CMJ 2014: Day 3 at Santos Party Haus with ZELLA DAY & VÉRITÉ.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You know the drill by now, right?...

For those of you who are unfamiliar with CMJ, it's a five day music festival that invites a thousand or so new, indie, and/or up and coming artists from around the world to New York City with one goal: the discovery of fabulous new music. For more info, check out CMJ.com.

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Zella Day. (C) MelismaticBlog.com
DAY THREE (Thursday), I was off to the one venue I was already familiar with -- Santos Party Haus, a small, fog-machine fueled, black-light errwhere nightclub meant for disco-y beats and (probably) debauchery.

Basically, it's the kind of place that you don't really want to sit down in if you know what I mean. I'd been there to see Dragonette in 2009 and had seen my girl Pastele there about a year ago.

Santos was packing them in on Thursday night with two different stages running different artists at the same time. Downstairs, the performance space was quite a bit smaller -- kind of like a cave but with slightly better audio. That's where we (we being myself and Music Is My King Size Bed) started out our night, seeing another buzz artist in Zella Day -- whom I had wanted to catch at some point during CMJ but wasn't able to schedule in a time that worked so it was a bonus happy surprise.

Her alt, ethereal kind of sound was dreamy and hypnotic. Dressed in black velvet and lace, she looked like a flower child of a different decade. She included in her set an unexpected and fabulous cover of The Zombies' "Time of the Season" complete with crowd handclaps. If you haven't checked out her latest self-titled EP, you should -- if only for "Sweet Ophelia" alone.


After Zella's set, we ran upstairs to catch the tail end of Aurora (Aksnes)'s set which was running at the same time as Zella's but had apparently started a little late (setting off a domino effect of delay that I'll rant about in a second). Aurora is an utterly adorable little teenage thing with her blonde bob -- all the way from Norway. She has a limited selection of songs to peruse on Spotify but check out "Awakening". 

VÉRITÉ. (C) MelismaticBlog.com
Aurora was followed up by a British four-piece straight-ahead rock band called Circa Waves. Their beachy brand of rock-pop is much more enjoyable via their self-titled EP, most likely due to the utterly terrible sound system at Santos. "Young Chasers" has a Ramones-y kind of vibe.

WARNING: RANT ALERT. It was so loud, my ears were still ringing when I got home that night. It inevitably didn't help my mood toward the showcases's ridiculous delays (it should be said CMJ usually runs on a super tight ship so Santos allowing this to happen was really irritating) so I probably didn't enjoy Circa Waves as much as I should have.

Then came VÉRITÉ (pronounced: vehr-eh-tay), a hometown artist I'd been gathering a lot of love for over the past few weeks. Her ECHO EP was released last week and is available for perusal on Spotify. The entire thing is great pop from beginning to end -- fitting right in like a hand in a glove in this tidal storm of dark female electro-pop.

My favorite is "Weekend" (below). If you're a fan of Lorde, give VÉRITÉ a spin.



For more on these artists mentioned, get to know them on Twitter via @ZellaDay, @AksnesAurora, @CircaWaves, and @Verite, respectively.

CMJ 2014: Day 2 at the (new) Living Room with ALEXZ JOHNSON & FICTIONIST

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tonight, I'll be headed to the Barclays Center for yet another concert (packing 'em in before we hit 2015, ya'll) -- and I'll tell you all about how it goes later.

Without further ado, let's continue chatting about my week at the CMJ fest, eh?

Again, for those of you who are unfamiliar with CMJ, it's a five day music festival that invites a thousand or so new, indie, and/or up and coming artists from around the world to New York City with one goal: the discovery of fabulous new music. For more info, check out CMJ.com.

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DAY TWO (Wednesday), I was off to another new venue and the only one I'd be hitting in Brooklyn. The Living Room was a former LES (Lower East Side) hotspot before closing up shop downtown and recently making the move to the ever hipster-friendly neighborhood of Williamsburg. (I should take this time to mention that at the time that I took this trip to the 'Burg, none of us were aware of the Ebola outbreak. Sigh.) The venue literally just opened up for CMJ and isn't really "finished" yet. The flooring was still fresh and they didn't have a liquor license. For a CMJ showcase, no alcohol is a pretty big "huh?" but Big Picture Media -- one of the main PR firms backing CMJ -- were hosting for the night and were offering everyone free drinks. (Score!)

Fictionist. (C) MelismaticBlog.com
A lot of bands played the Big Picture Media showcase that night -- kicking things off was a trio from Ohio called Plaid Brixx. I was getting a lot of Green Day pop-rock vibes from them.

Next up came a buzz band called Fictionist from Utah (Provo, to be exact). Clearly they already had a present following at The Living Room that night. Their energy really skyrocketed the audience in terms of excitement for what was to come. Easily, they were my first real "super excited to be introduced to them by happy accident" of CMJ this year.

Their latest is called "Free Spirit".


Then came a Dallas country-rock, Americana kind of band called Somebody's Darling. They were a lot of fun and their frontwoman has a fab voice.

They were followed by another buzz band that had a large following in the audience, the Long Island boys from BRAEVES. They had a very ethereal ambient slow-burn rock kind of vibe. Their EP, Drifting By Design, is available for your perusal on Spotify now. My favorite's called "Talk Like Strangers".

Alexz Johnson. (C) MelismaticBlog.com
Then came the artist I was there to see, one of my most anticipated and a musician I've been a fan of "Instant Star". Canadian singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson was playing her set as a part of her Let 'Em Eat Cake tour -- the album of the same name has literally just dropped for your purchase (so get it!). Wearing a black jumpsuit with a sexy large cut out in the back and toting the most gorgeous white Gretsch guitar I've ever seen, the majority of the set was from her new album and she immediately captured and stunned the audience with her serious vocal chops.
since her days on

While the title track is a huge fave of mine if only for its serious Fleetwood Mac vibe alone, I'm also really partial to "Heart Turns Black" and "I Will Fall In Love".

She closed her set with a spontaneous addition of "Thank You For Breaking My Heart", from her Heart EP that came out earlier this year.

This soulful, heartfelt stomper was the perfect capstone to a truly incredible performance. There was a momentary stunned silence after one of her big melismatic riffs toward the end of the song and someone right behind me said out loud "Are you kidding me?" (and it captured on my video). Kind of hilarious and totally deserved.


Oh, and her backup band included her teenage kid brother on the drums. Serious musical talent in this family.

If you're not familiar with Alexz, get on board now.

To get to know these bands even better, check them out on Twitter via: @PlaidBrixx, @FictionistNoise, @SomebodysDarlin, @BRAEVES, and @alexzjohnson.

CMJ 2014: Day 1 at Rockwood with ELLE KING & HORSE THIEF

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Well, guys -- I survived another year at the craziness that is CMJ. Given that Halloween is as manic as it is at my actual day job, this is an incredible achievement, I must say. I didn't go breakneck -- but I did see 3 of the 4 artists that I really wanted to see (and met a few new faves). Rather than batch everything up in one gigantic post like I did last year, I'm breaking this up into tasty little morsels of new music discovery for you to indulge in.

Again, for those of you who are unfamiliar with CMJ, it's a five day music festival that invites a thousand or so new, indie, and/or up and coming artists from around the world to New York City with one goal: the discovery of fabulous new music. For more info, check out CMJ.com.

This year was spent almost exclusively in "new" venues for me. Let's get started...

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Elle King @ Rockwood. (C)MelismaticBlog.com
DAY ONE (Tuesday), I headed down to where the groundswell of the venues for the festival are located -- the LES (or 'Lower East Side'). My stop was at the famed Rockwood Music Hall, a three-roomed performance space that is incredibly laid back and small.

The three rooms vary in size and I was game for Space #2, which really isn't much larger than a large living room with bar along one side and a small stage stuffed into the corner. When I arrived, the room was already stuffed with people to see the first act of the night: Horse Thief.

Originally from Oklahoma, Horse Thief was a group of dudes that were all over CMJ this past week and the excitement was well deserved. Their sound is guitar and keyboard-based and their album, Fear In Bliss, is available for your perusal now on Spotify and the like. The lead vocalist has serious shades of Bob Dylan to his vocals. Definitely check out "Little Dust" and my personal fave "I Don't Mind."

The showcase was broadcast live by WFUV.org, who have also posted some great videos from the performance, including this one of the boys playing a brand new song called "Drowsy".


Following Horse Thief was the artist I was at the showcase to see -- Ms. Elle King, a soulful country blues type artist with an incredible husky voice that's signed to RCA. Her full album is due out next year on the back of the stellar pop-twinged single "Ex's & Oh's" now being pitched to radio. You can file her alongside Cady Groves, ZZ Ward, and Kacey Musgraves.

Walking on stage in a dress with printed kissy lips and a black leather jacket, Elle King brought the serious goods.

Elle was backed up by a full band but herself went back and forth between a black acoustic guitar and a banjo. Her lyrics are full of comedy and barbs -- one of  my favorite numbers was "It's Good To Be A Man", which according to her lead to her receiving some "man hater" comments on social media. My absolute favorite song was called "Playing For Keeps", an early single of hers that was released on an EP called The Elle King EP (appropriate) in 2012.


She's also no stranger to the unexpected (dirty) cover. Her version of Khia's "My Neck, My Back" is available on the aforementioned EP. That wasn't present on Tuesday but she did close her set with an ace live cover of R.Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" complete with crowd singalong. It's the only way I'd tolerate R.Kelly if I'm being quite honest. You can see a bit of it via my Instagram here.

For more on the artists mentioned here, following them on Twitter via @horsethiefokc and @ElleKingMusic, respectively.

NOW KPOPPING: State of Affairs with Girls' Generation, EXO, Super Junior, & 2NE1

Sunday, October 19, 2014

L to R: CL, Sungmin, Jessica, Luhan

Dear KPOP, the wheels appear to be coming off a bit and it scares me. It scares me a lot. It scares me because of some of the "fans" that reside in "fandom" with me. 

I like to think we're all sane folks who just love cute kids who sing catchy songs but its times like these that remind me -- teen pop music (regardless of where it's crafted) brings out the crazies. For all the good that happens, there is an equal and unfortunate negative (or at least that's how it's feeling, right now), and particularly for fans who live in SM Town, the struggle has been real the past few weeks.

All I know is, if some ish comes out about SHINee, I might spontaneously combust.

Where should I begin?...

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2NE1
Oh, hey, Mel - you remember that English 2NE1 album you've been waiting literally years for? Yeah, that's probably not gonna happen. (I'm still gonna blame will.i.am. I don't care.)

But the good news is -- as I sort of predicted -- leader and my homegirl CL is officially spreading her wings and taking flight...in the US! It has been confirmed that a CL solo album in English is happening with Justin Bieber's/Ariana Grande's manager Scooter Braun at the helm. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that this doesn't sound ratchet as eff.

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GIRL'S GENERATION
Hey, guys -- TaeTiSeo is back! "Twinkle" was my jam so I was so stoked to hear this sub-unit featuring the group's unequivocal "best voices" (leader TaeYeon, American-born Tiffany, and baby Seohyun) was coming back to the scene with new tunes. "Holler" is great little piece of glitzy fluff and is exactly the kind of stuff that Girls' Generation OG should be hammering out. It has just enough sass and goes easy on the cheese.

And then the group's requisite Ice Princess proved just how icy it could be. SM Entertainment and Jessica herself announced she would be leaving the group -- a group that is literally pillared on the marketing ploy of "Divine Nine" -- to focus more on her fashion line. She's already being credited as a "former Girls' Generation member".

I am a casual fan of Girls' Generation and Jessica's attitude never thrilled me, but the thought of Girls' Generation being down a member legit feels like KPOP itself has gone through a terrible ordeal. It's almost unfathomable. Jessica in particular really gets you where it hurts as her face is quite synonymous with SNSD.

As someone who's gone through group divide situations before (cough::TVXQ!/JYJ::cough::cough), I want to urge SONEs to not take sides. You do not have the full story and you probably never will. Jessica is a grown woman, she's allowed to make her own decisions. It's quite telling that SME was willing to let her go at all with no lawsuit bloodshed on either side of the coin. 

You and I both want to believe in the sisterhood of solidarity that is Girls' Generation. But, as has been said, nothing gold can stay...

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SUPER JUNIOR
Because bias is as bias does.

Riding high off the return of Leeteuk and Heechul and the success of "MAMACITA", rumors and hints of a repackaged album with even more new tunes to spazz to began to hit the net. The repackage, dubbed THIS IS LOVE (most likely after the song of the same name that appears on the previous version of the album), is out October 27th in Korea, and a music video has apparently already been shot.

With that good news, comes "bad". This past week, more rumors began to fly that member Lee Sungmin was not only in a relationship (with actress Kim Sa Eun), but he was engaged. In true SM in 2014 form, Sungmin himself confirmed the rumors were in fact true. Oh, did you hear that? That was the sound of a thousand or so ELF hearts breaking. (Just kidding -- kind of.) He and Kim will be wed in December. THIS IS LOVE, indeed.

I didn't expect this news to go over well because...well, many KPOP fans are crazy and many ELFs are legally batsh*t insane (Only13 ring a bell to anyone?). What I didn't expect was for many Korean Super Junior fans to go to Twitter to vent their frustration with Sungmin for having the audacity to have a mature, serious relationship and for wanting to -- I don't know, I'm just spitballing -- want to get married and have a family. I know he looks like a baby pumpkin, guys, but he's almost 30 years old! However, certain fans could not be calmed and managed to trend #SungminOUT on Twitter, a blatant statement that they want Sungmin "kicked out" of Super Junior (or at least for the upcoming repackage promotions).

I have no words. And for those of you who are saying that these Korean "fans" deserve clemency for their selfish remarks, here's what I have to say about that: #nope. Sungmin deserves happiness and yes, there is a divide between his obligations to Super Junior and his obligations to his own private life. Do you really think these grown men will be "everybody's oppa" forever? Sungmin getting married will not change one little thing about his relationship to fandom -- he will remain his adorable sunny self! Or at least, he would have if these crazy chicks could just cool it.

Also -- there's a lot of dudes in KPOP and this will mark the first time a "still popular" male idol is tying the knot (to my knowledge). The only other person who's attempted to marry whilst still an idol was Sunye of Wonder Girls...and then she promptly got pregnant and fell off the face of the earth (well, you know what I mean). It's not an easy line to walk and no doubt Sungmin has already done the math. He's not stupid, guys -- he knows what's at risk. By acting crazy, you're only making it harder 1) on Sungmin, 2) on Super Junior as a group, 3) on the rest of Super Junior as grown men who will likely also want to get married at some point, 4) male KPOP idols on the whole.

I've said it once and I'll say it again -- how fandoms of established acts like Super Junior react to "controversy" will set the tone for younger fandoms. Take a cue from Elsa and Let. It. Go. I promise, Sungmin and SuJu will still love you if you're supportive. In fact, I'm pretty sure they will love you more.

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EXO
And another one bites the dust. 

Following on the heels of former member Kris's departure from the mega-boy band, fellow Chinese member Luhan (also of EXO-M), has filed a lawsuit to nullify his contract with SM Entertainment. This now leaves only four members in the Chinese sub-group EXO-M.

Luhan, Kris, and also former Super Junior member Hangeng (also Chinese) are/were all represented by the same law firm, which is starting to paint a different picture -- suggesting that SM artists (particularly of Chinese descent) are being "lured" away from the Korean media mecca. A fresh rumour is teasing that Luhan may not even be the last of the EXO boys to be "seduced" away from Korea and the group that birthed them.

As I said with Girls' Generation, take everything you read with a grain of salt. While I like to poke fun at EXO itself, there's nothing funny at all about a group you stan falling apart piece by piece -- trust me, I get it. Two members leaving the group (allegedly "separately") is a really big deal, regardless of how large the group is to begin with. 

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Meanwhile, still no word from f(x)'s Sulli. Sigh.

HEAR THIS: Lindsey Stirling Bows with Stellar DubStep Violin & "Shatter Me"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All in favor of generic DubStep breakdowns taking several seats for a good long while (or at least, slinking back to the sweaty EDM-fueled clubs it came to us from), say 'Aye'?

Now -- all in favor of creativity returning to the format, reinvention, and overall genre fusion? You can't say no to that, right?

Lindsey Stirling has been orbiting my radar for awhile now. Born of the YouTube Generation, she gained mainstream popularity thanks to the strides she made on America's Got Talent. She's since toured the world, released a few albums, and had a handful of fab collabs (that rhymed) with the lovely kids in Penatontix.

What makes her stand out is her organic melding of classic violin with electronica and dance music. Her latest single, "Shatter Me", which features ace Lzzy Hale of the metal group Halestorm literally shattering the public with her searing vocal delivery, has a lot of exciting ingredients. It's catchy as all hell. It's sonically unique and intense. And it's gaining adds at Top 40 radio stations hand over fist. 

Everything about this is giving me Evanescence vibes in the mid-00's, when Amy Lee's big, classical vocals soared over hard, metal-inspired beats. The difference here for 2014 is a DubStep breakdown is here, too, but with a virtuoso violin in counterpoint.

It's no surprise Stirling is so in demand in Europe -- her amplified violin lends itself well to the dancy-Celtic/Nordic music lover. It's highly possible that "Shatter Me" will be one of those outer echeleon, select market goldmine hits that will not only gain her new fans (me being one of them) but will lead to enough popularity to further fuel Stirling's already lucrative touring prowess.

HEAR THIS: Charli XCX is a "London Queen"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, you are definitely a "London Queen", Charli. That's a statement you can take to the bank, especially since it's coming from your resident New York Queen.

While I (and the world) originally pegged her for her dark pop pastiche, Charli XCX is turning into the perfect popstar for 2014, don't you think? "London Queen" is a fab rebel yell -- a little bit Ramones homage, a little bit Marina & The Diamonds (first era, of course), a little crunchy guitar with hand (boom) claps, a lot bit lovely.

Yes, I love "Boom Clap", too but this Charli is the one I really adore. I feel like this is the kind of real rallying cry that Taylor Swift was trying to do with "Shake It Off", but ends up feeling so much more organic here.

"London Queen" is one of the newest morsels unveiled from Charli's upcoming sophomore album, Sucker, due out before the end of the year. I was already hands in after "Superlove" alone -- but you can definitely file that album under my 'Most Anticipated'.


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