Siv Disa aka Siv Anderson is a Reyjavik, Iceland-based songwriter who released her debut album Dreamhouse through the UK imprint Trapped Animal in November 2021. Anderson had been recording her eclective and evocative experimental dream pop and releasing singles for the past couple of years and demonstrated a knack for delivering a whole concept with her songs and accompanying music videos. From early forays into songwriting and performing while in college in the Boston area to becoming immersed in the underground music world of New York City post-grad and working as a teacher, Anderson’s style of soundscaping and storytelling is riveting in its quality of operating from a place outside standard logical though. Dreamhouse itself follows a bit of a story arc in the way Anderson spent a great deal of time figuring out an order for the songs in terms of themes both subject matter and musical. The album’s free association of ideas with psychedelia/shoegaze, jazz structures, noise, ambient and pop in a way that seems to invoke concepts of non-linear film making has resulted in a set of songs that takes you through a broad range of emotions and a gentle catharsis. We had the opportunity to speak with the songwriter at length through the benefit of speaking over the internet about her roots in becoming an artist rather than something her parents would have approved right away, her development as a musician and film maker as well as the themes of some of her music.
Listen to the interview with Siv Disa on Bandcamp linked below (where you can also order a vinyl edition of Dreamhouse), check out the video for “Whistle” (filmed in Iceland) and connect with her at the links provided.
Former Skinjobs vocalist Katja Vale has been releasing solo tracks in 2021 and her latest is “Water Serpents.” With an array of synth swells and layers of ethereal melody and a vocal line that rises and falls with subtle dynamics, Vale offers a song that seems to use the image of mythological creatures as metaphor for the ways people trap and define other people to suit their own needs even as a core human instinct for freedom will unwind that influence and power in the end. Vale sings of the ways we internalize this attempt to control through guilt and people pleasing and a natural desire to do no harm but in the context of a toxic relationship not harming the situation isn’t a sustainable way of being. The song’s downtempo moods and slow-coiling synth line punctuated by bright tonal accents truly makes this song of quiet personal liberation stand out. Listen to “Water Serpents” on Spotify below and follow Vale at the links provided.
Margo Polo’s single “Can You Hear Me?” comes on with a confidence and exuberance propelled by the excitement of the dream and visions that have brought you to where you want to be. But David Provenzano’s lyrics with this project rarely sit with simple hopefulness and bravado. And though the track rushes with great energy, buoyed with upsweeping, ethereal synth melodies and driving, fuzzy guitar rhythms it really does seem to come from a place we’ve all been for two years minimum where everything has felt up in the air, uncertain and filled with doubts about our ability to turn aspirations into dreams and no end in sight to a time of seemingly new challenges every week and every month and now every year. Sure the pandemic is the big disruption but it simply focused larger societal and civilizational issues that have made it increasingly difficult for most people to get by or to achieve many modest goals in life with the unspoken truth that when the under class struggles so hard and the people that are the undercelebrated glue of society similarly struggle the whole thing is in trouble whether the wealthy and powerful recognize it or not and in aggregate they haven’t for years. This song is about being in that place not necessarily trying to fix some bigger picture but just trying to make it through a little at a time while not pretending it’s all okay yet yearning for a state of things that don’t seem like an endless crisis. Heady stuff but Provenzano has a gift for making serious subject matter personal, accessible and uplifting. Fans of M83 would do well to check out any Margo Polo song. Listen to “Can You Hear Me?” on Spotify below and follow Margo Polo at any of the links provided.
Carmine Appice is one of the most influential drummers in the history of rock music. He first came to the attention of a wide audience as a member of heavy psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge. His imaginative, powerful and versatile style proved to be an influence on the likes of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Roger Taylor of Queen, Ian Paice of Deep Purple and really a whole generation of hard rock and heavy metal drummers. Across his long career, Appice has played in and contributed to albums by Cactus, Rod Stewart, King Kobra, Pink Floyd, Sly Stone and now with Appice Perdomo Project, his musical partnership with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo. The duo released its debut album Energy Overload at the end of August 2021 on Cleopatra Records. We had a chance to speak at length with Appice about when Led Zeppelin played its first North American show in Denver opening for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge, his long experience as a recording artist and performer and how laying down tracks in the early 80s paved the way for him to draw on older drum tracks to send to collaborators to recontextualize the beat by writing other music to existing rhythms in a process not unlike a remix by taking a great drum track and having it as the foundation for new music.
You can listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp below and watch the video for “Rocket To The Sun” on YouTube. For more information on Appice and his prolific and still active career spanning six decades, please visit his official website www.carmineappice.net and check out his colorful and engaging 2016 memoir Stick It!: My Life of Sex, Drums & Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Thursday | 12.03 What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie When: 10 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.
Friday | 12.03 What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer When: 7/8 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.
Saturday | 12.04 What:…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.
Monday | 12.06 What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.
Tuesday | 12.07 What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod When: 6/7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.
Tuesday | 12.07 What:Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.
Thursday | 12.09 What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.
Friday | 12.10 What:N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.
Friday | 12.10 What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.
Saturday | 12.11 What:Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 9:30/10 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.
Friday | 12.17 What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.
Friday | 12.17 What:Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.
Monday | December 20 What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.
Thursday | 12.23 What:Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.
Friday | 12.31 What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.
The cover of Juniordeer’s I Just Want To Sleep is the perfect analog to an album of hazy atmospherics and melancholic passages swirling with distorted melodies. The whole album sounds like the recollections of someone looking out onto a winter landscape from a place of more relative physical comfort if haunted by memories and the realities of a likely future. At times, as with “8 Years Since My Last Confession,” the album is reminiscent of a Black Marble album but rendered in all electronic sounds and rapid electronic percussion tracking intense waves of emotion. “The Outer Fire” begins like a sequence in a fast-paced video game where quick reflexes are needed to get through a maze of perils, obstacles and enemies – a parallel to the number of challenges and dramatic political and social dramas that seemed to bombard us all in America over the last half decade. Longer if you’ve not had the luxury of not being keenly aware of being directly affected by them. Each song provides the tonal equivalent of a video game zone one must get through in order to attain the goal suggested by the title of the album—that title speaking to a need for peace and stability in a safe place after having to dodge crises and hardships one after the other with no end in sight. Weaving together an almost 8-bit music aesthetic with tastefully crafted trap beats and moody synths, Juniordeer has captured a slice of the zeitgeist of recent years of tension and a need for reprieve because humans weren’t really designed for juggling so many pressures for their entire lives. “Breakdown Bay” and the sounds of slowly churning waters in the distance is like the final boss of experiences to navigate to reach the end with the name of a place hinting at the point where many give up and succumb to despair. With the concluding track “Sleep,” Juniordeer reminds us that we can get through a time of troubles if we can endure and persevere and not hold up one goal as the end of all goals. Listen to I Just Want To Sleep on Bandcamp and follow Juniordeer at the links provided. With any luck he’ll be able to perform some of this music live in 2022.
It’s probably inevitable that someone in Denver music is going to think The Velveteers appeared out of nowhere with a record produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys. But after more than half a decade of playing house shows, DIY venues, some touring, UMS appearances, playing more commercial venues and some solid opening gigs the trio finally celebrated the release of its 2021 debut full-length Nightmare Daydream headlining a venue the size of The Gothic Theatre, a big deal for any local band.
I got to the Gothic too late to catch the first opening act, Highlands Ranch-based dream pop trio Dry Ice, but got there in time to see Dreadnought setting up its hefty array of gear. A mainstay of the local doom scene, Dreadnought wasted no time in delivering a catharsis of low end psychedelic drone punctuated by primal riffs and ghostly atmospheric melodies. The vocals both sublimely ritualistic in tone and tenor also engaged in a explosion of pent up emotion to accent finely crafted moments of peak mood at the apex of one of the band’s glacial builds.
From the backdrop with the band’s name and figures of a moon and sun with clouds and other celestial bodies flanking each side of the stage to each member of the band dressed up to take you out of mundane life for an hour and a half or so, The Velveteers prepared us for a theatrical rock show that put the focus on the music. Lead singer and guitarist Demi Demitro came out in a sequined get-up like a cross between a 70s glam rock space alien and Stevie Nicks. Jonny Fig and Baby Pottersmith dressed up like they had walked out on stage after touring in Vanilla Fudge. There was always something special about the band even when I last saw them at the UMS at the Hi-Dive in 2016 but their presence and confidence this time out, however much of an act that might be, was palpable. This was a band that had long since refined its sound and then sought out a direction for the music and its execution, honed that to a high degree, and put it on an album and brought a raw freshness to that material on stage.
If the band didn’t play all of the new record it sure felt like it covered a lot of territory playing more than twelve songs including some older material. Live the songs of course hit harder with an emotional intensity in a way that is different from the album. The album doesn’t have Demi Demitro crowd surfing a couple of times during the set while still playing guitar. The albums doesn’t have Jonny Fig staring out into the crowd with a mix of heightened focus and sheer joy, the album doesn’t include getting to see Baby Pottersmith and Fig drumming furiously and elegantly in perfect sync with each other and Demitro. Demitro’s beguiling blend of strength, vulnerability, passion and broadly nuanced vocals while captured finely on the records struck one as exhilarating as she and her bandmates moved about caught up in the moment. That much power behind lyrics that actually have meaning and point to an astute assessment of the dubious intentions of various people in one’s life and one’s own human frailties and aspirations is uncommon enough but certainly so relatively early in a band’s career. Hopefully this Gothic show in the end was both a celebration and a graduation to more than the unjustly maligned local band status.
Sendai based ambient artist Nerve (Manabu Ito), as NRV, released his latest EP Notari in July 2021 on Foil Imprints and distilled the essence of the tranquil moments captured in deep places in our memories. The hazy drones and distant, abstracted to a blur of melodies and eroded feedback convey a sense of emotional place where the urgency of everyday life is blocked by a protective cloud cover that also conveys your spirit along a path that soothes the psyche and encourages an opening up to simple stimuli that can be missed in a sea of demanding content. “Rice field and river, 1974” and “i want a white petal in my teacup” as titles have a Zen-like poetic quality to suggest times when you are struck by simple things, simple desires that nourish a sense of inner peace rather than call for a dramatic response. In a time and in a culture that all but requires we push ourselves to the maximum for the requirements of an economic system that is destroying the planet and crushing everyone under, even those who benefit the most, music like this may not hit you over the head with its importance, it is not something over which to get “stoked,” but it may be the sort of thing we need more of to get through to a saner future human civilizational baseline as embodied by these gorgeous five tracks. Watch the evocative EP video preview below and listen to the EP on Bandcamp and consider purchasing the cassette version and listen analog in an appropriate setting like looking out the window during a snowstorm.
At one point in the Julien Baker show at the Gothic Theatre, the singer and songwriter acknowledged, in her offhand, dryly humorous way, that mostly the set would consist of full band songs since she had released a full band album (Little Oblivions) earlier in the year and that it may not be for everyone but that if it was, thanks for supporting the music. Her wry and self-aware wit graced much of the show when the occasion presented itself as a kind of contrast to the intense and raw emotional territory of the music itself.
Chicago art punk band Dehd opened the show with their own brand of irreverent intensity. Drummer Eric McGrady seemed to hold the music together while Emily Kempf and Jason Balla traded off and came together with emotionally charged vocals, Kempf’s expressions both refined and eruptive, Balla’s fiery yet thoughtful. After being on the fence listening to the band’s recorded output over the last few years taking a closer listen to the band’s 2020 album Flower of Devotion and seeing the band in action made it obvious that preconceptions of where its music fits in a box are best left aside in appreciation for how its various creative impulses work together well when in the context of a live music setting.
Julien Baker has always had an uncommonly powerful voice with a widely expressive delivery as a live performer. Impossible to ignore or dismiss because her turns of phrase are often so creative and coursing with genuine feeling. Seeing these qualities in the context of the full band and an expanded sonic palette. Sure, the middle section of the show where Baker performed solo with guitar and then piano were intimate and poignant and a showcase for her immense talent as a songwriter and performer. But it felt like in some ways that not having to make all the sounds of the music happen left her free to express her feelings in an even more potent and direct way. Certainly the band rehearsed before the tour but when Baker got swept up in the moment and cried out in peak moments of soaring vocals it felt like she was really putting herself out there in a radically vulnerable, elemental way, putting her trust in the audience emotionally. And to its credit the audience responded in kind. It seemed like everyone had more than a singular moment throughout the show and Baker seemed to give voice to thoughts and feelings maybe other people don’t know how to articulate as well or as artfully with as much cathartic energy in public.
There wasn’t a lot of banter during a set of around twenty songs but when Baker did speak it was with a charmingly self-deprecating humor and a spirit of kindness that was unmistakable. Yes, Baker’s song speak to pain and suffering in a poetic yet real way, especially the songs from Little Oblivions. But always with a sense of a shared experience. When her words address or speak about someone it isn’t with a sense of spite or accusation so much as honoring the raw emotions and with an aim of understanding and processing experiences that can be incredibly uncomfortable. Her performance, as with the new album, came across as opening these moments that can get stuck in our heads with an inspiring honesty minus the cruelty that too often accompanies when people are “being real” with one another. Rather Baker showcased a way to be real and honest with compassion and kindness while also feeling in full the power and sometimes psychologically transformative experiences of those feelings.
Perhaps most telling was a moment mid-set when someone in the audience commented on one of her early songs and Baker said she wrote it when she was 18 years old in her dorm and that she hopes she has grown and developed as a person since then but that yet she feels compassion for the person she was then. There are many lessons to be learned about life over the years but that’s one that Baker learned earlier than most people and a bit of down to earth wisdom she shared without couching it as such and that spoke volumes about her approach to her music and with other people, a subtle yet strong kindness that isn’t common enough.
For over half a decade Never Kenezzard has brought its psychedelically-inflected heavy music to stages in Colorado. Fronted by guitarist Ryan Peru the trio draws a bit of inspiration from art rock and the avant-garde as well as the likes of Faith No More and Queens of the Stone Age, Never Kenezzard released its debut album Never Say… in 2016. Peru came up getting into classic rock and alternative rock like many people that grew up in the 80s and 90s but transitioned into a focus on experimental electronic music including IDM and ambient music in the late 90s going on to spend nearly two decades making music along those lines including his now concurrent project Mondo Obscura with Evan Brown. 2021 sees the band releasing The Long and Grinding Road representing the development of the group including a line-up change so that found members Peru and drummer Jason Starkey were joined by Denver underground music figure Don White on bass. The record, available online on November 20, 2021, is a thoughtfully sequenced journey of urban and cosmic myth and the rewards of perseverance. We had a chance to have an extended conversation with Peru about his youth in rural Colorado, his evolution in music, his life in the local scene including his time providing striking projections for shows in Denver’s experimental music scene as part of 75ohms and the vicissitudes of being an independent band with relatively little music and culture industry support for your style of sound-making.
Never Kenezzard celebrates the release of The Long and Grinding Road on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at The Squire Lounge with Sea of Flames and Master Ferocious. The show is at 9 p.m. and it’s free and 21+. Look for the digital release of the new album on the Never Kenezzard Bandcamp page. Listen to our interview with Peru on the Queen City Sounds Podcast Bandcamp page linked below. Over the summer Never Kenezzard released the fetching music video for harrowing single “Genie” for which we did a write-up but you can watch it below following the interview link.