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TOP 10
(click on photos for band websites)

10. Ovlov

I was introduced to Ovlov at a pre-CMJ party last year and have been a fan ever since.  A highly energetic show paired with strong songwriting and a straightforward, no frills rock approach, Ovlov will be the perfect switch-up after a swarm of laptop artists and bands biting the most recent trend. 

09. Murals

How Murals makes sleepy psych ballads exciting I will never know... it just works.  A throwback to the 60s, Murals creates dreamscapes with their sounds and no matter what stress lingers in your life, at a Murals show, the music melts everything away.  They're playing a million CMJ shows, so you have no excuse not to get lazy sunny day music thrown into your soul.

08. Arborea

Earlier this year, Marissa Nadler wrote about Arborea in her "From The Cedar Box" music column.  Arborea writes music that thrives on the rise and release of tension framed around the most powerful elements of folk songwriting.  Dramatic and emotional, Arborea writes the type of music that makes a listener sit and consider their own place in the world. 

07. Dylan Shearer

Dylan Shearer might be one of the most underrated singer/songwriter talents at CMJ 2012.  His newest album, "Porchpuddles" is filled to the brim with introspective tunes that teeter between hopeful and sad.  There isn't a single song that I've heard from Shearer that doesn't end with me shaking my head and declaring him one of the best young talents we have today.  If you're looking for a wild card flying low under the radar at CMJ 2012... put Dylan Shearer on your must-see list. 

06. Conveyor

For all the talk of "weird bands" with exciting backstories, Conveyor might be the weirdest.  They look normal enough, and they don't have an explosive, context-filled story.... they're just four guys in Brooklyn writing rock pop.  Sounds pretty standard, right?  Wrong.  As soon as you hear their music or catch their live show, a delightful weirdness starts to creep in.  Undefinable by comparisons, Conveyor is their own band, shifting from folk to electronics to ambient to rock to harmonies to rubbing cell phones for their feed back and so on and so forth.  It's a focused, functional weirdness, and once you add in the fact that all four of these guys are supremely talented musicians, the end result is one of the best live shows I've seen this year.  Don't miss Conveyor, just don't.

05. The Mountain Goats

It's The Mountain Goats.  The new album is fantastic.  The album before was fantastic.  The album before that was fantastic.  It's The Mountain Goats... come on.

04. Dent May

Dent May wrote the best party album of 2012, but not for the party full of teenagers drinking watered down keg beer out of red cups.  No, Dent May's party takes place in the odd shadows of southern living, and every partygoer either works at the bowling alley or touts their PhD while drinking PBR.  His music is beyond smart, led by lyrics filled with bliss and a thumping bass that never stops.  I'll be in the front row as Dent takes us from New York City to his version of the south.

03. Eleanor Friedberger

Of all the albums from 2011, I never heard one negative word about Eleanor Friedberger's solo debut "Last Summer".  Her solo work is just fun without sacrificing an ounce of intelligence.  Friedberger figured out a way to wrap nostalgia and various genres of sound around toe-tapping tunes, resulting in one of the better albums of last year.  With the announcement that Friedberger is working on her follow-up album, one would have to assume that the CMJ 2012 crowd will be treated with some new songs.  

02. Port St. Willow

Nick Principe, the frontman of Port St. Willow, has the rare ability to suck all the air out of the room with a powerful falsetto that pushes emotion to new levels.  Their live show can go three-five songs without a pause for applause, and in that time his music fills every space of a venue, slowly coming back in and strangling any piece of air that isn't filled with his wonderful sounds.  

01. The Deloreans 

The Deloreans are currently my favorite live band going.  Huge statement, I know, but it's the truth.  They're only playing two unofficial showcases, so I don't see them blowing up or getting a huge record contract at CMJ 2012...but for those who show up to see them, new mega fans will be made.  Frontman Jeremy Perry has a golden voice, is one of the best guitar players I've seen live, and has a producer's ear on the scale of a Joe Meek.  Hyperbole be damned, I love this band and they deliver each and every time.  I'm calling them the #1 can't-miss act of CMJ and have never been more assured of a music festival pick.

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