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
Black Moth Super Rainbow make music for maniacs; misfits that don't fit in anywhere but a Black Moth Super Rainbow show. The combination of lo-fi, surreal visuals with muscular funk rhythms and a battery of cosmic sci-fi synths transport listeners to a grainy interzone of abandoned playgrounds, rolling cemeteries, and haunted shopping malls. The music of Tobacco (vocals/vocoder), Seven Fields of Aphelion (synth), Iffernaut (drums), Ryan Graveface (guitar), and Pony Diver (bass) is both nostalgic, romantic & playful, while maintaining an air of menace and danger.
In an insert that came with the album Dandelion Gum, there was talk of "vocoders humming amongst the flowers and synths bubbling under the leaf-strewn ground while flutes whistle in the wind and beats bounce to the soft drizzle of a warm acid rain". This sure sounds like technopagan nature worship, but then you have track names like "I Think I'm Evil" and "Psychic Love Damage", and you're just not sure what to think anymore. In a recent interview with Paste Magazine, Tobacco (real name: Tom Fec) spoke of the apparent contradiction:
"This is not a hippie band. It was never meant to be. I've always felt like, whether you can hear it in my music or not — and I'm sure you couldn't — almost like a punk asshole. People thought I was this gentle weed-smoking kid tripping out in a field somewhere. I think I'm more of like a dickhead prankster."
He then went on to describe backlash he received for the Sun Lips video from irate fans because the video "wasn't psychedelic".
"[All those expectations on what I'm supposed to like] are part of what I call the Black Moth box. You create this thing that's outside of the box, right? And the second you do that, people build a box for it. And it becomes an even smaller box than any box you were trying to not be in. And I feel like that happened to Black Moth."

 

Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

IN SHORT: "It's not your average Black Moth Super Rainbow Album."

 

In discussing early album reviews for Cobra Juicy, Black Moth Super Rainbow's de facto leader Tobacco called the album "the 1st bmsr I really got right." It's an interesting comment, especially for a band who pride themselves on the reckless nature of their sound and their presence on stage. And then there's the fact that Cobra Juicy simply wouldn't exist in its current state if it wasn't for crowd-funding the project on Kickstarter. Especially considering the latter, there are certainly extraneous expectations surrounding the long awaited release. See full album review

 

AURAL DEVASTATION Because sometimes all we need is our ear drums shattered by the weight of music, the force of distortion, and the insanity of noise.

Baroness

Savannah, Georgia is known for a lot of things - most of it related to its historic charm - but on the modern front, it is the city of metal in the United States. Amongst the bands being churned out of the city, arguably no one has made more of a critical impact than the quartet Baroness. On the band's latest, the immensely grand and bold double album Yellow & Green, Baroness find themselves becoming a prog-rock band with metal tendencies. As you follow their catalog, the progression makes sense, and a very insightful interview with NPR adds all the backstory required. This is one of the best albums of the year, and probably one of the more important metal albums to come out in a long time. Editor's Note: Amazing artwork, as always, from Baroness vocalist John Dyer Baizley. See HERE for our interview with him about his work with Gillian Welch on The Harrow & The Harvest, or click on the cover to see it in hi-res.
Hands In The Dark was born at the end of a boozy party in 2010! What could have ended up just a brilliant idea and a short-lived story became the start of a great musical adventure, bringing together two lovers of "unclassified" music. Hands In the Dark pulls together various sounds with the common feature of mixing pop and experimental music. Grouping them under the title 'Expop' music, HITD has quickly reached its 12th release comprising CD's, vinyl and even tapes. HITD also means ''DIY''. We build everything from top to bottom, from contact with the bands we love to sending out the parcels. We always preserve our freedom with no artistic pressure. Such is the great enterprise of HITD. In short, a French label with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi... Thanks to Amélie and Alice...

 

Curation & Translation by Morgan & Onito; Additional Translation by Jeff Diteman Hands In The Dark est né fin 2010 lors d'une soirée arrosée! Ce qui aurait pu s'apparenter à une fulgurance doublée d'une histoire sans lendemain n'était en fait que le début d'une belle aventure musicale réunissant deux amis passionnés de musiques inclassables. Hands In The Dark rassemble des sonorités diverses et ayant pour dénominateur commun un côté expérimental allié à un versant pop. Rassemblé sous l'étiquette d' «Expop music», le catalogue du label comptera bientôt 12 références... Cd's, vinyles mais aussi cassettes. HITD, c'est aussi l'importance du côté « DIY ». Tout est de A à Z géré par nos soins, de la prise de contact avec les groupes que l'on aime à l'envoi des disques. Aucune entrave à notre liberté, aucune contrainte artistique... Tel est le vaste chantier de HITD. Merci à Amélie et Alice.

 

Whim is a collection of media focused on independent rock/pop/garage and everything surrounding it. This week gives us a new Thick Shakes single, tracks from Arc In Sound and Pure Bathing Culture, and the announcement that Girls might be done.

Thick Shakes

Boston's best kept secret isn’t some hole-in-the-wall diner or hidden cabaret, but a four garage rock outfit led by bassist and vocalist Lindsay Crudele. Thick Shakes have been thrashing the east coast for a few years now, originally breaking onto the national scene with early 2011's raucous Why Buy the Cow 7". On French Dyppe, the group’s newest single, the band refines their brand of wall-smashing thrash pop, creating even more buzz on the east coast and beyond. French Dyppe is out on cassette via Aurora 7 on July 7th.

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. In this post, tracks from Portland musicians Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside and Yards, as well as minimal electronic informed pop jams from Dems and Gracie.

 

Dems

Dems gently lay you down on a bed of crisp, clean vocals and washy synths in their track, "Inner O." A single coming out soon on Bad Life Recordings, "Inner O" uses just enough electronic glitchiness to stray away from being intractible, without sacrifing gentle pop tendencies. Highly recommended that you also listen to and watch the music video for "House", HERE.

 

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside

Admittedly, it takes a certain type of personality to get down with the '50s soul-dance sound of Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside. They give an incredibly energetic live show, and you can catch a whole list of upcoming tour dates below. Their next record comes out late this year, on Partisan Records. Full tour dates at the bottom of this post.

 

MADNESS! A recurring series of audio WTFs and head-twitching, spine-tingling experimental or chaotic fun (k-k+st)icks.

Eric Copeland

Does it sound like Black Dice? It sure does. That's because it is Black Dice -- or, at least, it's a core member of Black Dice gone solo without sacrificing the madness. Eric Copeland's album single for Limbo, "Louie, Louie, Louie" is like a more restrained but just as chaotic and visually-evocative counterpart to any Black Dice Song, and the album cover alone speaks volumes about the tendecy of this music. It's a burst of pattern, certainly not lacking in energy and intricacy, but lacking a wee bit o' color (I'm still comparing it to Black Dice, though, not to Coldplay). Limbo comes out June 5th on Underwater Peoples. Tracklisting for Limbo below, where you can also stream the entirety of his previous album, Waco Taco Combo! LIMBO TRACKLISTING 1. Double Reverse Psychology 2. Louie, Louie, Louie 3. Muckaluk 4. Fiesta Muerta 5. Tarzan and the Dizzy Devils 6. Lemons