This week, new music came in from the around the globe and it settled on our weekly playlist. And as you would expect, they are stylistically all over, but in a very good way. Buenos Aires, Havana, Mexico City and Santo Domingo are all represented, with the sounds of folk, reggae, pop and Cuban guaguancó.
Dig in and enjoy!
Haydée Milanés, "Identidád (feat. Ibeyí)"
Pablo Milanés, the great Cuban nueva trova songwriter, had a moment in 2017 when his daughter Haydée released Amor, an album of duets with her father on songs he made famous. Last Friday, she released the deluxe edition of the album, which includes a disc of collaborations between Haydée and artists like Julieta Venegas, Omara Portuondo, Lila Downs, and more on her father's songs. Haydée's version of "Identidad" with French Cuban twins Ibeyí is one of the more inventive covers on the album. This version highlights the Afro Cuban rhythms of the original, beginning with a Yoruba canto and a steady conga, then weaving the classical Cuban jazz piano with the three women's ethereal harmonies when they sing, "Ay, con tus besos en el aire / Con tus manos en la calle." Independent of her father's legacy, Haydée Milanés is an inspired artist in her own right, and is creating her place in the canon of Cuban women reinventing the island's traditional musics. — Stefanie Fernández
Agua Viva, "Las Estrellas Se Quiebran"
Josi Arias came up in Buenos Aires underground scene with her former lo-fi alt-goth band Los Cripis before creating her solo project and moving to New York in 2017. As Agua Viva, Arias plays on the camp and melodrama of old-school Latin pop ballads. Her upcoming album El Hechizo de la Luna — the spell of the moon — out June 21 is a sparkly, astrological collection that even Walter Mercado would co-sign. The lead single "Las Estrellas Se Quiebran" runs over a wavy, liquid riff on guitar that melts with starry '80s synth effects. "Las estrellas se quiebran / donde vemos que están dormidas," she sings, a perfect spell expanding and contracting in time and space. — Stefanie Fernández
Gente de Zona & Zion & Lennox, "Poquito a Poco"
When Gente de Zona released En Letra de Otro, its first album since 2016's incredibly successful Visualízate, in October, we wrote in this roundup that a cover album was an odd choice to follow up the group's debut success. Yet that album proved that a band as beloved in the Caribbean as Gente de Zona can do the old stuff as successfully as the new stuff. Their newest album Otra Cosa carries that torch while returning to the Cubaton sound that made them. It's home to all the groups best singles of the past two years, like "Si No Vuelves," "Te Duele," and "El Mentiroso," alongside new salsas and ballads with older greats like Gilberto Santa Rosa and Franco de Vita. To me, "Poquito a Poco" is the kind of melodic, summery salsa-reggaeton that Gente de Zona does best, this time together with Zion & Lennox, another iconic Caribbean pair. — Stefanie Fernández
Alih Jey, "Tu No Tienes la Culpa"
On her new album Soy De la Peña, vocalist Alih Jey has made an artistic and musical pivot from English language, Latin Grammy-nominated rocker to an acoustic folk music troubadour who is digging deep into her Dominican roots. She doesn't have to dig too far for authenticity: her father, Aníbal De Peña, is considered a folk music icon on the island. Her change in direction was inspired by and accomplished with SoCal folk warriors Cuñao. "Tu Tienes La Culpa" is performed with her papi and is just the tip of the iceberg of an inspiring album full of reverential musical treasures. It's going to be fun to watch her explore her roots while displaying the forward looking vision she's shared in the past. — Felix Contreras
Panteón Roccocó, "Infiernos"
Some things never change and for that we can be thankful. Case in point, the Mexican ska/reggae stalwarts Panteón Rococó just released their ninth album, Infiernos, and it's full of biting and musical social observations. The title track sounds like a song of lost love, but given the band's penchant for broader themes, it could also reflect the state of the world and hope for a better day.
This band is a Mexican musical institution that should have much wider following on this side of the border. This powerful new album just may do the trick. — Felix Contreras
Macaco, "Civilizado Como Los Animales"
Eight albums in and the Spanish band Macaco continues to astonish. The title track from Civilizado Como Los Animales is steeped in the Mediterranean, rumba and reggae sounds that have been the hallmark of Macaco for over 20 years. This is proof of a limitless musical palette from a band that stretches itself in very musical and danceable ways. — Felix Contreras