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CMJ Music Marathon 2013 yet again saw a convergence of hundreds of bands and thousands of fans on the clubs of the Lower East Side, East Village, and Williamsburg in New York City. Coincidentally, many of the bands we were most looking forward to were female-fronted (Speedy Ortiz, Eternal Summers, Hunters), and they did not disappoint. While times have certainly progressed, female-fronted bands still have something to prove, and it was good to see several super-talented guitar players and songwriters, as well as singers and performers, show themselves to be just as good as their male counterparts. All-dude groups Caveman and Grandchildren both had solid performances that left me with a good "I-discovered-something-cool-at-CMJ" feeling as well, and electropop groups were well-represented as always, with NONONO and Porcelain Raft leading the pack.

Caveman

Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 Brooklyn-based Caveman clearly felt right at home at Rockwood Music Hall, and the crowd was full of devoted fans. Lead guitarist and singer Matthew Iwanusa draws comparisons to Shins' vocalist James Mercer, and the band does indeed seem to draw inspiration from them, as well as African music and experimental post-rock, utilizing harmonies, tribal drums, keyboards, and hazy guitars. I enjoyed the dreamy but catchy songs off their 2013 self-titled release, like "Shut You Down" and "Where's the Time", as well as old favorite "A Country's King of Dreams" from their first release, Coco Beware.

 

Grandchildren

Tuesday, October 15, Cake Shop This was one of those CMJ experiences that is the reason you go to CMJ: to discover an amazing band you've never heard of. When I made my way downstairs at Cake Shop, I wasn't sure who was playing, but they immediately caught my attention. An ensemble of six dudes playing nearly every instrument imaginable, their melodic pop with hits of electronic and psychedelic accents make this Philadelphia-based group an interesting listen. They played several songs off their newest release, Golden Age, including "Sunrise", "End Times", and "No Way Out". Grandchildren at CMJ Music Marathon 2013

A generally daunting experience, CMJ Music Marathon hosts an extremely wide range of bands over the course of 5 days in NYC. To those who attempt to tackle this festival, the lineup can seem overwhelming. One advantage to being a 10-year CMJ veteran is that you not only know to have a strategy; you can put it all in perspective. And it's good to have a basis for comparison, too. From year to year to year, CMJ has progressed, in both good ways and bad. While my first few years felt completely daunting, the past few have felt manageable. There weren't so many bands that both my CMJ partner-in-crime Devorah and I were initially excited about, but that's the thrill of CMJ: discovering new gems. Last year was all about not getting into the right shows and being frustrated with CMJ in general. We went into this year cautiously, but it ended up being much easier to gain entry to shows and all of the venues seemed a bit more relaxed (with the exception of the Ghostface Killah show in Williamsburg on the last night, in which the whole block had to be closed due to overcrowding). Below are our picks for our favorite bands, of which there were happily a large amount. SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP

Teen Daze

Tuesday, October 16th @ Marlin Room in Webster Hall
Relatively new to the electronic dance scene, Teen Daze impressed me with his newest album Inner Mansions, but his more meandering, spaced out recordings in no way prepared me for the upbeat dance party live performance. Teen Daze stepped on stage and was able to immediately project a sense of intimacy and comfort onto the crowd; it felt like we were in his dorm room, and he was just goofing around on the turntables for us. He was happy to be there playing music, which was a refreshing turn from the previous band (Heavenly Beat) who looked disinterested and aloof. Teen Daze's emphatic DJ dance moves provided some additional fun, and with these moves he held an aura of euphoria that was infectious.

 

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. SEE ALL 27 FESTIVAL PICKS

 

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

 

Poolside

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

 

September 28th, 2012 @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY

Niki & The Dove

WRITTEN BY JUDY NELSON With their debut album Instinct recently released in the US, Niki & the Dove were an apt opener for Twin Shadow. Lead singer Malin Dahlström is reminiscent of a modern Cyndi Lauper, while also showing serious deference to fellow Swedish indie star Karin Dreijer of The Knife. Gothic and quirky in the same beat, Dahlström had strong stage presence and a powerful voice to back up what might be construed as overly dramatic dance moves. Keyboardist and guitarist Gustaf Karlöf was a solid but quiet presence, contributing the occasional vocal and any extra instrumentation, ranging from the Maracas to the rarely-seen-live Chinese hand drum, the Bolang Gu (波浪鼓). SEE FULL LIVE SHOW REVIEW

 

cmj music marathon picks for tuesday, october 19th das racist This hip-hop duo took the internet by force and drilled their single, “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell,” into thousands (perhaps millions) of heads repeatedly, and deservedly so. Not for a...