My Current Upstate Music Awards Earworms

  • By cvbizz
  • January 27, 2021
  • 0
upstate music awards
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Brett Barest

I have mentioned the Upstate Music Awards in this space over the last couple of months but each time I have deliberately left something out – the nominees themselves. I do not really consider myself all that influential a fellow but, still, I did not want to come off as a UMA committee member trying to influence voters during the nomination and voting process. As luck would have it, both of those windows have closed and I now feel free to speak freely on the subject of the artists themselves.

One of the biggest pleasant surprises of this year’s UMA nomination and voting is the sheer number of local artists that I was totally unfamiliar with. Sure, there were my tried and true local favorites like Shyland Flowers, Phat Lip, Vilai Harrington, 888shiva, Salti Ray, and so, so many others but the fresh names that made me pause and say “Wait, this is a local band?” was a bit overwhelming. For this week’s conversation I would like to focus on those “new to me” artists that caught my ear and were added to my regular listening rotation.

Also, I must note that as a committee member that none of the following opinions has any bearing on the actual results of the Upstate Music Awards. There are the voices of you, the voters, and six other committee members sitting at the table so, really, this is just me offering a shout out to just a few of the bands that deserve all of the spotlight I am able to give them. Like you, I will have to wait until (almost) the actual awards ceremony in the spring to find out who is going home with hardware that evening. And now, in no particular order, I am listening to the heck out of the following artists…

Lo Indigo

I say it all the time but I am always on the hunt for more local hip-hop and this year’s list of nominees is rich with it. Lo Indigo’s video for the track “Wasabi Flow” absolutely blew me away and sent me directly to his album Church of the Innocent which I listened to back to back the night I found out about him. Great beats, brilliant (and often hilarious) lyrics that I will not quote here, and a blend of styles that make me almost wonder if I am listening to the same artist from track to track – this checks all the boxes for me and, of the several categories he is nominated for, I will be rooting for him in just about all of them.


 Cards on the table here: My first introduction to Gridd was when I was working my way through the Best Music Video nominees and watched his video for “Baron Zemo”. It was an interesting video and catchy-enough song at a single listen but I was not blown away. Then, as I worked my way through the Best Album nominees, I had the holy shit moment… Rock, punk, folk, a dash of hip-hop, and so many other styles come together for one of the most interesting albums I have listened to throughout this process. “Baron Zemo” grabbed my ear 100 times harder on my second listen and the album as a package revealed so much more going on. The track “Toxic” showed up in my playlist in the car the other day and made my wife interrupt our conversations with “Who is THIS?” – always a good sign when it comes to discovering new music.


If I had to pick one song that hit me on the first notes and never let go, it is far and away Barryle’s “Dollars”.  A little hip-hop, a little R&B, a whole lot of amazing writing makes this one a heavy hitter in my book. If there was a Best Love Song category in the UMA’s, there would not even be a conversation beyond this track. Regardless, I am totally rooting for this guy in multiple categories.

The Planks

I found these guys when I was working through the Best New Artist category and, upon first listen, the conversation ended in my book. A little dark, angry, depressed indie garage rock is my love language and I cannot wait to hear more from this band. Where and when do they play and what other songs do they have? I have no idea but the answers to those questions are among my top priorities at the moment.

DJ Swale

This one almost breaks from the rules here as his track “Her Song” features Maxx Good$, who I am already a fan of. Well, it is a good thing I make the rules here because DJ Swale and contributing artist LA Kenzie were brand new to me so two out of three works for this exercise. Seriously though, this track slays and whether we are looking at Best Music Video or Best Collaboration, this has to be a part of the conversation.

For the record, this is in no way a comprehensive list of new artists that have grabbed my attention out of this year’s UMA nominees. Nor is it a full list of those that will as I am still getting to know all of the 140 artists nominated for this year’s ceremony. As I keep listening, I will keep sharing and I encourage you to do the same, either at the Upstate Music Awards website or the Spotify sampler playlist of everyone nominated this year. The ceremony, its live performances, and (hopefully) some kind of return to normal are still a few months out, but that does not mean we do not have a ton of great local music to satiate our music appetites in the meantime.

Listen to the Upstate Music Awards Playlist

Upstate Live Music Calendar

Upstate News Headlines

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