If you were able to check out any of the CMJ lineup over the last few days, you’ll know that they don’t call it a music marathon for nothing; many of the musical acts performed around seven or eight times when all was said and done, lugging their gear from place to place in between sets. We took a see-as-much-as-you-can approach to try and tackle this one, and now that the dust has settled ever so slightly, we thought we’d give you the low-down on our favorite acts and performances. We also thought we’d provide you with a CMJ detox playlist in case your ears are still in overload mode. So here we go, starting alphabetically with ALYSSA:
My favorite performances were Born Ruffians, Wild Nothing, Savages, Foxygen and Kishi Bashi, and my favorite bands were Savages (hello Siouxsie Sioux revival!) + Foxygen (hello amazing pants from the 70s!) Meanwhile, my CMJ detox music is bad reality TV while I sleep and feel hungover in the background. On loops.
My CMJ wasn’t the marathon it was for others, but the Un-Official Pitchfork CMJ showcase at MoMA PS1 was a definite highlight.This showcase had the potential to be the ultimate cliché; it was an “unofficial” showcase hosted by one of the most controversial music blogs, located at a contemporary art museum that used to be a school, and the actual concert took place in a huge dome in the yard. The lineup consisted of Doldrums, Chairlift and Andy Stott. Chairlift spoke the truth during their set when they said, “I wish all of our shows could be inside a dome.”
Though at first I felt like a walking hipster cat internet meme, the showcase was great. Doldrums are definitely on my list of artists to watch. They were upfront and fun, with crazy-eyed energy of a band that had played five shows the night before. Their music is sample based with plenty of tambourine, percussion and yelping vocals. To me they were like a more accessible and danceable Animal Collective. You didn’t have to peel back a bunch of layers to “get it.”
Chairlift played a set made almost entirely of material from their sophomore album Something. Caroline Polachek sings as smoothly live as she does on the album. The iPod hit “Bruises” went unplayed, and as my friend noted, “it seems like they’ve disowned the blowjob song.”
Andy Stott was last, and his stuff fell too much into trance/Deadmau5 territory for my liking. Despite the mesmerizing dome visuals, a burrito sounded better and I left a bit early. Kudos for a memorable showcase Pitchfork. And would someone like to make a Simpson’s Movie pun about the dome? I can’t think of one. As for CMJ recovery songs, I recommend The Beatles, Here Comes The Sun and anything by One Direction.
I think I win the CMJ award out of all of us, because I saw somewhere around thirty-five bands perform last week. (I intended to see even more than that, but at some point during the Aussie BBQ on Saturday night I started to feel like going home and watching Battle Royale and sleeping would be a better alternative to trekking over to Public Assembly.) So fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) I have a stockpile of performances to choose from for my favorites!
The first (and most obvious) choice for me would have to be Hundred Waters. I kept thinking that if I were ever doing ballet in a forest that was floating in outer space, this would most definitely be the appropriate soundtrack, because it’s just this beautiful, futuristic-but-weirdly-familiar sound. For me, the vocals are reminiscent of Cocteau Twins (especially on tracks like “Caverns”) and while I hesitate to use the word “special” to describe a performance, this one really was just entirely that; if you are able to transport me from Pianos in the middle of the day, completely sober, to strange and symphonic planet, then you pretty much have to win. See also: I JUST WANT TO SHOUT IT FROM THE INTERNET-ROOFTOPS.
Next up I’m going to have to vote Ava Luna, who were all kinds of great. The vocals could’ve stood alone, but there was the added bonus of this incredible grunge-soul instrumentation. MORE, PLEASE.
I’m also a firm believer in all things Mykki Blanco, so she’s clearly going to get a shout-out here. I only caught her once at Cake Shop, but I’ve seen her outside of CMJ so it wasn’t a huge revelation for me when she gave a great performance. Energy? Incredible. Moves? Incredible. Beats? Incredible. (Can you see a pattern forming here?) She even did “Freak Jerk” at the request of an audience member, so it was pretty much an all-around victory.
And even though you can’t see it right now, I am giving a really big thumbs up to Australian duo Big Scary; I saw them TWICE (once at DROM and once at The Delancey) and both were really solid performances. Tom Iansek and Jo Syme are sort of like a less terrifying version of Jack and Meg White (is that a thing? White Stripes fear? Because I have it…), and while it’s just the two of them, they’ve got a really huge sound that runs the gamut from soft, pretty ballads to full-on rock jams. If that sounds like a thing you would like to witness in real life, you should probably catch them on Wednesday w/ Opossom at Pianos. (PS, when I Googled “Opossom Wednesday NYC” just now, this is what came up.)
Last but not least, I would like to give Internet high-fives to Conveyor, who conveyed some really good tunes on Saturday at Rockwood Music Hall around noon. Although I mostly went there for the falsely advertised free brunch from 12-2, I was captivated by their intricate, feel-good sound, which provided a really good soundtrack for being hungover and/or just waking up. Bonus points to the trombonist!
Honorable mentions go to Kate Earl (who’s got an incredible voice), Field Mouse (whose performance I really like but my friend did not, so I’m not really sure who’s right), Zulu Pearls (saw them twice, super amazing), Strange Talk (who put on a really great, energetic show), Blondfire (whose song “Waves” is definitely one to check out), The Trouble With Templeton (boy can SING!), and Sky Ferreira (because Sky Ferreira.)
Okay, and now for my CMJ detox selections:
It looks like London-town brought the talent in spades this year, what with Savages putting on one hell of a show in the tiny space that is Pianos downstairs for the Bowery Presents showcase. Four girl-babes (two strangely looking like alternate versions of Keira Knightley) playing with all the seething angst a scorned ex might harbor? Yes please. Couple that with an electric midnight performance by Citizens! at the NME’s Cake Shop showcase (which was preempted by an acoustic set at the Standard Hotel East). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Citizens! are going to be the next big thing in pop music, and live they’re even better than I could have expected. So we Americans might have be losing the revolutionary music war this time around, it’s Brett from Washington, D.C. that’s giving us some leverage. If CMJ was a beauty pagent, they’d win the ever popular Miss Congeniality award, as their set at Tammany Hall showed not only a lot of promise, but energy too. Chillwave you can dance to? I’ll never hate on that. And if we were giving out prizes for Best Vocals, well then Ambassadors steal it with ease during the Moscot Music Showcase. Seriously. Those pipes! Are perfect!
- I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself – White Stripes (get it?)
- That new Solange Knowles track Losing You, which I heard about 500 times this week
AND NOW FOR OUR PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE! First up are Alyssa Lesser’s shots:
From Shauna Alexander:
And a few from Carrie Walters: