It’d be a bit of an understatement to say that it was a pretty rough year for our adopted country we love so dearly. Between the tumultuous social climate, the total economic collapse that occurred just past the midway point of the year, and the mysterious re-emergence of the mullet, 2018 was a mess and a half. For much of the year, living in Argentina felt like dangling off the edge of a volcano, holding on to dear life, trying hard not to be swallowed whole by a furious tide of molten lava, and feeling one’s grip start to loosen.
Okay, it’s possible that we might be exaggerating a bit, but for a while there it really did feel like things were caving in on themselves. Thankfully, another thing that’s been a constant throughout this year (aside from the existential dread) is the fact that there’s been so much good local music. Everything from punk rock to jazz, from synth-pop to folk, and the bizarre mishmashes thereof, 2018 was a solid year for Argentine music. And here at The Bubble we’ve put together a list of our ten favorite 2018 releases.
Do keep in mind that this is but a small taste of the rich and diverse group of albums that came out in Argentina this year (if you’re not paying attention to the local music scene, you’re seriously missing out). They are presented in no particular order, and we even made a Spotify playlist with a couple highlights from each release in case you want to sample the goods.
Babasónicos – Discutible
Psychedelic pop veterans Babasónicos have been putting out their own brand of infectious, forward-thinking rockn’roll for nearly 30 years, and in that time they’ve covered a lot of ground (if you want to learn more about their career, why not check out our handy Guided Tour through their entire discography?). Their new release Discutible serves as both a synthesis and a continuation of that progression, loaded with songs that both harken back to the band’s classic sound and also feel like they’re continually pushing forward, speaking to the political and social climate of 2018 Argentina with all the shades of nuance (and tunefulness!) that the band has become known for.
Jazmín Esquivel – Púrpura
Jazmín Esquivel’s full-length debut Purpura is a truly mesmerizing collection of acoustic-based, lushly-arranged songs that skirt the lines between folk, blues, and straight-up pop, forming a rich tapestry of sounds for listeners to plunge into. Anchoring the album is Esquivel’s strong and expressive voice, which serves as a narrator, protagonist, and Greek choir for the songs it inhabits. There’s a sense of mystery and solemnity throughout, even in the moments in which the songs let loose. Along with producer Lucy Patané, Esquivel has crafted a musical experience as rich and evocative as the color that gives the album its name.
Los Mundos Posibles – Pintura de Guerra
Los Mundos Posibles is the new project by Rosario Bléfari and Julián Perla, whose combined efforts result in this lovely little album; seven beautifully arranged, laid-back, utterly listenable pop-rock songs that feel as comforting and familiar as they are strange and idiosyncratic. Their voices couple perfectly, and rarely diverge from each other’s throughout the course of the album’s 22 minutes. Behind them, backing music that manages to sound both understated and otherworldly, grounded in the guitar/bass/drums sound of rock, with occasional flourishes like faulty transmissions from a distant planet. A beautiful album, perfect for quiet mornings.
Lucas & the Woods – Pensacola Radio
We’ve said a lot about Lucas & The Woods, the power-trio that’s taken the Argentine music scene by storm. We’ve talked about their massive hooks, their loud crashing drums, their ice-cold synthlines, the strength of their vocal melodies. We’ve talked about how they take the best parts of the 1980s New Romantic movement and synthesize it into something that feels fresh and new for the 2010s. We’ve talked about Paige’s (Adrian’s, really) crush on them. We’ve said it all. So what is there left to be said? Well, maybe the fact that all those qualities transcend their singles and actually translate to a wonderful pop album, the perfect accompaniment for the getting-ready montage that you craft in your head before you head out for a night in the town. A solid Saturday-night listen, perfectly capturing the breathless excitement of being young and alive.
María Pien – Afuera el Sol Estalla
Before this album, singer-songwriter María Pien had three releases to her name: her lovely debut album La Vuelta Manzana, its quieter and more mature follow-up Malinalli, and the sprawling and dense Tres Poemas EP. All three releases are wonderful in their own ways, and they each showcase different facets of Pien’s strengths as a songwriter. For her new release, Pien decided to instead to sing other people’s songs, thus approaching the album entirely as a performer and arranger. And it works! Through the course of its 14 tracks, Pien sings songs by Guli, Lucila Pivetta, Jeaninne Martin, and many other artists with whom she’s collaborated (or has simply admired) over the years. The result is a lovingly-crafted tribute to the joy of sharing music, and its power to work as a healing balm even through the toughest times.
LOUTA – Enchastre
With his slicked-back hair, gangly frame and somewhat dorky demeanor, LOUTA can sometimes come across more like a character in a mid-aughts comedy than one of the hottest acts in Argentinian hip-hop. But see, that’s part of the appeal! Many of the lines in his album Enchastre would come across as absolutely ridiculous if they were uttered by someone who didn’t look, act and talk like LOUTA. Sure, he could be criticized for his lack of street cred, and the fact that he is mining a sound and culture he seems to be completely removed from, but that would be missing the point. Part of LOUTA’s appeal is his utter ridiculousness, and self-aware humor is absolutely a part of the act; many of the songs have a comedic slant, often serving as humorous takedowns of normie culture. It also helps that it’s so catchy, combining trap beats with pop hooks and even elements of electronica and indie rock. The end result is a strange, endearing trip, and legitimately one of the most idiosyncratic Argentinian hip-hop albums to be released in recent memory.
El Sur – Antes De Que Sea Muy Tarde
El Sur’s new album Antes De Que Sea Muy Tarde is a ten-song romp of fuzzed-out, louder-than-loud guitars and crushing drums, nearly obscuring the fact that its vocal melodies are richly melodic and hooky. A rollicking jolt of energy that sounds as much like circa-2008 Japandroids as Warehouse-era Hüsker Dü, with a few moments of Slint-like angularity thrown in. An uncompromising slice of punk-meets-shoegaze realness.
Agustín Donati – El Elefante y El Jinete
The last couple of years have been pretty big for singer-songwriter Agustín Donati. Fresh off his debut album Lo Irreversible, Donati soon found himself as one of the winners of the Bienal Arte Joven competition, which allowed him to very quickly record his follow-up album El Elefante y el Jinete. A further refinement of his sound, the singer’s sophomore album somehow sounds both lighter and denser than its predecessor; Donati’s trademark melodic folk-tinged songwriting feels more effortless and breezy, and is decorated with ornate arrangements and orchestration over his plaintive melodies. A lovely collection of acoustic-based autumnal ballads.
Las Ligas Menores – Fuego Artificial
Las Ligas Menores have made a name for themselves by sounding like they’re not really trying. This feels like a backhanded compliment, but it’s really not; they’re merely continuing the art that was perfected in the mid-90s by bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement, playing vibrant and tuneful music with lackadaisical abandon, often calling attention to the listlessness in the lyrics. Their new album features more of the same approach, but further amplified by their experience as a live powerhouse. As a result, the songs feel more grown-up, more polished, and rawer: the guitars ring louder than they ever did, and their playing is more dynamic and fluid. Don’t worry, though, they haven’t suddenly turned into the Foo Fighters: Fuego Artificial still features that characteristic Ligas Menores sound we all love.
Escalandrum – Studio 2
The new album by jazz sextet Escalandrum celebrates its 20 years of history by releasing an album that focuses on their original compositions. Though the tunes are from their own pen, they still manage to incorporate the tango and autochthonous elements the group has become famous for, leading the listener down a rabbit hole of chasing musical whimsies and melodic ideas to completion. This album is a sprawling piece of work you’ll want to plunge into without thinking about it too much, as you let the band guide you through the worlds they build and collapse with each song. Perfect for late-night listening.