CMJ Wednesday Highlights, 10/20/10
CMJ 2010 is in full swing in New York City, with a mind-boggling number of can’t-miss shows happening at all once. Check out some highlights from Wednesday night:
Bear Hands plays energetic post-punk that always maintains a strong sense of melody, even as the guitars veer off into dissonant or otherwise quirky riffs. Their songs occasionally recall Modest Mouse, particularly “What a Drag,” which closed their set at the PureVolume House. They also debuted “Crime Pays,” the first single from their upcoming album, Burning Bush Supper Club.
Danish pop sensation Oh Land, a 24-year-old singer/songwriter now based in Brooklyn, is sure to emerge as one of the breakout acts of CMJ this year. She’s blessed with a stunning voice, model looks and a classier version of Lady Gaga’s outrageous fashion senseâ€”she sported a miniature light-up house on her headâ€”but most importantly, she knows how to write charming, wholly original pop anthems that range from electronic to orchestral. Her engaging performance included a talented drummer and what she calls her “contraption,” a large, sparkling box that plays her music and shows video projections on a bundle of white balloons. Her self-titled EP came out on Tuesday. I suggest checking out her music as soon as possible, and then preparing to hear it everywhere.
In case you were wondering, the Kevin Devine/Manchester Orchestra collaboration Bad Books is “not going to be a band that only puts out one record,” as they announced during their inaugural show at the Bowery Ballroom. That’s good news, because Devine and Manchester frontman Andy Hull have great chemistry, both musically and on stage. The two singers have pooled their collective talents for writing emotionally raw, evocative, and wonderfully melodic songs that tend to inspire passionate sing-alongs. In addition to playing the songs from Bad Books’ self-titled debut, which was released Tuesday, they threw in some songs by each artist, much to their fans’ delight. Devine and Hull will be touring together in December, again playing music from all three bands.
“This is pop music, nothing more, nothing less,” Drums singer Jonathan Pierce said during the band’s set at Webster Hall. That may be true in a sense, but most pop bands will never sell out a 1400-capacity venue. The Drums play soaring, instantly likable indie pop that is clearly indebted to any number of British new-wave bands but still manages to sound fresh. Their energetic performance included plenty of awkwardly adorable dancing, most notably guitarist Jacob Graham’s interpretive dance solo during “Down by the Water,” which ended the show. This talented and humble band is capable of winning over even the most cynical and jaded music fans.
Surfer Blood probably set some sort of record by playing Webster Hall three times in two nightsâ€”first on Tuesday in The Studio for MTV, then opening for the Drums in the main space on Wednesday, then on another secondary stage right after that show ended. At CMJ ’09, people were digging “Swim” and the band was just starting to get buzz; after all they’ve accomplished in the last year, these shows are like a victory lap more than anything. That doesn’t mean they’re slacking, thoughâ€”their sets are always tight and energetic, and marked by a sincere appreciation for their fans’ support. Unlike the great majority of buzz bands that emerge each year, they’ve proved that their songs have genuine staying power.