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Catch The Next Wave:
Top Picks From CMJ 2014

It’s been another whirlwind week of music in New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon, in which bands from around the world gather for five days of non-stop performances. From newcomers like Strange Kids and Buscabulla to decade-long favorites the Kills, we saw as much as we could, constantly on the move between the Lower East Side and Williamsburg.


Follow our CMJ 2014 playlist on Spotify

The coinciding events at the FADER Fort always offer up something spectacular; in this case, Friday saw the solid lineup of Adult Jazz, George Maple, and TOPS overpowered by the presence of Will Smith progeny Willow and Jaden, who also performed with SZA. Check out a photo recap of the week, listen to a playlist, and read more about our top picks below.

 

Who: Girlpool

Girl Pool

What: Putting your teenage poetry to shame

Why: Let’s get it out of the way: Girlpool are a pair of teen girls from LA, and they blow everything you ever submitted to your high school literary journal out of the water. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad are armed with just a guitar and bass to create spiraling melodies, putting their astute, frankly-phrased lyrics at the forefront. The duo’s concerned with boys both specific and societal, as quick to rail against the patriarchy as they are to deliver an earnest expression of desire. Girlpool know how to snarl but never sneer, and they’re already the kind of smart, strong, sensual women that the Tina Belchers of the world can look up to. Look out for their self-titled debut EP, released next month on Wichita Recordings.

 

Who: Jamaican Queens

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What: Keeping Detroit weird

Why: On last year’s debut album Wormfood, Jamaican Queens delivered a sound both immediately familiar and totally bizarre. Even with a near-complete rejection of conventional song structure, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their airy productions and lyrics that veer between poignant and unsettling, fueled by a sense of impending danger. Woozy new single “Bored + Lazy” is the strongest embodiment of their self-described “trap-pop” label, ramping up the band’s electronic elements to harder, darker heights; live, it makes an even stronger impression, with the kind of heaviness that can only be maintained with a good sense of humor.

 

Who: Strange Names

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What: Nights in purple satin

Why: On the strength of just a couple of EPs, synth-loving duo Strange Names became a favorite of the thriving scene in their hometown of Minneapolis. Just ahead of CMJ, they made the move to New York City after signing to Frenchkiss Records (The Drums, Bloc Party) over the summer. With plenty of glossy hooks and funk flair–just try getting “Potential Wife” from their self-titled EP out of your head–they’re poised to really pop off once their debut LP drops next year.

 

Who: MONEY

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What: Unbelievers who can take you to church

Why: For a band whose album kicks off with a song called “So Long (God Is Dead),” there’s something decidedly spiritual about MONEY. Hailing from the hallowed ground of Manchester, UK, their work is filled with the kind of ascendent echoes that have led Arcade Fire to play arenas, but it’s undercut with a peculiar irreverence. (One look at their casually nudity-laden internet presence says it all, and more bands should be making out in their promo photos.) MONEY would probably sound more moving in a cathedral, but the ashtray-embedded backdrop of Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right does just fine.

 

Who: PAWS

Paws

What: Scotland’s for me! And you!

Why: While there’s plenty of music made to escape to fantastic places, the real world always awaits, and that’s where PAWS step in. Frontman Phillip Taylor makes his own hopes and fears immediately relatable, telling stories with sensitivity and plain-spoken charm. The Glaswegian trio is just as engaging onstage, genuinely cathartic and genuinely fun even when playing two sets in as many hours. Plus, now that the emo revival has had its moment, we can move on to the pop-punk revival.

 

Who: Adult Jazz

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What: Chillness is the move

Why: The British art-rock boom is still in full swing, and Leeds’ Adult Jazz are some of the latest weirdos on the scene. On their debut album Gist Is, you might recognize some of the angular, arching lurch of Dirty Projectors, though Harry Burgess’ voice is a sight quicker to ease into than Dave Longstreth’s. Their sound is decidedly sparse on record, with plenty of breathing room for its many intriguing flourishes, but Adult Jazz are capable of filling a room nicely live. (It also takes a certain amount of panache for a grown human to pull off sincerely jingling tiny bells into a microphone.)

 

Who: September Girls

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What: Goths at the beach

Why: The recent wave (pun intended) of dark surf bands has been a welcome sight, and September Girls are no exception. While fellow CMJ faves the Wytches prefer to thrash about in the sea, this black-clad Irish quartet is decidedly waving, not drowning. Their timelessly fuzzed-out tunes are cut through with glimmers of evil, boosted by their powerful stage presence. The Dubliners recently signed to renowned indie pop label Kanine Records, and their first single for their new home “Veneer” is some of their most driving, compelling work yet.

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text by: Katie Chow










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