On any given night in New York, there’s some great, young, undiscovered band playing their hearts out for a small crowd. But during the CMJ Music Marathon, there are several each hour. It’s a perfect time to hop from club to club in search of your new favorite artist (or the Best of What’s Next, as we like to say), and this year, that search was particularly rewarding. Here are our 10 favorite new discoveries:
1. Pete and J
Peter Harper and Jason Blynn make up just half of this band, who’ll be changing their name to Harper Blynn in a few weeks before releasing their first album digitally later this year. Despite their Brooklyn address and hipster credentials (drummer Sarab Singh’s brother writes for Stereogum), there’s nothing remotely indie rock about the band—the harmonies recall Simon & Garfunkel, and the melodies would make Elvis Costello proud.
2. Free Energy
For fans of: recent Avett Brothers, Summerteeth-era Wilco
Start with: “Reaction”
Technically, we fell in love with Free Energy via their MySpace page a few weeks before seeing them live at Piano’s during CMJ. Their debut is coming out next year on James Murphy’s label, but the straight-up guitar rock couldn’t sound more different than LCD Soundsystem.
For fans of: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Fountains of Wayne, The Hold Steady
Start with: “Dream City”
3. Freelance Whales
Freelance Whales use banjo, harmonium, cello, glockenspiel, synthesizers and guitars to create something that sounds a lot like pure joy.
Hometown: North Little Rock, Ark.
For fans of: Postal Service, Sufjan Stevens
Start with: “Starring”
4. The Golden Silvers
We missed the first U.S. show from London’s Golden Silvers but were thankful that the buzz that followed led us to their ‘80s retro-synth-pop. The debut album True Romance came out early this year on XL Recordings.
For fans of: Vampire Weekend, The Squeeze
Start with: “Arrows of Eros”
There’s something wonderfully off about this power-pop quartet with its soaring three-part harmonies and manic rhythms.
For fans of: Modest Mouse, Talking Heads
Start with: “It Gets Your Body Movin’”