The necessity of cramming as many artists on a bill as possible on CMJ showcases leads to some pretty strange, diverse line-ups. The last night of the festival saw the juxtaposition of laid-back indie pop with rising hip-hop star Le1f at the tiny-but-reliable Williamsburg venue.
Dreamy London duo Labyrinth Ear was the first act I caught. Singer Emily J. oozes the kind of unassuming gamine charm that might be more engaging in a context other than the last night of CMJ, but that’s ok—these up-and-comers still have time to work things out, and not everyone is meant to have an intensely commanding presence. Ms. J. and her partner-in-crime Tom E. deliver the kind of productions that are sure to please fans of Washed Out and Chairlift, and we’ll have to keep an eye on them in the future.
If High Highs wasn’t already a familiar name before CMJ, it was by the end of the festival. On the self-titled EP they released last year, the New York-based trio showed us the kind of melodic acoustic pop that’s plenty easy on the ears. Their hushed harmonies are pleasant, but made for a distinctly odd lead-in to headliner Le1f.
The Cameo show was the second time I saw Le1f this week, following the previous night’s 2 a.m. set at The Westway for Cantora Records’ after-party. Due to the club being overbooked, the Friday night crowd was 95% people who probably have zero understanding of the phrase “Best New Track on Pitchfork.” At Cameo, that proportion was inversed. (Overheard afterward: “That was the first hip-hop show I’ve been to where I didn’t think I was the whitest person there.”) Audience aside, the New York rapper/producer knows how to put on a show. He’s gifted with a naturally magnetic presence, and delivers songs like “Wut,” “Yup” and “Gag” with plenty of personality.
Photos by Adam Mautner