CMJ Music Marathon 2012: Festival Preview & Picks

Every year, CMJ Music Marathon lives up to its nerve-wracking name by offering showgoers an array of shows at a huge number of venues across New York City. But unlike some events that follow a similar model, CMJ is still a great place to begin scouting out up-and-coming bands before they make it big. With enough room to stretch their wings and enough competition to want to work hard, bands playing CMJ are forced to put on put on some of their best shows in some of the tiniest spaces. In our complete CMJ guide, we highlight an array of shows, mostly in the pop and electronic realms, and provide easy listening stations for the best ones so you can decide within seconds if a show is right for you.



Psychic Twin

Tuesday, October 16th @ Piano’s
I was lucky enough to catch this duo last year at CMJ by happy accident. The duo was charmingly lo-fi but they had enough spark to electrify the jaded Brooklyn crowd with their sweet Mates of State-influenced tunes. JUDY NELSON


Physical Therapy

Wednesday, October 17 @ Public Assembly
Physical Therapy, aka producer/DJ Daniel Fisher, released EP Safety Net to positive reviews in June. Distilling old rave beats with jazz and ambient percussion, and sometimes adding floating samples or vocals, the sound he creates addictive and impressive. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV



Saturday, October 20th @ Gramercy Theatre
The band basically spells out relaxation with their name choice. Their music videos and album art reiterate that fact; the video for their song “Slow Down” is perfectly California cool. JUDY NELSON


Com Truise

Saturday, October 20th @ Gramercy Theatre
What the world needs is more blurry, sludgy electro in the vein of Tobacco. The NJ-based producer put out his debut Galactic Melt (very brain-melting) in 2011, and released In Decay, an album of previously un-released material, this year. JUDY NELSON


Prince Rama

Riding on the wave of their recent high-concept release Top Ten Hits For The End Of The World, one can imagine Prince Rama will be bringing it this year at CMJ, as their thunderous pop hits and live performances become more and more theatrical with every tour. VIVIAN HUA


Slam Donahue

Slam Donahue is a threesome who released their EP Hemlock Tea this year. Similar to Passion Pit, their poppy, New Wave-ish songs will likely have you singing along, even if it’s your first time hearing them. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Young Magic

After temporarily losing a member to Germany due to visa issues, Young Magic have stripped down into a leaner two-piece without sacrificing any of their stately otherworldliness or percussive hypnotic qualities. VIVIAN HUA

Teen Daze

Tuesday, October 16h @ Piano’s
Hazy dance rock, Teen Daze is a producer based out of Vancouver. His songs are music you can bob your head to, as many people will be doing at his CMJ show. JUDY NELSON


REDEFINE favorites and Portland Afro-pop duo turned trio has been attracting nation-wide attention with their hyperpop jams ever since being signed to Tender Loving Empire. They’ll be warming up the east coast with their newly released full-length record, Heat Waves. VIVIAN HUA


Friday, October 19th @ Piano’s
With a similar vibe to Beach Fossils, Ducktails, and other bands on the Woodsist label, Murals’ 2012 debut On a Passing Cloud has a ‘60s rock feel that is infectious. If you catch them live this year, you’ll probably be one of the first. JUDY NELSON


Berlin via NYC band Fenster create what they call “deconstructed pop,” which will make you smile and maybe even bob your head a little. Things get a little experimental on their debut album Bones and their creativity with ambient sound samples is unexpected. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Chains of Love

Wednesday, October 17th @ Knitting Factory
Wednesday, October 17th @ Piano’s
Chains of Love describe themselves as “Death Pop Peroxide Soul”, and it kind of makes sense. Hailing from Vancouver, their album from this year plays like a combination of Motown and Dum Dum Girls. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Debo Band

Thursday, October 18th @ Knitting Factory
Furthering the cause of bringing international music to indie rock fans, Debo Band is playing CMJ. An 11-member band playing Afro-pop-rock, the band has toured all over the world for the past seven years, playing on diverse stages at the Ethiopian Music Festival, Lincoln Center, and even Webster Hall. Their self-titled debut album came out this year and heavily features Danny Mekonnen and vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (They’re playing at Knitting Factory on Thursday October 18th for CMJ, but if you have a badge, I would call the venue ahead of time. Last year Knitting Factory turned us away and said that they were not participating in CMJ!) JUDY NELSON


Wedneday, October 17th @ Cake Shop
Wedneday, October 17th @ Le Baron
Low-key electronica with bounce, Michna has been quietly making music that music geeks love for many years, although he has only released on proper studio album in 2008, entitled Magic Monday. Witness the magic live at CMJ this year at Cake Shop during the day on Wednesday Oct 17th, or at night at Le Baron. JUDY NELSON


Friday, October 19th @ Littlefield
R&B siren Nneka put out a stellar album, Concrete Jungle, in 2010 that deserved much more mainstream praise than it received. After staying under the radar even after another album release in 2011, the Nigerian born Germany-raised singer brings her powerful voice and eclectic music of influences to the stage. JUDY NELSON

Sudden Weather Change

It doesn’t take long to notice that Sudden Weather Change are influenced by the angst of ’90s rock. They have a youthful sound full of grinding guitars and tempo changes. There are times where their music also brings to mind bands that you’d find on Polyvinyl Records such as American Football and Braid. It is common for their songs have loud bursts of passions at times, while other songs convey a more introverted melancholy mood. With that combination, you can expect a booming and complex live show. KARLA HERNANDEZ


Saturday, October 20th @ Gramercy Theatre
DIIV make music that you’d expect from a band on Captured Tracks, and considering that the band was started by Zachary Cole Smith, who plays guitar in Beach Fossils, the hazy songs make sense. However, the song compositions carry a tempo kick that makes the band stand out and engages listeners a bit more than most bands of this genre. Instead of sticking to an aesthetic that seems completely worn out, the music has a touch of sunshine and crispness, sort of like the moment on a foggy day when the fog starts to dissolve. KARLA HERNANDEZ


Thursday, October 18th @ Bowery Electric
Friday, October19th @ Webster Hall
JJAMZ is a supergroup that was formed at a karaoke night in LA by James Valentine (Maroon 5), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley/Bright Eyes), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Michael Runion, and Z Berg (The Like). This summer’s Suicide Pact features poppy hooks and lush vocals from Berg. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Deap Vally

Thursday, October 18th @ Bowery Ballroom
Singer-guitarist Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards are Deap Vally, a band whose music hearkens back to early The White Stripes and classic Led Zeppelin, and whose big hair hearkens back to the ‘80s. Their latest single, “End of the World,” a gritty ode off carpe diem, comes out November 19. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Born Ruffians

Friday, October 19th @ Brooklyn Bowl
Saturday, October 20th @ Piano’s
This band caught my ear with their debut Red, Yellow, and Gold on Warp in 2008. They followed up with an equally impressive sophomore album that only made a small ripple. Let’s hope that they make a bigger splash in NY this year. JUDY NELSON

Killer Mike

Thursday, October 18th @ Irvine Plaza
Atlanta hip-hop in old-school fashion, Killer Mike has a message and manages to shout it above all of the din. His intelligent lyrics, riffs on Reagan, and musings on hip-hop in general made his 2011 album R.A.P. Music a huge hit. I saw him live over the summer opening for El-P and he impressed me. You should catch him with GZA performing his legendary Liquid Swords. JUDY NELSON


Araabmuzik is hip-hop producer Abraham Orellana, who uses an MPC drum machine to make catchy and complex beats. Watching him manipulate the machine live is hypnotic; his set at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival was one of the best of the festival and created an instant dance party. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV


Thursday, October 18th @ Bowery Ballroom
MNDR has been making waves in the NYC music scene, almost as much due to her flamboyant personal style as for her synthpop. Her live shows are entertaining dance-a-thons, and you’ll like this year’s Feed Me Diamonds if you’re a fan of La Roux and Santigold. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

The Love Language

One of those bands that fits perfectly onto the Merge roster, The Love Language broke through to indie rock audiences with their solid 2010 release Pedals. They have been touring relentlessly since. JUDY NELSON

Von Haze

Wednesday, October 17th @ Public Assembly
Slow and definitely hazey, Von Haze’s 2011 self-titled debut made a small splash last year on the indie scene. The band is back to try their luck in NY again at Public Assembly. JUDY NELSON

Jennifer O’Connor

Solo artist Jennifer O’Connor has been writing songs on her own since the year 2000, and her gentle mix of affecting lyrics and catchy guitar makes her one of the preeminent singer-songwriters of our time. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper has been making jazz music his whole life, but his most recent album represents a new curiosity. He explores hip-hop and soul and has guests like Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, and Erykah Badu joining him in his new fusion project. DEVORAH KLEIN LEV-TOV


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