music from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela (where are you Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay?). So, without any further do, please check out what we thought were the 20 Best South American Albums of 2013, as well as our favourite compilations and reissues (mentioned at the bottom). We hope you enjoy it!

20. Francois Peglau – La Crísis del Segundo Disco

Chosen by Amaya

François Peglau is a self professed anarchist pop singer and as soon as you listen to his second album, La Crísis del Segundo Disco, you’ll understand why. Unlike most of his “pop” peers, the Peruvian has stuck to his lo-fi, surf rock and reggae tinged sound; think of The Beatles, Beach Boys and The Clash mashed together with just the right amount of 21st-century psychedelia, romanticism, cynicism and wit. But that’s not necessarily what makes him deserving of a spot on this year’s end list. What gives him that honour is that, while recording his second effort may have been cathartic and crisis-inducing, the result was an extremely well-crafted LP; chock full of intelligent insights on consumerism, capitalism, escapist culture, love and… parenthood. Two of the standout tracks, “Costa Rica” and “Dubai”, put a price tag on escape and happiness, making us wonder about what we value, why and who told us to put a value to it. Slavoj Zizek makes a spoken cameo on “Dubai”, so you can tell where this is going. Vacuous, asinine lyrics have no place in Peglau’s repertoire, and that’s what makes him invaluable to today’s current pop panorama. Amaya Garcia

La Crísis del Segundo Disco is available from Bandcamp


19. Andrés Gualdrón y los Animales Blancos – Ciervo de Dos Cabezas

Chosen by Nick

If modern Latin jazz had an acid trip this would be it. The opening track of Ciervo de Dos Cabezas, “Braulio,” sets the psychedelic noise scene in which the rest of the album unfolds. It would be a mistake to think that there is no real melody to the noise and drum-heavy background of “Braulio.” The magic of this is that the backbone of the melody is in the vocals. At times haunting and at times disturbing, the vocals behind every track of Ciervo cut through the jungle of sounds artfully woven together. Nadia Reiman (Read Full Review)

Ciervo de Dos Cabezas is available from Bandcamp

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18. Karol Conka – Batuk Freak

Chosen by Kariann

Karol Conka’s is a name you’re going to be hearing a lot more from in the next few years. Her debut album Batuk Freak came out this year in Brazil and was swiftly picked up by Mr Bongo in the UK. What’s surprising about Karol Conka’s is not how quickly she’s emerged as one of Brazil’s most prominent rappers, or the fact that she is a female in a male-dominated world, but that she comes from Curitiba, a quiet oasis of a town in the south of Brazil. Of course, she had to move to São Paulo to get noticed (as many musicians must do in Brazil) and get noticed she did, getting the firm stamp of approval from publications like Vice and Rap Nacional. What makes Conka stand above the rest is her distinct voice and versatility, capable of slow R&B jams in addition to funk-influenced bangers like “Boa Noite”, which has already wormed its way into the setlist of every discerning Brazilian DJ. We’re going to be hearing a lot more from this lady, there’s no doubt about that. Russell Slater

Batuk Freak is available digitally from Amazon and on LP and CD from Mr Bongo

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17. Apanhador Só – Antes Que Tu Conte Outra

Chosen by Russ

Opening with a distorted dubstep groove which quickly dissolves into urgently strummed guitar chords before finally exploding into a Radiohead-inflected soundscape, Antes Que Tu Conte Outra is an album which seems to have been spawned from São Paulo’s urban chaos rather than the open plains of its birthplace, Rio Grande de Sul. It is an album which takes off at breakneck speed, only to screech to a halt and gallop off in completely the opposite direction. United, perhaps, purely by its experimentation. Yet the vocals on this opening track, “Mordido”, suggest otherwise. Occupying the delicate space between the spoken word and a crooned whisper, lead guitarist and vocalist Alexandre Kumpinski’s vocals are arguably what craftily weave the whole album together. Eloise Stevens (Read Full Review)

Antes Que Tu Conte Outra is available for free download from

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16. The Holydrug Couple – Noctuary

Chosen by Nick

Noctuary is feelgood trippiness at its zestiest. Songs that start under the camouflage of sixties-flecked pop descend into semi-deranged instrumental wipeouts, crispy guitar giving way to meaty distortion on “Paisley” and the stupendous “Follow Your Way”. There is an ethereal element to other parts of the album, whether in Ives Sepulveda’s elongated chants or in the stoner’s musical diet of slowburning intensity. Meanwhile, on tunes such as “Sailor” or “It’s Dawning”, the band embarks on the sort of cosmo-grooves more readily associated with Californian acid casualties than anything from further south. Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

Noctuary is available digitally from Bandcamp or as an LP/CD from Sacred Bones Records

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15. Tremor – Proa

Chosen by Nick

Whilst on previous recordings the band took Latin American rhythms and instrumentation as their main point of departure, on Proa Tremor stray into new territory, pushing their musical boundaries much further. It is an album that is almost impossible to pigeon-hole. Take tracks like “Galopeador Contra El Viento”, four minutes of driving experimental electronica or “Autobuzz”, a brilliantly unexpected slice of out-there electronic pop with vocoded vocals and time signature variations that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Battles album. It is an album bubbling with ideas, filled with explorations of structure and melody, criss-crossing the lines between digital and organic, between folk and electronica. Robin Perkins (Read Full Review)

Proa is available from iTunes and Amazon

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14. Family Atlántica – S/T

Chosen by Russ

Family Atlantica is an incredibly ambitious album, combining themes and rhythms from across continents. It’s greatest achievement is that it manages to sound completely natural while doing this. In a world that has become increasingly inter-connected there are no shortage of international projects and collaborations, but this is one of the few that feels like it’s found the source – the point from where traditional African music, Westernised African music and Afro-Latin music all came – and then has been able to build on that. Listen to “El Apamate” and you will hear a fusion of guitars (both a funky riff and a sensuous finger-picked delight), percussion and vocals that sounds completely unique, but yet never sounds alien. It has a soul and heart to it that creates a connection between the music and the listener. Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Family Atlantica is available from iTunes and Amazon

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13. Passo Torto – Passo Elétrico

Chosen by Russ

Passo Elétrico is Passo Torto’s second album and shows a clear growth from their first release. Whereas their first album had moments of transcendence, where melodies were allowed to flourish, this is never the case on Passo Elétrico. Nor is this a problem. The aim of ragged glory is a noble one and allows the album to exist on its own rules, somehow marrying Tom Waits’ rough-hewed cubist funk to João Gilberto’s confessional guitar and whisper (which is especially prescient in the fact that all the music on this album is made using vocals and guitar/bass, albeit with the help of many effects pedals). It’s a paradoxical combination that shouldn’t work, but does, an album that is undoubtedly Brazilian but sounds completely apart, daring to show the twisted urban expanse of São Paulo, of a city that seems to smother you in its angst, in ways that few have dared to do before. Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Passo Elétrico is available for free download from

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12. Systema Solar – La Revancha del Burro

Chosen by Gina

Systema Solar is one of those Colombian bands that I love because it’s obvious their picó-inspired sounds can power any street party. There’s also the lead singer’s scraggly voice (that’s a compliment) and their absolute homage to Afro-Colombian music from the Caribbean coast. “Yo voy ganao” is upbeat, filled with heavy gaita flute, and a hell of a chorus, (“Sabor y wepaje!”) “Esquina” is somewhat salsa-inspired. “Indio Guerreo” pays homage to aboriginal peoples, with an electronic dance music twist. And “Artificial” is clearly inspired by (do my ears deceive me?) a bachata rhythm? There is a lot to this album and it’s going to take several listens to get all the metaphors and meanings. But by purchasing it, one will feel part of this collective, which is obviously in the business for more than just music. Gina Vergel (Read Full Review)

La Revancha del Burro is available from iTunes


11. La Yegros – Viene De Mi

Chosen by Nick

The album features a wide spectrum of influences and musical directions and although the title track does sound retro-oriented the rest of the album, as a very pleasant surprise, explores other territories. Instrumental track “Trocintro”, for instance, is also very organic but in a tropical punk kind of way. It’s dark, garage-like, atmospheric and… brilliant! “El Bendito”, a chamame (folk song from the Argentine Northeast) in which La Yegros shifts from singing to rapping, rests in the borderline between tradition and electronica. “Iluminada”, featuring Spanish singer/poet El Gato Muñoz, walks along a similar path mixing old cumbia and beats, and “Que Me Hizo Mal”, the album’s closing track, displays similar characteristics with a Pop-flavoured chorus and lovely lively horns. Camilo Martinez (Read Full Review)

Viene De Mi is available from Amazon and iTunes

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10. Siba – Avante

Chosen by Russ

Siba once described his band Fuloresta as “meia baile, meia sarau” – which is to say that it is half-dance party and half-poetry evening – and this is truly apparent on Avante. On countless songs there are verses of passionate, sincere vocals that are soon followed by periods of musical adventure, of the band heading off into marches and riffs, only to return once more to Siba’s sincere lyrics. It’s music to dance and think, as all the best music should be. The fact that Siba has been readying everyone for his brilliance with his previous projects, that his inbuilt sense of melodicism and artistic drive are pure of conviction and that he has managed to put together an album of eleven tracks that continually surprise and diverge without ever growing tiresome is a sign that this album will not easily be forgotten. As the opening track says: “Preparando O Salto”, prepare to jump. You will not be disappointed. Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Avante is available from Amazon and iTunes

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9. Alex & Daniel – S/T

Chosen by Nadia and Zach

Alex & Daniel brings together frisky hipster Alex Anwandter, of Teleradio Donoso and Odisea fame, and the folksy, rainbow tones of pop troubadour Daniel Riveros, better-known as Gepe. It is a zesty and crisp blending of Anwandter’s irreverent impishness and Gepe’s coltish songwriting, and results in a record of polished, poppy exuberance. At 32 minutes and eight tracks long, Alex & Daniel is an album in the time-honoured pop tradition, its snappiness and frivolity apparent from the off. It opens with a flourish in “Mundo Real”, a slice of disco-house that sets much of the record’s sprightly tone. The two singers dovetail with strings, chimes and high-pitched ‘ooh-oohs’ that surge over synth beats, in a highly promising start which creates a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation for what’s to come. Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

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8. Follakzoid – II

Chosen by Nick and Zach

Like the vast expanses which cover their native Chile, Föllakzoid’s full debut album II is a record to get lost in. The void through which II travels is belied by the fact it contains a mere five tunes, although with the shortest clocking in at just under seven minutes, it is a voyage of some substance. Marked by the relentless ferocity of a throbbing core on which a multi-tentacled beast writhes and sweats, II possesses a strikingly observed balance between quasi-industrial force and organic fervour. It is Howl’s Moving Castle clamped onto a runaway locomotive, hurtling through the blackness without ever suggesting from where it came or when it will finally come to a halt. Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

II is available from Bandcamp and Sacred Bones Records


7. Helado Negro – Invisible Life

Chosen by Russ and Gina

On Invisible Life Helado Negro takes his electronic soul sound to the next level. The languishing soulful croon and highly detailed electronic productions are both still present, but now there’s a greater variety to his songwriting, with more experimentation in his vocal melodies and the use of collaborators to add new contrasts to the sounds. The perfect example is “Dance Ghost”; in many ways it’s a simple electro track backed with chiming textures and anchored by an incredibly attractive synth bass. Whereas on previous albums Roberto Carlos Lange – to use the name given to Helado Negro on his birth certificate – used his voice very much as one of the instruments, here it really takes centre-stage. If there is invisible life then here it’s trying to break out of the shadows. If Lange was ever going to have a hit single this would be it. Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Invisible Life is available from Amazon and iTunes

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6. Victor Hugo – El Primer Disco de Victor Hugo

Chosen by Nadia and Amaya

Once in a great while, I hear an album that brings me back to my “rock en español” roots and reminds me of that epic era when Gustavo Cerati was out and about spinning honest lyrics with rockstar moves that made England shake for us, when Fabulosos Calavera delivered Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ most interesting salsa-rock-ska cocktail with a twist of tango, and when music truly marked not just an era, but a feeling. That’s what Victor Hugo does about 20 years later. This Peruvian singer and vocalist of Mi Jardín Secreto manages to sound like rock god Cerati and rock icon Morrissey all at the same time. El Primer Disco de Victor Hugo is daring, weird, rough around the edges and completely and utterly rocking. Nadia Reiman (Read Full Review)

El Primer Disco de Victor Hugo is available from

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5. El Remolón – Boxeo Constitución

Chosen by Amaya, Nick and Zach

On Boxeo Constitución – what must be the world’s first digital cumbia soundtrack – El Remolón clearly shows the evolution of his sound since his 2008 debut Pibe Cosmo. Boxeo Constitución pushes digital cumbia in new directions, expanding the horizons and benefitting greatly from the marriage between original instrumentation and subtly infused electronica. Importantly, it manages to achieve the difficult task of simultaneously being a fitting soundtrack to Weingartner’s thought provoking documentary and a quality album in its own right. Robin Perkins (Read Full Review)

Boxeo Constitución is available from Amazon and iTunes

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4. La Vida Boheme – Será

Chosen by Nadia, Gina and Zach

La Vida Boheme crashed on the scene in 2010 with the punk rock fury of Nuestra, an album so angsty and so fun that it managed to blow up everyone’s radar. That’s why their sophomore effort Será may come as a surprise to those fans waiting for that trademark sound. This is not to say that punk has left the building for the band, but Será demonstrates a more mature sound for La Vida Boheme, where they’re more willing to experiment with different tempos and genres. From new wave to folk and cabaret punk, La Vida Boheme’s Será signals a new era for Latin American rock. Amaya Garcia (Read Full Review)

Será is available from Amazon and iTunes

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3. Chico Trujillo – Gran Pecador

Chosen by Amaya, Gina and Zach

Sometimes I feel as if Chico Trujillo were a band born to alleviate the current lack of troubadours in contemporary Latin American music. This is not to say that there aren’t (hip hop, cumbia and folk artists have been providing some of the best storytelling these days) yet, there aren’t many that take the game as far as Chico Trujillo does. Every song on Gran Pecador feels like the story of everyone’s life; full of intense moments of happiness, sadness, pesky neighbours, celebrations, love, lust and lots of struggle. There is not a dull moment for these guys (nor an opportunity lost), as Gran Pecador is a tour of epic proportions, not just through the stories that make up the fabric of a country, but also through the canon of Latin American popular music of yesteryear. Amaya Garcia (Read Full Review)

Gran Pecador is available from Amazon and iTunes

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2. Bixiga 70 – S/T

Chosen by Russ, Nick and Zach

I honestly thought that Bixiga 70′s first album was great, one of the best albums in recent memory in Brazil. The fact that they’ve taken their sound to a new level and one that is so much higher than what they’ve achieved before either means I was wrong on that first one, or that this is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard. I think it might be the latter. Undoubtedly the best Brazilian album of the year, and possible the best album of the year full stop, this is essential listening. If you like afrobeat, Ethiojazz, brass bands, polyrhythmic paeans, Bootsy Collins jams, Saharan grooves, acid jazz moves or any form of music that’s ever existed then you’ve got to listen to this album. It really doesn’t get much better. Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Bixiga 70 is available for free download from

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1. Juana Molina – Wed 21

Chosen by Russ, Nadia and Amaya

After five years, Juana Molina steps decisively back into the stage with her sixth album Wed 21, and with the secure and mature steps of an artist that is completely aware of her voice. This is surely not her first rodeo, and Molina knows it. Wed 21 is one of Molina’s strongest pieces of work, and it is a strange, delightful, cohesive work of art. With a mere 11 tracks, Wed 21 has all of the elements of what a good experimental record should have. Nadia Reiman (Read Full Review)

Wed 21 is available from Amazon and iTunes

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Best Compilations

Daora: Underground Sounds Of Urban Brasil – Hip-Hop, Beats, Afro & Dub

Chosen by Russ and Nick

Mais Um Discos tapped Rodrigo Brandão, respected Sao Paulo rapper/musician/promoter and long-time hip-hop head, to curate the compilation and give it the arc of a DJ set. He succeeds with both albums having their own distinct feel and emphasis. The first album more heavily features hip-hop and driving electronic beats. It opens with Espião’s “Cada Um, Cada Um,” a head-nodding hip-hop track that sets the stage for the collection. As the disc progresses, it features tracks that smoothly blend iconic sounds of Afro-Brazilian traditions, such as the agôgô (cowbell) and the berimbau, with beats and effects to make for a funky mix. M. Takara 3′s “Rei da Cocada”, in particular, builds from a collection of interlocking cowbell beats to an irresistibly danceable psychedelic funk tune. The first album closes with another experimental track that builds off of that percussive energy, the previously unreleased live recording of Bodes e Elefantes’ “Noon and I’m Still Asleep,” a song that should appeal to fans of glitch and electro-acoustic music alike. Kariann Goldschmitt (Read Full Review)

Daora is available from Amazon and iTunes

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Geko Jones & Atropolis Present Palenque Records Remixed

Chosen by Gina and Zach

Palenque Records Remixed is a unique compilation which features two different meetings of cultures in two different moments in time. The first meeting dates back to the 70s, when inhabitants from San Basilio de Palenque – a community in the Colombian Caribbean Coast settled by slaves who escaped Spanish bondage in the 1600s – had access to Afropop vinyl LPs that arrived to the ports of Cartagena and Barranquilla. They immediately started mixing these African beats with their musical heritage, also African but dating from centuries back, to create something called champeta criolla. The second meeting dates from present times and results from Geko Jones, Atropolis and other New York Dutty Arts DJs remixing a compilation of champeta criolla songs, introducing the music to a wider club-going audience. Camilo Martinez (Read Full Review)

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Best Reissue

Teo Laura Amao – El Sonido de la Carretera Central

Chosen by Russ

El Sonido de La Carretera Central (The Sound of The Central Highway) is a collection of twelve Peruvian rock ‘n’ roll cumbias spanning the period 1973–85, a mixture of original and cover, and vigorously arranged and delivered by one of the kings of seventies psychedelic and surf guitar in the country, Teo Laura Amao. At the forefront of the chicha explosion of the late hippy era, Teo Laura epitomises the sound that merged Latin rhythms, themselves often rooted in African tradition, with the US and British rock scenes. The amalgamation of these distinct styles created something that was chaotically colourful, wildly danceable, and deliciously rebellious. Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

El Sonido de la Carretera Central is available from Amazon

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