10 Best Latin Albums of the Year – Rolling Stone
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10 Best Latin Albums of 2015

Inventive sounds by Pitbull, Ibeyi and more

Latin Albums

Illustration by Ryan Casey

2015 was a year of Latin fusion. Pitbull’s bilingual joyride Dale triumphed the Latin Top 40, while Natalia Lafourcade raked in five Latin Grammys with her huapango-infused balladry. Long-time electro-cumbia favorites Bomba Estéreo signed to major label powerhouse Sony Latin, while Afro-Cuban chanteuses Ibeyi made unprecedented moves as a breakout act. Latin music, in all its colorful, multi-faceted splendor, has never been so eclectic, and so incredibly strong. Here are the best sounds from Latin America — and its various diasporas — in 2015.

Julieta Venegas, 'Algo Sucede'
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Julieta Venegas, ‘Algo Sucede’

Julieta Venegas is a down-to-earth pop royal with grandiloquent songwriting skills. Blessed with a honeyed-yet-haunting voice and a sound that combines Latin folk, indie rock and serene pop, Venegas croons, questions and reflects in the piano-laced "Porvenir." Her masterful synth hooks are capable of entrancing any pop skeptic in the buoyant "Esperaba" while the accordion-driven "Ese Camino" boasts a Northern Mexican vibe. The beloved star bares her heart throughout, but the most gut-wrenching ballad is the upbeat "Explosión" about the 2014 tragedy of Mexico's 43 missing students. I.R.

Tulipa Ruiz, 'Dancê'
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Tulipa Ruiz, ‘Dancê’

São Paulo's Tulipa Ruiz unlocks her inner dancing queen in this funky, Grammy-winning homage to the Seventies. It's a family affair for Ruiz, who enlisted help from her father, guitar virtuoso Luiz Chagas, as well as her brother, Gustavo Ruiz on guitars and production. Armed with a brass ensemble, Ruiz and her band give a rousing performance in the caffeinated, electric tango of "Prumo." Lead single "Proporcional" is pulled off with the playful swank of a George Clinton production, while "Físico" is a glistening call to tone up those arms and legs. Even the Tropicálian psych meanderings of "Jogo do Contente" and "Oldboy" are stirring enough to keep the momentum. S.E.

Natalia Lafourcade, 'Hasta la Raíz'
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Natalia Lafourcade, ‘Hasta la Raíz’

On her powerhouse sixth album, Natalia Lafourcade catalogues introspection in the face of loss, absorbing the most haunting elements of a breakup and realizing that pain can be productive. The loftiness of the album's ambitions are tempered by Lafourcade's masterful songwriting, which remains as deft as a Mesut Özil cross pass. Hasta la Raíz tackles the bitter hurt ("Lo Que Construimos"), fear ("Antes de Huir") and ultimate redemption (the sublime title track) of lovesickness in a way that any romantic soul can understand. While intricate arrangements bathe over the album, heartbreak has rarely sounded so uplifting. A.C.

Pitbull, 'Dale'
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Pitbull, ‘Dale’

Pitbull solidified his evolution from "Mr. 305" to "Mr. Worldwide" on his 2014 LP, Globalization. But this year, the Miami rapper slid back into his comfort zone with Dale, a raucous tour of the Caribbean in 12 sweltering reggaetón tracks. Pitbull volleys between English and Spanish with ease, flirting with dancehall and guaguancó elements, while bringing MCs from neighboring islands along for the ride. "El Taxi" slyly bops along to the same melody of Chaka Demus & Pliers' 1993 reggae anthem "Murder She Wrote," with reinforcements by fellow Cubano Osmani García and Dominican playboy Sensato. Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin triumphantly resurges in "Haciendo Ruido," while Yandel and Pitbull drop a timebomb in the New Wave-y ballad, "No Puedo Más." The Mainland meets the Motherland, and the beat goes on. S.E.

Bomba Estéreo, 'Amanecer'
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Bomba Estéreo, ‘Amanecer’

Colombian electro-cumbia duo Bomba Estéreo ramp up the bass tenfold on their major label debut, delivering an electrifying, Latin-pop wake-up call. A vast departure from the introspective, lounge-y feel of 2013's Elegancia Tropical, vocalist Li Saumet gets raunchy as ever on "Caderas" before rocking gently towards eternal commitment to the undulating reggaeton of "Somos Dos." Saumet's intimations of love exude more eroticism than any of the jaunty, hip-grinding club hits that Bomba's known for, though lead single "Fiesta" is a sweaty highlight, holding its own as a dubstep and kwaito-infused Carnaval banger. Saumet indulges her tender side with an entrancing whistle in "To My Love," and crests with indigenous pride in the bare-bones folk ballad "Raíz." By record's end, the Santa Marta party girl has metamorphosed into a warm-hearted earth mother. S.E.

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