This has been a very important year for South Florida music, with no shortage of spectacular acts, songs, and albums coming out of the scene. Yes, South Florida has a scene now, and finally one with some damn good homegrown music as its foundation (thanks in large part to the crop of stellar West Palm Beach talent). Besides the Jameses’ Pitchfork debut and the Dewars release of Songs from the Neverglades — one of my favorite albums of the year — we also saw the emergence of Jared McKay and Colin Foord’s Discosoma Records, the continued forward thinking of Lolo Reskin’s Sweat Records (which is bringing No Age back to Miami again in January), and Surfer Blood’s “Swim” getting re-released on Rough Trade Records. All in all, as Frank would say, it was a good year. To celebrate it, and South Florida’s evolving music culture, here are my favorite 15 SoFla tracks of 2010.
15. “Vampire” by Axe and the Oak – While every song from their Record Store Day 2010 EP is dripping with greatness, “Vampire” attains the heights of Franz Ferdinand cum Bauhaus. It isn’t the best track on the 6-song EP (see below), but it is most representative of what makes this trio tick.
14. “Greenpoint” by BFGF – Like most of Chris Video’s music, this song dares you not to shake, wiggle, and bob. With “Greenpoint”, BFGF takes sinister aim at EDM, plucking and placing goth rock elements within their usual synthetic landscape.
13. “Bird” (Demo) by Evan Mui – From Mui’s self-titled album to be released in February, “Bird” is a sparse ballad filled with heartbreaking melodic bends and sophomoric love. Mui is an absolute popaholic and it’s all on display here. His sound revolves around Elliot Smith’s whimpering croons and Big Star’s powerpop perfection, both of which are major influences on Mui’s gentle songwriting.
12. “One More Twice” by Sam Friend – Sam Friend can pull a listener’s heartstrings without falling prey to overemotional rubbish. “One More Twice” is a minimalist yet sweeping call for love with fresh and natural lyrics.
11. “Thanks to JV” by Can’t Stop – Can’t Stop is Animal Tropical drummer Jorge Rubiera’s solo undertaking. “Thanks to JV” is hard to describe so I’ll describe it hard: Imagine if a robot realized emotion, fell in love with music, and wanted nothing more than to sound like Roy Orbison. This robot also aimed to finish songs with blazing N’awlins horn sections and Yo La Tengo’s discord. Typical robot pairings.
10. “Innovator” by Plains – Maybe it’s the 20-year (really?!) cycle of influence, but the 90s are definitely en vogue. Sludgy Brit pop rock predecessors Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver might’ve been on Plains’ collective mind with the creation of “Innovator”. With spacey shoegaze guitar in tow, “Innovator” shows how to bring forth power and emotion without losing your balls.
9. “The Haunted Rider” by The Jameses – The masters of album cover art struck gold with “The Haunted Rider”, a mod rocking, Stranglers-like track. “Haunted Rider” has it all: a few simple chords, well-placed synth and guit fills, an ooh-ah sing-song refrain, and an anachronistic 1980s male lead.
8. “Mokom Wolos” by Hear Hums – Is it possible to make love in the jungle … under the sea … with a clown fish? This song gives me faith. It’s amazing how far a simple march can take you, a testament to the snare’s infectiousness. Mitch Myers makes strange, wonderful music.
7. “King Corpse” by Lil Daggers – While the garage resurgence has taken a backseat to all things lo-fi or electronic on Pitchfork’s front page, the garage ethos will forever live on with bands like Lil Daggers. Reinventing the wheel was never part of the equation in the garage, while balls-out expression is its essential function. Lil Daggers’ is spot on here, using simple chord and speed changes to drive the shit out of “King Corpse”.
6. “Summer Bummer” by The Band in Heaven – Reverb doesn’t describe the power that blasts from this unassuming band’s fingers. “Summer Bummer” pays homage to Kevin Shields and Ian Curtis, but the Band in Heaven re-tool the summer mix with this blaring ode to moving on while looking back.
5. “B-Side” by Axe and the Oak – Lux Interior would be proud of “B-Side”. This cool, dark psychobilly track is fully equipped with sizzling spaghetti western guitar and a graveyard organ that made me Youtube The Munsters theme song. “Turn it up louder and craaaaank it!”
4. “Ants” by Sumsun – Mood and feeling are supreme for Sumsun’s Judson Rogers. “Ants” makes me feel like an electronic Christmas tree on the beach. Pardon the cliche.
3. “Pedophile Pete” by The Dewars – Hybrid psych-folk that calls to mind a semi-lucid Syd Barrett, “Pedophile Pete” makes you wanna do drugs and then quickly vomit them up out of fear. A charming refrain about a child tickler shouldn’t be this heartening. It is.
2. “Take Your Time (with Me)” by Guy Harvey – This song enters taut alt-indie hero territory, seriously calling to mind Pavement. Not because they are the most obvious band in the indie canon, but because, right from the opening scratch, “Take Your Time (with Me)” sounds like a lost Wowee Zowee track. Besides that, it’s short, sweet, and the rhythm untouchable.
1. “Endless Field of Mercury” by Awesome New Republic – Just as with a short story, the three-minute song is the hardest to do well. What ANR accomplishes in these three breathtaking minutes is what many bands fail to accomplish in an entire career. “Endless Field” is an epic journey that begins with a singularly lonely tap of a piano key and rises to, well, an “endless field” of gorgeous blends. All the while Michael John Hancock and Brian Robertson’s voices rise with each crescendo and fall with each trough, narrating a metaphysical story of an insecure girl with tiny wrists and hands (“Where you gonna go when the world don’t need you?) and an equally insecure world (“Where you gonna go when the girl don’t need you?”) with all cosmic questions in between. This is a repeater.