As South Floridians continue to slowly isolate themselves from their neighbors and the rest of the world, it's difficult not to feel like the end of humanity is on the horizon. However, for some folks, the isolation breeds creativity. Artists are beginning to feel the need to scratch a productive itch as they find themselves trapped in their studio apartments — or perhaps looking to escape forced family time — during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
There's little doubt that creativity thrives in these swampy parts, but some local artists seem primed to soundtrack our postpandemic life. Prepare yourself for the dystopian-pop/"coronawave" season to rise from South Florida's primordial soup.
Coronawave will be the punk of our age, when artists lean into their emotions and pull from past musical styles while using electronic production that emphasizes our technology-dependent present.
One of the more interesting acts to come out of Miami in recent years, Firstworld will have you dancing in your bedroom as you disinfect every knickknack and surface in your home. The smell of Lysol goes well with his latest release, "This Time," on which Firstworld sings through subtle distortion: "I've got no remedy/For what's got you addicted/No, I don't see an end/In sight/Skip to the summary/And don't be optimistic/Don't tell me/You can make this/Right/This time."
Firstworld's bedroom pop nods to the '80s through his production choices, and his songwriting adds layers of thought to incredibly catchy and well-crafted electronica. Listeners can spin in a circle to gems such as "This Time" and "Just a Feeling," a beautiful spacey single whose production has a bounce that'll bring smiles. The pandemic is a boon for a musician like Firstworld, who admits, “It’s given me time that I didn’t have before to finish my album. I’m cooped up in my room writing music like a maniac, and it’s been great.”
Meta4Machine's signature distorted vocals can give the feeling of claustrophobia, which most people can relate to right now. The duo's latest release, the four-track We’ve Been Here Before, kicks you out of bed the moment the needle drops on "Worlds In-Mold." You want to dance all night, but you can’t. The city is on lockdown, and your life is paused. Meta4Machine's EP delivers the kind of music you hope to listen to the moment you're allowed to step outside. Lead singer Zaii's deep voice, reminiscent of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, applies that underlying darkness to a lighter, new-beginnings-style production. "Love in Depths" feels like a lo-fi vindication that pop art can be appreciated at all levels. Zaii's crying out, "'Cause I carry on," reminds the listener that the fight is never done, so keep moving.
Who doesn’t like a bit of nasty bruising on the guitar to go with their electronic avant-pop? In a live setting, Ghostflower leans on synth-heavy instrumentation to create strange, winding chaos. The band attacks the listener with a combination of standard rock weaponry and variants of technology. Unfortunately, the crisis has halted the recording of Ghostflower's debut EP. However, there's still plenty of music to consume, including the single "Groceries," which reflects the anxiety and the lack of control everyone is feeling these days: “Help it, you can't help it/Hate it, you fucking hate.”
“It’s going to shape everyone and everything around us... By default, it is gonna change our music as well," Ghostworld says of the pandemic. "What’s been interesting for me has been the livestreams. Artists find a way no matter what even through the toughest of times, and that sometimes creates really interesting music.”
Neon Prayers and his clouded vocals seem destined to introduce the world to a new style of pop music: coronawave. Bedroom-style electronica as a subgenre has seen minor successes in the past with artists such as Spooky Black and long-term crossover success with artists like FKA Twigs and Burial. Empathy is a driving force for Neon Prayers' music — the vocal elements he uses to mask his voice feed the overall temperament of his music. Neon’s latest single, "Drowning," shows off his deep technology-infused voice, which crackles over a pulsating dance track that builds on the darkness and solitude that his songwriting evokes. His music is a late-night binge-fest that has Neon Prayers regretting and remembering his mistakes. He's been making music since 2017, but he came into his own with his 2019 EP, Glass, an often ambient record with moments of pulsing bounce, including tracks such as "Drone" showing off the range of his production chops.