Best Band
Courtesy of Spred the Dub

South Florida, with its ocean breezes, palm trees, and sunshine most days, is a fun and relaxing place. It's also a commercial center for the Caribbean. Lake Worth's Spred the Dub is a lot like the area it calls home. The self-proclaimed "good-time reggae" band is far more than just another white-boy reggae act. These whiskey-loving goofballs are not only fun guys but also professionals. No matter how drunk this 10-year-old five-piece gets during one of its many performances, it always puts on a show and leaves crowds with a sense of boozy joy. These lovable scamps have gone from a jam band of rotating musicians to a reliable presence on the South Florida music scene. Their sound, a mixture of punk, ska, funk, soul, roots reggae, and beach vibes, combines nicely with Rat Pack aesthetics and a sense of humor that's self-deprecating enough to allow a band name whose acronym spells "STD." Alas, despite its staying power, one day Spred the Dub will be gone, and the world will be worse for it. Florida will have lost some of its magic. And we will realize, much like the tropical paradise we take for granted around us, what a good thing we had.

Readers' choice: Spam Allstars

Best Unknown Band
Courtesy photo

Josh Miles is a Haitian-American soul singer who grew up in and around the churches where his parents served during his childhood. His passion for music is comparable to the zeal that makes true believers faint at many spiritual experiences. Born Joashmaël Michel, the 24-year-old singer/songwriter is the lead vocalist of J.M. & the Sweets (also known as Josh Miles & the Sweet Somethings). Raised in nondenominational churches that had praise bands and no need for boys' choirs, Miles began his vocal training after his mother, a singer, recognized his talent and put him in classes. Fed a steady diet of music by R&B and pop greats such as John Legend and Otis Redding, he discovered his personal hero, D'Angelo, as a kid, and things really clicked. J.M. & the Sweets comes across as a blend of Ben Harper, Gary Clark Jr., and John Mayer. Sultry, slick, and soulful, the group is equally impressive whether it's covering Bill Withers and Outkast or churning out a candlelit original slow jam. In addition to being as richly smooth as their name declares, J.M. and the Sweets are just as special. Now is the time to catch a truly magnificent group of musicians led by a charming powerhouse of a singer. They recently released their debut EP, Sol Village, and regularly gig throughout South Florida. No doubt they're on their way to something in line with the enormity of their talent.

Best Blues Jam
Courtesy of The Fish House

When the Fish House began opening its Backroom Live stage for a blues jam every Thursday night, something curious happened. "I hire a lot of great musicians to come and play in the house band, but for the jam night, all these other incredible musicians show up just to play," says Angela Rivero, who owns the venerable Southwest Miami-Dade place with her husband Jose. Live music has been a staple of the deceptively cozy restaurant since it opened in 1996, but the Riveros' deep love affair with the blues really began after a trip to New Orleans in 2005. These days, their Backroom Live room is decked out in Bourbon Street finery and regularly hosts some of Dade's best players, such as Darrell Raines on guitar and Motel Mel on keyboards. Every Thursday night, the house band plays for an hour and then opens up the instruments to anyone who wants to lament how their love done 'em wrong. "It is an amazing thing, every week, how good the musicians are who show up," Angela says.

Best Songwriter
Photo by Djeloveson

There isn't a large pool of Grammy-winning songwriters born and raised in Hialeah. But there is a songwriter, producer, and artist who's made the big-time in the past year. Alexander Izquierdo, AKA Eskeerdo, got his foot through the door of the music industry in 2010 thanks to a knack for writing powerful songs. After penning hits for Big Sean, Rihanna, Meek Mill, Diddy, and Selena Gomez, the Cuban-American won two Grammys for his songwriting efforts and also started his own career as a rapper. In 2014, he assisted in crafting hits such as Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker the Berry" and Justin Bieber's "The Feeling." But he still had the energy to debut his breakthrough single "For the City," which went on to become the Miami Heat's official anthem. Since then, he's made plenty of noise in the rap game via EPs such as Cuban Jesus and his latest single, "Bitta." And he's still writing for others. Over the past year, Eskeerdo has crafted records for the biggest pop stars on the Billboard charts. He's responsible for hits like Fifth Harmony's "Work From Home" and Charlie Puth's "Dangerously." He even flexed his skills behind the boards as a writer and producer of smash hits such as Jason DeRulo's "If It Ain't Love" and Meghan Trainor's "Thank You" featuring Rock City. It's clear this 29-year-old songwriter stands out.

Best Electronica Artist
Courtesy of Nick León

A swampy tribalism coats everything Nick León does. His sound is warm with the muggy air of South Florida. It wraps you in the haze of the midday sun and traps you with the soothing subtlety of crickets chirping in the dead of night. His is a lo-fi style inspired by the likes of Aphex Twin and DJ Shadow. His production on an album by New-York rappers the Underachievers caught the attention of Grammy-nominated beatmaking icon Daddy Kev. The Low End Theory founder was starting a new label called Alpha Pup, and he requested a full-length instrumental release from the South Florida music man. The result was Profecía, a nine-track LP that Miami New Times named the best musical release of 2016. This year, León continues to be a force on the city's electronic beat scene. He recently took up the mantle as head of the local label Space Tapes and has been working with a ton of local rappers. His future has never looked brighter.

The movie Suicide Squad was hit-or-miss with fans and critics, but the music video from the soundtrack's big single, "Purple Lamborghini," was a truly stunning bit of cinematography. First, the song absolutely slaps. Rick Ross says the electricity Skrillex added to the rapper's signature heavy darkness amped his flow to new heights. The video depicts Ross and Skrillex terrorizing Miami, and Jared Leto appears in full Joker mode. They ride around in hot whips and stand on the deck of a beautiful cigarette boat, all while the 305 shines bright like a diamond. Ross and Skrillex should have teamed up years ago.

Best Album
Photo by Michael J. Ruiz-Unger

Last summer, bassist Michael Ruiz-Unger, drummer Andres Bedoya, and guitarists Andreas Wong Chong and Jacob Israel composed a record that was dark and mysterious. The Miami quartet recorded the ten-song LP Sábana Ghost in Gainesville, but from the opening instrumental, "Stoned," the album takes listeners far from the Southeast to a dark and dusty dive bar where anything is possible. Their fuzzy guitar atmospherics make this the perfect soundtrack for any number of illicit activities, and their catchy hooks and choruses will stay in your head long after your music player has run out of juice. Fans of the dark retro garage rock played by groups like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre will especially dig this album. And if you're unfamiliar with those bands, Sábana Ghost is good enough to inspire you to research its influences.

FTX Arena
Photo by B137

Most fans prefer to see their favorite band in an intimate setting, but there's something incredibly exciting about attending an arena show. To walk along Biscayne Boulevard toward the American Airlines Arena and realize thousands of people are also walking to the beat of the same song is an electric and communal experience. The past year has seen the Triple A host everything from the rock of Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers to the pop of Ariana Grande and Adele to the hip-hop of Kanye West and the Latin rock of Carlos Vives. This summer and fall will see Roger Waters, Depeche Mode, Bruno Mars, and Lady Gaga grace the stage. And there won't be a bad seat in the massive air-conditioned house.

Readers' choice: The Fillmore Miami Beach

This multifaceted venue opened its doors in February 2016 for iStandard's Producer Showcase. Since then, Miami Live has gained fame for holding various kinds of events that embrace local artists from across South Florida. Talents such as DJ Epps and Poe Boy Music Group's DJ Smokey host open-mike events every week. After you walk past the ticket booth, the illuminated stage along the wall catches your eye. The place has become the official home of exclusive Coast 2 Coast Live events, artist listening sessions, birthday parties, and other happenings. And the venue has hosted rare concerts like Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Joe Budden's only Magic City stop during the Rage Tour. Miami Live also has its own in-house studio and green room upstairs, which is available for recording sessions and private events. Though it's been open only a little more than a year, Miami Live has made clear that local artists have a place to realize their dreams and perform live.

Best Small Music Venue
Courtesy of Floyd

Libertine was a good idea in theory. Space took part of its downstairs room and created a small lounge with a separate entrance. However, a few things inhibited the venue's growth, including an awkward and claustrophobic stage and a VIP area on a riser. So when the so-called Space Invaders — David Sinopoli, Davide Danese, Coloma Kaboomsky, and Eric Fuller — took over, they kept the elements that worked while tweaking the things that didn't. The main change was the flow of the room. Gone is the awkward riser; the whole room is now on one level. The stage could still use some work — perhaps removal of the walls that surround it — but this is a great venue thanks to strong programming that includes everything from jazz ensembles in the evening to late-night DJ sets. And the Space Invaders are just getting started in the Park West district, so Floyd's potential will likely soon be fully unlocked.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®