Most electronic music doesn't say much, literally. If there are lyrics involved, the vocals treatment has more to do with melody and tone than the meaning of the actual words. But Miami's Cuban/German "beat molester" likes to add some say to his sway. In Chopped Zombie Fungus, released on local label Schematic, Von Schirach (his real and way cool name) has a few requests: "whip me down, make me hurt, make me bleed, touch my tit, slap my ass, take it down, drink my milk, hurt me down, squeeze my ass, slap my tit, swallow it, eat my cheese." It used to be that whenever dance music was silly, it never knew it. Thank God for guys like Von Schirach and albums like this, where you can be intelligent without the pseudo-sophistication of Euro trance and deep house (nobody's funny on Ecstasy or cocaine). It isn't just lyrical antics that make this album so lovable; Von Schirach takes the time to deconstruct sound and rhythm into a Dadaistic collage of chaotic noise. Many tracks call for a patient, attentive ear. The sounds are manipulated obtusely and through water-drop syncopation. To say most of these songs are offbeat is as much an understatement as the term for this genre: Intelligent Dance Music. But break-beating ravers and club kids should have no fear of the forward experimentalism soaking much of this release; Von Schirach includes a bassed-up dance track, the happily titled "Boombonic Plague," perfect for rump shaking and pelvic thrusting, if you're into that kind of thing.

Armando Christian Perez reflects Miami in a way no rapper ever has, because the ones who've made names for themselves on these city streets were usually black, not Cuban. But Perez, a.k.a. Pitbull, is not about to go Cuban retro. He's all about today's hard knocks. Pitbull spits quick-witted, reality bass rhymes that tell the Miami tale, as he knows it firsthand. It was Miami's hip-hop godfather himself, Luther "Uncle Luke'' Campbell, who saw the significance of Pitbull four years ago. Campbell signed the rapper, took him on the road, and pitched him to everyone. This year, the 22-year-old who peddles his CDs on Liberty City streets is going to blow up. And he promises he's bringing the 305 with him. He made good on that promise last spring, when his hit "Welcome to Miami," an insider's ode to the Magic City, pushed its way into heavy rotation on Power 96 (WPOW-FM 96.5). Now Pitbull prepares to promote his upcoming album, Expect the Unexpected. His approach to stardom isn't cut from the American Idol cloth. His concrete stare gleams determination, and his tattoo that says "Hate Me and Suffer" is a stern warning to those who'll stand in his way.

Readers Choice: Lee Williams and the Square Egg

There have been any number of local rock outfits that have graced Miami's stages in search of national glory or just the heart of Saturday night. But few caused as much of a ruckus -- and then promptly disappeared -- as the Eat. Its debut single, 1979's "Communist Radio," still has die-hard fans guessing at its political sympathies: pro-Fidelista rant or anti-commie screed? Of course naming your record label "Giggling Hitler" should give some indication that the Eat wasn't devoted to any philosophy save offending as many people as possible. Which is exactly what its brief existence managed to do: another single in 1980, a disastrous East Coast tour, and (to hear the leather-jacketed survivors tell it) plenty of fights and tense club dramas sparked by patrons none too fond of this new "punk" thang the Eat was blasting out. And that was it. By the mid-Eighties, the Eat was consigned to the dustier pages of history; a brief 1995 reunion is best left forgotten. What the band left behind, though, is "Communist Radio"'s throat-grabbing immediacy, a ferocious meld of sing-along choruses and piercing guitar work that add up to one of the choicest slices of garage-rock glory this side of "Louie Louie." But don't take our word -- sightings of "Communist Radio" regularly fetch upward of $500 on eBay from collectors desperate to snatch a copy of punk's Holy Grail. Sure, musicians such as Charlie Pickett or Nil Lara may be more, ahem, technically accomplished. And characters like Marilyn Manson and the Mavericks may have gone on to greater financial success. But no other Miamian has yet to stake his or her claim to immortality so authoritatively in barely two and a half minutes of joyous scree.

Standing around a smoke-filled dive for hours on end as a band blasts away is great when you're twentysomething. But as anyone who's caught shows at the Jackie Gleason or the Gusman can attest, there comes a time in a hipster's life when he just wants to, well, sit down. So how can an, ahem, aging fellow catch some cutting-edge live music without enduring aching joints? Just follow the lead of a handful of local promoters who have been booking exciting up-and-coming acts into this overlooked (and city-owned) Little Havana gem, an honest-to-gosh theater. The Manuel Artime has great sightlines (the sloping floor means no bad seats) and free parking -- which adds up to a stress-free evening out. In fact the musicians who get the chance to hit the Artime's stage often seem just as excited as the crowd to be in such an august (yet unpretentious) hall. Not every gig here has been on the order of last fall's transcendent Bright Eyes show. But even a train wreck like the Miami debut of Cat Power -- where song after song literally came apart -- was received as a novel experiment gone awry, instead of two hours of your life you'll never get back. And how often can you say that about bad art?

Last year Volumen Cero won Best Local Rock Band. So why is it pop this year? Musically the quartet, whose name translates to Zero Volume, tries on everything from power pop (the hit single "Hollywood") to Sixties-influenced Brit-pop. Frontman Luis Tamblay's voice is moody and evocative and versatile. The band's ability to play around with genres instead of bashing out garage and punk rock draws comparisons to similar-minded bands like Blur. That doesn't mean Volumen Cero is pop, per se, but rather that it is pop-minded enough to know it takes more than one approach to make a great album -- which, in this case, would be last year's Luces.

Readers Choice: Inner Voice

One of the Nineties' more beloved Miami underground rock outfits returns with a vault-scraping collection: previously unreleased studio sessions from 1997, a live-on-WLRN-FM set from 1992 (yes, Virginia, WLRN once aired rock and roll amid the NPR gabbing), and from that same year, a raucous live show from the now-defunct Beach club Washington Square. As this CD's title implies, the Holy Terrors have disbanded (keep your eyes peeled for the latest Interpol video on MTV and you'll spy Terrors drummer Sam Fogarino thumping away), but the music here is by no means of historical interest only. Underneath the paint-peeling Pixies-ish onslaught of guitars, and singer Rob Elba's often-shrieked vocals, is an unerring sense of songcraft. If nothing else, this was a group that knew a killer pop hook definitely makes the bitter medicine go down. For old fans, this archival release is a welcome reminder of the Holy Terrors' fearsome attack. For newcomers, it's proof the words Miami and genuinely exciting rock haven't always been mutually exclusive.

Speaking of love, it's hard not to amour Rose Max when she sings, for example, "Speaking of Love" ("Falando de Amor") or any of those Brazilian jazz standards that make us so happy we could cry. One night she woos you with her bossa nova and samba amid the couches and candlelight of the Van Dyke Café's dreamy upstairs room. On another her renditions of Seventies pop songs in the cheesy bar at Porçao get you and your sisters cluster-dancing, arm-waving, and singing along. Husband Ramatis Morães provides Max's lush bed of guitar chords. Whatever the venue, everybody is in seventh heaven; that is, major-seventh and minor-seventh, those magical chords that can at once relax, energize, sadden, and enrapture, as master Brazilian songwriters Antonio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonça, and others discovered. Max, a native of Rio de Janeiro, was practically singing before she was born. Her great-grandfather was conductor/composer Cupertino de Menezes and her grandfather guitar player/composer Manuel de Menezes. She moved to Miami in 1993 and a decade later she gives her sultriest seminars at the Van Dyke, where she and Morães play with a full drum-bass-piano rhythm section. She appeared out of nowhere, as goes the Toni Bellotto and Nando Reis classic "Pra Dizer Adeus" ("To Say Goodbye"), which she delivers on her recently released first CD. "You never saw me alone, you never heard me cry," it continues. "You make it hard to imagine whether it's too early or too late to say goodbye." It is always both once Max has begun to sing.

Readers Choice: Melody Cole

With a golden tenor and fabulous hair, Walter Lino has gracefully worked a multitude of piano joints in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. He's developed a cult following of drunks, sweater queens, and off-key beer-belters who take refuge around his baby grand for a dose of piano-and-bourbon therapy. And Lino delivers with virtuoso phrasing and twinkling eyes. One moment he seizes attention singing a dramatic flamenco or an Edith Piaf chanson. The next he lays back and lightly improvises behind the din of tipsy conversation. Try requesting, say, "Bali Ha'i" and Lino will likely vamp the South Pacific anthem while teasing you to step up and sing. Don't be shy. As one of Miami's classiest acts, Lino won't let you look bad.

Sam Beam is fast becoming all the rage. Earlier this spring his album as Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle, charted at number 81 in the Village Voice's prestigious "Pazz and Jop" poll for the best of 2002, and his subsequent national tour engendered even more praise from fans and critics. Some wondered how a man who writes quiet, reflective country and folk tunes filled with vividly elliptical imagery could come from the land of Girls Gone Wild, but Miamians know he's part of a folk tradition that's unusually strong in these parts. Though Beam doesn't sing in Spanish, he fits right in.

JJ. Andre. Jorge. They've put together a "Latin" sound all their own, a slinky-violined, smoothly percussioned, poply tropical sound that sets them apart from the rest. And though the world knows them through their two outstanding CDs (the last, Caraluna, got them serious airtime) and tours, only Miami can call them "local." And how much more Miami can you get than this sound made by Jorge Villamizar from Colombia, André Lopes from Brazil, and José Javier Freire from Puerto Rico, who hooked up at the University of Miami. The trio is currently red hot, and we call them the best Latin band.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®