Written by Melanie Trecha
CMJ (College Musical Journal) Music Marathon is a music festival held in New York City over 5 days. This blog contains a playlist and a few descriptions of this writer's favorite acts of the week, sampling music from psych pop to post-punk.
Although it ended a couple weeks ago, I’m finally beginning to recover from CMJ, the annual week-long music festival and showcase held all over NYC by College Music Journal, very similar to South by Southwest. I’m not recovering from a hangover, but from actual sickness, lack of sleep, and music overload. As a booking intern at Pianos, a venue in the Lower East Side, my duties included making sure each band was in the right place at the right time with the right equipment; as such, I was only able to catch a few songs each by a multitude of bands hailing from all over the world. Now is the time I’m finally able to go back and listen to the full albums of my chosen favorites, and some of these goodies are giving me faith that 2016 could indeed be a great year for music (especially in Australia). I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of some of the more memorable artists, with a few short descriptions below. Enjoy!
This Aussie trio had completely won me over before I heard more than 30 seconds of their music. Methyl Ethel played at Pianos at least three times, so I got to know them and their equipment pretty well. Theirs is the first psych pop record I’ve been excited about this year. “Twilight Driving” sounds like an ABBA cover to me, which is very high praise.
This man (@hankbrando on Instagram, which I thought was quite clever) is Townes Van Zandt and all your other favorite 60s country singers reincarnated in New Zealander form. His solo set was easily the most powerful and captivating performance I saw all week: this man, his booming voice, and his acoustic guitar managed to get a room of jaded mimosa and PBR-sipping “industry people” to shut up about how drunk they were the previous night and which bands they saw. This man is a gem. His US debut isn’t due ‘til February of next year, even though Australians and New Zealanders have been enjoying his music for years.
Due to the name, this London trio is really hard to find online and on social media, but wow, are they worth the trouble of that painful search! The post-punkers are noteworthy for the quick fingers of both the guitarist and bassist and speaking-shouting lyrical delivery. Everything was upbeat and excellently executed. Their debut album Why Choose has the 80s London feel to match the band’s super 80s London look.
My favorite American act also happened to have my favorite band name of the week. The band plays Brooklyn quite a bit, so I am embarrassed to admit that CMJ was the first time I had actually seen them live — I too frequently choose to Netflix and chill by myself instead of walking a mile to the nearest venue to check them and other Brooklyn buzz bands out. My mistake. PWR BTTM is a two piece for the post-gender generation. It’s not a “OMG, guys in dresses and makeup!” gimmick; lyrics like “My girl gets scared / he can’t go anywhere” (from “Ugly Cherries”, link above) make this a seriously great project and a reminder that we don’t live in a binary world anymore. It’s 2015 kids! The live show also comes with A+ banter. My favorite song introduction: “This one’s about looking for dick in all the wrong places.”
Overall, CMJ was a hell week full of work. For bands (and industry hopefuls like myself), it’s a week of meeting with (read: kissing up to) drunken and sometimes pretentious people who can possibly make your career. A band that “wins” CMJ can hope to see scores above 7.3 on Pitchfork, premieres on only the most popular blogs for their new singles, and maybe even some sold out NYC shows. However, in reading up on CMJ coverage, I found that so many blogs featured all of the same artists on their “best of” lists, even if they weren’t truly the best. In this post and following playlist I hope to have brought a little personal, uninfluenced taste to yet another crop of CMJ picks. These bands seem to have the best mix of heart, talent and authenticity. Hope you enjoy these and the rest of the bands featured!