Friday, October 19, 2007

CMJ: Day 2

More CMJ coverage can be found in the WSN Arts Blog.

Day two featured a lineup of mostly unknowns. At times, I wasn't even sure what the name of the band on stage was, but as usual, unfamiliarity wasn't a huge obstacle to enjoyment. I made a quick stop at the day stage in the Puck Building, ran home and finished writing about the previous night, and rest of the night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Good times.

Anna Ternheim

Stockholm, Sweden's Anna Ternheim crafts mellow love songs. Her vocals were restrained but strong, filling the spacious showcase room despite the constant traffic filtering through the Puck building. Ternheim played acoustic guitar, later switching to piano, and a variety of electronic effects accompanied her, adding percussion and even strings to the mix. While the gist of her subject matter was unremarkable, she approached the concept of love from a variety of angles, with songs about perfect and unhealthy relationships alike. With her subtle accented delivery and unique instrumentation, Ternheim managed to filter the typical singer-songwriter guise through a Swedish perspective.

Anna plays again on Friday night at the Living Room.

MySpace: Anna Ternheim
Official Site: Anna Ternheim

Cadence Weapon

Due to a scheduling swap, Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon began the night with a tiny crowd in attendance, but he used what he had to the fullest extent. DJ Weez-l provided the thudding bass and scratching flourishes, while Weapon lived up to his name, energetically kicking and punching his way across the stage. His vocals were an endless torrent of places, names and actions, at once overwhelming and impressive for the uninitiated listener. The scattered audience did what it could, yelling back the last two words in the refrain, “I made a deal today/We’re selling real estate!” Weapon would later dash through said crowd and make a verbal jab at the natives (“How ‘bout those Mets?”), but still received healthy applause.

Cadence Weapon plays Crashin' In on Friday. This will be a recurring theme; it's going to be awesome.

MP3: Cadence Weapon - Sharks
MP3: Cadence Weapon - Black Hand
MySpace: Cadence Weapon
Official Site: Cadence Weapon


Yeasayer began with ethereal synths, but their organic four part harmonies and sweeping songs were what really impressed. Frontman Chris Keating’s soulful falsetto and the band’s tribal additions were reminiscent of their fellow Brooklynites TV on the Radio, but their avant garde qualities did not diminish their accessibility. Keating seemed taken aback by the healthy sized crowd in attendance, kidding “If you don’t have a badge, can you please leave?” He would later pause to retrieve a text message (allegedly from his mom) to the amusement of his band mates. Jokes aside, it was an incredibly refreshing performance.

MP3: Yeasayer - 2080
MP3: Yeasayer - Sunrise
MySpace: Yeasayer
Official Site: Yeasayer

Alberta Cross

Alberta Cross does not hail from the Great White North, but are rather a London quartet which arrived in New York just two days prior to the show. Anglo origin aside, the group borrowed more from Southern blues, as evidenced by singer Petter Stakee’s wail. Although the band vowed to “bring it up a notch” mid-set, the resulting sound remained muddled and unimpressive, failing to capture the audience through lyrics or harmony. Perhaps for the better, the band departed abruptly, and a lone call for an encore was laced with sympathy.

MySpace: Alberta Cross
Official Site: Alberta Cross

Sam Champion

Despite the singular name (which belongs to a local weatherman), Brooklyn quartet Sam Champion had a very communal structure. The band was bolstered with the addition of “Brother Michael on the extra stuff,” and they’d later be joined by a Holly on tambourine and backup vocals. For the finale, audience members were invited onstage to chip in whatever percussion they could offer. The band’s sound was suitably direct, its members grooving along to guitar crunches that were straightforward and gratifyingly loud. Vocal responsibilities were divvied up amongst three band members, but were secondary to the band’s rocking instruments.

MySpace: Sam Champion
Official Site: Sam Champion


A laborious sound check hinted at the technologic leanings of Foals, but it wasn’t until the band (finally) started playing that their skill was fully revealed. The Oxford quintet occupies a strange but fascinating territory between the manic Klaxons and cerebral Battles, blending the former’s jumpy English vocals with the latter’s extended song durations and technical prowess. The self-proclaimed “Mathletes” were equally notable for their musical prowess and amazing ability to turn the crowd into a dance party. Instead of facing said crowd, the band was positioned inwardly, resembling a tightly compressed colony of molecules that were in continuous motion – as we all were during the set.

Foals play Crashin' In on Friday.

MySpace: Foals

A Place To Bury Strangers

A Place To Bury Strangers must have concluded that the surest way to the grave is through the eardrum. The trio was traumatizing loud, a shoegazing behemoth that discarded the genre’s melodic leanings for a volume that approached assault and battery. A lattice of lights gave the set a surreal feel, but the unavoidable roar of the noise, some of which seemed to be digital, overcame any notions of abstraction. Oliver Ackermann’s deadpan vocals seemed unnecessary amongst his guitar pyrotechnics, although he was quite compelling while unstringing his guitar during a strobe light sequence. A Place To Bury Strangers are quite deserving of the title of “the loudest band in New York,” but it remains unclear if there is much substance beyond the noise.

A Place To Bury Strangers play Crashin' In on Friday.

MySpace: A Place To Bury Strangers
Official Site: A Place To Bury Strangers


Scot said...

Hey Roland,

Saturday I'm going to the early part of a showcase at The Delancey - catching The Secret Life of Sofia - then Midnight Juggernauts and Justice at Terminal 5. After that I have a couple guilty pleasures coming up. I'm too embarrassed to tell.

Happy CMJ!

Anonymous said...

Your review of Alberta Cross is narrow and unjust. Please remember the context with which they played their set...their genre of music did not really blend well with the rest of the bill nor with the tastes of the crowd. That is the fault of their promoter. And considering that they went in with one or two people knowing anything about them, I'd say they did pretty well. Also, IMO, they did bring it up a notch mid-set. And unlike so many indie bands splashed across the CMJ bill that simply fill silence with generic guitar riffs and fluffy song material, they were selective with their instrumentation and extremely poignant with their lyrics. Alberta Cross evokes a spirt in their music and I sense genius in their frontman.
I believe it was not for the better that Alberta Cross departed abruptly. Its a shame that you did not appreciate what they had to offer. I eagerly await their return stateside and hope that this time you walk in with a more open mind and widen your parameters of what truly good music is. In the meanwhile, I challenge you to buy their self-produced record "The Thief and the Heartbreaker" and give it a listen. FYI - That call for an encore was filled with praise, not sympathy.

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