CMJ Music Marathon 2015: 11 Artists That Ruled The Fest

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The 2015 CMJ Music Marathon tore up venues all over New York last week through Sunday (Oct. 18), and I paid witness to some incredible acts. Follow below for some standouts.

Be sure to read up on artists I recommended prior to the start of CMJ 2015.

Photo by Laura June Kirsch

In my CMJ preview post, I mentioned that LA had a lot to be proud of with rising acts like Elohim and Bird Dog, but I believe the artist that really made the most impact to me was Miya Folick (pronounced Mee-ya). Folick’s early material is more than promising, with a penchant for vulnerability that is transparent from her stunning live show: she is able to transform from a whisper to a scream in the same stanza. She assists her haunting and melancholic melodies with a very bright and personal charm that won everyone over. Catch her next in L.A., November 11th at the Echo.

Many people have described their sound as akin to Alt-J — which is evident — but they are also able to personify the laid-back beach spirit of their hometown in the Rockaways with a reggae/soul vibe, sure to bring them many new fans. More importantly, their live show is more than ready to be a tour de force nationwide. Be on the lookout for their debut EP, out later this fall on Startime Int’l (Natalie Prass, Coin, Bully), a fine imprint of Columbia Records.

Four years after making her NY debut with The Alabama Shakes, almighty front-woman Brittany Howard returned to New York last week with another debut, operating under the name Thunderbitch. This new face-painted, punkier project features a gang of friends from other Nashville acts, including Clear Plastic Masks and Fly Golden Eagle. Their rare set was part of the ATO Records showcase at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, a much smaller venue than she has been used to playing. Brittany made quite the entrance, unveiling the bright crimson curtains at the Knit as she sat on a motorcycle on stage. It’s extraordinary to see the faces light up in the crowd when watching Brittany perform.

It should also be noted that on this same stacked showcase were two of ATO’s very promising up and coming artists: Pacific Northwest sibling trio Joseph and the guitar-driven pop singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy. Definitely look out for more from those two.

Bayonne (pronounced Bay-own) is also known as Austin’s Roger Sellers… but unlike many other solo contemporaries who are accompanied by electronic instrumentation, Roger is in his element by his lonesome on stage, performing in his unmistakable zone as if nobody is watching. His unique sound has touchstones of very polished ’80s hits like Phil Collins’ “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

He will be opening for Toro Y Moi as part of the 30 days in LA series at The Teragram Ballroom on November 9th. Here’s his first single, released from the fine folks at Mom + Pop records.

Probably my most pleasant surprise last week was Toronto’s quirky pop outfit Weaves. They’ve only released one EP and have been playing for less than a year, but their live set was one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, due mostly to their charismatic singer Jasmyn Burke. One Bandcamp review said it best: that she has a commanding but non-aggressive stage presence, which is really appealing because the music is a violent collision of soul pop and punk that makes me want to punch my chest with fierce pride. Definitely ones to watch out for. Check out Weaves’ EP from last year here.

After having lived in Brooklyn for the past three years, it is bittersweet to see another venue bite the dust of exorbitant rental expense as the flourishing borough continues to gentrify. In just a few weeks, the kaleidoscopic arts hub known as Cameo Gallery will be the latest casualty. Their iconic installation of colorful strings hanging above the stage was always mesmerizing and a compliment to any band who performed beneath it. The venue has been a source of discovering many of NY’s biggest and best bands and where I first saw Darwin Deez, DIIV, St. Lucia, Mister Wives and also reported about Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, covered by the KCRW blog at CMJ 2011. I was able to visit the venue one last time for a splendid showcase by Terrible Records featuring Empress Of, LE1F, Porches and special guest Shopping.

Speaking of Shopping, they were one of many bands I wasn’t able to see unfortunately but who I heard a lot of folks talking about. Here are some others I regret missing out on.
Ezra Furman (Chicago)

Diet Cig (Upstate New York)

Georgia (U.K.)

The Babe Rainbow (U.K.)

Oh Pep (Australia)