5 Awesome Music Finds from A CMJ First-Timer

Penguin Prison

It’s a good sign of a band’s impact when five days after CMJ began, you’re still humming along to a tune first heard on Day One. 2011’s CMJ, aka College Music Journal’s Music Marathon, has come to an end. As one of New York’s most trusted music events – exposing artists to fans and the music industry alike, it’s a great place to go hunting for great new music. As it turns out, the hunt didn’t require too much effort on this newbie’s part – just a willingness to trek across the city to various music hotspots and an ability to consume one too many whiskeys, all in the name of rock ‘n roll.

Now who would dare complain about that?

Find of Day 1: Penguin Prison
Recommended by: my fellow music-and-movie fanatic Stevie Wong
Why I’m passing the recommendation on: This electro-indie four-piece from Brooklyn has the beats and the vocals to warrant all the love the audience was giving them in the tightly-packed venue of Dominion. Falsetto choruses, with lyrics about the joys of love (feeling like a Multi-Millionaire) and its perils (Don’t Fuck with My Money), as well as a few Michael Jackson-esque uh’s and umcha’s thrown in, make up this group’s mix. If you like to dance away any cares troubling you in the spheres of love, life and everything else, you’ll love them as much as I now do.

Also check out their cheeky single here.

Find of Day 2: We Are Augustines
Recommended by: a bit of a fluke, as I happened to have missed Zola Jesus at the KEXP showcase at The Ace Hotel but was in time to catch this band
Why I’m passing the recommendation on: The way that lead singer Billy McCarthy sings “as long as my heart keeps pumping blood” has such urgent sincerity to it that you’re compelled to keep listening to everything else he has to sing. When he opens his mouth to let those notes, and all they represent, fall out of his mouth it’s from somewhere so deep inside that you can see his fillings. Clicking on the ‘story’ link of the band’s website, gives some understanding as to where it all comes from. But that’s just one part of this band’s enduring journey. Passion-powered indie rock at its best.

Find of Day 3: Clubfeet
Recommended by: my brother, again – he’s two for two!
Why I’m passing the recommendation on: Clubfeet is made up of five Australians (one who was born in South Africa), who swing from singing frivolous and funky choruses like “hold your hand up to mine, count your lovers from one to nine”, to the more ernest “teenage suicide, don’t do it”, and still sound just as good in both instances. Indie-inflected dance music, which, just as their tagline states, can be enjoyed just as much at night-time as it can in the day-time (although it does help if one is in a darkened club during said day).

Clubfeet – Count Your Lovers (ElI Escobar Club Mix) by helloclubfeet

Find of Day 4: Boy & Bear
Recommended by: Universal Republic’s Natalie Hapgood
Why I’m passing the recommendation on: This one happens to be another Australian act, but it’s also another goodie. The band plays a brand of folk rock that’s more rock than folk but has touches of Mumford&Sons and Crosby, Stills, Nash&Young in there too. They also do a gorgeous rendition of Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet. But in the story of Boy & Bear, that’s just an added bonus.

Find of Day 5Gotye
Recommended by: I knew about this Aussie wunderkind before, but my Oz-based, in-the-music-know friend Brett Schwepps had alerted me to his NY gigs during CMJ
Why I’m passing the recommendation on: If you haven’t been hooked onto the genius that is the multi-skilled Belgium-Australian musician Wouter “Wally” De Backer, who goes by the moniker of Gotye, then this is your last chance for redemption. His single Somebody That I Used to Know has been flying high on the Billboard charts, but that’s not the reason why you need to know him. It’s the layers that he weaves into his music and his stage show, which come together to help create a fresh take on pop – glockenspiel and all.

Acts I Didn’t See But Have Noted Down Their Future Gigs (and You Should Too):

Zola Jesus

Chair Lift 

Alabama Shakes

Dum Dum Girls


  1. Gotye (how DO you pronounce that? We’ve yet to settle on the correct way.) Somebody That I Used To Know is incredible. Jonathan has been playing that practically on repeat for the last couple weeks.

    “it’s from somewhere so deep inside that you can see his fillings.” Great line! :)

  2. It’s pronounced almost like Jean-Paul Gaultier – I battled with it too! He’s back in NY early next year so that’s good news!

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