Savannah Heads North For Four Days Of CMJ: October 16-October 19
With over 1400 bands playing across 70 venues, you pretty much have two choices with CMJ: Scramble around Manhattan and Brooklyn like crazy people or settle into one area and catch-as-catch-can. With the exception of one night, we chose the latter. If you hole up on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, you’re all but guaranteed that the bands you want to see will, at some point, come through one or more of the following clubs: Pianos, The Living Room, Cake Shop, Arlene’s Grocery and Mercury Lounge~~ all are small enough and close enough to hop in and out of and the sidewalk scene turns into a casual industry chat fest. The other benefit is that you will stumble upon bands that weren’t even on your radar by just dropping in on a random set… and that’s really what makes CMJ so fun.
We were there primarily to check out new bands for our music festival~~Savannah Stopover~~which takes place every March for bands en route to SXSW, but it was also fun to run into so many bands that played last year’s Stopover: Country Mice, Tops, Turf War, The Suzan, Christopher Paul Stelling and several others.
What follows is our list of top ‘new’ bands coming out of CMJ. It’s a combination of bands that we saw live at least once and a few that, try as we may, we couldn’t catch but who haven’t left our playlists in months:
1. Duologue- from London, England. We stumbled onto this band at the Windish Showcase at Mercury Lounge because we were early for once in our lives and we were literally stopped dead in our tracks. The next Radiohead? I’m just saying.
2. Royal Canoe- from Winnipeg Canada: MusicFiler Selah Dalacos had them on her CMJ watch list and we were rightly blown away. The six piece band has a live energy that was incredible, particularly given that they were crammed into a tiny room upstairs at Pianos and could barely move. We recommended them to Ben Kaye from Consequence of Sound who gave them some love as well. This group is nothing short of a good time.
3. Mac DeMarco- from Montreal, Canada. Twenty two year old Mac DeMarco is deliciously off trend- not a hint of surf rock, chill wave or heart felt harmonies from this guy and that makes him a stand out in our book. His jangly guitar driven garage pop (with those slightly disaffected droning vocals) sounds more like Cass McCombs in a mischievous mood with a wonderful hint of 70′s icons Mink DeVille. His second effort, Mac DeMarco 2 came out October 16th on Captured Tracks to rave reviews.
4 Ambassadors- from Brooklyn, NY by way of Ithaca. Two brothers and two friends. One of the brothers, Casey, who is the keyboardist, has been blind since birth and had to undergo a kidney transplant last year-the kidney came from his mother. Sam, his brother, wrote the band’s debut album Litost during Casey’s recovery. All that back story would be remarkable in and of itself but the band just also happens to be incredible. Look for a big year ahead for Ambassadors.
5. You Won’t- from Cambridge, MA. A charming duo whose live show was more intimate and stripped down than their record suggested. At first listen, we heard threads of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah but live, it’s more like a cross between Frightened Rabbit and The Tallest Man on Earth. We were smitten. When their amp caught on fire and started smoking, the two moved into the center of the room and went 100% acoustic with just a guitar and a saw…and you KNOW how we love a good saw player in the south.
6. Foxygen- from Astoria, Queens, NY. Foxygen seemed to be on everyone’s CMJ list (as well as on the cover of Deli Magazine when we were in town) and is no doubt one of the big buzz bands of this year. Is it warranted? We think so. The band has signed to the most excellent Jagjaguwar Record label and their debut album Take The Kids Off Broadway has been on constant replay in our offices for a few months now. A thoroughly modern sound that meanders through the annals of rock and roll with complete disregard from homogeneity. A little Stones, a little Pink Floyd, and dare we say on this track, a touch of Neil Diamond? We can’t get enough of this band.
7. Blue Hawaii- from Montreal, Canada. Consisting of Raphaelle Standell-Preston from Canadian breakout band Braids and boyfriend Alexander Cowan; Blue Hawaii will inevitably get pegged as chill wave. Only this time the description is more literal. The two spent a lot of time in Belize and Guatemala when they first began dating and the music reads like a love letter on vacation. We saw them perform twice at CMJ and were haunted and enthralled by the simplicity and purity of the experience. They’ve been recording together for a few years but look for 2013 to see label Arbutus Records (and the rest of the world) push them out of the nest.
8. Robert DeLong- from Echo Park, CA. It’s fitting that DeLong’s soon-to-be-a-breakout hit is titled “Global Concepts” because no one is making more interesting electronic dance music using all the modern tools the world has to offer than this guy. A Wii Remote and Sega genesis controller, drum pads and a sampling tool kit of global proportions. If this isn’t the best dance track of 2012, I’ll eat my hat. “Did I make money? Was I proud? Did I play my songs too loud? Did I leave my life to chance or did I make you f***ing dance?”. DeLong has already been signed to Glassnote Records.
9. Line & Circle. From Echo Park, CA. Ok, so Echo Park is hot! We stopped into the White Iris party (one of our favorite labels) at a loft in the East Village in the hopes of catching Cuckoo Chaos but what we got instead was the majority of Line & Circle’s set. The acoustics in the cavernous room were not great but we could tell they were something special. Early R.E.M. anyone? With only two tracks released to date, the band is deservedly stirring up a lot of blog love. Ours included.
10. Hundred Waters. From Gainseville, FL. Hundred Waters’ set at Mercury Lounge during CMJ was packed and hushed, the perfect dynamic for absorbing this 5 piece band whose ethereal double female vocals are somehow both soothing and dynamic. It’s a sound that has you up on your tip toes, staring intently at the stage, just waiting for each song to bust loose just a bit. They never really do. This leaves you scratching your head but thoroughly enthralled and listening hard as elements of Jazz (that flute!) and Electronica flirt and collide with each other. Wholly original.