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The door stamp for Le Poisson Rouge last night was remarkably prescient, reading, simply, “Hercules.” Perfect, and kind of hilarious, considering it was for admittance into one of the most anticipated showcases, and toughest doors for badge holders of the annual herculean effort known as CMJ.

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The Selmanaires, an unsigned quartet from Atlanta, Georgia who dress like denizens of Initech and claim to sound like “a wing and a root and a fire,” kicked things off with a soundscape-heavy, mellow vibe-a-thon that didn’t translate well to the impatient audience for the first half of their set. The last three songs, however, featured a Clash-esque groove and stomp tossed with a dash of the Doors, and finally made a case for these longtime friends. Hopefully they’ll stay along those lines with dynamo tracks like “Spun from Witch’s Daughter” off of their new EP Tempo Temporal, because every band loves to look out on a sea of bobbing heads over a room of one collective furrowed brow.

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From the moment Bradford Cox opened his mouth to reveal that devastating voice with a solo “My Halo,” off of the new Atlas Sound effort, Logos, the audience snapped to attention with shivers. Painfully intimate, shockingly haunting and displaying the sort of delicate grace that is far too rare among such buzzed-about acts (save for perhaps the beloved Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver, or, to a degree, Elbow), Cox killed with quietude, dreamy folk-pop and gentlemanly kindness, with the Selmanaires serving as his backing band for the night. Asking the audience, “Is everybody enjoying the ambience of this rock club tonight?” due to a strong garlic odor he had smelled earlier in the evening at the venue, Cox earned a strong rapport with the crowd and kept it throughout the set (well, again, the voice). While one can’t exactly say he “blazed” through his songs with bombastic rock showmanship, I’d love to find anyone hard-pressed to admit that “Criminals,” “Untitled,” “Sheila” and “Attic Lights” didn’t brim with more effective beauty, fire and passion than any given ostentatious band clawing for the big time or a spot on the next Twilight Saga soundtrack.

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As for Broadcast, the much-hyped British electro-psych duo of Trish Keenan and James Cargill was more performance art/live PA/museum installation than performance. And perhaps that’s the point of it, but after a delay due to technical problems, (during which a man behind me muttered to a friend that he was expecting robots, before going on to discuss Paranormal Activity and box office) the ice-cold, defeaning, Stereolab-meets-The Ring, intestinal-shaking presentation was hard to endure, but maybe I’m just a scaredy cat and/or uninitiated to their style of spook and narcotica. Keenan, who gives off a feline, Alison Mosshart vibe, layered haunting vocal effects over Cargill’s dissonance, conjuring an unsettling atmosphere of tension upon tension, and no release. It was a mental Gravitron without the jolly theme park and conciliatory Elephant Ear. –Words and photos by Carrie Alison