This Alabama soul/rock band came out of nowhere this year with one of the best EPs of 2011. Simply put, front-woman Brittany Howard probably has the best voice you'll hear all CMJ and their songs are catchy and packed with good southern emotion.
The best band at CMJ that doesn't have an album out yet. Todd Goldstein, previously of the Harlem Shakes, is a must seen front-man as his voice perfectly blends into the presented melodies. ARMS displays a nice range of music from upbeat to slower, more introspective tunes. ARMS could be the surprise act of CMJ 2011.
Braids are an experimental pop band from too many places in Canada to list. The band has grabbed a lot of attention with the releases of their Polaris award nominated album Native Speaker. Having seen them live a few times, the music seems to soar into every inch of your body and nest there long after the show.
If you're looking for a party, follow around Born Gold. Formally known as Gobble Gobble and winner of the not so important "WLFY Best Band Of CMJ 2010" award, if you see this band live and not leave with a smile on your face...something might be wrong with your face.
Folk rock done right. Think Fleet Foxes, Other Lives, etc...while making the style all their own. Caveman are one of those CMJ bands that are looking to the NYC festival as a way of breaking into that next level. If they play like the last three times I've seen them live, they should have no problem doing so.
With only an EP and 7" under their belts, Guards took to touring to make a name for themselves at SXSW and Daytrotter's Barnstormer shows. Strong vocals and loud guitars packed into clever songwriting makes Guards a can't miss CMJ act.
This is one of the few recommendations on this list that I have not actually seen live. Tracks off their new record have been circulating around music blogs and I've been blown away by each and everyone of them. If lo-fi rock is your thing, check them out with me, I have a hunch it will be worth our time.
Bright and warm pop rock. Clean vocals and talent drive this band that after seeing over eight times, their live show remains fresh. If you're running into a streak of depressing bands during CMJ, make time for the Holiday Shores and they'll brighten up your festival.
The creators of our current #1 album on the WLFY Top 50 of 2011 list, Nerves Junior are set to make their NYC debut. I haven't seen this band in over a year and that was when they didn't even have a record. I'm excited to see how the music translates live and if it's anything like their debut LP As Bright As Your Night Light, CMJ goers won't know what hit them. With sound comparisons to Radiohead and Deerhunter, one can't help but check these guys out.
The Pass gets the guaranteed 100% fun stamp from Hank and I. They've never been a let down with their synth heavy Cut Copy meets The Cure sound. The Pass is taking a break from recording their sophomore album and coming up to CMJ with a slew of new songs to be played for the first time anywhere.
I caught Radical Dads again last night and realized their live show is where straight rock music went to hide. Two guitar and drums...no frills, just in your face rock. If you get bombarded with electronics or ambient noodling, check out the Radical Dads and get a dose of heavy rock guitars and drumming to slap the senses back into place.
This is for you punk, lo-fi, noise lovers. Slow Animal will hurt your ears and you'll love every second of it. It's sun drenched punk and while I love their recorded material, Slow Animal thrives on playing live and delivering a memorable show.
The queen of the uke. Sophie made a name for herself playing jaw dropping live songs on youtube and has followed with two impressive albums. I like a mix of loud, rock, folk, soft, etc at festivals like CMJ and Sophie is the perfect switch up to singer songwriter from the slew of bands to catch at CMJ. Her live show will be labeled as magical, whimsical, and other nice sounding al words by those who catch her live.
Experimental electronics are the backbone for Sunglasses, a synth pop rock band from Georgia. I've seen them twice and won't miss them again at CMJ this year. During their live show you find yourself dancing and contemplating their witty choices in songwriting. It's a perfect balance between unabashed fun and innovative art.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
The freshest new sound of 2011. It's rock with a very specific filter that informs both the sound of the guitar and voice. The two similar sounds, coming from two sources, meet in the middle and blow the listener away. The band really does have it all and if you're not impressed by the guitar fiddling of Ruban Neilson, come find me and you'll get a free punch to my face (note: this offer expired before posting this).