More CMJ 2010 Highlights
While still recovering from the madness that was CMJ, The Owl Mag’s NYC staff takes time to reflect on even more of the standout performances. Now if only we could get back to being able to properly stand up straight.
Simply put, The Phantom Band was one of the best bands to grace the CMJ circuit. Taking on a darker tone of indie rock, the band constructs Frankenstein creations that would make Mary Shelley proud. Fashioned from pieces of grunge and grim, pub brawls and folklore, there are the markings of krautrock, etchings of wind instruments and details made from electronic bagpipes. Rick Anthony’s vocals were nothing short of mesmerizing, beautifully cascading against songs playfully detailing apocalyptic endings. The group could easily pass for a bunch of mad scientists united in their obsessive passion and indeed given the myriad of strange toys and gadgets they pull out of their bag in many ways they are. But fundamentally there is something creative, carefree and intensely invigorating about the band.
Ty Segall is no stranger to the garage-rock scene, popping up in bands scattered across No-Cal (The Epsilons and Traditional Fools, amongst others) and releasing three albums over the past three years that have tracked his solo career from one-man lo-fi band to sturdy 4-piece that pulls influence from musicians ranging from The Kinks to Jay Reatard, T-Rex, Ramones and Pavement. Looking as if they walked out of a Larry Clark film circa 1990, the band, including an angelic-looking female drummer and bassist, quickly set in with captivating hooks assembled under a banner of frenetic energy and fuzz. Segall is quite the wunderkind whose intelligent lyrical banter and penchant for penning catchy rifts definitely signals he is ready to move out of the basement into getting the more mainstream recognition he (they) deserve.
DOM took the stage in their best grunge-era acid wash, and dabbled amongst a host of musical genres, mainly riding the current trend of lo-fi psychedelic punk rock. Given their slightly manic set, it would seem that DOM could care less about making a profound point and more just like to run around not giving a hoot. Get drunk and sing about oceans, beers, parties and cats. Shred on the guitar. Then repeat. And somehow it works. Sometimes you just have to sit back and give up, not analyzing why you could possibly be enjoying what you are and instead just go with it. Such a sentiment is one that DOM would likely endorse.
In a festival whose name includes the word “college,” there are bound to be stumbles of musical naÃ¯vetÃ© and immaturity. However, DeVotchKa comes in and shows the little kiddies how it’s done. A true life gypsy caravan of characters, their mixture of worldly influences and multiple instruments, paired with Nick Urata’s haunting voice, let a packed crowd at Public Assembly witness talent that sometimes irony and a flannel t-shirt just simply cannot recreate.
Denver’s Snake Rattle Rattle Snake has all of the no-nonsense, in-your-face rock and roll bite that you can imagineâ€“without an anti-venom to slow the swelling. Two drummers, two guitarists, a bass, keyboards, and a seasoned female lead singer with grit and grace provided a genre-defying infusion of danceable poly-rock rhythms and piercing guitars strung out with bursts of damaging double percussion. If they’re not on your radar, it is time to take heed, rock and rollers. -Carnie Fulton
Guards played their first show ever at the Yourstru.ly showcase at Glasslands, which featured one of the most buzz-worthy lineups of CMJ (Cults, Oberhofer, Kisses, etc.). Guards is headed by Richie Follin, older brother of Cults singer Madeline Follin, and the man sticks to what seemingly runs in the family: ’60s melodies with new wave tendencies packed with a sinister, often paradoxical, punch. While the upbeat tempos might have conjured images of sock-hops, lyrically Follin could likely make any man reach for their handle of Jim Beam: “Swimming in a sea of catastrophe/a resolution of one/digging up your lungs/on a better day/I hope to give it all away.” A extremely solid first show for a band likely to be dominating the internet and beyond very soon.
There are a lot of reasons one would like to dislike Cults: their rapid rise to fame, their multiple tours despite having only a 7” to their name, their internet domination, or the ease at which they keep a hold of their own privacy (Google search is relatively empty, they have no merchandise, and searches for their Twitter or MySpace prove less then successful). For the more daring curmudgeons, they might balk not only at the sugary sweet ’60s lo-fi pop, but the very fact that the duo, now backed by a band, are a real life sugary sweet couple. And yet, despite all the reasons you’d like to dislike them, it would be unwise to do so, if not impossible. Catching two of their CMJ performances solidified Cults as purveyors sinister pop with a punch. If you’re not convinced, try listening to “The Curse.” If you’re confused as to how you could possibly like it, try listening to it backwards. You never know, those Cults could be a tricky bunch.
Lead vocalist of Oberhofer, Brad Oberhofer, may look barely legal, but that doesn’t stop the fresh face from showcasing a bit of his own swagger. “Hey you’re cute, what’s your name?” he beckons from the stage to a girl undoubtedly many years his senior. Despite numerous reasons to snuff Oberhofer (he’s a precocious NYU undergrad who favors words tHaT LoOk LyKE thIS), it is precisely those factors that seem to work in his favor. His unweathered voice allows for a range of vocal yelps (which are easier to digest live), his cocky demeanor means he’s comfortable experimenting with layered instrumentals, and he’s managed to mix the sound of the Dodos and the Smith Westerns into ridiculously catchy songs like “Away FRM you,” which are worth the listen despite the title’s assault on the English language. Whether this will hold up or land him in Owl City territory has yet to be seen. But he’s young, really young, so he might as well just enjoy it.
Kisses has been getting a lot of buzz lately for their balearic beat style contrasted with frontman by Jesse Kivel’s brooding, emotional tendencies. Songs like “Kisses” and “Bermuda” easily sent warm fuzziness throughout the crowd. Kivel’s new sound takes a large step away from his former gig with the band Princeton, but his pairing with Zinzi Edmundson, who he apparently makes beautiful music with offstage as well, admirably throws them into the ring of the current disco-pop wave.
Chicago-based Young Man were a pleasant surprise Friday night and handily won over the crowd with an eclectic, guitar-heavy set of jangly indie pop. Their cover of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” kept the momentum moving forward, but what distinguishes Young Man from the swollen parade of other bands at CMJ might just be lead singer/songwriter Colin Caulfield’s voice, which soars and resonates like Jeff Buckley’s. Not to say he’s within an elite group just yet, but Caulfield is clearly out to tear down some indie rock boundaries. -Carnie
Royal Bangs sure make a lot of noise. It involves distorted guitars, furious drumming, a smattering of synths and Ryan Schaefer’s screaming vocals that dabble on the front of near disaster. Combining garage rock and electronic mastery, their sound mirrors their influences; it’s all over the place, from Electric Six to Broken Social Scene to Dirty Projectors and Beck, with a few Strokes-esque anthemic tendencies. Yet, it’s like throwing everything in the punch bowl at a rager. Damn if it doesn’t taste good and it’s more than likely to start a party.
School Of Seven Bells has had a bit of reshuffling these past few weeks with singer/keyboardist (and twin sister to vocalist Alejandra Deheza) Claudia Deheza announcing her departure from the band. Nevertheless, the now trio took the stage and did what they do best: dreamy-electro pop that uses loops, synths and now the solo sound of Deheza’s hypnotizing voice. But the moment that really stole the show was when touring drummer Zach Saginaw escaped from behind his drumset to make an announcement before their final song. After calling into the audience for a mystery woman named “Maria,” who took agonizingly long to reach the stage, Saginaw got down on one knee and proposed. Brimming with excitement the girl yelled “Oui!”, they embraced in a very long kiss and then, after a round of high fives and smiles, the whole band came back to play their last song. If that isn’t a way to end CMJ, what is?