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AMP: Five Most Memorable Artists of 2011

End of year music roundups are the hardest thing to do. It's like trying to answer that stupid first date question, 'What kind of music do you listen to?'
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By Kamren Curiel

End of year music roundups are the hardest thing to do. It's like trying to answer that stupid first date question, 'What kind of music do you listen to?' I mean does anyone really listen to one type of music anymore? We live in an era of mixes and mashups; music's become a plethora of sounds. To avoid making the decision myself, I did what any normal indecisive person would: polled my Facebook friends, who just so happen to be music snobs. Here's what we came up with.

Los Rakas: By far the most relevant hip hop act out, these cute cousins fuse their Panamanian roots with Oakland upbringing to create a raw, reggae-meets-hyphy sound. Their debut EP, Chancletas y Camisetas Bordada, features Raka Dun and Raka Rich's catchy head shaker "Soy Raka" and car cruiser "Vengo De Panama." Everyone from NPR to National Geographic have shown these Bay Area-based boys love. I still can't get enough of their Uproot Andy-mixed "Abrazame." Their latest cut, "Sueño Americano," talks openly about feeling like nothing as immigrant. "With no immigration reform in sight, the song puts a human face on the problem through the eyes of an artist," says Raka Nati, who handles publicity, new media, partnerships and management for Los Rakas.

Girl in a Coma: We were so excited when these San Antonio, Texas-bred rockeras reached out to us to be more involved in politics after getting stopped by an ICE officer in Alabama. Their sound is fierce and so reminiscent of their very own idol (and mine) Morrissey. Their latest album, Exits and All the Rest, perfectly demonstrates the skills of bassist Jen Alva, drummer Phanie Diaz and her little sister Nina Diaz, who provides killer lead vocals and guitar riffs.

Diego Garcia: I discovered this cat on a fluke. The Argentine American singer's debut album, Laura, was left in the used car my husband bought and we couldn't stop listening to it. Prior to going solo, Garcia was lead singer of NYC indie band Elefant. Today, he's breaking hearts everywhere with his melancholy vocals that takes me back to Chris Isaak's very sexy single "Wicked Game."

Ana Tijoux: Born in France to exiled parents who fled a Chilean dictatorship, this fierce MC returned to her homeland when it became a democracy and immersed herself in the Santiago hip hop scene. Her Elefant Mixtape gives you something real to bounce to and features fresh Spanish raps with substance. The best part is it's just a preview to an album set to release January 31 on Nacional Records called La Bala.

Florence + the Machine: This Grammy Award-nominated English indie band is one of my fave newish artists. Lead singer Florence Welch is not only one of the most soulful singers of our time, but is effortlessly stylish and strong for being a mere 25. She speaks candidly about her bouts with depression and isn't afraid to admit that fame scares the hell out of her. Every track on the band's second album, Ceremonials, is poetic and meaningful; just what we need during these tense times.

Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.

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