2012 was somewhat of a landmark year for Florida capturing some cred across a variety of new music scenes. For years I’ve lived here and watched with envy as exciting music scenes were born and flourished in other US cities. While Florida has had a smattering of promising artists the last few years, there still hasn’t been much of a local scene anywhere to support growth. Intriguing artist collectives, online labels, and upstart self-promoters have been popping up all year, thanks in large part to culture shifts at some of our big state universities, . It’s exciting to see, and it has me feeling hopeful that Florida’s close to gaining national esteem–not just credibility. Maybe, hopefully, eventually, our friends will stop talking about their plans to move to [insert cool city here].
Here are Brasky’s favorite tunes from Florida in 2012 (ordered only for playlist continuity).
Day Joy – Talks of Terror
Day Joy marks another example of a group of friends pooling together talents and discovering something special. Throughout the last 2 years we’ve watched Day Joy refine their songwriting and production, gaining critical esteem with each step. Their latest tracks softly tell stories in echoey chambers. Soft guitars and steady basslines guide the lyrics and build tension as the tracks find their form before it dissipates and the song fades out, no longer able to sustain the tension. I’m reminded of Grizzly Bear as I listen to Day Joy, which to me marks a triumph in Day Joy’s ability to not simply write, but tell stories through the feelings evoked by their instrumentation and lyrics. Their songs move, taking listeners along for a short ride.
Woset – Such Wilderness
Lots of things to like about this band. While this tune was actually released with Spirit Cat Tapes in the 2013 calendar year, we wanted to include it here so you’d know to keep an eye on these guys. Each song takes you on a psychedelic journey. Not the burnout/slacker kind, but the Pink Floyd this-feels-important kind. And there are horns! On the upbeats I’m reminded of Local Natives’ stellar 2009 album. The instrumental breaks conjure memories of another Florida band, Viernes.
Levek – Black Mold Grow
Gainesville’s David Levesque is another breakout story from the Sunshine State in 2012. “Black Mold Grow”, featuring the (now-recognizable) silky guest vocals of Hundred Waters’ Nicole Miglis, is a featured single that earns the nod on our list. A funky bassline sets the vibe as a sea of softer, natural elements smooth out the rough edges. There’s an unmistakable jazzy/70s/yachtsman sound that is unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. The song unfolds without predictability and delivers at every step. Great song writing and just a beautiful track.
Spirit Tramp – The Ruined Verse
Spirit Tramp is JT Bringardner’s solo project. Compared to his bright and poppy work with Oh Fortuna, Spirit Tramp is mellow and raw, composed almost entirely of JT’s (excellent) singing voice and acoustic guitar. I’m always a bit biased toward percussion, so when this track first launched into a beat-bolstered finishing stretch I was hooked. JT’s been a busy man due in part to his music scene involvement (as a founding member of Spirit Cat), but he has avowed to focus on producing music in 2013. He’s got one EP out already, so it sounds like he means it. Good news for us.
Yuno – Sunlight
Yuno serves up fuzzy, catchy singalong rock from Jacksonville. “Sunlight” is the teaser track from what looks like an well-marketed album launch coming soon. The song is (intentionally) muddied but the melodies are pure and easy, highlighting the bright, beachy themes that are starting to define Florida’s indie rock scene.
Hundred Waters – Thistle
The emergence of Hundred Waters is almost certainly the “breakthrough” story of the year from Florida’s music scene. From a few singles from a group of classically trained musicians at UF followed a snowball of interest, exposure, and quite rapidly, popularity. The biggest turning point for the group was getting signed by the OWLSA label, somewhat surprisingly, thrusting them in front of a huge new audience and providing tons of new visibility. Hundred Water’s accolades include earning an 8.1 from the stalwarts at Pitchfork, and drawing consistent comparison to bands seldom considered comparable: Björk, Four Tet, Braids, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors, to name a few. “Thistle” is just one gem from an album’s worth of tracks worthy of our annual list.
Tree Hopping – Nervous
Led by Gabriel Barrios, Gainesville-via-Miami band Tree Hopping has been putting together fun, world pop for the last couple years. Tree Hopping’s sound is raw but playful bedroom pop, busy with a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients. “Nervous” opens with high energy and holds the gallop, bright with tropical sounds akin to El Guincho and Astro.
Girls on the Beach – Firerock
“Firerock” starts immediately with a catchy, surf-spirited riff and rides a wave of nostalgic garage grooves right to the finish. This is the trademark sound of Orlando newcomers Girls on the Beach whose girl band fuzzpunk could help Florida reclaim some turf from California in the battle for beach bum bragging rights. Their sound lands somewhere between Harlem and Wavves; we’re interested to see what they have in store for us in 2013.
Waylon Thornton – American Heart
From the almost-Georgia reaches of North Florida comes Waylon Thornton and a pickup-truckload of great tunes from the past year. What sounds like just a 2-man operation (guitar, drums), Waylon’s music is unfiltered, boisterous garage rock, blending punk, rockabilly, and good ol’ American blues rock. yeeYEE!
Merchandise – Time
Merchandise gained abrupt popularity this year, previously cloaked by the punk underground and some uncertainity whether their project–which hinged itself on romantic themes, clean/firm vocals, and softer post-punk sounds–would take well among the Tampa punk scene (in which they were ingrained via participation in other punk and hardcore bands that I admittedly don’t really know anything about). It seems things changed when one intrepid writer with Pitchfork (who claims to have first listened to them in 2009) finally coaxed an interview. The designation of “Time” as “Best New Music” was soon followed by a 7.8 album review. With Pitchfork’s audience being exposed to that kind of endorsement, this meant things changed quickly for the trio. I’m a big fan of their sound and hope that a new production budget will help them turn out something awesome next year.
Bayatas – The Hand Effect
I’m not sure of the exact distinction between Bayatas and Tree Hopping–both the projects of Grabriel Barrios–but Bayatas is the newer of the two and seems to be where the energy (and acclaim) is heading. “The Hand Effect”, like most songs in their small catalog, is peppy, twangy, and playful (think Born Ruffians with more garage fuzziness). Bayatas describes their music as “tropical” and “worldbeat” which is fitting for a band from Miami that sounds like it might have some Caribbean and Latin influences. “aa” got some love from the blogosphere.
Saskatchewan – Venom
Saskatchewan continues to intrigue with their bleached pop songs and deserves mention for a handful of tunes. “Venom” lays on the synthesizers thick, creating a more-80s-than-usual backdrop for Chandler’s surprisingly sultry vocal delivery. Speaking of sultry, their Weeknd cover stirred up blog buzz (and 15k+ listens), wrenching out every last emotion left in “The Morning”.
SKYWAY – Trenchcoats
SKYWAY is the collab of rapper Rufat and beat-maker Kyle Wyss. I figured out that Kyle’s projects were something to watch when 6 years ago I stumbled onto his solo project “Chromatic Flights” on the now-defunct netlabel Monotonik. From there he formed Blind Man’s Colour, gaining enough traction to earn a Pitchfork review among other signals of popularity. His latest venture appears to be the most promising yet. Days ago, blog titan Earmilk served up the video and MP3 for “Trenchcoats”, the same tune we hand-picked (from SKYWAY’s catalog) to share for download when we covered SKYWAY in May. Not that we needed Earmilk to affirm our reporting but… it doesn’t hurt. In closing: DIY hip hop is blowing up and SKYWAY is poised to rake in some of its audience in 2013.
Deezerific Vitamins – Dee and De (prod. Toy Trains)
From the quirky, youthful Dior Sentai collective on the east coast, comes Deezerific Vitamins and Toy Trains. The youth is immediately evident and the subject matter often feels a bit silly (like riffing about obscure anime), but suddenly realize this dude has mad flow. “Dee and De” is my favorite example of Deezy’s talent for piecing together clever lyrics that he’s able to deliver with great timing and even… geek charisma? Look at Dee he can rap
Fortune Howl – Nostromo
“Nostromo” is positively soaked in smooth R&B vibes, stirred around with warm pads, some jazz piano, and sizzling down-tempo cutups. A very strong showing from Fortune Howl from the red hot Relief in Abstract label.
GRANT – Ecstasy
GRANT’s LP “Beat Tape Vol. 1″ announced his arrival as a key player on the growing Relief in Abstract label (having also captured some acclaim for his production contribution in kitty pryde’s virally successful EP, “haha i’m sorry”). GRANT stirs up a mixture of jazz and 80s samples to set the stage for a funky but prevailingly trill hip hop feel throughout the LP. “Ectasy”, which we’ve highlighted before, hits hard on the bass and claps but leaves ample space for jazz horn grooves, infusing the track with soul from start to finish. “Versace” is another big track, similarly slathered with big bass tones and retro R&B (at a sexy slow tempo). Sax sample, too? Win.
Henry Krinkle – Stay
From the reaches of Wellington, Florida – known for its polo scene (seriously) – comes an unlikely sound… house music? Err, haus music? Henry openly identifies his music by the tag “lush haus”, which is exactly what it sounds like–polished, European-tilted house music. When I first came across this track, courtesy of Spirit Cat’s keen scouting, it had around 1,000 listens. Now? 80k and climbing (on Soundcloud). Maybe it’s the precision sampling of Alicia Key vox for tasteful diva points? The hi-fi polishing and rich tones? Or maybe it just comes down to high replay value (both for the earbuds and for the night club). Bottom line, Henry Krinkle is no joke. Try his Gold Panda remix, too.
JSHIH – Annie
JSHIH’s album Interval was released by tape label Chill Mega Chill. “Annie” rides a crisp synth melody sprinkled with vocal samples and groovy kick-snare interplay. We also recommend listening to Ninth Wonder, which we featured earlier this year.
kitty pryde – okay cupid
Oh, Kitty Pryde. I teased the circumstances of her abrupt popularity and grumped out a few close friends and apparently pissed off Ms. Pryde herself. As I’d point out later, I was actually really digging her EP. She has the same kind of coy flow I described for Deezerific and she’s working with all the right people (her producers include GRANT and Beautiful Lou). Last I heard she was hanging out with Danny Brown in New York… can’t hate on that. It will be interesting to see whether her popularity holds up now that the novelty phase (white girl shyly rapping on crunk beats) has passed.
Navigateur – Bright Lights
Jacksonville’s Carlos Andujar, a.k.a. Navigateur, put forth his finest effort yet with 2012′s… 2020. “Bright Lights” bristles with disco-funk energy, filtered through the futurism of the 1980s. Heavy with knob twists, beat repeats, and busy keyboard work, “Bright Lights” showcases Carlos’ detail-oriented, hands-on approach to song making.
Pop Glow – Sunrise
Winter Haven’s Pop Glow continues to fly under the radar, so let us insist once more – LISTEN TO THESE GUYS. RIYL Discovery or any other beat-driven synth pop bands that brandish a vocoder.
Kodak To Graph – Can’t Explain
For me, listening to KtG’s first release on Bad Panda in late 2011, “V’isiol EP”, was one of those moments when you know you’ve encountered something important. Mikey, as we’ll call him (being great friends?), demonstrated a stunning balance of high-fidelity composition and emotion/style/mood in each track. Tons of depth, yet every track distinct from the previous. This year’s “Mirror Lock” EP met the challenge to keep the bar high across a number of disparate criteria. It’s good and you should listen to all of it.
Ophelia – Drifting Out
Ophelia is the performing name of multi-instrumentalist Roger Lanfrachi. Roger has always been a talented and nimble guitar player, but in recent years his growing intrigue with Indian music theory and culture led him toward a much different stringed instrument – the sitar. “Drifting Out” is one of the first polished tracks from Ophelia featuring sitar instrumentation. An assortment of other instruments and vocals are layered on delicately, and to my knowledge, 100% of this was written and performed by Roger.
XXYYXX – About You
The success of XXYYXX in 2012 is probably the only challenge to Hundred Waters’ claim to FL artist of the year. I remember meeting 16-year old Marcel at New World Brewery when he was just getting some momentum and thinking “ah, what a plucky kid, he’s got potential.” This was at the point when an article on Brasky was still something he seemed grateful for. That was nearly a year ago and things are quite different now. I’ll let numbers do the talking:
- 37,000 Soundcloud follower
- “About You” has 6+ million views/listens on YouTube
Is that good? It’s not bad.
We love these tracks, too, but we had to carve out some distinction for the tracks that really set the standard this year. Here are some tracks that we also enjoyed:
Michael Parallax – ^ TRSH MTN ^
Known for his high-energy, synthesizer evangelism, Michael (younger brother of Spirit Tramp’s JT Bringardner) switched things up with an impressive showcase of dreamy folk music on his EP One Night
Young Egypt – Rub Burr BandZ (#SNGL)
This duo has been making some rad, experimental pop music since last year, establishing a firm presence in St. Pete. 2013 could be a big year for them if they keep hustling.
xanadu kudzu – for the neighbors
ALAN HAMSKINS otherwise a.k.a. SPRAYNARD KRUGER a.k.a. our friend Adam Haskell shows off his breakcore production skills while mixing in some mid-tempo sections loaded with samples.
No Milk – Cage Perspective
Recognizable Tampa native Brigid Ochshorn won me over with her minimal synth tune, “Cage Perspective”. No Milk is her solo project, started in 2011. I think.
Isle – Bayview
A highly nuanced instrumental tune from Michael Maleki’s (Kodak to Graph) dream pop project, Isle.
Deli Mane – Get Yr Hat
Another project to watch from Dior Sentai. Brooklyn’s Steel Tipped Dove, a busy man in 2012, produced the beat. Kitty Pryde lyrical reference in there (overlap = the Space coast’s weird suburban rap scene)
Wyss – Please Believe
D. Vassalotti – Death Will One Day Rob Us All
Merchandise member D. Vassalotti released some tracks he’s worked on in private on a locally acclaimed album, “Book of Ghosts“.
C85 – Love Takes Time (remaster)
Nikki and I met Chris back in 2008 and were dazzled by some of his Ableton doodles – completely unreleased and unknown. This track was proudly featured on our Bedroom Beats compilation and is on 2012′s list because it received a remaster and official release this year.
Samsquanch – Ghostopolis
A raw assortment of stringed instruments and vocal appeals that call to mind the Decemberists (among other bands defining America’s new era of folk) – watch list!
Sugar Nights – Untitled
This track probably belongs in late 2011, shortly before we interviewed them, but it captured much of its popularity this year.
Hear Hums – Ceiling Scraper
Beautiful organic and whimsical music from a band that helped lay the foundation for DIY music culture in Florida. A mixture of natural, earthy sounds with electronic chirps create a sound akin to that of snow people Mum. Or perhaps the softer section from The Books.