Click to read parts one, two, and three of this list.
No Seasons (Florida's Dying)
Miami's best garage rock threesome seems to succeed in spite of itself. Where a lot of local bands spend all their time on self-promotion through social media abuse, the Jacuzzi Boys really couldn't care less. Instead, it appears these guys spend their time drinking, playing pretty much anywhere in the city, and writing these weirdly good, gently psychedelic jams that jibe well with the country's current appetite for lo fi rock. Even Iggy Pop, now seemingly Miami's rock and roll mascot, is a public supporter. Hell, the Jacuzzi Boys can pretty much retire on that bit of fandom. This LP is a recent release of Florida's Dying, the Orlando-based backbone of the Sunshine State's new acid-fried wave. It's especially worth buying on vinyl, thanks to its lewd, Bosch-in-scratchy-pencil-style artwork. -- Arielle Castillo
Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers
¡Socialismo Americano! (Self-released)
A staple of South Florida's musical community for over a decade, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers traverse psychedelia, Latin rhythms, and pop-rock. This time around they infuse their sound with leftist concepts and an album-cover homage to Sgt. Pepper's on its fourth album, ¡Socialismo Americano! The two stand-outs on the record start with "The Looker," a fun, memorable song with touches of classic rock, alternative, and Latin rhythms with and breezy vocals. Then there's "Center of the Universe," which sounds like a slowed-down take on "Back in the U.S.S.R." Palatable and poppy, it will be stuck in your brain for days. The rest of the record retains the whimsical qualities of these songs and cover topics such as Miami-Dade County Jail and war, keeping with the politically charged theme of the album. -- Erica K. Landau
Ballad on Third Avenue (Dying Van Gogh Records)
Bundled in sumptuous arrangements and a prog-rock posture, Ed Hale's regular gig with Transcendence sometimes seemed to overshadow his true worth as a songwriter. Happily, Hale's solo debut remedies that by emphasizing the songs' emotional content rather than their window dressing. The support cast is still terrific - among the members are several Transcendence bandmates - but what truly shines are some brooding, introspective tunes informed by a sense of quiet contemplation.
Fact is, Hale's always been quite the entrepreneur. His Dying Van Gogh label has fostered some of South Florida's most talented artists, among them Dreaming in Stereo's Fernando Perdomo and Ex Norwegian's Roger Houdaille. It still provides him a local connection, even though he's relocated to New York, where he now finds the muse best suited to his ambitions. Even so, Ballad on Third Avenue isn't restricted to any particular setting -- "Scene in San Francisco," "New Orleans Dreams," and "Thoughts of California" reference various locales while maintaining a solitary sense of longing and desire. Consequently, only "I Walk Alone" emulates the sweep and spectacle of Transcendence. However, like the songs that surround it, it maintains a lowered gaze, making this Hale's most intimate and alluring set yet -- Lee Zimmerman
Outlander (71 Studios)
Miami songstress Sol Ruiz's knack for twisting traditional styles of music (blues, soul, Latin folk) and making them her own garnered her a new genre, aptly named psychedelic Cuban blues. Outlander, the latest effort from the twentysomething troubadour, blends her Cubano-Americano signature with hints of flamenco and New Orleans zydeco. (Check the slide guitar-wielding "Half Moon Bay.") Ruiz's raspy, happy-go-lucky vocals are the backbone of these soulful ditties, though. "Playing It By Ear" is a carefree number that name-checks Bongo's Cafe and Cuba Libres. But on "Soledad," Sol turns dramatic, offering a lyrical mope about her solitude that would make Morrissey himself proud. But Ruiz is far from lonely on "Free Love," where she chants about acupuncturist pricks, bisexual trysts, and mile high club memberships. Goes to show why some call her the Cuban Janis Joplin. -- Alex Rendon
Stragglers Tour EP (Severed Hand Records)
Surfing the garage-punk tsunami that's crested throughout the indie scene over the last couple years, Miami-based sextet Lil Daggers issued its first official burst of noise last March. That vinyl-only release, Stragglers Tour EP, was limited to an initial run of 200 copies, keeping the Daggers strictly underground for the moment. However, if you were either lucky or obsessed enough to score one of these exceedingly rare 10-inch discs at the outset, you'll already agree Yuri, Ruben, Gabe, Johnny, Jose, and Jacob deserve massive, fanatically screeching welcomes wherever they roam.
Like the Black Lips nationally or Jacuzzi Boys locally, these Dagger dudes blend aesthetic opposites with deft and devilishness, keeping shit real from start to finish. Across the full fifteen minutes of Stragglers, from Side A ("Outta Your Hair," "Eyelids," and "US Leather") to Side B ("Skeleton" and "Sucio City"), the band manages to sound alternately retro and current, chaotic and catchy, pissed off and spaced out without ever succumbing to stylistic spasms. Essentially, this crew tempts disaster and gets away with it. Or, put another way, Daggers roll deep. Real deep. -- S. Pajot
Murderous Rampage (Self-released)
Metal group Murderous Rampage is as hilarious as it is brutal. The overall aesthetic can be gleaned from videos featuring mannequins turned into zombies, and numbers titled "Eating Drinking Shitting" (those words pretty much comprise all the lyrics of the song, too). Lyrically the songs navigate the absurd -- besides "Eating, Drinking, Shitting," the song "Programmed to Kill" includes lyrics, "We're gonna kill you, we're gonna eat you, we're gonna eat your heaaaad." Musically the band revs up with fist-pumping choruses, thrash-metal riffage, and Newman's guttural vocals, for a loud, gritty, short-and-sweet punch in the face. Fun fact: Lead singer and horror aficionado Tommy Newman recorded the vocals for the album in the nude. -- Erica K. Landau