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10 Best Latin Albums of 2016

Helado Negro, Alex Anwandter and more of the year’s best from Latinx artists

10 Best Latin Albums of 2016

Ceci Bastida, J Balvin and Juan Gabriel made some of the year's best Latin albums.

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No mames, 2016. Contrary to last year’s politically charged show, the Latin Grammys responded to Donald Trump’s crushing victory with a mandated silence – broken by indie-pop heroine Carla Morrison, who openly slammed the President-Elect for his xenophobic remarks. Then, besides legends David Bowie, Prince and George Michael, 2016 claimed inimitable queer icon Juan Gabriel. Yet still kicking around, somehow, is the term “Latin music” – an ever-elastic label defining a vast community that constantly migrates and expands its cultural soundscapes. What does “Latin music” mean to Mexicans who grew up swapping Smiths songs on mixtapes, as did the Moz-reverent supergroup Mexrrissey? Or Colombian rapper J Balvin, whose success in the United States eclipses that of his birthplace? Drawing from both homegrown sounds, to sounds that claim no fixed home at all, Latinxs continue to craft some of the most inventive music around. Here’s our favorite 2016 releases from Latin America and its broadening diaspora.

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Mexrrissey, ‘No Manchester’

A mariachi-steeped tribute to Morrissey, Mexrrissey's No Manchester revels in both the band's crush on the Smiths crooner and Mexico's unlikely obsession with him. Forged by M.I.S.'s Camilo Lara and Sergio Mendoza (Calexico, Orkesta Mendoza), this charming document combines Britain's fascination for bleak humor with Mexico's knack for melodrama. In a soundscape where passion, rebellion and melancholy take charge, listeners observe the desolate journey of a sad loner roaming in a republic burdened with agony in "México." The lilting, brassy take on "Suedehead" (titled "Estuvo Bien") features the angelic coo of Jay de la Cueva in trio with Chetes' swaggerful sneer and Adanowsky's warm growl; while Ceci Bastida channels Morrissey's effete cool in her surfy remake, "International Playgirl." Delivered by an all-star cast of charro-clad rockeros, this all-Spanish homage is rich with clever puns, vibrant horns and percussive vihuela strums that collide perfectly with the fey jangle-pop of the Moz. I.R.

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Alex Anwandter, ‘Amiga’

A tribute to the world's maligned and ignored, Amiga, from Chilean pop maestro Alex Anwandter, chronicles oppression as both party starter and protest singer. "Siempre Es Viernes en Mi Corazón," one of the finest singles of 2016, is a celebration of the persecuted rebel set to black-light beats. Anwandter tackles the brutality of the patriarchy on "Mujer" and government corruption on "Cordillera," both over fervent electro-pop. On the beautiful "Manifiesto," Anwandter brings the lights down to recognize the plight of fellow "town queers." Ultimately, Amiga is about how pop music can provide short-lived liberation from suppression. When Anwandter prays for Friday to arrive because he can finally die, it's an expression of hope and determination, because he knows that even the brave eventually fall – so you might as well die dancing. A.C.

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