Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CMJ 2008, Recapped: Sun-Baked Strokes, Suburban Piano Pop, Canadian Royalty, Spazzy Skater-Punks

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM

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The L's Lauren Beck went to CMJ last week and probably had more fun than you -- because she actually braved all those terrifying "limited badge" shows -- and totally got in. Was it luck? Or the fact that Broken Social Scene made her their 701st member? Find out in her recap of the week in music that was.

The Muslims
at Mercury Lounge, Thursday 10pm
The Muslims played 10 shows during their time at CMJ. I'm not sure what number their show at Mercury Lounge put them at, but they seemed to have gotten pretty comfortable with playing on a strict schedule -- six songs in 18 minutes, each one impeccably tight and incessantly catchy. I like to call them "San Diego's answer to the Strokes" because I have a penchant for unoriginal music writing, and also, because they sound like a sun-baked version of the Strokes. For a man with exactly one facial expression (the I-don't-care-enough-to-move-my-face gaze) and few words ("Thank you, we're the Muslims"), frontman Matt Lamkin may have been blasé, but was also miraculously far from boring. He cupped the mic like he was holding on for dear life and sashayed his long-limbed body around the stage as if feeding a nervous tic. Needless to say, every low-cut Converse All-Star in the crowd was moving, albeit ever so casually and coolly.

Jukebox the Ghost at Mercury Lounge, Friday 1am
There's something to be said about mothers who coerce their children into piano lessons; it's because of them that bands like Jukebox the Ghost exist. Thanks to three Suburban Moms, we now have three recent college grads playing bouncy piano-laden pop with a quirky, theatrical flair. High-pitched "Ooohs!" and "Ha's" punctuate lyrics that could've been lifted from a meticulously folded note passed between homeroom and algebra ("Oh my God, if I tell him, he'll tell her, and then she'll know I like her!!"), save for the three-part ballad involving the apocalypse and outer space. ("This one's about fire and brimstone," they explained.) After an unfortunate series of van breakdowns and lost auto parts that left them stranded along the Nevada border earlier in the week, Jukebox the Ghost drove two days straight before arriving in NYC just an hour or so before their set. Despite self-professed exhaustion, they were nothing but eager, earnest and utterly enjoyable -- and, damn, those songs are still playing in my head.

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Broken Social Scene at Brooklyn Masonic Temple, Friday 10pm
Ho-ly crap, Broken Social Scene. It hit me sometime during the second hour of watching the 700 members on stage tear through beautifully woozy chamber pop, just how different an experience this was than watching some of the newly crowned buzz bands earlier in the week. Perhaps it's unfair to compare -- and while I'm all about the Passion Pits and Ponytails of the world -- watching Broken Social Scene is seeing a band at work on another level. In a live setting, they have a way of breathing life into music, turning their songs into tangible, tactile entities. With the ability to hit on every emotion, from exhilaration to heartbreak -- like when the brass section marches out from both sides of the stage, holding their horns above their heads in triumph and then transitioning into ‘Lovers' Spit' -- they've solidified their spot in this decade's Indie-Rock Trifecta. Arcade Fire-Wolf Parade-BSS. Woo! Canada!

The Mae-Shi
at Public Assembly, Saturday 12am
In a week that tested the city's threshold of skinny jeans and asymmetrical haircuts, it was refreshing to see a group of Cali-based skater kids up on the stage. With four members in tow (the amount fluctuates every tour), the Mae-Shi somehow managed to make their short, spazzy electro-punk songs even shorter and spazzier. They jumped from noisy, abrasive spats culled from their early albums to their new brand of anthemic, sonic sugar rushes -- always energetic, always loud. And by "energetic," I'm talking red-faced, if-we-don't-scream-loud-enough-we're-going-to-die mayhem. Amidst the chaos were moments spent milling about on stage, singing into space, rendering microphones useless. At one point they dragged a bass into the middle of the room, formed a huddle and sang their hearts out right then and there. Plus, they covered the crowd in a rainbow-colored parachute (elementary-gym-class style) and sang from underneath a makeshift cave. Cool kids, those skater punks.

The Band I'm Most Pissed About Missing: Women
I'm a sucker for pop music, but when it comes cloaked in just the right amount of reverb, I become a complete and utter sap. Add the fact that Chad VanGaalen recorded Women's excellently retro debut, and missing their shows becomes the biggest regret of my life. Except for the time I accidentally hit that car at the movie theater parking lot.


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