10 Great New Bands from CMJ 2013

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This year’s CMJ Music Marathon has come and gone, and although our ears are still ringing and our feet are still sore, the musical hangover has been delightful as we integrate new artists and fresh tracks into our regular playlists back at home. Give a listen to ten of Paste’s favorite new discoveries at CMJ this year.

1. Ski Lodge
Saturday at Rockwood
Hometown: New York City
Ski Lodge is a name we’d heard floating around a lot before CMJ, so when the opportunity to finally catch the guys live came up, we promptly added them to our must-see list, and we’re glad we did; their set at Rockwood on Saturday was one of our favorites of the week, delivering tunes that sounded like The Smiths—only a little janglier and slightly less morose. —Bonnie Stiernberg

2. The Belle Game
Friday at Pianos
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
Thank goodness things were running a bit behind schedule (or the CMJ website was wrong— it wouldn’t have been the first time that day) on Friday at Piano’s, or I never would have made it in time to catch Vancouver-based quintet The Belle Game, which became the set of the night for me. Frontwoman Andrea Lo’s captivating vocals drew more and more passersby in to catch the upbeat performance, which would appeal to fans of Cults or GIVERS. I could see these guys really owning a bigger stage and winning over a festival audience. —Dacey Orr

3. Zig Zags
Wednesday at Mercury Lounge
Hometown: Los Angeles
Nothing is more indicative of the CMJ experience than walking into a venue, realizing you’re early for the set you wanted to see and accidentally discovering you really dig a band you had never heard of or had any intentions of checking out. That was the case with Los Angeles punks Zig Zags, who caught our attention with their fun tunes and sarcastic onstage banter (“It’s good to see this many white people gathered in one place”). Recommended if you like Metz or Diarrhea Planet. —Bonnie Stiernberg

4. Elle King
Friday at Rockwood Music Hall
Hometown: Brooklyn
Look out for Elle King. Each of her songs, which mostly included candid lyrics about clingy men and assholes alike, was a raucous display of what can happen when you take sultry, sexy vocals away from the safety of Norah Jones-esque ballads and into real-life relationship woes. Those unfamiliar with King likely sang along with her energetic performance of “Playing for Keeps,” which has been a hit on the small screen thanks to shows like Mad Men and Mob Wives. She charmed the crowd with covers, too, making R. Kellys “Ignition (Remix” her own and closing out with her infamous blush-worthy cover of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back.” Elle King is an absolute force to be reckoned with on-stage, in such a way that I’m both completely in awe of her badassery and also kind of want to be her best friend. —Dacey Orr

Shelby Earl
Thursday at Pete’s
Hometown: Seattle
Shelby Earl knows a lot of different ways to punch you in the gut—not literally, although maybe…she looks like she could handle herself in a fight if she had to. Her songs are gorgeous, heartbreaking and extremely relatable. Her tune about some words of encouragement from her dad after she quit her job to pursue music full-time knocked me on my ass. TKO. —Bonnie Stiernberg

5. Julia Easterlin
Wednesday at Rockwood
Hometown: Brooklyn (by way of Boston)
At first glance, Julia Easterlin isn’t a very commanding presence; she’s petite and alone on stage, but once she opens her mouth and starts building her songs piece by piece with just looping pedals and her voice, it’s impossible to take your eyes off her. The crowd at her Rockwood set on Wednesday night was captivated, taking in her covers of the Pixies’ “Break My Body” and the traditional gospel song “Eyes on the Prize”—the latter of which had a woman in the front row weeping—as well as originals like “Eliza Jane,” written about the birth of her sister. —Bonnie Stiernberg

6. Misterwives
Saturday at Bowery Ballroom
Hometown: New York City
I got to Bowery Ballroom on Saturday in what I thought would be just in the nick of time for HAERTS, but fortunately sets were running late and I was just in time for Misterwives’ buoyant set to steal the spotlight. Frontwoman Mandy Lee bounced around the stage like a cheerleader at a pep rally, and I was particularly struck by the fun, playful chemistry she had with the rest of the band. Most importantly, though, Lee can sing. I can easily see a musician with vocals and stage presence like this going the route of Lorde, winning critics’ hearts and simultaneously conquering the airwaves. Fans of pop radio probably did know a track in the set, anyway; the band charmed with a cover of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” that had everybody singing along. —Dacey Orr

7. Pearl & the Beard
Friday at Rockwood Music Hall
Hometown: Brooklyn
I kicked off my musical adventures on Friday with Brooklyn-based trio Pearl & the Beard, whose powerful harmonies and intense percussion are enough to jump-start a night of events for even the sleepiest journalist. The two female voices are less sweet than than they are primal, deep and loud and playing off of the lone male vocal in such a way that I think they’d have been equally forceful in an a cappella performance. That’s not to say the instrumentals were any kind of an afterthought, though—from the stirring cello to driving drum beats, Pearl & the Beard gave a live performance that has me anxious for their forthcoming third album. —Dacey Orr

8. Lily & the Parlor Tricks
Friday at The Living Room
Hometown: New York City
It’s clear that Lily & the Parlor take their influences from the musical legends past, evoking ‘60s feel-good vibes from their coordinated outfits and choregraphed swaying to their highly expressive facials and deliberate theatrics. But this band isn’t all presentation: as these three ladies sang in unison for a packed-out Living Room, the vocals were on-point, and I could see fans of vintage-inspired sounds like She & Him really latching onto this group. —Dacey Orr

9. Sharkmuffin

Thursday at Muchmore’s
Hometown: Brooklyn
Obviously a band called Sharkmuffin is going to be good. As someone who loves sharks, muffins and lolzy band names, I was already sold before I set foot inside Muchmore’s on Thursday night, but the music—badass riot grrrl courtesy of frontwoman Tarra Thiessen—absolutely lived up to my expectations. —Bonnie Stiernberg

10. The Black Cadillacs
Saturday at Rockwood Music Hall
Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
The Black Cadillacs are one of those bands I’d heard about for ages and never really gotten around to checking out, having been known as a rowdy local band around my adopted home state of Tennessee for several years now. A few notes into the first song, and I saw why—the bluesy, Southern-rock style instrumentals fronted Will Horton’s riotous vocals and flighty moves with the tambourine had the whole room unable to sit still. Fans of The Black Crowes or Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers would do well to give The Black Cadillacs a listen—preferably in a live setting. —Dacey Orr

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