Review of CMJ 2012

October 26. 2012 | By Nick Williams

Now that the dust has settled on 2012’s CMJ, it’s time to give out The Owl Mag Yearbook Superlatives. Drum roll, please.

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Cool Kid Award: Savages

This London group of female alt-dark rockers are like Haim’s goth-leaning older sisters – a little bit PJ Harvey, a little bit Joy Division, with a poetic and visually stunning performance. Hitting the stage at House of Vans, they warmed the crowd nicely – just in time for Action Bronson to throw dime bags of weed into the audience.

Savoir Adore @ CMJ, NY 2012
Most Spirited: Savoir Adore

If there was an indie-rock cheerleading squad, Savoir Adore’s duo of Paul Hammer and Deidre Muro would be co-captains. Fresh off their recent successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, they sure have reason to celebrate- gaining just over $10K and enough momentum to release their new LP Our Nature. Their soaring boy-girl harmonies filled up the Living Room so much so that they had to remove the tables and chairs! Good on ‘em.

Best Personality: Icona Pop

Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt are Icona Pop – two high fashion bad asses who have probably been dancing in stilettos since they were 5, but their sunny personalities were a welcome surprise. When one of their samples faltered before a tune, they confidently apologized to the beaming crowd with enough charisma and attitude to keep fans watching while they waited for the sound guy. (Rocking out in the front row to “Ready For The Weekend” was definitely one of the week’s highlights too.)

Conveyo @ CMJ, NY 2012
Best Gear: Conveyor

Brooklyn-based Conveyor have not one, but TWO turquoise guitars. Their vocal tricks as well as their often bizarre rhythmic changes during their set gave them a unique upper hand if you like that sort of thing – and they just got some love from the NY Times! Holler. Keep these fly kids on your radar.

Biggest Flirt: JJAMZ

Buzzing synth pop five-some JJAMZ (pronounced Juh-jamz) kicked things off at the Hype Machine showcase at Brooklyn Bowl with a serious bang. All of its members have an incredible resume: (guitarist Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), bassist Michael Runion, James Valentine (Maroon 5), and drummer Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley/Bright Eyes). However, lead singer Z Berg flirted her way into our hearts. Maybe it was the frozen margaritas or the lead singer’s magazine ready appearance, but she worked her pixie magic. Ending on “Suicide Pact,” Berg coyly left the stage before the rest of them, as they brought the track home. Intentional or not, they left us wanting more.

Ava Luna @ CMJ, NY 2012
Most Likely To Disappear After Graduation: Ava Luna

Ava Luna are something of an enigma – gorgeously tight harmonies, a touch of funk, and waves of free-form jazz. They’re totally those kids smoking in between class by the dumpster – you know what I’m talking about. Featuring several songs from their most recent LP “Ice Level” out in early 2012, Ava Luna also indulged the crowd in some new tunes in their 30-minute Pianos set for the Deli’s showcase. The highlight came, though, during title track & closer “Ice Level” thanks in part to back-up singer Becca Kauffman taking lead – her strong vocals a welcome surprise (mad props to vocalists Carlos Hernandez and Felicia Douglass too – group effort.)

Most Likely To Succeed: Flume

Australian electronic musician Flume (real name Harley Streten) is anything but lazy. Hitting the US shores from Australia for CMJ, he hoped to secure a US label to release his new LP (he’s already signed for distribution in the UK) and lined up a total of eight shows during the six days of CMJ. Opening the Windish Agency showcase at Brooklyn Bowl, Streten spun a set that seemed to draw inspiration from Toro Y Moi and Flying Lotus. With any luck, he should see his CMJ dream come to fruition – and hopefully the US will take kindly to this 19-year old Aussie talent.

Ghost Beach @ CMJ, NY 2012
Most Likely To Wreck Their Parents’ House: Ghost Beach

Taking a page from the Passion Pit play book, NYC duo Ghost Beach concoct a cocktail of warm, sunny ‘80s synth dance pop – their lead singer inserting his own natural smoked-one-too-many-cigarettes grit on the tracks.

The Neighborhood @ CMJ, NY 2012
Most Changed From Freshman Year: The Neighbourhood

If “freshman year” was the release of their first single “Female Robbery” in early 2012, then the Neighbourhood have come a long way in just under a year – and their set at Brooklyn Bowl proved just that. Our photographer Olivia had seen them twice before, and noted as they took the stage the marked difference in lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s appearance–now rocking a silver beanie, gold chains, and a super fresh tee. Okay, he used to be a rapper… so maybe he hasn’t changed that much? Either way, their I’m Sorry EP is a mix of indie-rock guitars, thumping club ready bass, and hip hop beats – and their live show plays almost identically to the recording. But for some reason, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Too much too soon?

Most Huggable: Indians

One man band Indians (aka Soren Juul) had no trouble filling the Brooklyn Bowl with sound. In his trademark Copenhagen accent, Juul spoke about his appreciation for the nearly-packed crowd, informing that he had brought 500 copies of his new album and if we wanted one later we should visit him at the merch table. So unbelievably endearing – we hope he sold them all.

Most Likely To Throw An Instrument: Alex Winston

There’s not much this alt-rock songstress will hold back from during a typical run through of her ever impressive folk-pop arrangements (I saw her climb stacked amps once). Despite some initial technical sound difficulties (looking at you, Santos), Winston proved herself once again a seasoned vet. Surging into the crowd on “Medicine,” she induced some mild mannered mosh jumping in several intoxicated guests (she even gifted audience members tambourines to participate). No new songs yet, but that doesn’t mean Winston isn’t amped up to hit the US charts hard in 2013. She recently posted a teaser photo of a self-produced track “Rocky Road” rumored to be her next single.

Quilt @ CMJ, NY 2012

Citizens! @ CMJ, NY 2012

Field Mouse @ CMJ, NY 2012
Field Mouse

Night Panther @ CMJ, NY 2012
Night Panther

The Midnight Hollow @ CMJ, NY 2012
The Midnight Hollow

You Won't @ CMJ, NY 2012
You Won’t

Check out all the pics from CMJ here.

Photos by Olivia Harrington

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