With 900-some bands playing this year's Music Marathon, you are never going to see all of them. Or even half of them. Or even a quarter of them. But 26 of them? One for each letter of the alphabet? Well, that you can do. And here's how we recommend you go about doing it.
Another offshoot of Dan Deacon's Wham City collective, one-man party band Adventure tweaks 8-bit twee with gothic undertones. Remarkable in its strange pairing — even more so in person, where he and his live band go batshit crazy without losing sight of the music at hand.
It sounds like a flute winding through Beat Connection's synth-surf exploration "Silver Screen." And this guy singing, the kid from Seattle? He sounds a little like Peter Gabriel. We think this might be the closest thing we'll ever get to Vampire Weekend doing chillwave.
On the occasion you get turned down by the cute girl at Cake Shop, the bummed-out pop ("Girls on Medication"), hopeful longing ("Teflon Heart"), and Spector-indebted dreaminess ("The NJ Turnpike") of Caged Animals make them the band you'll want to go see while licking your wounds. Chin up, champ.
DUM DUM GIRLS
As headliners of Bowery Ballroom's big Friday night spectacle, Dum Dum Girls don't need much press backing, but Only in Dreams sees girl-group ringleader Dee-Dee as the first of her many, many peers to step beyond the genre's kitschy woe-is-me emotional state and make something genuinely affecting.
Seeing Ms. Erika M. Anderson deadpan the lyric "Fuck California, you made me boring" while pointing two fingers at her head in a gun-like salute barely scratches the surface of dramatics involved in her live show, a juxtaposition between nervous stage banter and emotional carnage. Promise you this: If her throaty, whisper-to-a-scream vocals are in full effect, it will not be a performance you soon forget.
FACES ON FILM
When The Shins played Bowery Ballroom last month, Faces on Film came from Boston to open. Needless to say, they're a band that knows a thing or two about craft, scaling back Fleet Foxes/Band of Horses/Morning Benders-sized melodies with noir-ish tones for a more introverted strain of indie.
Sam McGarrigle's Gross Magic will make its NYC debut opening for labelmates Yuck this week, then stick around for few days to play a smattering of CMJ shows. The Brighton-based pop collagist does for the late 80s-early 90s what the Smith Westerns have done for the late 60s-early 70s. His Teen Jamz EP tackles detachment, sneer and mighty hooks. Think ELO and Mellow Gold-era Beck filtered through whatever drugs Ariel Pink is doing these days.
Update: Gross Magic has canceled all CMJ tour dates.
Heavy-hitting, jittery post-punk whose loudly chanting female-male singers remind you, amidst all the keyboards you'll hear this weekend, how good it sounds for someone to scream at you.
There's a timeless quality to Idiot Glee's LP, yet it's clearly a product that only a kid with a laptop could make in the modern age: glitch pop meets a 50s barbershop quartet, minus three people, might be the best way to describe it.
To do CMJ right, you should seek out a verifiable indie-rock legend to use as a benchmark for judging the billions of upstart bands you'll see during the week. For that, there's J Mascis, his guitar, and his hair, headlining the Sub Pop/Hardly Art party at Mercury Lounge on Thursday night. For everything else, we guess there's the Jacuzzi Boys?
And speaking of those billions of upstart bands, Southeast Londoner Archy Marshall — formerly operating under the name Zoo Kid, now as King Krule, still looking like Archie from the comics — has all the markings to be one of the festival's biggest breakouts: the so-cool elusiveness of not being listed on the official lineup, an EP coming next month via True Panther, a sudden spell of Pitchfork love, a Fader Fort appearance on Friday, and a secret warehouse show on Saturday.