Music

CMJ 2009: Day 1 - Mon Khmer + The Naked Hearts + Sugar & Gold

The CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival invades New York City this week. Here's the latest from PopMatters' writers on the beat.

Mon Khmer

Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn

A quintet of shoegazers, Mon Khmer were going somewhere in their music, but slowly. So slowly that the sometimes beautiful sounds they crafted after layering two guitars and a pedal steel guitar never materialized. The occasional coalescence of harmonies was further diminished, however, by muddled and confused vocals. But whenever the group did seem to hit its stride (pulsating tom-tom rhythms under blending, repetitive guitar lines) the transformative capabilities of the pedal steel stalled, the player caught looking up and just admiring his own band mates. Hunker down and join the party already!

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

The Naked Hearts

Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn

“No one likes you like I do” sang the Naked Hearts. Any more apathy and the lyrics would have at least sounded ironic. But what started as an ennui-indulging set gained momentum with each angst-tinged observation from lead singer, and guitarist, Amy Cooper, her bowtie pendant shaking with each taut strum. Overall the two-piece (with the aid of a bass player) flaunted a lo-fi sound that was more of a deterrent, or distraction, rather than a badge of authenticity.

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Sugar & Gold

Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn

The completely irresistible disco grooves of Sugar & Gold were mostly lost on the crowd at Cameo Gallery. No matter the prodding (e.g. “Hello Buffalo, NY!...Lets all jog in place together, like we’re all in Central park and 100 lbs overweight!” ) from lead singer, and provocateur, PAM (Phillip Alberto Minnig), the dance collective’s insatiable hooks and cadences could not bring the room of groggy hipsters into a rhythm. The group never relented though, playing pop gems like “Workout” and “Neighborhood” with pure dance-floor panache. Hopefully everyone gets the memo next time: dancing shoes REQUIRED.

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Over the Rainbow: An Interview With Herb Alpert

Music legend Herb Alpert discusses his new album, Over the Rainbow, maintaining his artistic drive, and his place in music history. "If we tried to start A&M in today's environment, we'd have no chance. I don't know if I'd get a start as a trumpet player. But I keep doing this because I'm having fun."

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

The Cigarette: A Political History (By the Book)

Sarah Milov's The Cigarette restores politics to its rightful place in the tale of tobacco's rise and fall, illustrating America's continuing battles over corporate influence, individual responsibility, collective choice, and the scope of governmental power. Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5. "Inventing the Nonsmoker".

Sarah Milov
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