AuThe third day of CMJ began at Fontana’s, with Austin, TX folk duo the Lovely Sparrows. This is one of the shows I was looking forward to, as occasional contributor Clay Franks turned me onto them. Fans of current rising-stars the Fleet Foxes will find much to love in this pair, who also play melodic pop-folk, but more ruggedly and a little less obtuse. The music is punctuated with the kind of lyrics an English major would love, clever and wise: “Was I a dog you wished you’d always had? / Quiet when you’re sleeping / kisses when you’re bad,” they sing in “Year of the Dog.”

The Lovely Sparrows, “Year of the Dog” (download)

With my expectations more than met by the Lovely Sparrows, I continued happily into the night to check out another duo, Portland’s Au (seen above), who had already played CMJ a time or two in the past few days. They were a hot item of the evening, as photographers swarmed the stage, putting cameras in the way of every sight-line. Au is twinkling, beating psych, and like any good psych band, they like to wander around. But they got lost a little too often, in some ways, and were at their best when they knuckled down and decided where to go.

I ended the night at the Delancey, first with Goes Cube. I thought they were intense when I saw them back in April of last year, but in comparison to their show on Thursday, HOLYSHIT, that was nothing. They’re heavier, faster, louder, and crazier, in all the right ways. They didn’t literally smash any guitars this time around, but sonically, they were a wrecking ball. Fist-pumping and man-dancing abounded.

Goes Cube, “You Clench Your Jaw When You’re Angry” (download)

Next in line was Villa Vina, who are often thrust into the progressive genre. It’s not a completely unwarranted label but they have more direction, are less obviously drug-induced and not nearly as overly self-indulgent, which all seem like such staples of the genre that it’s hard to think of it without them. Prog for a modern age? You bet.

See more pictures from CMJ here.

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