The Jameses — "The Haunted Rider"/"Rat People" 7-inch

To hold the Jameses' first release in your hand is to understand near-perfection. Of the trio's two murky, slow-moving melodies, "The Haunted Rider" and its accompanying organ is more creep and drone, more like its title. The lo-fi sound keeps veering into the pop realm, and its clever instrumentation doesn't hide the parts that make you want to tap your feet.

That said, we declare "Rat People" our favorite of all, because it's a lyrical road trip (to "East L.A." and "F.L.A.") and the best kind of juxtaposition. You can buy the record on iTunes, but better to get it from the men themselves after you've heard the warped organ and vocals in their proper splendor. Monica Uszerowicz

Shroud Eater — Shroud Eater EP

While Shroud Eater's full-length debut, ThunderNoise, won't drop until January, we'd be remiss to ignore the moody three-song EP by these heavy-rockin', dirty riffin' grrrls. (Sure, drummer Felipe Torres is a dude, but we'll deal.)

Formerly known as the Righteous Devices, the band as Shroud Eater has become a favorite among tricounty area stoner types. This self-titled and mostly instrumental EP turns out slowed-down, down-tuned gritty rock that incorporates psych-y guitars, more-techy metal compositions, and punk influences à la Jesus Lizard or Kylesa.

Vocalist and guitarist Jeannie Saiz's gravelly larynx churns out beastly rasps — estrogen does wonders in maintaining a frequency that precludes that wholly annoying and clichéd demon growl — and Torres' drums are full-frontal and seamless, giving a bit of order to the furious grooves Saiz and bassist Janette Valentine lay down. Oh, and did I mention it's mixed by Torche bassist Jonathan Nunez? If the full-length keeps up the momentum, despite a cold South Florida January, we'll have some uncompromising and fearsomely heavy face-melting to deal with. Erica K. Landau

Band in Heaven/Weird Wives — Split Tape

The Band in Heaven and Weird Wives' thrilling, caustic jams embody the physical and psychological scorch that comes along with every South Florida summer. On Band in Heaven's "Suicide Pact," Ates Isildak and Lauren Dwyer ramp up the morbid male-female tension with their vocals, and the minimalist garage rock backbeat gets a bucket of lightning thrown over it for a fuzz-filled conclusion. Plus, there's nothing holding you back from dancing along with the JAMC-conjuring "Summer Bummer."

For that inevitable hallucination-ridden hangover, there's side two. Weird Wives is defined by self-punishing frontman Nick Klein. His every blood-curdling howl in "Head Bugs" is deeply felt. Ditto for the depth-scraping guitar work, and a few sunny bars in there that complete a masochistic cycle, courtesy of Surfer Blood's Thomas Fekete. "Wet Blanket" sends Klein further into the abyss, while drummer Marcos Marchesani batters his drum set with every intention of breaking it. Cathartic until the end. Also, is that a Creedence riff? Reed Fischer

Torche — Songs for Singles EP

South Florida thunder-slinging pop metalheads Torche had an epic 2010. Their gear was stolen on the road, but they were named the "world's greatest band" on Fox News' Red Eye by "resident doom metal expert," the uber-social-conservative presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. Never mind that lead singer Steve Brooks is openly gay, and Torche isn't really a doom metal band.

This year also marks the band's first releases since guitarist Juan Montoya's departure: a split with noise rockers Boris called Chapter Ahead of Being Fake, and their eight-song EP Songs for Singles. Songs is a groove-laden mix of "heavier" pop with eight tracks clocking in at around 27 teeny minutes! Guitars crunch, Brooks' echo-y vocals soar, and its uplifting musical phrasing results in a fuzzy cocktail that's infectiously cheery, especially on "Shine On My Old Ways" and closer "Out Again." Single "Face the Wall" boasts a bit more atmosphere, slowed down and meaty, but whatever. Songs may not have a lot of gut, but there's definitely loads of glory. Erica K. Landau

Love Handles — Faith, Hope and Love Handles

Time to embrace Love Handles, the prolific Lake Worth team of lead singer/guitarist C.J. Jankow and organist/drummer Jordan Pettingill. Compared to what we hear from their other, fiercer outfit, Cop City/Chill Pillars, these songs are loose, undistorted punk statements that range from literal ("What's That Smell?") to the realm of twisted, psychedelic metaphor ("Byrd Brain"). If able, the prickly Modern Lovers' Jonathan Richman would probably crack a grin upon hearing the snail-slow "Dance Hard," which adds the edict to "love harder."

None of this so far expresses the live gifts of Love Handles. You try playing drums and organ at the same time, tiger. "Take It" is often the crowd-riler of any show, with Jankow offering up his job, car, love, and life, and after each, shouting "Take it," and cockily adding, "Keep it." Given that these 11 songs (and a bonus track) emerged as a free download earlier this year, it's time to spread the Love far and wide. Reed Fischer

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