CMJ Music Marathon is about to kick off its 33rd annual festival. The event features over 1,000 performances in venues across New York City by mostly obscure or unknown artists, as well as some more well-known or veteran acts like The Head and The Heart and Sisqo (you know, “Thong Song”?). To help you weed through the near-obscene number of bands with strange names (there seems to be a trend of including punctuation, like Shark?, Lost Boy? and Key!), we’ve compiled the following accessible list of six acts you definitely shouldn’t miss at the festival. It all starts on October 15 and runs until October 19.
This group hails from Austin, Texas, home of the weird, and they just released their second album, entitled The Runaround, a follow-up to Pillow Talk. They are currently on tour around the United States. They have a really interesting sound, like a cross between Sam & Ruby and The Moldy Peaches, but the female singer has an Amy-Winehouse-vibe to her voice that really draws you in.
Their best tracks: “Pillow Talk”; “Whiskey Dreams”
This artist’s website sheds very limited light on her biography, but it can be gathered that she hails from Wisconsin, and that her eerie interest in The Glass Lake has resulted in truly beautiful music. Her haunting voice, layered over strong drums and what I would imagine are a large variety of wind instruments, manage to somehow capture exactly what one would imagine a lake to sound like. She just released The Evolution in June of this year, and is reminiscent of a combination of Coldplay, Florence + the Machine, and a chorus of ethereal pixies.
Her best tracks: “Luminous”; “Coming Down”
This Dutch duo, of questionable sanity due to their strange choice of name, has created a collection of remarkably catchy, upbeat rock songs. Their album Vulture/Provider shows their interesting style, which can be described as a combination of Two Door Cinema Club, Nine Black Alps, and Of Monsters and Men. Their album is also really great for listening to while doing homework or writing an article … I've had it on repeat for the past hour.
Their best tracks: “Shackles and Chains”; “Stuck in My State of Mind”; “Heart in a Headlock”
This group is based out of Brooklyn, New York, and therefore close to the heart of CMJ. The lyrics to their song “Seventeen” actually managed to bring me to tears (not really but they are pretty great), and their style is simultaneously upbeat and catchy but also soothing and chill. They have a 90s-era Green Day feel to them, but are more reminiscent of modern artists like Vampire Weekend, The Neighbourhood (another CMJ performer), and Jim James.
Their best tracks: “Seventeen”; “American”
This Canadian band has already gained considerable recognition after their on tour appearances with bands like Mumford & Sons. Their album Dark Eyes has some really killer tracks, and they are pretty much guaranteed to skyrocket to fame within the next year. You’ll definitely want to be able to say you heard of them before they were cool. They sound very similar to Of Monsters and Men without the female vocals, mixed with The Lumineers, and on “She Wants to Know” there’s even a Adam-Levine vibe from the lead singer.
Their best tracks: “Call Me in the Afternoon”; “She Wants to Know”
I actually found this guy by chance while scrolling through the (ridiculously) long list of artists, and it’s sparked an unhealthy obsession that I don’t foresee coming to an end any time soon. Aside from “Evening’s Kiss,” which is kind of creepy and unnerving, his music puts a smile on my face immediately. The Chicago native has a voice made for soul, and he knows exactly how to change his tone to fit whatever song he’s singing. Whether it’s “Coming Through,” which sounds like Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke, or “Everything Unwinds,” which sounds like Teddy Pendergrass or KEM, he truly is an incredible talent not to be missed.
His best tracks: “Coming Through”; “Everything Unwinds”; “Wavering Lines”