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Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now: CMJ Edition
Who to scope out at New York's yearly indie-fest.
by Alex Heigl
This week, we're taking a look at the CMJ Music Marathon, the nation's second-largest indie music festival (behind that one in Austin or whatever). In past years, CMJ has featured tiny showcases for Alabama Shakes, Sleigh Bells, Gotye, and others who subsequently got way more famous. These are the five artists from this year's festival who you'll be able to brag about seeing before everyone else got into them.
1. Ava Luna, Ice Level (2012)
Two female backing vocalists, a skinny white guy singing like Smoky Robinson, and a Krautrock-ing rhythm section: on paper, Ava Luna sounds like it shouldn't work. But as the band dive-bombs through a melange of sounds from Motown-inspired to Kraftwerk-esque, and frontman Carlos Hernandez hurls himself across the stage, you start to realize how skull-crushingly excellent this clusterfuck actually is. Weird, deeply engaging, and above all, fun, Ava Luna is not to be missed.
Listen: "Wrenning Day"
2. Deap Vally, Gonna Make My Own Money (2012)
Here's what I predict for Deap Vally: 1) people will complain about another two-piece rock band with simple riffs and howled vocals; 2) people will talk about how hot they are ad nauseum; and 3) Deap Vally will punch all of those people in the face while drinking whiskey and failing to miss a single note of scuzzy, violence-inciting blues rock. You have been warned.
Listen: "Gonna Make My Own Money"
3. King Tuff, King Tuff (2012)
Nowadays, everybody who torrents the first volume of the Nuggets compilation runs out and starts a '60s-influenced garage band. Fortunately, many (many) of those bands are terrible, and so the ones that don't suck rise to the top much faster. One of those not-suckers is King Tuff, whose keening take on '60s psychedelia remains one of the feathers in Sub Pop's current cap. Immerse yourself in the bashy, jangly joys of "Bad Thing" and be born again. Where's my Nuggets comp again?
Listen: "Bad Thing"
4. Chrome Canyon, Elemental Themes (2012)
It's like buying really good ecstasy from Deckard in Blade Runner and then playing through Golden Axe on the Sega Genesis.
Listen: "Memories of a Scientist"
5. Matthew E. White, Big Inner (2012)
White's music evokes Beck, but I'd say it's time to give this Manila-born, Virginia-raised boy his due. Trained as a jazz musician, White exercises exhausting control over his music, layering symphonic swirls and ambient effects over slippery, organic grooves while his laid-back voice serenely floats above it all.
Listen: "Big Love"