Power to the People

The best local albums of 2008

The Postmarks

By the Numbers (Unfiltered)

Embarking on an album of covers is risky business for a band that has essentially made its mark based on inventiveness. For the Postmarks, however, By the Numbers shows more clever musicianship and composition prowess than anyone could have expected. The trio of indie-pop darlings reinterpret ditties by the Ramones, Bob Marley, and the Pointer Sisters in a respectful and courageous fashion and do it surprisingly well. Standouts include a reworking of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" and Blondie's "11:59," both of which showcase lead singer Tim Yehezkely's alluring vocals and Chris Moll and Jon Wilkins' aptitude as two of the best composers in South Florida at the moment.

Albert Castiglia

These Are the Days (Blues Leaf)

Albert Castiglia practically bleeds the Blues. And no wonder; after learning from such masters as Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, and Ronnie Earl, Castiglia has earned his reputation as a standout showman and exceptional guitarist whose captivating live performances leave his audiences howling for more. Lucky for all of us, Castiglia's been able to translate his talents to disc, and his third album, These Are The Days, provides proof. He contributes five originals to the mix, including the ominous opener "Bad Year Blues," while longtime colleague Graham Wood Trout of Iko Iko loans the title track, a backwoods ballad that finds Castiglia effectively stretching his parameters. A take on Bob Dylan's otherwise obscure "Catfish" seems an unlikely choice, but a good stock of standards keeps the consistency intact. It's a brilliant showcase for his emotive vocals, sizzling slide guitar, and firebrand arrangements. These Are The Days is every bit the memorable encounter its title implies.

The New Planets

We 'R' Us (self-released)

Forget the self-serving title. We 'R' Us is one of the finest debuts by a South Florida band in recent memory. Fueled by effusive grooves, resilient melodies, and supple hooks, it places the New Planets in their own orbit, while drawing favorable comparisons to national names — Fountains of Wayne, Rilo Kiley, and Death Cab For Cutie included. Being a versatile bunch, the New Planets also integrate elements of roots, retro, and Brit rock into their reliable pop core. They ricochet from the spiraling rhythms of "Washing Machine" and the effusive allure of "I Need Some Space," to the darker depths of "Memos," the swampy tangle of "Overdose on Me," and the down-home twang of "I Want Cuba!" with ease. Punctuating rhythms and cooing harmonies enhance the songs' accessibility, and, when they proclaim, "We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain" on opener "Train of Thoughts," success seems assured.

Shawn Snyder

Romantic's Requiem (self-released)

Shawn Snyder could be Adam Duritz's lost little brother, what with his turnip hairdo and mournful musings. That said, Snyder's confessional style is clearly born from his own heart-wrenched circumstances, making him a troubled troubadour armed with an acoustic guitar and sinewy tales of longing and desire. On Romantic's Requiem, his fine second album, the ruminating acoustic blues of Jack Johnson and Ben Harper come to mind, while the skittish and playful melodies of John Mayer and Dave Matthews are recalled in the kinetic strum of "Wendy" and "Déjà Vu." Still, the ache and intensity that accompany these bittersweet narratives never seem misdirected, and given its thoughtful perspective, Romantic's Requiem makes for a truly soulful soliloquy.

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