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Miami is most definitely not Nashville. Country music isn't exactly well-received around these parts. Even the big acts — think of your Lady A's and Jason Aldeans — don't perform south of the Broward-Dade line. It's as if nobody bothered telling Pennsylvania native Nick County any of that. County has been championing the sound (and fellow local folk and Americana acts) ever since he moved here ten years ago. This year saw the singer-songwriter release his third album, A Colorful Corner of Northeastern Pennsylvania, an ode to his home state. The album took shape after County invited a few local musicians to his hometown to record, funding the effort with his online poker winnings. The deeply personal album covers topics like loss and forgiveness with pop, indie, and folk touches anchored to a decidedly alt-country foundation.

Photo by Yasser Marte

Since Rachel Angel returned to her hometown last year after a sojourn in Brooklyn and a tour of the U.S. and U.K., the alt-country songwriter has released an EP and played shows around town. Now she's hitting the road again. "I just got back from recording a nine-track album at Miner Street Recordings," she tells New Times. With support of fellow Miami musician Rick Moon, the album was recorded at the well-known Philadelphia recording studio, which has hosted the likes of Kurt Vile, Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, the War on Drugs, and more. Release details are still being firmed up for Angel's first full-length album, but she's already off to New York and thence to Valencia, Spain (to explore higher education, she explains). Her roots, though, remain in Miami.

For the past several years, Bianca Brewton has infused some of the most iconic pop cultural moments with her fiery moves. And if you're unfamiliar with her work, allow us to school you. She's the girl who soloed during Beyoncé's 2018 Coachella opener clad in a one-legged, tiger-striped bodysuit. She's danced beside artists both new and legendary, including Missy Elliott, Shakira, Normani, Cardi B, Janet Jackson, Miley Cyrus. And most recently, she was that girl who twerked away the satirical misogyny while wearing a risqué police uniform in Megan thee Stallion's "Thot Shit" video. And it's not just a music video thing. She was featured on HBO's Lovecraft Country as "Bopsy," a ghoulish caricature whose deformed and haunting movement exaggerated the racist depictions of black children. Even as Brewton makes a name for herself in hip-hop and film, she never strays too far from home. She wrote a book called The Walking Miracle to inspire young performers. During the Covid lockdown last year, she started the fitness dance class Let's Ride 305, where she teaches Miami dance moves and choreography to dancers all over the world. Whether her talent takes her to LA, NY or anywhere else in the world, we can count on Bianca to continue embodying the city's unique dance culture.

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.

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?

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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."

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.

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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.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®