Jacco Gardner – Photo by Nick Helderman

“Solo” can mean a few things in 2013. The dude sitting on a stool strumming an acoustic guitar might be opening for a guy swaying at a keyboard stand with a laptop on it, and after that some Swiss girl might be yodeling a screamo version of her great-grandfather’s fastest hog-herding ditty. Well, actually I don’t think that girl made the cut at the CMJ Music Marathon this year; and truth be told, some of the following acts might end up inviting some backup players to their solo set at the last minute, you never can tell. But as it stands, these folks are set to brave the stage alone, daring you to explain to them why they should drag three or four other people on tour with them.
Check out our top picks below and browse the rest of the schedule here.

Courtney Barnett

This Aussie lady is one of those talents that comes stumbling in unnoticed in some flannel shirt and jeans, and in a few lines proceeds to convince you that there’s life left in that ol’ troubadour template. Maybe because her voice is just so inviting, rolling off words with the dexterity of a 24-year-old just getting going, but wizened with just a trace of gruff on top. A little PJ Harvey urban snide, Holly Golightly’s droll lust, and an effortless lyrical weave. Match that with her own gumption at releasing her first two EPs herself on her Milk! Records label (which are soon to be compiled and released on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas on House Anxiety/Marathon Artists), so she won’t go unnoticed for long.

Courtney Barnett is playing solo at the Great Escape/Planetary Showcase on Friday, October 18 upstairs at Piano’s.

Benjamin Cartel

A rock lifer who isn’t mired in ubiquitous AA stories or bad tattoos, Benjamin Cartel still sports the slick suits of his ‘90s power days in the underappreciated Heartdrops. He’s since done a lovely duet thing (Kaiser Cartel), and after all the rocking and road work he’s put in over the years, he has finally released the first proper Benjamin Cartel solo release, the Money & Love EP, six songs of the straightforward heartfelt songwriter stuff that comes from, well, all that rockin’ and roadwork.
Benjamin Cartel is playing on Thursday, October 17 at Union Hall; and on Saturday, October 19 at the Living Room.

Jacco Gardner

This young Dutch lad’s pageboy haircut is nearly as sandy brown as the sepia-toned ‘60s psych-strum he does on his recent debut Trouble In Mind LP, Cabinet of Curiosities. Indebted to the usual Brits (Ray Davies, Syd Barret, Robyn Hitchcock), he also offers a Euro mirror to Kurt Vile’s modern melancholy. And, on record at least, he did it all himself.
Jacco Gardner is playing on Wednesday, October 16 at Mercury Lounge (7:45) and Knitting Factory (midnight).

Calvin Love

This Canadian looker started in a punk band in his early teens, took to the road to find himself and all that, landed in L.A., played in more bands, and eventually gravitated towards chintzy keyboards and on-the-fritz distortion pedals he probably found for nothing at some thrift store in Indiana while driving through all alone, listening to Alan Vega records while gulping down Jolt. So he sways in ‘n’ around clicky, shadowy bedroom post-punk to moody crooning. If he’s “dancey,” it’s a dark, raw shuffle that sounds like he’s sneaking out of the room where the popular kids are partying.
Calvin Love is playing Wednesday, October 16 at Mercury Lounge; and Friday, October 18 at Fontana’s.

U.S. Girls

Dingy drone-doll gone day-glo electro-pop minimalist, Meg Remy (aka, U.S. Girls), washes away whatever bad taste remains in the back of your brain over that whole neo-soul singer whatever and/or updates it bare-bones style for a world very nearly done with the whole over-reverbed, drowsy, dreamy girl group redux.
U.S. Girls are playing the Panache Booking Showcase on Wednesday, October 16 at Knitting Factory; and the Panache Booking/Calico Corp. party on Thursday, October 17 at Silent Barn.