Flavorpill’s Favorite Finds from CMJ 2010


It’s easy to get cranky about New York’s annual CMJ Music Marathon, with its long lines, short sets, and general air of overstimulated panic. But although we generally go kicking and screaming to our first showcase and spend its last few days on the brink of collapse, we can’t deny that it brings some of the best music from around the world to our corner of the world for five days of dancing, drinking, and discovery.

Luckily for those of you who missed the event and are, we imagine, having a much more functional Monday than we are, the Flavorpill team was all over CMJ 2010. From upstart punks to sissy bounce superstars to beguiling songstresses and beyond, we introduce you to our 13 favorite bands — new kids and perennial favorites alike — from this year’s festival.

Dom (MOG party at Brooklyn Bowl, 10.19) In a year plagued with more monotonous, annoying subgenre trends than any in recent memory, MOG’s lineup of three unapologetic guitar rock bands was refreshingly reactionary. To be honest, we didn’t have high hopes for Dom — perhaps because they were sandwiched between two of our favorites, Screaming Females and Yo La Tengo. But they certainly lived up to their billing, charming us with silly, catchy tracks off their debut EP, Sun Bronzed Greek Gods. The band, with its eponymous, shaggy-haired, nasal frontman, combines simple, Ramones-style punk with ‘70s cock-rock flourishes, an oil-and-water mixture emulsified by pure, good-natured enthusiasm. Highlights included “Bochicha,” a shouty sing-along track about Dom’s cat, and “Living in America,” with its jokey synths and funnier “It’s so sexy to be living in America” chorus. – Judy Berman

Bad Rabbits (Filter and BMI showcase at Highline Ballroom, 10.19) Clearly the only reason we would to go the Highline would be for Boy Crisis, who canceled. We have to assume it’s because Victor (who is also in Das Racist) had a DR show at Pianos at 12:30. So these Boston boys filled in last minute — a total surprise! They were opening for Golden Filter and Dan Black and they killed it! Some important points: 1. Every member of that band is HOT 2. They had choreographed dance moves a la Boyz II Men circa ’96 3. Extremely high energy. We’re talking big jumps. 4. Dude was pitch perfect 5. The previously wack crowd that wasn’t even moving, was suddenly dancing up a storm. – Alexandria Gamlin

Oh Land (Hype Machine party at Backstage Bar, 10.21)

Amid the overstuffed chaos of Hype Machine’s ambitiously booked para-CMJ party, which had a different artist scheduled to take tiny Backstage Bar’s stage each half hour, Oh Land made us forget about the drunk girls in stilettos who kept stomping on our toes. Taking the stage with a drummer and an enormous music box on wheels, with drum pads sticking out of it and balloons on top, the dramatically dressed Danish pop siren sounded something like a lo-fi, Post-era Björk. – JB

Cloud Nothings (Carpark/Paw Tracks showcase at Cake Shop, 10.21)

All the way from Cleveland, Cloud Nothings rocked Cake Shop’s itty bitty basement with their reverb-drenched brand of lo-fi punk. On a week when everyone seemed to be striking a pose, these guys were delightfully uncool — they even have a single called “Hey Cool Kid” — but never sloppy. We also love them for violating a cardinal CMJ rule: instead of playing their half-hour set and then disappearing to the next gig, when the audience starting shouting for them to play “one more,” they picked up their instruments again and did just that. – JB

Prince Rama (Carpark/Paw Tracks showcase at Cake Shop, 10.21)

Prince Rama, the Brooklyn-based psych trio whose new album was produced by Animal Collective’s Deakin and Avey Tare, performed a fantastic set Thursday night. Under the stringed lights of Cake Shop’s stage, the former Hare Krishnas filled the basement with their cosmic drone, psychedelic percussion, and bedazzled garb in a spirited show that had audience members bringing out their own bells, prompting Taraka Larson to say, “That’s nice.” – Rozalia Jovanovic

Times New Viking (Brooklyn Vegan party at Public Assembly, 10.22)

Cloud Nothings’ fellow Ohio lo-fi pop punks, Times New Viking took the stage for a midday performance as part of Brooklyn Vegan’s dream day-party lineup. Although they didn’t have a new album to promote, and despite the fact that they professed to be thinking more about drinking than playing, the trio were tighter than ever in a set that spanned their four-album catalog. Most promising of all, we loved the new songs. – JB

Lissie (Hiro Ballroom, 10.22)

Indie-folk is a precarious genre. The performers can easily slide into over-earnest emoting with an acoustic guitar or into the anti-folk absurdist abyss. So we were a bit dubious of Lissie’s folk following before we saw her at Hiro Ballroom, but we shouldn’t have worried. Though Lissie may tend to go towards the earnest side of the scale, she makes up for it with a firecracker of a voice. It’s both sweet and strong, supple and rumbling, like Lucinda Williams mixed with Cat Power. Her set was on point, finishing up with an excellent (and unironic) cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.” We might even be convinced to dip into indie-folk more often now that Lissie’s around. – Margaret Eby

Dominique Young Unique (BUST showcase at Southpaw, 10.22)

Opening up for New Orleans Sissy Bounce queen Big Freedia is a tall order, but Dominique Young Unique–decked out in a bedazzled strapless dress–had the crowd’s asses bouncing early in the night with her rapid-fire lyrics and synthesizerbeats. Her gap-toothed grin and wirey frame were endearingly awkward in combination with her lyrics boasting about cash and ass. She’s got swagger, but also a certain nerd allure, a pretty rare combination in a 19-year-old rapper. – ME

Big Freedia (BUST showcase at Southpaw, 10.22)

It had been a long day — and a long week — of show-going by the time Big Freedia took the stage around midnight at Southpaw. But when the sissy bounce Queen Diva commanded us to get down on the floor and pop our booties up in the air, damned if the entire room didn’t follow her lead. And as if we didn’t love her enough already, she spent much of the set talking about how much she loves New York and even rocked out to DJ Rusty Lazer’s sped-up version of “Empire State of Mind.” If their goal was to break the straight-white-dudes-in-flannel-shirts monotony that is the typical CMJ audience, the ladies at BUST (who also strutted their stuff onstage with Freedia) surely succeeded, packing the room with a crowd Le Tigre might cheerfully refer to as “ladies and fags.” Reality TV fans, remember Preston from Real World New Orleans? Yup, he was there, too. -JB

Braids (Flavorpill/Pop Mondial party @ Southpaw, 10.23)

It’s admittedly difficult to pick a favorite performer from our own party (especially when there are naked chicks to contend with — shout out to the babes in Storybook Burlesque!), but if hard-pressed, we’d have to go with Braids. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, but the Canadian pop-shoegazers played like it was Showtime at the Apollo. Their four-part harmonies were nothing short of hypnotic, and the entire audience was visibly entranced by the intricate tunes. The kids killed it and we can’t wait to see ’em again. – Leah Taylor

Gold Panda (Flavorpill party at Southpaw, 10.23)

When your music comes solely out of samples and effects–as opposed to drums and guitars–it can be difficult to do a riveting live performance while chained to your laptop. But Gold Panda, the UK-based producer who recently released his debut Lucky Shiner, brought a warmth and energy to his set that was much more than simply clicking away on a computer. His head moved emphatically along as he wove together samples into a hodgepodge of hypnotic trance. He seemed as enraptured in creating the music as a little kid rocking out with a favorite instrument on stage. It was precise without being mechanical, electronic without being offputting, and just dancey enough for his 4 pm show. – ME

Lower Dens (Flavorpill party at Southpaw, 10.23)

Lower Dens were ubiquitous at CMJ, and with good reason: Baltimore singer and freak-folk alum Jana Hunter’s new band is simply sublime. Their atmospheric, nighttime melodies were a perfect complement to Hunter’s velvety voice, which, at various times, brought to mind everyone from Hope Sandoval to Stevie Nicks. And no, we couldn’t resist shouting out all three of our day party picks. After all, we booked them because we love them. – JB

Marnie Stern (NME showcase at The Delancey, 10.23)

We were tired. We were weary. We could have slept for a thousand years. But when Marnie Stern is playing her final set of a punishing seven-show CMJ run, you’ve got no choice but to mainline some caffeine and hightail it over there. Although the sound in the room wasn’t perfect and she was on the brink of exhaustion, Marnie Stern strumming and screaming and chanting at half her strength still blew away most everything else we saw all week. – JB