It's that time of year again: CMJ time, y'all!
The leaves turn, the temperatures drop and every band you've never heard of descends on the streets and venues of New York City, from Bushwick to the Bowery, to rock out and prove their keep to label execs, journalists and fans scurrying from show to show.
With more than 1,400 showcasing acts, 2013 is one of the most jam-packed years in CMJ history. That's just a lot of bands to sift through. Luckily, Fuse's staff did the heavy lifting, picking the 25 must-see new acts rocking New York City this week, from piano songstresses to hip hop heads and everything in between. Check out the gallery, then see the Official CMJ Schedule to find out when and where your favorite acts are playing this week.
Who: 24-year-old singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett
Hometown: Brisbane, Australia
Why You Should Care: If 1960s Donovan and '90s Liz Phair had a child, it'd sound like "Avant Gardner," Barnett's genius, lazy-dazy breakout psych-folk ditty that's buzzing with music tastemakers online. Over guitar twinkle-jangle and rumbling bass, Barnett sigh-sings about waking up on a Monday, gardening and then having an asthma attack which results in an ambulance ride. "The paramedic thinks I'm clever because I play guitar / I think she's clever because she stops people from dying." Then later, "I should have stayed in bed today, I much prefer the mundane." This song is anything but.
Who: Melodic punk outfit Eagulls
Hometown: Leeds, England
Why You Should Care: Much like Danish hardcore band Iceage, this punk five-piece play actual punk music—you know, the kind that sounds slightly unhinged, ragged and relevant. Along with atmospheric shadings of post-punk guitar that bring to mind Public Image Ltd., Eagulls are snarly and visceral. Listen to "Nerve Endings" for a taste of what they're slinging.
Who: Electropop trio Au Revoir Simone
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Why You Should Care: Listen to the Brooklyn trio's latest album Move in Spectrums and you'll have a serious urge to run away with your lover to the dreamy pop wonderland Au Revoir Simone sing about. In other words, it sounds like what your favorite Instagram account looks like. Check out their latest, "Somebody Who."
Who: Teenage quartet Supercute!
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Why You Should Care: After donning oversized bows and twirling Hula Hoops at their buzzworthy CMJ 2010 set, Supercute! return to preview forthcoming debut album, DON'T PoP MY BUBBLE. The effort was produced by Kate Nash, who's brought the teens on two separate tours. Look out for tracks like the ukulele-centered "Love Love Leave Love," which recalls the quirky Juno soundtrack standout "Anyone Else But You," by the Moldy Peaches.
Who: 25-year-old indie rock ragamuffin Luke Rathborne, aka Rathborne.
Hometown: Northern Maine native currently living in New York City.
Why You Should Care: Most reviews of Rathborne's recently-released debut album, SOFT, reference either the Ramones, R.E.M. or Big Star. That's good company to keep for any aspiring rock act, and the comparisons are apt. Produced by Emery Dobyns (Battles, Antony & the Johnsons) and the team of Gus Oberg and the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr., the LP is all classic American underground: Young white dude with shaggy hair, ripped jeans and tattered leather jacket, singing his shattered lil' heart out over catchy riffs, snappy drums and keyboards. No wonder Hammond joined the project.
Who: Noisy punk livewires Perfect Pussy
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Why You Should Care: Believe it or not, their name is hardly the most intriguing thing about this four-piece noise outfit. Their debut EP, I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, is likely the 12 most exciting minutes of punk we've heard all year. Led by spellbinding frontwoman Meredith Graves, the furiously energetic band weave raw-nerved, hardcore intensity with a unique, unplaceable brightness to yield a sound that is at once obliterating and uplifting.
Who: Soon-to-be pop star Betty Who
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Why: You've probably heard 22-year-old Betty Who's addicting "Somebody Loves You" in that viral marriage proposal video that took place in a Home Depot. But Betty, born Jessica Newham, has so much more synthy pop goodness coming our way. Check out her solid four-song EP The Movement, and stay tuned for her debut album, due out in 2014.
Who: Experimental electronic duo F-ck Buttons
Hometown: Bristol, England
Why You Should Care: Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have been crafting avant garde electronic music since 2007, utilizing a wide range of instruments ranging from Casio keyboards to children's karaoke machines. Slow Focus, the band's third album released earlier this year, finds a balance between the sublime and the terrifying, blending gorgeous melodies with some of the year's most aggressive musical passages. Live, expect noise. Lots and lots of beautiful noise.
Who: Abrasive, '90s-leaning rockers Speedy Ortiz
Hometown: Northampton, MA
Who You Should Care: Frontwoman (and former SPIN mag intern) Sadie Dupois' rock band melds the crushing attack of PJ Harvey to the attitude of Liz Phair and the songcraft of Pavement. Nineties indie music hasn't sounded this immediate since, well, the nineties. Listen to Speedy Ortiz's "Tiger Tank" above and check out their set times here.
Who: Synth-pop singer/songwriter Glasser
Hometown: Los Angeles (via Boston)
Why You Should Care: The nom de plume of Los Angeles synth-pop producer Cameron Mesirow, Glasser returned earlier this year with Interiors, her first album since 2010's acclaimed debut album Ring. The singer/composer's eerie electronic pop has earned her comparisons to similar-minded left-field artist Grimes, though Mesirow’s singular pop vision puts her in a league of her own.
Who: Country, R&B and '70s pop quintet the Preatures
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Why You Should Care: Like HAIM? If so, then it''ll take exactly three minutes and 39 seconds to convince you to see the Preatures at CMJ this week. That's the length of "Is This How You Feel?" (above), the band's new single that nods to the same groovy, Fleetwood Mac-esque pop-rock as the aforementioned SoCal girl band. Seriously. Just listen above.
Who: 27-year-old soul and funk revivalist Nick Waterhouse
Hometown: Los Angeles
Why You Should Care: Fans of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley would be wise to check out Nick Waterhouse, an old soul whose 2012 debut Time's All Gone sounds like a classic 1970s soul throwback. Daryl Hall loved the singer/guitarist enough to invite him to a Live From Daryl's House, showcasing Waterhouse's musical versatility and innate ability to move asses.
Who: Singer-songwriter/part-time Fiery Furnace Eleanor Friedberger
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Why You Should Care: Half of the indie rock duo The Fiery Furnaces, singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger also performs as a successful solo artist. She's signed to the ultra hip Merge Records (also home to Arcade Fire and She & Him) and just dropped her (mostly) sunshiny second solo album, Personal Record. Get it now!
Who: Hard-charging jangle pop quintet Joanna Gruesome
Hometown: Cardiff, Wales
Why You Should Care: With an electric jolt of fast-paced guitar pop, lead singer Alanna addresses mental illness, homophobia and sexism with a voice that alternates between the ethereal and riot grrrl shouting. And unlike most C86-esque indie pop outfits, Joanna Gruesome attack their melodies with the thrust of a hardcore band. Watch the wild video for "Secret Surprise" above.
Who: Indie pop singer-songwriter Doe Paoro
Why You Should Care: Good luck finding another singer blending pop and R&B with Tibetan folk opera. The self-taught pianist/vocalist traveled alone through the Himalayas, picking up the vocal practices of its inhabitants. Now, she opens most shows with an a capella Tibetan prayer, but her music, most notably 2012’s Slow to Love, retains a buoyant pop sensibility.
Who: Das Racist co-founder and Greedhead Music mogul Himanshu Suri, a.k.a. Heems
Hometown: Queens, NY
Why You Should Care: You might know him from defunct rap trio Das Racist, but as a solo artist Heems stands his own ground and then some. Employing the same sardonic humor that put the group on the map, Heems' solo material (two mixtapes to date and a debut LP on the horizon) shows intellect, attitude and ambition that could trump almost any mainstream rapper on the charts. Check out "Soup Boys (Pretty Drones)" from 2012's Wild Water Kingdom.
Who: Singer-songwriter and pianist extraordinaire Diane Birch
Hometown: Portland, OR
Why You Should Care: The singer's first LP in four years, Speak a Little Louder, was crafted with the help of master British songwriter-producers Francis Anthony "Eg" White (Adele, Florence + the Machine, Pink) and Aqualung (Sara Bareilles, Jason Mraz, Lianne La Havas). The result is an emotionally charged record that confronts topics like the demise of a long-term relationship and the loss of a parent. But don't expect this show to be a bummer by any means! The 30-year-old artist's tracks incorporate bouncy production and empowering hooks, too.
Who: Baroque psych-pop singer-songwriter Jacco Gardner
Hometown: Zwaag in North Holland
Why You Should Care: Like whimsical dreamlands? If so, here's your daydreaming soundtrack. With harpsichord, flutes, organ and other mood-setting instruments, Gardner paints pastoral, Disneyified sounds on his latest album, Cabinet of Curiosities. Recommended if you like the Zombies, Nilsson, the Kinks or you're a card-carrying Dandy.
Who: Indie pop sibling foursome Echosmith
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Why You Should Care: Because we're suckers for a family band! Despite their median age of 16, brothers Jamie, Noah and Graham and frontwoman/sister Sydney have already made some serious waves in the indie pop arena. Their first single, "Tonight We're Making History," was featured in a promo for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Who: Lo-fi emo band Pity Sex
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Why You Should Care: Pop punk doesn't always have to be annoying. This Midwestern quartet comes at the genre with alt-rock influences and a decidedly understated approach that sets them apart from the Vans Warped Tour. Crafting melancholy mid-tempo gems with gentle male and female vocals, inconspicuously catchy hooks, and just enough fuzz, the product (especially breakout single "Wind Up" from debut LP Feast of Love) plays more like diet shoegaze with a chewy pop punk center.
Who: Hyper-dramatic pop-punk quartet Have Mercy
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Why You Should Care: These Baltimore punks have their hearts on their sleeves and their balls to the wall. The music is loud, melodic and personal, and their debut album The Earth Pushed Back pairs moody indie rock stylings with the unbridled enthusiasm, emotion and intensity of early-2000s Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. Listen to Have Mercy's "Let's Talk About Your Hair" above for proof.
Who: Emo rock outfit Tigers Jaw
Hometown: Scranton, PA
Why You Should Care: Like the Get Up Kids and loads of MySpace-ruling bands before 'em, Tigers Jaw (fronted by vocalist/keyboardist Brianna Collins and vocalist/guitarist Ben Walsh) built a devout following on raw, vulnerable lyrics and melodic guitar work. The band announced a hiatus earlier this year, but reports of Tigers Jaw's demise have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, not only are they playing CMJ, Tigers Jaw are working on a new record, so expect new tracks live, like the just-released "Hum" above.
Who: Dance-pop trio NONONO
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Why You Should Care: In September, the threesome's catchy "Pumpin Blood" (Warning: you will be whistling along to this) was selected by iTunes as Single of the Week and a month later featured in teen drama Vampire Diaries. Check out the trio's percussion-heavy stomp-pop live before all the trend-hopping teenyboppers catch on.
Who: Singer and ukulele player Catey Shaw
Hometown: New York City
Why You Should Care: The sassy singer/songwriter was the first artist selected for the Queen Latifah Show's "Subway Sets" series that plucks NYC performers off the streets to perform on the national talk show. With a raspy voice reminiscent of "New Soul" singer Yael Naim, Shaw boasts honest lyrics in songs like "Run Run Run": "Paycheck to paycheck, bad credit / Impossible for me to pay my rent / I'm just 21 / Trying to find a way to have a little fun." Recommended for those whose adult years aren't the whimsical tale Taylor Swift spins.
Who: Uplifting indie pop sextet Royal Teeth
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Why You Should Care: With two singers—Nora Patterson and Gary Larsen—leading the melodic charge, the NOLA sextet Royal Teeth deliver well-crafted and immaculately executed slices of uplifting indie pop. Listen to "Wild" above and get ready to hear more of them in the near future.
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