Best Local Music Albums of 2008

Power to the people.

It's been a good year for the South Florida music scene. Talented upstart artists who were expected to break out exceeded expectations. Already established acts released stellar projects as well. There's a lot of good music coming out of the region (enough to make any local audiophile proud), so here's the rundown on the top 10 releases from locals this year.

Jacob Jeffries Band

Wonderful

(Warner/BMI)

When a band dubs its latest offering Wonderful, it's either being incredibly presumptuous or has reason to be confident. In the case of the Jacob Jeffries Band, it's the latter. That's for good reason, because judging from their effusive melodies, clever wordplay, and a host of critical kudos, we think wonderful is indeed the word for this outstanding offering. It's obvious at the outset that Jeffries (born Jacob Groten) borrows from the best. The Ben Folds/Billy Joel references are especially evident, owing to the bandleader's unabashed exuberance and pure pop pastiche. The talented Broward County native pounds the keys with the best of them, wrapping his arrangements in an elaborate flourish that brings to mind hints of ELO, Elton John, and Steely Dan. Such displays of reverence for old-school forebears is all the more impressive given that Jeffries is barely out of his teens. But if Wonderful is any indication, he is more than capable of emulating his idols.

Rachel Goodrich

Tinker Toys

(Yellow Bear)

The title of this 24-year-old singer-songwriter's widely admired album is an apt description of what she does in song. Like Regina Spektor and Nellie McKay, with whom the lass has much in common, Goodrich mines the American songbook and creates inventive songs that speak to the inner 12-year-old in all of us. She employs an array of musical toys in all of her songs, and in the end comes up with a concoction fit for a play date. And if using toys to tinker with the heart and soul doesn't sound like something you'd dig listening to, then, my friend, your ears must be made of tin.

DJ Khaled

We Global

(Koch Records)

When "Out Here Grindin'" leaked this past May, it set a record for the most guests on a track since USA for Africa dropped "We Are the World" in '85. That Khaled and his crew were in it to win it for nobody but themselves didn't hurt; hell, it probably even helped. After all, there are few better incentives than a big payday. Okay, so Khaled grinded with only Akon, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Lil Boosie, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood, and Plies. But when you add that The Game, T-Pain, Bun B, Nas, Kanye West, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Sean Paul, Brisco, Busta Rhymes, Pitbull, Casely, and Flo Rida also appear on this South Florida superstar DJ's third dose of drop-top classics, We Global becomes a matter of fact. Take that, you charity cases!

Hilary McRae

Through These Walls

(Hear Music)

Forget the fact she's only 21 and her album cover pictures her as a vapid pop poser. A Berklee School of Music grad and a multi-instrumental wunderkind — she plays piano, drums, guitar, bass, and sax — Boca Raton-based Hilary McRae introduces herself to the world in grand fashion on Through These Walls. The impressive debut displays an obvious reverence for various female forebears — Carole King, Laura Nyro, and Carly Simon among them — but her horn-stoked arrangements and soulful singing hint that McRae could be a future legend as well. That's especially evident on "Every Day (When Will You Be Mine)," "Consider Me Gone," "Like You Never Loved Me," and "Better Off Alone," all of which emit a brassy confidence that belies her tender years. Her signing to Hear Music (home to megastars Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor) positions her among the elite while affirming she's a formidable contender.

Spam Allstars

Introducing ...

(Music Network)

By now, no South Floridian who has left the house in the past decade needs an introduction to the Spam Allstars. From their long-running residency at Little Havana's Hoy Como Ayer through shows at every venue in the region — inside, outside, and otherwise — the ragtag assemblage of ace músicos has given everyone ample opportunity to get with it. But with the internationally released Introducing, our big secret gets the chance to officially go global and gives the world a chance to get hip. Not that the Allstars haven't already hit wherever the getting's been good; hell, there's a reason the group is called the hardest-gigging band in the business, just as there's a reason that the same folks who deliver Rough Guides chose to put out the band's music. This patented blend of rad Latin, mad funk, trad soul, and free jazz belongs to the world.

Rick Ross

Trilla

(Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam)

Like his Port of Miami, Rick Ross's Trilla debuted at number one on Billboard's pop charts and proved beyond the shadow of anyone's doubt that the Boss would be riding heavy for some time to come. And though the 15-track throwdown didn't have a hit as massive as "Hustlin'," it did deliver a succession of singles that packed enough wallop to bring this album to gold status. Radio jams such as "Speedin'" and "Here I Am" drew the most attention, but it was "Luxury Tax" and the tough-guy trade-off among Ross, Lil Wayne, Trick Daddy, and Young Jeezy that gave the Bossman enough bragging rights to back up all of his boasts.

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