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by Rachel Devitt

February 21, 2014

Top 15 World Albums, Winter 2014

by Rachel Devitt  |  February 21, 2014

Time for another trip around the world -- or at least a (sound)trek through the globe's latest and greatest releases. And we've got quite a whirlwind tour -- one that jumps from Mali to Peru, from Italy to Jamaica, from the Balkans to Brazil, from choicely curated anthologies of long-lost legends to a rather amazing compilation of Bob Dylan covers by international artists (seriously, go check that sucker out!). Listen along to our playlist of the top 15 -- and since many of these artists might be unfamiliar, we've also provided some mini-reviews for some background and context below.

Mamani Keita, Kanou

The Malian songstress and former Salif Keïta backup singer-turned-electro-Afropop collaborator goes gorgeously organic and a bit more traditional on her proper solo debut.

Various Artists, From Another World

The very idea of an album of global artists covering Bob Dylan is pretty awesome. Lucky for us, covers like a Bengali version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and a traditional Egyptian music group doing "Tangled Up in Blue" actually sound amazing, too! Don't miss Eliades Ochoa's appropriately thought-provoking version of "All Along the Watchtower."

M.I.A., Matangi

Global hipster pop's "it" girl gets downright emo -- or at least, kind of warm and earthy in her post-cultural pastiche -- on her acclaimed fourth album.

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate, Faya

This cross-cultural collaboration between a hip-hop-fueled American/British multi-instrumentalist and a Guinean kora player is a lush, resonant mashup of hip-hop, funk, Afrobeat, Afropop, soul and more.

Tinariwen, Emmaar

The preeminent desert rock band focuses its poignant, meditative blues on the political situation in its homeland and the genre it helped craft on this moving new album.

Various Artists, Peru Maravilloso

A famed Peruvian restaurateur and longtime aficionado of the music of his homeland turned a longtime avocation of crate-digging into a record label; this first compilation of choice vintage cuts spans everything from cumbia to salsa.

Angelique Kidjo, Eve

The queen of Afro-pop pays tribute to African womanhood with this collection of songs inspired by and drawn from her native Benin and Kenya. Kidjos's usual wow-factor collaborations are also here, including Dr. John, Kronos Quartet, several female choirs from West African villages and her own mother.

Sean Paul, Full Frequency

The bombastic dancehall-pop king is back with a big-room, big-tent album of EDM and pop that will appeal to everyone from trance fans in Europe ("It's Your Life") to moombahton ones in L.A.

BossaCucaNova, Our Kind of Bossa

The son of an obscure bossa great and co. rework and remix the smooth Brazilian sound, whipping up cool, refreshing electro-pop versions in this set of collabos with other hip, young bossa things.

Fanfare Ciocarlia and Adrian Raso, Devil's Tale

The Balkan Brass kings team up with Gypsy jazz guitarist Raso on this goes-down-easy, cafe-chic collection of rarely combined Roma musics.

Juaneco y Su Combo, The Birth of Jungle Cumbia

"Jungle cumbia" in the hands of these Peruvians was better known as "chicha," a psychedelic shuffle named after and inspired by a local, potentially trippy fermented corn beer. Get lost in their groove on this great new comp of early sounds.

Tiécoro Sissoko, Keme Borama

This famed Malian griot played regularly with luminaries like Toumani Diabaté but didn't live long enough to see any of his music released. This lush, beautiful collection showcases a lost legend.

Mar Seck, Vagabonde

A great introduction to the significant career of this pioneer of mbalax, easy, breezy, beautiful Cuban-infused Senegalese pop music.

Zucchero, La Sesión Cubana

This swaggering Italian singer is the biggest pop star you've never heard of. For this album, he took his adult contemporary pop rock act to Cuba, where he recorded with local musicians and infused his sound with sunny glimpses of son and more.

Paula Santoro, Mar do Meu Mundo

Get to know this beguiling chanteuse, little-known outside her native Brazil, with her sun-kissed, jazz-hued fifth album.

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