Discovering CMJ 2013 


Multiday music festivals have long served as means of discovery—a way of uncovering the Next Big Things in pre-Internet days, now of bridging the gap between your computer screen and real-life findings. The problem is that everyone defaults to seeing the same dozen or so bands that enter the festival already supported by significant press, leaving little to the happy accident of stumbling upon an unknown band and falling in love. In the spirit of discovery, we randomly selected a batch of bands from the 1,400 set to play the 33rd CMJ Music Marathon (October 15-19). Then we judged them. Go forth! Listen, see and judge!

Sad and French
Not from France, it turns out. A three-piece from Brooklyn! “They write songs about girls and booze,” according to their Facebook bio. (That’s so French.) Upon closer examination, this translates into Mumford & Sons-ish folk—a comparison we suspect they hate—where the suspenders and burlap are traded in for tattoos and lyrics detailing a lifetime of misery and last night’s regret. (That’s so Brooklyn.) There’s video evidence of frontman Jose Prieto getting straight up screamy while the upright bass player—of which there is one, obviously—puts down his beer long enough to fingerpick his heart out.

Should You Bother?
You know what? Maybe. More so if you’re depressed, drunk or a big fan of Marcus Mumford. Even if you’re not, YouTube leads us to believe their live shows can be rowdy fun. (Also, if we’re being real, that’s a great band name.)

Tattoo Money
Another local outfit, this one helmed by native New Yorker Pete Armour, who is very proud of that fact, and has made an album, Rules, Bones, Hearts & Promises, that mirrors the city’s melting pot of influences. There are glimpses of bass-heavy boom-box blasters, Justin-fied R&B, and scurvy synth-pop. Though not necessarily unpleasant, songs sound just the tiniest bit off, as if Armour is waiting for Dev Hynes to come in and flesh out the blueprints, maybe making a hit or two along the way.

Should You Bother?
You could go either way. There are moments that are legitimately interesting, but are they enough to sustain a set? Call us mildly curious.

Another Dead Clown
Of all the genres we imagined for a band called “Another Dead Clown,” modestly folky pop-rock was not the list-topper. (The frontrunner was a trap-rap/ska-core hybrid, actually.) The band, which resides in Astoria, Queens, work anthemic-ish guy/girl gang-singing into their strummy, insistent music. It really sounds like at least one of these guys is wearing a pork-pie hat.

Should You Bother?
Best to avoid. A few drinks in, and the big choruses they go for could hit you somewhere near the heartstrings, but only if the whiskey has entirely short-circuited a desire for something tough or cool. Dead sober, you’re on cringe alert.


Swizzymack is Philadelphia’s Shatrill O’Neal, a Diplo-associated DJ and producer who fancies himself the pioneer of a big thudding style called “Philly Club.” He’s primarily been a remixer, adding low-end to Major Lazer tracks among others. His recent Bass EP sounds specifically designed to be blasted off of those weird all-speaker flatbed trucks that only get trotted out for NYC street parades of mysterious affiliation.

Should You Bother?
If you are looking for an ass-shaking night he could certainly handle it. But, seriously, 1,400 bands in town and you’re settling on the bass remix guy?

Before arriving in NYC for CMJ, Florida youths Flashlights are working their way up the East Coast pulling support duty for The So So Glos. No surprise, their brand of punk is scrappy and shouty—their 2011 LP opens with the line, “What the fuck do I know!” as an exclamation, not a question. On this year’s EP, Don’t Take Me Seriously, singer-guitarist Terry Caudill hones his band into Superchunk protégés, fielding tight-knit slacker rock sung with the quintessential 90s quiver-yelp.

Should You Bother?
If you believe the world was made to be wooed and won by youth. (Yeah, go see ‘em, have some fun for once.)

Then there’s FLASH/LIGHTS (formerly named Flashlights), the electro-pop project of Coloradoan producer Ethan Converse and whichever of his friends are available to lend a hand with recording and touring. Google tells us he’s garnered praise from NME and has opened for Passion Pit and Toro y Moi, though his cross-stitches of loops and beats are less nervy than the former’s and less roller-rink ready than the latter’s.

Should You Bother?
Not our thing, but we could see this going over well with a certain tribe of late-night Glasslands denizens. The song “Scarves” isn’t half bad.


Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!
Warbly rock-guy vocals, big instrumental swells, and an ever-present desire to sound “soulful” above all else: gosh, this sort of country-fried rock bugs the shit out of me! But I suppose it hinges on how much you like music that yells “Hey!” at you in between guitar solos, and seems desperate to make you feel like rock 'n’ roll is a Pentecostal pursuit. Also, we think they’re thinking of lightning, but whatever.

Should You Bother?
Heavens, no.

Kitty Crimes
In another naming shocker, Kitty Crimes is actually the MC moniker of Denver’s Maria Kohler and not some be-sweatered twee-pop combo. She makes Peaches and Outkast-inspired electro rap songs about yoga! A musical magpie with punk roots and a convincingly smooth R&B singing voice, Kohler seems like an eclectic lifer and not just some novice rhyming over laptop bleeps.

Should You Bother?
You know... maybe. There’s potential for this to go horribly, for sure, but the songs available online are nicely varied and occasionally pretty fun. 


We Cut Corners
A couple of Irish guys dueting on drums and guitar, just belting out carefully enunciated poetics about deep feelings and such. They’ve received a fair amount of acclaim in their hometown, Dublin, but their out-of-town gigging seems concentrated on the UK festival circuit so far. It’s hard to confirm that this is their US debut, but given the scope we’re working with, quite probable.

Should You Bother?
They seem like earnest lads and all, but no, you should not.


Night Terrors of 1927
Hey, would you look at that: it’s our ol’ pal Blake Sennett, he of Salute Your Shorts and Jenny Lewis’ little black book, here collaborating with ex-Honorary Title frontman Jarrod Gorbel on sweeping, synth-assisted catharsis. Should we, uh, have known about this? Have you guys been holding secret meetings to report on the doings of former members of Rilo Kiley and The Honorary Title? Upon further research, it seems the duo has purposely been keeping things on the down low, quietly releasing a handful of songs and a video over the last two years. Their first proper release, an EP titled Guilty Pleas, drops November 5.

Should You Bother?
If you’ve come to terms with the fact that Rilo Kiley (and/or The Honorary Title) will never, ever get back together, then, sure, go for it. Dudes have a keen sense of pop that can stand on their own even if the result is a little too self-serious for our liking. (Plus, another solid band name.)


The Woodrow Wilsons
Big couple of years for Woodrow Wilson, first trotted out as the demon president who started our current collapse by historical scholar Glenn Beck and now set to be played in a biopic by the suspiciously handsome Leonardo DiCaprio. Folk band The Woodrow Wilsons, however, seem to have been toiling in obscurity for at least five years, with two full-length albums and an EP produced in that span. Autumnal and nice and almost entirely forgettable.

Should You Bother?
Only if you’re totally maxed out on hardcore punk and black metal and need to participate in music watching while giving yourself a blankly pleasant palate cleansing.


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