CMJ 2015: 10 Best Bands We Discovered at the Music Marathon
CMJ Music Marathon 2015 has come to a close after five days of taking over New York City's music venues with long nights filled with some of the best music to come. This year's festivals may have been headlined by the likes of Catfish & The Bottlemen and Neon Indian, but it's the smaller acts who really broke out and shined throughout the week.
From more Australians than you could ever imagine to the next big pop star to a three-hour long DJ set, CMJ was, once again and as always, an eclectic gathering of what's next. Music Times was on the scene all week to discover the next big thing, and here are the 10 best new acts we saw.
Young Empires: Australia dominated the proceedings at CMJ 2015, even getting their own barbecue, but there were bands from other countries who rocked the nearly 70 stages riddled across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Canadian rockers Young Empires played all over the city during the week, but we had the chance to catch up with them on the final night at Mercury Lounge. The group performed cuts from their new album The Gates with powerful charisma as lead singer Matthew Vlahovich was able to connect with fans by pointing them out and crooning hooks right into their eyes. Despite a short half-hour, their brand of rock 'n' roll that mixed back and forth between high energy and soft ballads was constantly exciting. -Ryan Middleton
Frankie: CMJ didn't have a massive amount of pop to offer up, but when it did, it was some of the best out there. Frankie played three sets throughout the week, and we were lucky enough to catch her at the Mercury Lounge. Mixing together the energy and charisma of Katy Perry with the sass of Charli XCX, this quickly rising star has already caught the eye of tastemaker Taylor Swift, and for good reasons. From her hits "New Obsession" and "Problems, Problems" to her new material from an upcoming debut album, this girl is all fun, with smashing vocals to boot. -Carolyn Menyes
Tweens: If the reunions of 7 Year Bitch and Sleater-Kinney don't offer up enough riot grrrl for you in 2015, look no further than Cincinnati's Tweens. Led by the small in stature but big in vocals Bridget Battle, this trio made so much sound at The Cake Shop on Friday night that it sometimes felt as though the roof would have to collapse in on us all. Battle brings the best of her grungey genre, from poppy hooks to a sense of anger and unbridled energy. It's magnetic and a must-see when they roll through your town. -CM
Safia: These guys are going to be stars. Everything is there - the look, the sound, the voice and the writing. The group has already made quite a splash in their native land of Australia and are making a push into Europe and the United States. The current expanding pop environment is just right for their electronic-indie sound to make a big splash. They closed out the Webster Hall basement and showed just why things are going to blow up in the next few years. -RM
Pierce Brothers: Another Aussie group at CMJ, these two brothers play acoustic instruments but have an incredibly electric show. The multi-instrumentalists both sing, play guitar, drums and harmonica. Jack Pierce even breaks out a didgeridoo for a few tracks, which looked almost comical in the upstairs portion of The Delancey. Jack would jump around and urge the crowd to sing along with them and the predominantly Australian crowd willingly obliged. -RM
Marlon Williams: To keep the Australian theme going, Marlon Williams is a quickly rising singer-songwriter, also hailing from Oceania. His old soul sound is accompanied with a rich voice and a sense of storytelling that is little found these days. Though his music may have deep roots and a sense of maturity, Williams knew how to throw a fun show. He started off his set at Mercury Lounge by laying on the floor, playing with his iPhone and he constantly referenced his big pastrami sandwich from the neighboring Katz's Deli, which led to bloated, greasy fingers. Just because you make serious music doesn't mean you always gotta be a sad sap. -CM
The Ruen Brothers: If Jake Bugg and George Ezra didn't bring enough of that bluesy soul into the American rock scene via England for you, then look no further than The Ruen Brothers. Actual brothers Henry and Rupert Stansall dominated Mercury Lounge on Friday night with a set filled with deep, throaty and enchanting vocals and old school guitar riffs that bring in a modern sense of folky-ness. Their singles "Aces" and "Summer Sun" were easy standouts, but everything about this set was entrancing and, frankly, beautiful. -CM
The Rooks: Though a lot of bands were from out of town, it was nice to see some local talent shine on the CMJ stage. Six-piece rock, R&B group The Rooks played all week at CMJ, and we caught them at Arlene's Grocery. The group performed tracks from their recently released EP Wires and serenades the crowd with some soulful funk with sexy sax, soothing vocals and excellent chemistry between the bandmates. -RM
Honduras: Speaking of New York bands, there were plenty and plenty of punk acts at CMJ 2015, but few had the sense of rolling rhythms and a sludgy yet poppy sensibility like Brooklyn's Honduras. This four-piece took over Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg on Thursday night and thought their basslines were bouncy and guitar jangly, there was an edge here that helped Honduras break above the other New York inspired and New York rooted bands that overtook the Music Marathon. -CM
Lane 8: Though he was a late addition to the CMJ lineup, San Francisco DJ Lane 8 headlined Verboten Friday night on the New York stop of his Rise tour. One of the very few DJs at CMJ, Lane 8 is one of the more polished acts on the billing having just released his debut artist album Rise and brought plenty of those tracks to the Brooklyn club. With a three hour set (1:30 to 4:30 a.m.) under his control, the American DJ mixed together his own tracks with some harder clubbier tunes. Though it was the latest night of CMJ (leaving the club close to five), it was worth it. -RM