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.
Let’s get right to it. Swear and Shake is a newly-formed band based out of New York. When I say ‘new’ I mean really new; like, still covered in afterbirth ‘new.’ The band debuted in 2010 and released their first full album, Maple Ridge, a year later. Within that period, they earned mega praise from notable sources including Newsday and The Deli, not to mention countless gigs at prime NY real estate like Arlene’s Grocery and the Knitting Factory. Not bad for a band trying to make good in a city of 8 million.
Only in New York is a folk band followed by a super-hipindie pop outfit. Fellow NYers Snowmine were certainly the wild cards of the night. Looking like they were fresh off the plane from 1980s Berlin (post-Wall of course), these guys oozed cool. I felt cooler in their presence, which is a sad sort of reality. And okay, they’re not just a band of pretty faces; judging by the complexity of the live show, I’d say they are also major tech geeks. Frontman Grayson Sanders calls himself a “new-classical composer.” It’s difficult to type that out and not loathe his being, but actually, the title fits. The songs on Laminate Pet Animal contain intricacies that were probably not discovered by strumming a guitar in the coffee shop. Snowmine are very much 21st century musicians in that they mix multi-genre beats with stylized niches like electronica, funk/dance, tribal, classical; the result is highly schizophrenic, but they pull it off (listen to the fabulous “Beast in Air, Beast in Water” for example). Live, this was quite a spectacle to behold. Armed with a giant keyboard/mixer thing, Sanders, resembling something of a soundman gone rogue, dazzled the audience with his deft hands and psychedelic white-boy soul. Listen to a live recording of “Hologram” here.
“Take Me Home” is absolutely tits: snappy electro-funk-meets-downtown dance dive, as realized by a hip suburban jazz choir.
As my time at CMJ came to an end, I realized I knew exactly what Joey Tempest felt when he boldly declared to the world of Swedish glam rock: “We’re leaving together, but still it’s farewell. And maybe we’ll come back to earth, who can tell?” I think he was saying “don’t be sad, college music fans. There’s always next year.”
(Editor's note: Read about Warren Zevon's song here: Songs About Werewolves.)