Even if you don't know CJ Camerieri by name, you've probably heard his horn playing. He's a member of yMusic and he's played on records by Taylor Swift, Paul Simon, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, The National, My Brightest Diamond, The Tallest Man On Earth, Mouse On Mars, and more, and he was a member of Paul Simon's recent live band. He's been a huge part of what indie (and some pop) music has sounded like for over a decade, and that's reflected in his self-titled debut solo album as CARM, which is out today on Aaron/Bryce Dessner and Justin Vernon's 37d03d label.

The album is split between instrumental tracks and vocal-oriented songs, with Justin Vernon, Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond, and Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley & Ira Kaplan all singing on the album, plus Mouse on Mars adding glitchy electronics to "Scarcely Out" and production by Ryan Olson of Gayngs/Polica, but to quote Justin Vernon, "This record is way more than a 'horn' record. It’s a discovery of new heights with what’s possible in creating music." The album incorporates all different kinds of music, from chamber pop to Western film scores to murky electronics to jazz to the dark psychedelia of the Yo La Tengo collab to the very Sufjan-sounding Sufjan collab, and more, and CJ makes it all sound like one cohesive album. The vocal tracks are of course standouts, but the instrumentals are often just as gripping.

In celebration of the album's release, we caught up with CJ to ask him about the music that influenced these songs, and he included a handful of the artists he's worked with over the years, as well as St. Vincent, Kanye West, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and more. He had a lot of interesting stuff to say about each pick -- stream the album below and read on for what he had to say.

Also, CARM is doing an album release livestream on February 3 at 7:30 PM ET with My Brightest Diamond's Shara Nova, Lupin/Hippo Campus' Jake Luppen, and Trever Hagen (tickets).


Louis Armstrong – "Black and Blue"

A musician’s ability to communicate a complex emotion through sound—in as direct and intimate a way as possible—is what we all strive to achieve when we pick up our instrument. The depth of feeling that Louis Armstrong is able to transmit from his trumpet to the listener in a single note is the highest level of that achievement. This song is such a profound example of that power.

Miles Davis – "Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)"

One of my favorite recordings of any trumpet player, Miles Davis’s unique and powerful sound sits so comfortably in front of this enormous orchestration by the great Gil Evans. I love the rips in the french horn section and the way the brass build this brooding dirge into such a frenzy. Miles Davis never sounded better then when he was working with Gil Evans.

The National - "Fake Empire"

This was one of the first records I worked on after graduating from Juilliard and it was incredible to see my trumpet parts so featured on one of The National’s biggest songs. We recorded it in Aaron Dessner’s attic and I could never have predicted that a song with such a unique form, built off a polyrhythm in the piano, and featuring a minimalist inspired trumpet fanfare would work so well with Matt Berniger’s incredible lyrics and have such resonance with listeners.

Kanye West – "All of the Lights"

This song, from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is such a great example of the power of brass. Featuring three trumpets, three french horns, and two trombones, the horns provide so much of the rhythmic, harmonic, and emotional underpinnings of the song that make this such an exciting track. In CARM, I use the trumpets and french horns in ways more common for guitars, bass, and drums and this is a prime example of someone doing something similar years ahead of me!

Poliça – "Lay Your Cards Out"

Poliça was the opening act for many Bon Iver shows when I was a touring member of the band. I remember hearing them play every night and thinking that it would be so fun to write trumpet melodies over these beautiful and emotionally wrought synth and drum parts. Little did I know that years later, I would end up making my solo music with Ryan Olson, who produced my record and wrote those Poliça parts. I love the sound of this band and find Channy’s vocal style to be an inspiring and uniquely contemporary voice.

Sufjan Stevens – "Casimir Pulaski Day"

Sufjan’s use of orchestral instruments set the stage for everything I’ve done in my career. He was the first artist I toured and recorded with after graduating from Juilliard and playing those incredible trumpet melodies every night was such a thrill. He brilliantly recognized the similarities between the trumpet and the human voice, utilizing the instrument’s vulnerabilities, expressive capabilities, and inherent strength to carry a song forward.

Simon & Garfunkel – "The Boxer"

I joined Paul Simon’s band in 2014 and had the incredible honor of playing the piccolo trumpet solo on "The Boxer" hundreds of times. I find the fact that this rather obscure instrument is used in such a featured way in one of the most iconic songs from Paul Simon’s catalog to be proof of both the trumpet’s inherent lyricism and Paul’s ingenuity.

Andrew Norman – "Sustain"

On CARM, I try to use the french horn and trumpet in inventive and surprising ways to create a new kind of sound. Here is an example of a composer using the symphony orchestra, with all of its historical conventions and precedents, to similar ends. In every piece of music Andrew composes, he mobilizes the ensembles and individual instruments in wildly new ways to create new textures and emotive opportunities. This music makes going to hear a symphony orchestra in person an exciting way to spend your evening.

Nico Muhly/Nadia Sirota – "Keep In Touch"

This piece by Nico Muhly—for my dear friend and yMusic cohort Nadia Sirota—is one my favorite contemporary classical works and is a prime example of the way musicians of my generation are pushing genre classifications outside of their formerly tight constraints. The combination of sounds and voices behind the viola’s virtuosic and emotive melodies and gestures was an early example to me of how our classical training can be used to push our instruments’ potential in exciting new ways.

St. Vincent – "Actor Our Of Work"

Annie’s unapologetic virtuoisty on an instrument is so inspiring to me. Having spent so much of my life in a practice room, it’s thrilling to hear someone put their virtuosity forward in such a contemporary way. I love when playing an instrument seems effortless and looks like an extension of someone’s physical body and Annie exemplifies this unique characteristic.

Bon Iver – "22 (OVER S∞∞N)"

I’ll never forget hearing this opening track to 22, A Million for the first time and thinking that it sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Justin’s voice is a once in a generation instrument, and the way he uses each Bon Iver record to surround it with new sounds, technologies, and atmospheres to create completely fresh musical experiences for the listener is what every artist should aspire to achieve. I think of the way Paul Simon used wildly varied musical landscapes to make his poetry speak in different ways as the most apt comparison for what Justin is doing with the Bon Iver project.

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