Every October CMJ Music Marathon floods the streets, bars and venues of New York City with buzz bands, up and coming artists and the people who love them. CMJ started when college radio was one of the primary ways of discovering new music. If your boyfriend wasn’t making you sad mixtapes to soundtrack your make-out sessions in your dorm room or in the backseat of his car, where do you turn to, to find new music? College radio was your own personal Pandora. For about fifteen years, CMJ published a monthly magazine full of interviews and album reviews. But the best part of the magazine was always the CD it came with that featured songs from the best up-and-coming bands and artists. Despite the internet changing how we discover new music, CMJ still remains relevant. Through music panels such as “Music Journalism in the New Media World” and “Twerked Out: Digital Age Minstrels,” the festival strives to inspire conversation about the music industry itself. Over the years they’ve dabbled with film as well and this year Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is being screened for audiences for the first time.
So, the CMJ Music Marathon kicks off tomorrow, October 15th (here’s the full schedule) and PopBytes couldn’t be more excited. Over the course of five days and nights, more than 1,400 emerging performers are here in New York City to grace the stages of over 80 venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. That’s a lot of music for one person to consume so PopBytes would like to share a list of the top five acts they are most excited about seeing. Though, the novelty of seeing Sisqó perform the “Thong Song” is tempting, I think these acts are our top priority.
Remember when that guy Spencer proposed to his boyfriend in a Home Depot and the video went viral and garnered over 10 million views? Ever wonder who sang the catchy song they choreographed an entire dance to? Well, her name is Betty Who and if you haven’t guessed, the song is called “Somebody Loves You.” She grew up in Sydney, Australia and now resides in New York City after attending many prestigious schools of music in the states. Her songs have a sleek ’80s pop feel that tread in the same waters as Robyn and even Katy Perry.
This Swedish trio, NONONO has everyone saying YESYESYES to their infectious single “Pumpin Blood” that has been generating a lot of buzz for weeks now. It has a whistling chorus, strings and electro-pop vocals. Expect huge things to come their way. Blood is definitely pumping through their veins.
This Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo Cardiknox (which consists of Lonnie Angel and Thomas Dutton) are currently killing it. They are writing songs in the vein of Icona Pop with a more matured punch. They aren’t ’90s bitches, they are soaked in ’80s synthiness. I imagine their songs in a John Hughes movie. Especially their newest single “Technicolor Dreaming,” which dispenses enough blips and bleeps to keep the montages rolling.
This New York-based duo ASTR are following in the footsteps of their contemporaries MS MR and playing the mysterious card. Songs and videos appear on SoundCloud and YouTube and have everyone questioning if they are the real deal. Well, PopBytes can certainly vouch for them. We caught the duo open up for Stockholm-based Kate Boy at Glasslands a few months back and Zoe and Adam slayed. According to their Facebook they met in a Manhattan yoga class three years ago and are inspired by “cinema noire, Miami Vice and urban dreamscapes.” ASTR might be grouped with electro-pop acts like Cardiknox but there is certainly a more hip-hop influence here. I’ve heard people compare Zoe’s vocals to Rihanna and I wouldn’t disagree.
Singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott who performs under the name Torres has released one of the best albums of 2013. In the vein of Sharon Van Etten and PJ Harvey she has recorded one of the most raw and emotional records of the year. Her live performances are visceral and hypnotic, owing to the poignant lyrics and her heartfelt delivery. She’s comfortable with a guitar strapped on her shoulder and will show up most of her contemporaries playing the festival.
Here is a list of other acts that we recommend: Panama Wedding, Woodkid, Fuck Buttons, Empress Of, Placebo, Glasser, Little Daylight, Cherub, Bleeding Rainbow, Au Revoir Simone, Neon Hitch, Haerts, Dan Croll, Yuck, Shy Girls.