The Mattoid Returns With Existential Love Song “Great Lovers”

After a fourteen year hiatus Ville Kiviniemi returns with his project The Mattoid and a new album Great Lovers. The lead single and title track arrives with an animated music video directed by Laura Rantala|. The repetitive acoustic guitar riff is the one constant that holds the song together as the piano/keyboard melody erupts, flows freely, traces the contour of rhythm and otherwise incandesces in dramatic fashion. Kiviniemi’s vocals recall those of Bill Callahan in being a little gruff yet perfect for expressing regret, confusion and vulnerability while projecting a rugged emotional strength. The song is both earthy and luminous, dreamlike yet vivid and tapping into the myths that inform our notions of what relationships are supposed to look like in the idea and contrasting that with the reality of lived experience. And central to these cognitive disconnects we have with each other is the idea posed in the song about how we can use the same types of visual organs operating according to the same scientific principles and interpret the world so differently. Which isn’t something to be taken too literally as it speaks much to perception as shaped by expectation. Beyond these heady existential examinations the song creates a mood and evokes the darkness we’re trying to illuminate the best we can with the limited and hopefully evolving tools at our disposal to connect with other people and the world around us without having to resort to pressing our own interpretations on others as an objective truth. Watch the video for “Great Lovers” on YouTube, follow The Mattoid on Spotify and order the physical release of Great Lovers on Rough Trade.

Bottled Up’s Video For “Punish” is a Visceral Visual Metaphor for a Deeply Dysfunctional Relationship

“Punish” begins as musical fever dream as depicted as analog in the music video for the song as singer Nikhil Rao of Bottled Up wakes up to a room with faceless nurses administering to him a mysterious treatment. The surreal sound is reminiscent of an odd mixture of the rhythm of Joy Division’s “Colony” and a particularly funky Talking Heads song. Or like a sanguine Parquet Courts. The song gives voice to the anxieties of a dysfunctional and even abuse relationship that began as they often do with passion and a willingness from one partner to overlook all the warning signs. The clinical setting of the video is perfect for a situation in which one is dissected and being under the enforced mercy of someone you should be able to trust but who violates that trust constantly until it’s too late. Mid-song the synth work and syncopation of the music seems like a nod to Blondie’s “Rapture” before dropping back into the song’s irresistible groove straight to the conclusion where in the music video the faceless nurses high five each other for nefarious work well done. Watch the video on YouTube and follow Bottled Up at the links below. The group’s latest album, the colorful and aptly titled Grand Bizarre released 5/27 on Misra,

Bottled Up on Instagram

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond July 2022

Primitive Man performs at Bluebird Theater on July 15, 2022
Aldous Harding at UMS 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Aldous Harding w/H. Hawkline
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ever since the release of her 2014 self-titled debut album Aldous Harding has been crafting some of the most unique songs in the realm of indie folk of the past few decades. With each album Harding offers songs that seem like a blend of the deeply personal, the mythical and the conceptual. Her song titles suggest a surreal aesthetic that lends itself to her imaginative story telling and a willingness to seek beyond tropes and clichés for ways of signing about relationships, identity, aspirations and dreams and commenting on society. 2017’s Party and her subsequent North American tour revealed Harding to be a truly and fascinatingly idiosyncratic artist whose emotionally powerful and riveting performances were reminiscent of Joni Mitchell with a touch of Kate Bush. Her latest album Warm Chris (2022) puts the focus on fusing the jazz elements of her songwriting with the avant-garde pop for a set of songs that sound like lounge music from a parallel universe where creative weirdos are in charge and creativity is more valued than affirming popular trends.

Reverb and The Verse, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Yonbre Netz w/Reverb and The Verse
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Yonbre Netz is a Boulder-based hip-hop and experimental electronic artist whose varied collaborations can be heard on his Spotify account where his keen ear for colorful, percussive melodies can be heard. But this is also a rare chance to catch Reverb and The Verse who recently put out their tenth and supposed final album BLACKWALL under this project name. Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai have been at it since the late 90s making hip-hop that has always been rich with creative soundscaping and truly clever wordplay informed by incisive commentary on society and the travails of everyday life. Seemingly never content to repeat the same musical ideas album to album the duo’s catalog of material is a great trail of creative evolution and experimentation. BLACKWALL is a little like if Public Enemy collaborated with Nine Inch Nails with the gift for emotionally charged and politically and poetically astute as that comparison might imply. You may not get many chances to catch those guys in action and the Broadway Roxy would be a great room to make that the opportunity to witness one of the finest hip-hop acts Denver has to offer.

Friday | 07.01
What: Vmthanaachth w/Church Fire, Sell Farm, Ray Diess (album release) and Coma Roulette
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Vmthanaachth from Dallas, Texas combines ambient music and industrial with classical avant-garde in a way that fans of Pedestrian Deposit will appreciate. Church Fire has been really upping their game with making irresistible bangers that also dismantle status quo sentiments and ways of being. For those not in the know Church Fire is something like an alchemical mixture of synth pop, industrial dance music, confrontational feminist punk and one of the best bands out of Denver or anywhere of the past decade. Ray Diess is releasing his latest album the hyperpop inflected and rawly honest It’ll Always Ache. It sounds like something that might have come out of Manchester in the late 80s or early 90s but with musical references and more obvious inspirations of a couple of decades later. There is some fine shade and ascerbic wit across the album but in the end it’s about seeking the authentic in experiences and embracing one’s own feelings as valid and does so with passion and playfulness.

Spyderland, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Spyderland video/EP release w/Machu Linea and Random Temple
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Room
Why: Spyderland is an electro pop duo comprised of Marie Litton and Drew McClellan. The two have been veterans of the Denver underground scene for years and to their credit this project is really unlike anything else they’ve done. Rather, they’ve taken their strengths as artists and applied then to crafting a different style of music meaning an experimental form of pop that can at times be a bit downtempo but with a spirited sense of play running through how they spark off each other as performers. It comes off as a bit of a musical dialogue which lends itself to a body of imaginative and fresh songwriting. For this show Spyderland is releasing a new animated video and its new EP. Machu Linea is a likeminded artist who can often be seen DJing around town but it turns out Armando Garibay has a gift for assembling beats and sounds that transform popular styles into something far more inventive. The 2020 album HeXotica showcased Garibay’s range as an artist and collaborator with some of the most talented artists in the local hip-hop and electronic music scenes. Random Temple has been in various types of bands over the years but under this moniker his ambient and IDM music freely weaves together textures, tones and even musical structures as a way to deconstruct conventions of genre.

To Be Continued…

Child Seat’s Glam Synth Pop Single “Burning” is Like a Tribute to Living in Your Feelings Like You’re a Character in a 1980s Science Fiction Action Epic

Child Seat, photo courtesy the artists

If Bonnie Tyler had a current career as a writer and director of science fiction movies you’d hope she’d tap the likes of Child Seat to do music for her various films. The “Burning” single and its music video festooned with imagery of interstellar objects while Madeleine Matthews dances and sings in the foreground with wind sweeping through her feathered hair as Josiah Mazzaschi unleashes fiery and tasty guitar licks with an all but stoic calm. It’s a personal dynamic not unlike that of Sparks with Russel Mael delivering the physical melodrama in the performance while his brother Ron in his own quasi-stoic way helps to orchestrate the music that gives the vocals their context. Toward the end of the video Jeff Schroeder comes into view with a guitar solo worthy of Joe Satriani or Steve Stevens circa 1986 and seals the aesthetic. But the energy of the song doesn’t feel throwback, it feels very present and visceral. Watch the video for “Burning” on YouTube, follow Child Seat on Instagram and look out for Child Seat’s debut album out in Fall 2022.

Giant Waste of Man Charts the Path of Existential Despair to Tentative and Pragmatic Hope on “Summer, after”

Giant Waste of Man, photo by Robin Laananen

Giant Waste of Man is plugged into the existential despair of the world today and in 2021 and 2022 spinning that into thoughtful and gentle songs about sorting through the deluge of feelings and panning for nuggets of truth in the floodstream of experiences and information that are definitely trending bleak and perilous. In the video for “Summer, after” we see a landscape in near sepia tones that depict perhaps the Los Angeles skyline in the background and immediately taking you back, if you remember the imagery or if you were there, when the Bay Area looked like Blade Runner 2049. The lonely piano figure, the ominous drones, the delicate brush of acoustic guitar riffs and hushed vocals in warm harmony make this song seemingly about all the desperate and dramatic gestures, all the bravado, all the surefire plans of rescue and renewal, the talk of returning to normal is just the conditioning of culture flexing in your heart all while you know it amounts to zero and that we are living in a time when bolder and quicker action are called for not fueled by the corrosive ideas and ideologies that have guided civilization for hundreds of years down a path of destruction and fascism. But we were never prepared for this, we were told all kinds of lies about how things are, how obeying this rule and that rule and working hard and all that nonsense about meritocracy and institutions and the rule of law preserving a just way of life—the way it has played out has hollowed out our lives and our civilization while we do pretty much nothing in the face of authoritarian rule barreling down in reaction to a weak “moderate” government serving almost entirely narrow moneyed interests and warping all collective effort in service to a profit that won’t matter if billions die in climate/ecological disaster or nuclear war. This song humanizes this backdrop of the thinking of anyone with a real awareness of what’s going on in the world and has any sense of things. When you hear the lyrics at the end of the song “Never was a man OK with a lie/When the truth was right in front of me” it just makes it simple to dispense with the chaff compromised public discourse and take life and the world on its own terms which may be one of the only paths through the rough times ahead. Musically it might be reminiscent for some of Broken Social Scene minus the dense electronic component but tonally of Low in the twenty-first century with its combination of vulnerability and emotional truth. Watch the video of “Summer, after” on YouTube and connect with Giant Waste of Man at the links below. The group’s new LP Biographer is due out August 26 on Chain Letter Collective.

Giant Waste of Man on Bandcamp

Giant Waste of Man on TikTok

Giant Waste of Man on Twitter

Giant Waste of Man on Instagram

Pine Barons Pay Tribute to the Weird and Wonderful World of Fishmans on the Psychedelic Video for “ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)”

Pine Barons, photo courtesy the artists

Pine Barons hail from the pitch pines of southern New Jersey, an area that includes the infamous Pine Barrens where The New Jersey Devil is said to frolic in the area of The Blue Hole and the ghost of Captain Kidd among other spirits roam. So the decision to do an entire tribute album to the influential Japanese psych band Fishmans seems like an interesting and odd choice for I LOVE FISH due out July 8 including an ambitious cover of the entire 1996 album Long Season which is five tracks comprising a single song akin to Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick but driven by hypnotic piano and the late Shinji Sato’s idiosyncratic and compelling vocals. The lead single from the album is the introspective and moody “ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)” and its shimmery tonal dynamic. The video features indeed a night drive but one that seems to simultaneously take place in the water and on a road with the color palette being one of distorted hues emphasized like something from a clumsy late 90s filmed to VHS production that is perfect for the song and its woozy pace swirls of rhythm and dub-like iterations of melody. At times reminiscent of something Candy Claws/Sound of Ceres might do but also a fascinating recreation of the truly unique original that one has to assume influenced indirectly if not directly the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow and The Stargazer Lilies—gently trippy and mysterious, qualities we need more of in music these days. Watch the video for “Night Cruising” on YouTube and follow Pine Barons at the links provided.

Pine Barons on Facebook

Pine Barons on Twitter

Pine Barons on Instagram

Bad Flamingo Adopts a Zen-like Composure in the Face of Everyday Chaos on “Rolling Around In It”

Bad Flamingo, photo courtesy the artists

There’s something about Bad Flamingo’s “Rolling Around In It” that sounds like something you’d hear in the opening sequence of an animated film version of a Daniel Clowes graphic novel. The eccentric elements of sound from the use of instrumentation in the guitar and bass and almost Bossa Nova rhythms in minimalist arrangements coming together in peak moments and quickly dissolving into the background to accent and frame a series of images in the lyrics that seem to follow a symbolic dream logic. Words about how a cold glass of water will turn someone into mud, the chorus of “a seven a seven a cherry a cherry a cherry a pit” suggesting the outcome on an unusual slot machine, a lighting rod that can actually be surprised it got struck. Is that really what we’re hearing? What does it all mean? That everyone and everything has unexpected vulnerabilities and outcomes and best to take a Zen approach to this built in element of chaos in a world of complex dynamic intersections? Who can say but this song that comes off like one of Suzanne Vega’s more idiosyncratic and meditative pop compositions but even weirder has an undeniable hook like much of the output of Bad Flamingo. Listen to “Rolling Around In It” on Spotify and follow Bad Flamingo at the links below.

Bad Flamingo at Facebook

Bad Flamingo on YouTube

Bad Flamingo on Instagram

Cabin’s Lushly Epic “Whatever You Have” Taps Into a Deep Sense of Melancholic Nostalgia

Cabin, photo courtesy the artist

Cabin’s lush, pop mini-epic “Whatever You Have” sounds like something from another era. It’s lo-fi aspect makes one think of something like an early 80s demo tape sent to a record label with the hopes of getting signed. The songwriting is fully realized, the arrangements gorgeously fleshed out and the vocals syncing perfectly with the processional dynamics sitting well in the mix. An echoing piano with lush, fuzzy synth washes and bells adding a melodic touch to the textural percussion pushes the memory into emotional musical touchstones like Tears for Fears or even Joe Jackson. The lyrics seem to come from a similar perspective of grappling with aging on the cusp of thirty with a tone of resigned, melancholic reverie aswim in a flow of the song and its evocatively atmospheric ebb and flow. One hears regret and contemplation of the give and take of a relationship and what it means and where it might go and coming to terms with an existential uncertainty in a time of psychological life transition. It’s like listening to a fading VHS tape of an old concert from the early-to-mid-80s and that is part of its charm both sonically and in its ability to tape into a sense of nostalgia without wallowing in it stylistically. Listen to “Whatever You Have” on Spotify.

Live Show Review: A Place to Bury Strangers and Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Like many other musical projects A Place To Bury Strangers emerged from the early phase of the global pandemic a different band, certainly with a different membership other than guitarist and singer Oliver Ackermann. Following the highly experimental, even by APTBS standards, 2018 album Pinned the group probably had to have a different approach and lineup to avoid coasting into too familiar territory and musical habits. So we heard Hologram (2021) and what seemed more pop and garage rock in structure and sonics. Then the new full-length See Through You (2022) which felt like a reconciliation of Ackermann’s songwriting and soundcrafting instincts and channeling that through new creative filters and doing a sort of self-remix of a sound to expose a raw core that sometimes, if not for the obvious level of creative development, sounded like an early demo from a time before a band has settled on a sound that might appeal to some more conventionally-minded record label type. Then again APTBS doesn’t seem to have kowtowed that direction with any of its records. But whatever the motivations in assembling these sounds for the new record and whatever the methods for achieving these sounds both jagged and vulnerable how would this version of APTBS translate live.

Polly Urethane at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

For this leg of the tour Florida-based post-punk band Glove was to have opened the dates but something went sidewise in its camp and that left only the Denver-based openers Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve. It’s a relatively new musical entity though Polly Urethane at a minimum has garnered attention and praise and even recommendation in the local scene with unexpected people telling me I should check out her work and initially thinking it was Polyurethane of Zach Reini vintage, the Godflesh-esque industrial grind duo, upon listening to Polly Urethane’s 2021 EP Altruism with Rusty Steve, Altruism, it was obvious this was going to be something very different. The lush production of the EP and the emotionally refined and powerful vocals hit with greater dramatic effect and force live bolstered by Amber Benton decked out in a white, gauzy dress and long, black hair lending an aspect of one of those vengeful female spirits of Japanese folklore. When Benton crawled up top of some cases on the side of the stage and sang from there as well as going out into the crowd she broke the convention of the audience and performer barrier with a seeming fearlessness but also the intention of transgressing unspoken rules that protect nothing but a subconscious status quo.

Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

The music combined with the theater of the performance was reminiscent of Zola Jesus and her own fusion of classical music and ethereal yet cathartic, darkly electronic pop. And Benton’s persona has to be compared to that of Diamanda Galás—that intensity and conviction perfected melded with a musical sophistication that helps to elevate aspects of the show some less charitable types that aren’t open to witnessing something different might call gimmicky to a realm of high art. At the beginning of the performance there was a projection of a the great, highly political collage artist Barbara Kruger—looked specifically like her 1990/2018 “Untitled (Questions)” piece—that calls into questions assumptions about society, challenging power and privilege. Seemed entirely appropriate to the current political climate even before the Supreme Court started to in full force dismantle civil rights in America. The performance seemed informed by the spirit of Kruger’s piece and if you take the time to give the EP a listen it’s a deeply personal and emotionally rich expression of the fallout of authoritarian influence on culture on the psyche. Really, an unforgettable performance that wasn’t the typical local band opening for someone with whom their music might fit.

Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22
A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

From the flood of colored lights projected in shifting arrays and textures to the sheer controlled caustic sonics and brutally syncopated rhythms A Place to Bury Strangers unleashed its steady flow of electrifying sound and launched into “We’ve Come So Far” and didn’t much let up minus some breaks between songs and an unexpected and brilliant interlude toward the end of the set. It felt like being elevated into a different psychological space where your brain is stimulated in with a bright and dense energy pulsing with a driving momentum until we were let down at the end. The guitar and rhythm section just had that kind of rare synergy that is pretty much impossible to ignore with sounds that hit different parts of your listening spectrum.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Even songs you already know and have heard many times over several years had a heightened freshness like the band had learned to rediscover its music to deliver in a way that still felt exciting for them. Most bands probably do this especially after roughly two years of not being able to play live shows. Seeing the outfit going back to 2008 when it came through Denver and played the Larimer Lounge with its gloriously disorienting, scorching swaths of sound this performance felt like the trio was connecting to a new source of inspiration.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

At one point toward the latter half of the set the band came off the stage to the center of the room where Ackermann had set up what looked like a self-contained sound generating device through which he could process vocals and his bandmates brought instruments to join in what certainly had to be a familiar experience for anyone who got to go to DIY spaces in America circa 2006-2012 akin to Ackermann’s own venue and studio in New York City, Death By Audio. In taking the show to people off stage in this way it was like the band recreated that experience in a more commercial venue thereby injecting the situation with some of that free form and free flowing spontaneous spirit and energy of the DIY world pre-Ghost Ship and pre-complete corporate/private equity firm takeover of the real estate market nationwide more or less ending that era completely into the foreseeable future. For that alone, this show felt exceptional and subversive. But of course there was more to come including the familiar strains of the always epic and enveloping “Ocean.” But the whole set came off like a scrubbing away of the mundane world and getting reconnected to one’s own raw emotions as expressed through this band that is inaccurately called a shoegaze band or noise rock or simply noise or dream pop or industrial. It’s all of that and beyond that. When the show was over that purging of regular life lingered for long afterward from two sets of deeply imaginative and creative music that directly challenged convention and that’s a gift no one should take for granted.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Partial Set List
We’ve Come So Far (Transfixiation)
You Are The One (Worship)
My Head Is Bleeding (See Through You)
Hold On Tight (See Through You)
Everything Always Goes Wrong (Exploding Head)
Let’s See Each Other (See Through You)
Never Coming Back (Pinned)
End of the Night (Hologram)
In Your Heart (Exploding Head)
I Live My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart (Exploding Head)
Have You Ever Been In Love (new song)
Ocean (s/t)

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22
A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Baudelaire Spins Despair Into Catharsis on the Urgent Post-punk of “Lethe”

Baudelaire, photo courtesy the artists

Baudelaire made an interesting choice in titling a song “Lethe” invoking name of one of the rivers of the Greek underworld, the one corresponding to forgetfulness and oblivion. Which suits the name of the project borrowing the surname of the Nineteenth Century French symboliste, Decadent and modernist poet of some renown. The lyrics paint a landscape of darkness and emotional urgency while untangling a web of deceit and betrayals in a social circle fraught with fragile and fake relationships even to the point where the line imploring one’s “last remaining friend don’t make me feel better” about a situation that can only turn toxic and unsustainable in pursuit of a life worth living. The pulsing rhythms and guitar paired with dramatic vocals surge with great momentum and riffs run abstract into atmospheric drones and back again in a dynamic that puts guitar sounds on the same sonic plane as the fine synth work suggesting flashes of dark realization and the disorientation that comes with acute disappointment spiraling into a desperate dispiritedness. The catharsis of the anxiety expressed in the song is a more positive form oblivion as transformation and transmuting the intensely bleak mood into inspiration. Fans of early Modern English will appreciate Baudelaire’s aesthetic greatly. Listen to “Lethe” on Spotify and follow Baudelaire at the links below.

Baudelaire on Facebook

Baudelaire on Instagram