Best Emerging Act 2020 | Firstworld | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.

Photo by Dani Miller

Donzii, made up of Jenna Balfe (vox), Dennis Fuller (bass, drum machines), Miles Fortune Hancock (keyboards), Monroe Getz (drums), and Danny Heinze (guitar), has caused quite a stir since crashing onto the local music scene mid-decade. Bringing an undeniably South Floridian flair to the post-punk genre, the band's output lands at the sweet spot between thoughtful experimentation and catchy no-wave tunes. Married couple and frontpeople Jenna Balfe and Dennis Fuller mine their performance-art practice to deliver bewitching sets, while the bandmembers' shining personalities intertwine with their undeniable technical abilities. Donzii added another trophy to its mantel at the start of 2020, opening for New Order during a four-night residency at the Fillmore Miami Beach. After last year's music video for "Luxury Condo Theme" and the release of the swampy "Burn" ahead of its forthcoming debut full-length, it's clear that exciting things are in store for the unpredictable five-piece.

Photo by Kevin Condon

Massachusetts native Julia Bhatt moved to Miami when she was just a wee thing, and she considers it her hometown — though it took her some time to warm up to her surroundings. But when the young singer-songwriter's unadulterated disdain for the Magic City eventually blossomed into admiration, she hypnotized fans with "Miami," a soulful ode to the 305. For the uninitiated, Bhatt's powerful vocals send shockwaves stronger than that first sip of cafecito in the morning. When the city's unforgiving heat and reckless drivers are getting you down, let Bhatt show you how to appreciate the kooky place we call home.

Photo by Julian Martin

If there's anyone who can attest to the shade of Dade, it's the Magic City's Ricardo Muñoz, aka Rick Moon. The singer-songwriter/producer's sun-drenched bop "Magic Pity," from his EP Electric Lunch, earned him a spot on New Times' list of the "20 Best Miami Songs of 2019." But one thing apparent is about Moon's MO, and that's slinging catchy psych-pop tracks as if his life depended on it, regardless of his geographical location. A year after Electric Lunch's July 2019 release, the solo artist's stellar EP continues to looms large as one of the city's most memorable.

Courtesy of Nancy

Hidden among an overwhelming row of Latin clubs and restaurants in Little Havana's Calle Ocho, Bar Nancy offers a maritime-themed dive for spirits, music, and delicious food. The small stage sports an unforgettably large American flag that serves as a backdrop — in non-COVID times — for bands performing in styles that include reggae, folk, and jazz. The bar is currently open for a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., with grubs from the Cheese Stands Alone.

Photo by Lauren Morell

Unfortunately, there will be no 2020 edition of Rakastella, but that's not going to stop us from waxing poetic about one of Miami's most underrated music festivals. Every December, during Miami Art Week, throngs of partygoers skip out on the fairs and head to Virginia Key Beach Park for a sunset-to-sunrise party. The event, a collaboration of Life and Death, Innervisions, Secret Garden, PL0T, and Where Are My Keys, boasts a who's who of underground dance acts like Dixon, DJ Tennis, Âme, DJ Harvey, Apparat, and Moscoman. But the best part of the festival is the intimate, almost shipwrecked experience it provides, feeling worlds away from the art-induced chaos happening on the other side of the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Photo by Santi Ibanez

It wasn't always easy to groove in the Grove. The DJs claimed Wynwood and downtown as their sovereign territories while areas like Coconut Grove had to wrap it up by 2 a.m., with few beats heard during the night. But gradually, the monthly DJ shindigs known as Coconut Groove began gaining traction, with deep electronic sounds at bars like Barracuda and the now-closed Tavern in the Grove. With their usual haunts shutting down during the pandemic, members of the Coconut Groove local collective — Juan Fonseca, Kike Roldan, Koranoir, Soto, and others — took to playing on the Internet for their happy-hour live-stream sets every Friday around 5 p.m. The Coconut Groove stream, which opts for a bare-bones aesthetic that lets the music do the talking, can be found on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch; viewers can expect to hear techno and house being spun by a DJ or two, usually somewhere deep in the Grove: a backyard, rooftop, or living room with a neon-blue "Show Me Love" fixture shining on the wall. The future is uncertain, but the music is set for every Friday.

Karli Evans

There's something about dance music that inspires fervent joy and togetherness — and if ever there was a year everyone needed to come together, it's 2020. But with the shuttering of nightclubs at the beginning of the pandemic, one of Miami's defining features — its nightlife — was extinguished overnight. Leave it to Club Space to come to the rescue with a continuous set of livestreams showcasing a cavalry of DJs behind the deck of its terrace. Danny Daze, DJ Tennis, Shiba San, and Marco Carola all took up the challenge of keeping the dance music alive as the world seemed to burn. While Space has since reopened — albeit with limited capacity and strict rules — the 11th Street stalwart continues to stream from time to time; indulge yourself at Personally, we wouldn't mind if every weekend set was broadcast going forward.

Photo courtesy of Life and Death

Life and Death Records wasn't born in Miami, but its founder, Manfredi Romano (aka DJ Tennis), has called Miami home for several years. The record label has undeniably been influenced by the city, as evidenced by projects going back to label imprint Parachute's release of Poorgrrrl's Pitiparti EP in 2016. Life and Death also puts on the annual Rakastella party marathon at Virginia Key Beach Park every December, and it recently launched an online portal at that includes exclusive music, artist interviews, podcasts, and more, highlighting talent abroad and right here in the 305.

Photo by Rafael Pichardo

North Miami's Found Sound Records has what everyone wants from a record store: no frills, no judging, and a solid collection to dig through. Rafael "Ralph" Pichardo, born and raised in Miami, was tired of hauling heavy stacks of vinyl to record fairs, finally deciding to open a permanent store when a good deal popped up on a storefront rental. Found Sound opened in December 2019, and although it had to close for a few months because of city shutdowns, Pichardo says people are still coming out and shopping for music. Every Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Found Sound, Pichardo (RAP79) streams a new episode of his radio show, Above the Clouds Radio.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®