CMJ 2008: The Muslims | Fader Fort, Pianos, Union Pool | 10.2008



Was talking to a fellow blogger after seeing The Muslims at the Fader Fort and asked him what he thought. “Unoriginal,” he replied. That’s kind of beside the point, I think. Originality can only get you so far, and it’s OK if you’re playing garage rock if you’ve got songs as good as The Muslims’. Plus, they’ve got the one thing you absolutely cannot fake — attitude. They’ve got bucketfuls of it.

The Muslims played an astounding 10 shows during CMJ and I ended up catching three of them, the best being the technically post-CMJ show at Union Pool on Sunday where the relaxed crowd (which seemed to include every band that hadn’t gone home already) had nowhere else to go and were there just to rock out. It was also a longer show and we got a couple more than the six song set they’d honed for CMJ, including both sides of their new single — “Parsites” and the blazing cover of Spacemen 3’s “Walking With Jesus.” Despite being obviously tired and guitarist Matty McLoughlin having his fingers wrapped in black electrical tape because he’d busted them open repeatedly over the week, with blood spattered all over his guitar, they played like it was their first show of the week.

MP3Muslims – Bright Side 

MP3Muslims – Parasites 

Buy some Muslims, won’t you?

And here’s video I shot of them performing “Beside Myself” at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at Knitting Factory:

CMJ 2008: Róisín Murphy | Mansion | 10.24.2008


I think my favorite of Roisin Murphy's many costume changes was a plaid jacked that had a life-size deer built into it, which she accessorized with a plaid antler hat. Ms. Murphy had a different outfit for just about every song for her American solo debut at West Side mega-club Mansion. There was also a black feather cape that kind of made her look like a turkey, and a fur coat that resembled angel wings.

I knew that this show had been upgraded from Hiro Ballroom to Mansion but I didn't know how big Mansion was going to be (very big) and how many people were going to be crammed in there (probably 700?). You could not move it was so packed. There were people on the balconies, the stairs, most of them way more dressed up than I was. And most of them were super-fans. Who knew?

deer me
The last time I saw her she was playing Knitting Factory on Moloko's first tour. This was much more of a production. Back-up singers, full band, projections, and those insane outfits. But Murphy has enough personality  – not to mention those pipes — that she could have wowed us wearing a potato sack. She seemed to be loving every minute of it and the crowd recipricated. We got almost a two-hour show, mostly from Murphy's 2007 album, Overpowered (one of my Best of the Year picks), including "You Know Me Better," "Let Me Know" and "Dear Miami." My favorite moment was "Primitive," which got a hard rock ending that really worked, and Roisin can bang her head with the best of them.

I wish we'd gotten some different songs off her first solo album that "Ramalama" and "Ruby Blue" but the album's herky-jerky rhythms might have made a difficult translation to her current dance workout asthetic. (Still, it would've been nice to hear "Sow Into You" and "If We're In Love") And the crowd woulda went bonkers for "Sing it Back" but I don't think anyone left thinking she didn't give it her all.

SETLIST: Cry Baby / You Know Me Better / Checking up / Dear Miami / Primitive / Ruby Blue / Movie Star / Forever More / Let Me Know / Overpowered / ENCORE: Tell Everybody / Ramalama

MP3Roisin Murphy – Overpowered 

MP3Roisin Murphy – So Into You

There are more, out-of-focus pictures (damn smoke machines baffle my Powershot's autofocus) on my Flickr. Buy some of Roisin's music won't you? Overpowered is finally going to get a U.S. release in January and word is she'll be back for an actual American tour in March.

Late of the Pier | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.22.2008

I was somewhat skeptical that
Late of the Pier could pull of the genuine weirdness of their awesome, insane debut album, Fantasy Black Channel, in the live setting. I was trying to describe them to a friend I ran into at the show and gave them my standard spiel: "Part Gary Numan, part Flash Gordon soundtrack, part Warren G, part Metal." But pull it off they did, and played it all live sans laptops. These are youngsters but they rock like pros, pulling off the guitar heroics, the funky parts, everything. And we danced to it. Even more than the Klaxons, Late of the Pier seem to truly come from outer space. But they make it seem like the most natural thing on earth.
Late of the Pier – The Bears are Coming

Late of the Pier play Irving Plaza on Friday… with Soulwax! Go, go, go. Fantasy Black Channel gets an American release in January.

CMJ 2008: Women | Cake Shop | 10.21.2008


I realized, about two songs into watching them, I realized I'd seen Women before. Maybe it was at SXSW or Glasslands, can't remember exactly where, but I'd definitely watched them play — the singer was dressed exactly the same way. I think I didn't make the connection because Women are so much better live than on record. The album, while good, is a little too drenched in Animal Collective-style reverb, while onstage (or in Cake Shop's case, the floor) they hit pretty hard.

The Canadian band were playing at about 4PM, the first of about ten shows they're doing during CMJ — most of them day parties. Singer Patrick Flegel remarked, "I'm not quite used to the afternoon thing, it feels very dark down here." Cake Shop does have a "always 2AM" feel to it, but Women's music is pretty dark, brittle and almost post-punky goth, with some amazing interplay between Flegel and second guitarist Christopher Reimer's instruments. There's also some '60s pysch-pop elements as well — "Black Rice" has a definite Brian Wilson vibe to it. Some people I talked to didn't like the vocals (the only thing with reverb on it today) but I thought they fit Women's sound perfectly. I left very impressed.

MP3Women – Black Rice (Buy)

Catch them this week if you can. Here's where they'll be:


CMJ 2008: Wednesday Picks

Women at Cake Shop, 10.21.2008


Earfarm presents Takka Takka; Sam Champion / Project Jenny, Project Jan / Drink Up Buttercup / Sister Suvi / Howlies @ Pianos 12 – 6PM

School of Seven Bells, Marnie Stern / Women / Tobacco / Faunts / Shugo Takumaru / Starfucker / Rainbow Arabia / Frontier Ruckus @ Cake Shop

Gothamist House w/ Emmy the Great / Gabriel Kahane / Bell / Nat Baldwin / Physics of Meaning / Pattern is Movement / Extra Life @ The Bell House


Elk City / Faunts / Mahogany / The Whitsundays @ The Village Underground 9PM – 1AM

Late Of The Pier / The Whip / Ki:Theory / Nickel Eye (Featuring Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes) / As Tall As Lions @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Scouting for Girls, Friendly Fires, Dirty Fuzz, Radio Luxembourg, Virgin Passages @ The Annex 8PM – Midnight

After the Jump Fest w/ My Teenage Stride / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Ringo Deathstarr / and about 17 other bands @ Knitting Factory 8PM 

I SAY: As much as I LOVE the Bell House, you basically have to dedicate yourself to staying there, 'cause it's kind of in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn. That said, it's a great lineup and easily the best, nicest, most comfortable, awesomest place that's hosting day parties this year. But for the indie ADD rest of us, it's better just to flit around the Lower East Side between Pianos and Cake Shop. I highly recommend catching Women, Faunts, Drink Up Buttercup, School of Seven Bells and Sam Champion

As for the nighttime shows, Canada's the Whitsundays make their only CMJ appearance tonight at the Friendly Fire Recordings showcase, where they play with Faunts — Paul Arnusch plays in both bands. Mahogany, who are also on that show, are pretty great too. If you could only go one place, though, head to the Knit. Three floors, lots of great distortion-pop (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ringo Deathstarr) and a lot of NYC's best bands. But I will not be missing Late of the Pier's US debut at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Their record is kind of brilliantly insane — part synth pop, part Queen, part metal. So curious as to see what it'll be like live.

Some MP3s…

MP3: Faunts – M4
MP3: Whitsundays – It Must Be Me
MP3School of Seven Bells – Prince of Peace
MP3Late of the Pier – The Bears are Coming

CMJ 2007 Day Two| Bella | Knitting Factory Old Office

BellaBest stage accoutrement ever: a tiny little table lamp with the Bella logo stitched into the shade that was perched on the guitar amp. I tried to take a picture of it (you can see it under the KF logo in this picture) but the white balance makes it to bright to really see it in all its darling glory.

Bella are cute like that. But not twee. The Canadaian-American trio mix the sweet and salty: boy-girl vocals full of "bah bahs" and harmonies, but also crunchy guitars and a healthy dose of attitude. Their debut, No One Will Know, is fairly slick but live, Bella are messier and loud with the three members switching instruments every few songs.quite a lot over the last couple months.

The Knitting Factory Old Office, where the Mint Records showcase was happening, is nobody’s idea of an ideal venue, but it felt more like a party than most gigs. CBC beverage cozies and decorated bags of candy were tossed into the crowd. You could tell most of the audience knew the bands. (They were likely the other bands on the bill.) I had to dash off to the Music Hall of Williamsburg after their set, so I didn’t get to see the other bands (maybe I would’ve stayed if they’d brought Novillero and the Bicycles back this year) but my second night of CMJ definitely started on a good note.

MP3: DBella – Give it a Night
(Buy it)

Bumpershine was there too, and pretty sure I saw the Modern Age, but no posts by her on it so cannot confirm or deny.

CMJ 2007 Day Four | Ida Maria | Galapagos

Ida_mariaThis year’s CMJ was generally lackluster, from the variety of performers to the performances given by those I did see. But there was at least one wow-worthy show — Norwegian-via-Sweden singer Ida Maria.

I wasn’t all that familiar with her music. I knew her mainly from her duet with Pelle Carlberg on his album In a Nutshell, "I Love You, You Imbecile," which is typically poppy Swedish jangle. But my friend Toby was really high on her and sent some MP3s my way, urging me to go see her. Her new single "Oh My God" is definitely more "rock" than Pelle’s stuff. So I was expecting a pleasant, if sedate show.

Diminuitive, and dressed in a mint green school marm top, a dark teal leather skirt, purple tights and bright blue boots she looked pixie. But when she strapped on the guitar and opened her mouth, she transformed into a whirling, wailing little powerhouse that you could almost compare to early PJ Harvey (more Dry than Rid of Me) though her voice definitely has a certain Bjork-esque quality that is hard to deny. There were about 15 people watching when she first started but soon everyone (maybe another 20) filtered into the back room of Galapagos to watch her.

Idamaria2Ida Maria is a magnetic performer, pouring every ounce of energy and emotion into her songs to the point where she seemed lost in them some of the time. Mikes were knocked over, drums stumbled into and more than once she dropped to the floor onto her back where she continued to sing and play guitar. (About halfway through the show I also noticed her boots were off but I don’t remember her removing them.) And though her presence was intense, it wasn’t all anguish (though there was some of that). You also have songs like "I Like You Better When You’re Naked" that are downright joyous and she beamed throughout that one.

Her band was ace too, skilled players who also got into the act though it was never anyone’s show but Ida’s. The set was average CMJ length, maybe a little more than 30 minutes but it was the only time I really wished anyone that week had played longer.

MP3: Ida Maria – Oh My God

: Ida Maria – Queen of the World

Ida said her debut album would be out in April. Saturday, was in Williamsburg shooting a video for "Oh My God" with director Andreas Nilsson, the man behind all those creepy Knife and Jose Gonzalez clips. Speaking of…I also shot some video of Ida  doing "Stella & God," though it turned out to be one of her more restrained performances. Still pretty great. Please ignore the annoying early-90s Tony Hawk skate video they insisted on showing behind them throughout.

CMJ 2007 | Yeasayer | R Bar + Fader Sideshow

I’ve now seen Yeasayer three times. The first was at the "none shall blog" show at Cake Shop. The other two were back-to-back day shows at CMJ — Friday at Brooklyn Vegan’s thing at R Bar, and then again at the neverending Bud Select and Soco-n-Lime schmoozefest ski lodge that was the Fader Sideshow. I hadn’t heard them before seeing them at Cake Shop, but had been told that they were "like TV on the Radio meets Talking Heads meets Animal Collective."

Which is utter crap. Yeasayer are, pure and simple, hippie music. Not wanky jam band hippie (though they would’ve been embraced at Bonaroo ’99), no, this is vintage 1969, flowers-in-their-hair hippie music… albeit with modern technology. If Randy California had had access to samplers, Spirit might’ve sounded a lot like Yeasayer. As someone who came of musical age in the 1980s, I have a deep-seated Eric Cartman-like hatred of hippies — even those that went to RISD. (Eric would especially hate YS’s bassist, whose awful jacket, side ponytail and mustache are pretty much indefensible, though he’s undeniably skilled with his fretless instrument.)

As much as I want to despise them, however, I don’t. Songs like "2080" and "Sunrise" are kind of undeniable singles, they nail the harmonies (sometimes four-part) and the band are engaging performers. I especially like guitarist Anand Wilder, who also wears an ugly jacket, but has an intrinsic grooviness that cannot be denied. (I also like drummer Luke Fasano’s crash cymbal, that looks like it’s been through a couple wars.) Dammit, I like them. 1989 Me would be appalled, but he’ll get over it in 18 years.

MP3: Yeasayer – Wait for the Summer (Buy Yeasayer’s All Hour Cymbals, out 10/22)

For those who live here in NYC, Yeasayer are having a record release party on Tuesday at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg. They’re not performing, it’s just a dance party, the prospect of which seemed to excite the band more than the idea of playing another show.

CMJ 2007 Day Four | Black Kids | R Bar

Blackkids_rbarHaving been given the Best New Music tag in Pitchfork for four songs on their MySpace page, Black Kids‘ CMJ shows were some of the most anticipated of the week and this show, put on by Brooklyn Vegan at the garish, stripper-themed R Bar on Friday afternoon was Media and Blogger Central. (The free bloody marys went a long way to ignoring this.) Singer Reggie Youngblood was well aware of situation they were in. "I’m sure you’ve heard the hype… about how good looking we are." The crowd roared.

It was a great way to break the ice, as word of their show from the previous night was bad. Real bad. The only good review was Pitchfork’s Marc Hogan… and he was the guy who wrote the 8.4 review of the EP, so it seemed like he was saving face. I don’t understand the Cure comparisons (to me, they’re more Prefab Sprout or even "Whole of the Moon" era Waterboys, that heart-on-sleeve thing ’80s bands did so well) but I gotta admit I love all their songs… you know, all four of them. I expected the worst, which is maybe why I liked them so much.

I’m not saying they killed. They didn’t. But they were pretty good for a band who has only been performing live for two months. And fun. They’ve got the songs. They’ve got the enthusiasm. The rest will come with time.

MP3: Black Kids – Hurricane Jane

Heart on a Stick, who barely survived a sneak stage-diving attack earlier in the day, also didn’t hate themEar Farm, Stereogum, and others were there too.

CMJ 2007 Day Three | 1990s | Bowery Ballroom

Ida_mariaNot sure why I’ve seen Glasgow’s 1990s three times this year. Their debut, Cookies, is loaded with champagne-and-coke big riff rock songs but it’s not the stuff that normally compels me to repeat viewings. But they have been fun every time I’ve seen them, and the crowd was definitely into their party-it-up vibe, especially three girls who were singled out by official show videographers to be the sole audience members seen. (They also got interviewed downstairs after the show by MTV weenie John Norris). Singer John McKeown still seems generally chuffed that people are there enjoying themselves but it’s drummer Michael McGaughrin — whose kit is still wisely positioned at the front of the stage — who makes them so much fun to see, even after three shows.