CMJ Distilled: A Guide To The Hottest New Bands

So, CMJ 2012 is over and I’m still trying to pick my head up off the floor. You can read Radar‘s full highlights of New York City’s annual new music bash (thousands of bands + hundreds of venues + the world’s finest city = chaos of the very best kind) in the October 30 issue of NME, but until then here’s a few initial/hungover thoughts on which acts made the grade…


Savages truly did us Brits proud, with literally everybody I spoke to about them out here replying with things like “insaaaaanely good band” and generally going gaga over Jehnny Beth’s doomy stare. Are you really surprised about that though?! Like, duh.

Mac DeMarco – my first time seeing the Captured Tracks newie and I can’t recommend his live show enough. Last night he sang an entire song while holding his girlfriend in his arms and yodelling. His guitar is held together with string, he’s the bastard son of Evan Dando and he’s in the UK soon – go and see him.

Tampa, Florida trio Merchandise drew the biggest music industry clusterfuck of the whole bash. The first time they played, at a place called The Villain, barely anyone could get in so scores of people were left half-watching them through an opened door from outside the venue. Last night, they played a non-CMJ show supporting Wild Nothing at the Bowery Ballroom, and practically every voice in the audience I heard was English, record label-y and saying things like “the new Morrissey/Killers/Cure”. I’m not sure any of them are particularly right but the band were bloody magnificent.

On a slightly less frantic tip, there was also loads of love for Foxygen, who’s singer is a Grade A star in waiting, as well as Scandi newcomer MØ and Fletcher C Johnson, who I finally got to see after we did him in Buzz in the mag ages ago. His live set (bolstered by a band) was taut and exciting, with a weirdly British punk energy to it despite the fact he’s from the States. He’s got a new record out on Burger Records soon.

NYC rap crew Ratking, who we’re featuring in the magazine this coming week, blew me away too – if the posed arseyness of A$AP, Azealia et al leaves you cold and you’re into Beastie Boys, you could do much worse than check them out when they arrive in the UK in a few days time (supporting Death Grips and playing a few of their own low key shows).

I also really liked this band called Visuals, who I know very little about. They were recommended to me by another NYC ace, Napoleon (also rather good), and played a show way out of town in “the dodgy part of Brooklyn” according to my NYC mate who knows about these things. The doorman looked bloody amazing, like something out of Cheers, and the band were fantastic too. I think it’s still early days for them but they had a really interesting vibe – great juttery, stop-start post-punk melodies and a totally unorthodox drummer who I’ll describe, badly, as an “anti-sticksman”. Their show was packed with locals going mad, including one kid who might have been on something, as he stripped off and started doing a Mr Motivator style power-workout right in the singer’s face for the entire set. It didn’t really go with the music but I can’t knock his enthusiasm.

Anyway, that’s your lot – do check the magazine on October 30 for the full, sober report of CMJ, and to find out what happened when one of Deap Vally tried to shag a dog out here.