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)