There isn’t a better time to celebrate the beauty of sounds from these Latin@ and Latinx artists who are pulling traditional and contemporary sounds, while redefining themselves and genres in the process. And with so many great albums, singles, and collaborations released, and yet to be released, here are 10 artists who are rightfully leaving their mark.
Los Angeles-based artist Stefni Valencia is a powerhouse vocalist that can easily work with any sound and genre. The artist’s latest track “Vueltas” stuns, shifting tone from previous releases, and resonates from a special place due to Valencia’s heartfelt lines. And despite it being released months ago, the track’s acoustic version has an ongoing mission with a “name your price” option on Bandcamp, and donation button on the artists website, where 100% of the profits will go towards Al Otro Lado — a non-profit organization that fights to reunite families separated at the border and serves deportees, migrants, and refugees. The video focuses on the reality with the intention that they will not be alone nor forgotten.
Isabel Olive, known as the creative force of Half Gringa, is a storyteller and contemporary painter of alt-country, folk, and Latinxpop. The Chicago-based artist’s sophomore full-length, Force to Reckon, is just that, and is a strong contender to Half Gringa’s debut Gruñona. Pulling roots from Venezuelan, the album depicts the artist’s bicultural experience in the Midwest and is a poetic dust of Americana. Tracks like “Transitive Property,” and “Afraid of Horses” will leave a listener in a meditative state seeking clarity, while “Silbadora” flushes the past in an isolated, open scenery. Olive’s vocals command each track in such a gentle, assertive, and honest way, a listener ultimately becomes their own force to reckon. There are not enough words created to praise Olive, so here’s to living life and future releases from the artist. Force to Reckon is available for purchase on 12″ vinyl, pressed on translucent black metallic vinyl.
Indie-cumbia act, Como Las Movies, are doing something heavenly with cumbia and Tejano. The Austin, Texas quartet articulately place these influences to the front of prog-rock, psych, and pop, ultimately thriving in their own nuevo wave. Their latest release Cumbia De Los Monjes, features fresh renditions of cumbia classics, featuring Grupo G’s “Cumbia de los Monjes” which sees an accompanying visual.
Como Las Movies’ extracts the track’s euphoric hook and softens the edges with a heavy-handed synth. Signature bass lines are in tact and beats firmly throughout the track’s mellifluous vocals, dipped in woozy guitar lines. These are definitely the minds of artists who etching out their own space, utilizing the best of traditional and contemporary sounds. Cumbia De Los Monjes is available for purchase on a 7″ vinyl at Como Las Movies’ Bandcamp page.
Roberto del Raspado, the alias for Mexican-American songwriter Robert Abalos, soulfully glides from soft to psychedelic rock. The East LA artist’s warm tone moves with delicacy, and at times, inevitable gravitational force. The latest by Abalos, Songs About the Sun, depicts tracks of a “young man who flew too close to the sun,” and steadily captures a coming-of-realization journey. Abalos’ organic songwriting and blend of yesteryears make for an ageless LP. Songs About the Sun is available for purchase via Bandcamp.
Gina Chavez doesn’t just provide the tools for enlightenment, but captures a spiritual awakening that is heard on her latest EP, which also happened to be the artist’s first all-Spanish language collection, La Que Manda. Chavez is an incredible force, if unfamiliar with the artist’s work, and within 5-tracks we see a regenerated artist; one who stands firmly with her voice and conviction. This passion easily translates with her everyday work as a philanthropist, seeing as Chavez also runs Niñas Arriba — a college fund she co-founded with her wife, Jodi Grandado — for young women in gang-dominated parts of El Salvador. To support higher education for women in Latin America, visit NinasArriba.org. To stream and/or purchase La Que Manda, visit the artist on Bandcamp.
If you don’t know who Maria Isa is, it’s never too late to learn. The artist is a singer, songwriter, actress, rapper, activist, youth worker and international recording artist born in Minnesota to NuyoRican parents (New York-Puerto Ricans). And if that isn’t enough, Isa is also a host and co-creator of Latina Theory, a Spanglish podcast with Arianna Genis, where the two Minnesotans discuss current events and everything in between.
The latest from the artist sees her collaborate with YMMI on Amor Universal, a 6-track studded collection that is filled with warm rhythms, trap, R&B, Afro-Latinx love, and the right amount of pop. Heavy with dance, the album also features sentimental moments with tracks like “By My Side” and showcases Isa’s range as a vocalist and songwriter. Stream and purchase Amor Universal.
Dream pop swirled in the tears of the sad boy/girl scene of Los Angeles, comes The Citie. The lo-fi ensemble, consisting of brothers Jona, Adrian, and Daniel Cohen, lovingly craft buttery singles with pensive instrumental breaks. Their latest “High Horse” is the perfect example of the band’s balance; sensually slowing down time to the likes of the last sunset of summer. The jangle-pop chimes and woozy guitar lines meet for a sweet sound of dreamgazing and Latinx culture, and is a dreamier follow-up from “Moonbeam.” The band is currently working on their next EP and expanding their music collective “Estudio Citie” operating as a creative ground with open doors to other creatives.
Pao Pestana (formerly Intaya)
Pao Pestana, formerly Intaya, is a singer, songwriter and producer who crafts spellbinding cuts influenced from growing-up in Venezuela to now her home in London. Pao’s 4-track EP, Not Your Typical Tropical Dream, which was released at the start of the year, cautiously moves with these opposite elements for a hypnotic, sensory experience. Meticulous beats and creative loops, alongside Pao’s luxuriant vocals, send the EP to an astral realm. Recently changing her name from Intaya to Pao Pestana, it seems as though the best is yet to come from the artist and we cannot wait for the next chapter. Stream the album on Spotify and Apple Music.
You may know Mexican-Salvadoran-American singer-songwriter, Angelica Garcia, from Barack Obama’s Favorite Music of 2019 list, which featured the acclaimed single, “Jícama.” With roots in the San Gabriel Valley, El Monte, and East LA, to now creating a new lineage in Richmond, Virginia, Garcia’s sound is an embraceful snapshot of where she came from, and where she is going. Garcia’s Cha Cha Palace is an eclectic full-length that depicts the strength in the artist’s identity, blending sounds, textures, and culture outlooks. Tracks like “Guadalupe” and “Lucifer Waiting,” which transition like no other, transmute Latin halves to be seen and heard. It thrives in its youth, history, songwriting, and electronic melding in production. Purchase Cha Cha Palace on vinyl here, and the WEAR YOUR ROOTS T-SHIRT here, where all proceeds will go to Immigrant Families Together, Annunciation House, and ¡MIRA!
Self-described as “oddball cumbia” from the Sonoran desert, Tucson, Arizona to be exact, Los Esplifs have the ability to make you feel like you’re at home. Their self-titled EP pulled from dazed, rhythmic steps, to the amplified sounds of Latinx-punk, always maintaining a sense of direction within their cumbia love. Their latest single, “La Peligrosa,” diverts heavily into the warm dance hooks and blissfulness of cumbia, while sliding into subgenres of reinventions from both sides of the border.