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Elmore’s Top Picks For CMJ 2014

It’s that time of year again. CMJ is upon us, and many of music’s rising stars and Next Big Things descend upon New York City for five nights of great music and good times. Elmore Magazine will be covering the best shows all week, but here’s a sneak preview of who we’re most excited to see.

The Dirty Lungs

A rock band from Birmingham, Alabama that sounds like 60s-era Blues Magoos with a bit of Real Estate thrown in for good measure? I’ll take it. But Dirty Lungs don’t get too comfy in psych rock territory; by dabbling with colors of alt-rock and jazz, the quartet cranks out a distinctive batch of tunes making them a clever bunch to hit today’s hackneyed scene of garage rock bands that try too hard to sound like the next Nirvana.

With songs like “Going Down South,” the band resurrects Jim Morrison in his haziest and wildest spells and places him in a modern world. Though the unspoken message is that for music to flourish, it has to either hold back the clock with an iron fist or reach far out into the future, the Dirty Lungs demonstrate that preservation and progress are two parts of a single process.

Ballet School

It’s been a while since we’ve had a dream-pop band really worth talking about, and Ballet School hit all the right notes. With a sound reminiscent of Cocteau Twins with Madonna up front, Ballet School ably evoke the ice-cold textures of the Eighties without sounding too much like a pastiche of different influences. Their debut has been one of the musical highlights of the year, and it’s about time that New York get turned on to what Ballet School are all about.

Margo Price and the Pricetags

She’s shared stages with Shovels and Rope, Joe Fletcher, Sturgill Simpson and John Hiatt’s daughter Lily, but so have plenty others. So what sets her apart? Margo Price is like a switch that can’t be turned off when it comes to her creativity. Not even a six month pregnancy could keep her from performing at SXSW. “I had to play with the guitar on my side,” she admitted, because her belly had grown too big. For the past few years she has been fronting Nashville soul rock act Buffalo Clover, but wanting to spread her wings, has switched gears to give country music, her first true love, full attention. Though it might be worth mentioning that her great-uncle used to write songs for the likes of Conway Twitty, Price’s talent can be credited to her and her alone. Thanks for reminding us that there is clearly something in Nashville’s water.

Celestial Shore

Celestial Shore create such a dizzying array of sounds that it’s incredibly difficult to categorize them. We’ve heard the band referred to as everything from psychedelic rock to math rock to post-rock, but none of those terms really describe the band accurately. Let’s just go with “really good” as a descriptor, then. Few Brooklyn-based bands display the sort of technical skill that Celestial Shore seem to pull off effortlessly, and few are as good of a listen. Listen to 10x if you don’t believe us; we promise you’ll be hooked in no time.

Meatbodies

We don’t know what the band name means, and we don’t give a fuck. Cali-bred Meatbodies deliver that heavy-laden, fuzzed-out rock that makes rock shows thrillingly dangerous. For fans of Ty Segall, or anything Burger Records-related, here’s the chance to have one helluva night listening to music that may as well come with a warning label in that you may just end up having to call in sick to work the next day. Though a jam-packed tour has the band busy through November with Purling Hiss, Twin Peaks, Together Pangea and Ty Segall, Meatbodies have slated two nights in NYC for CMJ.

Nude Beach

If this is what happens when you leave three guys alone with their parents’ record collections for too long, we’re just fine with that. In a rock scene that is too often concerned with being cool and aloof, Nude Beach’s sincerity is a welcome respite. From Brooklyn by way of Long Island, the trio’s blissed-out take on Seventies rock classics does well by the benchmarks that the band have likely set for themselves. They’re releasing a new album, 77, this year, and we’ve really liked what we’ve heard so far. If you’re eager to hear more, though, you’ll have to make the trip out to see them. It’ll be well worth it.

Tesla Rossa

Dang Nashville, why do all your bands have to be so good? Not to be confused with Testa Rossa–that sleek and sexy racecar built by Ferrari in the 50s and 60s (though the band is equally easy on the eyes)–Tesla Rossa is a trio of eclectic tastes who find common ground with heavy blues-rock, pop and jazz. Within Tesla Rossa exists an undeniable drive that pushes the envelope and reminds you that some bands still give a shit. You will be hard-pressed to find their performances perfunctory, though there is an undeniable freedom in their expression. For those who don’t mind getting sweaty and getting loose in a room full of strangers, get on board. For those who do, live a little.

The Wans

You hear about bands who have been at it for seven years or more, yet their sound lacks that assumed maturity. The Wans are the antithesis of that. With just two years under their belt, and a resume to brag about (ACL, opening for the Black Lips), they procure a tight and fresh sound that has interested Dave Cobb (Rival Sons, Jason Isbell) and Vance Powell (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys) who have produced and mixed their 2014 release He Said, She Said, respectively. Dabbling into music licensing, their 90s-tinged brew of rock has been featured on ABC’s Nashville, A&E’s Longmire and USA’s Necessary Roughness, but the best place to see them is in some dank, sweaty NYC club.

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