The Best of the 2011 Latin Alternative Music Conference

Last week, New York’s hippest venues were taken over by music lovers and music industry insiders for the annual Latin Alternative Music Conference, a gathering of the very best up-and-coming artists from Latin America. In it’s 12th year, the LAMC has grown from fringe festival to a see-and-be-seen event for anyone who wants to be on the cutting edge of alternative music. The fest has helped hundreds of artists, from Calle 13 to Manu Chao and even Pitbull, enter the consciousness of the global music scene.

Couldn’t score a pass? Don't worry! We broke down this year’s conference into the best breakout acts, so you can update your iPod and earn yourself enough cool points to last you til next year.

1. LAMC: Diego Garcia

Diego Garcia

The former Elefant frontman struck out on his own this year with his first solo album, Laura—and critics are raving. Inspired by and named after his wife, Laura is romantic, melancholy and reminiscent of 1970’s crooners like Paul Simon and John Lennon.

2. LAMC: Francisca Valenzuela

Francisca Valenzuela

LAMC veteran Francisca Valenzuela is proof that some of the most exciting new Latin music is coming from females. The San Francisco-born, Santiago-raised singer/songwriter put out her second album earlier this year, and opened for U2 in Chile just weeks before hitting the stage at the Bowery Ballroom in New York during the conference.

3. LAMC: Ximena Sarinana

Ximena Sariñana

Mexican telenovela actress-turned-singer Ximena Sarinana teased tracks from her upcoming, as-yet-untitled album (due this August) and performed hits from her platinum debut Mediocre—which was anything but. If the audience could have suggested a title for her new record, we think it would be along the lines of “Exceptional.”

4. LAMC: ChocQuibTown

ChocQuibTown

Latin Grammy-winning Colombian hip-hop group ChocQuibTown took over Central Park’s famed Summer Stage last Saturday, bringing New Yorkers a taste of their politically and socially-conscious rhymes. If you loved the Fugees, don’t sleep on them.

5. LAMC: Rita Indiana

Rita Indiana

Techo-merengue may not seem like the most obvious fusion of musical genres, but Dominican artist Rita Indiana makes it work. The six-foot-tall singer, known in the DR as la monstra (“the monster”) naturally dominates wherever she goes, and her performance on Central Park’s Summer Stage for LAMC was no exception.

6. LAMC: Novalima

Novalima

Afro-Peruvian electronica band Novalima may be best known for being hand-picked by Robert Rodriguez to provide a theme song for his film Machete, but they’ve been on our radar since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2002. They four-member group, who were at one time scattered across the globe and collaborated on songs via e-mail, broke through to the Latin alternative “mainstream” in 2009 with their third album Coba Coba, which earned them a Latin Grammy nom.

7. LAMC: No Te Va Gustar

No Te Va Gustar

We’re not sure where they got their name (Spanish for “you’re not gonna like it”), but critics and audiences don’t seem to agree. The ten-member Uruguayan rock ensemble blend multiple genres—including, as they say, “rock, reggae, tango, murga Uruguaya, chacarera, Argentine zamba, punk, ska, and even electro”—into one distinct sound, which we will call simply infectious. Their LAMC performance kicks off a US tour to promote their fifth album, Por Lo Menos Hoy.

8. LAMC: La Vida Boheme

La Vida Boheme

You could say this is the year of La Vida Boheme. The Venezuelan punk dance outfit scored the prime time slot on opening night of the LAMC, bringing down the house at NYC’s Mercury Lounge. The band, whose members sport painted faces when performing, have captured the attention of hipsters and music aficionados worldwide with their current album Nuestra, a catchy record filled with danceable tracks inspired by everyone from The Ramones to LCD Sound System.

9. LAMC: Gaby Moreno

Gaby Moreno

Gaby Moreno is like a little bit of Paris in Guatemala. This singer/songwriter, whose songs are a mix of English and Spanish, takes us back to another era. Her album Intento is packed with the kind of quaint melodies that have us picturing ourselves riding our bicycles along the River Siene, or playing a guitar in the plazas of Mexico City. Tres romantico.

10. LAMC: Related Links