NEW YORK — Thursday night brought us over the mid-week hump at the CMJ Music Marathon, as we made the rounds from Brooklyn to Manhattan to catch some of our must-sees.
My Other Friend: We kicked things off with Brooklyn’s own My Other Friend, who played a short, tight set at Spike Hill. The trio’s sound is reminiscent of Wolf Parade, and the sparkly notes courtesy of keyboardist Holly MacGibbon are often dropped like unexpected treats into the already strong music. My Other Friend’s songs are unpredictable enough to keep listeners paying attention, without being so non-intuitive as to be distracting or frustrating.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson: As we waited for First Aid Kit to take the stage in the stuffy, cramped downstairs section of The Delancey, young singer/songwriter Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson “entertained” the crowd with what can only be described as stereotypically bad bar music with strained vocals. I don’t normally like knocking artists at CMJ — it’s a waste of time and energy when there’s so many great acts to be seen throughout the week — but here I’ll make an exception. Robinson spent much of his set explaining to the audience how much better the music would sound had he been able to play his keyboard in addition to the guitar (he lost the power cord earlier that day). This seems unlikely, unless the keyboard had some sort of magical power. Robinson threw back a shot immediately before launching into his first song, and I can only hope it was his sixth or seventh, because that’s the only way this performance could make any sense whatsoever.
First Aid Kit: This charming Swedish sister duo was the perfect antidote to the crowd’s restlessness after Robinson’s set, filling the packed room with harmonious melodies that could make the Indigo Girls weep. Their voices blend together so well, it’s inevitable that 20-year-old Johanna and 17-year-old Klara Soderberg share DNA. Klara’s voice is a transcendent blend of Feist and Judy Garland, and her sister’s wide range creates the perfect complementary backdrop for which to showcase it. Klara and Johanna took to the stage with a confidence and stride well beyond their years and crooned delicate but invigorating folk songs buoyed by guitars, drums and a dulcimer.
Hypernova: One of our standout acts at this year’s CMJ, Hypernova tore through an energetic midnight set at R Bar that gradually drew in a sizable crowd from the adjacent bar area. Hailing from Tehran but now based in New York, the band’s sound is in the vein of Editors or Interpol, with a live performance that’s absolutely mesmerizing. Drummer Kami attacks his kit with fierce abandon, guitarist Kodi looks like the love child of Russell Brand and Joey Ramone, and frontman Raam is mostly stoic throughout it all, in Buddy Holly glasses and a hoodie. Having toured with the likes of Sisters of Mercy, the band’s debut full-length album, “Through the Chaos,” was released earlier this year. Much has been made of the re-emergence of music and art in Iran, and it would be easy to fetishize Hypernova from a political angle (their first EP was called “Who Says You Can’t Rock in Iran?”). Larger contexts aside, the music is brilliant enough to speak for itself.
Photos by Sarah Be for Blast Magazine