Nonstop Sound Recaps CMJ

Your loyal Nonstop Sound writers braved the rain, the crowds and the hype of CMJ all last week to cut through the crud of the some-1,200 bands finding their way to stages across New York. To save you the slog, here's the best and worst of what we saw.

Most Overblogged Band: Nerves Junior
Yes, Nerves Junior put out one of the year's most impressive debuts. But what's been described as a meltdown by frontman Cory Wayne at the Consequence of Sound party Saturday shows us the ills of the hype machine -- an over-confident rock 'n' roll mentality built out of blogspeak rather than the slog of the tour. To be fair, Nerves pulled off a simmering, sultry show on Tuesday. Maybe Saturday's gaffes were just a result of too much partying. - Dale W. Eisinger

Best Budget Arena Rock: A Place To Bury Strangers
A Place To Bury Strangers emerged from the Death By Audio basement to tour with Nine Inch Nails and record for Mute. The Brooklyn veterans treated their set at the tiny Union Pool like they were headlining Madison Square Garden: massive guitar riffs, room-filling atmosphere and a budget light show that nearly blinded the already disoriented audience. OK, so they would probably would have had to focus on their hookier numbers if the were actually playing an arena on Wednesday, but the commitment to scope and volume was there. - Michael Tedder

Best Australian Trio: Young Magic
Young Magic deserves a mention if only for making the trek from so far away. The skinny, sexy Aussies come off moodier and beat-heavier than on tape, swimming in otherworld vocal harmony and boom-bap electro pop. The band's live show seriously knocks the viewer flat in its force and aura, lying somewhere between the desert and the dancefloor. - DWE

Most Consistently Great New York Band: Widowspeak
Molly Hamilton, Robert Earl Thomas and Michael Stasiak -- the Brooklyn trio known as Widowspeak -- performed all week the solid show they've been honing for the last year. If the band's debut for Captured Tracks wasn't enough for you, Widowspeak's understated live sets should be enough to bring you around by now. - DWE

Best Couple: Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls and Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles
The husband and wife both put on solid sets of noisy, wiry pop on Friday at the Bowery Ballroom. Both had their spotty parts: the backing vocals for Dum Dum Girls were mixed too low for most of the set, and it took Crocodiles some time to find their on-stage footing. But they made for an adorable pair of reverb fiends. The Dum Dum Girls came onstage to lead a “happy birthday” sing-a-long for Crocodiles guitarist Charles Roswell, and then Dee Dee sat in with the band for a song that was filled with dissonance and moony eyes. - MT

Most Popular and Yet Ill-Suited CMJ Venue: Cakeshop
Get past the front row of smartphones and photographers and you'll maybe catch a glimpse of the act you're there to see. Cakeshop's popularity during CMJ might owe to its limited capacity -- exclusivity by default -- or its location on the main drag of Ludlow Street. Whatever it is, hundreds of CMJ-ers crammed into the basement tunnel day in and day out last week. The highlight had to be the Life or Death PR showcase -- a disparate, at times terrifying display of hip-hop, psychedelic and hardcore that went on well past 3 a.m. Thursday. (This ended with Stalley: stay tuned for Nonstop's second interview with the Maybach Music Group up-and-comer.) Yes, it's a great venue for what it has, but frustrating for what it doesn't: more space. - DWE

Best Performance By A Band With A Generic Name: Weekend
I had not paid much attention to Weekend, partly out of the assumption that any band with a generic name must make generic music and because I got them confused with all the other bands called Weekend. I was happy to get reminded that there’s more to a band than there name when the San Francisco group coated The Cameo with feedback-drench pop that owed as much to Spaceman 3 as The Strokes during their set at the Popgun and Weird Vibes showcase on Thursday night. - MT

Best Performance By A Band With A Goofy Name: Gauntlet Hair
Not sure what their moniker means, but the Denver group turned in a solid performance at Union Pool on Wednesday, mixing clean, melodic guitar lines reminiscent of Husker Du and Superchunk with hefty doses of thick, murky crunch. Why choose between bringing back early ’90s college rock and early ‘90s grunge when you can bring them both back at the same time? - MT

Best Band Without an Album Out: Purity Ring
More suited to late-night hours than the two daytime shows we saw, Purity Ring culls a strange darkness that has as much to do with sound as it does presentation. Obviously indebted to The Knife in its synth-pop influence, the band still manages to sound largely original, thanks primarily to the vocals and stage presence of Megan James. Our favorite moments? The odd instruments James employs, including a massive bass drum and what we believe are light theramins. Expect an album from the duo in early 2012. - DWE

Best Band for a Hangover: Conveyor
These New York rock-folkies sounded perfectly lucid Saturday afternoon at Pianos. There's something gentle yet immediate about what Conveyor is doing -- the heart is definitely on the sleeve. Robin Pecknold is an obvious touchstone in the vocals, but Conveyor takes a few more experimental leaps than Fleet Foxes, particularly in its abstract guitar work. Regardless of foothold, it went down like the much-needed hair of the dog.  - DWE

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