The annual CMJ festival starts Tuesday, October 18 and indie rock fans all over New York are pouring over the schedule to ensure they see all the best shows. With a roster of over 1,200 artists and venues spread throughout the city, seeing everything you want can be overwhelming, if not impossible. While buzz bands and breakout stars seem to dominate the headlines, many don't live up to the praise. However, there are a few shows guaranteed to be worth checking out. Below are my top 10.
Phoenix & Dirty Projectors
Chances are if you're interested in CMJ or have eardrums, you've heard of at least one of these bands. Phoenix sings the inescapable "1901" and the Dirty Projectors constantly impress with their innovative, experimental sounds. It is inarguably one of the best shows of the festival.
School of Seven Bells
This is another band you are sure to see on plenty of Top 10's and for good reason. Unaffected and backed by electronics, this will be an opportunity to check out how they sound as a duo after band member Claudia Deheza quit earlier this month.
Angus and Julia Stone
A favorite of Natalie Portman, this twee folk band just hit platinum status with the highest-selling album in 2010 in just 2 months in their homeland of Australia and are up for six ARIA awards.
Elizabeth and the Catapult
Berkley alums living in Brooklyn, they manage to make pop music smart and sophisticated. They release their second album, "The Other Side of Zero," on Oct. 26, so listeners may get a first taste of what Elizabeth Ziman describes as "more in the vein of Kubrick or Lynch. It's a bit darker, a bit more tongue-in-cheek, another side to who we are."
Post-Punk group the Drums have a poppy sound mixed with something else I can't quiet place my finger on. Basically, they sound like what would happen if Frankie Valley were to team up with Joy Division to throw a beach party on the concrete blocks of Brooklyn.
Jukebox the Ghost
This band plays simple, fun, catchy tunes and has opened for Moldy Peaches and Ben folds to give you an idea of the crowd they cater to. It's the kind of music that just makes you smile.
I can count on my hand the number of times I have seen people dance (or sway back and forth with actual emotion) at a show. Classic rock revivalists Rival Sons was one of these. They play music from the Golden Age of Rock with originality. Go and watch the drummer.
Maybe Shwayze could be your "Corona and Lime"? That song along with "Buzzin" both hit the Billboard charts and made them decently well known along with their MTV show Buzzin. It's fun and I'll admit that I agree with Mischa Barton on at least one thing: Cisco Adler is kind of hot, ladies.
Pearl and the Beard
If Andrew Lloyd Weber were to make folk musicals set around a campfire, they would sound like Pearl and the Beard. Theatrical and sweeping, the sometimes depressing and heart wrenching lyrics are underscored by happy, bouncy melodies.
Chappo describes their music as a "cross pollination of indie pop and space rock. It's The Rolling Stones in space and like The Flaming Lips without gravity."Pitchfork has called them "an excellently overstuffed garage-psych sound." Basically, they play rock that is out of the world -- and they've been known to wear sequins.