Earlier this month, Discosoma Records posted a soothing piece of jangly indie rock, credited to an unknown group named Wake Up. The foursome behind the Pavement-like, melancholia-tinged beach jam “Seek to Deceive” actually features some of the West Palm Beach music scene’s finest: Wake Up frontman Evan Mui, a singer-songwriter who just released a self-titled LP of solo work (see below); guitarist Bobby Yapkowitz (Secret French Kissing Society); bassist Austen Bemis (The Casuals); and drummer Carlo Gonzalez (Copy City Chill Pillars, The Dewars).
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.
Indie darlings Surfer Blood may seem the exception in West Palm Beach, a town better known for harboring the nation’s oldest gefilte fish consumers than producing great music. But fortunately for us, the reverb-spewing quintet is part of a crop of talented West Palm Beach bands — including the Dewars, the Jameses, Sumsun, the Hear Hums, singer-songwriter Evan Mui, The Band in Heaven, Cop City/Chill Pillars (as well as their tamer side project, Love Handles), Guy Harvey, and Weird Wives — all of whom know and support each other.
And while a “scene” usually signifies a single style of music, West Palm Beach isn’t pinned to one genre. Far from it. From ambient freak-folk to chill electronic to revamped post-punk to supersonic pop rock, the music scene up north isn’t easily boxed in. But it is easily enjoyed. To get you on your way, here is a closer look at several of the bands making damn good music only about an hour north of Miami. With Zitfest I coming up on Dec. 17, you might want to get acquainted with the West Palm scene in a hurry.
With the release of Songs From the Neverglades this year, the Dewars’ proved themselves one of the most interesting pop music bands to come out of South Florida. Ever. “Playground Mediasma” would sit comfortably in Beck’s catalogue, “Pete the Pedophile” aligns right with Grizzly Bear’s acid-slumber rock, “If the World Was Gonna End Today” signals the Kinks — always a good thing — and “Keep Down the Noise Boys” won’t leave my head despite its relative mediocrity.
Track after track, twin brothers Anthony and Zac Dewar traverse the pop of today and yesterday and still manage to have a sound of their own. Now home after touring the U.S. with Surfer Blood, the Dewars are in the process of recording their second six-song EP. The release date is still up in the air, and a few unidentified labels have expressed interest in releasing the band’s new material.