Best Recovery 1999 | Al's Not Well | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Only months ago Al's Not Well was on top of the local rock hill. The exotically coiffed and coutured crew's blend of pulsing rhythms, psychedelic meanderings, and solid New Wave sounds had landed them a deal with Tommy Boy's Beyond Music imprint, touring gigs, recording sessions. The queen goddess of New Wave, Deborah Harry, even guested on their reworking of Blondie's classic "One Way or Another." The area faves were about to become a national rage. But then Joce Leyva, the group's singer-guitarist and primary songwriter, left town. And didn't return. The remaining members are climbing back up, having added a new guitarist and assigned singing duties to back-up vocalist/percussionist Bleu. There's nothing rarer than a band continuing after losing its front person, but if anyone can pull it off, it's this seasoned crew. They've changed their name to Al Is Well, reflective of their sense of fun, buoyant optimism, and underlying determination. Oh, and their music rules, too.

In these black days it's mighty difficult to find music that will piss off parents. If anything should make mom or dad cringe, it's heavy metal. But bust out some Black Sabbath and there's a good chance Pops will turn it up to eleven and tell you how he saw 'em in '77 at a San Francisco show where he tripped on Mr. Natural blotter. Fortunately for the young and angst-ridden, Cavity goes one step beyond metal. Heavy and sonically unearthly, their feedback alone will shatter the eardrums of anyone over age 35. This year, in an homage to one of the bands that started it all, Cavity laid down a searing version of "Into the Void" for Hydra Head Records' In These Black Days, a double seven-inch tribute to Sabbath. See what Dad thinks of that.
Willy Chirino's feel-good nostalgia album showcases the chops of local Latin talents such as Arturo Sandoval, Albita Rodriguez, Jon Secada, and Roberto Torres. With a little help from his friends, Chirino departs from his formulaic pop-salsa format to shine on a merry mix of Cuban classics, including "Guantanamera," "Son de la Loma," and "El Manisero," celebrating along the way a bygone Cuba. Even Chirino's wife Lissette and his daughters join in. Aggressive playing, influenced by contemporary Cuban bands, and giddy singing make this an infectious and fun listen.

In their debut performance, dubbed "a tribute to Sun Ra," the Afro Polyphonic Space Orchestra displayed why the approach of their oddball jazz-pioneer hero still sounds not just out of time, but out of this world. Playing as part of the first annual Afro Roots World Music Festival at Tobacco Road, the A.P.S.O. filled an entire outdoor stage with members from a broad spectrum of Miami's music scene -- from straight-ahead horn players to an R&B bassist, from a rock guitarist to an electronica keyboard maven. Decked out in glittery blouses that looked as if they'd just been stolen off the back of a truck at Mardi Gras, the A.P.S.O. proceeded to jam out on a variety of Sun Ra's Arkestral standards. Hopscotching from wiggy Dixieland to mind-melting fusion, it wasn't long before the ensemble stepped off into the void, chanting "we travel the spaceways" as disembodied saxophones dueled with eerie blasts from a Moog. Theirs was a freaky musical ride like no other on Earth.

In real life Sean "Birdman" Gould is a Southern boy who came to Miami Beach to make rock and roll and pick up chicks. In this exuberant clip, the Clambake singer-guitarist portrays a Southern boy who comes to Miami Beach to make rock and roll and pick up chicks. In the fictional version the women are Latin, the setting is Wet Willie's, and the results are -- let's just say Birdman and his bandmates come up short, tequila-tossed-in-their-faces short. Fortunately for our heroes, this is a video scripted, storyboarded, and produced by Gould. They head to Hialeah Park, where they cash in on some ponies and, newly bankrolled, find the drink-flinging females more receptive, with everyone ending up dancing the Mamacita on the sand. The vid captured Clambake's fun-first attitude and the colorfulness of the location, leading to airplay on MTV Latino. Filmed in one day by cinematographer Mark Moorman and edited in one day by computerographer David Chaskes, the entire project was completed on a minuscule budget of $1000. The results look like a million bucks.

Could be Alex Diaz lives in a parallel universe. His surreal songs certainly come from one. An alternate possibility is that he writes from the other side of the looking glass, which might explain why he sometimes bills himself as Xela Zaid. As he sings and strums (sometimes playing solo using bass as his instrument, other times plucking acoustic guitar, occasionally backed by a drummer or a full rhythm section), one variously hears echoes of Lloyd Cole, Paul Westerberg, Kurt Cobain, even Led Zeppelin in his guitarcentric tunes, which are full of unexpected rhymes and melodies lashed together with rich chording. Take "Honeycomb," which appears on his band Ho Chi Minh's 1997 album Motorama. It begins with a bright and bouncy guitar arpeggio: "Indeed, indelibly keyed, ode to my sweet honeycomb/Oh is that light in your head?" The paean then dissolves into a stormy, minor-key refrain: "Roam, the night as night shines/Hard upon as the river will storm/Creeds and deeds will make ends meet." Huh? Well, like so many semilucid dreams, songs too can have their own nonlinear logic. Diaz matches his mystical lyricism with prolificacy: his repertoire ranges from driving, head-bobbing rock to melancholic, cockeyed love songs, like "Poison Ivy," one of his latest creations (unreleased at press time): "I'll always remember the month of June/When all the kids are out of school/You know that summertime is near/It plays like a song you hope to hear/Then as my heart beats into your arms, I know who you are/You're poison ivy, how I want you still." Diaz creates absorbing, drug-trip songs best described as otherworldly.

With little local fanfare, the soft-spoken Seven has made an international name for himself and his record label, releasing joyously skewed takes on premillennium DJ culture. Artists as disparate as Germany's drum-and-bass deconstructionists Funkstörung and Miami's down-tempo mixologist Push Button Objects have graced the label with twelve-inch vinyl; a single from Brooklyn's East Flatbush Project, which married Japanese-tinged chopstick percussion to a slippery hip-hop beat, caused such a sensation it inspired an entire album of remixes (Tried by Twelve on Ninjatune Records) from British artists such as Autechre and Squarepusher, Japan's Bisk, and hometown turntablist DJ Craze. Where Chocolate Industries goes from here is anybody's guess, and that's precisely what makes this label so tasty.

¡Viva las comunistas!

Best Singer-Songwriter To Leave Town In The Past Twelve Months

Magda Hiller

For the past decade her uplifting artistry could be found all about: at an Irish pub in the Gables, a coffeehouse in North Miami, a bookstore in Kendall, an upscale restaurant in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, a legendary bar in downtown Miami, a park in North Miami-Dade. At venues of all stripes, Magda Hiller and her guitar brought smiles, chuckles, shivers of delight, chills of pathos, and seamlessly raucous folk music diverse in form and consistent in quality. Still tied to South Florida while recording continues on her CD, Hiller now makes her home in the north part of the state. "I love the natural beauty up here," the vegetarian animal-lover says. "And I'm five hours out of state, you know. I'm able to play a lot of places too far from Miami. I find the audiences in places like Chattanooga, Atlanta, Orlando, Gainesville, and Tampa more receptive." She's also traveled lately to Indiana, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The past two trips were arranged as showcases by Warner Bros., for whom she records song-instruction videos. It seems our local heroine is broadening her success, the sort of achievement we applaud. Except we miss her so much.
Could be gourds. Or nuts. Maybe brown-tinted lima beans? Cannabis seeds. Yeah, cannabis seeds. Must be, considering this musically clever band is called the Kind, the same phrase connoisseurs use to describe high-grade pot. (For fans of wordplay, the band's e-mail address is [email protected].) The intriguing photo was composed and lensed by local marine-science photographer Kelly Bryan, who prefers to work subsurface, even when shooting musical stuff. ("Underwater macro lenses actually give better results than regular macros," he explains.) Before a personnel change to the upbeat and often virtuosic rock group, Bryan clicked through a roll of black-and-white portraiture with all parties holding their breath. After the departure of one member, and because this new Kodak moment was dedicated to illustrating the Kind's infectious and fun debut CD, Bryan loaded up for another go. Being a shade underground, and generally indicating support for the lifting of marijuana prohibition in this nation, the fellas floated this idea: More than 100 weed seeds submerged in a Key Biscayne swimming pool, mixing together in a closeup that creates a somehow symmetrical chaos perfectly suited to a versatile group that can light up things with urgent funkiness (the brilliant "Changed My Life"), red-eyed barroom innuendo ("Sloppy Love"), or unpretentious intelligence (the Jaco Pastorius-inspired "Breather"). Bryan says he wasn't trying to make a thematic statement with the picture, which is augmented by calligraphy that forms the band's name into what looks like two Chinese-language characters. "I was just putting it out there."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®