Needle Hits The Groove at CMJ

Last month I headed off to New York to plant the Needle Hits The Groove Flag all over New York City and delve into abundant offerings at the fantastic CMJ Music Marathon. For a first time visitor to New York it’s quite easy to get distracted with the city itself and my main flaw with the festival was that there was almost too much on. For every band that I wanted to see there were two others who were clashing or partially clashing with them, (it’s not exactly a bad complaint now is it? It’s the kind of flaw CMJ would bring up if it were being interviewed, the positive flaw like “working too hard” and “being too much of a perfectionist”, we’re all guilty of it.) But not one to be dismayed, I scampered throughout the city for 4 days taking numerous subways at all hours to try and make the most of the tight schedule. Here are my picks of the week:

Yo La Tengo – Brooklyn Bowl


Omitted from the official programme I spent the entire first day questioning if it was a filthy rumour or just under publicised. It turned out to be a MOG Music Network party ending the first day of the festival and as the name of the venue suggests, it contains a bowling alley. With jet lag and tourist hangover I was glad that it was some form of noise rock I was attending and nothing involving a laptop. I needed an injection of some form of vitality and with the Jameson as expensive as $8 dollars it wasn’t going to come from the whiskey. The band took to the stage with a baseball game on a giant screen to their side and ripped through a set featuring mostly work from 2009’s “Popular Songs”, yes they were frequently noodling and jamming but with 25 years in the business I don’t think anyone could hold that against them even if at times it felt as if the entire audience were tapping away at their iphones. The set was briefly abandoned so frontman Ira Kaplan would try his luck on the lanes, unfortunately it exclaimed “gutter ball” on his return to the stage. Judging by this new concept tour the band are embarking on, he’s not going to get a chance to practise his bowling anytime soon.

Now the obvious is out of the way, let’s get to the meaty bit – my top new finds from CMJ:

Wild Nothing at Santo’s Party House


Apparently the venue has been closed since, but these boys headed the bill on Wednesday. Previously I was a little underwhealmed by the album, it had some great pop songs on it but I felt it was too much of a nod to the past with some of the rifts sounding like carbon copies of “The Cure” and The Smiths influence was duly noted by any who had professed a liking for the artist. Like Pains of Being Pure at Heart previously, I had liked the overall sound because I liked what the band were obviously listening to and I was quite cynical about seeing how either act could move beyond that. However seeing them life really unearthed the craftsmanship that each song contains, beautiful compsitions played by an incredibly tight band when I had been expecting more of a reliance on samples and drum machines. Wild Nothing is on record a one man show, Jack Tatum, and the addition of a full band live really makes that crucial difference to the songs. The undeniable hooks and melodies are much stronger, much more intense. With Tatum only clocking in at 21 years there is certainly a promise for even better things to come in the future.

Viernes at The Studio at Webster Hall

While nordie boys done good Two Door Cinema Club prepare for their sold out show at Webster Hall,Florida band Viernes take the stage downstairs at The Studio. The Kanine band immediately shake off those lazy “hazy DIY bedroom” tags, offering a set comprising of equal measures pulsing rhythms and synthetic gloss with the odd gritty guitar line enlivening the overall sound. The band’s recent addition of a live drummer also propels the intensity of each track to a different level than recordings and also helps to showcase the musical complexity of their work. Their album Sinister Devices is out now.

Netherfriends at Pete’s Candy Store

Shawn Rosenblatt, the driving force behind Netherfriends, can manage to make the most prolific musicians and creative artists seem lethargic. What does your standard college graduate do with their first free summer? If you want to follow Rosenblatt’s footsteps well you give up your house, get a van and start touring around the US extensively roping in some mates and some stragglers and then, akin to Sufjan’s previous plans, record a song in every state and a stop motion video every day for a year. Personally I feel quite the sloth finding everyday life, a blog and a cat difficult to juggle. However thankfully we’re not dealing with yet another artist whose back story is far superior than their musical offerings. Netherfriends are a psych-pop outfit, however likening him to Panda Bear or any other affiliate of Animal Collective would be simply lazy as there’s more similarities with hook laden and melody driven bands such as Menomena or Shout Out Louds. Netherfriends’ album Barry and Sherry has catapulted into my top albums of the year and Shawn’s blog is also a must see for any music lover/musician that has become a little disillusioned with the music industry.

From talking to the endless promoters, bands and media heads at the festival there seems to be an all round more grounded approach to the big bad world of the music industry. No longer did the artists at the festival seem to be looking to be snapped up by Subpop or Rough Trade or expect that Bradford Cox would stumble upon their set and whisk them off on a European tour with Deerhunter. The reliance on the internet and media as a whole is being shouted about, as is the importance of touring but also how realistic it is that music will not provide a living for every act who release an album. Sean Moore from Viernes summed it up when he said “We don’t play music to pay the mortgage, we make music because we’re compelled to”.

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