CMJ 2013’s 10 Best Discoveries

From raging gal punks to folk revivalists to an Aussie singer/songwriter, the sets really worth seeing at NYC’s new-music fest

Last week, numerous bands came to New York to play within the city’s biggest (and tiniest… and smelliest) venues. Why was that week different from any other week? Because a few attendees had laminated badges hanging from their necks marking their involvement in CMJ’s annual Music Convention. We hit the clubs and private parties to hunt down the particular 10 artists who delivered the goods best. Some were new to us; some will be new to you. Take pleasure in:


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Speedy Ortiz: The Western Massachusetts fuzz-pop brigade did a slew of excellent shows all week, new off one of the year’s best rock and roll albums ( Major Arcana ) and singles (“Taylor Swift”). Sadie Dupuis runs over the perils of young-adult romance, the heights (“I got too many boyfriends to find out you tonight”) and lows (“You picked a virgin over me”), over guitars straight from the V section of the Nineties bin, right in the sweet spot between Velocity Girl and Veruca Salt. Presenting a new song at Williamsburg’s 285 Kent, Dupuis warned, “This is a song we’ve literally never played before. So we’re gonna blow, and you’re gonna blow along with us. ” But it didn’t blow at all. ROB SHEFFIELD


Sainseneca
Courtesy of Anti-Record


Saintseneca: The majority of new folk revivalists come on like genial bartenders (Mumford & Sons) or oddball solipsists (Will Oldham’s offsprings). This Columbus, Ohio, quartet split the difference, channeling struggles which makes you feel partway between eavesdropper and audience. Rocking a monk’s tonsure and antebellum moustache, in a dark vest, shirt and slacks, frontman Zac Little represented like an introverted backwoods preacher under Cake Shop’s low basement ceiling, singing regarding acid rain and dying young in a cracking, nasal tone that was addictively tart. Huddled around 2 mics, his bandmates (notably important foil Maryn Jones) delivered hollered harmonies that felt more like group bloodletting than sing-along-shilling bonhomie, and more potent for it. They have an LP out in November on Anti-, and it’s a gem. WILL HERMES


Nothing
Amanda Hatfield


Nothing: Philadelphia’s Nothing delivered among the loudest sets at CMJ, pulverizing Williamsburg’s Baby’s All Right and making casual attendees to stand back again (or, at the very least, locate ear plugs ASAP). The recent Relapse Information signees owe much to Deafheaven, the buzzy black metal take action responsible for popularizing shoegaze in the style. Like many noise projects, they will seemed to be performing for the sake of performance, teetering between moments of brash transcendence and misguided ambience (albeit, with a series of recoveries. ) Whatever the case, the particular band is definitely something worth viewing. MARIA SHERMAN


Joanna Gruesome
Amanda Hatfield


Joanna Gruesome: The Welsh crew that mixes the particular sugar rush of the Ramones with all the salt-in-wound sizzling of Sonic Youth, with a name that might just be goofing on a certain harp-playing singer-songwriter. The particular maelstrom’s semi-calm eye is frontwoman Alanna McArdle, who shifted through twee-pop scholar to screaming riot-grrrl banshee in front of a packed area. And her band really knows how to rock a 30-minute display, jumping into the crowd with musical instruments for a moshing, feedback-soaked finale. If you’re curious, the charmingly scatological movie for their aptly named “Sugarcrush” sort of sums up their aesthetic. WILL HERMES


Omar Souleyman
Amanda Hatfield


Omar Souleyman: Omar Souleyman has gathered something of a cult following outside his native Syria, and his set at NPR’s Display Wednesday demonstrated why he’s such an arresting performer. Standing expressionless, dressed up in all black, sporting deep glasses, Souleyman rarely moved. He clapped calmly and intentionally as his Arabic new wave moved market members to dance. He produced an incredible tension — one that was not lost on the die-hard Pusha To fans that made up most of the crowd. For everyone, it was a chance to get lost in a new kind of reverie. MARIA SHERMAN


Conway
Dee Geurreros


Conway: Conway launched her CMJ experience with a packed kick-off display at Brooklyn Bowl. A few days later, at the more intimate Littlefield, the lady unleashed an enthralling performance, showcasing the power and passion captured in her self-made “Big Talk” video. Her stage presence and style brought to mind an unholy mix of Karen O and Ke$ha, as Conway led her band through her ninth-ever show. Her viral single was clearly the highlight, but like the best kind of showcases, it left you wanting more. MIKE SPINELLA


Iceage
Lawrence Price


Iceage: The Danish hardcore princes played a couple of (technically non-CMJ) shows at the Bushwick bar Archeron, with singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt pouting and moaning like a young Mick Jagger, preening in his natty leather coat while blowing the kiss to the slamming kids within the pit. Iceage did songs off their recent You’re Nothing (the 1 where he wails “pressure, pressure, wow God, noooo” is a real crowd-pleaser) in addition even better new songs. They opened both sets with a most improbable cover: “Jackie, ” a strong cut from the first Sinead O’Connor record, which they retooled into a hardly recognizable blast of Euro bootboy angst, as well as a timely reminder that you simply can’t spell “skinhead” without Sinead. ROB SHEFFIELD


Courtney Barnett
Deneka Peniston


Courtney Barnett: Barnett is a storytelling twenty-something singer/songwriter through Melbourne who writes matter-of-fact stories that unspool like barstool revelations and sound like some hybrid of Kimya Dawson and Kurt Cobain. Barnett has two EPs, I’ve Got a Friend Known as Emily Ferris and How to Carve the Carrot Into a Rose , and was worth seeing twice (once with a full band, once solo). Best songs: “History Eraser, ” about getting drunk, listening to the particular Stones, and touching “a small tongue” with a dude she’s obsessed with; and her set-closer “Avant Novel reader, ” about an anaphylactic panic-attack in the midst of an Australian heat wave. But it’s fun. Really. WILL HERMES


Perfect Pussy
Amanda Hatfield


Ideal Pussy: If you walk away from one of this band’s shows without having at least a few bruises, you’re doing the work wrong. These punk kids in the mean streets of Syracuse, Nyc, deliver high-energy slabs of mayhem-friendly post punk noise, a walls of guitar and Casio. Meredith Graves knows how to run her mosh pit like a dictator operates a birthday party. Despite the low-fi buzz of their terrific debut cassette I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling , they’re a full-blooded beast live, and they whipped 285 Kent into a frenzy. “This may be the longest set we’ve ever played, ” Graves announced cheerfully, after about 10 minutes. ROB SHEFFIELD


Priests
Jenn Pelly


Priests: Priests want you to know that if you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention. Their only CMJ showcase has been sponsored by Doc Martins, some thing the band was very singing about — at one point they half-comically threw vegan burritos into the audience. The highlight from the evening was “Leave Me Alone, ” a feminist anthem within the making whose lyrics seethe along with sexual harassment themes: “I help you out on the street / I see you in every single person that I meet / And you wanna know what I think? / I think you look like a creep. ” This is new queer punk at its most revelatory: politics and catchy as all hell. MARIA SHERMAN

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