Adam Melchor declares on “I Choose You” that if he was going to be stranded on a desert island, instead of something practical, essential or even one of those records that gets bandied about, he chooses a particular person. It is an unorthodox love song making such a statement of devotion but the song itself is a bit unconventional for a pop song. The spacey sounds and bizarre voices in the background of the simple guitar melody already sets your expectations outside the realm of the normal. Melchor’s voice contains the conviction inside a playfully imaginative song in which he indulges moments of fantastical statements like “Out of billions of people I’ve got it down to two, I choose you” to mince no words about his intentions. In doing so, Melchor takes the oftentimes hackneyed premise of a melodramatic love song and turns it into something endearingly strange and otherworldly to match the premise. Listen to “I Choose You” on Soundcloud and follow Melchor at the links below.
What:Zeta (Venezuela), Clarion Void, Disposal Notice, Its Just Bugs When: Thursday, 11.21, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Venezuelan band Zeta has been developing its experimental hardcore sound since 2003. It’s sound is a parts progressive rock and punk but in a way that’s expressive and moody while not sacrificing the intensity. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Mochima.
What:Mt. Joy w/Wilderado and Adam Melchor When: Thursday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Wilderado’s new single “Surefire” sounds wistful and nostalgic in a way that allows for words to develop into an introspective narrative that blooms into an expansive melody alongside the story. Reminiscent of the way The War On Drugs echoes some of the vibe of Bruce Springsteen’s reflective, diary-like lyrics, this offering from the band builds on the atmospheric experiments of its 2018 EP Favors with more electric instrumentation and a more immersive sound without compromising the group’s use of space as a canvass for its emotional colorings.
Friday | November 22
What:Married a Dead Man w/False Report, Dead Characters When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Denver’s Married a Dead Man is releasing its second album Awakening this night. The group’s sound might be described as somewhere between Xmal Deutschland’s wiry, urgent, dark atmospherics and modern pop melodies. The new set of songs, no doubt honed from live performances, are not just bandwagon new post-punk revival and darkwave. At times Megan Kelley’s performance and songwriting chops from her time as a solo artist infuse the songs with a warmth and coherence that gives the music a broader range than the genre of late can sometimes have with songs like “Burn” having a massive, expansive, dramatic dynamic that stretches the boundaries of what one might this band is capable of at first blush. Worth delving into beyond a casual listen.
What:Wildermiss w/Slow Caves When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Wildermiss is a Denver-based indie rock band that is probably on the verge of much wider circles than simply relatively successful local band status. Its new EP In My Mind captures the spirit of our time now of great contrasts of emotional states and expectations, a mixture of fear and hopefulness that most people are experiencing due to the state of the planet, politics, culture and economics. We stand on the precipice of disaster and promise of a better future if we do not lack the will to make it happen. In My Mind expresses that tension well across its length.
What:Briffaut, Down Time and Inaiah Lujan When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Briffaut’s new album A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away is a nice capsule of this band’s idiosyncratic songwriting. Fans of both King Krule and Deerhunter will find something to love about the band’s lush and unpredictable song structures and raw, emotional swells of tone and a disregard for whether a song or style or performance fits in with some established aesthetic outside its own. Too much music in the indie world is boringly predictable. Not just the indie world. Imitators of milquetoast artists and already successful formulas are rife in music now as at all times since popular music has been a thing. Thankfully Briffaut and its willingness to embrace its own weirdness has been intact since the beginning and gloriously so on the new album of imaginative soundscapes, completely unconventional songwriting and the ability to utterly transport us outside our usual frames of musical reference.
What:Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Dreadnought and Superstition When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Blood Incantation recently released its new album Hidden History of the Human Race. The Denver-based death metal band is a big of an enigma in that it has been slowly building a cult following for years and playing few local shows. But its songs, especially live, come across as larger than life, psychedelic although imbued with the technical precision of the best death metal, and as oddly accessible as the genre has ever been. The record is a science fiction concept album but one that has a cover designed by Bruce Pennington who did cover art for A Canticle For Leibowitz and the Dune books after the initial novel. Plus the guy did the iconic cover for Gene Wolfe’s landmark science fiction fantasy book The Shadow of the Torturer. Fine stuff for an album that is a thrilling reminder that death metal can still be fun and not a forbidding drag.
What:Black Star Gang ft. Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, DJ Premier w/Brother Ali, Evidence and The ReMINDers When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Black Star is a hip hop duo comprised of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), two of the sharpest critics of American culture and innovators in the genre themselves. The project only has one album up to now, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, but rumor has it they have another in the works produced by Madlib. So if you’ve caught the recent live performances maybe you’ve heard some of the new material and it seems likely it’ll be on display for this show.
What:Lisa Prank w/The Tangles (fka The Tickles) and Horse Girl When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lisa Prank has established refined and thoughtful emo pop songs as a national artist since starting the project in Denver several years back. Her new record Perfect Love Song is a a little fuzzier, more confident but just as wise and as insightful.
What:Shibui Denver #8: Dead Orchids and The Shift When: Sunday, 11.24, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: For this edition of Shibui Denver we will have two bands that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. The Shift is an improvisational, experimental progressive rock band and includes Esmé Patterson and former Bad Weather California bassist Jeremy Averitt. Dead Orchids’ dark, brooding songs are a vital mix of post-punk and Americana but without the trendy habits that often mar bands trying their hand at either.
What:Midwife w/Hogwaller When: Monday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: Forest Room 5 Why: Midwife is an ambient folk artist of the highest order who was recently tapped to perform at The Flenser showcase at the Roadburn Festival in 2020 with her debut album on that record label later in the year. See her at these small rooms while you still can.
Tuesday | November 26
What:HIDE w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Cau5er When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Confrontational, performance art-oriented industrial band HIDE is the urban dystopian futurist ritual catharsis we need now to burn off the darkness of the modern world. Its new album Hell is Here is a searing, discordant exorcism of the demons that plague the body politic.
What:Pigface w/eHpH, DJ N810, DJ Mudwulf When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Pigface is the long-standing industrial supergroup with roots going back to the 80s with members of Ministry, KMFDM and other industrial luminaries. EhpH is a Denver-based duo whose mix of EBM and industrial rock is actually compelling and cathartic and doesn’t come off like its members’ musical imagination got stuck in the early 2000s.
What:Shark Dreams w/Nuancer, The Milk Blossoms and GhostPulse When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Best local dream pop line-up in more than a minute with some of Denver’s best. Shark Dreams is more the kind of drifty indie pop with a leg in glittery, slowcore dynamic. Nuancer is as informed by experimental electronic music as pop. The Milk Blossoms are a hip-hop trio disguised as a heartfelt, hyper sincere, experimental indie pop group with a sense of humor and humanity. GhostPulse weaves together downtempo beats, unconventional instrumentation and luminously cloudy atmospherics.
What:The Hu w/Crown Land When: Wednesday, 11.27, 6 p.m. Where: The Black Sheep Why: The Hu is a rock band from Mongolia that performs with traditional instruments, uses throat singing and yet its songs are an exquisite hybrid of Mongolian folk music and heavy metal. Could be corny but it is not, it is powerful, stirring stuff. Fans of Laibach will enjoy the sound of this band even though the styles are so different. Around since 2016 The Hu recently released its debut album The Gereg on Eleven Seven Records.
What:Pink Turns Blue w/Radio Scarlet and DJ Katastrophy When: Thursday, 09.26, 8 p.m. Where: Herman’s Hideaway Why: Pink Turns Blue formed in Berlin in 1985. Its dark, moody atmospherics and driving bass lines meant its sound very much resonated with the post-punk of the day as it included synths in the mix and guitar chords that rang out and gave the songwriting an introspective quality. Fans of Chameleons and The Sound will probably much to like about Pink Turns Blue’s melancholic urgency and Mic Jogwer’s desperate yet resigned vocals. The group toured with Laibach in 1987 band recorded subsequent albums in Ljubljana, Slovenia smuggling in studio equipment from the West to do so. When the group moved to London in 1991 it lost some of its momentum and split in 1995. But since 2003 Pink Turns Blue has been active once again ahead of the revival and rebirth of darkwave that has been going on for the past decade. Also on the bill is Radio Scarlet, a Denver-based death rock band.
What:Animal / object, Arc Sol and Joohsup When: Thursday, 09.26, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Animal / object is Denver’s premier avant-garde improvisational band utilizing unconventional instrumentation. Arc Sol is proof you can be influenced by progressive rock, psychdelia and Silver Jews and refreshingly sound like none of that while bearing their mark. Joohsup is a left field hip-hop noise duo.
Friday | September 27
What:Cellista’s Transfigurations w/Sean Renner When: Friday, 09.27, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Mulimedia artist Cellista recently released an album called Transfigurations with a companion book, A Listener’s Guide to Cellista’s Transfigurations, that gives the ambitious work some context. The album explores those moments in life and in one’s personal and maybe creative development when you are struck and forced to consider the moment and evolve taking in that transformational input. With the processed samples of authoritarian voices speaking to that effect is both chilling and a reminder of those times when we could have stepped in to take a different path but haven’t yet. The album seems arranged as piece of politically-charged, avant-garde literature with an elegantly composed soundtrack that deconstructs and re-synthesizes classical music, pop, hip-hop and sound design. For the live performances of Transfigurations Cellista will incorporate dance, film, music and literature for an experience like little else going on this week or any other in Denver.
What:Babymetal w/Avatar When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Babymetal is a Japanese “kawaii metal” band whose relentless death metal is overlaid with J-pop-esque vocals and melodies. And the stage shows just like something out of a big time production of a Japanese pop band on one of the massive Saturday marathon variety shows, choreographed dance moves and matching outfits. Gimmicky, to be sure, but weird enough to be enjoyable.
What:Dodie w/Adam Melchor When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Dodie Clark is an English singer-songwriter whose spare melodies and breathy vocals give the space for her sharply observant and poetic lyrics to develop and create vivid images in your mind of a situation and feeling, a real slice of the experience of that moment. Her 2019 album Human expands the sonic palette some while also imbuing Clark’s voice with more clarity and impact.
What:Adrian Belew w/Saul Zonana When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Adrian Belew is the brilliant and inventive guitarist whose solo albums are worth exploring for this imaginative songwriting. But some may remember him for his time playing in King Crimson, as a live member of Talking Heads, in Tin Machine with David Bowie or even on William Shatner’s 2004 album Has Been.
What:Bellhoss tour kickoff w/Short Shorts, Mainland Break and Claire Heywood When: Friday, 09.27, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Bellhoss is taking off for a tour of the American West and launching that with this show including some of Denver’s most interesting indie rock bands in Short Shorts and Mainland Break. Bellhoss’ Becky Hostetler nails the anxiety and hope of modern life on her tender and earnest pop songs.
Saturday | September 28
What:John Densmore When: Saturday, 09.28, 2 p.m. Where: Boulder Book Store Why: Doors drummer John Densmore will be signing copies of his 2010 book Doors Unhinged.
What:Mike Watt & The Missingmen w/Slim Cessna When: Saturday, 09.28, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Mike Watt is indeed the bassist singer who was a part of Minutemen and fIREHOSE and who has been playing bass in the Stooges of late. This trio includes Tom Watson who was a member of jangle-y post-punk band Slovenly and Raul Morales who also plays with Watt in Mike Watt and the Secondmen. This project combines Watson’s textured, melodic guitar style with Watt’s angular, jazz-inflected, wiry and urgent rhythms. Watt being one of the most animated and talented bass players in all of punk and rock and a sharp social critic is always worth checking out. He’s still jamming econo and the band’s tours and booking are still well within the realm of DIY in the old school and modern sense.
What:Sway Wild w/Megan Rose Ellsworth When: Saturday, 09.28, 7 p.m. Where: The Walnut Room Why: What saves Sway Wild from being the kind of “Indie” radio darling band that is the stuff of too many would-be tastemaker playlists crafted by those with fairly conventional and safe taste in music is not just Mandy Fer’s warm vocals and her and Dave McGraw’s dynamic songwriting. It’s that making up its charming melodies and playful performances is imaginative and creative instrumentation that displays their technical prowess as players channeled into zesty, tightly crafted pop songs. Currently the trio, which includes Thom Lord, is on tour in support of its self-titled, full-length debut.
Sunday | September 29
What: Shibui Denver #6: Total Trash and Rowboat When: Sunday, 09.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This latest edition of Shibui Denver showcases Total Trash and Rowboat. The former is a psychedelic noise pop group whose members have played with the likes of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Quantum Creep, Lil Slugger, The Pseudo Dates and other bands that mean little if you’ve not been paying attention to the Denver underground of the past ten years. But it also means some of the more creative musical talents in the realm of local rock music have come together to make something different from what they’ve done before. Rowboat combines literary yet deeply emotional and heartfelt lyrics with haunting atmospheres and melodies in songs that plumb the depths of human existence and the things that give meaning to our lives.
What:Periphery w/Veil of Maya and Covet When: Tuesday, 10.01, 6 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Progressive metal band Periphery sounds more like a post-hardcore band than simply metal. And probably because the attack of its songs is fairly angular and driving in a way that sounds more like it comes out of a similar place of primal energy. Although there’s plenty of precision and technical prowess on display in its songs with many songs in drop C on the six-string, the group’s songs often sound like they’re about to fly off the rails. Sometimes bands with those types of sounds and dynamics take themselves way too seriously but Periphery’s 2019 album is called Periphery IV: Hail Stan. There is a song called “Chvrch Bvrner” and references to the supernatural and animals. So someone in the band, probably everyone involved, has a healthy sense of humor and an ability to see its music in a way that evolves organically than the sort of pure logic level that is often assumed with the genre.
What:Plague Vendor w/No Parents and The Ghoulies When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Plague Vendor came off as a fairly straightforward melodic punk band early on. But at this point, and particularly on its new album By Night, the band from Whittier, California has evolved its sound into something more akin to glammy post-punk without sacrificing its fiery energy.
What:An Evening With Paula Cole When: Tuesday, 10.01, 7 p.m. Where: Buffalo Rose Why: Paula Cole made her popular music bonafides as an act on Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live tour from 1993-1994. Her musical background includes having studied jazz singing at Berklee College of Music and in her dusky, soulful vocals you hear that training put to good use. In 1996 her second album This Fire yielded the hit single “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and like anything popular it got played ad infinitum making it easy to dismiss Cole like any other pop act put forth by the music industry as it tried to find hitmakers in the collapse of the alternative music explosion of the early 90s. But Cole, turns out, has always been a strikingly powerful performer and her performances for the final Lilith Fair tour in 1998 undoubtedly won her fans who had written her off previously. Currently Cole is performing a string of intimate shows in support of her 2019 record Revolution.
What:Ghosts of Glaciers album release w/In the Company of Serpents and Echo Beds When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver-based progressive metal/post-rock trio Ghosts of Glaciers returns with its new album The Greatest Burden released through Translation Loss Records. More than even previous releases, the group conceives of this arc of songs in cosmological time from the primordial oceans that spawned life (the opening track titled “Primordial Waters” through the inevitability of the decay and collapse of the eons long cycle of life and the fall into the chaos that will once again spawn new worlds and universes. The music charts that path with slow, dynamic arcs that dive into furious, churning progressions and sublime, swimming melodies. To celebrate the release of this new record the band will share the stage with local doom juggernauts In the Company of Serpents who have some of the most compelling and powerful art in the local scene and industrial post-punk legends Echo Beds.
What:The Waterboys When: Tuesday, 10.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Waterboys came out of Edinburgh, Scotland with a blend of Celtic folk and post-punk and made inroads into the world of 80s “college rock.” While not as dark and overtly political as an arguably like-minded band like New Model Army, The Waterboys extolled the virtues of a universal mysticism based in nature and how that connects everyone. Fans of The Hothouse Flowers and The Alarm will definitely find much to like about The Waterboys who are now touring in support of their 2019 album Where the Action Is.
What:Prissy Whip, Moon Pussy, New Standards Men When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Prissy Whip is an eruptive industrial noise rock band with the emphasis on noise and breakneck dynamics. Who to compare them to other than maybe Melt Banana? New Standards Men is the kind of weirdo experimental metal band you get when the people in the band are into way more music than what you might think listening to what they’re doing. Probably into Naked City as much as the Locust and Neurosis. Moon Pussy combines gnarly song dynamics with a thorny tunefulness that is impossible to ignore making it one of the most interesting bands out of Denver right now.
What:Wheelchair Sports Camp w/Dry Ice and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 10.02, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant combination of jazz chops in the live end of the music and experimental beatmaking and playful, conscious wordplay on the production and MC end. And a powerful and compelling live band to boot. This is the group’s launch show for its upcoming tour.
What:Loving When: Wednesday, 10.02, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Victoria, British Columbia’s Loving turns the sort of introspective, light psychedelic pop sound on a different angle because its music really does sound like the band is going to take you on a trip to some otherworld realm of elegance where time and space are interactive concepts driven by your imagination so better brush up on your creative skills before sitting down to one of the band’s trippy folk records.
“Joyride” is a startlingly wise song from 24-year-old songwriter Adam Melchor. It’s such a sane yet melancholy and resignedly amused take on letting go of the things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things even though you’ve grown up assuming that losing certain things in your existence are a life-ending, or at least life-altering, disaster. In the song it’s on the surface about a stolen car but could also be about relationships splitting up, your own or those foundational to your life like those of close friends and your own parents. Musically Melchor uses horns and minimal guitar to great effect to convey the sense of loss but also that of acceptance, a musical “What are you gonna do?” Fans of Beulah and Red Pony Clock will find much to like in Melchor’s brand of indie pop for not just the choice of instruments but also the clever and thoughtful wordplay using unvarnished sentiments and honest language in a way designed to comfort without pandering. Listen to “Joyride” on Soundcloud and follow Melchor at the links below.
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