South Florida's Ten Best Local Releases of 2010
The methodology for this list was simple: Any local recording that made a huge impact in 2010 would be considered. This included EPs, mixtapes, Mediafire .zip files, Bandcamp profiles, split cassettes, and ringtones. Music consumption in South Florida shouldn't be confined by technicalities or "official release dates" — that would be lame. And yeah, we still love the Surfer Blood dudes, but Astro Coast already got props last year.
Based upon feedback from readers and our regular freelancers, what follows is heavily biased and heavily entertaining commentary about what comprised our schizophrenic South Florida scene in 2010.
Sumsun — Samo Milagro
The story behind Judson Rogers' first full-length is chock-full of subcultural trivia, travel stories, and leaked singles. "Samo" is a reference to both Jean-Michel Basquiat's former tag name and the location of the Greek Tunnel of Eupalinos, for example. Judson wrote some of the album in what he describes as the "beautiful" local climate and the rest while working on an apple orchard in North Carolina. All of it fed gems like "Ants" and the whirring, danceable glow of "Call It Home."
With a palette of such colorful influences, playing Samo Milagro on your headphones feels like your ears are gleaming. Sumsun's lush, bounce-heavy rhythms — perhaps designed for a disco somewhere in space — are sharply cut here, though he loses none of that head-in-the-clouds dreaminess that defined his preceding singles. "Whales," at the album's midpoint, has a slowly dropping backbeat reminiscent of Sade, a waterfall of delicately rippling synth, and enough soul to be one of the album's most languid and scorching moments. Monica Uszerowicz
Afrobeta — Do You Party? EP
Although Miami duo Afrobeta has long been a favorite on the local party circuit, 2010 saw production mastermind Tony Smurphio and frontwoman Cuci Amador bust out to the big time. This meant a spot on a main stage at last spring's Ultra Music Festival and a trip through Europe that included a gig in Ibiza alongside Booka Shade.
A deal with Do It Music Group yielded the short but punchy EP, Do You Party? After earlier releasing frothy freestyle, Afrobeta's eight tracks here (three of which are remixes) add heft to the low-end, with Smurphio often beefing up his beats into electro-house territory.
Stretching her vocal capabilities, Amador raps, sings, and even screams on "Play House." "Two Different Worlds," meanwhile, is a breathy ballad that swims through new wave while threatening to bubble over into a banger. If this is just a taste, the full-length, due out next year, should fully propel the band into the international dance music stratosphere. Arielle Castillo
Beings — Beings
Beings blends elements of punk-rock, shoegaze, and heavy-ass rock together in a classic and catchy album for the ADD generation. From the cavernous opening of "Naysayer" all the way through the epic closing track, "Fire Goddess," these eight songs take the listener on a schizophrenic and psychedelic trip.
With a work ethic centered around brainstorming and "everything goes" experimentation, Miami's Ivan Marchena, Mike Nela, and Betty Monteavaro write songs with more movements and melody than a Brahms composition. Engineered by Torche's Jonathan Nunez, the drums are heavy and booming, the bass is melodic and driving, the vocals are urgent and borderline taunting, and the guitars are from outer space. Highlight "Zombie" begins like an army of cavemen on amphetamines clubbing a woolly mammoth to oblivion, eventually rockets into the jet age, and then ceremoniously crash-lands on Earth, unscathed. Jose Flores
The Dewars — Songs From the Neverglades EP
The Dewars' six-song EP, Songs From the Neverglades, is one of the most off-center offerings we heard this year, but we would not change one bizarre-o minute of it. Ranging from the breezy freak-folk heard on "Strange Change," to the demented wobble-rap-versed funk of "Playground Mediasma," this collection of askew songs from the twin brother-fronted outfit proved to be a dark-humored, multitrack splendor.
With their matching vintage glasses and clashing wardrobes, Anthony and Zachary Dewar masterfully hone in on Leonard Cohen's idiosyncratic high baritone and channel Syd Barrett's lyrical wanderlust as well, while demonstrating an unabashed adoration for '60s pop that would pair it nicely with Elephant 6 bands like the Olivia Tremor Control or Neutral Milk Hotel. "The Noise Boys" is the group's pièce de résistance, beginning with phantasmagoric whisperings that crescendo into the refrain, "Keep down the noise boys"; it is the ultimate battle cry for bands having to deal with pesky neighbors. Alex Rendon
Mayday — Stuck On an Island
Lil Wayne's buddies Plex Luthor and Bernbiz, originators of Miami hip-hop powerhouse Mayday, recently beefed up the group's lineup with battle star Wrekonize, and a stellar cast of live musicians — even a conga player. This proved to be the magic formula for Mayday, which over the last couple years has climbed back up to the top of the heap.
The hunger and fierceness is palpable on the group's most recent album, Stuck On an Island, a 19-track whopper that, of course, traffics in funky hip-hop anthems like the title track. But it also displays a broad stylistic bent in the deeper cuts. "Picture Perfect," for instance, features Slip N Slide chanteuse Shonie and comes off as a female-friendly slab of moody soul. "Worst Case Scenario," meanwhile, features the Money Making Jam Boyz and is nominally a rap song, but is really built on aggressive, distorted guitar. Arielle Castillo
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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