CMJ Day Five: In Search Of A Happy Ending
Saturday’s Daytrotter/Take the Handle/SnowGhost Music showcase at Brooklyn’s Glasslands Gallery had two things going for it: Wye Oak was on the bill, and it was in the afternoon. Hoping it might end my CMJ coverage on a much-needed high note, I camped out for most of the afternoon and heard some genuinely recommendable music at a lovely, mercifully couch-equipped venue.
For starters, here’s where my CMJ Bingo card stands at the end of the festival: Almost had that diagonal! And for the record I nearly saw a band called I Wrestled a Bear Once, but according to the official rules you have to watch at least one song to mark off the square.
First up was Laura Gibson. I’ve been antagonistic towards solo acoustic sets this week, but Gibson somewhat redeemed the stripped-down singer/songwriter performance for me. While still treading in extremely well-worn territory she has a nuanced way with melodies and song construction, and her soft voice is confident and dynamic. She isn’t doing anything new, but she’s doing it incredibly well. Her music is very pleasant and thoughtful, and sometimes that’s all you really need.
“Come By Storm”
Next was Idolator favorite Wye Oak. If you feel like you hear a lot about this band on the site it’s because they’re just that good. And if you’ve never heard of them I refer you to Maura’s excellent writeup from last year, which is far and away a better and much more skilled description than I could ever conjure; if I may quote directly: ‘…the wall of sound they erected during their set was fortresslike, yet laced with hooks that forced you to focus on individual songs, instead of just the massive amount of noise they were producing.” That’s a perfect way to put it. There’s something enchanted about this band on record, and live they’re even more bewitching, especially for just two people. Their set was disappointingly short, but they played some great-sounding new songs along with a few from If Children.
“I Don’t Feel Young”My favorite Wye Oak song:
Untitled (New song)
“I Want For Nothing” (Another new song)
Next was Cincinnati band Bad Veins. Built around crashing cymbals and soaring vocals, they’re a little hard to warm up to, but about midway through the set they’d charmed me. Unfortunately the songs on their MySpace don’t transmit quite the same energy as did the live show, so I don’t know that I’d necessarily go out of my way to get the album, but I had a nice time hearing them play live.
“Gold and Warm”
The last band I saw was Cut Off Your Hands, a pretty well-hyped powerpop outfit from New Zealand. To my pleasant surprise they were every bit as fun as the hoopla would suggest, with ferocious percussion and killer hooks.
To close out our CMJ coverage, here is my official list of festival favorites: