Staff Picks – Emily Daly: The Best & Worst Of 2016 (News Roundup)


I started writing the News Roundup series roughly a year ago, on January 8th. What I thought would be a light hearted “this is what happened this week!” very quickly turned into what seemed like an endless stream of negativity; the first article premiered the week of David Bowie’s 69th birthday, the second a few days after he died. Tallying all of the deaths, the venues that are closed or closing and all of the sexism in the music industry that was brought to light in 2016 has been a little disheartening. But, some good stuff happened too. Read on as we remember the highlights of this year that is thankfully ending soon.

  • A lot of iconic musicians died this year, starting with David Bowie, and continuing on: Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Pauline Oliveros, Alan Vega, Phife Dawg, George Martin, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra Jr., Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Vanity (aka Denise Katrina Matthews), Keith Emerson, Billy Paul, Jane Little (a double bassist who held the Guiness World Record for the longest serving symphony player), Guy Clark, Christina Grimmie, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Scotty Moore, Toots Thielemans, Juan Gabriel, Leon Russell, Holly Dunn and Greg Lake.

  • But, a lot of iconic musicians also resurfaced with new music. This year Kim Gordon released some tracks, along with The Pixies, Le Tigre, Iggy Pop, Beyonce, The Strokes, Green Day, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Robert Pollard, and two members of the Dirty Projectors (Also, it’s worth mentioning Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize and Madonna was crowned Billboard’s Woman of the Year).

  • Everything is closed. It’s not surprising considering all it takes to run a music venue, but it seems like an unusual number shuttered this year. In the last 365 days we’ve lost Palisades, Aviv, Manhattan Inn, Grand Victory and beloved record store Other Music. Also, Rock Shop has ceased to have live music, opting for a foosball table (or something) instead, and Market Hotel was temporarily closed over a liquor license misunderstanding. Other venues, like Lower Manhattan’s Cake Shop and Elvis Guesthouse, have announced that December will be their final month of operation.

  • But venues continue to open: The Glove, The Footlight and Sunnyvale all opened in Brooklyn this year, and Brooklyn Bazaar returned with a new, better location. Plus, we have a new large scale venue, Brooklyn Steel, to look forward to in 2017.

  • The music industry is still sexist. There’s an argument to be made that you have to expose misogyny to overcome it. If you think of it that way, 2016 was a year of progress as Amber Coffman and others spoke up about publicist Heathcliff Berru’s sexual misconduct, writer Art Tavana received an avalanche of criticism for a crude article that reduced Sky Ferreira to her sex appeal, and music executive Julie Farman call out the Red Hot Chili Peppers out for being douchebags back in their heyday. I’m sure I’m missing a few things, but do we really want to revisit it all?

  • But we did make progress. In March, Guitar World officially announced they would cease their bikini gear guide, the cover of which typically featured a sweet guitar held by a scantily clad woman. The call to change this practice was started when a photo of Guitar World next to a She Shreds cover, which featured a fully clothed  Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof, made its rounds on the internet. Guitar World publisher Bill Amstutz stated “we can do a better job, as all guitar media can do. It’s a bit of a boys’ club and we are taking steps this year to change that.” This may all also be the first year that a song that focuses on consent was celebrated by the media, with sad13’s “Get A Yes.”

  • Obviously, a lot of other, un-categorizable stuff happened too. I’m not sure where to start, or where to end, really. A conversation was started about the importance of DIY spaces, and the struggle to keep them, after the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy. Bono was awarded Glamour’s Woman of the Year, proving that women can even be excluded from an award specifically for them (you know what would be groundbreaking? Giving Man of the Year to a woman. C’mon, 2017!) Led Zeppelin was finally declared innocent of ripping off “Stairway To Heaven.” An amazing Twitter account that reimagines Carrie Bradshaw as a touring indie musician was born. CMJ was going to happen, then it wasn’t, then it was maybe, but it didn’t. I think at one point a new spider species was named after Johnny Cash. I’m probably forgetting a lot of things, and I’m sorry. It’s been a long year.

ONLY NOISE: Get Well Soon, CMJ


Around this time of year, I’m usually unearthing my leather jacket from the season-long crypt that is my closet. I’m forgetting to send my mom a birthday card and cursing the ubiquity of pumpkin spice. I start to crave horror movie marathons, and turtlenecks, and potpie. But more than anything, at this time of year I am usually preparing for the once annual CMJ Music Marathon.

This very moment, I should be stuck on some letter in the alphabet, two-thirds of the way through with my yearly, militant, and self-appointed task of listening to every band and artist on the lineup, usually numbered at around 1,500 or so. I took special pride in knowing exactly how ninety percent of the bands would sound just by looking at their photos and witnessed a foolproof pattern that any time my assumption was wrong, I ended up loving what I heard. The element of surprise goes a long way.

Around this time of year, I should be compiling an overwhelming, archaic, and impossible calendar for the week of CMJ. One that suggests I can somehow manage between four and five shows daily, even though my record high was three, and I came down with a cold immediately after. The calendar would be printed, with handwritten information. “Must-sees” would be striped with pink highlighter.

And yet in the spirit of a fall that won’t begin-highs in the mid-80s today – it looks like CMJ 2016 won’t either. According to articles published by Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Brooklyn Vegan, the event’s 2016 existence is largely in question. As far back as April, Brooklyn Vegan posed the question: “Is CMJ happening this year?” Stereogum’s late August headline probed even deeper when it asked: “CMJ Sure Seems To Be Over. So How Come Nobody Is Talking About It?”

Naturally, I have some questions of my own. Firstly, if CMJ is happening this year, then why does the official website still have “CMJ 2015” emblazoned all over it, along with no lineup in sight? And secondly, what the hell are we supposed to believe when Time Out New York publishes an article that reads “The CMJ Music Marathon is probably not happening this year” as well as a “CMJ 2016 Music Marathon Guide” on the same day?


As it turns out, trouble has been brewing for a few years now. According to a 2013 New York Times article published the first day of the mini festival that year (very sensitive of you, NY Times,) the organization behind CMJ was facing a $1 million dollar lawsuit due to a failed merger with Metropolitan Entertainment. And that is just what’s keeping four days of new music bliss at bay this year: business problems.

But despite the pessimism from various news outlets, CMJ CEO Adam Klein is asking that everyone try a little tenderness and hold their horses this year. He expressed in a press release that he is “totally committed to protecting CMJ’s unique and ‘live’ heritage while adapting to the ever-changing demands of artists, fans, and the music industry. A little patience and a whole lot less wild and unsubstantiated speculation is what we need right now.”

But what about what music journalists need? Don’t we need four nights of nearly 1,500 bands we’ve never heard to lose our minds over every fall? Of course we do! I must be in full-blown denial of the situation, as I check CMJ’s website near daily just in case this is all some sort of lofty prank.

Leafing through my 2014 festival guide, which I have kept for reasons even I cannot fathom, I take note of the venue listings. Cameo Gallery: gone. Glasslands: gone. Spike Hill: Equinox. Trash Bar: run out of the neighborhood. There seems to be a whole theme surrounding the independent music scene in New York sometimes, and it’s not a hopeful one. While venues and bars reincarnate in more remote hoods, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly replace an event as essential as CMJ.

Like a mom that loves scrapbooking, I have kept all of my press badge lanyards over the years, a fact so dorky that it can only be expressed through use of the word “lanyard.” Without these badges, I wouldn’t have been able to see most of the gigs at CMJ…except that ¾ of the ones I select always end up being free to the public. “Ma’am, this show is free,” many a door person has scolded as I earnestly held the laminated card to their face. So thrilled I was about this event, that I would proudly take on the douchey, self-ordained responsibility of wearing my press badge at all times, even when it made absolutely no sense, like at AudioFemme showcases.

One time, in my fifth attempt to finally see Perfect Pussy, I wore my badge all the way up to north Williamsburg to an outdoor matinee featuring Protomartyr. There was no question in my mind that this was a CMJ event, as it was listed with the others. I waited in line, and gave ‘em the badge. “That won’t do you any good here,” the dough handler said gruffly. I slinked away outwardly embarrassed, but unwilling to hand over ten dollars to an asshole in a bad hat. A similar dilemma had transpired at Silent Barn days prior at a Sean Nicholas Savage show, but the resident hand stamper was more kind. Slightly.

If it weren’t for CMJ, I wouldn’t have discovered artists such as Cosmo Sheldrake, Kamasi Washington, Hooton Tennis Club, Phony PPL, Landshapes, Outfit, Tom Vek, The Dig, Money, or countless others. I first saw London trio Happyness at the marathon, and they have since become a favorite emerging band, and fantastic interview subjects to boot.

CMJ has always felt like my New York Christmas; a time of year I anticipate months in advance, and yammer on about like a grade school kid all throughout. It created a collective excitement and feeling of goodwill around the city, and fostered an environment that made me feel welcome and comfortable. I will always remember the showcases as being some of the few gigs at which I actually met people. By talking to them.

I don’t want to stress out Adam Klein. I don’t want to make assumptions, or be impatient, or god forbid insensitive. But as Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits ironically sang, “I want my MTV,” I will go on record as un-ironically saying, “I want my CMJ.” We’ve lost too many musical events and venues over the years, but losing the marathon after three decades might be the worst of it.

CMJ Music Marathon, won’t you please come back to us? Until then, I will continue to shamelessly wear my CMJ tote bag from a couple years ago, which is so grimy and frayed that even I, a person of debatable sanitary practices, question its public acceptability. Soiled though it is, it at least reminds me of the days when I could put on my leather jacket, curse the ubiquity of pumpkin spice, and then go see ten bands I’d never heard before.

LIVE REVIEW: The Harpoons @ The Delancey

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Bec Rigby of The Harpoons.
Bec Rigby of The Harpoons

In the basement of The Delancey in the heart of LES, The Harpoons quickly got the groove going late on a Saturday night. Music export initiative Sounds Australia put together an edition of their Aussie BBQ, a showcase of Australian bands, right here in New York City.

Funk and R&B vibes with a techy-modernized twist is the best way to describe the way they warmed up the dingy little room. Clad in a relaxed white power suit, gorgeous lead singer Bec Rigby swooned and crooned while the energy from brothers Henry and Jack Madin and Marty King’s harmonies get the crowd to melt right into the beats.

The Aussie BBQ showcase put each band on a pretty tight schedule, as all day, they had each of the twenty-one acts coming out one after another since 2 pm.  Still, by midnight, the crowd had plenty of energy up until the last song of the set, where we begged for one more, and The Harpoons were happy to oblige. It was a quick set, but the band were around to chat and enjoy the other Aussie bands up next, like Pearls and friendships, both of whom I really came to enjoy.

The Harpoons are headed back home to Melbourne soon for Melbourne Music Week, and will be playing a few shows around Australia to close out the month. Check out their latest music video for the single “Ready For Your Love,” made to accompany the video diary for their Japanese tour:


VIDEO REVIEW: Dilly Dally “The Touch”


If your band practice doesn’t include hazy shadows, falling feathers, slinking felines and unbridled pain, you’re doing it wrong. Or, you’re just not on the same level as Toronto’s Dilly Dally (which would be admittedly hard to achieve). Led by long-time friends Katie Monks (vocals/guitar) and Liz Ball (guitar), the band has been bursting through unsuspecting earbuds everywhere after releasing their debut album Sore in early October and making waves at New York’s CMJ music festival.

Now they’ve shared their music video for “The Touch,” a song that Monks revealed was written with a very specific, urgent purpose: “I wrote this song for a friend of mine who was having suicidal thoughts… the song attempts to reach him in his dark place, and then lure him away from there.” Monks makes his pain her own in the black-and-white video by yelling, practically swallowing the mic, and holding onto her guitar like a life preserver. In the background, there’s a calming influence via her bandmates, their heads down as they focus on their instruments as feathers float and swirl around them.

As the band plays the heavy, fast beat and snarling guitars, the video occasionally cuts to a figure dressed in black, brandishing a whip: some sort of dominatrix superhero. While Monks sings about healing someone with a “woman’s touch,” she knows that sometimes, a soft touch won’t cut it. Sometimes, it takes a figurative slap in the face.

LIVE REVIEW: CMJ 2015-Cosmo Sheldrake


On my second venture to Williamsburg’s Living Room, I encounter an even stranger sight than the Anglomania days prior. A lanky, rather stunning gentleman is flung upon a couch like the lead dandy of an Oscar Wilde play. He wears foppish Chelsea boots, a rust red sweater with a hole in the elbow and a slate, Nehru-necked vest. A conical birthday hat tops his mop of curly hair, making him look like a dunce or the subject of some Balthus painting. At a glance, one would reasonably question his country (or era) of origin.

This could only be Cosmo Sheldrake, a man whose name and music are as eccentric as the scene I just described. He’s also one of the acts I was most thrilled to see this year. So why was the headlining act sprawled flat on a sofa? Was he drunk? Ill? Strung out? I suspect he was just trying to squeeze in a bit of shut-eye before his set-which didn’t start until 1:30 am.

But, as things go at these sorts of events, Sheldrake’s set didn’t actually commence until 2:30 am. The vibe at this show was quite different from when I saw him at Piano’s two nights before, where a packed crowd beamed and shouted “Cosmo!” long before his set time. Instead, as Sheldrake parted the curtain to enter the listening room he muttered: “oh fuck, there’s like no one here.” He turned and looked to his friend with a nervous but lighthearted chuckle: “shitballs!”

At Piano’s, Sheldrake had come on stage wearing the exact same outfit, sans birthday cone. He spent a good half-hour setting up keyboards, sequencers, a laptop and some semblance of a Kaoss Pad or effects station. I remember thinking that it may have been more useful for Sheldrake to perform in a dog pit so onlookers could gaze down and see what the hell he was doing.Having read that Cosmo has savant-like musical abilities, (he plays around 30 instruments and having composed film and play scores by age 24) I was really hoping he’d be outfitted with a full band, or at least juggle a few different instruments. I’m sure both scenarios would have been a logistical pain in the ass, so the electronic motherboard it was.

Despite the one-man-show feel of the gig, I certainly can’t say Cosmo disappointed. He’s so engaging, charming and humble that it’s mildly infuriating; this level of talent is supposed to be reserved for the unattractive and socially inept, both of which Sheldrake is the opposite. He takes the time to introduce certain elements of his compositions, all of which are comprised of self-recorded sound bytes (a couple are borrowed) and oft-improvised vocals.“These are some sounds I want to introduce,” he says sweetly like a 3rd grade science teacher. “This is a sheep I recorded in Bulgaria.” Sheldrake presses the bleat button and glances sideways, making the crowd giggle. “This is a recording of me breaking some rocks in Wales. This is the sound of the sun sped up 42,000 times. These are some sounds from a cave in Bulgaria-there’s a rabid dog in there if you listen really close.” I don’t hear it. Sheldrake’s arrangements are so densely woven that you wouldn’t necessarily guess what the component parts are. But I like it that way. An enigma, much like Cosmo himself.

At Living Room Sheldrake mostly improvises. He is still wearing the birthday hat, with one helium balloon fastened to his keyboard. As it turns out it’s Luisa Gerstein’s (of Landshapes) birthday. I’m less taken with his improvisational vocals as they tend to venture on the scat/beatbox side of things, but I appreciate where he’s coming from. At one point he says that improvising is how he centers himself, and I find that as inspiring as I do rare. Making up a song in front of a bunch of strangers sounds more like a nightmare to me than a spiritual device.

Sheldrake is someone who seems constantly inspired, almost plagued by creativity. I imagine him finding a perfect rhythm while sweeping his flat, or hearing a rhapsody in rush hour traffic, or chewing to a beat. And just as I begin to cast off these thoughts as ridiculous, Sheldrake pulls the balloon towards him: “this should have helium in it!” He bites a tiny hole in the rubber, sucks in, and sings a song in a whole new key.





“Our sound isn’t necessarily bound by a single genre,” says Sarah Gaugler, the vocalist of Turbo Goth. It’s true – the band can’t quite be called electronic rock, though it’s the easiest way to categorize the duo which also includes Paolo Peralta on guitar, synths, and drum loops. Gaugler speaks and sings each word in a carefully, calculated way, while during live performances, Peralta swings his guitar around wildly. Some songs sound like a blues-rock band from outer space, others are industrial, slightly frightening. It takes more than one listen to get a handle on them.

As well as fronting the band, Gaugler is an accomplished tattoo artist with her own studio in Chelsea called Snow Tattoo. Though she was busy preparing for Turbo Goth’s CMJ show at Left Field last week, she took some time to answer questions about her music, art and the origins of Turbo Goth.

AF: Where did the name Turbo Goth come from?

SG: Personally, I don’t think it describes our music at all because I don’t know exactly how to label our music. We certainly aren’t playing traditionally “Goth” music, but I do think it describes our live performances, or the attitude of the band. It’s like we created a personality that is still growing and evolving as we continue to make more music. The name is more of the “concept of the contrast.” We love the contrast of aggression and beauty, heavy rock sound with heavenly, graceful notes. 

When we were developing our band, we suddenly noticed the word “turbo” on old appliances, like an old electric fan. The humor was that back in the day, if you put “turbo” on something it meant it was top quality and intense, or high powered!

The “Goth” name originally came from the Visigoth conquerors who invaded the Roman Empire, just as we aggressively invade the stage when we perform. It was also derived from our admiration of Gothic architecture, long and pointed aches that stand tall and monumental. This type of architecture was named after the Visigoths due to the abandonment of classical Romanesque lines and proportion, just as our music is an abandonment of the typical rock band style.

AF: You’re originally from the Philippines- what brought you to New York?

SG: We felt it was time for us to share our passion with a bigger audience and got attracted to the city’s energy. After playing festivals around Asia and SXSW, we decided to go to New York where the music world is much more diverse and alive.

AF: How did you meet your bandmate, guitarist Paolo Peralta?

SG: Paolo Peralta was a sous chef at a fine dining restaurant in Manila and already the lead guitarist of a punk rock band…We had common friends and then eventually we started hanging out.

Knowing that I was a Fine Arts student and Visual Artist, the original plan was for me to create art on stage, while he played beats and music. But one day he heard me singing along to music I was playing in my car and said he liked my voice and we ended up making music together instead.

AF: Who are your biggest influences as a musician, and what are your biggest influences as a visual artist?

SG: When I was a little girl I was exposed and inspired by Madonna and Michael Jackson. I appreciate their pop tones and grooves. My dad used to listen to the Beatles so I feel like that is a part of my influences. My favorite music in college were songs by Go Sailor, Muse, the Mars Volta, Radiohead, and the Sundays. This is just from the top of my head, there are a lot more.

When it comes to illustrations or tattoos, life events and nature currently stimulate me. My thesis, however, was based on pen and ink, and crosshatching techniques, so my research was on Edward Gorey and Bernie Wrightson. When I was a child I loved watching movies by Tim Burton. These were some of my significant influences as I was developing my art skills.

AF: Do you think music and visual art are more effective when used together?

SG: Yes, for expression and for the viewers who are engaging with the performance. Music and visual art are married to each other…the complete experience of music is when you are seeing the performance live and feeling the energy face to face.

AF: What was your first tattoo? Have you ever tattooed yourself?

SG: My first tattoo was my bandmate’s name. After a couple of months, when I finally had my own machine, I started doing my illustrations on friends’ skins instead of paper. 

The first tattoo that I inked on someone was one of my stylized girl illustrations, holding the word “pag-asa” (hope) in her hands above her. I never thought that I would tattoo myself but just as 2015 was about to start, I finally felt the urge. It’s a heart with arrows on my left thumb and three letter Vs on my left middle finger.

AF: In the past, it seems like women were underrepresented in both the music and tattoo industry. As a woman who is involved in both, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think women with these careers are more accepted now than before?

SG: I’m very happy to be in this age where women and men can be treated as equals in an industry that used to be dominated by men. Sexism for me is so much a thing of the past, and I have been fortunate enough to have not had any bad experience with it.

AF: Who parties harder, musicians or tattoo artists?

SG: I don’t think it matters if you are a tattoo artist or a musician. I think you party hard when you are young and in time we grow and learn through experiences. As time goes by, for me, being creative and productive stimulates me so much that beats the fun of partying too hard.

CMJ 2015: Ezra Furman


Ezra Furman was all over CMJ this year. I was lucky enough to see him twice-once at a matinee showcase for Brooklyn Vegan, and again at a headlining spot at The Knitting Factory. I’ve always felt like seeing a band more than once in a short span of time is like hearing a the same joke back to back-you get to see if it really holds up, or whether it was never all that funny to begin with.

To stick with the simile: Ezra Furman is a fantastic joke.

Both of his sets were almost entirely different. I only heard one or two repeat songs and even those were performed with little idiosyncratic tweaks in delivery or time signature. One thing that did stay constant was the quality of the gigs. Much like Furman seems incapable of writing a bad song, he also can’t manage to play a boring show. I guess there are things it’s good to be bad at after all.

Ezra Furman is often labeled a new act, but he’s already got a decent sized catalogue to pull from while performing. Several albums deep in his career, he still plays from many of them, which is both convenient and wonderful because, well, they’re all great records.

His latest release Perpetual Motion People however, seems to be the one that’s finally getting him noticed internationally (including by the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop.) I first heard the record on BBC 6 Music and knew Furman was something special straight away. PMP zips from folk to punk, doo-wop to soul, and is never scant on infectious pop licks. It’s not an easy sound to define, but neither is Furman the man – and I’m starting to think he likes it that way. Many of his lyrical themes involve sexuality and gender identity, or as he put it last Wednesday night before introducing “Body Was Made” at Knitting Factory, being “body positive.”

Despite Furman’s flamboyant appearance – he’s rarely without his pearls and red lipstick – he is an endearingly shy performer. As a fan shouted, “I love your shoes!” he coyly looked down and whispered, “thank you” off mic. At the Brooklyn Vegan showcase he fawned: “Aw look at all you, standing there, you’re all so cute just standing there. Look, I’m infantilizing you for personal gain because – well, I’m really uncomfortable.”

Yes, Ezra Furman certainly is a strange one. And we wouldn’t have him any other way.


CMJ 2015: Jake Isaac and Hooton Tennis Club @ The Living Room

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From left: Callum McFadden, Ryan Murphy, James Madden and Harry Chalmers of Hooton Tennis Club
From left: Callum McFadden, Ryan Murphy, James Madden and Harry Chalmers of Hooton Tennis Club.

I’ve often been called an anglophile. When it comes to my favorite books, movies, music – even people – an alarming amount hail from the U.K. I can’t help it. So imagine my delight upon arriving at The Living Room last Tuesday and seeing the many Union Jack-emblazoned posters hung around the room reading:

Music is Great

Britain and Northern Ireland

The snippets of conversations overheard around me only confirmed: I had accidentally landed at CMJ’s British showcase, hosted by Brit clothier Ben Sherman no less. I wonder how all those Brits felt, caged in by tiny ensigns dotting the stage as if it were a sports arena. It must be strange to feel an average amount of apathy towards your country on a daily basis, and then to be wrapped in the flag and delivered to an American audience. Could you imagine U.S. bands rolling up to London all Stars and Stripes? Somehow we don’t evoke novelty the same way.

Each act performing the showcase dealt with the patriotic décor in their own manner. Soul-folk singer Jake Isaac was a characteristically self-deprecating Englishman, professing that he wasn’t “as rock n’ roll as the last guy.” That’s a cuppa’ tea after sipping from a Styrofoam cup. But regardless of his degree of “rock n’ roll,” Isaac certainly didn’t fall short with his ability to work a room. Early on in his set Isaac unplugged his acoustic, stepped away from his kick drum and into the crowd where onlookers instinctively formed a circle around him as he sang. Isaac’s voice is at once booming and sweet, with just the right amount of rasp; a true soul vocal that sounds so natural it’s as if it’s falling out of his mouth.

CMJ exists largely to introduce and bolster emerging talent, so it’s rare to see a fairly unknown musician have this much charisma and pull with an audience. By the end of his set, Isaac had everyone clapping along and singing call-and-response style, a move I typically find cheesy, but his charm assuaged that reaction. He even made me (momentarily) like a track I otherwise abhor by weaving bits of Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry About a Thing” into his own song.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about Jake Isaac doing big things in a few years time. He’s already got a handful of EPs under his belt (his latest being 2015’s Where We Belong on Rocket Music Records) and clearly knows how to sway an audience. I’d say he’s fit for proper stardom, and deserving of it too.

Hooton Tennis Club, the Liverpool foursome (no, not that Liverpool foursome) were chipper despite being horribly jet lagged. “We got in 36 hours ago, and we still haven’t slept,” quipped lead singer/guitarist Ryan Murphy. The lot of them looked like a pack of scruffy teens that wound up here by accident while cutting gym. But this slack attitude is part and parcel for Hooton. Their sound is effortless and often a product of improvisation-yielding pop songs that are just the right portions catchy and scrappy. But this ease is a good thing.  No one ever said that the best songs sound forced-quite the opposite in fact.

Their first record The Highest Point in Cliff Town is an impressive debut in that it asserts a cohesive sound immediately. This must have been something Heavenly Recordings picked up on, considering they signed them after only three gigs.  The record is heavily rooted in the nineties, and they admit to looking at bands like Deerhunter as massively influential.  There is a shabby professionalism to Hooton-sounding alive while looking exhausted and smothering honeyed pop melodies with lo-fi distortion; a sort of sonic rendering of a pretty boy dressed in dirty clothes.

Mid-way through their set bassist Callum McFadden plucked up a tiny Union Jack, stuck it’s tooth-pick-like pole through the strings in his headstock, and shimmied left to right, making it wave like a naval flag. Whether the gesture was out of patriotism or sarcasm I don’t know-but what would be more British than being sarcastic?


CMJ 2015: Bands to Hear

CMJ Music Marathon 2015 is here. With an overwhelming abundance of artist to sort through, we made your life easier by providing you with a list of a few can’t-miss bands to hear. Read on.

Cosmo Sheldrake

Cosmo Sheldrake

Rare is the mere mortal who can play more instruments than years they’ve lived. Cosmo Sheldrake is such a human (though I’m convinced some dealings with the devil are at play here). At 25 Sheldrake has scored films, composed music for a series of Samuel Beckett plays, and given a performance at TEDxWhitechapel entitled “Interspecies Collaboration.” Oh, and, you know, he plays over 30 instruments. Piano? Check. Drums? Check? Didgeridoo? Mmhm. Sousaphone, penny whistle, Mongolian throat singing, Tibetan chanting, computer? Yup.

I’m not sure how Sheldrake will get all this gear from London to Piano’s this Tuesday, but I am certain there will be an intriguing performance in store. While Sheldrake’s resume can leave us fearing overwrought and un-listenable prog rock, I can assure you that his sound is nothing short of delightful. His technical ability is matched by a penchant for catchy, beautifully textured songs that venture on the Baroque and folk corners of pop.

Cosmo Sheldrake:

Tuesday 10/13 @Piano’s 5:30pm



Ezra Furman

We’ve sung his praise before, and we’re not finished. The cross-dressing troubadour plays a vigorous set, spits a mean lyric, and looks a hell of a lot better in a frock than I do. Riding on the warm reception of his latest release Perpetual Motion People, Furman will be here by way of London, San Francisco, St. Paul, and lord knows where else. Expect manic folk, mangled vocals, doo-wop croons, punk rock, lipstick and plenty of saxophone. If you long to move this CMJ, but don’t have the taste for late night EDM, I assure you there will be sufficient dancing at the Ezra Furman gig.

If you’re schedule’s pretty full-up, worry not; Ezra is playing four dates next week. Though if I may recommend one above the rest it’s his headlining gig at Knitting Factory, where Juan Waters, Slim Twig and Drinks-among many others-will share the bill. Don’t miss it!


Ezra Furman:

Wednesday 10/14 @Knitting Factory 7pm (Juan Waters, Slim Twig, Drinks)

Thursday 10/15 @Rough Trade 4pm

Thursday 10/15 @le Poisson Rouge 10pm

Friday 10/16 @Baby’s All Right 2pm



Sean Nicholas Savage

Where Cosmo Sheldrake can be measured in instruments, Montreal’s Sean Nicholas Savage can be measured in albums. At 29 he’s released 11 studio LPs in a span of eight years. His latest record Other Death surfaced just last month on his Alma Mater Arbutus Records, home to fellow Canadians TOPS, Grimes and Doldrums.

With the guise of a shadier Morrissey, Savage’s music is at peace with sorrow, his signature crooning falsetto wavers over hushed keys and papery drums. His vocal range reaches heights that one might find unlikely from a live performance, but trust me, I’ve seen him pull it off on the spot to an even greater effect than his recordings. He’s a humble, somewhat shy performer, but a captivating one nonetheless. And if it’s charisma you’re looking for, he’s got that in spades.


Sean Nicholas Savage:

Thursday 10/15 @Silent Barn 8pm

Friday 10/16 @Arlene’s Grocery 8p



Miya Folick

Resting somewhere between balladeer folk and dream pop, Miya Folick‘s latest EP Strange Darling is nothing short of mesmerizing.  There is a sweet sadness at play here that stabs pretty deep.  It’s a far cry from other music coming out of Los Angeles right now, which is often sun-bleached and relentlessly up-tempo.  Folick’s sound, while beautiful and fragile, is also haunting and morose.  There is an eerie quality to her which sets her apart from the crowd.

If you’re into Cat Power, Beach House, Hope Sandoval, etc, Folick is well worth your time this CMJ.


Miya Folick:

Tuesday 10/13 @Cakeshop 9pm

Wednesday 10/14@The Flat 8:15pm


Phony PPL

If I had to describe Brooklyn’s Phony PPL in one sentence it would read thus: late 70s Stevie Wonder has a hip hop group. I like both of those things. Mixing jazz fusion arrangements, R&B rhythms and rap vocal stylings, Phony PPL’s latest release Yesterday’s Tomorrow is already dotting some year-end lists. You may even remember seeing the boys on Jimmy Kimmel Live in June, standing in as Fetty Wap’s backing band for “Trap Queen.”

It’s not too often you come by a hip hop group that is a proper band. This is no discredit to the genre, which is heavily reliant on brilliant producers and session musicians. But the rarity of Phony PPl’s musical fluency is part of their appeal, aside from being fantastic songwriters, and, let’s face it, adorable.


Phony PPL:

Wednesday 10/14 @Arlene’s Grocery 5pm

Friday 10/16 @The Wick 6pm



Hooton Tennis Club

 While the U.K. once spat out its best music draped in a Union Jack, our friends across the pond seem to be peeking at our back catalogue for their latest inspirations. Hooton Tennis Club may be a British Pop band, but they are certainly not a Britpop band. Instead these Wirral four would sit more comfortably next to your Deerhunter and Pavement than your Blur and Suede.

Having just released their debut record The Highest Point in Cliff Town on the reputable Heavenly Recordings, Hooton have been on the tour circuit for quite some time, made an appearance on BBC Radio 6, and were featured in NME’s “New Band of the Week” column. Not bad for four lads from Wirral.


Hooton Tennis Club:

Tuesday 10/13 @Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. 5pm

Wednesday 10/14 @Cakeshop 7pm



Kamasi Washington

You may have not heard of Kamasi Washington, but you’ve probably heard him. He wrote most of the arrangements on this little record called To Pimp a Butterfly by some guy named Kendrick Lamar.

Washington is a man of many talents. A saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, he has performed and recorded with the likes of Thundercat, Broken Bells, Stanley Clarke and Snoop Dogg. Though his credits as collaborator and contributor finally gave way to a headlining title with the release of his LP The Epic this May. Epic is no understatement-the album clocks in just under three hours and has a transcendent quality to it. This is textured, full-bodied jazz with elements of gospel, funk and soul. What’s not to like?


Kamasi Washington:

Thursday 10/15 @BRIC House 7:30pm

Friday 10/16 @Le Poisson Rouge 6:30pm




Another U.K. band (we can’t help ourselves!) Landshapes merge noisy psych rock with pop-punk tempos and infectious melodies.  Originally called Lulu and the Lampshades, a Paris venue misspelled “Lampshades” as “Landshapes” and a new moniker was born.

Signed to the influential Bella Union label, Landshapes just released their second record Heyoon in May and it’s a rip-roaring slice of sound.  There is a bit of the odd in their music for sure as the band’s influences would have us believe.  Take the album’s first single lead single “Moongee,” a song inspired by a tale by 17th century Bishop Francis Godwin.  I hope their live show is as bizarre as their references!



Wednesday 10/14 @Palisades 10pm

Thursday 10/15 @Le Poisson Rouge 9pm

Saturday 10/17 @Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 7pm




Whether it’s Manchester or Sheffield, the North of England seems to have a penchant for churning out great bands. Outfit is no exception. Originally from Liverpool, Outfit are only two albums deep in their catalogue, but quality is shouting louder than quantity in this case. Slowness, their latest LP, is a study in subtlety, drifting between melancholy and melody with a sophisticated ease for such a young band. To me they sound like a drowsy Prefab Sprout, so you can expect masterfully constructed pop songs that verge on the edge of bizarre.

More frequently Outfit is compared to Hot Chip, though I’m not hearing this so much, save for the fact that lead singer Andrew Hunt does sound oddly like Chip’s Alexis Taylor on a couple of tracks. Either way, Outfit is a band worth hearing.



Wednesday 10/14 @Passenger Bar 9pm

Saturday 10/17 @Pianos (Upstairs) 8:10pm




In the broadest of terms, Protomartyr is a punk band from Detroit. Though listening closer you’ll discover a group with far more depth than that description. Piloted by singer/songwriter Joe Casey, Protomartyr exude a dark pensiveness akin to The Minutemen with swaths of aggressive post punk coating discordant melodies – if you can call them melodies.

Despite occupying a genre often bound by obscurity, Protomartyr have a decent following under their belt. Signed to Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art records, the foursome just released their third record The Agent Intellect today. What better way to celebrate their new LP than to catch them live next week?


Wednesday 10/14 @Santo’s Party House 11:15pm

Friday 10/16 @Rough Trade 7pm (with Drinks, Mothers, Car Seat Headreast, Modern Vices)


CMJ 2015: Top 10 Parties Not To Miss


Unless you’ve been living under a rock or completely off the grid since fall started, you know that CMJ, possibly the best festival for discovering new music, is taking over NYC next week. There’s no way to see everything, but here’s some CMJ parties you definitely cannot miss (including ours):

10/13 – 7:30 pm – Good Room – Garage Land CMJ Showcase

The Garage Land CMJ showcase features some of the best acts to perform at the Good Room this year, including Watermelon Sugar, Gods, Casey Hopkins Duo, Acid Dad, Navy Gangs, Worthless, Savants, Surfbort and Tall Juan (bands listed in order of appearance, from first to last).  For a preview, check out Acid Dad: 

10/14 – 7 pm – Baby’s All Right – Brooklyn Vegan + Collect Records Showcase

Baby’s All Right is turning two soon, but before they reach toddler status, they’re throwing some awesome CMJ parties. One of those is hosted by the Brooklyn Vegan and Collect Records, with artists such as No Devotion, Wax Idols, Creepoid, and Foxes In Fiction.

10/14 – 7:30 pm –  Santos Party House – NME+PopGun+House Arrest Present CMJ Party

Two floors of acts, including Perfect Pussy*, Protomartyr*, Yung*, Seratones*, Hooten Tennis Club*, Dilly Dally^, Downtown Boys^, Shopping^, NICO YARYAN^, Car Seat Headset^, Yak^. RSVP on Facebook here.

(* upstairs, ^ downstairs)


10/15 – 8 pm – Palisades – KXLU FM + Burger Records CMJ Showcase

The cool California record label Burger Records is hosting the showcase with Michael Rault, Cool Ghouls, Dirty Ghosts, Slim Twig, Modern Vices, Howardian and UNSTOPPABLE DEATH MACHINES. RSVP here, and check out a psychedelic track from Cool Ghouls below.

10/15 – 7 pm – Cake Shop – Thursday Night Showcase

Featuring Robbing Millions, S, Tricot,  Shopping, Diet Cig, , Sweet Spirit and Weaves at Cake Shop in the Lower East Side. Listen to all the bands quickly in the event’s creepy promo video:

10/16 – 1 pm – Palisades – Exploding In Sound Records Official CMJ Showcase

One of the best, most interesting record labels around, Exploding In Sound is throwing their CMJ showcase  at Palisades. Go and see Palehound, Big Ups, The Spirit of the Beehive, Greys, Palm, Stove, Washer, Kal Marks, Dirty Dishes, Swings, Flagland, Leapling and LVL UP. 

10/16 – 7 pm – Pianos – The Deli Magazine/Pianos CMJ Showcase

The Deli Magazine and Pianos have teamed up to bring you Vunderbar, The Fluids, Controller, Stolen Jars, Diet Cig, Eternal Summers, Beverly, Weaves, mild high club, ohnomoon, Paperwhite*, Yes Alexader*, MY BODY*, Solvey*, and The Golden Pony* (* means free/upstairs, the rest of the bands are in the main room for $10).

10/17 – 6:30 pm – Cameo Gallery – Audiofemme + Atypical Beasts Agency Showcase

We can guarantee this party will be amazing, because it’s being thrown by us! Come to the Cameo Gallery (which is unfortunately closing soon) to see some great acts like TOW3RS, Von Sell, The Prettiots, Lena Fayre, Beverly, and Monika. RSVP here, and get your tickets here!

10/17 – 12 pm – The Shop – Stereocure + Drunken Piano Showcase

Featuring Flamingosis, Moon Bounce, SUI ZHEN, A Sol Mechanic, Novelty Daughter, My Body, Bollywood Life, Crystal Ghost and more TBA. RSVP here!

10/18 – 3 pm – Palisades – Father/Daughter + Miscreant Records CMJ Showcase

Come to one of the last of the week’s events to hear Hiccup, Nicholas Nicholas, Bad Cello, i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, Fern Mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, SPORTS and PWR BTTM.

What to Wear to CMJ 2014


It’s that time of year again: CMJ Music Marathon is upon us. One crazy awesome week of running around Manhattan and Brooklyn to see the newest, coolest emerging faces in music. The one problem? New York in October. It’s getting cold, it’s rainy, and you have to make it from Webster Hall to Brooklyn Bowl in a short amount of time. You need the right gear to get you through. Luckily for you, we’ve gone ahead and pinned some of our favorite show looks that will also defend you from the weather. Check out our ASOS picks on our Pinterest page!

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TRACK REVIEW: Paperwhite “Pieces”


Brooklyn brother and sister duo, Katie and Ben Marshall, record as Paperwhite and have just revealed their fourth song this year, titled “Pieces.” It’s a bright, airy slice of neon-tinged eighties nostalgia, and a gloriously uplifting attitude adjuster. The track will feature on their upcoming EP, Magic, out on Duly Noted Records on November 17, which will also include previously released singles “Magic,” “Take Me Back,” and “Got Me Goin” as well as two yet to be revealed tracks, “Gold” and “Galaxy.”

“Did you know? From the second you walked in I wanted more. And in a minute I’ll be losing all control…” begins “Pieces,” which, according to Katie, describes the trance and magnetism of love at first sight. “And if it’s right, will these pieces fit together?” she asks, the track continuing in the dreamy tone of young love, as yet unblemished by the cynicism of experience. “While it questions if they’re the one,” Katie says, “it’s backed with an energizing spirit and hopefulness that they are. It makes me want to dance, move and forever stay in love.”

It certainly makes us want to dance too — in fact, the crisp synths and power pop chorus makes us forget the creeping approach of winter and entices us to throw the top down, wrap our arms around the nearest dreamboat and cruise off into the sunset in the style of all the best 1980s teen movies.

Paperwhite have a CMJ date at Webster Hall’s Marlin Room on October 21, then, on November 5, they will be supporting Panama Wedding at Rough Trade NYC.

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EP Review: Little May S/T EP

Little May

Little May

What do you get when the members of Mumford & Sons are swapped out for three equally rocking women? You get something like the Australian folk rock trio known as Little May, who have a self titled debut EP, out yesterday via Capitol Records, that packs in some major feels. Rife with angelic harmonies from vocalists Liz Drummond, Hannah Field, and Annie Hamilton, this EP soars across the spectrum of human emotion in just a matter of five tracks, and it does so in that foot-stomping, kick-drum-pounding, Mumford way.

“Dust” is the song that opens this little Pandora’s box, luring you in with sweet emotive singing over melodically plucked acoustic guitar. It possesses the intimate feel of being in the recording studio, as if you are there to witness the inception of this beautiful song, so familiar that it quickly starts to feel like part of your own life story. The song is innocent enough until the lyric “and I’m not ready to ignite this now” — the sort of statement someone might make when the inevitable is about to occur, breathlessly uttered almost like a reflex. And just when you think this is going to be one of those sleepy, pensive tunes, the song sonically ignites. This is why the trio have drawn comparisons to Fleetwood Mac or Haim; the plucking turns to fast strumming, the bass starts rumbling in your chest and the whole song becomes larger than life itself.

“Hide” takes a different emotional approach. We go from the loss and longing of “Dust” to somewhat more tumultuous passive aggression in this track. The sound is less dramatic as it features more technical guitar work throughout, but the lyrical impact is emphasized. This track makes it apparent that this isn’t a girl group that sings only about the pangs and hurt of lost love; those waters get muddy when there’s the other woman involved, and this is what that song is about. When the song ends with the chant-like line “Can you see me count to three / No, I won’t play your hide and seek” there’s no self-pity, and you can begin to envision the faint outline of revenge on the horizon.

The next three minutes of the EP take you on the “Midnight Hour” train. The rustic guitar strumming hums underneath the solo whine of the lead guitar, which somehow (remarkably) is more emotive than the singing itself. This sleepy crooner steadily builds itself into a perfectly up-tempo moody jam. “Bones,” on the other hand, starts with a wallop and begins refreshingly fast, but it doesn’t keep that pace long before dipping back into a mellow verse. While the vocal harmony is ever-present on this track, there is some striking interplay between guitars. There is the rich, heavy chord strike, which leaves a heavy tone hovering above the verses, but also some distant reverberating licks clamoring to the surface and fizzling out quickly before the chorus. The light tread of the fuzz bass makes this song more atmospheric than some of the others, but the piano in the first chorus and throughout the rest of the song retains some charm in the ballad.

The EP ends on “Boardwalks,” an indie-folk track in all of the truest respects. It features the most undeniably catchy guitar picking heard since Of Monsters and Men or The Civil Wars’ slower material, paired with some sleepy, but impactful lyrics that could double as Little May’s mission statement: “We are not afraid of who we are but of what we have become.” By the end of the song, the Aussies prove again that all of their songs possess an intense transformative property, one that maintains the ability to transcend the power of their instruments.

The girls will be in New York for CMJ, followed by a show in Los Angeles. Stream the EP and check out the dates below!

10.21.14 – Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY
10.22.14 – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY
10.24.14 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
10.27.14 – Hotel Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

CMJ 2012: SESAC Showcase @ Cakeshop

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Photo curtesey of
Psychobuilding performs.
Photo courtesy of

This year for CMJ  I dropped by my old standby Cakeshop to check out the SESAC showcase.  SESAC, an organization that represents musicians who seek compensation for having their music performed in public, showcased a cross section of their indie rock talent; and the groups were indeed a good match for the typical Cakeshop crowd.  Here is a review of four bands from the evening.

First in the lineup was the Wisconsin based duo Blessed Feathers, comprised of Jacquelyn Beaupre and Donivan Berube.  The pair constructs songs together, and consider themselves partners in music and in life.  Blessed Feathers’s sound was beautifully wrought with a strong emphasis on folk guitar style and soulful melodies.  Beaupre’s vocals add a harmonic layer that flesh the songs out and are indispensable to the music’s emotional depth.  If you’re a folk rock fan like I am, you may find yourself enamored with Blessed Feathers’s sonically expansive Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of “Porcelain”.

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Blessed Feather performs.
Photo courtesy of

Communist Daughter is also borne out of WI, and is fronted by singer John Solomon.  Grey’s Anatomy fans know this group for their song “Soundtrack to the End”, which made it onto season 7’s credit roll.  That said, they have many more notable songs to back themselves up, the latest hit being “Ghosts“.  This group is relatively new to the scene, with one EP (Lions & Lambs) and one full length album (Soundtrack to the End). They have a great live sound, with driving drum beats, catchy guitar lines, and expressive vocals.  This polish and care lends Communist Daughter a lot of potential.



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Half Undressed performs.
Photo courtesy of

Half Undressed is a two man drum and guitar duo.  The group is self described as “indie/dream pop”, and with drummer Sam’s airy, laid back vocals, the genre seems an accurate description.  The relaxed vibe and surfer rock style guitar hooks set an easy going atmosphere.  I found I was immediately drawn in to Half Undressed’s sound, but after a few songs, I felt I’d heard everything they had to offer.  With such a specific vocal style choice, the songs needed more variation in instrumentation, or the drummer could have made more complex or varied choices.  Overall the tracks began to sound too similar to one another and too simple to support such an unwavering vocal style, and I began to think the group would be best on a soundtrack compilation rather than in a concert setting.  Chill out to their song “Demons” here.

Psychobuildings has a fantastic synth pop dance sound, and singer Peter LaBier’s voice has so much character and wildly distinguished style, he seems destined to be a pop icon.  Not to mention he has that fearless indie rocker aesthetic.  Listen to “Wonderchamber” and see if you can restrain yourself from dancing!  Psychobuildings has a great sense of musical composition and a full sound that builds with diverse instrumentation and classic synth sounds.  Yet, seeing the duo perform, I felt I was cheated of that live performance feel.  The group plays along with pre-recorded tracks they’ve written in the software program Ableton Live, adding only the drums and vocals in performance.  Hearing basic bass lines play out of a laptop made me question the reasoning behind leaving a real bass player offstage.  I certainly understand Psychobuildings is part of the DIY music movement, and they are able to bring a studio quality sound into the basement of Cakeshop.  But without more onstage investment in creating music in real time, I began to feel the show turn into a karaoke night.  More ownership of the songs and their creation was needed in order to engage the audience.  Psychobuildings is a great studio band, with some killer tracks to be found online.  I hope to see the group expand their live sound with an electronic artist who can give these stellar dance songs an edgy, real feel.

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Five Things I Learned From CMJ 2012

Five years ago I tackled my first CMJ by drinking jitter-inducing amounts of free Sparks at an insane Crystal Castles blow-out, haunting le Poisson Rouge until 2am to see Kria Brekkan and Beach House, and getting lost on my way back to Queens after a School of Seven Bells show I’d managed to weasel my way into for free.  Every CMJ I’ve attended since has had shades of that first whirlwind foray, although I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten a bit better at navigating the mess.Some might say CMJ is becoming irrelevant, thanks to the shorter and shorter attention spans of listeners in a digital age.  But I can’t think of a time where it won’t feel exciting to me to analyze schedules in a quandary over how to parse out the day, or standing before a stage on which a nascent act buoyed by buzz will make or break their career.  And there’s nothing more sublime than being blown away by a band barely on your radar on the first place, glimpsed while you were waiting to see the next big thing in the following time slot.  Or knowing you were part of the crowd for the pivotal performances destined to be talked about weeks, months, even years in the future.  Despite this year’s slightly lackluster lineups, there were still memories to be made; here are the things that will stand out to me about CMJ 2012 five years from now.
1.) 2013 will be the year hip hop comes out of the closet.
As a fan of a good beat with a fondness for wordplay I adore hip-hop, but it can be really hard to reconcile that love with the homophobic and misogynistic attitudes so pervasive to the culture.  It’s not that I need every rap song to be a PSA about gender equality, but is the use of the word “faggot” ever really necessary?  Because I don’t care what it rhymes with – that word is ugly, especially when it’s in the middle of a verse about beating up queer people.The ironic thing is that no one does swagger better than a man dressed in drag.  And when a queen stops lip-synching “It’s Raining Men” and starts emceeing, you get something like Mykki Blanco, whose dark rhymes and party-ready beats turned a Saturday night performance at the Knitting Factory into an all-out dance party.  It was not the first of Blanco’s bombastic CMJ appearances, in which fabulous outfits were as standard as adept rhythm and fierce, noir-tinged rhymes – there had been a handful, including one I caught on Thursday at new party space Autumn Bowl. While the de rigeur drag show sashaying is in full effect, Blanco takes it someplace darker, appearing at Knitting Factory in black lipstick and spidery dreads, crouching low on stage and hissing into the mic as though presiding over a Satanic Black Mass.  Still, danceable hits like “Wavvy” brought the audience to its seething, shimmying full potential.  In those moments, it’s easy to understand what makes these artists so vital.  It lies in that ability to work a room into a wicked froth and yet still full command attention.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”1959″]Kalif Diouf, otherwise known as Le1f, also brought killer style and mad game to the stage at the Pitchfork Topman CMJ Party, but the sound in raw new venue Villain didn’t travel as far back as you had to stand to be able to enjoy the show without a bunch of aggro Vice types getting all up in your business.  Luckily, Le1f played a slew of other shows; I caught him the next evening at a late night party deep in Bushwick, closing out a bill that featured a JD Sampson DJ set.  Le1f’s flow was smooth, direct, and delivered with a healthy dose of booty bounce. Over relatively minimal beats with creative textures, Le1f rhymes a mile a minute, hypnotizing audiences with heavy hip gyrations.

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I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not about to sing the praises of these two artists simply because they are gay and in the rap game – the talent with each is so consistent and concise that it’s a shame to have to mention sexuality at all.  But, especially with hip-hop, we aren’t at a point where we can pretend that what these two (and a handful of others who didn’t happen to play CMJ showcases) are doing isn’t absolutely revolutionary, even if they are essentially just being themselves.  It’s the fearless approach to the spotlight – a rightful place for either to be regardless of gender identity or sexual preference – that could change the way hip-hop regards queer artists and hopefully the LGBT population in general.  If nothing else, it’s intensely satisfying to know that when I’m at a Le1f show, one of my fabulous gay homies can pick me up and spin me through the air like the queer Patrick Swayze I always dreamed would do that, and not have to worry about winding up as the victim of a hate crime afterward.  Safe spaces, y’all.

2.) I’d really like to be adopted by the Woodheads of Toronto, or at least invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not sure Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving.
Did you ever visit a friend’s house in grade school and feel like you were on another planet?  Maybe because your friend had laid-back parents, or their decor was more World Market than, say, Cracker Barrel, or maybe even just because they had HBO.  I don’t know what was going on in the Woodhead household but I imagine it to be a more musical, more Canadian version of The Royal Tennenbaums.  I base this assumption on the fact that brothers Daniel and Airick Woodhead are two wildly talented and wonderfully weird musicians whose projects kept popping up in all sorts of CMJ venues.The brothers’ first band, Spiral Beach, was known for energetic live shows that resulted in much hype a few years ago.  Though in some ways the band’s studio recordings fail to capture that energy and are musically all over the map, they established deep ties during this time within Toronto’s music scene.  Maddy Wilde, the group’s female vocalist, went on to form Moon King with Daniel, a folksier, more direct offshoot of the ideas that the Spiral Beach had begun to explore.  Daniel is also a frequent co-conspirator in Airick’s electro-psychedelic pop outfit Doldrums, and Airick’s been involved with AudioFemme favorites Phédre.I saw two Doldrums performances, and as the week progressed so did their confidence.  The thing is, these kids are weird.  They’ve got this neo-hippie stage vibe, barely stopping short of performing meditations and crystal ceremonies on stage.  When they play, it’s really a head-down, focused on making odd sounds come out of keyboards and electronic gear kind of affair, though by the time they played the Knit on Saturday Airick was ripping off clothing and writhing around on stage.  But Doldrums isn’t a straight-up electronics driven band – the guitars and drums are live, and so are the vocal loops which give Doldrums songs such trance-like power.  For as focused and autistic as they can seem, the boys aren’t hiding behind laptops, and the results have positively psychedelic moments.

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By comparison, Moon King is a bit poppier, and the set at Cameo was even more mellow and toned down than I expected it to be given the EP’s frequently hyper moments.  But they didn’t spare any sentiment or dreaminess.  Maddy’s and Daniel’s vocals, scaled back from shriek to serenade, soar over ecstatic melodies and blend almost seamlessly together, no small feat considering the trademark almost-sneer of a Woodhead singing.  Moon King isn’t really classifiable in terms of genre, but it recalls a lot of things ranging from folksy sing-along to call and response protest punk.  But it’s not really any of that; it’s simply capable of evoking those moods.
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If Daniel and Airick never performed together, you might assume they were the same person, and even when they both grace the same stage it’s necessary to remind oneself that there’s not some mirror trick at play.  I imagine their early lives to be a bit like a classic Parent Trap movie, the two of them playing clever tricks on outsiders.  Or else I imagine them huddled in a blanket fort, making up secret languages only they knew how to speak.  Growing up as Woodheads obviously stoked some creative fires within these boys.  It’s no wonder that their various projects have become a nearly collaborative effort, and it’s interesting to note the particulars of each and speculate on what that must say about them as individuals.3.) Merchandise needs a drummer, very badly.

Merchandise released Children of Desire, an absolute gem of an EP, earlier this year.  Carson Cox’s plaintive vocals and thoughtful lyrics complimented the band’s brand of new wave punk cum noise pop well.  The EP shows remarkable growth for a band who built a solid following in Tampa’s punk and hardcore scene, but it became astonishingly clear at the shows I saw them play that it is mainly a studio project, without much of a live show to back it up.  Cox’s vocals deliver, the guitar work was deft, and the bass as immediate as on the record, but in place of a live drummer was a drum machine, hollowly keeping time but not providing anything in the way of the heart that these songs really deserve.

With the conflagration of acts who rely on drum machines as their only form of live percussion, you would think that it might not result in so much of a let down.  But Merchandise needs a drummer to really pull off the material on Children of Desire; playing without one simply doesn’t do them justice.  And I saw several bands this week that I would consider contemporaries of Merchandise, all of whom delivered with blistering performances.

Savages, for instance, absolutely blew me away and were possibly one of the best bands I saw all week.  Hailing from London, the all-female four piece astounded an entire room with a set that nearly bordered on sonic violence.  All these ladies know how to handle their instruments; they’ve built a reputation around playing out rather than focusing on recording their material.  Lead singer Jehnny Beth seethes on stage, her eyeballs wide, her gestures imploring and dramatic.  The kind of energy they create is contagious, driving fans into fits, but it couldn’t be pulled off without a drummer.

Metz also brought that kind of intensity to several performances throughout the week, playing loud and fast and heavy, creating the kind of punk rock paroxysm that edges them out over other purveyors of such.  But these aren’t just songs that are thrown together – they’re smartly crafted and seriously executed, never sloppy.  And it’s not just about assaulting eardrums and working audiences into frenzied thrashing, because you could just as easily dance to many of the songs, as long as you weren’t in an audience full of folks hellbent on moshing (sometimes, that happens, as evidenced by the ultra-shaky video I risked life and limb to shoot at Pitchfork’s CMJ party, hosted by new party space Villain).

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Gap Dream scale things back just a touch, but also illustrate how fun it can be just to see a full band play and play well together.  They’re from Cleveland (my hometown) and kind of have a sleazy seventies throw-back thing going on.  But they had everyone dancing at their Big Snow performance.  Lots of vocal reverb, elastic guitars, and pummeling drums could have filled a much bigger room than the tiny space into which we were all pleasantly crammed.
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These bands definitely have different things going on, but Merchandise could stand to learn a lesson from any of them.  If you want to get audiences engaged, start dance (or thrash) parties, move people beyond standing with crossed arms, you need percussive power to back up even the best material.  Here’s hoping their next shows will feature someone behind an actual kit.

4.)  Brooklyn’s new party spaces keep the live music scene vital.
Aaaaah, Brooklyn.  Years ago, CMJ was a thing that happened mainly on the Lower East Side, but each year more and more performers cross the bridge to play this lovely borough.  Though I’ve been disappointed by closures of some of my favorite DIY venues, from Monster Island to Silent Barn, the scene is constantly evolving and new locales keep opening up to replace the others.I was really impressed with Autumn Bowl, formerly a skate park (though maybe it still is?).  The circular stage was smack dab in the middle of the cavernous space, and risers lined the walls, making it easy for plenty of show-goers to catch the action.  It sounded great and as collaborator with Nuit Blanche New York hosted some incredible light installations.  Security is around, but pretty chill.  I’m hoping they’ll be hosting a lot of parties in the near future, and if they Four Tet DJ set they’ve got scheduled in a few weeks is any indication, there will be a lot to look forward to from this venue.I was slightly less impressed with Villian, though it was mainly the sound that got to me.  There are two large space separated by a wall, which makes capacity for shows smaller than what it should be but also helps keep crowding down to a minimum.  Villain is operated by a marketing firm, so the events they host there definitely have the earmarks of being a bit commercial.  The Pitchfork showcase I attended there was sponsored by Topman and Svedka, for instance.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I can’t complain about free drinks.  But the bottom line is that it turns shows into sales pitches for other things, and that’s one of the elements that makes huge festivals like SXSW something of a drag.  I’d hate to see the same thing happen to CMJ, which for whatever reason has escaped this fate til now.

I also got a chance to check out Big Snow Buffalo Lounge, a Bushwick rehearsal and performance space that opened just a few months shy of a year ago.  The performance area is cozy to say the least, and you’re right on top of the bands as they play since there’s not an actual stage, which makes it hard to see if you’re in the back and slightly awkward if you’re up front.  But that’s not to say the venue doesn’t have its charms, and the sound is unimpeachable and really, really loud.

I was super excited to check out Delinquency, especially since they’d booked a bunch of awesome shows and dance parties and were said to inhabit five or more separate rooms of an old warehouse.  Unfortunately, the venue was lacking the permits it needed, proving that operating a space in NYC isn’t the least complicated thing in the world, and rescheduled all its events at other venues.

The thing is, the venues I’ve here mentioned don’t even begin to scrape the surface of all that Brooklyn has to offer in terms of raw DIY spaces, and in the course of researching for our showcase (see below!) I found out that there are so many that I’ve yet to hear of.  Once resource I’m absolutely grateful for in sorting all of that out is Brooklyn Spaces, a compendium as complete as any I’ve seen of art collectives, galleries, performance spaces, studios, nonprofits, party places, and underground theaters.  Attending these venues is paramount to keep Brooklyn’s thriving underground and DIY scene going, so we encourage you to check them out and support them when you can.

5.) Putting together a showcase is hard.
Okay, so maybe this should have been more obvious to me to begin with, but we AudioFemmes barely had an inkling of what we were getting ourselves into when we started booking our blog’s showcase.  There are spaces to contact, sponsors to reach out to, and then there are the bands.  We’d have loved to host handfuls of them – picking bands out was certainly not the problem.  But tracking them down, or tracking down their management, or the label, or whoever, was just the first difficult step in actually confirming anyone to play.  Even if it hadn’t come together, we had quite the learning experience, but we’re happy to report that we put together a lovely little shindig featuring Datalog, Which Magic, Foxes In Fiction, and Autodrone.  The fact that it was on a Tuesday afternoon mattered little, we pulled it off for those that showed up, and recorded each brilliant performance (look for a stream of the audio from the show soon!).