Boasting R.E.M., the B-52’s, and the Drive-By Truckers, it’s no secret that the Athens, GA music scene has a rich history. The Music Business Program housed within the University of Georgia—just steps from downtown Athens—is continuing this tradition, now raising much of the next generation of this local scene.
“We try to take people from a standpoint from ‘Who am I?’ to ‘Who I am,'” said David Barbe, director of the program and successful musician in his own right. Much of this development culminates in the final project of the program, a music business microcosm in which each student assumes a role in music business such as artist manager or publicist.
Many students choose to take on the role of artist, and thus are required to release music—with cover art—and promote the release. This year’s projects paint a hopeful picture for the already well-established Athens scene, with 17 new releases from local bands and artists.
“So far, I would think that it’s arguably the best ones we’ve ever had. There are more of them, they are more varied in style, and the quality of the real standouts is really a level up. It’s been the most musically diverse,” said Barbe. “We expect rock bands and we expect rappers, but we’ve got Annie Leeth‘s tripped out electric violin project, we have Eric Dowler‘s album of World War I era songs, and there’s satirical rap… It’s been all over the map, which is great.”
Some of these artists, just weeks after release, are already clocking over a thousand streams and seeing revenue from downloads—an impressive feat for what started as a class project. Check out the following up-and-coming artists from the Athens scene:
Conner Brooke Dryden has the vocal chops to fit in the current country music scene without having to succumb to the over-produced country pop plague that seems to be overtaking the genre. Her single “Something Beautiful” is straightforward in instrumentation and honestly doesn’t need much else—Dryden’s clean vocals are the star of the show, as they should be. Check out the single on all major streaming platforms.
Logan Brammer’s “November Night” is a nice, nostalgic track. It’s kind of calming and seems to have some Beatles influence thrown in there. I will say, this is the only track that totally got stuck in my head for like, hours after that first listen—the chorus is that catchy. Definitely didn’t mind. You can find “November Night” on bandcamp.
If you’re not the electronic-instrumental-meditation-music type, Annie Leeth’s new EP “Heard” might just convert you. It’s super ambient and vibe-y, but what really shines is that Leeth seems to seriously know what she’s doing with a violin—both technically skilled and able to get the instrument to make sounds that I’d guess many haven’t heard it make before. This isn’t run of the mill, classical studying music… it’s a whole new beast. You can find “Heard” on the major streaming platforms.
Property of Bolton have taken the classic rock band setup and done it well, with a darker sound that’s simultaneously groovy and gritty. The group’s EP, “Epicycles,” is so well done that it’s hard to believe this was done for a school project. The separate pieces of each track flow so cohesively that everything feels intentional—like the group has a solid grasp on what they’re going for and are not afraid to go for it. Check out “No Faith,” not just for the ripping lead guitar but also the line “I ain’t got no faith in the government” because, relatable. Check out the EP on bandcamp.
Josie Smith’s “June” is short and sweet. Her vocals are sweet, the premise is sweet—and it shines in this simplicity. The track is a good example of how music doesn’t have to be so heart-wrenching, so complicated to still be great. The release seems to be just a taste of what’s to come from Josie, and you can check it out on bandcamp.
Eric Dowler’s “When The Boys Come Home” is cool in that it’s hard to find anyone else, let alone a 20-something student, doing this right now. It’s clear that Dowler is dedicated to his craft as well as doing his historical subject justice. The album definitely gives an interesting insight into World War I, giving a musical perspective that one might not get from a casual education in the subject. You can find “When The Boys Come Home” on bandcamp.
Darsana’s latest indie-pop EP “Heartless,” is pretty chill, to put it simply. Definitely recommend checking out the opening track “Callouseer” and the title track “Heartless,” both of which seem like great easy-listening, on say, a lazy weekend afternoon or something along those lines. You can find “Heartless” on bandcamp.
Guest House’s latest release, “Sleep,” is intriguing. It’s not quite something to study to, because it definitely draws you in and makes you want to listen, but it would fit in well in a coffee shop setting. For some reason this felt super visual—like, listening to it actually triggered my brain to put together a full indie-movie montage. Some music just does that, I guess. Guest house makes you think, in a good way. Check it out on bandcamp.
There is a line between experimental in a cool, enjoyable-to-the-ear way and experimental just for the sake of being weird, and Sephine has found the balance. “Computerforest,” Sephine’s latest release, sounds like the kind of music your cool (but not snooty) indie acquaintance would casually throw on, spurring you to spend weeks trying to figure out how to ask who the band is without sounding lame and uncultured. The release is almost ethereal at times, until that funky sax kicks in or Anderson starts chanting. A personal favorite would be “Discothèque,” because the track is just kind of funky and definitely unexpected. You can find Sephine on bandcamp.
Rebekah Martin’s piano track “Tightrope” makes for great study music in that it has a nice melody that’s not too overpowering. There’s this near-constant buzzing, which seems intentional but regardless of if not, the juxtaposition between that and the piano totally works—the roughness of the buzzing keeps the piano from being too buttoned-up. Again, being just one single, this seems to be just a taste of what’s to come from Martin. You can find the track on her bandcamp.
Whether you’re a fan of “Xanax Culture” or seriously annoyed by it, you need Xanny P in your listening lineup. For satirical rap, it’s surprisingly well produced and the character that is “Xanny P” is hilarious (and cultured, apparently. Check out his ‘gram if you don’t believe me.) The guy is already packing out the Georgia Theatre rooftop and spreading like crazy via word of mouth. Plus, it’s #Dartyszn, ya’ll—never a better time to check him out on all major streaming platforms.
Punk rock fans, PNK is for you. I’d say he falls in more of an early Green Day vein than say, Blink, in a rip-roaring, high speed—and never slowing down—kind of way. His latest single, “Sitting on the Bathroom Floor” is gritty, high-energy, loud and a fun listen from the first note. (Also a fun fact—PNK’s Tyler Peters played a part in the production of quite a few of these releases. Three cheers for having multiple skills!) You can find PNK on all major streaming platforms.
Elrod’s self-titled EP has definite outlaw themes throughout, with an interesting mix of generally acoustic instrumentation and her almost-bluesy vocals. It’s cool in an imperfect, rock ‘n’ roll kind of way. All of the separate pieces are great, but there are definite shining points in her harmonies and the lead guitar. For some reason, I immediately thought of Cheyanne Kimball’s solo album while listening to this, but haven’t quite figured out why yet. Anyway, check Elrod’s self-titled, currently out on Soundcloud.
Friday Highway’s latest release “I Told You/Rearview” gives major early 2000s singer-songwriter throwback vibes… but at the same time, it’s also the teeny-tiniest bit reminiscent of popular Red Hot Chili Peppers hits. Anyway, it’s interesting, and definitely in a good way. I’d recommend checking out “Rearview,” as it’s well done and the bridge takes an unexpected twist that keeps you on your toes. You can find Friday Highway on most major streaming platforms.
Kaitlin Kimsey, Jake Mappes and Jesse Inglima
This trio released a killer studio series covering Elton John and Guns N’ Roses. Each of the three musicians involved are seriously talented, so it makes sense that putting them together would yield a couple of great tracks. Kimsey’s rocker belt pairs perfectly with Mappes’ keys, making me wish the group had a couple of originals to check out. You can find the studio series on Kimsey’s Youtube and Soundcloud, or check out all three musicians in local Athens band Fake Mister.
Alright, so Garet Skipper’s latest release “Lies!” does not sound like it was made by some college student for a school project. This is well done. The track almost falls in a dream-pop vein, but not in an over-hazy bad way. It’s upbeat, fun, and so perfect for summer nights. For fans of, say, LANY, this is a definite recommend—actually, this sounds on par with some of the music the aforementioned group was putting out when it first started successfully touring the country, so there’s that. It’s so… marketable. Check him out on all major streaming platforms.
Lapetz’s latest single, “Time Lines,” is super simple and straightforward in composition, but it works. The narrative he’s rapping is interesting, it flows well and the refrain is catchy—Lapetz doesn’t really need a bunch of bells and whistles to make the track interesting. In a landscape where over-produced, dolled-up tracks seem to reign supreme, this release is refreshing. To listen to the single, or his EP “Early Works,” find Lapetz on bandcamp.