Music  |  Features

CMJ 2009: Alec Ounsworth, YACHT, The XX, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Roadside Graves and More

October 23, 2009  |  4:35pm
CMJ 2009: Alec Ounsworth, YACHT, The XX, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Roadside Graves and More

Over the course of a properly executed CMJ Music Marathon, the participant will begin to believe that all life occurs in a dingy-bar basement, sustenance equals falafel stands, and that a 9-to-5-er cares about the plight of an orange lanyard-clad nimwit who attends concerts around the clock but can’t be bothered to charge their cell phone. Credit YACHT for a dose of alternative unreality to skew the focus yet again during a Thursday that also featured essential indie blog Aquarium Drunkard’s well-curated showcase, the XX at the Apple Store, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s frontman breaking loose, and Cymbals Eat Guitars as a late-night snack.

My tip jar doth overrun: YACHT’s Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans have created a larger-than-life stage show combining the churning beats of current release See Mystery Lights and a video backdrop that’s essentially a power-point presentation for cold getting down. Bechtolt in an all-white suit addressed his fellow partiers at Brooklyn Bowl, a shiny new bowling alley/music venue in Williamsburg, much like a congregation, proselytizing between songs and nailing exaggerated dance moves of the Napoleon Dynamite ilk. Tracks like “Ring the Bell” are meant for big speakers with their slivers of George Michael’s pop spirituality, Talking Heads’ blocks of deconstructed funk, and vibe that is simply so DFA, aka the label that hosted the party and that has become synonymous with electronic music that still surprises and impresses. In this atmosphere, both Bechtolt and Evans’ stage dives became purification in the sea of eager converts. Just when things edged too close to a hot TV evangelist sun, Bechtolt brought up a Google Maps streetview display of their home in the 4000 block of North Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Ore., and invited all of the nights’ attendees to come visit. The peek behind the facade made the inevitable forge into “The Afterlife” a jubilant joint effort.

A few random notes on the rest of the Thursday—no hope of proper segues—begin with Aquarium Drunkard’s masterful lineup at Fontana’s, with semi-helpful links included. Missing Phair-folkster Blair performing her “Hello Halo” is not something I’m proud of. The Love Language made up for their overuse of low-slung v-neck T-shirts with Elliott Smith-y waltzes like “Manteo”. Alt.country rascals Roadside Graves got heavy meta with a jam about “dirt on my lip and blood in my eye” after the singer split his face open with his mic and bled everywhere. I should have taken video because I can’t find anything that comes close to the level of musicianship these tatted-up guys guys now display. The Happy Hollows’ singer-guitarist Sarah Negahdari, for starters, can shimmy like a robot, shred like Angus Young, howl like everything’s wrong, and banter like she’s just arrived late to a tea party. The spry rhythms and lovely harmonies of Local Natives on “Airplanes” fought back my urge to throw my trail mix at their low-slung v-necks (what is it with these shirts?!), and ensures that they’ll be at Vampire Weekend-level hypesterization once their self-titled album comes out in the U.S.

A final note: After a beautiful rendition of new solo track “Holy Holy Holy Moses”, Alec Ounsworth’s performance with Flashy Python, a backing band made up of 75 percent of the defunct Philadelphia legends the Teeth, featured a gong (pictured), which is how this Thursday summary must conclude.

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