Alex Cuba: Mendó

When Alex Cuba imagined his eighth album his dream may have seemed unreachable: He wanted songs that reflect the struggle and emotion simultaneously separating and uniting all humanity but he didn’t want them forever associated with a pandemic. If threading that needle wasn’t challenge enough, the albums behind him—earning him two Juno Awards, four Latin Grammys and three Grammy nominations—represented a tough act … More Alex Cuba: Mendó

Héctor Valentín: Me Quité

More than coffee or summer rain, Cuba is drenched in music. It emanates from bars and homes, along Havana’s Malécon, from the streets and squares of cities and towns, from the public buses that weave through the countryside. Along with the merging of European and African traditions that produced a cornucopia of genres, the island’s perpetual soundtrack helps explain why Cuba is a music superpower. Héctor Valentín occupies one of the highest perches … More Héctor Valentín: Me Quité

José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao

A freedom-fighting poet named Perucho Figueredo wrote La Bayamesa, Cuba’s national anthem, on horseback in 1867, after Spanish authorities surrendered to pro-independence forces in Bayamo. More than 150 years on, the city—located in eastern Cuba’s Granma province—still has abundant horse traffic and resounding music composed locally by José Alberto Tamayo Diaz, popularly known as … More José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao

Delfina Cheb: Doce Milongas de Amor y un Tango Desesperado

The heart exerts its own form of gravity: The farther it travels, the more it feels the tug of home. When 18-year-old Delfina Cheb arrived at Boston’s Berklee College of Music she recalls drinking in the global music universe—but when she began writing songs she found herself drawn to the sounds of Buenos Aires and the spray of the Río … More Delfina Cheb: Doce Milongas de Amor y un Tango Desesperado

Carla Pires: Cartografado

Travel far and discover yourself: The idea has inspired literary figures and works from Camus to Kerouac to Cloud Atlas. The twist Carla Pires offers on her fourth studio album is assimilating the distant horizon not only into herself but also her art—taking fado away from its origins in Lisbon and showing how it becomes more world-wise and simultaneously more deeply fado. She comes naturally to Cartografado (Fado’s Cartography), having … More Carla Pires: Cartografado

Jesse & Joy: Aire

Every lyric has three dimensions: Surface meaning (often the only facet listeners discern); background inspiration and context; and new interpretations that come from projecting songs onto future landscapes. On its face Aire, Jesse & Joy’s fifth album, is an intoxicating journey through love—budding, burning, struggling, crumbling—delivered in a lush blend of reggaeton, hip-hop, folk and pop/rock ballads, with guest appearances by J Balvin and Luis Fonsi. But … More Jesse & Joy: Aire

Louisa Lyne & di Yiddishe Kapelye: Lust

Louisa Lyne’s art is inserting Yiddish songs into unexpected contexts. On her third album she and her band put the traditional language of Ashkenazi Jews into creative dialogue with Spanish, English, Hebrew and her native Swedish; mix period pieces with new—sometimes surprising—material; and season with klezmer, tango, jazz, Central European cabaret, Cuban and West African sounds. In Lyne’s … More Louisa Lyne & di Yiddishe Kapelye: Lust

Che Apalache: Rearrange My Heart

Joe Troop doesn’t so much play fusion as embody it: Since his North Carolina childhood, every sound he ever heard seems to have become part of his music personality. At 14 he was inspired when he saw Doc Watson perform, but as much as young Troop covered himself in bluegrass he didn’t think his home turf was the best place for a gay artist, so he opted for world pastures. In Seville he learned … More Che Apalache: Rearrange My Heart

Alex Cuba: Sublime

Dickens was right in concept but exaggerated the singularity of his age: It is always, in every era and every land, the best and worst of times. Great art often emerges from hard lessons, but sometimes songs written before a crisis rush toward our freshly frazzled nerves like first responders. When he released Sublime last fall Alex Cuba couldn’t have known a pandemic was imminent but today the music of his seventh album penetrates the haze of uncertainty … More Alex Cuba: Sublime

Flor de Toloache: Indestructible

Imaginary exercise: Build an album around three quotes that express enduring truths. 1) “All you need is love;” 2) “Immigrants strengthen the fabric of American life;” 3) “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Okay, this isn’t the real origin story of Flor de Toloache’s intoxicating third album, but it does reflect how neatly and profoundly their … More Flor de Toloache: Indestructible