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CMJ 2014 highlights

Kate Boy, Dej Loaf and a whole lot of bands from Down Under made the CMJ Music Marathon exciting this year.

The members of Kate Boy are way more engaging than this photo might lead you to beSacks & Co.

The CMJ Music Marathon received an unwanted push in publicity on Friday when it was revealed that Dr. Craig Spencer, New York’s first Ebola patient, had been to a Brooklyn venue where CMJ events were happening the night before he was diagnosed. But that didn’t stop more than a thousand bands from playing for thousands of fans. Here are a few acts we think you’ll be hearing more from.

Also, to avoid any reaction of "How could they not have included [insert awesome band] in their roundup?" be sure to check out our first installment of CMJ coverage here.

Kate Boy is not the name of a specific woman, rather it’s the name of a band fronted by Kate Akhurst. Flanked by Swedish producers Markus Dextegen and Hampus Nordgren, Akhurst pumps her fists, shouts anthemic call-to-arms choruses, wails on electronic drums and other percussive instruments and dances aggressively in the space between the two Swedes. The sound is adrenalized dance music and part of what makes it so exciting is that in addition to the electronic sounds, Nordgren plays bass guitar live. With so much dance music made on computers, it's refreshing to see such a simple instrument grounding it.
Pat Healy

Detroit upstart DeJ Loaf rang in CMJ's opening night with a momentous occasion of her own — her first NYC performance. Headlining Noisey's showcase of quickly-rising talent, the scrappy MC brought her undeniably silky voice and menacing lyrics to a packed crowd at Santos Party House just a day after releasing her Sell Sole mixtape. Backed by her mother, who serves as her enthusiastic hypewoman, Dej also drew support from New York heavyweights Jadakiss and Remy Ma, who popped in to deliver verses over the Detroit rapper's "Try Me" anthem. It was a torch-passing moment if there ever was one, the kind that CMJ is all about.
Dan Buyanovsky

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Sensuous, expansive vocals layered over electronic beats defines Tei Shi, the Columbian singer now based in Brooklyn. Songwriter Valerie Teicher follows the recent trend of alternative R&B (see FKA Twigs, How to Dress Well and Miguel), a genre which mixes electronics, pop and hip hop, but her delicate-yet-upbeat tunes are in their own realm. Best for a post-party wind-down, tracks like "Nevermind the End" and her radio-friendly new single "Bassically" capitalize on her broad vocal range.
Chris Leo Palermino

Within CMJ, rock and pop seem to dominate but gems like rising New York hip hop group Ratking remind us that 'rockism' just isn't fair. On the heels of "So It Goes," their debut album which glimpses into and commentates the New York City life, we caught the crew on the outskirts of the city within close quarters at the nondescript Trans-Pecos music space deep in Brooklyn. Falling within Wu-Tang and Kanye West's realm, the group spits with the excitement of a new group. They've been rising in NYC's difficult scene recently and they're bound to pop onto bigger bills soon.
CLP

Sun Club, a hirsute five-piece from Baltimore had the audacity to take the stage to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”at their Saturday gig at Brooklyn Night Bazaar. The band also have the audacity to mix dashes of calypso into their punky poppy emo-oh-oh-oh songs. They jump around onstage like kids jumping on the bed asserting dominance over the babysitter, and they fling their hair around like they had been waiting all of their young lives to have hair that long, just so they could fling it around while playing these infectiously catchy songs.
PH

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are not your traditional jam band. These Aussies (man, with SPOOKYLAND and Saskwatch in the mix, it seems we really liked the sounds from Down Under this year) do stretch out their songs to epic lengths, but they don’t get lost in noodling and their unique instrumentation sets them apart. They have a harmonica and tambourine player, two drummers, a bassist and three guitarists, including a singer who rocks out like Angus Young and switches between guitar and flute. Two observations ...
One: A lot of their jams end up sounding like "L.A. Woman" for some reason.
Two: A flute and a harmonica sound really cool together.
PH

We've missed Literature, the Philly-based jangly pop group, every time they've been in town so we were quite glad to see them this week. Noted California dream pop label Slumberland recently picked them up and they're a match made in heaven: the four-piece will undoubtably appeal to labelmates Stereolab and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They're certainly a scrappy indie rock group at heart, hitting the touring road hard but still giving it all in performance. If you've never seen a rocker emphatically point at the crowd during a chorus, catch Literature before that crowd gets bigger. They have been compared to The Kinks, after all.
​CLP

 
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