I’ll start looking ahead in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m a little behind. I’m still looking to the best of 2012. Here are who I think are the best Alabama bands during 2012 for whatever reason. If you want to know my specific rules that I used or if you want to see who made the list from numbers 20 to 15, revisit last week’s column here.
On the to the middle bunch.
Wellington’s Top 20 Alabama Bands, #14–#10:
14. Blaine Duncan & the Lookers: The Lookers are a solid band. If you happen to see one of their shows, you’re not going to be disappointed in any real, tangible way. They haven’t quite went over the top with a show in a long while (fewer performances and the lack of any new music in 2012 didn’t help), but they’ve never hit a bottom, either. They could be one of Tuscaloosa’s two or three most consistent bands. What’s interesting is that they did survive a complete line-up change in 2012, so keep an eye on watching where they go in 2013. The late-year return to stage with the new backing band was a stand-out show for Duncan, who has promised new music for the coming year.
13. The Underhill Family Orchestra: The second Mobile-based band to make this top twenty list, the Underhill Family Orchestra, known to their fans as UFO, are sort of a big-sound band channeled through a distinct folk vein that’s a little too mainstream lately. Don’t let the indie-folk label fool you, though: they are a full throttle, boisterous live band. If you see one of their performances, you’ll find your feet definitely stomping. And, yes, some of them are family and are named Underhill. Go figure.
12. Belle Adair: Of all the bands in Alabama, Belle Adair creates a layered, sonically dense sound quite like no other, yet they still remain deeply Southern somehow. It’s hard to explain, but it’s pleasing to hear. Belle Adair, fronted by Matt Green, aren’t a full-blown rock band but aren’t defined as anything but a rock band. Of all of their shows that I have attended, they managed to keep me nodding, moving, listening–all this without ever being too loud or too aggressive. It’s a feat that I haven’t seen too many local bands pull off. They’d fit in well on the main stage at the Bama Theatre or right in the middle of Egan’s. New recordings from them could catapult Belle Adair into the top ten in 2013.
11. Black Willis Band: I’ve covered the enigma that is Black Willis on this site and elsewhere before. With so few actual recordings (see the Skybucket compilation from several years ago, and you’ll find the band listed by their old name, Vesper), it’s hard to get a full grasp on them as a band. However, one show with them headlining at Egan’s, and you have a pretty clear idea: rock, rock, rock. This is the kind of band that other bands do not want to follow. Created by the Williamson brothers of the Birmingham area, they’re trash/garage/cock rock that play hard and drink harder. They have several songs that sound similar, but every single one makes you want to dance to wreck the bar, take your pick. The rumors keep circulating that they will be releasing an actual album, on vinyl no less, that they’ve been working toward finishing for two years now. Maybe 2013 will be the year.
10. Baak Gwai: There’s not a band like Baak Gwai in Tuscaloosa, which is both good and bad. Being mainstays of Tuscaloosa music, Baak Gwai has outlasted their contemporaries, including both Pain! and Chinese Dentist. The great thing about Baak Gwai is the variety that they have, oftentimes within the same song. If you don’t like the beginning of a Baak Gwai song, that’s okay–you’ll probably love the middle and the ending. It’s not prog or math rock as much as it is just pop punk with some key signature changes throughout. Baak Gwai are solid and have not put on a bad show since the early days of their inception so many years ago. If they’re playing, which they do in Tuscaloosa a few times per year, they are always worth seeing. Their following help make every show fun as much fun as the players in the band do. Hopefully, their new songs will be released in the coming year.