This year’s CMJ Music Marathon, held last week in New York, delivered yet again another onslaught of new, now bands trying to be next year’s big thing. This year’s edition of the marathon, featured no, as it has in recent years past, real megawatt reunions or U.S. debuts. Much of the lineup, in fact, seemed a repeat of SXSW, or the indie-er side of the Winter Music Conference, earlier this year.
Hype still abounded, though, with two of the most ubiquitous bands being female-fronted. The Vivian Girls, an all-female trio from Brooklyn, must be reaching their collective death bed this week, having often played multiple shows a day over the week. Theirs is a shoegazy, fuzzy pop that’s punky and slightly twee at the same time.
While they must make for a great outer-borough party band, though, they seem slightly lost on bigger stages, like that of Bowery Ballroom, where they played Saturday night. Likewise, while their songs are easily digested, the band needs to sharpen them further if they hope to not go down in the sea of past year’s forgotten cute girl guitar bands.
The other everywhere band was Chairlift, originally from Colorado but now also from Brooklyn. Their breakout “hit,” “Bruises,” is in an iPod commercial, and that’s basically all you need to know. It’s sort of M.O.R., electro-tinged indie pop sung by a cute brunette – like Feist, but with more clicking machines. It’s either your bag or it’s not, directly correlating, probably, to your taste for overpriced coffee drinks.
With a large segment of current “indie rock” in danger of drowning in a sea of inoffensiveness and clever names, it was refreshing to discover, or reconnect with, a few bands that were flat-out loud and/or straight-up weird. Here are a few whose live acts proved to be highlights; more continue in the following blog entry.
A Place to Bury Strangers: Almost overdosing on the Jesus and Mary Chain and a collection of boutique effects pedals, this Brooklyn trio unleashes a noise squall that is flattening in volume but arresting in its power. Frontman Oliver Ackermann is both humble-seeming and almost shamanic, sucking his adoring crowd of shoegaze-loving weirdos into a vortex of melancholy distortion. Stay away if you don’t get a thrill out of shows where free earplugs are handed out at the door.
All the Saints: Fittingly, this amped-up, spaced-out Atlanta trio opened for A Place to Bury Strangers on Saturday night. A new band with only an EP, they’ve impressively harnesses their swirly slow ride into an enticingly put-together package. The drummer, especially, deserves praise for his almost inhuman renditions of robotic rhythms.
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Black Lips: With some four albums out over the past five years, this band is ancient in blog years. Still, the Atlanta quartet still packs large warehouses elbow-to-elbow with adoring rock and rollers. (Sure, on Friday night in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this was at a Toyota-sponsored party liquored up by free Bass and dubious Bacardi bottled “mojitos,” but still). That’s because there is nothing like a fuzz-filled, psyched-out garage freak-out served up with punk attitude, impressive mustaches, and a pilgrim costume. The band plays Churchill’s in January, and if you miss it, later you will be sorry.