With festival season gathering dust and SXSW still five months away — even if the music industry will never let you forget it’s coming — New York City’s annual marathon of free booze and better bands, the CMJ Music Marathon, is just around the corner. Next week, Manhattan and Brooklyn will turn into a veritable buffet of up-and-comers, your next and current faves displaying what they do best from Tuesday, October 13 till Saturday, October 17. But what do you do when you have to decide between seeing bands called things like My Left Tit and the Boobies? You turn to us and we guide you in the right direction. From some of the city’s finest rappers to progressive punk to pop with edge, here are the ten must-see acts at this year’s CMJ Marathon.
Brooklyn native Donmonique is one of the few female rappers (shit, one of the few rappers, period) out to impress during the marathon. Hardly one to build on the Old New York sound, Don understands that the internet, itself, has a regional sound. Her minimalism is in line with both Awful Records — catch Richposlim in her video for “Pilates” — and the Def Jux narrative-pushing fellow New Yorker Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire did when he debuted. Catch her opening for Post Malone at S.O.B.’s on October 13.
While riot grrrl nostalgia remains abundant in NYC’s DIY spaces, Providence’s self-proclaimed “bilingual political dance sax punk party” Downtown Boys remain vital because they give a voice to people who hardly have it in the scene. But don’t just show up to one of their many CMJ appearances to dance: Lead singer Victoria Ruiz not only espouses radical feminism, but gives a healthy dose of real talk about systemic racism and white supremacy at each show. A stunning rarity that has at times made their audience uncomfortable — and is thus all the more necessary. And if you’re still mourning Poly Styrene, check them out at the NME + PopGun + House Arrest CMJ Party at Santos Party House on October 14.
Lorely Rodriguez, b/k/a Empress Of, made waves in 2013 with her multilingual debut EP, Systems. Fresh off the release of her debut full-length, appropriately titled Me, and a club tour with r&b futurist Abra, she is returning to New York to open for Glass Animals at Terminal 5 and will make a CMJ appearance at Cameo Gallery on October 17. Empress Of’s sound is reminiscent of the tone that endears us to people like Kelela or How to Dress Well, but her output’s polyglotism is all her own.
Domino Records’ latest breaking artist and U.K. export Georgia is set to dominate Williamsburg next week with shows at Baby’s All Right (October 14) and a doubleheader at Rough Trade NYC (October 15). Equal parts gearhead and self-produced pop artist, the London-born singer-songwriter toes the line between Beyoncé and prog rock. And if that sounds insane, take a listen to her “Nothing Solutions” to hear just how well it works.
Teen rapper and Passion of the Weiss–dubbed “next Lil Boosie” Kodak Black is set to impress at S.O.B.’s Leaders of the New Cool showcase on October 14. And while his vocal cadence is certainly indebted to the aforementioned Baton Rouge legend, Kodak is also an immediate disciple of Soulja Boy and Chief Keef’s syrupy monotony, with a little Broward County thrown into the mix — just don’t call it Miami.
Forever ahead of his time, Manhattan-born rapper Le1f will make a brief CMJ appearance (Cameo Gallery, October 17) to mark the release of his debut album, Riot Boi. In addition to his pristine beat choices and ability to create the sound electronic musicians catch up to a few years after the fact, dude can dance. A lifelong ballet and modern student with a degree in dance from Wesleyan, where he honed his production skills, the “Koi” rapper can spit a tongue-twisting sixteen while enacting some of the slinkiest footwork you’ve ever seen.
With Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Brooklyn’s Mitski had one of the best album titles of 2014, and her output is similarly evocative. Despite its meditativeness, the woman can shred and get you to shed a tear in equal measure. Catch her playing solo at Mercury Lounge on October 17 and prepare for all of the feels.
Sisterly duo and Queens natives Nina Sky remain a mystery. After their 2004 breakout “Move Ya Body,” the twins have gone on to doing everything from producing lush love-me-down collabs with Rick Ross to nosing around witch house while working with CREEP. They’ll close out Arlene’s Grocery‘s CMJ opening night (October 13) with their Latin- and reggae-infused pop.
Does this man need any introduction? As a member of early-Aughts indie royalty Animal Collective and with a new album, Meets the Grim Reaper, released earlier this year, Noah Lennox returns to the city that made him famous for a three-night run at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom. Catch him October 13–15 with rotating opening acts.
The Album Leaf
Any Nineties emo kid’s favorite “experimental” act, the Album Leaf returns to the game having not released a record in five years and on the heels of Sub Pop reissuing some of his classic work. Playing shows all around town — at Cake Shop (October 16) as well as the Knitting Factory and South Street Seaport (October 17) — it will be both a nostalgia fiend’s wet dream and a glimpse into the future.