It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to the dance – CMJ Music Marathon is always a wild week of musical excess. This year’s fest (the 34th installment!) which begins next Tuesday, October 21, will be no different, with over 1,300 artists playing sets in 80 of the city’s venues. I know what you’re thinking… where the hell do I begin? I dunno man, but we’re here to give it a shot. Without shilling our own showcases (too much), here’s our can’t miss artists at this year’s non-hyperbolic music marathon:
Excepter: All right, so I’m breaking the “not shilling our own shows” rule with our very first pick, but I can’t in good conscience not hype up an Excepter show whenever the experimental Brooklyn noise act decide to play. The self-described “synthetic protest band engineered to erase cultural distinctions through polarized confusion” do just that – polarize and confuse crowds. Their music is an exercise in maximalism; rather than conventionally structured songs with hooks, bridges and riffs occurring over a few minutes, Excepter hits you with all of that at once, for their entire set. It sounds almost alien and dissonant, but with some focus, each part becomes distinct and beautiful and its layered fusion crystalizes into awe-inspiring pieces of music. Plus they usually wear crazy outfits.
Cameo Gallery, Saturday, October 25, 7 PM (with Dave Harrington of DARKSIDE, Porcelain Raft, Lydia Ainsworth and Buscabella)
Washer: Fans of Exploding in Sound bands like Speedy Ortiz, Pile and Porches should make an effort to get out to some shows early (it looks like they’re opening both of their shows) to catch this Brooklyn duo comprised of the same friend group that produced Big Ups and Flagland. The name brings to mind the Slint song “Washer” and the Sonic Youth album Washing Machine, and their music falls somewhere in between.
Palisades, Tuesday, October 21 8 PM (with Roomrunner, Celestial Shore and Heliotropes); Shea Stadium, Friday, October 24, 8 PM (with PAWS, Solids, Heat and Meat Wave)
PCPC: All right, so supergroups are usually pretty lame, but I’m willing to bet that the pairing of Parquet Courts and their slightly-more out there friends in PC Worship (also playing Silent Barn Tuesday night) should produce some pretty sweet music. Of course, no one knows what the hell they sound like together, so it’s worth checking them out just for the curiosity. Oh, and they’re opening for Thurston Moore too. That helps.
St. Vitus, Tuesday, October 21, 8 PM (with Thurston Moore Band)
HSY: I’m a little biased with these guys because they sorta blew my mind at one of my CMJ showcases last year, but this Toronto-based noisepunk band are kind of a jack-of-all trades when it comes to heavy music. They’re capable of amping things up with blistering hardcore and slowing things down with plodding, sludge. I guess I’d call them post-no-wave industrial? Eh… probably not, makes me feel like a douche. Fuck tags, just check em out.
Shea Stadium, Thursday, October 23, 8 PM (with Vulture Shit, Mexican Slang, The Beverlys, Weaves, Muuy Biien)
Couch Slut: CMJ is usually pretty indie rock-centric, so it’s not the best showcase for more “extreme” music, but if you’re the type that frequents the Acheron, St. Vitus or 538 Johnson, then make sure you hit Vitus Friday night for Couch Slut. They’re a relatively new, female-fronted act who play a noisy brand of doom-inspired hardcore. Their single is called “Split Urethra Castle.” That’s right.
St. Vitus, Friday, October 24, 8 PM (with Virus, Krallice and Sannhet)
Beach Slang: If you were to make a case for Philadelphia as America’s best punk city at the moment, I’d (even as a Brooklyn kid) be inclined to listen. If you were to argue that Beach Slang were the band from that scene with the highest ceiling, I’d wholeheartedly agree. Technically a new band culled from a couple of old bands–Weston, Friends, NONA–the anthem-inclined quartet, who already have a shout-every-chorus live following, hardly qualify as a discovery, but don’t stress, next week offers the perfect chance to get in on the ground floor.
Baby’s All Right, Saturday, October 25th, 8pm (with Cayetana, Pity Sex, and The Jazz June)
Lazer/Wulf: In case you wanted to feel bad about what you accomplished this summer (half a song, three quarters of a tan, one blog post), these experimental Georgia metalheads released The Beast of Left and Right, which just so happens to be perfect musical palindrome, with each riff, lyric, and rhythm painstakingly composed to mirror its counterpart tune when flipped over and played backwards. If that doesn’t get you hyped to at least give these guys a curiosity listen, then you’re probably a licensed Skynet product.
The Acheron, Tuesday, October 21st, 7:30pm (with Moon Tooth, King Parrot, and Inter Arma)
Meatbodies: The latest gunslingers to emerge from Ty Segall’s gang of garage outlaws, Meatbodies, fronted by former Fuzz bassist/Mikal Cronin lead guitarist, Chad Ubovich, is a straight-up rock band served with all the Bay Area trimmings. 60s psychedelia? Check. Fog-inspired fuzz? Double check. Hooks as unflappable the post-season Giants? Yeah, you get the picture.
Baby’s All Right, Friday, Ocotber 24th, 7pm (with Purling Hiss OBN IIIs, Hunters, Calvin Love, Dune Rats, Happyness, and Homeshake)
Vulture Shit: Vulture Shit do a lot with a little, blending distorted bass, primal percussion, and barked lyrics about the crappy minutiae of a crappier life into darkly funny and thoroughly engaging live sets, which should be pretty high on most bands-to-see bucket lists by now. If/when you do catch the Brooklyn trio in the feathers, however, just remember not to look up.
Shea Stadium, Thursday, October 23, 8 PM (with HSY, Mexican Slang, The Beverlys, Weaves, and Muuy Biien)
Vomitface: Like Diarrhea Planet before them, Vomitface’s name is less an indicator of the music they make than a screening system for those too close-minded to handle it. Once you get beyond the bile, however, what you find is an all-American punk band with a penchant for good melodies and sneering NYC attitude, a formula that has historically carried some pretty good bands an awfully long way.
Trash Bar, Tuesday, October 21, 8pm (with Prehab, Nox Boys, L.A. Witch, GHXST, Dear Boy, and The Chloes)
Tweens: Infectious trash-pop from Cincinnati, Tweens have released arguably the best album of 2014 with their self-titled release on French Kiss Records. Opening for The Breeders and The Black Lips in recent times has managed to make the band both tighter and more chaotic at the same time. Underneath the rebellious and brash delivery are delectable bubblegum pop tunes.
Arlene’s Grocery on (10/22) and a non-CMJ show at Death By Audio that same evening (which is not a CMJ show).
Springtime Carnivore: Greta Morgan creates gorgeous, cinematic pop with a timeless quality. If you aren’t swooned by a song like Two Scars then I can only sympathise. File somewhere between Phil Spector-esque production and Dusty Springield blue-eyed-soul.
Rough Trade on Friday the 24th and Pianos (upstairs) on Saturday the 25th.
Dinner: Recently signed to Captured Tracks, Denmark’s Anders Rhedin produces lo-fi but lush synth anthems. Fans of John Maus will do well to check him out.
Coco 66 on Thursday the 23rd, Baby’s All Right that same day and Cake Shop on Saturdaythe 25th.
Doug Gillard: No-one should need to be told who Doug Gillard is, with a CV that includes Guided by Voices and Nada Surf to name but two bands. What you probably don’t know is that his 2014 solo album, Parade On, is pure jangle-pop gold.
Passenger Bar on Friday the 24th.
LA Witch: Reverb-drenched guitars and earthquake shaking bass is a tried and tested formula which often leads to lazy comparisons to well established greats. Needless to say, if you want some dirty rock and roll, look no further than this west coast trio.
Playing at Trash Bar on Tuesday the 21st and Union Pool Wednesday the 22nd.
Saint Pepsi – It’s been described as “vaporwave,” the experimental, hypnogogic, internet-loving genre in which artists like James Ferraro thrive. Saint Pepsi brings his own spin to it, mixing in obscure disco and Top 40 hits. He recently remixed Drake’s “Worst Behavior” and it was the most fun I’ve had with a remix in a long time; he loses the trap beat for one that almost sounds like Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West.” And it works. His Hit Vibes mix is incredibly addicting, and the hype has only grown with this past winter’s Mr. Wonderful and Gin City EPs. The last time I saw him I ended up on stage dancing. His music is infectious.
Brooklyn Bowl, Saturday, October 18, 11:30pm (with Penguin Prison)// Mercury Lounge, Wednesday, October 22, 9pm (with Chandos, Dog Bite, and Popstrangers) // Output,Wednesday, October 22, 10pm (with Ben Pearce, LXURY, SPAZZKID and Tokimonsta)
PAWS – The 90s alt-rock comparisons are abundant for PAWS. I want to describe them lo-fi and grungy but there’s certainly a pop tinge to it. Their second album’s title, Youth Culture Forever, embodies what vibe this band channels. But while there’s plenty overarching topics associated with youth played at- young relationships, breakups, getting drunk a lot (oh, that’s a youth thing, you say?)- there’s also a melancholic adult-ness that comes through. And this week you have plenty of chances to see for yourself.
Night Bazaar, Tuesday, October 21, 7pm (with DIIV, Splashh, Nuns and Beach Day) // Pianos, Wednesday, October 22, 1pm (with Tei Shi, Adult Jazz, The Yum Dee Days, September Girls, Splashh and Pinact) // Cake Shop,Wednesday, October 22, 8pm (with J Fernandez, White Reaper, Cymbals and Literature) // Knitting Factory,Friday, October 24, 12pm (with Splashh, The Wytches, Pins, Beverly and Solander) // Shea Stadium, Friday, October 24, (with Solids, Heat, Meat Wave and Washer) // Knitting Factory, Saturday, October 25, 7pm (with Flashlights, Orenda Fink and Amanda X)
Cayetana – Philly-bred all-girl pop punk group with strong vocals and honest songwriting. If you like Hop Along, Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, etc. you will dig them.
Le Poisson Rouge, Wednesday, October 22, 8pm (with Elle Varner, Lia Ices, and BJ The Chicago Kid) // Baby’s All Right, Saturday, October 25, 8pm (with The Jazz June, Pity Sex, Beach Slang and Sport)
Radiator Hospital – This band has been one of my favorite surprises of the year. Their second album Torch Song is nothing mind-blowing; it’s essentially indie pop-rock. But its the cheeky, relatable songwriting that pulled me in. And with vocal contributions from the Crutchfield sisters, their appeal is only strengthened. This album is catchy as fuck (see “Cut Your Bangs,” and try not to hit repeat).
The Silent Barn, Sunday, October 19, 8pm (with Allison Crutchfield, Slutever, Girlpool and Libbie 2000)
Tom Vek – Some pretty straight forward, upbeat post-punk. Some synthy garage-pop. He’s just released his third album Luck, but maybe you remember him from his brief performance at The Bait Shop (you know that imaginary lesbian-run beach bar from the OC?), sounding like a knockoff Bloc Party. His sound is more his own now, a little more all over the place genre-wise, and there’s no doubt you’ll have a good time seeing him live.
Baby’s All Right, Monday, October 20, 8pm (with Future Punx and Dophrah) // Mercury Lounge, Tuesday, October 21, 6:30pm (with Olga Bell)