I had no problems with how CMJ 2012 was run - the people who throw the festival are always top notch. There was, however, one thing that aggravated me about the festival: the majority of bands seemed satisfied with being "good." I've never seen such low levels of artistic ambition. What was equally shocking was how "good" bands would be praised by sub sections of the crowd as "the next big thing," with people rushing to proclaim that an act "killed it," or that they "won CMJ 2012." After 80+ bands over the long week, I was at the point where I would rather see a band I hated who at least was trying something new or reaching to achieve something beyond "good."
Now on to the bands that stood out in the sea of hundreds of acts. Before I start the list, I should mention that none of the bands I booked are included on this list, unless I saw them at another showcase. I was absolutely thrilled with Dylan Shearer, Port St. Willow, ARMS, Houndmouth, and Dent May. They would all be on this list.
There were heavy Morrissey vibes coming from the frontman of Candidate and I kept thinking that the sounds they were making shouldn't be working or feeling original...but they were. Full of energy and an attitude that matched their wonderful music, Candidate put themselves on my radar just a few songs into their set.
09.) Poor Lily
Easily the hardest and most talented "loud band" at CMJ 2012. You can keep METZ and The Savages, Poor Lily brought their no frills approach to New York and shook every inch of the venue.
08.) Mean Lady
As I watched Mean Lady, all I could think was that while they're not quite there yet as a band, they easily had the most potential of all the acts I had seen to that point at CMJ. Frontwoman Katie Dill had one of the most unique and hypnotizing voices at the entire festival. The combination of her approach to vocals and the gorgeous melodies that swirl underneath result in what could be the band to watch out for in 2012.
07.) Attic Abasement
Where was the weird at CMJ 2012? I think Attic Abasement kept it all to themselves. Mixing in some influence from The Magnetic Fields and sharing the thoughts only drunks late in the night can have, Attic Abasement were perfectly quirky, dark, catchy, and instantly memorable.
I would like to take this time to thank Merge Records for throwing a showcase at CMJ that reminded me of why I fell in love with music in the first place. All of the acts were fantastic and had nothing to lean on but the power of their own music. The set by Telekinesis could have easily been all about SNL's Fred Armisen filling in on bass or one of the founders of Merge filling in at guitar, but the set was all about Michael Benjamin Lerner (Telekinesis). Lerner was having a blast and seemed appreciative of every second on that stage. His passion translated into an instant energy that was contagious song after song.
I knew nothing about this band before I saw them open at a small loft party show... and I still know nothing about them. That is to say, they were easily the biggest surprise of CMJ 2012. The entire set was instrumental and afterwards someone said they were trying to get a lead singer, but that's neither here nor there. What I do know is that Jungles played a manic set that took the listener on a journey through multiple genres, and they did so with a fury that was addictive. I never wanted them to stop and while I can only find a few instrumental tracks online, I know after seeing them that if just a few pieces fall into place Jungles could be one of the more exciting bands emerging.
Hello, my name is Zach and I have a problem. I saw Conveyor four times at CMJ 2012. I couldn't help it. Conveyor is the definition of a solid/talented band that pushes themselves with every note to achieve a unique live show. With vocals that range from soft to shouting, melodies that bend in perfectly surprising ways, and shifting tones that grow moment-by-moment, Conveyor will take your breath away with their infectious inventiveness. The only cohesion in their set is that everything they put foreword is a gem.
03.) Mac DeMarco
There are only so many times you can reach your hand into the blog buzz cookie jar and come up empty before your quit trying. Going into CMJ 2012, everyone was talking about the 21 year old Mac DeMarco. I chalked him up on a list of the other buzz bands with a big SUSPICIOUS scribble in red ink. If anything, Mac DeMarco proved that sometimes the blog buzz can be more than accurate. Mac flew through his set with unique tune after another, brimming with a personality so bizarre and inviting, one couldn't help but be captivated. There was an interesting balance between the clownish (in a good way) physical aspect of DeMarco's show that was undercut by songs that could only exist as a gift from his zany mind pushed out for the audience to enjoy. Believe the praise surrounding Mac DeMarco.
02.) Mount Moriah
I was at the back of the 200 cap room when Mount Moriah began playing at the Merge Showcase. After two songs I was in the middle and tapping my toe to these beautiful country rock ballads. By the fourth song I was in the front row falling in love with the music of Mount Moriah. I've always been a fan of sensitivity in my music that is followed by powerful moments that take the song from introspective to life changing. Mount Moriah did this over and over and over, leaving me standing in place a few minutes after their set. Beauty, rock, moving moments, and points where a huge grin would be plastered on my face. It was a perfect set at the perfect moment and reminded me why I love to adventure out and take chances on bands I've never heard before.
01. The Deloreans
The photo above is a band not many people have heard of playing in a small loft space during CMJ 2012. The band is The Deloreans and I don't have any hesitation when I call them the best act currently out there. Every song seems to exist in a dreamland where the late 50's sensibility of songwriting mixes with the occasional outburst of 70's rock and roll. Frontman Jeremy Perry has a voice that was unmatched at the festival, filled with thunder and emotion, every note holding tons of personality and meaning. The entire band is air tight and even in a loft space without a PA or sound guy, it was one of the most musically flawless sets of the festival. My buddy Will from We All Want Someone To Shout For said it best with his CMJ review of The Deloreans:
"It makes no sense why these guys aren’t bigger. They can absolutely play. Their musicianship was beyond tight, as they were polished at every avenue and turn. Great vocals, big guitar work, steady rhythm, which all came together to pack quite a punch. Someone is not doing their job when a band like this goes unnoticed."
I'm glad it's not just me that notices The Deloreans should be on a great label and touring sold out shows across the world. But, we don't live in the same dream world that their music exists in. Whether or not they catch a much deserved break, I'll be out there singing their praises forever.