This week marked the annual CMJ Music Marathon in NYC—where seemingly every venue in the city is booked with bands from around the US and the world. Though the number of participants are in the thousands, we highlighted a few promising acts (who performed in both official and unofficial CMJ events) who make great diving off points for plunging into the internet black hole of discovering new music.
Cape Town-based trio Beatenberg brought sunny, jazz-tinged vibes from their hometown to NYC for the first time this week. Debuting at CMJ’s South African Showcase, the outfit’s lead single “Rafael” embodies the band’s unique blend of Cape jazz and pop reminiscent of Paul Simon. The band is part of a growing scene of increasingly internationally recognized artists coming out of the Mother City. Beatenberg’s breezy pop tracks are melodically easy on the ears while lyrically telling stories of modern love that are simultaneously personal and universally relatable.
Future Punx: Spike Train
In their single “Spike Train,” five-piece Brooklyn act Future Punx blends chanting vocals with sweet synth lines, funky live drums and guitars for an interesting contrast. Their overall fast-paced, energetic vibes make for a fun (and sweaty) live show—as their performances at Cake Shop, The Silent Barn and more showed this past week. They’ve got the rare power to convince attendees to loosen their death grip on their drinks and dance freely. “Spike Train” is available off the split 7″ they released with friends Parquet Courts for the Famous Class’ LAMC series.
Tkay Maidza: U-Huh
Zimbabwe-born Aussie teen songwriter and rapper Tkay Maidza graced the East Coast with her presence at multiple CMJ showcases this past week at Pianos, Santos Party House and more. Her confidence-boosting single “U-Huh” fuses pop, rap and electronic music for a track that’s as catchy as it is fierce—her lyrics reference “shooting” away the haters (metaphorically, of course). While the M.I.A and Azaelia Banks comparisons have been abundant, it’s clear that Maidza is on track to becoming a global hip-hop star with her own unique flair. For more Maidza, check out her new debut mixtape Switch Tape (featuring a collaboration with UK producer Bok Bok).
Courtship Ritual: Kingdom of Beauty
Courtship Ritual can be spotted performing their restrained tunes with an equally minimal setup in Brooklyn venues like Baby’s All Right—regularly joined on stage by hired belly dancers whose hypnotic choreography enhance the otherworldly mood. “Kingdom of Beauty” is a particularly poignant track that demonstrates Monica Salazar’s covetable vocal timbre, along with her and guitarist Jared Olmsted’s penchant for augmenting sparseness to great effect. Courtship Ritual released their debut album Pith this past summer on family label GODMODE, who hosted an unofficial showcase at Babycastles on Friday along with Driftless Recordings.
Asante Phenix: Nameless
Brooklyn’s own Asante Phenix stood out amid a slurry of new acts that this year’s CMJ brought into the city. The MC effortlessly blends witty yet heartfelt bars with buttery smooth vocals on his latest track “Nameless.” A downtempo beat puts Phenix’s vocal range at the forefront of the single, while kaleidoscopic sonic textures create a lush soundscape to get lost in. A must listen for fans of The Weeknd’s early work, Phenix’s track draws on elements from some of the most celebrated (and subversive) hip-hop and R&B in recent years. Keep an eye on the young artist as tracks continue to drop via Soundcloud.
ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we Tweeted throughout the week. Often we’ll include a musician or notable fan’s personal favorite in a song or album dubbed #PrivateJam. Hear them all in our ListenUp playlist on Spotify.