The 33rd annual CMJ Music Marathon branded its final music showcase Saturday, October 19 in New York City. With various music panels and nearly 1,400 up-and-coming artists sprawled across Brooklyn and Manhattan, it's been an exhaustive five days for the NYC music scene. Luckily, there were plenty of standout performances that made up for the lack of sleep and hours spent standing in dive bars.
CMJ has consistently done a great job of blending emerging acts with a careful selection of established artists and everything in between. This year was no different. Among the more well-known artists were Father John Misty, The Dismemeberment Plan, Talib Kwali, Savages, Braid, Real Estate, and Placebo. Both Real Estate and Father John Misty tried out a handful of new tunes at their CMJ showcases this year. Father John Misty took the Williamsburg Music Hall on a wild ride with a beautifully rousing and slightly disturbing solo acoustic set. Comedienne Kate Berlant opened for the neo-folk, ex-Fleet Foxes drummer and was a hysterically refreshing change of pace from the usual unknown opener. Josh Tillman has become infamous for the the symbolic narrative of his alter-ego Father John Misty. He performed songs from 2012's "Fear Fun" as well as a few new ones. True to Misty's style, a scantily clad woman (who was later revealed to be his wife) sat completely motionless wearing a gigantic bunny head while he played. Mix that in with Tillman's deft, dry wit and it's an alluring recipe that's bound to fly over a lot of people's heads.
Seattle indie rock band The Long Winters celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their sophomore album "When I Pretend to Fall" at CMJ this year. As part of the Champion Showcase, Frontman John Roderick and company were in top form as they made their way through all of "When I Pretend To Fall" and riffed off of each other in hilarious, playful banter between each song. Another pinnacle performance was Thomas Azier and Woodkid at Webster Hall. This was one of the most delightfully over-the-top spectacles of art that CMJ has probably ever seen. Berlin-based synthpop artist Thomas Azier opened for Woodkid and captivated the entire venue with no gimmicks; just his voice and a synthesizer. But, the night rightfully belonged to France's Yoann Lemoine (Woodkid). A master of visual art and director/graphic designer by profession, Lemoine crafted an amazing illustrative accompaniment to his moody baroque pop music.
It wouldn't be CMJ without a fair share of surprises. From P Diddy introducing Deerhunter's showcase to Candian music giants Arcade Fire stealing CMJ's thunder with two surprise shows in Brooklyn, the marathon still pressed on despite a few eyebrow raisers. Though, at the core of the organized chaos lie hundreds and hundreds of young and hungry bands vying for the chance to gain the attention of the industry; a daunting feat given the quantity of music and the impossibility to catch everything. However, there were definitely great things happening beneath the surface of some of New York City's most intimate music venues. Here are a few, of many, (somewhat) under-the-radar bands from the CMJ Music Marathon that deserve a closer look (in no particular order):
- Little Daylight
Brooklyn-based synthpop group with infectious melodies and giant, rocking hooks. Their song "Overdose" is one of this year's best and most addicting tracks!
- Diane Birch
Singer/songwriter with impressive piano chops and an even more impressive voice. Birch's clear, soulful singing alludes to an authentic retro style from the '60s and '70s.
- The Darcys
This art-rock band from Toronto blends post-rock, dynamic vocals, and moody soundscapes for an alluring musical experience; the likes of which you really don't hear enough of lately.
- Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Canadian art-pop, experimental group that will blow your mind. Borrowing from opera, metal, and psychedelia, Y//ST is a one of a kind listening experience.
- Speedy Ortiz
A raw noise-pop/alt-rock group with clean vocals and one of the best albums released this year.
- Empress Of
Brooklyn's own Lorely Rodriguez is behind this beat-driven brand of electronic pop tunes. Not to mention, Rodriguez has one of the most beautiful and light falsettos around.
- F*ck Buttons
The electronic duo, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power, have a truly dynamic sound that ranges from enticing electronic melodies to aggressive experimental movements. There are no vocals in this project, but throw their latest record "Slow Focus" on with a pair of solid headphones and enjoy the dark space ride that ensues.
- Thomas Azier
As previous mentioned, Azier opened up for Woodkid at Webster Hall. This guy has an operatic tenor that can move mountains and a infectious synth-pop sound that flirts with R&B influences at times.
- Jacco Gardner
It's easy to write this guy off as a Beatles carbon copy. But, this psych ride is just too fun to pass up.
- Eleanor Friedberger
Singer/songwriter and half of the indie rock duo, The Fiery Furnaces. Resting on the laurels of her confident voice and thoughtful lyricism, Friedberger brings rock back to its core of feeling and message.