South Florida's Ten Best Albums of 2011

Here reside the finest South Florida releases of the past 12 months, compiled with the help of our resourceful and brainy staff of freelancers. Capturing the myriad styles that reside comfortably at the beach, in the warehouse, at the Snooze Theatre, on the Florida Turnpike, and all of the above wasn't easy, but it was gratifying.

10. Mineo — Beach Season

Mike Mineo's Beach Season is an exciting step forward from his 2010 debut, Eccentricity. The ten joyful, eclectic songs are a collection of progressive, tropical, soul pop. Whether Mineo is singing about the day's first light peeking from beyond the oceanic horizon or about challenging emotions, there is always a sense of humor present. Wackiness still runs wild, and Mineo is more refined in the writing, performance, and production. Here's a mad genius at work and a primal force of nature exploding into space — with excellent accompaniment and direction. These are extremely healthy and infectious tunes. — Travis Newbill

7. Arrange — Plantation
7. Arrange — Plantation
6. Jacuzzi Boys — Glazin'
6. Jacuzzi Boys — Glazin'

9. Young Circles — Jungle Habits

Some may say Young Circles' Jordy Asher and Jeff Rose are crazy for dramatically shifting from their tried-and-true style of scuzzy garage rock to a less approachable form of ambient, textured indie, but we say they might be crazy as foxes. Tribal-ish beats dominate the first two numbers, "Triangles" and "Devil." The latter dishes out a danceable brand of neopsychedelia that rivals the Stone Roses' glory days. "Summer Nose" simmers down the tempo until reaching the album's most ambitious track, "Love Hitch," nearly eight minutes worth of trilling, waterlogged catharsis that teeters between brilliance and lunacy. — Alex Rendon

8. Lil Daggers — Lil Daggers

Lil Daggers' self-titled debut LP is a varied collection of postpunk, folk, and psychedelia that never feel less than completely entwined. When the music is fast and energetic, the emotions are downtrodden. Behind every driving drumbeat is singer Johnny Saraiva's lackadaisical, unhallowed moans. The tempos change erratically from start to end, often beginning with the best kind of driving, twang-toned guitars and finishing with a sullen, dismal-sounding dirge. Upon completion, the listener feels moved, if not changed entirely — changed in the way one might feel as if carrying a heavy stone across an arid mesa and letting it fall as the last drop of strength is sapped from his body. — Ryan Burk

7. Arrange — Plantation

Caught somewhere between dream and pop lies Arrange. Solo musician Malcom Lacey has crafted a withdrawn sound on Plantation that does not fluctuate in overtly dramatic displays of raw emotion but moves in subdued streams of moroseness. His voice trembles as he wrestles to keep the sentiment from spilling over, creating images not of a man thrashing about in turbulent waters but rather of a stranded sailor bobbing up and down in a life raft, biding time hopelessly. The reserved songs' milky synths and accompanying electronic beats draw the listener into Lacey's intriguing, delicate, thought-provoking world. — Ryan Burk

6. Jacuzzi Boys — Glazin'

On their sophomore LP, Glazin', Miami's Jacuzzi Boys are entering their prime. Every great aspect of No Seasons is here, with an extra coat of semigloss: wild guitars, big hooks, and most important, audible smiles. Overall, the pace is slower and the songs are slightly longer. The result is an album that feels like a road trip on a three-day weekend, replete with detours, sunburns, and alligator barbecues. Opener "Vizcaya," an ode to the Boys' favorite Metrorail station, is a foot-stomping rocker with unadorned lyrics. There's no need for fanciness, anyways — this is about rocking and having a good time in the South Florida sun. — Jose Flores

5. John Ralston — Shadows of the Summertime

John Ralston is masterful at shaping the voice of his guitar and painting sentiment through his words, and Shadows of the Summertime reaches a new high for both. A standout lyric from "Pretty Little Heart" examines the fleeting nature of emotions. (This is, more or less, the overarching theme of the entire album.) As a galloping guitar leads up to the reveal, Ralston sings, "I fought with hope and faith and trust before I ever came to love." The LP is aptly titled, conjuring images of driving through the countryside on a sunny day, windows down, with a hand out just to feel the fleeting breeze pass through your fingertips. Just for a moment, all that matters is feeling a glimpse of beauty. — Monica McGivern

4. Protoman — Beat a Dead Horse 'Til She Resurrects

Fort Lauderdale rapper Protoman knows that the times have changed. And judging by his frenetic output throughout 2011, he's certainly not holding onto a lot of his strongest material for a so-called "full length." But then there's Beat a Dead Horse 'Til She Resurrects. It's a risky venture to tie a batch of songs to one blog cycle and even riskier to carry much of the weight on your own shoulders (Jabrjaw is the only credited feature). But this creative spurt — what skeptics call vanity and everyone else deems determination — resuscitates that dead, old album concept. "Roots" has murderous intensity in the lines: "Are you here for the music or the spectacle?" Ideally, both. And the latter is what ultimately keeps Beat a Dead Horse a fulfilling listen all the way to the end. The skip button provides the scariest impending death, and Protoman isn't taking any chances. — Reed Fischer

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