It's around you: The year in South Florida music

Plains. Photo by Eric Bojanowski

The local scene was fertile ground for new music this year, and so my list of best albums required a lot of slicing and dicing to narrow it to a top five. Absent from this list are excellent albums by Lil Daggers, the Gun Hoes, Ketchy Shuby and a plethora of other bands that made South Florida music great in the year 2011. Still, once the dust cleared, I had my five, and it's worth noting that four of them come from just two labels, both of which are in their infancy: 10K Islands and Wayward Parade. The fact that these nascent labels managed to kick out such good music in such a short amount of time surely augers well for 2012 and beyond. Happy listening!

5. When Water's Thicker Than Blood by Everymen (Waywardparade.com). The first release on the Wayward Parade label, which was created specifically to cater to the weird freak-folk scene arising in Lake Worth, When Water's Thicker Than Blood has provided South Florida's answer to Gogol Bordello. The album pales in comparison to Everymen's utterly chaotic live show, but it'll hold you until the next time the Everymen carnival gets back in town from its latest tour.

4. Plains by Plains (Plainsmiami.bandcamp.com). The closest thing to a straight-ahead rock record on this list, Plains is a filler-free set of indie rock that provides ample evidence of the genius of singer-songwriter Michael McGinnis, not only for creating these tunes but for his production work in recording the album and his ability to get exactly the right people for his band, a list of some of the most-talented musicians in Miami.

3. The Darling Sweets by The Darling Sweets (Reverbnation.com/thedarlingsweets). Everymen's folksy little sister, the Darling Sweets released a six-song debut that provided a nice bookend to When Water's Thicker Than Blood in defining the Lake Weird sound. While Everymen offers raw power and meltdown craziness, the Darling Sweets produce gorgeous harmonies backed by an old-timey string band.

2. Swim Out Past the Sun by the Heavy Pets (Theheavypets.com). On their third full-length album, South Florida's favorite jam band ditched almost everything that had worked for it in the past and created a (mostly) acoustic record that highlighted the group's impressive songwriting rather than its equally impressive improvisational skills. Vocally, the Pets have never sounded better, and improved even further with guest vocals by Van Morrison's daughter Shana. The band's groovy fan base probably hit the ceiling upon hearing of the album's other major guest appearance, the great mandolinist David Grisman, whose main claim to fame is his excellent work with the late, great Jerry Garcia. Here, he added a folksy vibe to three of Swim Out Past the Sun's tunes and put a great finish on an already excellent record.

1. Stay Kids by ANR (Anrmiami.com). The second album from Miami-based record label and management company 10K Islands on this list (the first being Plains), Stay Kids is the gorgeous, poppy-yet-experimental masterpiece that ANR has always threatened to make, a boiling down of all the great ideas the duo had in 2009 that led to the release of three recorded efforts in just seven months. Here, the band takes the best of what it does and puts it all on one album. It's stellar.

Contact Dan Sweeney at dfsweeney@citylinkmagazine.com.