Five Bands To Catch At This Year’s CMJ Music Marathon

People dance spasmodically and have fun at one of CMJ’s past concert events. (Deneka Peninston/Courtesy of the CMJ Music Marathon)

People dance spasmodically and have fun at one of CMJ’s past concert events. (Deneka Peninston/Courtesy of the CMJ Music Marathon)


As the sweltering summer heat gives way to a pleasant autumn cool, over 100,000 strangers will all pack into sweaty venues across the city to listen to some of the best new music in the world.

From Oct. 16-20, CMJ Music Marathon will be returning for its 32nd year of concentrated mania. During the five-day run, the festival will pack over 1,300 artists into 80 venues scattered throughout Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some of the big names this year include Ghostface Killah, The Walkmen, Kimbra, and The Mountain Goats, but as always the real excitement of the event comes from the thousands of undiscovered talents.

It’s a wonderful thing to be overwhelmed with so many exciting artists; though admittedly, this many options can be daunting. To lift some of the burden off your shoulders and place it on our own, The Observer has sifted through this deluge of talent and picked out the most exciting for your consideration. Here are our top five.


Gold and Youth

This exciting four-piece from Vancouver have a restrained, slick sound to their music, driven by floating synths and steady bass lines. Recently, they released their first single “Time To Kill,” which reveals a keen ability to build powerful and catchy hooks around deceivingly basic songs.

The track starts with a simple melody sung over sparse instrumentation. Drums enter the mix for the second verse, followed by a more aggressive bass track, ending in a crescendo of layered vocals and spaced-out guitars. See them now and tell your kids you got to see them before they were huge.


King Tuff

A line from the official artist description of King Tuff reads, “Will somebody please snap a photo of this animal before it escapes back into the wilderness from which it came?!!!” It’s a rather apt characterization of this bewildering, yet captivating artist with a talent for creating some of the most addicting straight-up rock tunes in recent memory.

His latest self-titled batch of songs appeared last May to praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and a slew of other taste making music sources. Standouts like “Alone & Stoned” and “Bad Thing” show off King Tuff’s quirky, rollicking  style in all of its confounding glory.


Electric Guest

2012 has been a good year for this L.A. group thanks to grooving songs and a fortuitous relationship with Danger Mouse, who produced their debut album “Mondo.” The songs are catchy and danceable, and frontman Asa Taccone’s vocals, which switch between a smooth falsetto and jazzy crooning, give the tunes a distinct flavor.

Since their album debuted, the buzz surrounding this three-piece has been skyrocketing. The group has been making the summer rounds on the international festival circuit and even stopped for an appearance on David Letterman. There they played the single “This Head I Hold,” an up-tempo gem that showcases the band in top form.


Com Truise

While the name is enough to encourage a listen, Com Truise is among the most exciting electronic musicians playing CMJ this year. Seth Haley, the man behind the moniker, has been perfecting his style of trippy electronic songs for some years now, but is just beginning to make a name for himself as a performer.

Expect schizophrenic synths, warped melodies and deep bass— the characteristic elements of his sound— when Haley takes the stage. It’s a good bet that this is going to be a mesmerizing set.


Bear Hands

The Brooklyn indie-rock quartet Bear Hands has been around since 2006. It’s quite possible you’ve already caught them live if you’ve been to any indie concert of late— they’ve open for the likes of MGMT, The xx, Vampire Weekend and other big acts. If not, CMJ is your chance to catch them as they strike out on their own.

The band mixes syncopated rhythms with high-pitched vocals and staccato guitar lines to create a sound that demands attention. With a new EP out this year, even those already familiar with the band will get the chance to see them tackle the new material in a live venue. And for the uninitiated, prepare for a live show that you won’t forget for quite some time.