To finish off Aqui y Ahora: Without Borders, KEXP's month-long programming celebrating the music of the communities of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Latin and Latinx diaspora around the world, we've made a little guide for those of you who want to discover Latinx artists but don't know where to start or what you might like. With some integral expert input from KEXP's Latin American Content Coordinator and co-host of El Sonido, we've put together a short beginner's guide of artists that should be on any KEXP listener's radar, based on the artists you already love.
Much like her American counterpart, Marilina Bertoldi is tough to pin down. Constantly innovating her sound in unexpected and boundary-defying ways, Bertoldi is a master of strutty, pristine, undeniably sexy guitar rock and an absolute superstar in Argentina. The recipient of three Gardel Awards (essentially the Argentinian Grammy’s) and two Latin Grammy nominations, at this point she should be a household name.
The Gardel Awards are particularly significant, as historically the Gardels have been notoriously sexist and tend to hand out awards to the same handful of men every year. Because of this, and similarly to St. Vincent, Bertoldi has made a point to speak very loudly about not just her gender but also her sexuality, as it's even more uncommon for an openly gay woman to “make it” in Argentina. KEXP’s Albina Cabrera spoke with her at length about this for her Live at Home session last year.
Bertoldi’s over a decade into her career now, starting out in 2010 as the frontwoman of Connor Questa (initially Marilina Connor Questa) and releasing four solo albums since 2012. It’s been three years since her latest, Prender Un Fuego, swept the Gardel Awards, picking up both “Best Female Rock Album” (insert eye roll about the existence of that category) and the esteemed “Album of the Year” awards for it’s bluesy, funk-infused sensual swagger and we’re the on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what she puts out next. -- Jasmine Albertson
When it comes to shoegaze, all tangled guitar cables lead back to My Bloody Valentine, the pioneering Irish-English band whose 1991 album Loveless is considered the genre’s most influential LP. Tijuana-via-Mexico City trio Mint Field pay homage to their distortion-laden elders with their own style of discordant guitar, combined with the ethereal vocals of Estrella del Sol Sánchez. On last year’s full-length, Sentimiento Mundial, the group take on heavier sounds, reminiscent of Sonic Youth, and more krautrock-inspired moments, like on the single “Contingencia,” but ultimately, it’s the swirling, hazy, gorgeous wall of sound that brings it back to MBV. -- Janice Headley
If propulsive yet sunny garage rock a la Parquet Courts is more your vibe then Los Blenders are a must-listen. While the Mexico City band doesn’t seem to take themselves too seriously on stage, where they’re known for their often-drunken antics, their momentum, in not just the Mexican music scene but the States as well, would suggest otherwise.
Here, at KEXP, we’ve been bumping the band since their 2015 EP Chavos Bien, which landed on DJ Chilly’s top 10 list for the year and led us to bring them to Seattle for an in-studio in 2016. From there, the band went on to collaborate with will.i.am in Corona’s “Discover Your Music” campaign which launched their music to a whole new fanbase, making their second LP, 2017’s Ha Sido, not only critically acclaimed but a streaming giant, garnering over 4 million plays. With streams in hand, Los Blenders then received the golden ticket for an upcoming band - a spot on the 2017 Coachella lineup.
On their latest album, last year’s Mazunte 2016, Los Blenders tiptoe away from their raucous origins to put their full weight into the surf rock that’s always been used as a background color in their sound. Languid at moments and perpetually breezy, the album showcases their talent for writing a great riff and desire for innovation in a genre that can often feel comfortable staying in one lane. -- Jasmine Albertson
Lovable slack-rocker Mac DeMarco and multifaceted Latin American artist Juan Wauters have a lot in common. They both have history with Brooklyn-based Captured Tracks, a label that helped define the lo-fi dream pop sound of the 2000s. And they both have a body of work featuring charming melodies against strummed acoustic guitar (most notably demonstrated on Wauters’ earlier work, like on his 2015 LP Who Me?). It’s no wonder the pair are friends, and collaborated on the track “Real,” off Wauters’ 2021 album Real Life Situations. The past few years have found Wauters expanding into territories DeMarco hasn’t dared (yet?), like hip-hop, R&B, utilizing field recordings, and collaborating with Peter Sagar (AKA Homeshake), Nick Hakim, Cola Boyy, El David Aguilar, and more. But their shared gift for laid-back sounds still unites them. -- Janice Headley
Carrying on a rich musical history, Panamanian singer/songwriter Sofía Valdés is the great-granddaughter of legendary Cuban musician Miguelito Valdés, regarded as one of the greatest soneros and guaracheros of his time. But 20-year-old Valdés hasn’t let the possibility of nepotism make her rest on her laurels. Forging her own path, Valdés left her home country behind to study music in Michigan and, from there, jetted off to London to join Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts to hone her craft.
The result of these efforts came out early this year with the Ventura EP, six lovely tracks that showcase her emotionally resonant lyricism and penchant for pop that veers ever so slightly into smooth soft rock. The warm tenderness reminds me of Clairo’s 2019 debut full-length Immunity (who was also 20 when it was released), in its well-crafted indie pop intimacy and makes me wonder what's in the water to make Gen Z so goddamn talented. -- Jasmine Albertson
As music journalist and radio host Richard Villegas says in this guest post for KEXP, “women, queer, and non-binary musicians are keeping the flames of dissent alive through music, especially in hip-hop and reggaeton.” Two stand-out artists in the genre are Afro-Indigenous artist Princess Nokia (real name: Destiny Nicole Frasqueri; who is of Puerto Rican descent) and Snow Tha Product (real name: Claudia Alexandra Madriz Meza) who was born in San Jose, CA to undocumented Mexican immigrant parents.
Frasqueri’s duel 2020 releases — Everything Sucks and Everything is Beautiful — reflect on trauma, self-care, and healing. Snow Tha Product uses her lightning-quick rhymes to speak out about discrimination, LGBTQIA+ rights, and other social justice matters. With similar spit-fire deliveries and empowering stands, these two bring positive changes to Latinx hip-hop. -- Janice Headley
Fuzzy wailing guitars and swirling soundscapes set the backdrop for Barbi Recanati’s debut solo record Ubicación en Tiempo Real, released in March of last year. After spending over a decade fronting the Buenos Aires-based band Utopians, a sexual assault scandal tore the four-piece apart and Recanati forged on on her own.
Unlike the angular post-punk of her former band, Recanati aims for lushness on her debut. A sonic texture Michelle Zauner also employs most expertly for Japanese Breakfast, both taking influence from a wide range of fuzz-fueled genres for a warm, euphoric feeling, whether you can understand what they’re saying or not. -- Jasmine Albertson
London-based electronic duo AlunaGeorge bring R&B and house influences to their soulful synthpop. Puerto Rican project Buscabulla are also a duo, and they, too, craft sultry electro-pop sounds, adding a “tropical modernism” with roots in bossa nova, merengue, calypso, and more. Both provide the perfect soundtrack for a sexy evening with wine and candlelight. Or maybe a car commercial. -- Janice Headley
Trying to pin down just one artist for Ela Minus is difficult because on one hand, the dark, frosty, late-night vibes and soft, cooing vocals live in a very similar world as the Portland-based Chromatics. On the other, her sometimes intricate, layered production that whirls and sputters in experimental fashion belongs on the opposite side of the US, with Brooklyn’s Oneohtrix Point Never. But, also, at the same time, the throbbing techno that permeates the dancefloor-ready tracks feel like they should exist all the way over in the UK with The Prodigy or Aphex Twin.
Either way, if you like just one of these artists then you’ll probably love Minus’ debut LP acts of rebellion. Sung partly in English, part Spanish, the dark, moody album truly is an initiative of insurrection (my, that word hasn't aged well), with political revelations about capitalism and the unequal treatment of minorities defiantly sung with a sneer. “You won’t make us stop,” proclaims Minus on “megapunk. “We’re afraid we’ll run out of time / To stand up for our rights.” We love a revolution that starts on the dance floor. -- Jasmine Albertson
Why Here and Now? A tour of our October special programming and the future.
Music journalist and radio host Richard Villegas joins Aquí y Ahora as a collaborator to narrate the new scene of women in Latin American hip hop and trap.