Best Record Label
Photo by Christoph Morlinghaus

Since its formation in 2019, Public Works Records has worked to assemble a catalog that prizes quality over quantity. Now the quantity is slowly coming, too: seven releases to date, and more promised by year's end. Label bosses Nick County, Oly, and Julian Martin staked out a niche focusing on singer-songwriters who don't fit the stereotype of the Miami sound. They've been able to create their own mini-scene in which labelmate artists perform on each other's songs and support each other at live shows. From the psych-rock of Rick Moon to Rachel Angel's alt-country liltings to Juan Ledesma's bedroom pop, they demonstrate that Miami's indie-music soul is alive and well.

Psychic Mirrors don't drop albums, they drop cinematic, musical bombshells that leave fans spluttering with questions and observations like, "How did you pull this off?" and "Please don't leave us alone for another six years!" and "My nose is bleeding. I think my brain is melting." Formed in 2010, the six-piece funk, boogie, and soft-rock band, led by Mickey De Grand IV and featuring Myra Stone, Al Battle, Alex Nuñez, Antoine Rocky-Horror, and Oscar Guardado, debuted its enigmatic stylings with Nature of Evil, a fully conceptualized and executed soundtrack to a thriller penned by the band and filmed by director and cinematographer Mike Ruiz. The release cemented them as Miami legends. Six years on, Psychic Mirrors outdid themselves with their sophomore effort, Ophilia, a mind-blowing, 19-track, 81-minute cacophony of flawless funk odes that conjure an exciting, imaginary version of Miami while also reminiscing about its heyday. Yet again, the album acts as a soundtrack, this time to a romance drama following a washed-up Hollywood composer who gets a second chance at stardom when he's employed at a sinking television network, directed by Mike Ruiz and Mickey De Grand IV. It's a feat of creativity that comes around once in a blue moon, a true gem.

Best Musical Act
Photo by Julieta Romina

Riding full-speed toward the stage in golf carts at the Okeechobee Music Festival in March of 2020, Jaialai, members of psychedelic rock band Jaialai — Jose "Jovi" Adames, Richard Boullon, Mario Lemus, and Oscar Sardiñas — appeared to be on the cusp of something special. The band, which had been splitting time between studio sessions and relentless gigs across Miami, had gained the kind of momentum that had local music fans giddy with excitement for what was to come. Then COVID descended, threatening to kill the forward momentum. But with the same good-vibes-only attitude and creative tenacity that made them a beloved fixture on the local indie scene, the outfit chugged on from lockdown, first delivering the hypnotic, laid-back summer dream that is the EP Culebra, then following that up — and blowing everyone away — with As Sweet as I Was, a five-track EP laid down at the Bull Recording Studios that perfectly captures the band's melodic essence. Summer saw Jaialai returning to the Arsht Center and Space Park, not to mention a date at III Points in October. Anyone else getting that giddy feeling again?

Best Hip-Hop Act
Photo by Insurgovisuals

Hailing from Lauderhill's Shallow Side neighborhood, FCG Heem has carved out a lane for himself among South Florida's rising stars. Raised by Jamaican parents, he grew up absorbing his father's collection of reggae music along with the diverse influences from his city. He began rapping at age 11 but didn't take his music seriously until three years ago, after the birth of his son. Since then, he's garnered attention for his tracks, which are equal parts raw and melodic. His most recent album, Neighborhood Poetry, gives listeners a candid peek into his trauma and struggles. "I pretty much rap about everything I've seen or gone through," he tells New Times. Regardless of his budding fame, FCG Heem remains driven by the impact he has on his community and his family. "I'm really like the first one from my hood, so that's major to me, and I know they're proud of me," he says. "Where I'm from, people don't really make it. I'm happy I'm letting them see it's possible. I got the whole city on my back."

Best Emerging Act
Photo by Gabriel Duque and Alejandra Campos

Psych-rock collective Mold (stylized Mold!) put down roots in Miami in 2019, after founding member Carlo Barbacci moved to the Magic City from Lima, Peru. The outfit has become a staple on local bills alongside some of the best underground bands the city has to offer. With the release of its debut self-titled EP, the band proved it had the musical chops to match its work ethic, embarking on a statewide tour and staging a livestreamed release party at the Center for Subtropical Affairs during Art Basel Week. The band has since released two songs off its first full-length, No Silence! due out in September 2021.

Best Musical Comeback
Photo courtesy of the artist

Over the past few years, Seafoam Walls — guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Jayan Bertrand, bassist Josh Ewers, electronic drummer Josue Vargas, and guitarist Dion Kerr — have forged a sound they accurately describe as "Caribbean Jazzgaze." But while they built a strong local following, their quirky amalgamation of nuanced jazz, shoegaze, rock, hip-hop, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms never caught the ears of a major label. Then last year, Bertrand took his earnings from the last show the band was able to wedge in before the pandemic set in and turned it into a laptop and an interface. Sending tracks back and forth to one another, the band members stayed inspired. Following a secret all-ages matinee on a bill with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore at the Center for Subtropical Affairs, Moore signed the band — their debut album, XVI, is slated for release via his Daydream Library Series by the end of the year.

Best Herald Reporter
Photo courtesy of Michelle Marchante

More than just a newspaper, the Miami Herald is an institution that serves an important civic role, and its reporters excel at keeping the community informed in times of crisis. In her relatively short tenure as a Herald breaking news reporter, Marchante rose to the top during the pandemic as a journalist who stayed abreast of the latest COVID-19 news and updated Miamians minute-to-minute with the information they need to know. Vaccination-site locations, local mask regulations, resources for aid in evictions cases — her reporting has served as a vehicle of public service and clarity in a time of confusion and anxiety. The Herald's Curious305 initiative, which Marchante dedicatedly handles, is a clever way for curious Miami residents to have their burning and sometimes silly questions answered. Be it a safety concern like, "When will my kid be able to get a vaccine?" to the more trivial, "Why is Miami known as the 305?" no question is too big or too small to be answered, and Marchante's love for the community shines through in her responses, as it does in all her reporting.

Few outside South Florida fully understand how cataclysmic Miami weather can be. The storm surges, the fry-an-egg-on-your-head-level heat, the climbing sea levels —these phenomena attract meteorologists from across the country. But as a Miami native, Lissette Gonzalez has a more intimate connection with the region. Gonzalez grew up here, earned her undergrad degree at the University of Miami, and has worked for 14 years as the morning and afternoon meteorologist for CBS4 News. The Cuban-American mother of two starts her day early (as in 2:30 or 3 a.m.) so you can start yours off in the know thanks to her weathercasts, which air weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. and again at noon. Fair weather news or foul, Gonzalez delivers the goods with a contagious smile and a soothing voice that urges you to believe it'll all be all right —stage presence that can be traced back to her pageantry days (she's won Miss Miami, Miss Florida, and was second runner-up for Miss America in 1998) and her stint as María in the Off-Broadway musical 4 Guys Named José...and una Mujer Named María.

Even in these times of satellite radio and unlimited streaming, terrestrial AM and FM radio has managed to survive and, in the case of WVUM, thrive. The University of Miami's student-run station began as a pirate operation in 1967, but over the decades it has become a local institution (with a clear, strong signal, to boot). While most stations play more commercial than music, WVUM has long been commercial-free, save for the rare public-service announcement. What you get are heaping helpings of off-center musical selections from bands you won't hear anywhere else, plus genuine indie rock, hip-hop, and world music, with the occasional spoken-word poem and Hurricanes sporting event for good measure.

Now more than ever, Miamians need a reason to smile. Ideally, sports are meant to provide those smiles, even if they come from fans sharing a bit of self-deprecating agony until the home team turns it around. Brendan Tobin has a way of helping radio listeners bask in the highest of the highs and burst out laughing in the face of our lowest lows. Whether he's making whale sounds at 6 a.m. because the Miami Heat are rumored to be landing their next star, dressing up as "Marlins Macho Man" after the Fish pull out a win, or getting in the middle of a Jake Paul–Floyd Mayweather melée, Tobin is at the center of all that's right in Miami sports radio. Win, lose, or draw, Miami sports fans can look forward to tuning in the next morning to hear Tobin's take on it all. While we never know what he's going to do, we do know it'll make us smile.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®