Best of CMJ 2013
From KCRW Blog Contributor Nassir Nassirzadeh
Best in Show (Best Overall) – Public Service Broadcasting
The most pleasant surprise of the 50 some odd bands I saw at CMJ this year was undoubtedly the London-based pseudonymous musical duo known as Public Service Broadcasting.
PSB produce and perform live audio/visual transmissions, by weaving samples from old public information films, archived footage, and propaganda material around live drums, guitar, banjo and electronics.
Think R2D2 meets RJD2 in an editing workshop at the Anthology Film Archives, with an ipod featuring DJ Shadow, The Books, El Ten Eleven, STRFKR and Kraftwerk.
Their Britically (pun intended) acclaimed self-released debut album, “Inform – Educate – Entertain” is available for streaming via Spotify and will have a proper physical release on November 19.
Best DJ/Producer – Saint Pepsi
Prolific 20-year old producer Ryan DeRobertis of Long Island, has a considerable following online and made his highly anticipated NYC debut this week.
It’s quite a feat to sum up Ryan’s music as he deftly samples everything from emo legends American Football to Ray J and Carly Rae Jepsen, making a new creation while staying loyal to the essence of the original work. Live, SP produced one of the funnest and most jaw dropping DJ sets I’ve ever seen.
Check out his uncanny edit of “Call Me Maybe”, which clocks in at over 100k spins in just 6 months, and another highlight below.
Best NY Band – Spires
(Honorable Mention: WET)
I’ve seen this band about 20 times in NYC since they formed a year ago and ever since then I was sure we’d all be seeing them on a stage with Tame Impala.
Spires recorded their debut single with Connor Hanwick (The Drums; Pains of Being Pure at Heart) and they have captured the attention of local tastemakers The Bowery Presents and Brooklyn Vegan. They even headlined the grand opening of the highly anticipated new South Williamsburg venue, Baby’s All Right during CMJ week.
Lead singer Matt Stevenson has developed his own songwriting style based on the bands he grew up listening to from Manchester in the late 80’s like the Stone Roses and Candy Flip. Check out Spires brand new single named after the Madchester band Candy Flip here.
Best LA Band – Echosmith
Echosmith are some of the most seasoned young musicians you will ever come across. The epic pop quartet has a sound way bigger than they look, consisting of four siblings from the Sierota household in Toluca Lake, all under the age of 20. It’s hard not to be sold on their great energy, passion and poise. Their debut album was released the week before CMJ on Warner Bros. and has been making a resounding echo with all the folks at our showcase at the Brooklyn Bowl on Sunday.
Best Chicago Band – J Fernandez
Don’t know too much about Chicago’s J Fernandez, but I was tap dancing and banging my chest throughout their great set at Pianos upstairs lounge. They have quite a groovy vintage sound that is best heard live ; for fans of Luke Temple and Grizzly Bear.
Best Nashville Band – COIN
This indie pop foursome may produce the catchiest sounds of the entire festival. They formed recently, but have quickly gained a ton of buzz. Here is their new single “Time Machine”, which would be appreciated in any era.
Best Canadian Band – July Talk
Screaming Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits, Ed Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Johnny and June Cash are all names that come to mind when listening to Toronto’s July Talk. Seeing them live on the other hand is like nothing you’ve ever seen. They make you want to punch, kiss, scream and shout at the same time.
Just love the dichotomous companionship between singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay.
Best UK Band – Little Comets
Honorable Mention: Hookworms, Landshapes and Joanna gruesome (who played an unbelievable 10 shows during the week)
This English indie rock band only played one CMJ show, but it was fantastic. They remind me of other British faves The Kooks and Two Door Cinema Club. Little Comets are in the midst of a fall tour that supports their new full-length album released last month on Dualtone Records. They come through LA on 11/1 at Hotel Café.
Best New Zealand Band – Ghost Wave
Ghost Wave is the most appropriate first new release on the seminal New Zealand label Flying Nun since they teamed up with Captured Tracks. They also competed with Joanna Gruesome for most CMJ shows of the week (nearly a dozen!).
Best Australian Band – Courtney Barnett / The Preatures
I already covered both artists in length in my preview post as these were the two acts I was looking most forward to seeing and they completely lived up to my lofty expectations.
Most Entertaining Performance – Willis Earl Beal
Willis Earl Beal is from another planet but luckily for us, he’s been transplanted to earth to show us how to push the envelope of soul.
Willis is an amazing talent who continues to improve and carries an incredibly powerful voice and physique (maybe .5% body fat).
But probably the best part of his set is hearing his banter between songs dressed in a cape that bears his own brand logo and a phantom of the opera mask. He is also the star of a new film entitled “Memphis”, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month. Here is the single from his recently released album from the Beggars group feat. once tourmate, Cat Power.
Best Bands I Didn’t See
Lowell, Pat Jordache, Jacco Gardener, Bent Shapes, Shine 2009, Torres, and Ejecta. I also heard great things about these guys Arcade Fire, who are definitely ones to be on the lookout for next year ; )