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  1. Photograph: Marley Kate
    Photograph: Marley Kate

    Blue-collar rock & roll looms large at this year’s CMJ, notably championed by Frenchkiss artist Devin, who released his debut album, Romancing in April. Expect to thoroughly mess up your authentic quiff while moshing to Devin’s fuzzy rockabilly anthems.—Sophie Harris

    Oct 17: Pianos, 11pm
    Oct 19: Knitting Factory, 11pm

  2. Electric Guest
    A joyful mix of funk, electro and psych-pop, Electric Guest’s genrehopping debut album, Mondo, is anchored by the deft studio touch of pal Danger Mouse (maker of magic with Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells). Combining Motown harmonies with taut, hook-laden production, the L.A. duo finds that sweet spot between affecting sentiment and glossy precision.—Marley Lynch

    Oct 20: Irving Plaza, 7pm

  3. Photograph: Jay McCarroll
    Photograph: Jay McCarroll

    Daughn Gibson
    There’s a good reason why Daughn Gibson was so thoroughly fussed over when he released his debut, All Hell, back in June. Actually, there are a bunch of good reasons—starting with the record itself, a moody mélange of country-blues and spooky beats, anchored by Gibson’s super-deep voice (which suggests a midpoint between Glenn Danzig and Stephin Merritt). Then there’s Gibson’s rugged good looks, and the fact that he used to work as a trucker and play in a punk band.… Swoon.—SH

    Oct 18: Knitting Factory, 8:15pm
    Oct 19: Villain, 10pm
    Oct 20: Brooklyn Bowl, 11:30pm [Gibson judges at Soul Clap and Dance-Off]

  4. Photograph: Mike Schreiber
    Photograph: Mike Schreiber

    Robert Glasper
    Jazz and hip-hop have been mingling seemingly for ages now, but never with the righteous fire and assurance that Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper has brought to the game. A first-call keyboardist, Glasper demonstrated his range with the chart-topping Black Radio, which featured guests like Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and Bilal; now he hits CMJ on the heels of a crackling remix EP.—Steve Smith

    Oct 16: S.O.B.'s, 8pm

  5. Photograph: Corey LeChat
    Photograph: Corey LeChat

    The Karl Hendricks Trio
    Two decades on from its debut, the Karl Hendricks Trio is still going strong. Well, not exactly strong—Hendricks finds inspiration in enervation: substance abuse, nose-diving romance and the like. It's the kind of material that makes for depressing conversation yet surprisingly endearing indie rock, as you'll hear when the band plays a rare local show during this week's fest in support of its newish one, The Adult Section.Hank Shteamer

    Oct 19: Left Field, 10pm

  6. Photograph: George Harvey
    Photograph: George Harvey

    Icona Pop
    Do you miss the straggly all-girl pop stylings of Bananarama? Or perhaps you just have a penchant for catchy, melodic, slightly bratty dance pop? We have the band for you. Swedish electro duo Icona Pop recently supplied summer hit “I Love It”—which for our money sounds like a scruffy version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”—SH

    Oct 17: Glasslands Gallery, 1am [DJ set]
    Oct 18: Santos Party House, midnight
    Oct 19: Brooklyn Bowl, midnight

  7. Photograph: Courtesy SMC Recordings
    Photograph: Courtesy SMC Recordings

    Killer Mike
    This ATL hip-hop mainstay is technically playing in support of GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, who’s hauling out his classic LP, Liquid Swords, for yet another live airing. Much respect to the Genius, but it’s Killer Mike we want to catch: R.A.P. Music, produced by El-P and issued in May, is the kind of instant classic they’ll be asking Mike to cover in its entirety years from now.—SS

    Oct 18: Irving Plaza, 7pm

  8. Photograph: Thom Kerr
    Photograph: Thom Kerr

    We’re sure you heard this summer’s quirky and ubiquitous single “Somebody That I Used to Know” more times than you can bear. The female voice behind the zillion-selling hit is intriguing New Zealander Kimbra Lee Johnson, who crafts potent, super-clever pop on her own, as heard on her plucky debut, Vows. We highly recommend finding your way into one of these two sold-out shows to see the bewitching diva in the making live.—ML

    Oct 19, 20: Webster Hall, 8pm

  9. Photograph: Jeffrey Sauger
    Photograph: Jeffrey Sauger

    King Tuff
    While most first-time listeners and concertgoers will be struck by King Tuff's disheveled looks and wild-animal demeanor, the L.A. musician's hard-hitting garage rock is what impresses us. The Sub Pop–signed shape-shifter explored freak folk and stoner metal with previous projects (Feathers and Witch, respectively), before landing on his explosive, air-punching solo concoction of psych-glam good-time rock & roll.—ML

    Oct 18: Knitting Factory, 11:20pm

  10. Photograph: Josh Steinbauer
    Photograph: Josh Steinbauer

    La Big Vic
    It’s inexplicable that local trio La Big Vic has managed to stay under the radar as long as it has—not just because singer and violinist Emilie Friedlander is a well-known, respected alt-music blog nabob (though she is, of course), but because the dub-friendly dream pop she makes with Japanese boy-band renegade Toshio Masuda and erstwhile Pink Floyd audio apprentice Peter Pearson is hypnotic and irresistible.—SS

    Oct 17: Pianos, 11:20pm
    Oct 19: The Delancey, 11pm

  11. Photograph: Robby Reis
    Photograph: Robby Reis

    Longtime Sub Pop enthusiasts know that the venerable Seattle imprint has a Jekyll and Hyde personality: On one hand, there's the pretty, twinkly indie-darling fare such as Beach House and the Shins, and on the other, there's the sloppy, stinky din of Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pissed Jeans et al. You can safely lump in new SP signees Metz, a wired Toronto art-punk trio, with that latter crew, but as you can hear on the band's new self-titled debut LP, fist-pumping hooks also season the mix. Words to the wise re: these two cozy CMJ gigs: Earplugs mandatory.—HS

    Oct 16: Cameo, 11pm
    Oct 18: Knitting Factory, 10:30pm

  12. Photograph: Jamel Shabazz
    Photograph: Jamel Shabazz

    Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
    Filthy-mouthed, smooth-flowing rapper Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire delivered the excellent Huzzah EP in July, and now hits CMJ with his first record for Universal, Power & Passion. Expect a thrillingly messy live show from the BK MC.—SH

    Oct 17: Drom, 10pm
    Oct 18: S.O.B.’s, 11pm
    Oct 19: Gramercy Theatre, Time TBA

  13. Photograph: Owen Behan
    Photograph: Owen Behan

    Here’s a bedroom album that doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a confined, solitary space. Instead, New Zealand act Opossom’s debut, Electric Hawaii, calls to mind an orchestral ‘60s group, with its shambling drums, reverby effects and hand-clap-ready melodies. The band’s masterful indie pop will surely impress, while its sepia-tinged beats will inspire spacey grooving.—ML

    Oct 17: Union Pool, 10pm
    Oct 18: Pianos, 9pm
    Oct 20: Cake Shop, 9:15pm

  14. Photograph: Dustin A. Beatty
    Photograph: Dustin A. Beatty

    Poolside's moniker is none too subtle: The production pair's debut album, Pacific Standard Time, conjures lazy sunny days spent waterside, most likely with a rum-filled cocktail in hand. Escapist listening is informed by swooshing synths, lethargic basslines and breezy falsetto vocals; it's dubbed "daytime disco" by its makers. Also: James Murphy regularly spins house-indebted single "Harvest Moon," an alluring Neil Young cover, during his DJ sets.—ML

    Oct 20: Gramercy Theatre, 10:30pm

  15. Photograph: Hristo Shindov
    Photograph: Hristo Shindov

    Local Prong fans groaned en masse when the band canceled its Gramercy Theatre gig this past August—the long-running NYC-born alt-metal outfit's only scheduled hometown gig in support of its fierce new LP, Carved Into Stone. But this makeup—a sure-to-be-raucous CMJ concert cruise—promises to be even better. Don't forget the Dramamine!—HS

    Oct 19: Rocks Off Concert Cruise (aboard the Star of Palm Beach), 7:30pm

  16. Photograph: Hannibal Matthews
    Photograph: Hannibal Matthews

    Asher Roth
    Having built a substantial buzz with his debut mixtape, young hip-hop star in the making Asher Roth faltered with a larky, underperforming major-label debut. Will his forthcoming Def Jam release, Is This Too Orange?, restore his momentum? Here's where you'll find out.—SS

    Oct 19: Gramercy Theatre, Time TBA

  17. Photograph: Christy Parry
    Photograph: Christy Parry

    Royal Thunder
    Simply put, Mlny Parsonz is a beast. You’d typically have to head to an opera house to experience lung power as overwhelming as that wielded by the bassist-vocalist of Atlanta four-piece Royal Thunder, which awed an unsuspecting roomful of Kings County metal connoisseurs at the Knitting Factory this past September. The band’s smoky, bluesified chug hews close to retro convention, but there’s nothing hackneyed about hearing Parsonz unleash her soul-deep howl in cozy rock-club confines.—HS

    Oct 20: Saint Vitus, Time TBA

  18. Photograph: Antoine Carlier
    Photograph: Antoine Carlier

    Buzz began building about Savages this past spring, thanks to a harrowing gem of a single (“Husbands”) and breathless write-ups from British tastemakers. Expect the hype to crest at CMJ, when the all-female U.K. postpunk quartet makes its NYC debut in the wake of a new live EP, I Am Here. It’ll be worth fending off the angularly coiffed faithful and iPhone-wielding Twitterati to get an earful of Savages’ goths-go-clubbing throb.—HS

    Oct 17: Glasslands Gallery, Time TBA
    Oct 19: Mercury Lounge, midnight

  19. Photograph: Phil Di Fiore
    Photograph: Phil Di Fiore

    Multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallab, touring asset to bands such as Caribou, Of Montreal and most prominently Yeasayer, borrows from the principles that led to the latter’s rise to art-rock fame: hooky extravaganzas, anthemic choruses and Afrobeat flourishes. The Sudan-born musician leans heavily on his heritage, to the best effect. We can attest that Sinkane’s live sets are soul-rocking, body-moving and not to be missed. His debut disc, Mars, is out Oct 23 on DFA.—ML

    Oct 18: The Delinquency, 5pm
    Oct 18: The FADER Fort, 8:30pm
    Oct 18: Zebulon, 11pm
    Oct 19: City Reliquary, 9pm
    Oct 20: Union Pool, 11pm

  20. Photograph: Matthew Bologna
    Photograph: Matthew Bologna

    The Stepkids
    Sure, this Connecticut outfit looks like any other indie-rock gang, but the Stepkids are signed to Stones Throw records (home to Aloe Blacc and Mayer Hawthorne’s debut disc), and their songs are deliciously, sometimes squelchily soulful. Fans of the Temptations are sure to appreciate the ‘Kids' shuffling grooves, funksome basslines and falsetto vocals. Oh, and they have titles like “Wonderfox.”—SH

    Oct 19, 20: Webster Hall, 7pm

CMJ Music Marathon 2012: TONY's top picks

Don’t miss these acts during this year’s concert deluge.


The annual CMJ Music Marathon starts on Tuesday 16, bringing five straight days of shows by stars and strivers alike, at all hours of the day and night, both on and off the beaten path. How can anyone possibly navigate it all? The truth is that you can’t—which is why we’ve prepared this shortlist of the acts you won’t want to miss this year, with an accompanying Spotify playlist below. As ever, watch for news of secret events and late-breaking bookings.

RECOMMENDED: Our full guide to the CMJ Music Marathon

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