The College Music Journal’s (CMJ) annual showcase of rising talent in both music and film is a veritable wet dream for musicians and pop culture nerds alike.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday’s CMJ adventure was a bit of a bust. Riot Act Media presented a happy hour showcase at Pete’s Candy Store—a hip bar in Williamsburg, roughly the same size and shape as your average Williamsburg apartment. Unfortunately, due to popularity (which is not a bad thing), it was impossible to squeeze into the tiny backroom where music was happening. Instead, we bemoaned our defeat by sampling the “happy hour” portion of the evening. If you’re at all curious what was missed, check out the following musicians that were in attendance, or visit Riot Act’s website (linked above): Brooklyn crooner Patrick Bower; the moody, orchestral Gabriel & the Hounds; Julie Ann Bee’s whimsy project Sea of Bees; and the waltz-lovin’ Robin Bacior.
Saturday was far more lucrative. As chance would have it, I caught the entire Lovely Hearts Club showcase at the Living Room. The lineup included a sampling of the Paper Garden Records label (in order of appearance): Belgrave, Gun Lake, Swear and Shake, Snowmine, and perennial W♥M faves Team Genius.
I missed Belgrave's first song. I’m hoping it was good but not too good, you know? I wouldn’t want to journey through life feeling as though I missed that one time when the clouds parted and God emerged to reveal some heavenly secrets (like why the Virgin Mary appears in pancakes but not breakfast burritos. Surface area?). However, if anyone could coax Him to play an encore, it would be Montreal natives Belgrave, as they specialize in the kind of soaring chamber pop that shoots for the stars, so to speak. “Tokyo” is a perfect example of a song with big dreams—rich, melodic layers, Trevor Boucher’s agile vocal chords, lovey lyrics; it all culminates with a head-thrown-back-arms-spread-wide chorus thatdelivers a romantic punch right to your cynical, beer-filled belly. How’s that for an out of body experience?
I’m happy to report that Gun Lake met—then surpassed—all region-specificexpectations. Besides a knack for crafting interesting prose, every singing member has a voice like a rugged, Liberal Arts-educated angel. You know you’re in the presence of skilled musicians when they can jump from verse to flawlessly harmonized chorus without breaking a sweat (or breaking in pitch). Gun Lake provedfaithfulto this technique on their debut album Balfour; notably on the dusky ballad “Cliffhanger.” Live, the band didn’t really deviate from their pitch-perfect formula, and why would they? Highlights included “Cliffhanger,” which opened their set if I’m remembering correctly, and my favorite of the evening, “Trees,” a subtle waltz that almost reads as modern folklore. Listen to a live recording of “Trees” here.
Up next: Day 2, Part 2