Every year from Oct. 20-24 bands from all over the world descend on New York City for the mammoth CMJ Music Marathon. The festival is spread out over five days and 75 music venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and well over 200 bands are playing the first day alone — but MTV Iggy is taking it on.
That’s right. We’re going to hit as many shows as possible armed with our trusty cameras, notebooks, and tireless dancing shoes. Check back at Iggy for intensive coverage of the best bands at CMJ!
It’s going to be a lot of music, but every year there are certain artists that stand out from the rest of the noise, certain names that come up again and again in breathless tones. They have buzz, and just like everyone else, we can’t wait to see them. Here are ten that we’ll wait on line for.
1. Big Freedia
Bounce and its gay subset Sissy Bounce might be the hip hop style that everyone is talking about in the rest of the country, but in New Orleans the raunchy rhymes and butt-jiggling beats have ruled for a long time now. Big Freedia — say it like Free-da — is the scene’s reigning diva and its acting ambassador outside the city. People will be pushing and shoving to hear her perform her hit “Azz Everywhere” and we’re betting her set will have the highest fun quotient of festival. For clarity’s sake: Big Freedia is a dude but everyone calls her she. Because she’s the queen.
2. First Aid Kit
These darling young Swedish sisters (ages 20 and 17) have been warbling folk songs together for three years.
Riding the success of their gorgeous debut album The Big Black & The Blue, First Aid Kit, discovered by Swedish sensations The Knife, have been traveling the world armed with guitars and powerful harmonies. Check them out if you want a deeply moving experience at CMJ this year — not a dancey one.
Netizens love to argue about whether “witch house” is a even real genre, so there’s a bit of controversy fueling the buzz behind Salem, one of the dark electronic subgenre’s main exponents. There are plenty of things about witch house for music snobs to get all cranky about. The sound is like darkwave or industrial but the artists say they are more influenced by hip hop, and they release music on the Internet under names that render them virtually unsearchable. That kind of thing can provoke real outrage these days.
But Salem’s gloomy, sonically warped debut King Night just hit the actual streets and its three midwestern creators will be at CMJ in the flesh. Attendees who enjoy their dance music with a good strong shot of doom might find themselves nodding along to their hypnotic beats and twisted samples and concluding that, yes, they do believe in witch house after all.
Never heard of this New Zealand future pop darling? Maybe because she changed her name from Bionic Pixie, and she’s now killing Kiwi audiences with anticipation of her debut album as Zowie. Her feel-good electro pop single “Broken Machine” features Ke$ha style rap/singing and a catchy synthpop hook — the stuff of true rising pop stars. The girl can even play the drums.
When you’re uber-famous USA DJ Diplo, you have a right to be picky when lending a hand to emerging DJs. But once in awhile a real gem comes around. And one of those gems is NYC’s bada$$ ghettotech princess Dominicana Maluca (or “crazy woman” in Portuguese). Sometimes deemed a Latina version of MIA, Maluca, or Natalie Yepez was working at a bar in the Lower East Side in Manhattan when Diplo discovered her. He was smitten by her Latin beats, tropical ghettotech vibe, and red-hot attitude. And you will be too, if you check out her single “Tigeraso.”
If the snow-swept Canadian prairie could make music by itself, it would sounds like Braids. Amidst the stressful craziness of CMJ, this is your chance to kick back to nature sound samples, ethereal soothing shoegaze with complex pulsing arcs and hefty reverb…are you meditating yet? The adorable fun foursome gained traction in their native Canada after opening for USA’s Deerhunter in 2008, and they’ve since released their debut album Native Speaker.
7. Das Racist
These guys need no introduction. Hip hop geek trio Das Racist got the world all excited two years ago through their viral song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” (I still freak whenever I see the two franchises next to each other.) These multiracial funnymen from the USA have taken over the blogosphere once again with their latest Diplo-produced mix tape Sit Down, Man. Their style mashes pop culture trivia, low-brow pleasures, and high-brow intellectual theory…all with a cheeky middle finger to anyone who tries to over-analyze or pigeonhole them. Oh, and their live shows are gut-bustingly entertaining.
Das Racist MC Victor Vazquez will be at CMJ performing with Boy Crisis, his not-as-funny but equally awesome glammy electro pop band. What a busy man!
8.Dominique Young Unique
Nineteen year-old motormouth rap prodigy Dominique Young Unique hails from Tampa, Florida and flows with the the force of a hurricane over music that makes you feel like you’re at the hottest ’80s night ever held in a video arcade. She’s fresh in that no one is doing it quite her way right now, and fresh again in the sense of packing a shocking amount of raw attitude into her tight, short tracks. If it’s been a long time since hip hop made your heart race, get it together and go check her out. We promise she lives up to her name.
This classically trained French Baroque pop trio has a funny way of making understated elegance sexy as hell. Maybe it’s the unusual craft that goes into their modern sounding tunes or the strangely antique quality clinging to them. The group’s beginnings, however, were not so debonair as their sound. The member’s of Revolver started singing and playing acoustic instruments very softly in a cramped Parisian apartment where they weren’t allowed to make noise. This led them to focus on precision and it paid off handsomely. They released their debut album Music for Awhile last year and now the world wants to hear them out loud.
10. Two Door Cinema Club
Ever think Belle and Sebastian would be great if they were only Irish and a little more, I don’t know, danceable? Maybe a little bit more like Franz Ferdinand? Check out Two Door Cinema Club’s debut album Tourist History, which appeared just a few short months ago.
Their thumping drums and rich layers of shimmering guitars speed toward euphoric, summer music festival-ready crescendo’s while frontman Alex Trimble’s adorably callow vocals impart a quality that keeps their sound nice and intimate. They’ve been on the festival circuit throughout the UK, toured Asia and Australia, and opened for Phoenix on their US tour. Their buzz is as big as their sound in the UK and it’s spreading as I type this.