5. Los Amigos Invisibles Comercial (Nacional) It's been 14 years since the Amigos' 1995 debut, and contrary to what the title of their latest album implies, the group remains as dedicated as ever to their initial mission of being Venezuelan antiheroes in a scene dominated by rock and salsa. Of course, that scene has expanded considerably as the band has gone global, and the influences that converge on this record seem as far-flung as ever. The outcome? Latin-funk-house with incisive wit. 4. Cucu Diamantes CUCULAND (Fun Machine) Fans of Yerba Buena are no strangers to this glammed-up chanteuse, and although this is Cucu's solo project, Yerba co-founder and producer extraordinaire Andres Levin lent his chops, as did Yotuel of Orishas. The result is a modern take on cabaret with urban and alternative flavors, along with Cucu's unmistakable Cuban vocal stylings. 3. Manu Chao Baionarena (Nacional) Putting a live album on a list like this almost feels like cheating. For one thing, live albums are always chock-full of an artist's most beloved songs, and with discs like Esperanza, Radio Bemba and last year's Radiolina, this Parisian-born citizen of the world's got a lot to throw at a crowd. And nowhere does Manu Chao shine as brightly as he does on stage. Baionarena translates that vibe to disc - well, minus the hazy ambience. And you can always add the haze yourself. 2. Da'Zoo Da'Zoo (Sony Music Latin) This Puerto Rican foursome drew a lot of well-deserved hype over the summer, thanks to the second single off their debut album, "Excuse Me." Blending electronica with pop and urban sounds - not unlike the Peas - Da'Zoo's freshman offering features up-tempo and very, very danceable songs with plenty of humor in the lyrics. 1. Hello Seahorse! Bestia (Nacional) Can we call this a dark-horse victory? After all, few people would have expected this Mexican trio to land on a year's-best list, let alone in the top slot. One listen, though, and whether you're a lover of Latin alternative or just a music lover in general, you'll find Bestia absolutely captivating. Lisa Loeb lookalike Lo Blondo's ethereal vocals and the lush musical landscapes that her bandmates Oro de Neta and Bonnz! conjure are damned likely to entrance you. You could think Yeah Yeah Yeahs, though the XX might actually be a better comparison.
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