The Boston Phoenix recently ran an intriguing, exhaustive piece titled "50 Bands, 50 States," which names the best acts within every state in three categories. For Florida, the New England alt-weekly dubbed Lynyrd Skynyrd "All-Time Best Band," Tom Petty "All-Time Best Solo Artist" and the Miami metal outfit Torche "Best New Band." Pretty cool idea. Had us buzzing at the office for a day or two last week. Here's my variation on the concept: a list of Top 10 Florida acts, with the caveat that they must be currently based in Florida. (This counts out Petty, who fled to California decades ago.) Here's the tally, in alphabetical order:
The Gator Country quartet has broken big this year, rising from the indie ranks to international recognition without losing a shred of smarts or punk attitude. Few major label debuts have been as assured and gratifying as Against Me!'s 2007 release, New Wave, which features standout tracks like "Thrash Unreal," "White People For Peace" and the funky (by white people standards) "Stop."
The MySpace buzz band may never live up to the hype, but I still dig the quintet's irresistible brand of New Wave-inspired dance-rock. Plus, you got to like songs about a gal getting caught after dark in the park "giving head to a statue" ("Underestimated My Charm").
Chan Marshall might have been born in Hot 'Lanta, but she resides in Miami, according to her website, and stayed at the psychiatric ward of Miami's Mount Sinai Medical Center, according to a 2006 Spin magazine profile, so, y'know she's ours. A sad sack? Sure. But the girl can give you chills, and the indie soul of The Greatest is sadcore brilliance.
Have Gun, Will Travel
I've been raving about this alt-country ensemble ever since Matt Burke and company were The Chase Theory and landed a single on an Emo Diaries compilation (and CL was called Weekly Planet.) After a stylistic makeover and name change, HGWT's full-length Casting Shadows Tall as Giants ranks as one of the finest Americana releases of the year, anywhere.
Hot Water Music
Gainesville's second best punk outfit scared us when leader Chuck Ragan went solo (or on family leave, depending on the source) in late 2005 and a "hiatus" was upgraded to "disbanded." All was made right, though, when the band named after a Charles Bukowski book reunited this year.
The most versatile of the talented Marley offspring, Ky-Mani navigates dancehall, hip-hop and neoclassic reggae with aplomb. He even managed to win over Van Halen fans this year when Eddie and the boys invited Ky-Mani to open a string of dates, including a stop at the St. Pete Times Forum.
JJ Grey & Mofro
A regular at the Skipperdome, JJ Grey and Mofro (formerly just Mofro) are a jam band that steers clear of stoner noodling, offering rich slabs of R&B rooted in Southern soul and swampy blues, marked by Grey's gritty vocals and the organ work of Adam Scone.
The gorgeously layered indie-pop found on The Postmark's 2007 self-titled debut landed the Miami trio on the pages of Rolling Stone and Spin, as well as praise from the hipsters at Pitchfork, thanks, in large part, to the subtly supreme vocals of Ms. Tim Yehezkely.
She's not as good a guitar player as her younger hubby (see next entry), but Susan Tedeschi can hold her own. Plus she's a throwback-style rhythm-and-blues singer, accomplished songwriter and first-rate interpreter of classic soul numbers.
The greatest guitar player of his generation, Trucks has elevated the Allman Brothers Band to its highest stature since the Duane era and more than held his own on tour as Eric Clapton's sideman. He also leads The Derek Trucks Band, his more jazz-oriented outlet. Trucks also shines when on stage with his wife, Susan.