When I went to my one and only CMJ Music Marathon showcase last year, it was at Santos Party House (in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood). There were two main stages—one upstairs and one downstairs—with the performances sort of staggered. This was designed (in theory) to allow people to leave one show a little early to catch the next one downstairs and vice versa. Of course, all it takes is one delayed sound check or mechanical problem and you’re an hour behind schedule, which sets off a chain of delays. While I saw plenty of talented artists, I missed out plenty as well because of this delay, including a young Norwegian talent AURORA and a singer/songwriter from Australia named George Maple. Well, what are you gonna do? SH*T happens as they say…I just hope it doesn’t happen on Thursday.
I’ll be attending the New Shapes (with additional support from Neon Gold, National Anthem, Chess Club Records, Nylon Magazine) CMJ showcase at Webster Hall on Thursday, October 15th. It’s worth mentioning that the showcase I went to last year at Santos was ALSO a New Shapes showcase, although I’m pretty sure the delays were all due to technical difficulties at the venue as opposed to the New Shapes or Neon Gold. ANYWAY – this particular showcase will include performances on ALL THREE Webster Hall stages: the super cozy Studio at Webster Hall, the slightly more spacious but still intimate Marlin Room at Webster Hall and the GRAND BALLROOM. I’m choosing to remain optimistic about seeing all of the artists I want to see. Fingers crossed.
Now I’ve been to Coachella, and I’ve been to Governor’s Ball so I think I can handle a concert conflict gracefully (time will tell) but this lineup is a little insane. In the Studio I’m itching to see Powers and Johanan. In the Marlin Room I’ll be going for Elohim and Oscar & The Wolf while in the Grand Ballroom I would like to see Phoebe Ryan, DNCE and Machineheart. While these guys top my list, if I happen to catch one of the other acts—so be it! Discovering new favorites is what CMJ is all about. For tickets, go here (tickets).
I first became aware of LA-based dance-pop duo POWERS from their feature on “Classic” by NYC-based house music duo The Knocks. While the song had been floating around in my musical periphery for MONTHS, it wasn’t until I heard The Jane Doze spin a remix of it at Betty Who‘s birthday celebration/concert performance at the (now shuttered) Westway that I connected the dots and started looking into the singer(s) behind that infectious “YEAH, IT FEELS SO CLASSIC” hook. Now, finally, after releasing a couple of VERY GOOD teaser tracks (“Beat Of My Drum,” “Loved By You“) the duo have unveiled “HOT,” the lead single off their forthcoming EP, Legendary, out October 23rd on Republic Records. Though it clocks in at just over 5 minutes, “Hot” is such a BANGER you don’t even realize how long it is. Typically speaking when you have a duo, you’ve got one person handling the vocals and one on the production, however POWERS is equal opportunity. POWERS is singer/songwriter/producer (and Alex Da Kid protegé) Mike Del Rio (he worked on Cheryl Cole‘s “Under The Sun“) and songwriter Crista Ru and the two of them split up the singing duties, with Crista singing lead on songs like “Classic” and “Loved By You” and Mike taking lead on “Beat of My Drum” and current single “Hot.” Teamwork! I like it!
In his review of the new single, my favorite New Zealand-based British blogger Chartshaker calls “Hot” the “audio love child of a Frankie Goes To Hollywood/Charli XCX recording session”—a bang on comparison if you ask me. I’d like to think Gregg Alexander‘s 90s pop/rock outfit the New Radicals were still around, they’d be emanating a similar “Hot” vibe. The tune is pure electronic bliss mixing elements of disco, and retro-infused pop to create the ultimate floor-stomper. Powers is by HANDS-DOWN my most-anticipated CMJ performance this week.
If you live in or around NYC you have 4 opportunities to see these guys live—Wednesday October 14th at the Good Room in Brooklyn, on Thursday (October 15th) at the Studio at Webster Hall or Rockwood Stage 2 and on Friday October 16th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. For info and tickets check out POWERS‘ Facebook page.
Another one of my CMJ MUST-SEEs is LA-based singer/songwriter/producer ELOHIM. This mysterious electronic-pop goddess first grabbed my attention on the catchy as F**K “She Talks To Much,” followed by her glitchy synth masterpiece “Xanax” (both championed by Zane Lowe on Beats 1). “She Talks Too Much” now boasts over 800K streams on Spotify, with remixes from BECOME (of the EXGF collective), Gosh Pith and COIN. Now, ahead of her debut NYC live shows ELOHIM is back with another stunner—THIS time a sultry remix of “All That Gold” by Epic Records hip-hop recording artist Casey Veggies. ELOHIM appeared on the original version of former Odd Future member Casey Veggies‘ song, produced by Rock Mafia (Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber) which you can listen to here. ELOHIM sings over sexy synth lines, finger snaps and Veggies himself rapping (“Where you tryin’ to go with all that gold”). While Veggies is virtually MIA from the track now, the remix doesn’t lose that original hip-hop edge which made it such a delicious ear worm to begin with.
ELOHIM is scheduled to perform two CMJ showcases this week—first being at Piano‘s (October 14th) for Crack in the Road/Disco Naïveté and the second being at Webster Hall (October 15th) for New Shapes/Neon Gold. I’m particularly excited about seeing this one live after reading glowing reviews following her live debut in San Francisco (Popscene) and London with her performance in the latter city hailed as “one of the best UK debuts we’ve ever seen” by New Shapes. “She Talks Too Much” / “Xanax” is available as a double A-Side Single via B3SCI Records on limited edition 12″ black vinyl (buy it here).
I had the pleasure of seeing (and meeting) young LA-based singer/songwriter Phoebe Ryan when she was in New York City opening for Swedish synthpop sister act Say Lou Lou. I was so taken with her seemingly sweet and friendly stage persona that I knew I had to meet her at the merch table, so I proceeded to buy a copy of latest release on vinyl. We chatted for a brief moment and she signed my EP – proving to be just as sweet off stage as she was on. While I had seen people talking about Phoebe on Twitter, it wasn’t until I knew I’d be seeing her live that I actually went and listened to her music.
Of course I was instantly smitten with her creative and insanely catchy R. Kelly/Miguel mashup (“Ignition”/”Do You”) but it was “Mine,” the latest single and title track off her debut EP (out now via Columbia Records – iTunes / Spotify) that really grabbed me and took hold. The song’s smart pop production complements Phoebe’s breathy vocal style without overpowering her light, airy—almost ethereal tone. An accomplished songwriter in her own right, having written songs for Be a Miller, Oh Honey and others—Ryan focuses less on unnecessary vocal acrobatics and more on intelligent songwriting, infusing her own quirky personality and wit into her music. So…to recap…fresh, contemporary pop production—CHECK. A fresh, youthful songwriting style—CHECK. Ethereal vocals with some underlying grit and edge—CHECK. Phoebe Ryan is a quintessential future pop star.
While she JUST concluded a cross-country jaunt with Say Lou Lou, Phoebe Ryan is back on the road—this time opening for indie-pop foursome Smallpools on their ‘American Love’ tour alongside Machineheart. Thursday’s New Shapes CMJ Showcase (tickets) will feature performances from both Smallpools and Machineheart in the Grand Ballroom at Webster Hall. Be sure and check out Phoebe Ryan‘s website for a full list of tour dates and check out the music video for her single “Mine” below.
While POWERS, ELOHIM and Phoebe Ryan top my list of ‘Must-Sees‘ for this CMJ showcase on Thursday, there are some other acts playing Webster Hall that night that I’m anxious to see live so I thought I’d share a song by each just to give you a little taste.
Swedish singer/songwriter Johanan made waves across the blogosphere back in August with “Go On (Let It Go)“—a unique and beautifully understated drum & synth stunner released August 6th (Neon Gold Records). Listen through to the end for a gorgeous sprinkling of piano followed by a big crescendo into a final chorus of echoey chants. Johanan‘s new single, “Holy Spirit” is available to stream now (Spotify).
Signed to Republic Records, DNCE is a new band featuring Joe Jonas (of Jonas Brothers fame) on lead vocals, JinJoo Lee (who has played for Jordin Sparks, Charli XCX, CeeLo Green) on guitar/background vocals, Jack Lawless (of Semi Precious Weapons) on drums and Cole Whittle on bass/background vocals. Their first single, “Cake By The Ocean” is an up-tempo, disco-influenced BOP-and-a-half, produced by Swedish duo Mattman & Robin (Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo) and co-written with Justin Tranter (Hailee Steinfeld, Selena Gomez).
OSCAR & THE WOLF
I don’t know much about Oscar & The Wolf, other than that they are a four-piece electropop band from Belgium and that the lead singer of the band, Max Colombie is sexy as f**k. Founded in 2010, Oscar & The Wolf released their debut album Entity at home in April 2014, when it was hailed by one Belgian publication as “the best Belgian debut” of the year. Listen to the Embody remix of “Undressed,” taken from the band’s debut album.
Machineheart is an LA-based five piece indie-pop outfit signed to Columbia Records and currently touring with Smallpools (opening alongside fellow indie-pop darling Phoebe Ryan). Featuring Stevie Scott on lead vocals, check out “Best Thing” from the band’s incredibly fun and upbeat debut 4-track EP, In Your Dreams (iTunes / Spotify), out now to download and stream. For a full list of Machineheart tour dates check out their official website.