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SPIN Picks the Best Sets of CMJ


After some 1,200 bands played five full days of shows across New York City, CMJ 2010 is finally over. Here, SPIN staffers and reviewers pick their best from the festival:

Charles Aaron, SPIN Music Editor
Best Set: Either Wild Nothing, who were like the 120 Minutes house band circa 1987, and had opener Marnie Stern giddily flipping her skirt sidestage like she was in a “Pictures of You” video tribute. Or Glasser, who boasted a red kimono-like dress, nerds-on-point band, and surprisingly easy charisma. Or Lower Dens, because Jana Hunter is the world’s most subtle and unassuming guitar hero around.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: No Joy, the band I always wished my nonexistent, incorrigible blonde little sisters had formed.
People Were Really Talking About: Kanye West, who popped by Brooklyn Bowl to try and overshadow and render trivial everyone and everything associated with CMJ and mostly succeeded. Or meta-rappers Das Racist, who now have outwitted both the The New Yorker AND The New York Times. Politicians and military officials, take note.

David Marchese, SPIN Associate Editor
Best Set: Denver synthpoppers the Chain Gang of 1974 played a set full of hopeful ’80s-inspired pop melody and stylish, sinful dance rhythms. They were also the only CMJ act I saw who got a crowd dancing — not swaying or shuffling but dancing. Well done.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: No Joy. The Montreal quartet offer up a thrillingly gnarled grunge-shoegaze hybrid. I would’ve loved to have seen if I get sucked into the void as readily live as I do on record.
Everyone was talking about: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. I hadn’t heard of them three weeks ago. During CMJ, people were raving about the quirky pop-band’s show. I guess it helps to wear NASCAR racing suits on stage. And be good.

William Goodman, Associate Editor
Best Set: Dominique Young Unique. With her helium-high voice and vintage 808 beats, this 19-year-old Tampa rapper spits raunchy lyrics about having orgasms (“Pussy Popping”) and flaunting herself (“Show My Ass”) with a self-assuredness that’d give 50 Cent the willies. Added bonus: Her keyboard player looked like a hybrid of Jared Leto and that guy from Flock of Seagulls.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Wild Nothing, with their take on gloomy ’80s Britpop kings like the Smiths and the Cure.
People Were Really Talking About: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Numerous friends raved about the Detroit outfit’s synth-soaked pop, aka chillwave.

Kevin O’Donnell, Editor Online
Best Set: The Drums. Everything about this New York indie-pop band is so fey, affected, and delicate – guitarist Jacob Graham would curtsey in between songs while singer Jonathan Pierce flitted about the stage like a ballerina – that they make Franz Ferdinand look like high school quarterbacks. Still, the Drums’ music is equally manicured and thrilling, like a less-bummed-out version of the Cure. Plenty bitchy, too: Pierce dedicated “Don’t Be a Jerk, Jonny” to a mortal enemy. “This song is about a girl I hate very much,” he said.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Baths, the lo-fi, loops-and-things project from synth whiz Will Wiesenfeld.
People Were Really Talking About: Kanye West’s “surprise” appearance at Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday.

John S.W. MacDonald, SPIN Contributor
Best Set: Screaming Females. Marissa Paternoster, the pint-sized frontwoman for the New Brunswick band, is a genuine indie-rock guitar hero in a genre with precious few of them.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Carrying on Ohio’s lo-fi flame is Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings. Fronted by 19-year-old Dylan Baldi, the Nothings make the simplest, scuzziest songs sound like minor miracles.
People Were Really Talking About: How To Dress Well. The music of Brooklyn producer Tom Krell has been showing up in all the right places online recently and his appearance at CMJ was something of a coming out party. Appropriately enough, HTDW’s debut Love Remains, released late last month, is flawlessly hip, marrying chillwave’s ghostly synths to the swagger and heartbreak of classic R&B.

Luke McCormick, SPIN Editorial Assistant
Best Set: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Clad in Nascar jumpsuits, this trio amped up a super-packed Santo’s basement crowd with their sunshiney, upbeat pop, even dropping a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” that sparked a massive sing-along.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Danny Brown, a Detroit rapper whose violent flow has been garnering some much deserved buzz.
People Were Really Talking About: Porcelain Raft, the one-man-band of Italian native Mauro Remiddi, whose dreamy, loop and sample filled pop found many new fans at CMJ.

Jenn Pelly, SPIN Contributor
Best Set: Cults, a duo of two New York film students who pair romantic ’60s girl-group vibes with twee indie-pop sounds. Singer Madeline Follin, swaying and jiving like Doowop star, wailed and sounded spot-on.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Dom. The Massachusetts outfit recently signed with major label EMI — and for good reason: Their hyper-catchy dance-pop is infectious, especially the sunny hook from one of their best tracks, “Jesus.”
Everyone was talking about: Kisses, a Los Angeles trio whose sugary synth-pop made them a popular on the Twittisphere this CMJ.