As music fans and college radio DJs descend upon NYC this week, those of us who are already here are taking stock on the music scene as it stands. Last year, the CMJ Music Marathon saw a heavy representation from indie bands that were making their festival debut, such as Speedy Ortiz and Hunters, who then took off in the media instantly after. This year shows great promise, with buzz bands like Twin Peaks, PAWS, Gem Club, Blue Hawaii, and Adult Jazz playing, as well as stalwarts like Obits, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Cold War Kids returning the to fray -- along with the anticipated reunion of shoegaze legends Slowdive (and Low opening!). And, of course, it wouldn't be CMJ without a slew of brand new band hoping to get their big break. CMJ Music Marathon 2014 As always, the lineup for CMJ 2014 is diverse -- but something we appreciated seeing was that there seems to be an increase of girl bands and female solo artists. It is notable to mention that this year's CMJ has also extended its reach to large group of new venues, concentrated mostly in Brooklyn. Here are our top picks, though many more are listed on CMJ.com!

In the continental 48 states, we often romanticize what life is like up in the mysterious neighbor to our north: Canada. With their peaceful lifestyle and free healthcare, it must be utopia, right? Everyone’s healthy and winning the Olympics with their athleticism, and no one ever argues with each other. Or maybe it’s just too cold to create too much of a fuss. Either way, we’ve seen an influx of Canadian musicians taking over the indie scene in the past decade, and their rise is due, at least in part, to the efforts of those who are committed to making sure the music is heard. Thanks in part due to FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recording), a non-profit that works closely with the Canadian government to help fund Canadian musicians, there is a lot more freedom to experiment, without the weight of high recording costs. Yet another thing to envy about Canada! And when it comes to documenting and then launching artists from the Canadian music scene, specifically in Montreal, we are hard-pressed to find someone doing it better than Arbutus Records.

CASCINE: The Sound of Escape Now

This mixtape is an ode to the tender elegance and unbridled wanderlust of every springtime renewal. It's our way of saying: goodbye endless winter, hello brand new sunshine. Music for floating overseas through seasons of change, following the cyan expanses, or just heading out to the open sky. This is the sound of innocence won back. Take a deep breath, and jump right in. Curation and descriptions by Sandra Croft, Cascine's publicist.

www.cascine.us

 

Dear reader, We are Rachel, Vivian, and Gina, three close friends who like to call our friend-force "the Trifecta". In 2011, we commemorated a collectively cathartic year with a zine entitled We Will Outlive Our Current Concerns., filled with highlight reels from our very womanly Google chats. That year and the chats themselves were largely centered around astrology, metaphysical thoughts, pop culture, and relationships -- but for 2013, we're bringing SXSW coverage into our personal lives. Rather than writing up simple show reviews, we hope to present to you an uncensored portrait of our exceptional 3-way mind-meld, as we navigate through the chaos that is SXSW in our own manic, sarcastic, and profound ways. Mostly, we talk about food, document idiosyncrasies, review music... and bring it all home with more talk about food. xoxo, Rachel, Vivian, and Gina
Rachel: People in Austin are so nice! I’d almost forgotten from living in New York for so long. Gina: Portland’s spoiled us; I don’t think I can live anywhere where people aren’t nice. Vivian: I don’t think people in New York are that bad... Gina: Yeah, we’ve had some good convos there. Vivian: It’s just all kinds.

Blue Hawaii Untogether Arbutus Records (2013) Voice and space function as the two most important instruments on Untogether, a side project of Braids' Raphaelle Standell-Preston and collaborator Alexander Cowan, their debut album as Blue Hawaii. That's not to say that traditional composition -- at least in terms of electronic music -- doesn't conquer all on Untogether, but it does put the focus squarely on what is left out versus what is included. But does it accomplish enough with so little? Not exactly. Standell-Preston is obviously the star of Untogether, as her unrelenting, bellowing vocals are not only lethal in a very fundamental way, but the tricks and twists which Cowan adds to her voice make the record come alive in a powerful way. "Try To Be," one of the album's standouts, is built upon this very principle. Not only is the acoustic guitar constructed as a round; the vocals, down to specific breathes, are sampled and repeated in a beautiful array of instrumentation, destruction, and ultimately resurrection. But one gorgeous song does not an album make, and for as many beautiful moments as Blue Hawaii are able to create, there are equally disappointing ones as well.