The Best of CMJ 2011

Written by
Alabama Shakes at Bowery Ballroom

From KCRW blog contributor Nassir Nassirzadeh:

I am happy to say that I no longer need to worry about the opportunity cost of each 40 minute set of my day now that CMJ is officially over. After some high expectations going into the conference this year, some were met, a few of the hyped bands were underwhelming and others were supremely surprising.

More importantly, now I know to keep an ear out for the other 90% of the bands that I failed to see. I’ll try and cover it all for you here.

Top Three

Alabama Shakes – Three months ago, Justin Gage of LA’s very own Aquarium Drunkard music blog, publicized this tiny blues-based soul outfit from Athens, Alabama. Las week, The Alabama Shakes play their first show ever in New York City to every A&R executive in the world at the Bowery Ballroom. The lead singer and star of the Shakes, Brittany Howard, absolutely thrilled the crowd and even herself. When an artist passes (the late Amy Winehouse) another can rise and I feel that this is the next band to really take the country with them due to the realness and authenticity of their music and sound. After each song, the whoos got louder and by the end of the set, it was deafening. I could only imagine most of the suited up industry moguls asking for their autograph after the show…. on the dotted line  ; )

Gotye – Despite downsizing his traditional 11 piece band in Australia to a 4-piece multi-instrumental machine, Gotye lived up to the highest of expectations and put together an incredible live show that matched the dynamics and charm of his recent breakthrough record “Making Mirrors. I saw his first show during the day at the very stylish Cantora Labs curated smartlounge, amid the 7th floor of the Thompson Hotel, overlooking all of lower Manhattan. He played 8 of his strongest hits, all of which were from the new album except for “Heart’s a Mess” andI I was most impressed by his live drumming capabilities. Looking forward to see who he signs with.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Ever since I heard “Garden” played on a late Saturday night during Mario Cotto’s show six months ago, I’ve been eager to hear more from Totallly Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (the jurassic stagename of UK producer Orlando Higginbottom).  I begged and pleaded my way into the Cameo Gallery, one of Brooklyn’s smallest and most reputable venues, where he was headlining a showcase from the Popgun Booking Agency on the last hour of the last night of the marathon.

Once my persistence paid and I got in, I’ll never forget what looked like a Harry Potter boarding school student coming out and setting up his gear preceding his set and then coming back out 15 minutes later with a full-on dinosaur costume that would put Barney to shame. TEED rocked the house for over 1.5 hours and actually had quite nice vocal chops on top of masterful electronic production. He pretty much mixed all the layers of dance music into his set (dubstep, electro, pop, techno, house and even was willing to swtich the channell into some anthemic Bolshevik dance music)..

I expect him to be a big hit at Coachella if he goes this year. He will be coming through LA for the Hard Haunted Mansion but unfortunately none of you can make it cause it falls on the same day as KCRW’s MASQUERADE : )

Garden (Soundcloud edit) OUT NOW by T-E-E-D

Runners Up

WATERS – New project from singer/songwriter Van Pierszalowski (Ex-Port O’ Brien).

Way more gritty/rocky than his previous work, but with same nautical thematical elements (hence namesake). Van recorded it with a band he found in Oslo, and now they are based in the Bay Area. Their new album “Out in the Light is flawless and definitely in my top 10 for this year. Its out now on TBD records.

WATERS – For The One by cityslang

Favorite NY Discoveries

Caveman – driving, upbeat and dense, atmospheric garage rock…for fans of Kurt Vile…most prolific band of the conference..upwards of 10 shows in 5 nights. I also have a soft spot for them because debut album (“CoCo Beware”) is named after one of my favorite old school wrestlers, Koko B.Ware.

Denzels – Catchy indie garage rock out of Brooklyn in the vein of the Drums or the Strokes. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys. There are definitely some hits in their early recordings.

Montrose Next Door by THE DENZELS

Favorite LA Discovery

Races – Funny enough, despite playing a very popular residency at the Bootleg and a number of big shows in LA, this was the first time i saw the buzzed-about band – newly  signed to Frenchkiss records — live. They played first during a day party at Pianos in the Lower East Side but they sounded like such a unit live, communicating with each other through their eyes and ears in the middle of the songs. At a loss for comparisons, which is pretty good considering they represent such a big indie rock community. Their debut full-length, “Year of the Witch”, will be out early this March just before what will be a big SXSW run for them.

Bands I Wished I Would Have Seen

Purity Ring
Porcelain Raft
Miracle Fortress
Gauntlet Hair
Wild Flag
Jo Schornokow (Shivers)
Zola Jesus
Caged Animals
St. Lucia
Andrew Keoghan
Incan Abraham
Scattered Trees
Emil & Friends
Young Magic
Radical Dads
We Are Augustines
Supreme Cuts
Pat Jordache