In 2022, with fans thirsty for music after a two-year dry spell, artists seemed inclined to open the firehose. Pandemic era projects, and projects shelved during the touring halt, were released at a dizzying clip. And the only thing more disorienting was the onslaught of new tour announcements.
Trends in the Jacksonville music scene ran parallel to those underway internationally. Songs, EPs and full-length albums were released, some of which landed on influential playlists and blogs. Music videos were cut and uploaded to YouTube. And tours were undertaken.
Meanwhile, new venues like Murray Hill’s The Walrus became locusts for emerging artists, complementing the local-heavy focus of long-established clubs like San Marco’s Jack Rabbits; a welcome development as, with the rate of new-local-music releases mirroring the output seen nationally, surely Jax musicians needed places to perform their original material.
After spending the year doing our damnedest to absorb this local-sonic onslaught, the JME team sought to compile a list of artists we feel are due to garner a broader audience in 2023. We looked across genres in order to highlight both emerging and established Jax-based artists who not only put in the work in 2022. These artists plan on making moves in 2023.–Matthew Shaw
Indie-rock troupe Flipturn organically grew their hometown Fernandina Beach fanbase into a coast-to-coast following in 2022. The youngster’s sophisticated blend of mature pop and earnest rock has, to date, cultivated more than 50-million streams on Spotify, helping the group forge a path through support slots on tour with big-name acts like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and sets at notable festivals: Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Shaky Knees and Levitate; all after signing their first record deal with Dualtone. The band’s audiences swelled, as Flipturn hit the road again on a headlining tour in support of their big-time-indie-label debut Shadowglow. An appearance on Spotify’s “indie rock gems” playlist put them on equal footing with indie greats like Fleet Foxes, among others. In 2023, they’ll embark on the second-half of their headlining Shadowglow tour with Hotel Fiction, making some stops to play with Goth Babe and continuing to bring all the feelings of the Shadowglow world to their fans.–Rain Henderson
While it may be too-loaded a statement to say there’s something happening in jazz, the last few years have proved there’s a certain accuracy in saying there’s something happening with jazz. From world-beating albums by classically-trained artists like Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus and Ben Marc to a pandemic symphony of sonic assemblage from isomonstrosity, there’s a movement afoot in which jazz-fluent artists are speaking in the tongues of contemporary hip-hop, R&B, electronic music and more. Enter Jacksonville multi-instrumentalist Jonah Pierre. A percussionist who performs with Duval salsa orchestra LPT and a crack jazz pianist with several local outfits, Pierre’s got undeniable chops. As Bronero, Pierre moves beyond the traditional approaches he’s long been steeped in. On 2021’s “Life and Death of a Nation,” Pierre blended West Coast G-Funk with a homemade beat, sprinkling in samples of James Baldwin quotes to create a truly unique soundscape. In between his near constant gigging, Pierre found time in 2022 to track a suite of brand-new Bronero tunes, many of which draw on recordings from writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston’s time spent around Florida and Haiti. “The [recordings] were collected from railroad gangs, juke joints, dances and card tables during the 1940’s, giving a rare glimpse into the Black folk music of the time,” Pierre says of the inspiration behind the new Bronero record. “[Hurston’s recordings] are part of the cultural fabric of Jacksonville and the LaVilla neighborhood. As such, I wanted to highlight their significance and use them to create an artistic and musical homage to my hometown.” Pierre plans to release the TBD-titled album in early 2023. Release-show and festival-gig announcements coming soon.–Matthew Shaw
Dean Winter and the Heat
The term “alt-country” holds as much water as “outsider art.” They both imply a condemnation of artists who might contain elements of convention, yet their very singularity hinders their being in the middle of the creative fulcrum. Since they are thankfully void of any “pat-a-cake” chanting and Walmart-sheen of most contemporary-pop country, locals Dean Winter and The Heat and their unapologetic take on honky tonk makes them certain outlaws to the overall scene. Their latest release, Wheel of Bliss, is an alternative to the bloated insincerity of Insta-country, featuring 10 songs of forward-thinking bar-room blues and felony-level saloon stomp without being wheel-booted by retro schtick or made-for-TV bling. From the Bakersfield-vibes of “Every Friday Night” to the heartfelt balladry of “Empty Bar,” Wheel of Bliss is a worthy ride of where modern country music has been and where it’s heading.–Daniel A. Brown
A classically trained musician, pop and R&B artist K.UTIE, is the artist to watch this year. Her empowering 2022 EP release, Mindfulness, lifts the veil of darkness with hard-hitting harmonies and composed beats that stuff your ears with love and light. The snappy track, “Queen Affirmations,” layers vocals and symphonic violin atop bad-b*tch manifestations: “Life is better when you’re a queen.” K.UTIE has plans to make more timeless music in 2023 (of note, a collaboration with fellow Artist to Watch Jeremy Ryan, is in production) as she continues to show herself to the Jacksonville community and beyond.--Rain Henderson
Rhythm of Fear
Since their 2010 inception, local thrash band Rhythm of Fear have enjoyed a methodical evolution through a series of releases comprised mainly of singles and EPs. Fatal Horizons is ROF’s second full-length release and from its performance to production is an impressive 13-song collection of unrelenting metal. The title track and “Self Destructive Brain” are object lessons in search-and-destroy pummel, while “Insidious System” shifts from molten-lava-speed to berserk blast-beat fury. In contrast to much of the folk-horror leaning of modern black and doom metal, the band’s lyrical focus on sci-fi madness and collapsing reality is a worthy nod to ancestors like Voivod and Trouble, and the band’s certain chops never turns sour into technical wankery; the inevitable nadir of much metal. Inventive composition, blinding delivery, and worthy heirs to the late-80s/early-90s Florida metal renaissance, Rhythm of Fear has enjoyed international notice and have no aversion to touring the metal circuit. Unsurprisingly, they have become the on-call band to open for notable touring acts performing in Duval: 2022 found them sharing bills with Cannibal Corpse and Exodus, among others.–Daniel A. Brown
If you enjoy artists like Arca, Charlie XCX or Shygirl, consider adding rising Jacksonville electro-pop artist Bebe Deluxe to your rotation. Deluxe dropped five singles and two EPs in 2022, each one rushing with electronic chimes and dancefloor friendly beats. Lyrically, Deluxe’s 2022 releases demanded respect for trans people’s bodies (“Hard Femme”) and reveled in the joys of queer love (“Soft Butch”, “Let’s Go 4 a Ride”). You might have seen her vibrant nostalgia-soaked marketing on social media, or plastered to local-shop windows across town, promoting the Deluxe-hosted indie-sleaze dance parties and karaoke nights at Murray Hill’s The Walrus. Deluxe made moves outside of Duval as well, performing at SXSW in Austin. “2022 was rad,” she told us. “I performed at SXSW, I ate about 730 estrogen tablets and released two-and-a-half EPs.” As for 2023: “I’m gonna release my visual album HARD FEMME///SOFT BUTCH, and maybe Bradley Cooper will finally rescue me from queer nightlife like he did Lady Gaga in that one movie.”–Carissa Marques
Perhaps no local-music-success story speaks more to the power of our endlessly connected, streaming-first paradigm than that of Beaches-based singer-songwriter Landon Gay. As Howdy, without any professional representation and nary a full-length release to his name, Gay’s four pining Gulf-and-Western-style ballads have racked up nearly one-million streams as of press time. That distinctly-modern CV brought Howdy to the attention of popular indie-Americana outfit Susto, who invited Gay to bring Howdy on the road with them for a smattering of East Coast dates during a Spring 2023 tour of North America. Look under the hood of the streaming numbers, though, and it’s clear that Howdy’s success has less to do with algorithmic magic and more to do with Gay’s refreshing approach to the singer-songwriter form. Embedded in Howdy’s lofi, minimalist ballads is a palpable authenticity. The pace and presentation of the work: a genuine reflection of the artist. On songs like the lovelorn postcard “Stay in LA” or the brooding “El Paso,” Gay uses his own musical journey as a means of broader connectivity. After a short stint in Nashville — a music city famously teeming with talent, and perhaps even more so with ambition — Gay’s found his voice in Jacksonville, specifically at the Beaches, where the area’s natural beauty provides no shortage of muses, and aspiration tends to be a function of island time.–Matthew Shaw
Jeremy Ryan unleashed a flurry of new projects in 2022 and established himself as a diverse artist, playfully swerving through the funk/hip-hop/lo-fi infused production of his ever-growing catalog. Ryan capped a busy 2022 with a performance at Daily’s Place during December’s Jags-Cowboys game. That primetime slot followed the release of the November full-length album YMF, a joint album with fellow Duval emcee Mecca Tha Marvelous called Black Godz earlier in the summer, a slew of visuals including the music video for the single “Plastic Trays” and local and regional festival slots (Flo.Wav Music & Arts Festival in October and headlining spot at LOL Jax Film Festival in August). There’ll be no slowing down in 2023, as Ryan’s got a range of projects in the pipeline, including a collaborative album with R&B singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist K.UTIE, an R&B project produced by local Freddy Bricks and a film soundtrack. And Ryan will even flex his polymath muscles, acting in a number of short films.–Al Pete
Daddy, the musical moniker of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alexander Eli, burst onto the dream-pop scene in 2022 with the ethereal “Come2love.” A vital member of the local music community, Eli’s been, among various other support roles — booking shows and running sound at The Walrus — playing drums in (fellow 2023 Artist to Watch) Bebe Deluxe’s live band. In addition to performing at 2022’s SXSW in Austin, Eli brought Daddy to South Florida’s Bumblefest, St. Augustine’s Sing Out Loud and Jacksonville’s very own Heaux Down. Beyond working on his own music, Eli continues to be instrumental in pushing to make the local music scene more inclusive and safe for the LGBTQIA+ community.–Carissa Marques
In a year that started with their inclusion in our list of 10 Jax Artists to Watch in 2022 — based in large part to the strength of their debut full-length release 1827 N. Pearl — Duval hip-hop collective L.O.V.E. Culture exceeded expectations. The group got top billing at 2022’s Winterland music festival, released several new singles and brought their show on the road, even performing in Brooklyn. To close out a year filled with forward momentum, the group dropped the jazz-forward “Playas Ball,” a single that, in referencing Atlanta hip-hop icons Outkast’s similarly titled pre-ATLiens single, seems very much like a swing at manifesting L.O.V.E. Culture’s own ambitions. No doubt, with Vol. 3 (the third installment in their series of EPs) and a half-a-dozen prominent bookings (including an opening slot at this spring’s Jax River Jams) already penciled in for 2023, L.O.V.E. Culture has their sights set on ascending the Southern hip-hop throne.–Matthew Shaw
Dig in deeper on all the great music released by Jax artists in 2022 with our Year In Review playlist below. And tune in to The Independent 89.9 HD4 to hear a song by a local artist at 20-minutes after the hour, every hour.