Over the next two days, we'll post Crossfade contributors' favorite local albums of 2009. They're listed in completely random order, so stay tuned as the full list rolls out.
Raffa and Rainer
No Mercy (self-released)
Miami folkies Raffa Jo Harris and Rainer Davies play the sort of wistful melodies that make your heart leap. Romantic, cute, and beguiling, Harris' sweet-as-honey vocals flutter over bluesy acoustic guitar and syrupy horns on the pair's latest, No Mercy. The 11-track album, which includes more than 30 different additional contributors, traverses new, more intricate ground for the duo.
The new explorations include everything from the quirky, bluegrass-tinged "A Little Bit" to the heavier "Palo Santo," to "Ballet," which recalls Regina Spektor with repetitive turns of phrase and even beatboxing. In fact, it's hard to pick a "best" song on the disc, as Raffa's voice adapts so well to such a range of styles without losing its signature jazzy twang. Thus the album - layered, upbeat, poetic, quirky - is almost as versatile as it is sweet. -- Erica K. Landau
Astro Coast (Self-released / Kanine Records)
After only a handful of months playing under this band name, the West Palm Beach quartet (now a quintet) struck upon a magical indie rock formula in the studio in the middle of last year. The band crafted tender melodies over scuzzy guitar riffs and unpredictable bombast; the end result would become the brilliant debut LP, Astro Coast. Somehow these fresh-faced kids, barely out of their teens, managed to cull the best parts of our favorite '90s bands.
There is Weezer's youthful post-punk glee, for one, as well as the Jesus and Mary Chain's Beach Boys-through-distortion hiss. It's all packaged and sealed into one phenomenal album. Songs like "Slow Jabroni" - with its wall of reverbed vocals over addictive hooks -- and "Catholic Pagans"-- exquisite quite-loud-quite Pixies catharsis --hint at the enormous potential these South Florida youngsters have. It's no wonder this originally self-released album was snatched up by major label Kanine Records and will be released nationally come January 19. -- Alex Rendon