New York City’s annual CMJ music conference/mayhemic melange of gigs is always a head-spinning array of showcases, music, hurried sprints between venues, last minute pizza and searching for a phone charger. This year was no different; for five days, Tuesday through Saturday, NYC was a blur of guitars, synths and dive bars, ringing ears, booze and hand stamps. Y’know. The good stuff. Without further ado, here are Tone Deaf’s awards for CMJ 2015.
‘THE CMJ 2015 TOP NOTCH AWARD aka BEST ON GROUND’: Weaves
Dude. Just, Weaves. Like a Canadian Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but with a sense of humor and even more erratically brilliant, genre-busting jazz-punk riffage, Weaves took hold of Best On Ground on the very first day, and didn’t let go.
Whether it was shredding a packed Pianos and singing through her dress or ending up spread-eagle on the (terrifying) floor of Cake Shop, whatever; Weaves front woman Jasmyn helmed the most inescapably stunning band of the week. They were better than the time my dog jumped on the front of the couch, kept going and his momentum kept the dumb little berk going and he fell straight over the back. It was amazing, and probably the funniest thing that’s ever happened ever.
‘THE DARREN JARMAN MOST BADASS ACT AWARD’: Dilly Dally
Though they didn’t win Best on Ground, Dilly Dally came mighty close; their NME showcase at Santos Party House was one of the most raucous, off-the-chain shows one could ever hope to witness. It was more off the chain than listening to Nick Jonas’ ‘Chains’ and Tina Arena’s ‘I’m In Chains’ back to back for three months.
Their indie sausage-maker grunge-punk jams are more brutally melodic than Frank Black in a blender, and frontwoman Katie Monks would rip your head off and parade it around if you looked at her askance. No shit. Dilly Dally are more real than a kick to the groin from a horse being ridden by Kurt Vile. And huh. It’s weird they’re also Canadian, right? Good job, Canada.
ACT MOST LIKELY TO ELICIT SOMEONE IN THE CROWD YELLING OUT ‘HOT DAMN!’: Wildhoney
So… Wildhoney are pretty incredible. If there were ever a band that, while you were watching them you would be forced by powers outside of your control to scream out ‘HOT DAMN!’ at the top of your lungs, it’d be them.
Baltimore’s Wildhoney scored some pretty mental press when 10,000-odd copies of Lana Del Rey’s 2012 record Born to Die vinyl pressing had their Sleep Through It on side A instead. Many would argue that would be a marked improvement. I would be one of them. Because Wildhoney are fucking great.
*Hey, the best three bands of CMJ were all fronted by women. That’s awesome. Really awesome.
‘BAND MOST LIKELY TO GET YOU DRUNK AND JUMPING AROUND WHILE SOBER’: The Bennies
Just try to watch The Bennies sober. It’s not likely to happen. The current holders of ‘Australia’s Most Party Band’ brought their title belt to the USA and didn’t disappoint with their litany of party-starters like ‘Heavy Disco’, ‘Anywhere You Wanna Go’ and ‘Knights Go On Forever’. Their shows at Niagara and the Delancey were legit mental, and the Bennies operate with their hearts on their sleeve and in their music that’s charming, brilliant and fun as hell.
‘THE AWARD FOR ALMOST DISAPPOINTING BUT STILL WILDLY FUN SHOW’: Superfood
The British band released one of last year’s best records in Don’t Say That — legit, hands down, it’s great — but at the Mercury Lounge they punched through a couple of new songs before kicking into favourites and were charming as hell, but something was kinda lacking. The bassist straight up lost a song and gave up trying to play it — which was something you don’t tend to see often, outside of parties featuring my high school band and my bewildered buddy Jake — but the band soldiered through and they made the most of it.
They still sounded amazing, and they still had a couple of brain-melting moments when they proved to be formidably badass, so they salvaged it. Good job by you, Superfood.
‘THE ACT MOST LIKELY TO FRY YOUR BRAIN AND SMILE WHILE DOING IT’: Total Slacker
I love Total Slacker with a willful abandon that’s reminiscent of how Donald Trump can say dumb, irresponsible shit in public without seeming to give a fuck. Their melodic wall-of-MBV sound is life affirming and bone-rattling in the very best way; there’s nothing you can do but give in, lay back, nod along and surrender. Ssssh. Sssssh. Ssssssssh. It’s okay. Ssssssh.
‘AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF BAND NAME EXCELLENCE’: Sharkmuffin
Sharkmuffin’s grungey, slacker surf-punk is basically the cure to what ails you… if you, say, have an affliction that involves missing great guitar bands with kicks female duos making every dude who ever picked up a guitar look like they don’t know what rock’n’roll is. Apart from Slash. Slash looks like he’s got it pretty sorted. Still. From their name down Sharkmuffin — and with songs named after terrible-tasting booze — are an avalanche of awesome and judging from the times I caught them at CMJ, there will be moments in my life when I want nothing more than to listen to them non-stop for about a month.
‘BEST AUSTRALIAN BAND YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD PEGGED BUT TOTALLY DIDN’T’: Jungle Giants
The new Jungle Giants album Speakerzoid is one of the finest albums of 2015 — Australian or otherwise — and the Brisbane band kinda tossed aside all your expectations of them out the window with it. Because, like, they were a nice, timid indie-pop band. Now they’re a psychedelic hydra, a terrifying rollercoaster-ride of pop insanity all rolled up into a tootsie roll of indie perfection.
I don’t know how they did it, but in NYC The Jungle Giants backed it up with a couple of intimidatingly kickass and funner-than-hell shows. Y’know how weird, super-Christian right wingers get all worried that marriage equality will end up meaning people can marry their lawnmower or some dumb shit, you’d want to marry the elation that’s in the air at a Jungle Giants gig. Hot damn.
Header photo credit: Roger Galvez (via Weaves Facebook)