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!
Started in Beijing seven years ago, the Modern Sky Festival is now one of many big music festivals that take place across China put on by its namesake company, Modern Sky Entertainment. On the weekend of October 4th and 5th, Modern Sky took the plunge into the US market, starting in New York City, where you can't throw a rock on any given day without hitting some kind of festival.Modern Sky Festival 2014The weather, too, wasn't exactly cooperative. An outdoor concert in a Northern city in October is always going to be a gamble, and had Modern Sky taken place a weekend earlier, it would have basked in unseasonable warmth. Instead, less fortunately, the barometer ended up taking its first real dip into fall teh weekend of the festival, and a long Saturday morning rainstorm left puddles across Rumsey Playfield -- some of which were still lingering after everything wrapped up on Sunday evening.
Modern Sky Festival
I went to the third Fuck Yeah Fest, in 2006, four months after I moved to Los Angeles. I went to the fourth one, too. At the third one, the still-ascendant local kids Silversun Pickups might have been the biggest draw, but clearly it was the punks' three-day weekend: The Circle Jerks, Erase Errata, and No Age all performed. It was Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris (Black Flag, Off!) who helped a bored 18-year-old Torrance, California upstart named Sean Carlson start the festival in 2004. In 2011, the FYF group -- by then four core people and a handful of part-timers -- partnered with promoting giant and AEG acquisition Goldenvoice. The FYF Fest I went to this past weekend bore little resemblance to the scrappy Echo Park gatherings of nearly a decade earlier. Sure, there were still enterprising sidewalk hot dog vendors outside the site, but this time there were 20 times as many -- literally, from two to about 40, beating out even the impressive number of informal-economy carts outside a Hollywood Bowl show on a summer Saturday night. This time, instead of the Echoplex's bar, there were multiple beer gardens, and booth setups by Bulleit Bourbon and Ketel One Vodka. And the bands' name recognition factor had shot up exponentially: headlining acts included The Strokes, Interpol, and Haim, all of whom the average hip suburban dad has at least looked up on Shazam. Some entities just shapeshift, and that's fine. Sting went from The Police to doing Renaissance lute music. Elton John transitioned from "The Bitch is Back" to "Circle of Life." If FYF Fest's sellout (let's call it what it is, not judge, and move on) means the playing field has re-opened to small, homegrown festivals with local reach, I look forward to seeing what the young promoters of tomorrow come up with.

 

Captured Tracks has figured out that the formula to creating a successful label is to have no specific formula: just do what feels right, and do it for the artists, not for yourself. The Brooklyn-based record label works hard at getting new artists exposure rather than getting themselves exposure; they've built up a reputation as a great label on word of mouth, and label owner Mike Sniper uses his intuition when making big decisions.
Captured Tracks Record Label Feature
"We're a young company going about the music industry in what we think is the standard way, but it turns out we've been doing it pretty differently. There's no ethos or philosophy, per se. We're not looking for our label to be the topic of a release; we want the artist to be the focus. If exploiting whatever C/T is helps get a new artist's music out in the world, than that's great." - Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks

 

Philosophy and spirituality intertwine in this amazing three-part narrative for How To Dress Well's latest record, What Is This Heart?. Directed by Johannes Greve Muskat, this three-part trilogy for "Repeat Pleasure", "Face Again", and Childhood Faith In Love" touch upon dramatic themes of "how to live and love and die right, in a world that makes these things so difficult." Read on for a compare and contrast interview between How To Dress Well's Tom Krell and Muskat, as they speak about the videos themes, symbolism, and more. REDEFINE will be co-presenting a night with How To Dress Well at Portland's Holocene on August 25th, 2014. Click the poster at right for details!

How To Dress Well - "Repeat Pleasure" Music Video (Part 1 of 3 of What Is This Heart? Trilogy)

You have an extensive scholarly background in Philosophy. This intellectual pursuit might at first glance seem incongruous with the deep mysticism of a shamanic figure like the one you play in “Face Again". How do you reflect on and make peace with your own relationship between the mystic and the intellectual, the cerebral and the spiritual?
“Whoa this is like 100% right on; I've always been interested in how to navigate these two modes, mystical-musical and the controlled-rational-philosophical. Not sure I have a full-blown answer yet. I think they are on the one hand incongruous modes and then on the other hand, I think they can contribute to each other obliquely." - Tom Krell, How To Dress Well

How To Dress Well - "Face Again" Music Video (Part 2 of 3 of What Is This Heart? Trilogy)

Speaking of Philosophy, your video for "Childhood Faith in Love" seems to point to an understanding of the child almost more akin to that "child" of Nietzsche's in Thus Spoke Zarathustra -- the Child as the final stage in a number of metamorphoses, as an advanced state of self-legislation and freedom that is only attained after a good deal of hardship and deep inner searching. Are we on the right track here? If so, why is this theme to be important to touch upon at this point in your life?
"I love you, you just so totally get me :) I've spoken before about a 'second naivete' as well -- something along precisely these lines." - Tom Krell, How To Dress Well

How To Dress Well - "Childhood Faith In Love" Music Video (Part 3 of 3 of What Is This Heart? Trilogy)

 
What's in a name? When they say Adult Jazz, are they referring to the easy-listening, dulcet sounds of Chuck Mangione or Kenny G? A brief observation of the knotty tones and convoluted song structures of Gist Is, the debut LP from the Leeds quartet, Adult Jazz, suggests this is not what they are aiming for. So we turn to a second possible definition: that of a grown-up and evolved jazz music. Gist Is is a world unto itself: 9 tracks, subscribing to their own inner logic, as beats, broken synthesizers, horns, and weightless vocals rise and fall, like buried memories, or half-remembered dreams.
Adult Jazz - Gist Is

 

Bear In Heaven - Time Between Music Video
As the Humans of New York Tumblr has been gracious enough to show the world, the population of New York City is one that is multi-ethnic, socioeconomically diverse, and resilient. Summarizing New Yorkers with blanket statements is difficult, but one thing is for certain: not a night goes by in The City That Never Sleeps that isn't worthy of documentation, exploration, and observation. For the "Time Between" music video, Bear In Heaven enlisted the help of director Nick Bentgen, who spent long nights hanging out with strangers and visiting the homes of acquaintances in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, to collect what must have been hours of observational footage. He then wove together an abstract piece of visual poetry, which plays off of the track's dramatic percussion to create a striking portrait of the beautiful and bizarre nature of New Yorkers. It's a video that just keeps on giving, views after subsequent views. In this highly informal, laugh-and-compliment-heavy Q&A interview with Bentgen and Bear In Heaven's fashionably late Jon Philpot, both banter about their thoughts on late night New York City, how confounding human nature can be, and what exactly defines a "best pizza". You can see our previous two interviews with Bear In Heaven here. Bear In Heaven - Time Between Music Video