By Sara Cardace
Before it went to acronym-only status, CMJ used to stand for College Music Journal, which holds its 25th annual music festival this week. It's a colossal event, with hundreds of bands playing all over town, and also something of a headache. Will you have to endure twenty bands in order to find the one you really love? Here we try to make it easy. But be forewarned: Most shows will be mobbed, so you might have to use some ingenuity to get in.
YOU: Are looking to relive your Woodstock heyday.
Psychedelic rockers Dungen 's second full-length album, Ta Det Lugnt -loosely translated from the Swedish as "Take It Easy"-achieved instant cult status in the U.S. this year, due in large part to the varied talents of front man Gustav Ejstes, who plays guitar, violin, and the occasional flute solo. Ejstes also sings in his native tongue, which used to be självmord (er, suicide) for any Swedish band hoping to break out of Scandinavia. D.C. band Dead Meadow has taken a slower route to success: Their first few albums failed to carry the band beyond the fringes of indie success, but Feathers, their most recent effort, is an inspired piece of fuzzed-out stoner rock.
YOU: Want to see what the Canadian buzz is all about.
Since the Arcade Fire's baroque, multi-instrumental pop swept the American indie scene last year, Canadian bands have been spilling over the border in unstoppable numbers. Like the Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade is from Montreal, and they have a similarly rich though darker, more gothic sound. The acclaimed Toronto band Broken Social Scene won't be at the festival, but a couple of their associates will, including Feist , a lovably peculiar Canadian songstress who, on her new record, shows a gift for jazzy, smoke-filled-room ballads, as well as Apostle of Hustle, practitioners of mellow, Cuban-inflected indie rock. From Vancouver, the New Pornographers may just bust into the big time with their latest, Twin Cinema , which is rife with sing-along choruses and gorgeous, crystal-clear arrangements.
YOU: Have had your fill of droning guitars and just want to dance.
For a high-energy live show, you can't do better than !!! (pronounced "chk chk chk"), who prance determinedly around the stage as if trying to simultaneously raise the ghosts of disco and punk. The five-man British act Hot Chip, on the other hand, barely moves at all-apart from the synchronized head-bobbing that accompanies their live mash-ups and dance-floor-ready beats. The Juan Maclean's recent Less Than Human album is excellent electro-rock, and though his live shows are uneven, you won't want to miss the glittery throb of "Give Me Every Little Thing."
YOU: Like hip-hop but hate bling and gangster posturing.
Two of the biggest names in indie hip-hop will be at CMJ. With a new album, The Craft , to promote, Blackalicious represents the Bay Area's style of laid-back beats and socially conscious rhymes. The grim, grimy sound of locals Cannibal Ox is pure New York, though they haven't done much since the 2001 classic The Cold Vein. Fans of the wordy, convoluted rhyming style that rules indie hip-hop should check Brooklynite Aesop Rock or Atmosphere, from the Midwest. For a blast back to the days before mainstream hip-hop got thugged-out, check super-producer Pete Rock, whose soulful sound embodies an entire nineties New York era.
YOU: Still mourn daily over the passing of Elliott Smith.
CocoRosie , a Parisian duo comprising sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady, spin out pretty, folksy songs with a hint of trip-hop. And Kevin Devine, from Brooklyn, crafts earnest, politically tinged material that has earned him comparisons to Conor Oberst, of Bright Eyes.