Best Albums Of 2012

By 17 December, 2012

It’s that time of the year again when we select some of our favourite releases from the last year, albums either made by South Americans or suitably inspired by South American music as to be deemed worthy of inclusion. These are the albums that the Sounds and Colours’ writers chose as their favourites of 2012, and reflects the huge amount of great music being made in Brazil, Chile and Colombia – who are the countries most represented in our list – as well as Argentina, Peru and Uruguay.

We should also state that a few albums, such as Criolo’s Nó Na Orelha, Los Pirañas’ Toma Tu Jabón Kapax and Astro’s self-titled second album, which were released in Europe or North America this year, aren’t on the list as they were first released in 2011 and so made our Best Of 2011 list instead.

Below you will find our Top 20 Albums Of 2012, as well as our favourite reissue and compilation of new music.

20. Chicha Libre – Canibalismo

Chosen by Zach Bezold

Chicha Libre’s new record takes the classic chicha sound and blows it wide open with an infusion of other styles sourced from various distinct genres. Multiple musical layers cross over one another and create a chaotic yet controlled fever, while loops and melodies spin off in every direction. The psychedelic effects and intricate scales employed by the band evoke all manner of environment: the Wild West, space, a haunted house. It manages to be both fresh and retro at the same time and as such is an intriguing and highly enjoyable listen.” Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

Canibalismo is available from Amazon


19. Metá-Metá – MetaL MetaL

Chosen by Russ Slater

“On their second album, the Brazilian trio of Kiko Dinucci, Thiago França and Juçara Marçal expand their Afro-Brazilian sound with the help of a full band. While still retaining the candomblé religion as the emotional core of the music, the band moves away from the afro-samba of their debut into incendiary afrobeat and experimental jazz (with touches of Naná Vasconcelos). Even when attempting samba ,as on “São Jorge”, the results are anything but ordinary. This is the sound of some of São Paulo’s finest musicians directing their creative talents into a passionate ode to Afro-Brazilian-ness.” Russ Slater


18. Los Embajadores – Faisanes

Chosen by Amaya Garcia

“There is no shortage of pop music coming out of Chile, but what is surprising is the variety of the music being made. Los Embajadores don’t make the hyperactive indie-pop of Ases Falsos, the clever, grandiose pop of Gepe or the neon-lit personal melodrama of Alex Anwandter, this is pop music on the other end of the scale; atmospheric, warm, elegant, and also infectious. As with The XX or Beach House this is music that may not hit you over the head when you first listen to it, but give it one or two listens and soon you won’t be able to stop clicking the ‘Play’ button. Faisanes is Los Embajadores’ debut release, and fully warrants a follow-up; a confident, richly symphonic album that continually surprises, albums like this don’t come around too often.” Russ Slater


17. Cabruera – Nordeste Oculto

Chosen by Russ Slater

Nordeste Oculto is the fifth album from Paraíba’s Cabruêra, and forms part of a special release mapping the North-East of Brazil which also includes texts written by musician/poet Alberto Marsicano and a book of band member Arthur Pessoa’s photography entitled Nordeste Desvelado. The project is particular interested in the spiritual side of Brazil’s Northeastern culture, something that’s captured beautifully on the album. If Nação Zumbi were ever to embark on a mystical journey this is what it would sound like, for Cabruêra have that same rhythmic force.” Russ Slater (Read Full Review)


16. Novalima – Karimba

Chosen by Zach Bezold

“Afro-Peruvian collective Novalima captured my complete auditory attention as soon as I pressed play on the first track. The album begins with electronic sounds flowing into a strong African female voice, whose words invite celebration. The song, “Festejo” picks up with traditional rhythmic percussion and seamlessly integrates electronic beats and effects. Karimba is an exciting album. Whether listening to the beats in a dance club or chilling on a sunny day in the park, this album provides non-stop energy, and will leave you craving more and awaiting a tour date near you.” Zach Bezold (Read Full Review)

Karimba is available from Amazon


15. Psilosamples – Mental Surf

Chosen by Russ Slater

“What’s striking about Mental Surf is just how organic these songs feel. Sampled accordions, violins, guitars and many other instruments fit alongside beats that can be as bright as they can be clunky, yet never does it sound strange or alien, everything fits in place perfectly. Mental Surf is an album that manages to be both inventive and warm, which essentially is to say that it’s a delightfully playful album of electronica that never outstays it’s welcome.” Russ Slater (Read Full Review)


14. Gepe – GP

Chosen by Amaya Garcia

“The fourth album from Gepe is surely the album which will see this Chilean singer/songwriter get more attention on the international scene. GP is his boldest pop record to date, shying away from the introspection found on previous albums and instead sticking to simple hooks and melodies, crafted with a skill for melody and nuanced production that shows that Gepe is continually growing an artist. In particular, the use of horns on this album adds a new personality, an urgency to the songs which forces you to sit up and listen. This is an artist ready to build on previous successes and build on his already considerable fame among Spanish-speaking indie fans around the world.” Russ Slater


13. Ases Falsos – Juventud Americana

Chosen by Russ Slater

“Chilean band Fother Muckers reinvented themselves as Ases Falsos for Juventud Americana. In truth, this is the best album that Fother Muckers never made. Switching between Pavement-style US indie-rock, funky pop-rock and catchy-as-hell electro, there are guitar hooks here that would make Weezer envious, choruses that are as infectious as anything you will hear on the radio, and yet at the same time, it’s also imbued with a distinctly South American sensibility and sense of it’s own place in the world, just take the album’s cover image of Mexican singer Juan Gabriel as proof of this. This is not an album trying to be something that it’s not. Ases Falsos have repeated the trick which Astro pulled off last year. Expect them to get a US release very soon.” Russ Slater


12. Lucas Santtana – O Deus Que Devasta Mas Também Cura (The God Who Devastates Also Cures)

Chosen by Russ Slater

“For his fifth studio effort O Deus Que Devasta Mas Tambem Cura, Lucas Santtana offers a largely cathartic record about love, loss and picking up the pieces of a broken relationship. Though his lyrics are often heartfelt, winding around simply-layered tunes to great effect, there is enough space here for some upbeat, dance-inducing numbers too, making for a fresh album which spans numerous styles and refuses to remain rooted in one genre alone. O Deus Que Devasta Mas Tambem Cura is an extremely experimental effort which, overall, effectively blends orchestral tunes with modern beats and riffs. The use of symphonic ballads heightens the emotion of the more introspective songs, while the more dance-infused tracks allow for some respite from the melancholy of the album, with genre-spanning tunes like “Sé Pa Ska” offering compelling tweaks to the album formula.” Nicholas Nicou (Read Full Review)

O Deus Que Devasta Mas Também Cura (The God Who Devastates Also Cures) is available from Amazon


11. Maga Bo – Quilombo Do Futuro

Chosen by Zach Bezold

Quilombo do Futuro delves into the rich Afro-Brazilian musical heritage and transports it into the 21st century. The album revolves around a number of collaborations and original recordings made with Brazilian musicians, new and old, from capoeira master Mestre Camaleão and singer Rosângela Macedo to contemporary innovators like Lucas Santanna, Funkero and BaianaSystema’s guitarra bahiana maestro Robertinho Baretto. Maga Bo blends the traditional rhythms, instrumentation and vocal lines with his own incisive production skills. Genres like coco, maculelê, samba and jongo are woven with wobbling synths, booming sub basses and crisp 808 kicks. Quilombo do Futuro fills the space between organic and electronic, leaving you sometimes unable to tell the difference.” Robin Perkins (Read Full Review)

Quilombo Do Futuro is available from Amazon


10. Campo – Bajofondo Presenta: Campo

Chosen by Amaya Garcia

Bajofondo Presenta: Campo, is Campo‘s take on the recent explosion of South American folklore and electronic music fusions, but with a twist. With Campo, Campodónico created his own genre, “subtropical music”, which explores the sonic intersections between British pop, rock, bossa nova, neo-tango, cumbia villera, Cuban bolero, cha-cha-cha, and experimental electronic music. What he ended up with is a stylish study of contrasting sounds and influences that will not only make a few ‘Best of 2012’ lists, but will also be remembered as an innovative pop record for years to come.” Amaya Garcia (Read Full Review)

Bajofondo Presenta: Campo is available from Amazon


9. Meridian Brothers – Desesperanza

Chosen by Russ Slater

“Devised as a kind of salsa concept album, Desesperanza is more upbeat than previous Meridian Brothers records, with percussion constantly shuffling in the background and bass taking more of a role in keeping the beat moving and adding to the melody. With salsa the theme, rhythm plays a large part in the record, but this is where any feeling of familiarity ends. Many fans of Colombian music will have already encountered Álvarez, the brains behind Meridian Brothers, through his work with Los Pirañas, Frente Cumbiero and Ondatropica, but it’s here where we really get to see his own vision of Colombia’s “tropical” music, a vision which brings in elements of the avant garde, of the occult, as well as a wry humour that makes Meridian Brothers both one of the most interesting and most enjoyable groups in Colombia at the moment.” Russ Slater (Read Full Review)

Desesperanza is available from Amazon


8. BNegão & Seletores de Frequência – Sintoniza Lá

Chosen by Russ Slater

“I’m not sure what the Portuguese translation for “badass” would be, but it’s a fitting description for the explosive sounds on Sintoniza Lá, the long awaited sophomore album from BNegão & Seletores de Frequência. Carioca MC Bernardo Santos, a.k.a. BNegão, waited nearly a decade to rejoin forces with the band responsible for 2003’s breakout record Enxugando Gelo. Sintoniza Lá is a groove-filled powerhouse that effectively blends dub, hip-hop, R&B, punk and afrobeat.” Charlie Higgins (Read Full Review)


7. Las Malas Amistades – Maleza

Chosen by Andrés Gualdrón and Russ Slater

“With no traditional musical training, and approaching their instruments with the freedom of those who make music as an extension of other creative endeavours, Las Malas Amistades have acquired a unique sound that has made them a cult group not only in Colombia but also in the UK (where the prestigious label Honest Jon’s Records has released their work). Mixing acoustic instruments with vintage synths – and blending lyrics of love, loss and life with deep and thoughtful instrumental tracks – Maleza, their new album, is one of their best records to date.” Andrés Gualdrón (Read Full Review)

Maleza is available from Amazon


6. Bomba Estereo – Elegancia Tropical

Chosen by Nick MacWilliam and Gina Vergel

Elegancia Tropical, from Colombia’s Bomba Estereo, is surprisingly experimental for a second album. At times, such as on “El Alma Y El Cuerpo”, the band turn things down for slow-burning, sun-drenched odes to the tropics, while elsewhere heading for the kind of heavy beats that you just know would shake your body (and soul) in all the right directions if you were to hear them in a nightclub. They also retain the kind of 90s dance meets champeta aggression that made their debut so popular. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the results are deliriously good and prove that Bomba Estereo are a band intent on staying around for a long time yet.” Russ Slater

Elegancia Tropical is available from Amazon


5. Tulipa Ruiz – Tudo Tanto

Chosen by Charlie Higgins and Russ Slater

“Listening to Tulipa Ruiz’s second album Tudo Tanto is akin to being a kid in an auditory candy store. Building on her acclaimed debut Efêmera, the Paulista songwriter tickles the ear at every turn with her playful, organic blend of Brazilian indie pop. Here, and perhaps more so than on her first record, Ruiz embraces the idiosyncracies of every acoustic and electronic instrument in her palette, adding depth and clarity to her compositions rather than obscuring them. Tulipa Ruiz is an artist who loves to create and understands the limitless possibilities of music. As a result, there are few dull moments on Tudo Tanto, and it’s an album that rewards multiple listens. It’s clear we can expect lots of exciting music from this unique voice, and it will be interesting to see where she takes things.” Charlie Higgins (Read Full Review)


4. Alex Anwandter – Rebeldes

Chosen by Zach Bezold and Amaya Garcia

Alex Anwandter’s sophomore effort, Rebeldes, is a modern study on queer politics and Latin American pop, wrapped in infectious neon beats and 80s style synths. As with his first solo record Odisea, there is no hint of his former band, Teleradio Donoso, or the melodious rock and roll it was known for. On the contrary, with very few live instruments, Rebeldes is the perfect product of machines; a stylish mixture of synthesizer mastery and beat making skills that perfectly matches Anwandter’s soft, harmonious croon. The lyrics are full of sentimentality and pack a powerful punch to the heart of the listeners; an invitation to go deeper into Anwandter’s world.” Amaya Garcia (Read Full Review)

Rebeldes is available from Amazon


3. Mati Zundel – Amazonico Gravitante

Chosen by Amaya Garcia and Russ Slater

“It appears that Zundel’s travels across Latin America broadened his musical horizons, resulting in a fantastic mix of eclectic experimentation, traditional folkloric rhythms and psychedelic soundscapes from across the continent. I am in awe of Mati Zundel and how he has seamlessly fused so many different genres, not only making it work track by track, but also as a complete album. Each listen to Amazonico Gravitante is a musical odyssey through, in my opinion, the most musically diverse continent on the planet. An adventure you will want to take again and again.” Sam Fraser (Read Full Review)

Amazonico Gravitante is available from Amazon


2. Ana Tijoux – La Bala

Chosen by Zach Bezold, Nick MacWilliam and Amaya Garcia

Ana Tijoux does a great job in showcasing many different styles in one album as some lyricists realise in a career. La Bala continues to bounce from hardcore rap with scratches and rips to soft verses draped over piano, guitar and psychedelic riffs. Themes of love, struggle, outrage, and voice unite the album as Ana Tijoux has created a work of art that unifies a country and a local movement. Though singing in Spanish, her ideas are portrayed through raw emotion and the flow of the tracks, giving the music international appeal. In a period of great social uprising and clash, Ana’s hits will be played from the streets of Santiago de Chile to Cairo, Egypt and even possibly Occupy Wall Street NY.” Zach Bezold (Read Full Review)

La Bala is available from Amazon


1. Ondatropica

Chosen by Zach Bezold, Nick MacWilliam, Russ Slater and Gina Vergel

“With its stellar cast of musicians, I’ve heard the term ‘super-group’ used in reference to Ondatropica but this conjures up, in my mind at least, images of fading and forgotten old rockers cashing in on their dwindling fame one final time, so I’d prefer to paraphrase that expression with ‘brilliant band’. Ondatropica have delivered an album of startling quality and animation that crosses the musical spectrum in a relentless blend of Latin grooves, global beats and universal flourishes. Whether taking to the dancefloor, such a vital aspect of tropical music, or just sitting back to enjoy the ride, there is no denying that this is a modern masterpiece.” Nick MacWilliam (Read Full Review)

Ondatropica is available from Amazon


Best Compilation

Various Artists – Future Sounds of Buenos Aires

Chosen by Amaya Garcia

Future Sounds of Buenos Aires offers a comprehensive look at one of the most exciting and innovative electronic music scenes in South America and the world. The ZZK crew definitely make music that, while not timeless, definitely has staying power. Proving that digital cumbia or digital folklorika (or any other incarnation of the sound) is not just a flash in the pan but takes guts and creativity, specifically because of the nature of the electronic music market. It’s very easy to get lost in the mix, but Future Sounds of Buenos Aires manages to bring back the music to its birthplace while letting us know that the best is yet to come.” Amaya Garcia (Read Full Review)

Future Sounds of Buenos Aires is available from Amazon


Best Reissue

Various Artists – Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1985

Chosen by Russ Slater

“If you’re a new, intermediate, or hardcore fan of Colombian music, you’ll enjoy Diablos del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1985 by the Frankfurt-based Analog Africa record label. The double CD is an anthology of – and tribute to – the immense sound of 1970s Colombia. Redjeb collected thousands of records for this project, eventually he settled on 32 colourful tracks that appear on the double CD. There are a few from the 1960s and 1980s. The first disc contains Afrobeat, Palenque sounds, tropical funk, and terapia. The second has puya, porro, gaita, cumbiamba, mapalé, and chandé.” Gina Vergel (Read Full Review)

Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1985 is available from Amazon

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