From Criolo To El Último Vecino, Here’s What We’re Listening To This Week

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This is a weekly compilation of bite-sized song & EP reviews from our music writers. Discover new favs, read nuanced criticism of the week’s hottest releases & more.

Flor De Nopal – “Open The Door”

Too dark for escapist synth-pop and too kind for the violent grit of electroclash, Tucson’s Flor de Nopal gleefully defies classification with intimate storytelling and towering dance pieces. With the release of their exploratory EP 2, the trans and non-binary artist invites the listener to revel in the affirming grey areas they call home, one sprawling jaunt at a time. “Open The Door” kicks off the trip, seemingly conceived at the sonic crossroads of The Postal Service and Javiera Mena, and unfolding as a pleading invitation to cross the threshold from self-doubt into freedom. -Richard Villegas

El Último Vecino – “Qué Caro”

El Último Vecino continues to preview his upcoming third full-length album, and now he’s letting us hear “Qué Caro.” The single stands right between 80s synth-pop stylings and the hopeful futurism of turn-of-the-millennium European dance music, offering a dazzling number that’s magnified by an unforgettable melodic moment by Gérard Alegre. The Catalan artist sings about the emotional price of love, be it lost or unrequited, and the music serves as the perfect backdrop to shake off those feelings. -Cheky

Chico y Chica – “Panorama”

Out of the two songs on Chico y Chica’s new double A-side Panorama, it’s the title track that sticks with you even hours after you listen to it. An example of their gorgeous interpretation of Latin American flair crafted with vintage synths sounds, the tropical “Panorama” tackles turbulent workspace relationships in the fashion world, telling a fun, sarcastic tale of a battle of egos between mentor and apprentice. -Cheky

Criolo – “Fellini”

Spanning from a three-decade underground career, Criolo became one of the greatest names of the Brazilian popular hip hop explosion in the beginning of the 2010s. This breakthrough might have carried him away within the MPB in the following years, but hip hop had always been his safe space. Fellini is a come back movement that points forward. Full of double-entendres and multilayered references — Criolo goes from Lévi-Strauss’s memoir of Brazil, “Tristes Tropiques”, to anthropophagy —, the song is an urban mental flow portrait. The beatmakers Neguim and Deekapz set the tone with a high-pitched flute all along the beat that feels like Travis Scott’s and Skepta’s “Praise the Lord”. -Felipe Maia

Chroma – “Lemonade” Pretty Boy Aaron Remix

Back in October, Dallas hip-hop collective Chroma released their effervescent sophomore LP Primavera, teaming up with longtime collaborator A-Wall for a charming collection of dreamy, bilingual earworms. The crew is now unveiling a deluxe edition of the LP along with two brand new remixes, chief among them a glittery rework of lead single “Lemonade.” The original track features buzzy Dallas rapper Pretty Boy Aaron, who returns to helm the remix, adding bouncy kicks and shimmering synths that transform the already-sunny bop into undeniable dance floor magic. -Richard Villegas

Rata Negra – “Desconfía De Ese Chico”

Goth punk has a reputation for being morose and grey, but a huge chunk of the genre is dedicated to music made to party your bones out to. Madrid’s deathrock trio Rata Negra continues this tradition with the catchy and energetic “Desconfía De Ese Chico,” an ode to pining for your local bad boy. The band invokes a fast and danceable beat while the guitars deliver somber, catchy riffs. Rata Negra delivers melodic mayhem to get your weekend started in a rightfully morbid way. -Marcos Hassan

Pierce With Arrows – “She Pined Away”

Life can throw unexpected darkness our way sometimes, and a good, if odd, method to process our cloudy days is to listen to delightfully somber music—and this collaborative project between U.S. producer Troy Pierce and Colombian singer Natalia Escobar, a.k.a. Poison Arrow, offers a strong helping of it. On the trip-hop-influenced “She Pined Away,” Escobar’s hushed recitations play while brassy synths drone on top of a mid-tempo beat. “She Pined Away” is a haunting song that, oddly enough, sounds comforting during gloominess. -Marcos Hassan

Mc Tha – “Despedida”

Mc Tha’s Rito de Passá was one of the most acclaimed debut albums in 2019’s Brazil. The 27-year-old artist managed to join candomblé’s cosmogony and afro-brazilian images with electronic, raw rhythmics and sweet melodies. It would be premature to let this achievement be engulfed by the hectic 2020. Instead of releasing ready-made songs to fill streaming platforms’ timelines, Mc Tha transformed three of the album’s songs into a short-movie. “Despedida” is the best one of the trilogy. The bittersweet lyrics on irresolute love and the need to say farewell are only overplayed by the pagodão upbeat drumlines. -Felipe Maia