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Latinx Files: Our favorite music and podcasts of 2022

Portraits of Lionel Messi and Bad Bunny, with patterned squiggles on top
Bad Bunny and a podcast on Lionel Messi were among our favorite audio picks of 2022.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; AP Photo/Manu Fernandez; Chris Walker / For The Times)
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It’s the end of the year, which means that every outlet that covers culture is putting out their best-of-year lists. It’s a great way to recap the year that was, and it also gives people an excuse to publish something pre-written ahead of the slow holiday season.

We are no different. Over the course of the next two weeks, we’ll be publishing our favorite Latinx media of 2022. Next week, we’ll do books, TV and film. This week, it’s all about our favorite music and podcasts of the year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my tamales are getting cold. Happy holidays and see you in the new year!

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Portraits of Bad Bunny and Adrian Quesada with squiggles on top
Bad Bunny and Adrian Quesada
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Chris Walker / For The Times; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic)

Music

Bad Bunny, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” Bad Bunny

Come on. You knew this was going to make the list. El Conejo Malo was Spotify’s most streamed artist globally for the third straight year, and for good reason. Bad Bunny followed 2020’s hit-heavy “El Último Tour Del Mundo” with “Un Verano Sin Ti.” From the genre-bending “Despúes de la Playa” to “Tití Me Preguntó” (Gen Z’s answer to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5”) to the dreamy “Otro Atardecer” (featuring Las Marias) to the previously released “Callaita” (featuring Tainy), the album is an hour and 22 minutes of bangers only. “Un Verano Sin Ti” became the soundtrack of the year for large swaths of Los Angeles.

Thee Sacred Souls, “Thee Sacred Souls”

When it comes to Apple Music vs. Spotify, I am sadly in the former’s camp. I say sad because in all my years using the service, the algorithm has very infrequently put me on an artist or group I didn’t already know about.

One notable exception has been Thee Sacred Souls. The San Diego trio — Alex Garcia, Sal Samano and Josh Lane — make the kind of music that would have been requested on Art Laboe’s radio show if they had been born in a different decade. The band’s eponymous debut album, released in August, is full of songs drunk on love and heavy on vibes. Tracks like “Weak for Your Love” were made for aimless drives down Whittier Boulevard, for lazy Saturday mornings, and even for slow dances at chipster parties.

Adrian Quesada, “Boleros Psicodélicos”

The first time I heard about “Boleros Psicodélicos” by Adrian Quesada was through a group chat I’m in with Charlie Vela and Jonathan Leal, two multi-hyphenate friends of mine from the Rio Grande Valley (puro 956 cuh!).

“It’s one of those ‘why didn’t I think of this, this is so f— good’ records,” wrote Vela. (It’s worth pointing out that Vela and Leal are both musicians in their own right— the former put out the cumbia goth EP “Calavera” under the Fronterawave moniker, and the latter released “After Now,” a jazz collaboration with Brandon Guerra, in November) .

I don’t play or make music, but if I did I would have felt the same way. “Boleros Psicódelicos” is exactly what it sounds like, an album of trippy love ballads (each song features a different vocalist) that draw inspiration from Latin American boleros from the ‘60s and ‘70s. On a personal note, I’m very partial to “El Muchacho de los Ojos Tristes,” a cover of the Jeannette classic featuring Guatemalan singer Tita Moreno.

Yahritza y su Esencia, “Obsessed”

2022 was a big year for Yahritza y Su Esencia. “Soy El Unico,” the first single by the family trio from Yakima, Wash., had already gone viral on TikTok before it was released in March by label Lumbre Music. The melancholic ballad immediately took the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs and even peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that Yahritza Martínez wrote it when she was 13 years old.

“It’s crazy because when I wrote that song, I felt like, no, it’s not good,” the precocious teen told Apple Music. “But then when I put it out to my brothers and my sister, they were like ‘Wow, how did you even write this?’”

In July, Yahritza y su Esencia put out “Obsessed.” It’s not a full-length album and it features several covers, but the EP clearly validates the Rolling Stone claim that the group represents “the future of Música Mexicana.”

Ivan Cornejo, “Dañado”

I’ve never understood the oldheads that look down at the new wave of artists shoved under the ambiguous genre umbrella of Mexican regional music, as if the songs this generation is writing and recording aren’t thematically aligned with the all-time greats. After all, what are “Por Tu Maldito Amor” and “Tragos Amargos” if not vehicles to getting faded and letting the inner suffering and heartbreak out? That’s exactly the kind of music Ivan Cornejo and his sad sierreños compas are doing.

Cornejo is yet another precocious teen — interestingly enough, it was a cover of his 2021 hit “Estas Dañada” that first put Yahritza y su Esencia on the path to instant stardom. The 18-year-old Riverside native earned his first No. 1 on the Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart in June with “Dañado.” If I had to pick a favorite track, I’d have to go with “J.,” a piano-accompanied letter to a lover that will likely never return.

Other staff picks

— If you want a pro’s take on the best Latinx albums of 2022, my colleague Suzy Exposito put together this list of the best albums not made by Bad Bunny or Rosalia.

— From Christian Orozco, multiplatform editor: Katzù Oso’s bilingual, genre-bending album “Tmí” was the soundtrack to lonely night drives that turned my Prius into Goku’s Flying Nimbus. Also, yungatita dropped two elemental singles at the beginning of this year. The fiery Hell on Earth is a beautifully chaotic track, held together by some of the best bass playing I’ve heard in rock music this year. On Raindrop, Valentina Zapata flexes her songwriting skills.

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Cover art for "The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez," and "The Last Cup"
“The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez,” and “The Last Cup”
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Sonoro/Futuro; NPR)

Podcasts

“Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez”

Chalino, man. El rey del corrido was certainly legendary — so much so that he is just one of the very few artists who have earned the right to be referred to by their first name. The Culiacán singer-songwriter made an indelible mark on both sides of the border, all while living la vida recia.

“Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez,” a co-production of Sonoro and Futuro Studios that premiered in February, does Chalino justice. Over the course of eight bilingual episodes — hosted in English by Erick Galindo and in Spanish by Alejandro Mendoza — give a primer on the life and times of the musician, all while uncovering the different theories behind his untimely murder.

“The White Hats”

I’ve been a fan of Jack Herrera’s journalism for quite some time now — in my mind, his work on the evolving and nuanced politics of Latinxs in South Texas has been among the most comprehensive on the subject. So imagine my delight when I found out he was spearheading a new Texas Monthly podcast on the Texas Rangers, a law enforcement agency that has been mythologized extensively both in the Lone Star State and in Hollywood.

“The White Hats” does not disappoint. Over the course of six well-researched episodes, Herrera & Co. examine the true legacy of los rinches ahead of the organization’s 300th anniversary next year, including the parts Hollywood didn’t tell you about — as glorified as the Rangers are, their history is one rife with violence against Mexicans and Mexican Americans. In addition to the podcast, Texas Monthly also published a handful of accompanying stories, including this op-ed from South Texas historian Trinidad Gonzales on why the Rangers’ tricentennial should be used as a moment of reflection instead of an attempt to whitewash history.

“La última copa/The Last Cup”

Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, NPR and Futuro Studios launched “La última copa/The Last Cup,” which focused on Argentina superstar Lionel Messi’s last chance at winning the World Cup, the one accolade that had eluded his otherwise historic career. Spoiler alert: He did it. Argentina defeated defending champion France in what’s now being considered the greatest World Cup final of all time.

And though the greatest sporting event in the globe has come and gone, the podcast, hosted in Spanish and English by Jasmine Garsd, doesn’t feel dated. If anything, it’s a great way to learn more about just why this victory meant so much to Messi and the Argentine diaspora.

“Punk in Translation”

Did you know that in the 1960s, there was a band in Peru that played a kind of music similar to what would be described as punk rock several years later? They’re called Los Saicos and they’re awesome. I urge you to listen to their song “Demolición,” a song with a fun surf hook that’s energetic as hell.

“Punk in Translation,” a bilingual podcast released by Audible in March and hosted by musician Ceci Bastida, goes over the story of Los Saicos and other Latinx acts that influenced the genre. The podcast features interviews with luminaries like Alice Bag, Louie Perez of Los Lobos, Erwin Flores of Los Saicos and Joan Jett.

Reveal, “After Ayotzinapa”

In January, “Reveal,” created by the Center for Investigative Reporting, released their investigation into the 2014 mass kidnapping of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College in the Mexican state of Guerrero by police. Over the course of three episodes, reporters Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Kate Doyle take you through the investigation, exposing a web of corruption. “After Ayotzinapa” is extremely difficult to listen to, but sheds some light into one of the darkest moments in Mexico’s history.

In September, “Reveal” published a follow-up episode, which covered the arrest of an army general alleged to have a connection with the disappearance of the missing students.

Other podcasts from 2022 we enjoyed

  • “Imperfect Paradise — The Forgotten Revolutionary.” Season 2 of the LAist Studios podcasts, which premiered in March, is an investigation into the death of Chicano activist Oscar Gomez.
  • “Crumbs.” Named as one of the best podcasts of 2022 by Apple Podcasts, “Crumbs” is a bilingual audio memoir about the search for love and the traumas we carry. Released in February, “Crumbs” is produced by Sonoro and My Cultura Podcast Network.

Did we miss anything? Let us know at latinxfiles@latimes.com


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