ATV Records
Photo by Monica McGivern

Remember what it was like to dance with other people? Not just with family members in your living room, using your phone speakers, but at an actual club, with real speakers and a DJ? That might seem like a million years ago, but once upon a time, Miami's hot-hot nightclub and dance club scene attracted visitors from around the world. One spot that was definitely popping off pre-COVID was ATV Records in Wynwood, the spiritual successor to the much-beloved Electric Pickle. After the Pickle closed, ATV Records rose from its ashes as a combo record store and dance club, hawking vinyl by day and transforming into the site of intimate pachangas by night. The sound system at ATV is unmatched in the city, and the iconic UFO disco ball lets visitors know that we like to get weird here. Whereas some other clubs can be sprawling, mosh-pit-like affairs, the 150-person ATV allows for a more condensed experience, the better to hear some of Miami's best music and take in the nighttime energy. ATV has recently reopened with limited capacity; what are you waiting for?

Best Electronica/Dance Act
Photo by Francisca Oyhanarte

The beats of Richie Hell are paved with the best influences. Since arriving in Miami in 2015 from his native Argentina, Hell has spun his chill yet infectious tunes all over town. His newest album, The Gumbo Limbo Experiment, released this year, includes some of his best work to date. It's a musical love child of '60s Latin psychedelic purveyors like Os Mutantes and '90s UK ravers like Primal Scream.If neither of those references rings a bell, you're in for a treat. Songs like "Amazonia" will take you to foreign lands, shaking your hips the entire way, while "Revelations" transposes soul into more modern production. Hell's wife, the artist Francisca Oyhanarte, provides the album's visuals and must-see music videos. During a June concert streamed live from the North Beach Bandshell, Oyhanarte's crazy animation and the especially groove-filled set made us excited for what dance floors will look like when Richie Hell can perform in front of a live audience again.

Best DJ
Photo courtesy of DJ Tennis

A native of Italy, DJ Tennis (Manfredi Romano) moved to Miami in 2013, and has been wowing the city's dance floors ever since. He can easily put you into a dancing frenzy via slap-your-face bass lines or embrace you in a daze of atmospheric melodies, but he's most rewarding when flipping through sound waves. Romano's label, Life and Death, which turned ten this year, has hosted numerous parties in Miami. A favorite is Rakastella, an electronic-music festival the label co-founded in 2017. During lockdown, however, DJ Tennis has played live-stream sets for Club Space Miami and on the roof of the Collins Avenue Soho Beach House for Secret Project, a music fest based in Los Angeles; he also played a set at the Huis De Voorst Estate in the Netherlands in collaboration with the Dutch event's organizers, Audio Obscura. In recent months, he's returned to Europe to play in the flesh as shows slowly come back. Some say he's techno, others say house; some might even suggest disco. In reality, though, DJ Tennis plays in the spirit of a wild stallion too odd to be tamed — and his genre-blending sets prove it. A good DJ makes us happy, but a great DJ keeps us guessing. Care to wager where Tennis lands?

Los Altos
Photo by Addison Smith

While not exactly a secret, this Little Havana speakeasy, situated above Taquerias el Mexicano restaurant, manages to make you feel like you've stumbled into a hidden adventure as you make your way up a narrow stairway and into a Mexican candy store full of hanging piñatas, sugar skulls, and assorted dulces coated in chili powder. Behind a false wall, you'll find a dimly lit room accented by velvet curtains, repurposed church doors, stained glass, and traditional décor inspired by Mexico's rich cultural heritage. Opened by Zack Bush, Ben Bush and Bill Fuller, the team that restored Calle Ocho's Ball & Chain restaurant, Los Altos boasts a killer cocktail menu heavy on mezcal and tequila. Pre-COVID, the space would easily transform into a sweaty dance floor on weekend nights. These days, it has been ingeniously rearranged into more of a cocktail-lounge setup, and guests can book a table on weekend nights. New lead bartender Ray Guzman has added new cocktails, like the "Canta Rico," a tequila-and-citrus blend inspired by a drink from Jalisco; and the "TLC" (Tamarind, Love and Chile), a mix of scotch, bourbon, tamarind, and habanero peppers.

We're Miami, and Latin culture is in our blood. Whether you're actually from Latin America or the cold reaches of the Northeast, when you're in the Magic City, you're feeling the rumba beat everywhere you go. It's the foundation of Latin music, and no homegrown act brings it better than the Florida International University Latin Jazz Ensemble. Miami distinguishes itself as a center for musical fusion, with musicians from around the world staying on its sun-kissed shores and playing in its famous nightclubs — and the musicians at FIU have steeped themselves in that tradition. Started 25 years ago by the late composer, professor and Grammy nominee Michael Orta, the jazz ensemble is made up of music students performing on instruments that perfectly illustrate Miami's melting-pot identity, including trumpets, trombones, congas, timbales and shakers. The big band performs twice an academic semester, with concerts that highlight the improvisational nature of contemporary jazz and the rich sounds of the Latin instruments. While most live music takes a back seat to the pandemic, the group plans to concentrate on studio recordings until they can return to the stage.

Prolific Miami MC Serum has quietly put together a quality, six-album-deep catalogue on his Bandcamp page. His Serum Brainstorm TV YouTube channel reveals the MC's talents in the artistic realm, as well, with everything from real-life video to anime to footage from classic movies like Nosferatu playing alongside his dope songs. But it's Serum's newest release with DJ Heron that will make old-school hip-hop fans put their hands in the air and wave them like they just don't care. Heron & Serum was released in the middle of summer with little fanfare, but if there's any justice in the world, its fifteen tracks will become legend. Bursting with energy and creativity, Serum displays his trademark verbal dexterity on the album, dropping elevated vocabulary over fantastic beats and samples mixed and scratched by Heron. Supah emcee, indeed.

Best R&B Act
Photo by Nick Rufo

It might be cliché to say that desperate times make for great music. But it became a truism with the release of David Lyn's new single, "Can't Breathe." Pushed by the heartbreaking footage of the murder of George Floyd and his own prejudicial dealings with the police, Lyn went into the studio filled with anxiety. But just as the civil rights movement of the '60s resulted in a vault of inspired music, so the Black Lives Matter protests brought about a powerful response from Lyn. The Miami Lakes native's song is soul-wrenching, its biting lyrics sung with a fierce urgency, calling for change. The accompanying black-and-white video takes things to another level, showing Lyn having the life choked out of him as he belts out his song.

Best Urbano Act
Photo by Kevin Quiles

Baby City Club, consisting of Puerto Rico-raised brothers June Summer and Augie Pink, continues to make waves in the rising Latin trap genre. In late 2019, the siblings successfully released their debut EP, Modo Club, and have since put out fresh material, as well as a music video for the single "Clásico," which finds Summer and Pink poolside in matching yellow overalls, singing the catchy Spanish love song over trap beats. Taking notes from Bad Bunny, the brothers let their colorful, bright personalities shine through the music to create an identity and connect with their audience.

Best Pop Act
Photo by Rodrigo Alvarez

Miami artist Tama Gucci recently moved to New York after signing with B4, Remote Control Records' incubator imprint, but the singer still exemplifies the moreish sonic agility and hard-hitting sounds of Miami's DIY club scene. Beyond his viral remix of Blueface's "Thotiana," Gucci has carved out a unique place for himself in the music world, weaving teen-pop motifs, R&B melodies, and trance beats into tracks meant to be blasted in clubs and bedrooms alike. This year, the artist followed the single "I Let You" (ft. X-Coast) with "Crazy About Me," the latter accompanied by a stripped-down yet magnetic video directed by Michael Morales and Rodrigo Alvarez. Fusing hard-hitting electronic beats with aqueous, emotive vocals, Gucci proves that smart production and dynamic song-crafting can still create some serious waves in the world of pop music.

Best Emerging Act
Photo by Backyard Cinema Club

Blending chillwave, indie pop, and electronic, Kris Alvarez clearly has a knack for melodies. And just when you think you know what to expect from his "Firstworld" moniker, he releases a track like "With You" on French-Japanese record label Kitsuné Musique, a song that, oddly enough, seems inspired by the French touch of Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You." Beyond his own work, Alvarez has also been helping local acts polish up their work as a producer. Most recently, he took over the production duties for Monterrey, helping the band churn out two singles, "Terrarium" and "New Light." But whether he's producing music for himself or others, Alvarez is someone you'll want to watch out for in the next few years.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®