Best Urbano Act
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Any kid who grew up in 1990s and early-2000s Miami knows what a chonga is. It's that girl who always had her hair slicked back with industrial-strength gel in a messy bun held by a scrunchie or a big butterfly clip. She wore dark-brown lip liner, acrylic nails, and a Tommy Hilfiger windbreaker. Leave it to La Goony Chonga to keep championing chonga culture into the 2020s. She was living in L.A. until the pandemic brought her home — and thank God it did because La Goony Chonga is the epitome of "305 till I die." Of course, she's traveling the globe, performing across the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. She has earned props from Latin music icons like Ivy Queen and Rosalía. And her recent video for "Chongivity Activity" — shot in Miami (AKA Chonga City) — features a cameo from Miami's original viral chonga sensation, the Chonga Girls.

Best Emerging Act
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Self-described as a loud and messy rock 'n' roll band, Bruvvy has risen quickly to the top of Miami's rock scene. In fact, in April 2022, the quartet opened for Bon Jovi when the band stopped at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise. Frontwoman and guitarist Liz Varum's vocals are mildly reminiscent of Tragic Kingdom-era Gwen Stefani, with a dash of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" Joan Jett. And while the term "underground band" sometimes sends people scurrying back up the aisles, know that Bruvvy delivers unadulterated alternative and hard rock. When they aren't opening for Jersey rock legends, you can find them performing at venues like Las Rosas, PoorHouse, and the Bridge.

Best Rock Band
Photo by John Thomas Bryson

Uniting in Kendall during the pandemic's most monotonous days, the four members of Frogs Show Mercy bonded over a mutual passion for Midwestern emo and late-20th-century indie rock. Singer/guitarist Yucky Poor, drummer Javier Nin, bassist Karl Martinez, and guitarist Laz Matus utilized their boredom and restless hearts to create loud, rhythmic art. Over the past year, they've put out a series of four singles that, depending on your mood, could inspire you to dance, cry, or aggressively kick over a chair. "Hereditary" is a catchy track in its own low-key and lo-fi manner. "Echo Park" betrays an experimental, loungey dive-bar vibe, while "Love Witch" releases that bottled-up frustration we've all been feeling. The foursome's latest single, "PTSD," is perhaps their most epic, with an eight-minute running time that allows the listener to experience a range of emotions.

Best Solo Musician
Photo by Valerie Perez

At the ripe old age of 21, Mikah Amani has already put out an EP and a full-length LP that embody a beauty and maturity that belie the singer-songwriter's years. Released in March, The Hooded Crow featured a dozen songs with probing lyrics and stunning instrumentation. Written and recorded in Miami while taking a leave from his creative-writing studies at New York University, Amani sings and plays guitar with the quiet, introspective vibe of a 21st-century Tracy Chapman. Many of the lyrics deal with Amani's experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, whether dealing with unrequited queer love or coming out to a father who doesn't understand him. The beautiful thing about expressing these experiences through soulful music is that it allows personal struggle to be understood universally — by anyone.

Best Local Album
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Thankfully, Miami locals Seafoam Walls did the hard work of explaining their original sound to us. Who else could categorize their beautiful new album XVI as "Caribbean Jazzgage"? The collection of new songs indeed delves into jazz rhythms and shoegaze experimentation, all of it set against a laid-back island vibe. (Is that even possible? Yes, it is.) Founded in 2014 by singer/guitarist Jayan Bertrand, Seafoam Walls expanded with the addition of bassist Joshua Ewers, multi-instrumentalist Dion Kerr, and drummer Josue Vargas. The band's debut full-length got a boost in national attention when Thurston Moore, legendary frontman of Sonic Youth, became a fan and released the album on his Daydream Library Series label, which helped to attract attention from outlets like Spin and Pitchfork. And that attention came in the form of uniform admiration. But even with the band's apt and efficient genre-branding, XVI remains otherworldly and addictive — kinda like the city that spawned it.

Best Record Label
Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy

It wasn't enough for local husband-and-wife team Tony Kapel and Maitejosune Urrechaga to form the noise rock band Pocket of Lollipops. Their mutual love of music found them creating their own label, Houndstooth Cottage. Since its formation in 2013, Houndstooth has released more than 20 releases in formats ranging from vinyl to CD to cassette. The year 2022 is shaping up to be a busy one for HC, with upcoming titles including a solo project from June of 44's Sean Meadows, featuring sessions wherein he teaches guitar to villagers in Vietnam along with songs from his Kewl Haro project. Locals Ed Artigas & Ed Matus will represent the 305 with brand-new EPs. And an album is finally being planned for Lost Hours, the new band from Bobby Fay of Sebadoh.

Found Sound Records
Photo by Rafael Pichardo

As we enter year 17 of the great vinyl comeback, it makes sense that actual brick-and-mortar record stores are seeing a parallel resurgence. If listeners want their music to occupy a physical form, it makes sense they'd also want their shopping experience to be nondigital. North Miami's Found Sound Records hearkens back to a day when independent record shops were grounds for new discoveries and downloading wasn't even a word. Every Tuesday through Saturday, from 1 to 7 p.m., owner Ralph Pichardo sits behind the counter spinning vinyl, ready to answer customers' questions about everything from Father's Day gifts to why you might want to steer clear of that Legendary Stardust Cowboy album. The inventory of new and used records hovers around 8,000, including original pressings and other valuable rarities but also crates filled with LPs priced as low as two bucks.

Best Comedian
Photo by Jay Guzman

Carlos Hernandez's comedy is rooted in the absurdity of living at the tip of the Floridian peninsula. "Hialeah, where you at?" The crowd roars. "Miami Lakes, where you at?" More cheers. "Miami Lakes is, like, pretending to not be Hialeah. 'We're here. There's, like, a little lake over there. It's fine. There's cows. There's no chickens here.'" Then he proclaims, "Doral in the building!" to silence, followed by hysterical laughter. From an outsider's perspective, it might not seem funny at all. But locals know that Miami Lakes residents turn up their noses at their neighbors in Hialeah and that Doralzuela was an industrial park not too long ago. The bilingual comedian regularly holds court at the Miami Improv as well as at comedy nights across the city, so you shouldn't have a problem catching his act in person. If convincing you requires a taste of his material, check out his TikTok (@cahrlol).

Blackbird Ordinary
Courtesy of Blackbird Ordinary

In a city known for its nightlife, you can bet on Ladies Nights aplenty. But none does it better than Blackbird Ordinary. Every Tuesday night, once the clock strikes 10 p.m., queens get free drinks, from mixed to signature cocktails, until 1 a.m. Their prized sig, "The Blackbird," is a deliciously supple mixture of sweet tea vodka, blackberries, and lemonade. You can pass the time talking with friends, enjoying the live music, or playing board games at the back of the venue. The bar stays open later than most establishments, so you can party until 5 o'clock in the morning, then head to work.

Sweet Caroline Karaoke Bar
Guillaume Raberin

Karaoke is a beloved pastime around the world, but you don't want to sing your favorite songs at any old hole in the wall. Sweet Caroline Karaoke Bar will help you feel like a sparkly Neil Diamond every night. Unlike the recently popularized Japanese style of karaoke, the venue doesn't offer private rooms, but in our humble view, an audience makes the experience all that much more exciting. One of the best features at Sweet Caroline is the monthly emo party, where you can relive the glory days of bright hair and dark clothes with classic tracks from Evanescence and My Chemical Romance. If you're hoping to score a table, reservations are pretty much a must, but all are welcome to walk in. The bar is open until 4 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, with half-off drinks during happy hour (6 to 8 p.m.).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®