Alt.Latino Listeners Pick The Best Of 2016

iLe performs as part of NPR Music: Live In Concert at Damrosch Park in New York on Aug. 4, 2016. Ebru Yildiz/NPR hide caption

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Ebru Yildiz/NPR

In at least one way, 2016 was like so many other recent years: There was an abundance of great new work released in the world of Latin-alternative music this year. I have noted some of these releases on our show and shared a few more with listeners on NPR’s Weekend Edition. We’ve also picked several songs and albums for NPR Music’s Best Of 2016 extravaganza.

And now, Alt.Latino listeners speak up with some of their favorite picks of the year — all of which are completely different than the ones we’ve already chosen. This year, we gave some of you a call to hear why you chose the songs and albums that you did.

This week is also an opportunity to thank all of you who stream or download this podcast, or who listen to us on one of the 40-plus public radio stations around the country who carry Alt.Latino.

We are nothing without the support and encouragement of you, our listeners. In this golden age of podcasts, the fact that you choose to spend time with us when you have so many options is a honor, and we try to repay you every week with great music, stories and interviews.

We hope you have a magical new year, and we look forward to more great music in 2017.

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Hear The Songs

Buenaventura album art Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

La Santa Cecilia

  • Song: Pa’ Que Trabajar
  • from Buenaventura

Beat is Dead album art Courtesy of Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of Artist

Nina Diaz

  • Song: Queen Beats King
  • from The Beat Is Dead

A La Mar album art Courtesy of Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of Artist

Vicente Garcia

  • Song: Carmesi
  • from A La Mar

fea album art Courtesy of Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of Artist


  • Song: Mujer Moderna

Siloe Album art Courtesy of artist hide caption

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Courtesy of artist


  • Song: La Verdad
  • from La Verdad

Autorreverse album art Courtesy of Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of Artist


  • Song: El Compromiso
  • from Autorreverse
Cover for ilevitable


  • Song: Triángulo
  • from ilevitable

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Courtesy of artist


  • Song: Arroz con Gandules
  • from Soltron

Kenny Cruz album art Courtesy of Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of Artist

Kenny Cruz

  • Song: 30 Años Después
  • from 30 Años Después

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Midwinter Music

This week’s episode features Christmas songs from the Irish-American band Cherish The Ladies. Marek Hajdasz/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Marek Hajdasz/Courtesy of the artist

Travel into the magical traditions of midwinter through some spellbinding music of the season. This week, hear music from Phil Cunningham, California Revels and Cherish The Ladies.

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More Than A Month Since Election Day, Trump, Clinton Teams Can't Let It Go

Christmas is coming, but Donald Trump still has a lot to say about November’s election. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

To glance at some of the political news this week, you’d think it was October.

Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta did Meet the Press over the weekend to talk about Russia hacking the DNC’s emails.

Hillary Clinton aide Brian Fallon took to Twitter on Tuesday to question the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Donald Trump and Bill Clinton sniped at each other.

But it’s mid-December. The voters and electors alike have cast their votes. And while millions of Americans are doubtless more than happy to have Election Day well behind them, they can still plan on hearing still more about the election in the coming days or even weeks.

There’s good reason for some of the continuing concern over the election. The FBI and CIA alike say they are now confident Russia hacked the DNC’s emails, that Putin was involved, and it was all in an attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor.

That could have very real repercussions. President Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep that Russia’s interference would spark U.S. retaliation.

Bill Clinton stated that I called him after the election. Wrong, he called me (with a very nice congratulations). He “doesn’t know much” …

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2016

especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states ( and more). They focused on wrong states

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2016

However, there will never be any way of knowing how much influence those hacked emails may have had on the election. (As Slate’s Theodore Johnson put it, “Russia didn’t hack the U.S. election. It hacked the voters.”)

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Likewise, on Tuesday, Fallon took to Twitter to once again address the issue of Clinton’s emails and the FBI’s investigation: “[FBI Director James] Comey’s intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified,” referring to Comey’s late-October announcement that the agency would be looking into thousands of emails that had just come to light.

Meanwhile, some of the election relitigation has been in the form of petty taunts. Former President Bill Clinton this week said of Trump, “He doesn’t know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry white men to vote for him.”

That clearly irked Trump. The president-elect flung the insult back, tweeting that Clinton “doesn’t know much.” In a subsequent tweet, Trump added that Clinton doesn’t know “how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states (and more). They focused on wrong states.”

Campaigning to win the Electoral College is much more difficult & sophisticated than the popular vote. Hillary focused on the wrong states!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2016

I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote – but would campaign differently

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2016

I have not heard any of the pundits or commentators discussing the fact that I spent FAR LESS MONEY on the win than Hillary on the loss!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2016

While Bill Clinton prompted these particular Trump tweets, they are an extension of something Trump has done before, pumping up his political prowess and taunting Hillary Clinton, who has maintained a low profile since Election Day. On Wednesday morning, Trump bragged about winning the election despite raising far less money than Clinton, and he again slammed her for having “focused on the wrong states.”

Trump has repeatedly responded to the fact that despite winning the electoral vote comfortably, he lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2.8 million votes. At one point, he made the baseless claim that millions of fraudulent votes helped Clinton to that margin.

Some of the lingering concerns about Election Day (for example, about a foreign power meddling in U.S. elections) are real. But it also means a deluge of Monday-morning quarterbacking after a long, nasty campaign.

For their part, some Democrats are pushing the party to look forward instead of backward. The field of candidates for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee is growing. In addition, former Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson wrote a strident op-ed at Time this week urging Democrats to move on.

“The time for mourning is over, Democrats. We’ve had over a month,” he wrote, adding later that the party needs both introspection but also to consider the scope of it loss: “Just because you epically lost an expectations game doesn’t mean you epically lost an election.”

Meanwhile, Trump will have a country to run. He has been going through the requisite transition steps, even kicking off his cabinet appointments more quickly than many other presidents, as the Washington Post‘s Phillip Bump pointed out.

But then, even amid the roar of news from around the world in the last couple of weeks — an assassination in Turkey, a refugee crisis in Syria, an attack on a market in Germany — Trump’s Twitter feed suggests that his Electoral College win and popular-vote loss remain in the front of his mind (the juxtaposition still kind of annoying him).

In a way, all of the backward-looking may be fitting for a candidate whose campaign was all about nostalgia (making America great again). But in one month, he will have a whole four years ahead of him (and maybe eight), not to mention some very big decisions to concern himself with.

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Nashville Sessions: Gillian Welch And David Rawlings

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. Henry Diltz/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Henry Diltz/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Dry Town”
  • “By The Mark”
  • “The Drunkard’s Hell”
  • “Sunny Side of Life”
  • “Orphan Girl (Alt. Version)”
  • “Annabella”
  • “Armadillo Jackal”
  • “I’ll Go On Downtown”

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings got a rare chance to look back at their old music with the release of Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg, a double-disc album of material from the period when Welch was recording her 1996 debut, Revival. It’s a fascinating document with demos, alternate versions and whole songs that they recorded but didn’t include on that T-Bone Burnett-produced album.

“It was always difficult for us to find the time to stop writing new songs and look at old songs,” Welch says. “That’s where the 20-year anniversary gave us just the little extra push we needed.”

In this Nashville Session, Welch and Rawlings share what life was like for them before Americana got its due recognition as a genre. They also discuss the notion of authenticity, which followed them — two Berklee School of Music alumni writing old-timey Appalachian music — in their early career. (Welch says that for her, the issue was laid to rest when bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs pulled off the road in tears upon hearing her gospel song “By The Mark.”)

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Report: Death Sentences Decline, But Public Still Divided On Capital Punishment


December 21, 2016

A report issued Wednesday by the Death Penalty Information Center shows that 2016 saw the fewest executions since 1991. And the 10-year trend shows that decline is long-term.

But the results of death penalty-related issues on the ballot in November shows there are still deep public divisions on this issue.

Here & Now‘s Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with Robert Dunham (@rdunhamdpic), executive director of DPIC (@dpinfoctr), about the report.

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Viking's Choice: So Stressed, 'The King's Wig'

So Stressed. Julian Raya/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Julian Raya/Courtesy of the artist

More love songs should sound like a vintage Dodge Charger slamming into a brick wall. The Sacramento noise-punk band So Stressed channels the chaotic scuzz of Spazz with ramming speed, but pulls a brooding melody out of a jam.

So Stressed announces its third album, Please Let Me Know, with a lovesick bruiser titled “The King’s Wig.” Guitar, synth and drums careen at incredible speed with surprising control until the sludgy anti-chorus, as Morgan Fox declares (threatens?), “I only think about you / I only write love songs, and I would not change it for anything.”

Please Let Me Know comes out Feb. 17 on Ghost Ramp.

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Revised Special Insurance Enrollment Rules Shift Burden To Consumers

Insurers say many customers have abused special enrollment periods, waiting to sign up for coverage when they’re sick and need pricey care. Other groups dispute that charge. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

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Ariel Zambelich/NPR

People who want to sign up for a policy on after the annual open enrollment period ends Jan. 31 may have to produce a paper trail proving that they qualify for a “special enrollment period,” before their coverage can begin, according to details of a pilot program described by federal officials.

But the verification measures, long sought by insurance companies, may deter the very consumers the marketplace needs to attract: healthy people who may not bother signing up if doing so is a hassle.

The insurance needs of many of the shoppers who use the health marketplaces don’t fit neatly into the three-month annual open enrollment period.

For example, nearly 30 million people — workers plus their families — lose employer-sponsored coverage every year outside of open enrollment, researchers at the Urban Institute found. But they estimated that only about 5 percent of those eligible for a special enrollment period signed up for marketplace coverage in 2015.

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Everyone seems to agree that special enrollment periods are necessary to accommodate people who have major life changes such as the loss of job-based health insurance, birth of a child or divorce. But insurers maintain that customers have abused these periods, waiting to sign up until they’re sick and need pricey care.

A study commissioned by two insurance industry groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, found that the monthly health insurance claims of individuals who enrolled in coverage under a special enrollment period in 2015 were 41 percent higher during the first three months of coverage than the claims of people who enrolled during regular open enrollment.

That’s not surprising, said Sarah Lueck, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Many consumers are not aware of the availability of special enrollment periods, and the people who are going to make signing up a priority when they lose their jobs or have another life change often are those who have health care needs.

“We reject the idea of widespread abuse [of special enrollment periods], and that the evidence of costs is evidence of abuse,” she said.

Until last February, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – which runs the federal marketplace used by three-quarters of the states – didn’t verify the eligibility of people signing up in a special enrollment period. In June CMS began to require that people who signed up through the website provide documentation for some of the most common special enrollment triggering events, including the loss of other insurance coverage, permanent relocation, marriage, birth or adoption. People could receive coverage while their documents were reviewed, however.

The pilot project described last week will tighten documentation requirements still further. Starting next June, half of customers who apply for certain types of special enrollment periods on will be required to submit documents verifying their eligibility before their coverage begins. (The specific enrollment categories that will be affected is unclear, except that the pilot will include applications based on the loss of other insurance coverage.) Individuals will have 30 days to submit their documents, after which the marketplace will forward their enrollment information to the insurer.

Neither AHIP nor the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association responded to a request for comment about the pilot program.

Policy analysts are concerned that the new requirements will discourage people, particularly healthy people, from applying. There is some evidence that this is already happening, they say. The fact sheet describing the upcoming pilot reported that sign-ups using special enrollment periods have dropped by 20 percent since the new verification process began in June compared with 2015. Particularly concerning is the finding that younger applicants were more likely to drop out of the verification process than older ones.

“We don’t know if the reason [for the decline] is that people are not eligible or that the process is now so onerous that they’re not completing it,” said Elizabeth Hagan, a senior policy analyst at Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.

The pilot program puts the burden on the consumer to upload or mail in copies of relevant documents. In the regular open enrollment process, the marketplace’s computer system electronically searches for the identification, income and other data necessary to determine eligibility for coverage.

Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who authored the report on special enrollment periods, suggested that there are better ways to address the issue than requiring consumers to provide documentation. He said the existing electronic system through which doctors query insurers to confirm patients’ insurance coverage could provide the basis for to confirm that applicants have lost their insurance and may be eligible for a special enrollment period.

“We have a lot of experience that eligible consumers faced with [documentation requirements] will drop out of the process,” Dorn said.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Michelle Andrews is on Twitter: @mandrews110.

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Fate Of North Carolina's HB2 Law Unclear; Vote Expected Later Today

Supporters of Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and those advocating to repeal HB2 hold signs last month in Charlotte, N.C. Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign hide caption

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Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

The North Carolina Legislature began a special session on Wednesday morning to vote on the repeal of a controversial state law — but it’s unclear which way the vote will go.

The vote was part of a deal between state lawmakers and Charlotte officials. But some Republican state leaders are furious about the way they say Charlotte handled its side of the agreement. Charlotte officials, meanwhile, are denying allegations that they misrepresented their actions.

The state law in question is known as HB2 — also called the “bathroom bill” because, among other things, it required trans people to use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate. It was passed in March, in direct response to an expansion of a local anti-discrimination measure in Charlotte the previous month.

Republican state lawmakers and Democratic leaders in Charlotte had apparently struck a deal under which the city would repeal the local ordinance, and in return, state lawmakers would repeal HB2.

Charlotte said it has carried out its side of the deal — but there are disputes about how the process worked, with Charlotte officials saying the City Council acted in good faith, and Republicans accusing them of lying.

Here’s what happened:

On Monday, the Charlotte City Council announced it had “voted to remove the Non-Discrimination Ordinance from the City Code.”

People on both sides indicated an understanding had been reached — with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory calling Charlotte’s repeal “all about politics,” but agreeing to call a special session “as promised.” Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper called on legislators to “keep their word” and repeal HB2.

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But according to The Charlotte Observer, the City Council didn’t actually repeal the full ordinance on Monday:

“Council members did remove the part of its ordinance that dealt with public accommodations, prohibiting business such as stores and restaurants from discriminating against people based on categories such as race and religion — and also sexual orientation and gender identity. That part of the ordinance included the provision that related to transgender people being allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

“However, council members left some parts of the ordinance intact.

“The city’s ordinance still prohibits the city from hiring contractors who have been found to discriminate against a subcontractor because of an employee’s race or religion — as well as because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“That means the city ordinance still offers some legal protections, though small ones, to people who are gay or transgender.”

Around 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party released a statement blasting Democrats in Charlotte, saying they “lied directly to the people.”

The City Council and Cooper “have now seriously harmed HB2 repeal efforts,” the statement reads. “The HB2 blood is now stain soaked on their hands and theirs alone. What a dishonest, disgraceful shame by Roy Cooper and Charlotte Democrats.”

Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann says those allegations are false, reports David Boraks of member station WFAE.

Boraks adds that Hagemann says the city did fully repeal the changes made to its anti-discrimination laws — with a vote that took the city “back to 1968,” the first year Charlotte had any sort of anti-discrimination measure.

But to assuage concerns about how wholeheartedly Charlotte acted to reverse the measure, the City Council is now re-repealing the anti-discrimination protection, with a new vote to put the city back exactly where it was before the expansion passed in February.

The Charlotte City Council scheduled an emergency session Wednesday morning and did just that, WFAE reports.

Now all eyes are turning to the state Legislature, to see what happens next.

“Repealing [HB2] would require only a handful of GOP support — perhaps 10 members in the Senate or 15 in the House — if all Democrats voted for it,” The Associated Press writes. “The session that McCrory called is scheduled several days before Christmas, with some legislators out of town.”

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