September 28, 2010
From October 19-23, the CMJ Music Marathon will hijack New York City's live venues for the 31st time. Though it's not as all-consuming as SXSW —where all of Austin stops for SXSW, New York bustles by CMJ unaware— the fest serves the same function: bringing together bands, bloggers, tastemakers, and rock-biz goons for a manic burst of sheer musical overload. Where the springtime SXSW is a predictor for bands bound to break-out over summer, CMJ's autumnal date makes it more reflective of the year that's been. Here are 10 CMJ picks who've already had great '10s, and seem due for even better 2011s.
1. Beach Fossils
Worcester, Mass. carrot-top Dom calls his music "gingerwave," which may be the greatest non-genre ever invented. Like the bros of the chillwave wave, Dom —who, thus far, exists only in the iconic singular— is very much a child of Ariel Pink. His seven-song debut EP, Sun-Bronzed Greek Gods, takes a determinedly home-made approach to crafting strange, underground, hipster mutations of generations-removed classic radio-pop licks. "Rude as Jude" and "Burn Bridges" showcase glorious, sunshining melodies, but they're positively reserved when compared to "Living in America," an ultra-ironic, keyboard-slathering anthem that sounds like it should be blasting out through ballpark parking lots, circa 1985.
- Listen: Dom, "Jesus" (via The Fader)
3. Dominant Legs
4. Fabulous Diamonds
Fabulous Diamonds don't bother to name their songs —track lists are just running times— and keep their album titles ridiculously simple: 2008's literally-billed Seven Songs being followed by the comically-redundant Fabulous Diamonds II by Fabulous Diamonds. Musically, the Melburnian pair explore a similar simplicity: rolling out unending, tail-chasing incantations built on three-note organ riffs, cowbell-clanking percussion, and chanted boy/girl vocals. It's a lock-groove sound and a tranced-out vibe, the duo seeking altered states via the power of repetition; this self-styled neo-primitivism, contrary to much of the contemporary music world, owing no debt to Animal Collective.
- Listen: Fabulous Diamonds, "(2 mins 57 secs)" (via Mediafire)
5. How to Dress Well
In a grand case of side-projects overtaking the band that spawned them, Kisses —the 'disco' outing for Jesse Kivel, who normally fronts Los Angelino indie-poppers Princeton with his twin brother Matt— seem set to obliterate any notoriety Princeton's ever found. The infinitely-impressive Kisses debut, The Heart of the Nightlife (which comes out on October 19, the day CMJ kicks off), is steeped in the disco licks of Jean-Marc Cerrone and Alec Constandinos, but it's not some work of '70s kitsch or an ironic shrine to dancefloor hedonism. Instead, there's a melancholy quality to Kisses; Kivel's carefully-crafted, three-minute pop-songs sung in a bruised croon loaded with emotion.
7. Lia Ices
Given her voice (bright) and talent (prodigious), it's strange that Lia Ices isn't some straight-up Feist/Regina Spektor-esque pop superstar, let alone a mere cult indie figure. Yet, 28-year-old New Yorker Lia Kessel is neither; her impressive debut LP, 2008's Necima, coming as close to sinking-without-a-trace as one can in this era of blog saturation. Her anonymity seems set to change, with Kessel freshly inked to Jagjaguwar Records, who're due to dish her second set early in 2011. The cascades of hand-claps and elusive string flourishes of "Grown Unknown," the first taste of the as-yet-untitled next record, suggest a more experimental approach at play, and augur well for a future far from the shadows.
- Listen: Lia Ices, "Grown Unknown"
8. The Luyas
- Listen: The Luyas, "Tiny Head" (via Pitchfork)
9. Prince Rama
Sunglasses list a run of sound-visionaries from the classic-pop era —Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, George Martin— as influences, but the actual music they make sounds far more new-millennial than nostalgic. The Savannah, Georgia-based duo operate in the blown-open post-Animal Collective/Gang Gang Dance realm, in which a thousand cascading influences collide in strange, shape-shifting pop-songs. Samuel Cooper even has a voice whose casual, croaky falsetto summons some of the same Coyne-isms as Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos. Still, even if they're a particularly 2010-sounding band, they're also a particularly good one; their debut, self-titled EP giving one of the year's most charming jams, "Whiplash."
- Listen: Sunglasses, "Whiplash"