Miami's Best Albums, EPs, and Singles of 2014
Miami, where the streets rumble with dirty house, street rap, metal, indie, punk rock, and EDM.
Photo by Marco Torres
Welcome to the 305. The city that vibes. And shakes ass. And shreds.
Too often, jetsetters and Midwestern tourists land on the sandy white shores of South Beach seeking only uhntz-uhntz and a trip to the VIP. And sure, we love that stuff too.
But the locals know Miami is also about that dirty house music, raw street rap, sludge metal, indie tuneage, punk rock, and tripped-out EDM. We pop booties one night. And we headbang the next. That's the real Dade County.
Here are Miami's ten best albums, EPs, and singles of 2014.
See also: Miami's 50 Best Bands of All Time
Craze: "Bow Down" featuring Trick Daddy
A three-time DMC World DJ champion, Craze has been Miami's most skillful deck master for nearly 20 years. But with his latest release, "Bow Down," a single co-starring 305 rap hero Trick Daddy Dollars, he's hit his stride as a producer of club-crushing original cuts. "I wanted to have Trick on the track 'cause he's the Miami legendary MC in my eyes, and I feel like we've both repped our city for a long time and never linked," Craze says. "I did that one for Miami. Even with that airplane intro, it's an Anquette sample from a Miami bass classic tune called 'Miami.' Also, the marching band sample was on some UM vibes. So yeah, it's classic Miami with that new club sound." Kat Bein
Holly Hunt: Prometheus EP
As stalwarts of Miami's underground metal scene, Holly Hunt's Gavin Perry and Beatriz Monteavaro have been carving sonic monoliths out of finely tuned noise since 2011. When Monteavaro introduced Perry to quintessential heavy-drone outfits like Sleep and Earth, it caused the guitarist to "change directions dramatically." And soon, his down-tuned riffing and Monteavaro's nimble, metronome-precise drumming combined to create slow-evolving sludge mantras for their debut full-length album, 2012's Year One. The duo's latest release, an EP entitled Prometheus, still reaches amp-breaking volume, but also experiments with shifting styles and tempo, creating lithe songs that mutate at a moment's notice. This newfound sense of exploration and interest in pacing infuses the doom and gloom with an exhilarating blast of fresh ideas. David Bennett
Palo!: Palo! Live
Sweat, shouts, el sonido caliente. Recorded at now-defunct Little Havana club PAX Miami to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Afro-Cuban funk five-piece Palo!, this full-length live album is a feverish, jazzy slab of Latin fusion tuneage. As bandleader Steve Roitstein remembers: "There were 600, 700 people. And 15 minutes into the show, the air conditioning broke." No doubt, the rising heat of that night helped stoke Palo! Live's sweltering salsa-fied grooves to near-dangerous levels of intensity. And in fact, that busted AC may have even been fate. The album's been nominated for two Grammys. And it's unquestionably Roitstein and crew's obra maestra. S. Pajot
It just feels wrong to hear Oblation streaming from your computer. Floor's droning guitar rock would be way more at home blasting from the tape deck of a 1990 Volvo. This new 14-song album from the legendary (and recently reunited) Miami band harkens back to the days when indie rock was called college rock and bands with names like Faith No More ruled airwaves. The reverb-soaked menace of Steve Brooks' vocals and the sheer thudding force of Henry Wilson's drumming just do not relent. This music is strange, heavy, and hard enough to send you traveling through time till your nose bleeds, profusely. David Rolland
See also: Floor's Oblation Album Release Show at Churchill's Pub, Miami
Niko Javan: Trench EP
Over the past couple of years, this producer and member of rap duo O'Grime has evolved and evolved and evolved again. He's still ready to get turnt up with the best of 'em, but he's also openly exploring his personal side, and the Trench EP, a two-song experiment featuring local R&B duo The Loft, is the deepest cut that Niko Javan's ever dropped. Opening track "More" is catchy yet haunting, while follow-up "Sleep" takes us into the proverbial bedroom for some quiet introspection. Just as fascinating is the moving painting that Javan cooked up as a visual companion. It brings the music's lush emotional landscape to life. Kat Bein
See also: Miami's 25 Best Electronic Music Acts
Ice Billion Berg: Damage Is Done
In the time between 2013's Rise to Power and 2014's Damage Is Done, Ice Billion Berg moved his recording base from a second room in a condo to a 1,600-square-foot building located just blocks from Hit Factory. He dubbed his new headquarters Keyholder Studios. He spent a year recording 150 songs. And he picked 21 for Damage Is Done. The result is a thunderous, action-paced street rap epic soundtracked by the sonic chop of assault-rifle snares and thumping walls of bass. It's the classic anti-hero story: a people's champion overcomes great obstacles to achieve ultimate victory. Jacob Katel
Telescope Thieves: Quiet Hearts EP
Miami's newly launched Space Tapes label has a bright future if its releases continue to sound anything like Telescope Thieves' Quiet Hearts EP. Virtually unknown before the EP dropped this summer, this local producer (born Mario De Los Santos) has most certainly arrived with this auspicious four-track record. He's among Miami's most innovative new producers, as well as a rare local exponent of the experimental R&B and bass coming out of London and Los Angeles. Call it post-dubstep, future bass, or whatever you will -- Quiet Hearts is baby-making music of the highest order, brimming with sensuality and soul. Sean Levisman
Sluggers: Voyager EP
The Sluggers dudes' true identities may be shrouded in mystery, but their talent is crystal clear. Dark in mood and complex in composition, Voyager, this incognito duo's latest three-song offering, explores a space-age theme, from beginning to end. And yes, Sluggers actually included samples from NASA. (You know, those sound clips that the agency released, like, "This is what the Universe would sound like if you could actually hear space.") For that alone, the EP is rad. But it turns out the songs are dope too. Especially "Contact." We really, really like "Contact." Kat Bein
The Jellyfish Brothers: Sentinels of the Space Age EP
The Jellyfish Brothers is a witty, catchy, energetic handle that's perfectly appropriate for a rock band whose music also embodies all those qualities. However, this trio's moniker obscures the fact that there's woman, Jeanette Valentine, to be heard chaotically harmonizing amid the surf distortion and male vocals. Like a lo-fi version of the Pixies, Valentine and real-life brothers Greg and Eddy Alvarez revel in sci-fi imagery, the occasional lyric en español, and cover art that looks like it came from a Daniel Johnston sketchbook. Most importantly, though, their new six-song Sentinels of the Space Age EP will keep your head bobbing for days. Maybe even eons. David Rolland
Jesse Perez: Kama Sucia (The Art of Slangin' D)
The filthiest motherfucker on the block, Jesse Perez crept out from the shadows of Miami's after-hours club scene by releasing a whole bunch of raw cuts on respected (and respectable) dance labels like Nervous Records, Hot Creations, and Off Recordings in 2012. Now he's the boss of his own imprint, Mr. Nice Guy Records, and Dade County's king of bump-'n'-grind, booty bass-inspired house music. For 2014, he busted out again with Kama Sucia, a full-length album whose title is a play on both Kama Sutra and the Spanish phrase for "dirty-ass bed." Loaded with bangers like "Hialeah Chongita" and "some dope downtempo tracks" that Jesse says "I'd enjoy listening to during foreplay," it'll make you dance. It'll make you scream. It'll make you hump the vibrating bed in an Eighth Street Motel. As Mr. Nice Guy himself always says: "Welcome to the 305." S. Pajot
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