With the first month of 2012 dead and gone, it's time to take a survey of up-and-coming South Florida music and maybe try to predict what the rest of the year has in store.
This is not a best-of list. Nor is it a complete appraisal of South Florida's expansive nightlife sphere and its million microscenes. There's an emphasis on acts and promoters who operate along the Biscayne corridor because that's our back yard. We look at cutting-edge, contemporary-minded bands and bookings from folks fresh on the scene as well as a few local music veterans finally on the cusp of blowing up. And we emphasize newness because children are the future.
Pool Party. In 2010, Jose Flores retired his massively popular Miami bass persona, José El Rey. After spending a few years chugging cortaditos, sweatily pacing up and down Calle Ocho, and slurring every cubanismo catcall in the book, the man behind the mustache no longer knew where the character stopped and his own life began. Thus, Flores's newest project — the raucous, righteously stupid pop-punk quartet Pool Party — constructs a completely different kind of fantasy. Led by Creep Guirdo (guess who?), the Party promotes an extensive and ridiculous mythology that revolves around its self-described "caveman-disco-beach" image. Hey, there's a sliver of truth to every joke band.
Miami local music up-and-comers
Toad Eyes. Bursting with the angsty youthfulness of punk rock and the outsize bombast of classic rock, Toad Eyes is three high-schoolers who love to shred. Though the wild, screaming girls in the front row must be a bonus, there's little doubt this trio's chief motivation for rocking and rolling is they'll burst into flames if they don't.
This Heart Electric. This longtime solo project by Death to the Sun music festival curator Ricardo Guerrero used to be all about gloomy, danceable synth-pop. But Guerrero recently switched styles, turning to breezy acoustic rock — lo-fi garage with distantly Americana twang and a fresh tone courtesy of unplugging — that conjures the Mekons or a smoother, less sexually frustrated Violent Femmes. Last year, Guerrero tested This Heart Electric's new sound on tour with Dino Felipe. And we're hoping 2012 marks the project's first proper release since forsaking bleeps and bloops for chilled-out r'n'r.
Luma Junger. This newish trio features past and present members of Biscayne corridor regulars such as Snakehole, Dracula, and Psychic Mirrors. From song to song, LJ veers between icy postpunk, R&B-inflected New Wave, and burly psychedelia. That's why calling Luma Junger synth rock is a cop-out, even though the threesome uses a synthesizer and also rocks. The songwriting is simple, brief, and action-packed. And live, Luma Junger keeps it quick and sweaty.
Moombahton Over Miami. Leave it to the Vagabond's weekly hip-hop-for-hipsters party, Shake, to make sure Miami is getting its required dose of international bass. In 2009, this regular Thursday-night throwdown predicted the future popularity of future bass with its highly acclaimed, still-running monthly dubstep bash, Get Low. And now Shake's latest import to Miami is Moombahton, a reggaeton-bass fusion poised to become the next big thing. Thus far, Moombahton Over Miami parties have been one-offs. But we wouldn't be surprised to see Shake expand its brand with another tightly curated monthly party.
Mask Era. This goth-punk outfit might be one of Churchill's best-kept secrets. It's a trio of femme fatales (and a lone mysterious monsieur) who have concocted a smart combo of gloomy postpunk and/or death-rock je ne sais quoi with the forceful, edgy bounce of '70s NYC No Wave.
Adames. Once the frontman for now-legendary Miami posthardcore band Pygmy, Edward Adames has finally broken his extended musical silence. Apparently, while his ex-bandmates (and still good friends) were hammering out vaudevillian math-rock in Down Home Southernaires and Animal Tropical, Adames spent the past decade descending a digital rabbit hole. He has finally come up for air with Be Bop Peru, his debut EP on Dubporn Records. Released at the tail-end of 2011, it is an incredibly rich opening statement of Adames's forward-thinking, eclectically informed electronic music that draws from classic sources (house, hip-hop) and new forms (bass worship and the world music sampling of the Mad Decent era) with equal grace.
Devalued. Look, you can't just recklessly slap metal and punk together. If you're not careful, you might end up pumping iron to moshcore and getting a tattoo on your face. In other words, don't let a little chugga-chugga turn you into a frothing meathead. Instead, try taking a page from local power trio Devalued, which has realized that Minor Threat is only a stage dive away from Slayer. This crew plays everything so fast that your watch starts going back in time and the circle pit comes to a halt because every member of the audience has pissed their pants.
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O'Grime. L.Rey Reyes and Nikolais Javan, AKA O'Grime, are Miami's crown princes of swag. Last year they rode the momentum of the Odd Future- and Lil B-led hipster-hop explosion while adding their own Miami-brand absurdity to the formula. They wrote a song about a Heat player, "Udonis Haslem," and then dedicated another, "Valanciunas," to an NBA-bound Lithuanian basketball star, which actually became a big hit in Lithuania. To end 2011, L.Rey and Niko dropped "O'Grime," an incredibly anthemic self-titled track that indulged both Auto-Tune and wobble bass with impressive results. And 2012 began with a brand-new mixtape, complete with NSFW album art based on a pornographic pun. Sounds like Reyes and Javan are just getting warmed up.
Marlon Alarm. Asexual but totally fabulous. High-gloss DIY. Equal parts Flamingo Plaza and Forever 21. These kinds of contradictions are the heart of Marlon Alarm, Miami's sexually ambiguous, perfectly manicured electro-pop provocateur. While independently cultivating a loyal fan base, this vocalist-producer has developed a unique persona based on the unlikely coupling of "It's Britney, bitch" splendor and Morrissey's frigid ambivalence. Ostensibly apolitical but clearly queer, Marlon Alarm makes Lady Gaga's sexually ambiguous political posturing look totally tame.
Teepee. Way back in 2009, Eric Lopez-Zareno released Morals, the definitive statement from his ever-evolving Teepee project. That record captured Lopez-Zareno's inherent eclecticism, shifting between fried shoegaze, psychedelic noise, and immaculate lo-fi pop. At the end of 2010, Teepee began privately circulating a followup, tentatively titled Time Meant Nothing. The recordings were a serious departure from his previous body of work, revealing a deeper focus and greater thematic consistency. But like so many classics-to-be, the album never saw the light of day and its composer receded into the shadows. Rumors have been circulating, though, that Teepee is gearing up for a comeback and that Time Meant Nothing might finally see a proper release. And here's hoping that one of Miami's best and brightest picks right back up where he left off.
Nightdrive Miami. It began as a weekly party featuring carefully curated disco, boogie, and chillwave. But over the past few years, Nightdrive has blossomed into a live-music production powerhouse. Its greatest contribution to mainland Miami's music scene is a regular stream of impeccably executed concerts — including 2011 performances by Battles, Austra, and the Junior Boys — at off-Biscayne hot spots such as Grand Central and Bardot. The collective's involvement in the local scene has helped cultivate and promote some of the city's freshest and most adventuresome music acts, such as Ryan de Grandy's retro-funk extravaganza Psychic Mirrors and the blissed-out electro chillscapes of Entresol. Even Nightdrive's music blog has its shit together, with tons of top-shelf content focused on dance, pop, and electronic tuneage. Pay attention to Nightdrive in 2012. You won't regret it.