CMJ isn't the type of music festival where you stand in the sun for three straight days half-excited and mostly wishing for a shower -- but that doesn't mean it's any less fun.
Officially dubbed the CMJ Music Marathon, it's more of a widespread showcase for burgeoning bands on the brink -- kind of like a film festival filled with trailers for upcoming movies (while some go onto be blockbusters, others become cult favorites) held during one bustling week in New York City.
But if you're lucky enough to be in or around the city that never sleeps this week, you'll have your choice of countless shows to attend -- many featuring artists you probably haven't heard much about. If you plan to catch at least one, but don't know where to start, we've assembled a list of five acts you should do your best to see:
Rarely (if ever) does a fledgling band with barely any recorded music to their name need to start out playing secret shows due to their rampant popularity, but that's exactly what happened with indie rockers Circa Waves. Forming out of Liverpool, U.K., in May 2013, they shot to fame when BBC DJ Zane Lowe declared their single, 'Young Chasers,' the "hottest record in the world." Blending the neo-garage sensibilities of the Strokes with upbeat drive of the Vaccines, they're only playing a handful of shows stateside before returning home next month.
Florida-based singer-songwriter Matthew Fowler, 20, has the sort of beard and lyrical proficiency that belie his true age. With a velvety voice and melancholy approach that evoke Damien Rice, Fowler recorded his debut full-length, 'Beginning,' in his parents' kitchen and still plays the same Yamaha guitar he received for his 14th birthday. It's that mix of boyish charm and mature songwriting chops that make him a definite performer to watch not only at CMJ, but in the coming years.
If the CMJ Music Marathon had existed in 1967 and the Wytches out of Brighton, U.K., were playing, they would've sounded like the most current band there. But since the playfully self-designated "surf-doom" trio are performing during the festival in 2014, they could be one of the most inventive and genre-crushing outfits to catch. Like a grimy amalgam of the Arctic Monkeys, Dick Dale and the White Stripes, you likely won't hear anything like them without the aid of a time machine.
To fully appreciate Taiwanese singer-songwriter Luantan Ascent, you'll either need to speak Taiwanese or not care whether or not you understand a single lyric. A genuine rock legend back home, he was the frontman for the Golden Melody award-winning '90s alternative rock band Luantan before branching off onto his own in 2002. Since then, he's released nine solo albums and and cultivated a successful second career as a composer for movies and TV.
With the same brand of fuzzed-out rock wielded by Dinosaur Jr., Pavement and similar alt-rock acts who dominated college radio in the '90s, Brooklyn's Dead Stars are a rare throwback who sound fresh. Formed in 2009, they've been largely praised by regional and national press for their nostalgia-inducing sound and released their latest, 'Slumber,' in June. They'll be playing Diffuser's own showcase held in conjunction with High Voltage PR.