When it comes to highlighting the unique aspects of the Magic City, few do it better than Otto von Schirach and Jose El Rey. With tongues placed firmly in cheeks, they honor Miami bass, hype Calle Ocho like it was Rodeo Drive, and refer to Ñooo Que Barato as their mecca. Teaming up with Jose's bodyguard, El Tigre, and Debbie D. -- formerly of booty bass duo Avenue D -- seemed like a natural fit.
As the Miami Bass Warriors, the quartet continues to use Miami as a source of inspiration. "Going Back to Calle Ocho" uses LL Cool J's 1989 track "Going Back to Cali" as a blueprint, turning up the bass tenfold and switching back and forth between English and Spanish -- the way most of us who grew up here feel comfortable speaking. "Bro, That Chick's a Basser" and "Breakfire" only reinforce the group's love of hometown bass. In "Basser," Debbie D. coos, "I love the bass/When it's deep/And I ain't getting in that car/If I can't feel it in the seat." Not to worry, we definitely feel it. -- Jose D. Duran
Awesome New Republic
Rational Geographic Vol. I, Rational Geographic Vol. II, Hearts (Honor Roll Music)
A year's round-up of the best local albums, without an entry from Awesome New Republic, would be like a South Florida summer that is actually mild and pleasant. Unthinkable, right? Just like summer here is predictably torturous, ANR is always predictably, um, the opposite of torturous -- oh, forgive the serious abuse of flowery language here. John Hancock and Brian Robertson always turn out the best in smooth, Prince-loving white-boy punk-funk, end of. Since they gave away Rational Geographic Volumes I and II for free, you're kind of an asshole if you copped those and didn't shell out a few bucks for Hearts. And now that everyone's drooled all over Surfer Blood, maybe with an extended South Florida glow, Awesome New Republic can reclaim its spot on the national blogosphere and finally get that much-deserved break. -- Arielle Castillo
Standby (Dying Van Gogh Records)
Roger Houdaille can be forgiven for his strange choices in naming his musical projects. Still, the former Father Bloopy mastermind clearly shows his strengths in both melodic prowess and the ability to inspire a rousing performance from his collaborators. Consequently, this new trio - Houdaille (vocals, guitar, mellotron, synths), Carolina Souto (bass) and Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals) - arrives with a stirring debut that's chock full of exuberant, exhilarating performances and a unerring pop sensibility that's both brash and irresistible.
Truth be told, Standby isn't so much a variation from Houdaille's Father Bloopy guise as it is a further development of his instincts and abilities. The staccato rhythms of "Fujeira In My Dreams," the unrelenting pace of "Pow3full," and the steady stomp and surge of "Dance Trance Pants" each boast a revved-up delivery, confidence, and poise. What's equally impressive is Ex Norwegian's ability to flirt with radio-ready possibilities, be it with the pop-perfect "Sad Wonder," the buoyant refrains of "Fresh Pit," or the percolating "Add Vice," which, coincidentally or not, retraces the sound of the soul classic "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." Whatever the name posted on the marquee, Standby still represents a standout. -- Lee Zimmerman
Good Enough (self-released)
If you grew up during the '90s and are nostalgic for the new-school punk sound -- before it became completely spineless -- check the by-now classic Margate punk band the Shakers. The sound is reminiscent of so many acts form the Warped Tour's early days, complete with tunes about suburban disenchantment ("Suburban Prison"), the school board ("PTA Mom," which includes lyrics like "PTA mom put a ban on drugs, PTA mom put a ban on guns, PTA mom put a ban on fun... Fuck you PTA mom"), and being, what else, "Seventeen Again." The band's latest album, Good Enough, falls somewhere between a raspy version of Fenix, TX and the Bouncing Souls, buzzing with major chords, rapid-fire drumming, and the gruff vocals of lead singer Pat Stahl. It would behoove the youngsters around the area to check out what punk is, or, rather, what it was about a decade ago. -- Erica K. Landau
Back on the Wire (Self-released)
We've waxed rhapsodic enough on this blog about Stonefox, so we'll keep this short. This dark-horse record from deepest Boca pretty much blows the rest of the tri-county area's real rock and roll out of the water. For real -- even though most south of the Broward County line have yet to encounter this fearsome foursome (okay, so the fourth guy actually lives in Atlanta). The band's rollicking, bluesy riffs boil with punk energy and attitude, achieving a rare musical balance that appeals to both hipsters and bikers. -- Arielle Castillo