December 12, 2018

Athens' Year in Sound: Local Musicians Dish on Their 2018 Faves

Deep State

Editor’s note: To kick off Flagpole’s year-end coverage, we reached out to Athens musicians to ask about their favorite albums, concerts, moments and movements of 2018. Next week, we’ll unveil our music staff’s favorite local albums of the year.

Our favorite experience was the house show featuring the Texas-based industrial noise band Street Sects. Held on election night on Atlanta Avenue, there were probably 10 people in total in attendance. By the time the show started, all of us could barely see each other due to the absurd amount of fog the band had filled the house with. Strobe and police lights flashed violently through this fog while they played this small group of fans a phenomenal private show that created an atmosphere akin to a hell-like abyss. Oh, and the frontman surprise-blasted us with a leaf blower at one point. [Ian Hemerlein and Kody Blackmon, Kwazymoto]

2018—a gross, grating goblet of gobbledygook.

Apparition, Bursters, Blue Bodies, Multiple Miggs (best punk now, yeehaw!).

Linqua Franqa wears the crown. An artist!

The year's end reminds me of when I realized why I like rock and roll, hip hop, etc. I would wear out a new record, because it would be too cold to go outside. I would obsess over the sounds between the scripted melodies. The offhand comments or mistakes (Glenn Gould hums). I would feel connected to the artist through those mishaps! That's what I'd like to see in 2019. Ya know? [Taylor Chmura, Deep State]

Looking back on 2018, we have been most excited about the growth and increasing recognition of the Athens hip-hop scene. Just to name a few, acts like The YOD, Caulfield and Seline Haze have been really inspiring to watch make themselves heard, and we can't wait to see more.

One of our most memorable shows was having the opportunity to play with The YOD, Caulfield and Shade at the 40 Watt in September of 2018. We think it makes a lot of sense to curate shows where hip-hop and punk acts share the stage. With the political climate at hand, we want to play shows with acts that share a similar passion for articulating the issues we see and experience, and use art and music to explore this. [Nihilist Cheerleader]

Drew Beskin's Nostalgia Porn dropped back in October, and it's become one of my favorite local releases of the year. I've been following Beskin's career closely since first discovering him last year, when he released his debut, and since then have happily discovered for myself his stunning back catalog of other projects and previous bands. In a word: prolific. In every sense, he’s a songwriter’s songwriter. I think it’s great Athens is recognizing songwriters the way it has the last couple of years, and for my money, Beskin is leading the new wave of up-and-coming talent. [Cortez Garza]

It's amazing and inspiring to see so many extremely talented women making progressive, boundary-pushing music and artwork. I saw dynamic and moving performances from Cloud Powers (Goddess Complex), Sahada Buckley, Monique Osorio, Annie Leeth, Shannon Perry (Wet Garden), Lee Adcock (Casio Adcock), Ariel Ackerly, Sarah Swillum (Jim Jim), Madeline Polites (Immaterial Possession), Maria Kindt (Classical Revolution) and Almond Milf, just to name a few. I would be remiss not to mention Marie Uhler's fantastic Experimentique show series, which focuses on female-identifying and non-binary performers experimenting with new sounds and ways of playing. [Michael Potter]

My favorite local music event I went to this year was the second Odd Street Block Party in April. Hosted at three residences on Odd Street, there were an assortment of porch, basement and living-room shows with various artists of different genres from late afternoon to late night. I felt like I was in a ’90s movie as I approached the first house with a band performing on the front porch, the front yard littered with people and two people chilling on a couch on the roof of the house. It was amazing to see so many people of all types from the community gathered on a residential street to enjoy some local music in true DIY fashion. [Sam Lipkin, Volumes]

When I landed in the Classic City 23 years ago, it was in large part for the vague notion of joining the music scene. Well, I have and I haven’t, through many phases, through different waves, relishing the ride, all the while adapting to what’s next. I have and I haven’t, because it’s what you make of it. Something exciting and unexpected is just around the corner as the populace refreshes, the old-timers reach deeper, the lore and lure is cast surer and wider. I never wish while tucked in at Caledonia or entranced in Flicker or lulled through Hush Hush that scouts and agents or scale and share were the MacGuffin to the muse. We have something stellar in Athens. Feed it. [Killick Hinds]

Sahada Buckley's weekly Wednesday improv series at Go Bar has been a haven all year long for non-standard musicians and performance artists. Sahada is somewhat uncommon among classical players: She has these monster chops, which comes with the territory, but she is also comfortable playing constantly evolving free-association improv music, while keeping her stream of musical ideas sustained and fresh and inventive. Or, she might decide to read a passage from Proust instead.

Also, a shout-out to Andy Dixon, whose superb Gumshoe songs—such as the plaintive but hopeful Christmas request "Santa, Lock Up Trump”—are all written with his unique existential sensibility: the ethical-weirdo-meets-everyman. [John Norris, Trio Deluxe]


Photo Credit: Faye Webster

Cicada Rhythm

Athens gets a lot of praise for being weird. To be blunt, it also gets a lot of flack for it. A twentysomething high out of his mind rolling around on the stage floor of Go Bar fiddling with some knobs isn't “weird”—it's just bad. And to that degree, I can appreciate the disconnect. But that is not the Athens music scene I've come to love.

This year alone, I've been able to experience the powerhouse brass stylings of Misnomer, the punk-rock sounds of Nihilist Cheerleader, the pensive and soulful musings of singer-songwriter Andrew Blooms and the percussive funk of Partials. Within walking distance, I was able to hear the heart-filled songwriting of Cicada Rhythm, the backyard dream-pop of Neighbor Lady and the structured grunge of Oak House. Drummer Louis Romanos himself offered up at least seven different genres of music, depending on who he was playing with. Once, I saw a cowboy choir.

Sometimes, you'll hear singers describe themselves as "Nashville-friendly." We all know what that means. What does it mean to be "Athens-friendly”? How would you begin to articulate the tonal diversity of the Classic City into one, singular sound? Well. It's weird. [Grant Cowan]

My Top Five Southeast Regional Pop Songs of 2018:

  • Hank Sullivant, “Sunday Morning Drive”: Complex yet catchy epic from Athens’ own Sullivant. The whole album is stunning, musically and lyrically—a solid 30 minutes of beauty.
  • The Glands, “Possibilities”: Finally getting their due outside of Athens with their releases on New West Records, The Glands yank the heartstrings hard with this slow-burning gem.
  • New Man, “Little Windows”: Blowing my mind on the Georgia Theatre rooftop earlier this month, Nashville’s New Man take the Spector beat and layer hook after hook over it and crafting a mini pop masterpiece.
  • Young Valley, “’Til I Cross your Mind”: Saw these Jackson, MS fellas kill this tune at The Nick in Birmingham, AL recently—three-part harmony and all. Killer LP out on Dial Back Sound.
  • Belle Adair, “Long Fade Out”: Sheer shimmer. Belle Adair hails from Florence, AL, but has shades of Scotland (Teenage Fanclub), Canada (Klaatu) and California (The Byrds) in its hushed, lush sound. [Jay Gonzalez, Drive-By Truckers]

There were really awesome out-of-town bands that we got to play with (Kikagaku Moyo, Octopus Project, Sunwatchers). Face/Off is always a blast to do. The Turn Up the Vote rally was inspiring and exciting. My favorite show this year was the Dirty Athens Day Party. Mainly because my mom was visiting from Japan and got spring-break wasted off half a glass of wine, as everyone in Double Ferrari can attest to. (In her defense, she was still very jet-lagged.) All the local acts were amazing and very nice to Mama Uno as she giggled and eventually crouched in a corner. [Naoko Uno, Calico Vision]

Will and I went to see The Mummies at Popfest this year. Many of the attendees were chucking beers onstage during their performance. The band responded by scolding the beer-throwers for wasting their drinks, then finished the thrown beverages themselves. To say the least, there was a lot of love in the Georgia Theatre that night. [Jack Webster, Wieuca]

We almost got kicked out several times for throwing our beers, but I assure you we were framed. Beer is for drinking. [Will Ingram, Wieuca]

My Top Five Local Albums:

5. Wet Garden: Deep in Earth (Null Zone)
4. T. Hardy Morris: Dude, the Obscure (Normaltown)
3. Marshmallow Coast: Memory Girl (HHBTM)
2. Lydia Brambila: Migraineur (Independent Release)
1. The Glands: Double Coda (New West) [Andrew Rieger, Elf Power]