Lists, the bane of some websites and others’ existences, are still fun to make and probably even more fun to discuss. Or argue. Whatever.
As 2012 was drawing to an end, I found myself thinking back of the best bands I saw live and heard at home, in the car, or in the bar that were from Alabama. Last week’s column had me contemplating the best releases of the year, which made me wonder who were the best artists, who among them put on the best shows, who were the best technical musicians, who knew how to rile up a crowd. Was it the same band that had an outstanding release this year? Most of the time, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are those touring bands who are playing shows quite a lot and yet did not release anything new in 2012.
And, hell, I love to make a best-of list.
So I decided I would make my own to wrap up 2012. It was hard to do, but I did it. This week, I’ll present numbers 20 through 15, but before I do, I thought it would be best to introduce the ground rules that I laid for myself. The rules were mine, and as this is my list, I may find myself bending one or two as I wrap this thing up in the coming weeks. But, the rules are here if you wondered who was in consideration.
1. The band must still be together here at the close of the year. (Excludes: Piss Shivers, G-Side, The Civil Wars)
2. The bands must still be Alabama based somehow or another, usually by having at least two members of the band in the state. (Excludes: The Drive-by Truckers)
3. The bands must be from Alabama somehow or another, which usually implies that one or two members still live in Alabama after being raised here. (Excludes: Hartle Road)
4. For the most part, I’m going to overlook the “large” acts and focus on unsigned artists, bands that haven’t “made it.” (Excludes: The Drive-by Truckers, Alabama, any “American Idol” contestant if that really constitutes “making it.”)
5. The bands must have played at least two shows somewhere or another and/or been active by recording music. (Excludes: Vulture Whale)
6. I must have seen the band play at least once this year. (Excludes: Through the Sparks, Lauderdale, Electric Moon)
7. I must have liked the band and thought that said band was worthy of the list for my own reason. (Excludes: a lot of bands)
And with all that said, yes, I will still forget and overlook someone. And, yes, I am biased toward my favorite genres. What personal list isn’t, though? As with any time that I hear music or see an artist, I did try to keep an open mind.
Wellington’s Honorable mentions: Mouse Teeth, Ham Bagby, El Cantador, The Cancers, Mary Tylosaur, The Original Shake Charmers, and Beitthemeans
Wellington’s Top 20 Alabama Bands, #20–#15:
20. August Spies: Their crowd appeal alone got them on the list. I haven’t been to one of their shows without seeing several fists being pumped repeatedly during each song, my own two included. Their DIY release on bandcamp helped their cause, too. While the recordings sound made on the cheap, they serve the purpose: to get the audience ready for the next show.
19. The Suzies: This band probably would’ve been a little higher on the list had I seen them a few more times. The few times I did manage to catch their shows, it wasn’t always to a full house or fully attentive crowd. That mattered not to The Suzies. They put on the shows of their lives. It made me want to soak in a lot more of their music. It’s standard rock fare, but what’s not to like about that?
18. Sparrow + the Ghost: The (now) duo of Bond and Roberts still haunts. Perhaps now that Sparrow + the Ghost are paired down, their songs carry even more weight. The few times that they played this year were quiet, acoustic shows that showcased their melodies and harmonies. Those shows allowed me to focus more on the meaning. The weight of each song seems greater now.
17. Golden Monica: New to the Tuscaloosa music scene this year, Golden Monica grew from an earlier incantation called The Bangtail Cats. They keep similar, straightforward rock sounds that propelled The Bangtail Cats forward but with more age and more skill. They’ve worked on these arrangements, it seems. It makes sense that they would come to this particular line up with more talent: guitarist/singer Wuertele plays lead guitar for the Glory Fires. They recently recorded some songs with renown engineer Lynn Bridges, so they could easily move up the list next year.
16. Looksy: Also new to the list and also springing from a former band (The Classic Flame), Looksy took the show at their prime-time slot at the Green Bar late in the year. While still adjusting their set to consist of solely originals, Looksy brought down the house to a packed crowd. I can see this band gaining momentum and being a bright-shining Tuscaloosa staple.
15. Delicate Cutters: Relatively unknown, especially to me, the Delicate Cutters released their beautiful EP Ring this year. Vocalist Janet Elizabeth Simpson’s words aren’t forced. They fit evenly with the bass, drums, and especially the fiddle, which makes their songs sound completely original and ancient. I don’t know how more people aren’t crazy about this band or how I don’t hear more from them. One of those Alabama bands who are doing country music (sort of) the way that it should be done (kind of).
Next week: #14–#10!