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, SPIN.com 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, SPIN.com 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.