Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2023

Skinny Puppy performs at Fillmore Auditorium on May 3, 2023, photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014
Ruston Kelly, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Ruston Kelly w/Briscoe
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruston Kelly has never been limited by his association with country and Americana and his 2023 album The Weakness even expands what that music can sound like. His earnest and dynamically expressive vocals seem to come from a deep place in his live performances and in music that can have a hushed, introspective quality, Kelly brings a vulnerable fortitude to songs that could work as chamber pop or a cosmic and existential brand of folk informed by a frank self-examination that has an appeal that transcends genre. Best to catch an artist at a time of having transitioned to music that bursts past previous boundaries and fans of his earlier work would do well to see Kelly on this touring cycle.

Wilder Woods, photo by Darius Fitzgerald

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Wilder Woods w/Abraham Alexander
When: 6:30
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Needtobreathe lead singer Wilder Woods aka Bear Rinehart is now touring in support of his new album FEVER / SKY, a collection of spirited neo soul roots rock that sounds like it could have come from the same music scene that spawned Joe Cocker. It’s an album that sounds like the songwriter is coming to terms with who he is as a man and as an artist reckoning with his past and his purpose in life born of a time of isolation during the early pandemic and its impacts on the life of anyone that depended on the world of live music and its associated cultural and economic infrastructure. But Rinehart goes much further and hits deep places in his soul bared self-examination that are more cathartic than uncomfortable.

Skinny Puppy photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014

Wednesday | 05.03
What: Skinny Puppy w/Lead Into Gold
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Skinny Puppy were pioneers of electronic industrial music when it formed in 1982 out of the Vancouver, BC New Wave scene. Taking new technologies like sequencers and samplers and pushing the potential aesthetics of these new tools, Skinny Puppy had as much in common with hip-hop artists of that time and now as it did with underground and experimental electronic and industrial rock acts. Its themes of alienation, environmental destruction, animal rights and left politics, Skinny Puppy innovated musically and challenging convention in musical form as well as content. When early member Dwayne Goettel passed away in 1995 the band ended for several years even as a recording project before reuniting in 2000 for its first live performance since 1992. Four years later the group’s new album, the pointedly titled The Greater Wrong of the Right, released and Skinny Puppy toured again and has remained an active project since but with composition steeped in sound design and even more keen social commentary. Unfortunately this tour has been announced to be its last and will more than likely include Skinny Puppy’s signature high use of theatrical performances and striking visuals and some of the most well crafted, intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging electronic music ever made. The bonus is the opening act is Lead Into Gold, the long time project of Paul Barker, former bassist of Ministry.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, photo by Danny Clinch

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.03 and 05.04
What: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit w/Angel Olsen
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is touring ahead of the June 9, 2023 release of the band’s new album Weathervanes so you’ll get plenty of material from the new record for this show. Isbell has become one of the most acclaimed songwriters of his generation for his vivid, sensitive and imaginative storytelling and delicate vocal style that makes it easy to forget what style of music he’s playing as it engages your emotions with an unexpected immediacy. In that way he’s like Neil Young whose own diverse songwriting and performance draw upon a broad array of methods and aesthetics that nevertheless have a comfortable familiarity. For these two dates Isbell will be joined by another of the modern great songwriters of the current era in Angel Olsen who seems to be able to make retro musical sensibilities seem modern and vibrant.

Nuovo Testamento, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.04
What: Molchat Doma w/Nuovo Testamento and Mothe
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nuovo Testamento is a Los Angeles-based darkwave band whose sound blurs the line between post-punk, italo disco and synthpop. On its 2022 swing through Denver at the Hi-Dive the group’s performance was like seeing Madonna fronting Depeche Mode but with its own distinctive flavor. Its new album Love Lines is filled with gorgeously produced darkwave dance club hits like the soundtrack to a retrofuturist thriller that has yet to be made. Molchat Doma is the cult post-punk band from Minsk, Belarus whose introspective songs of loneliness and alienation have struck a chord well beyond their homeland. Its of necessity thin production style and minimalist guitar sound has proven massive influential in Russia as well as globally in the realm of post-punk and darkwave.

eHpH in 2023, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: I Ya Toyah w/eHpH, Hex Cassette, DJ Nitrogen
When: 9
Where: The Broadway Roxy
Why: I Ya Toyah is a Chicago-based artist whose dark electronic music has a kind of European flavor in the production and tonal palette. Like a darkwave/industrial Danielle Dax with elements of noise, ambient and breakcore in the mix. ehpH is the evolving, long time project of Fernando Altonago and Angelo Atencio also of post-punk rock band Plague Garden. The blend of EBM and industrial with punk attitude and social commentary always hits harder than expected and for this show more of the industrial side of their songwriting will be featured. Hex Cassette is a one man EBM/industrial cult leader of furiously energetic dance music and confrontational stage performance whose banter unsettles some but the choice and absurd humor value is undeniable.

Fishbone, photo by Pablo Mathiason

Saturday | 05.06
What: Fishbone w/Frontside Five
When: 6
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: Fishbone has been genre bending and bursting since 1979. Its hybrid style of ska, punk, funk and beyond was like the punk side of Afrofuturism. Its songs always seemed to depict a time in the non-too-distant days to come where people could just be who they are and have the normal struggles of life we all face. All along the way the group’s sharp social commentary was couched in a surreal sense of humor and infectious party anthem grooves that didn’t downplay the issues so much as provide a soundtrack for working through them and shining a light on corners of American society that are often swept under the rug. The group recently released “All We Have Is Now” on the Bottle Music for Broken People compilation on Fat Mike’s new NOFX imprint with founding member Chris Dowd performing on a recording for the first time since 1994 and the song has the same irreverent and fun-loving spirit one would hope for with new Fishbone material.

Zealot in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: Zealot w/Owosso and Loose Charm
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is celebrating the release of its new single “Newer Testament” at the Hi-Dive. Its literate yet spirited music is like if an indie rock band got reconnected with the intensity and musical inventiveness of early 2000s New York City rock with a similar level of imaginative songwriting and aim to make music that isn’t background playlist nonsense but which commands your attention. Owosso is a similarly-minded band comprised of local scene veterans who seem to have rediscovered a knack for crafting pop-inflected post-punk noise rock. If Loose Charm can be considered alt-country or post-rock its because its songs seem to be composed with ear for evocative melody and soundscaping that don’t usually go together unless you’re listening to something like Silver Jews or Wilco though Loose Charm doesn’t really sound like either.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.07
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Polly Urethane
When: 7:30
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians is like a darkly ritualistic, performance art mystical folk version of what Munly has been doing across his career. One might be tempted to compare it to neofolk but it’s more like a musical cognate to cinematic works like The Wicker Man and Kill List including the stage garb but also tied in with the singer’s baroque and stark poetry. Opening the performance is composer and performance artist Polly Urethane who seems to do a different type of performance and while sometimes combining musical elements and methods of previous performance with her new shows she always seems to push the boundaries of where she’s been before. Could be a weird DJ set, a visually striking performance to pre-recorded music with edgy components in presenting the material or who can say but always worth checking out.

Cobra Man, photo by Danner Gardner

Sunday | 05.07
What: Cobra Man w/Starbenders and Stolen Nova
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Cobra Man is a self-styled “power disco” duo comprised of Andy Harry and Sarah Rayne and currently touring in support of its new EP New Paradise which releases on May 19, 2023. The lead single “Thin Ice” has all the bombast and gloriously, unabashedly epic sound of something you might have heard on the soundtrack for a Cannon Pictures action movie from the 1980s. And the live band isn’t just a couple of button pushers basically doing karaoke to well-produced tracks. They’re like a post-irony glam rock band that exults in the grand sweep and sonic excess of its music.

Nox Novacula in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.08
What: Nox Novacula, Plague Garden and Weathered Statues
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Nox Novacula is a post-punk band from Seattle in the gritty death rock vein. Its moody guitar is shot through with a wiry energy and urgency that pairs well with impassioned vocals and driving rhythms. Its 2021 album Ascension bears obvious comparisons with Xmal Deutschland but with a more punk edge. Opening the show are two of Denver’s best post-punk outfits. Plague Garden’s music has a more electronic, New Wave-esque foundation with brooding lyrics and fiery, twin guitar work. Weathered Statues is a little more stark but with bright and buoyant vocals.

Ringo Deathstarr, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Ringo Deathstarr w/Pleasure Venom, Cherished and Bloodsports
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ringo Deathstarr is the cult shoegaze band out of Austin, Texas’ seemingly vibrant community for that style of music. Its own particular flavor is ethereal, drifty and transporting in that Slowdive and Lush vein but with its own fuzzily psychedelic sheen. It’s been two years since the group’s self-titled full-length so maybe we’ll get to see some newer material for this stop in Denver. For this trip to the Pacific Northwest, Ringo Deathstarr is joined by Austin noise-rock/art punks Pleasure Venom with local support in Denver from Sonic Youth-esque post-punk band Bloodsports and shoegaze/post-punk greats Cherished.

Death Grips in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Death Grips
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Death Grips is the now legendary industrial hip-hop group from Sacramento, California comprised of MC Ride, Andy Morin and Zach Hill. The group has become known for its edgy imagery and its disdain for playing along with music industry expectations and doing so with creativity and deep irreverence. But its well-publicized antics perhaps boosted the group’s cachet while its inventive music spoke for itself with artwork and album and track names that demonstrated a keen awareness of internet culture and American social reality. When the band did perform live it was an incendiary and aggressive affair that has been unforgettable.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Pixies w/Pond
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Pond from Perth, Australia has been developing and evolving its cinematic, psychedelic art rock since 2008 and its 2021 album 9 sounds like a series of interconnected short films. There’s a spaciousness and dramatic sense of mood and atmosphere that washes around the core rhythms and melodies as they burst with emotion. Like if Pink Floyd hung out with Hawkwind more and ditched their epic sweeps in favor of their more raw rock instincts but infused it with disco and funk. Australia has become known for its popular psychedelic bands but fortunately for the world they’re all very different from each other and Pond is a band whose creative trajectory has left behind some fine listening. Of course there’s also the headlining band, Pixies, who were a choice cult band in its first iteration from the mid-80s through the early 90s and highly influential for its wonderfully eccentric lyrics and brilliantly unconventional, noisy, eruptively energetic alternative rock. But once a younger generation caught wind of the band through the appearance of “Where Is My Mind?” on the soundtrack of Fight Club it became a much more popular band and able to tour on the strength of its older material and bring its sound, foundational to modern rock music, to a much wider audience.

Spike Hellis in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Spike Hellis w/Candy Apple, Moon 17 and Sell Farm
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spike Hellis is basically making the kind of modern EBM and industrial that is informed by punk and even hardcore in its raw energy of delivery. In the live show it’s reminiscent of the kind of hard hitting vibe one might hear in early Nitzer Ebb and Meat Beat Manifesto but with the aesthetics of a modern, glitchcore project but with all the extraneous sonics ripped out but with the bombast left in place. One of the most electrifying live bands in the modern realm of darkwave. Sell Farm has lately been dipping deep into sequencing and sampling to create dystopian, politically charged dub dance post-punk. Candy Apple bridges the gap between a hardcore band and shoegaze-tinged noise rock. Moon 17 is a “Sci-Fi Industrial” band from Kansas City helmed by Zack Hames. The genre seems to fit even if it was dropped as slightly humorous but one hopes Nicolas Winding Refn taps these bands for his next movie soundtrack.

Greg Puciato, photo by Jim Louvau

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Greg Puciato w/Escuela Grind, Deaf Club and Trace Amount
When: 6:30
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Greg Puciato is the former lead singer and lyricist for metalcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside of the context of that band, Pusciato has been a member of synthwave band The Black Queen with its deep atmospheric, cinematic sounds akin to something you might expect to hear from the likes of Failure. And in recent years his solo records have been a fusion and evolution of his past work into something that reconciles an aggressive sound and energy with introspective sentiments and electronic aesthetics. The 2022 album Mirrorcell sounds like where metalcore should have gone and might be more favorably compared to a project like Author & Punisher or Blacklist. Opening are some heavy hitters as well with noise rock supergroup Deaf Club with Justin Person of The Locust, Brian Amalfitano of AcxDC, Scott Osment of Weak Flesh, Jason Klein of Run With The Hunted and Tommy Meehan of The Manx. And Escuela Grind, the modern grindcore/powerviolence legends from Pittsfield, Massachusetts who are quickly establishing themselves as a live band to catch whose songs are informed by a “intersectional progressive” revolutionary, inclusive fervor.

Metronymy, photo by Hazel Gaskin

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Metronymy w/Glüme
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Metronymy has been constantly evolving its experimental pop sound with an early focus on exquisitely alien techno soundscapes to its more recent albums that demonstrate its finely honed songcraft with organic elements that seem to more directly reflect tender human experiences with a startling poignancy. Its 2019 album Metronymy Forever wasn’t the first hint at a shift in sound and style but it is an album full of the kind of songwriting one might expect on a Wilco record or an album by The National. And the group’s 2022 album Small World is fully in that mode with songs that are vulnerable yet rich in subtle production that clears the space for the lyrics and organic textures of the music to shine making Metronymy a fascinating anomaly in the expanded realm of modern indie rock.

Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.12
What: Church Fire w/Calm., Moon Pussy, Sorrows
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire is celebrating the release of its new music video. For what song? Who knows? You’ll have to go to find out and maybe it’ll be released online later. But video or not, Church Fire’s emotionally vibrant industrial dance music is best experienced live without the filters of a purely online experience. Calm. is the hip-hop duo of Time and Awareness who have been putting out some of the most literate and politically charged hip-hop out of the Mile High City in recent years and don’t do many shows at venues like the Hi-Dive or similarly-sized venues these days. And hip-hop in generally isn’t getting a lot of traction at smaller clubs in general but Hi-Dive is an exception to that general rule. Chris “Time” Steele will probably crack wise between songs with genuine wit. Moon Pussy is the getting to be known nationally on the underground circuit noise rock band from Denver whose eruptive music and explosive energy always seems to exceed expectation. SORROWS is a downtempo electronic duo of Glynnis Braan and Lawrence Snell whose dark atmospherics and operatic vocals pull from diverse influences.

Friday | 05.12
What: 7038634357, Verity Larsen, Emilie Craig, sleepdial and Polly Urethane
When: 9
Where: Glob
Why: 7038634357 seems to be a generative ambient noise artist from Arlington, VA whose releases display a knack for signal processing. Verity Larsen combines musique concrète with prepared environmental recordings and ambient soundscapes to produce sonic experiences that recontextualize everyday experiences. French Kettle Station is performing as sleepdial, his more ambient experiments in electronics and sometimes guitar. Polly Urethan you just never know what to expect from how now broad palette of ideas for performance and music and just be prepared to get to witness something unique and potentially challenging.

Friday | 05.12
Frontline Assembly and Whorticulture
When: 9
Where: Tracks
Why: EBM pioneers Frontline Assembly is performing for this “Bladerunner — A Cyberpunk Party” and providing the perfect soundtrack for such an event with its dystopian lyrics and electronic industrial.

Friday | 05.12
What: Crowded House w/Liam Finn
When: 7
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Australian band Crowded House is perhaps best remembered for its outstanding 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with its spare yet orchestral melody. But Crowded House produced some quality folk pop during its initial run of 1985-1996 and when it has since reunited in the 2000s and 2020s still led by singer/guitarist Neil Finn who had a fairly successful career while Crowded House was split.

White Rose Motor Oil circa 2021, photo courtesy the band

Saturday | 05.13
What: Scott H. Biram w/Garrett T. Capps and White Rose Motor Oil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Scott H. Biram is the renowned blues punk musician/solo artist whose troubadour country ballads could seem like pure affectation but he’s done his time in punk and metal and bluegrass in crafting his signature gritty, gospel blues sound. Supporting this bill is the great Denver-based alternative country/outlaw rockabilly band White Rose Motor Oil whose own spare line-up as a duo always seems to punch above its weight in its forcefulness and emotional impact.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Angella Choe

Sunday | 05.14
What: Caroline Polachek w/Alex G and Indigo De Souza
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Indigo De Souza’s songs have since early on been an expression of a moody vulnerability cast as deeply atmospheric pop songs that are often pointed but never cruel, simply honest and poetic. Her latest album out on Saddle Creek is 2023’s All of This Will End continues the development of her vibrant songwriting filled with stories that take the pain of lived experience and reflecting on the broad expanse of feelings one goes through in life and sitting in them and finding a way to put them into stories that give them a context that makes them something from which to learn and exult in life rather than be overwhelmed by disappointment, bitterness, petty betrayal (by others and by oneself). And she’s a perfect artist in this line-up of other art pop practitioners of note such as Alex G who has taken conceptual psychedelic rock to fascinating new heights and headliner Caroline Polacek who as a member of Charlift (which was founded in Boulder, Colorado while she was attending CU) made some of the cooler indie rock to have emerged out of that decade that produced the foundations of much of what we hear now. But in her solo career she has emerged as an innovative and experimental artist whose pop songs don’t seem beholden to anyone else’s style bending genres and sounds to suit her creative vision of the moment. For her 2023 album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You you can hear the impact of hyper pop and glitch but as elements and not a root.

Salads and Sunbeams, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.14
What: Spooky Mansion w/Sour Magic and Salads and Sunbeams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spooky Mansion is a surf-rock inflected psychedelic lounge pop band from Los Angeles making a couple of stops in Colorado including this date at the Hi-Dive. Denver’s Sour Magic sound like they could have come from a similar musical lineage but with more luminous guitar melodies. Like maybe they got deep into DIIV and Mac Demarco and found their own voice as a band. Salads and Sunbeams is the kind of band that has crafted exquisite psychedelic indiepop that might have come right out of an unlikely scene that included the Zombies and The Apples in Stereo. But it works and doesn’t have that throwback yesteryear worship vibe even if to some extent that’s what it is because the songwriting stands on its own and worthy of its obvious and not so obvious influences.

Wednesday, photo by Zachary Chick

Monday | 05.15
What: Wednesday w/Cryogeyser
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wednesday from Asheville, North Carolina has garnered a bit of a cult following among fans of experimental noise rock and shoegaze and whatever one might call Canadian guitar bands like Women, Preoccupations and FRIGS. But then there’s another side of the band’s sound and that’s the more country flavor of some of its songs, unabashed, borderline cosmic honky tonk stuff. And Wednesday makes it work because it’s obvious the group is fully steeped in both creative instincts and its records are a journey for which a variety of sounds make sense. In particular its 2023 record Rat Saw God and its vivid stories of life in the American South told with great nuance, insight and poignancy. At times the songs can take you by surprise with an offhand lyric that’s so real but delivered with the nonchalance that makes it palatable and it all feeds into what’s making Wednesday one of the most fascinating bands of this moment.

Monday | 05.15
What: Yves Tumor w/Pretty Slick and NATION
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Yves Tumor is an artist whose genre-bending art rock/hip-hop/electronic dance music/funk seems tapped into a raw, otherworldly energy that is a reflection of the anxieties and nightmares of the world we experience everyday. The 2023 album Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) is more overtly rock than earlier albums but still like an alien glam rock that feels ahead of the curve. Live, Yves Tumor is a commanding figure with a lot of swagger and electrifying presence.

Narrow Head, photo by Nate Kahn

Monday | 05.15
What: Narrow Head w/Graham Hunt, Public Opinion and Flower Language
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Houston’s Narrow Head much like Phoenix’s Holy Fawn probably come from a general realm of local scene music but whereas Holy Fawn has transcended black metal into more the realm of a post-rock shoegaze, Narrow Head may have found its origins in a music scene that had or has fine examples of the resurgence of hardcore and emo in the compelling form that emerged all over the country in the past decade. But the band as we hear it on its new album Moments of Clarity is the kind of heavy shoegaze with dynamics like blossoming melodies and soaring vocals that seem to harmonize with the ethereal fuzz and dense low end to give the songs an undeniable uplift.

Tim Hecker in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Tim Hecker
When: 7
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Can’t really blame Tim Hecker for expressing in his recent interview in the New York Times his misgivings for having helped to popularize ambient music since it has become such a workhorse of the bland playlist culture of Spotify. Who wants to be handmaiden to that? But to Hecker’s credit he’s always been an artist who has explored new vistas of the art form in terms of form, structure, sound palette, presentation and instrumentation. His new album No Highs is imbued with a textural, intimate quality that feels very much of the body as his music does in the live setting rather than the offensively bland and background quality of generic playlist ambient.

Mr. Bungle, photo courtesy Buzz Osborne

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Mr. Bungle w/Melvins and Spotlights
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: No matter where you check in on the Mr. Bungle timeline you will find boundary-pushing music that bends and breaks genres from the early death metal-surrealism to the lush and theatrical art rock of its late 90s output. Currently the band is touring with a lineup that includes Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn, Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo so who can say what the setlist will sound like whether its more baroque pop stuff or the material from its recently reissued 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. Whatever it might be, the show will be bombastic and mind-expanding. Bonus: Melvins, the sludge rock legends, will bring their always riveting and cathartic performance of its own music that spans various ends of heavy rock with a hard hitting finesse.

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Hoodoo Gurus
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Hoodoo Gurus are the legendary Australian garage rock band that was an influence on generations of bands that have been keyed into its particular brand of jangle psychedelia and punk. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2022 album Chariot of the Gods.

Future Islands in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.17
What: Future Islands w/Deeper
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Future Islands has come a long way from playing DIY spaces in Denver to Red Rocks and now headlining Mission Ballroom. But what hasn’t changed is its emotionally gripping synth pop and impassioned live performances. For this night Chicago’s arty post-punk band Deeper will bring its darkly atmospheric and poignant music to the proceedings.

Sparta, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.18
What: Sparta w/’68 and Geoff Rickly
When: 6
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The 2002 album Wiretap Scars is where Sparta picked up where At The Drive-In, singer Jim Ward’s then most recently prominent band, left off. The angular, Fugazi-esque, anthemic songs that astutely commented on the times without being so topical as to age poorly in the years ahead. Rather, Wiretap Scars today seems perhaps even more relevant than it did when America was in a state of confusion and nascent authoritarianism and misplaced nationalistic patriotism was starting to settle into the swing of public life. There is a passionate coherence of productive outrage on the record and based on the group’s 2022 tour Sparta will deliver on that messaging on this tour as well.

Thursday | 05.18
What: The Mssng w/To Be Astronauts and Tiny Humans
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Mssng is a band whose hybrid of styles sometimes comes off like people who were inspired by the agglomeration of 90s alternative rock, post-punk revival and the glam rock end of modern garage rock. To Be Astronauts has generally been sort of a 90s throwback, alternative hard rock band who displayed all the stylistic fingerprints of 2000s stoner rock but with more melody. Lately some of the band’s recordings have included versions of songs, live and otherwise, that reveal that if you strip away some of those hard rock instincts you find a band that has some solid songwriting with nothing to prove. Sure, it’s a bit like a better version of the kind of acoustic and electric alt-rock you might have heard from the likes of Counting Crows which isn’t for everyone but respectable nonetheless. Tiny Humans, what can you say, except that the singer has to stop being carted on stage in a wheelchair and in hospital robes and pretending like he’s doing a Nirvana tribute band when it’s more obvious it’s a strange attempt to fully emulate The Amboy Dukes’ guitarist’s entire solo career. But hey, who doesn’t appreciate such fetishistic performance art?

Friday | 05.19
What: Vast Aire (Cannibal Ox) w/Gee Tee and guests
When: 9
Where: Bar Red 437 W. Colfax
Why: Vast Aire is the charismatic and enigmatic rapper who is perhaps best known for his work with alternative hip-hop group Cannibal Ox. His forceful delivery and vivid, socially conscious storytelling once encountered sticks with you because his various collaborators like El-P on the 2001 classic album The Cold Vein are able to create a darkly haunting soundscape from which his voice stands out like an urban mystic and mythological poet.

MUNA, photo by Isaac Schneider

Friday | 05.19
What: MUNA w/Nova Twins
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Given that the members of MUNA all have academic backgrounds in music or cultural studies one might expect the music to be something more cerebral or conceptual. And initially when developing their own material the trio of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson experimented with sounds and styles before coming upon exuberant pop songs with earworm hooks and lyrics that are sure about instantly relatable subjects of love and relationships but also with a sensitivity toward issues of identity beyond the usual tropes and which resonate broadly. The group released its 2022 self-titled album to critical acclaim and now MUNA is on a headlining tour of large concert halls with a supporting slot on the upcoming Taylor Swift tour where an appreciative audience for its particularly expansive and upbeat songs will be found.

Friday | 05.19
What: Shady Oaks w/Weary Bones, Fern Roberts and The Picture Tour
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shady Oaks is a mix of blues and indie rock and Americana. Weary Bones is a bit of an Americana jam band from Louisville, Colorado but more in the vein of Widespread Panic where there are coherent songs that have resonance beyond the genre. It released its latest album Humble Echoes in 2023. Fern Roberts might be described as an indie rock band that seems to be equally influenced by Bright Eyes, 90s alternative rock and the more pop end of Built to Spill. The main reason to go to this show is to see the live debut of former Emerald Siam guitarist Billy Armijo’s band The Picture Tour. Its 2022 album Before the Sound, Before the Light was an audacious debut of introspective, gloomy shoegaze with an ear for interweaving atmospheres and feedback sculpting to produce unique melodies and an enveloping sound.

Fruit Bats, photo by Chantal Anderson

Friday | 05.19
What: Fruit Bats w/Kolumbo
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The new Fruit Bats album A River Running To Your Heart seems assembled and composed as a cinematic experience as much as one more musical. When the record gets up and going its intricate guitar arrangements flow with a grace and elegance that one normally hears more in music that operates at a slower pace and yet for this set of songs Eric D. Johnson and the band never sound rushed. The music is just focused even in reflective passages and there is an energy to the music that pulls you in. Fans of early The War on Drugs will hear some resonance here but Johnson’s songs seem to reign in the impulse to psychedelic self-indulgence and one gets the sense that as free as the music feels that it’s been crafted to edit out excesses that don’t contribute to one of the most consistently enchanting pop albums of the year.

Placebo, photo by Mads Perch

Saturday | 05.20
What: Placebo w/Deap Valley and Poppy Jean Crawford – canceled
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Placebo emerged at a time in the mid-1990s when the alternative rock wave was basically spent and a lot of really dull, beige rock and roll and uninspired pop was peddled as exciting. Placebo offered something that seemed to reinvent the edginess of the darker end of grunge with a more glam rock sense of theater and drama. Its early albums dipped into rock and dance music equally before it became even more of a thing at the turn of the century and in a fashion different than had been done by the likes of New Order, Primal Scream and their storied ilk. Its 1998 album Without You I’m Nothing and its promotional videos revealed a band that seemed to have embraced Goth-like personal darkness in musical style and outward presentation. That the band appeared in Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam rock fictional biopic of David Bowie and Iggy Pop and that early 1970s era didn’t hurt in establishing Placebo’s cred as a band that embodied the emerging new alternative culture. The band’s 2022 album Never Let Me Go, perhaps a reference to Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 tragic novel of of the same name as well as the 2010 film, its first in 9 years has Placebo pushing its own boundaries beyond where it has been before as a band with an unabashed use of saturated synth melodies and a much more creative use of processed guitar in rock music than we’ve heard in awhile. And if you’re going to have an opening acts like mutant garage psych duo Deap Valley and experimental pop/singer-songwriter Poppy Jean Crawford that just hints that someone in your camp has been listening for something different and actually cool which isn’t always the case in the music industry even on accident.

Fenne Lily, photo by Michael Tyrone Delaney

Saturday | 05.20
What: Fenne Lily & Christian Lee Hutson w/Anna Tivel
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The intimate production on Fenne Lily’s new album Big Picture puts her expressive and breathy vocals front and center without pushing the delicate, almost impressionistic, warm and layered guitar work into the background. The songwriter sounds resigned on these set of songs but that seems to come more out of a sense of having to come to terms with how you can never really get too complacent in life nor do you want to and that sometimes getting to used to comfort can be a path antithetical to personal growth but also how feeling like you’re always having to fend off life’s static and unpredictably intermittent challenges can be kind of a bummer even if you’re able to brush them off and move forward. Lily sounds like she understands and has some deep empathy for how in recent years everyday challenges have seemed like a bit much and how that pace isn’t exactly relenting yet we do have to maintain a core of some grace to weather this steady stream of a whole lot of everything. Big Picture, the title alone, points to how stepping back in the moment can give you the pause you need to keep things in perspective even if you have a moment or ten.

Shania Twain, photo courtesy the artist

Sunday | 05.21
What: Shania Twain w/Hailey Whitters
When: 6:30
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Shania Twain needs no introduction. The “Queen of Country Pop” is one of the best selling artists of all time. Certainly in the realm of country and pop music of the last 30 years. Normally in this show listing these kinds of artists don’t make the cut because they’re just too mainstream and not creatively interesting. But Twain was a pioneer in pushing country music into the realm of pop. She and Garth Brooks, whether you’re into their music or not, paved the way for people like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood to find an audience beyond the niche of country. Twain’s humor and charisma made her songs appealing beyond genre and continue to do so. In 2023 Twain released her new album Queen of Me which features current production techniques (even some elements of hyper pop) one might expect to hear on the record of a newer artist but of course the draw is her commanding voice and ability to articulate a range of feelings that seem to capture timeless experiences in new ways that fortunately hint that Twain is keenly aware of not only her place as a country artist that has always embraced new sounds but as one who has also been trying on new ways of having her songs hit with fresh sounds and songwriting that doesn’t sound like she’s stuck in the past.

Sunday | 05.21
What: Violent Femmes w/Jesse Ahern
When: 5
Where: Levitt Pavillion
Why: Violent Femmes will perform its 1983 self-titled debut album in its entirety for this show. That record was a staple of alternative rock radio and college dorms for decades. Its weird blend of folk, punk, jazz and outsider pop had an undeniable, immediate and enduring appeal with classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up” and “Gone Daddy Gone” but the whole record beginning to end is a journey into the essence of youthful angst and frustrations but expressed in a way that somehow remained relevant well beyond anyone’s teen years. The Femmes remain a force in the live setting and always surprisingly powerful yet fun.

Arts Fishing Club, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Arts Fishing Club w/Homes at Night
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Arts Fishing Club is an indie rock band from Nashville that formed in 2016. Singer/guitarist Christopher Kessenich grew up seeing live music with his father and older brothers witnessing a mix of alternative music, classic rock and jam bands all of which fed into his own eclectic songwriting. The band’s debut album Rothko Sky (due out June 16, 2023) is arranged as a kind of personal journey of a person who in the first half of the record sets out in life idealistic and open to everything only to find out that all of us have limitations both human and of our own unique psychology. On the album’s second half there is a reflection on the nature and impact of love, sex and pain and how that can shape who we are once the shine and novelty of new experiences evolves into appreciating the breadth and depth of life. The songs have a bluesy grit and an often impassioned delivery informed by the flow of its narrative element for a record that sounds like it had to be made by a band a few releases into its career once it has figured out who it is and what it wants to say with intention but with the exuberance of a new band intact. Listen to our interview with Kessenich on the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp.

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.22
What: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/ADULT. and KANGA
When: 6:30
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult is currently touring celebrating its 36 years as a band with a set list that focuses on the group’s first decade. The band’s campy, industrial disco sleaze has always demonstrated a more fun and lighthearted side of industrial culture while offering a distinctive visual and musical style in its bombastic live shows. By the time Thrill Kill Kult appeared in The Crow (1994), the band had already been staples of the more underground end of alternative rock write large but its performance in the film was the perfect embodiment of the aesthetics of the movie. ADULT. is the great industrial post-punk duo from Detroit whose music of the past few years has really been the musical reflection of the conflicted and dystopian times we’ve been going through with a world on the brink of domination by authoritarian regimes and the already unfolding disastrous consequences of climate change with little to no vision and action by world leaders. ADULT.’s music is an act of human solidarity and a catharsis of ambient despair. KANGA is a Los Angeles-based producer whose dusky pop music is darkwave adjacent but also adjacent to a more dance beat infused chillwave and vaporwave with sultry vocals. It might be more apt to compare KANGA to the likes of Charli XCX and Jessie Ware than an artist out of the Goth world.

Martin Dupont, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Martin Dupont w/Julian St. Nightmare and French Kettle Station and Kill You Club DJs
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Legendary French New Wave band Martin Dupont, formed in 1982, is playing few shows on this tour through the US and one of those stops is in Denver. The group has a new album out called Kintsugi that with its sweeping synths and darkly melancholic melodies seems to have arrived in time for the current era of appreciation for its particular style of cold wave pop/minimal synth and marking its first album in 36 years. French Kettle Station might be described as a hybrid New Age/glitch/post-Cloud rap/abstract post-rock artist whose stage antics involve some impressive dance moves and prodigious energy. Julian St. Nightmare is one of the best post-punk bands from Denver at the moment whose songs seem to have emerged out of its members having gone through phases of playing garage and psychedelic rock and surf but come through with some strong songwriting skills and the ability to craft moody yet powerful songs that don’t sound like the cookie cutter version of modern darkwave.

Y La Bamba, photo by Jenn Carillo

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Y La Bamba w/Ritmo Cascabel
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ya La Bamba is currently touring in support of its new record Lucha which in its typically exploratory fashion employs folk music of various traditions and an experimental soundscaping aesthetic that allows for a rich expression of themes and the sounds that serve to anchor them in your mind. The album is one about various identities and how they overlap and how we can come to embrace them as a coherent and intermingled part of our existence no matter what those categories might be of gender, sexuality, culture and individual psychology. It’s a gentle record but one that runs deep into the aforementioned subjects and through that more vulnerable approach that encourages patience with self and others is able to more successfully enter into the more tender realms of the heart and mind and comment with an intuitive insight. The psychedelic folk of these songs are ambitious in scope and imagination and the live band always seems to truly render the songs into a vibrant and moving form.

Mareux, photo by Nedda Afsari

Friday | 05.26
What: Mareux w/Cold Gawd
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Mareux established his cult following as a darkwave artist with singles and EPs over the past few years. What set him apart from some of his peers though are his deeply lush and detailed production with rich low end, his dusky and soulful vocals and his poetic tales of romantic yearning like something out of late night cafe reminiscing about heartbreak and lost loves. Currently the producer/singer/songwriter is touring in support of his debut full-length Lovers From the Past, a record that reveals a dimensionality to Mareux’s gift for conveying sonic depth and emotional nuance. Opening is the Cold Gawd whose 2022 album God Get Me the Fuck Out of Here was one of the records of choice to connoisseurs of shoegaze and music that pushes the boundaries of established styles. With R&B beats and granular guitar melodies in densely expressive layers, Cold Gawd is helping to reshape what both forms of music have to sound like and whether there has to be a separation.

Hot Chip, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Friday | 05.26
What: Chromeo and Hot Chip w/Coco & Breezy and Cimafunk
When: 5
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo seems to regularly tour with its bombastic and visually arresting live show and always with an innovative opening act or two along for the ride. For this outing at Red Rocks you will get to see Hot Chip. The UK band came to prominence in the early 2000s for its innovative fusion of synthpop and dance music that sounds like a successor to the kinds of sounds we heard out of Madchester, the Balearic Beat, disco and neo soul. Hot Chip always seems to have a keen ear for use of space in its compositions and how that can have a very powerful emotional resonance that goes beyond the mere us of dazzling, atmospheric melodies and strong beats. Its latest album is 2022’s Freakout/Release which found the band leaning heavy into its alternative pop sound with some nice experimental moments reminiscent of Kraftwerk and perhaps contemporaries it influenced like Cut Copy. It might be the group’s most full-realized album in its long career.

Ganser, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 05.26
What: Ganser w/Antibroth and The Red Scare
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Ganser is probably well within the realm of post-punk but artier and with a more interesting palette of sounds upon which it draws. In moments like noise rock math rock psychedelic weirdos with angular flow but with an ear for sculpting the collective soundscape it creates. In this way the band has more in common with other Chicago weirdo post-punk bands like Facs or Dehd or beyond the Windy City and akin to bands like Studded Left, Body Double, Dry Cleaning, Lithics or FRIGS. Whatever the exact nature of Ganser might be for anyone into more experimental post-punk that isn’t being defined by a trendy sound. Opening are confrontational, mathy post-punk band Antibroth and the more noise rock The Red Scare.

Suzanne Ciani, photo by Katja Ruge

Saturday | 05.27
What: Suzanne Ciani w/Colloboh
When: 7
Where: Central Presbyterian Church
Why: Synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani is doing a rare performance in Denver this night with quadraphonic sound and a projection-mapped light show. Ciani’s long career has seen her work appear in film, television and commercials as music and sound effects and her 1980s and beyond New Age albums have been nominated for a Grammy five times. Her contributions to sound design and music has been a part of popular culture in ways both subtle and overt and her unique achievements as a composer in league with the likes of Morton Subotnick, Wendy Carlos, Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros and Delia Derbyshire. Don’t sleep on these shows. You may never get another chance to see Ciani live.

Nerver, photo from Bandcamp

Saturday | 05.27
What: Nerver, Almanac Man and Edith Pike
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nerver from Kansas City is a rising noise rock band in the vein of the kinds of artists you’d hear from Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. It’s 2022 album CASH was a brutal yet haunting selection of songs that are somehow both melancholic and introspective yet fiery in their cathartic moments. In 2023 Nerver released a split with noise rock legends Chat Pile called BROTHERS IN CHRIST. Edith Pike’s self-titled EP from 2022 may have been pretty lo-fi but you can hear the kind of screamo-noise rock crossover sound that may have its roots in hardcore but has evolved beyond the predictable version of that music. Almanac Man also from Denver has the kind of gristly noise rock that’s feral like Neurosis but with a post-punk angularity that gives its music a vibe like Shellac if Steve Albini had come up in the music world he helped to influence.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.27
What: Meet the Giant album release w/Church Fire and The Mssng
When: 8
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Meet the Giant is releasing its new album We Are Revolting. The group’s 2018 self-titled debut was the product of several years of woodshedding musical ideas and songs as well as production and its gritty mix of rock and downtempo with emotionally stirring vocals reflected with the then emergent live band. This time around the trio appears to have focused on an even sonically edgier catharsis with songs that express an anger born of frustration and weariness at the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves in America and really worldwide. As touchstones one might point to the likes of Failure and its own fusion of rock and electronic sensibilities and a sheen of the cinematic. Or Nine Inch Nails in even further implementing sound design elements in the mix. But Meet the Giant’s songs tend to be more melodic and its sound having more in common with a modern shoegaze band with a bit more rock and roll kick to its songwriting. Church Fire is also on the bill bringing its own reinvented amalgam of political, electronic industrial dance music and are rock touches.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Sunday | 05.28
What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Porlolo and Wheelright
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outlaw country, country-punk, whatever designation fits Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Sarah Shook is one of the most distinctive voices in modern country music on the still fairly underground level where a great deal of the best of that and other musical styles are found. Shook’s voice has enough of a rough edge to be interesting but their melodic resonance serves well stories of every day life written in a way that seems so specific yet relatable in spirit and substance. Speaking of, Pololo is more an indie rock band but Erin Roberts has a gift for turning a sense of humor into music with a sharply observational and existential bent.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 05.28
What: Yob w/Cave In and Dreadnought
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Yob is an influential doom band that began in 2000 before splitting in 2006 and reconvening in 2008. Its sound is definitely in that realm of mining what Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Sleep and Earth had done before but seeing Yob live it seems obvious that Mike Scheidt is injecting a sense of fun into the music and its flows of heavy rock is tinged with psychedelia. This coming year the group is re-issuing its debut album Elaborations of Carbon so perhaps the set list will favor that record but either way, Yob is a fun live band that makes music that is both cosmic and deeply human. Cave In is the influential post-hardcore, foundational metalcore band from Massachusetts. Dreadnought is the doom band from Denver whose rhythmic style has a tribal sensibility and whose overall sound is more atmospheric, psychedelic and more rooted in dark folk than many of its heavy music peers.

Djunah, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 05.29
What: Djunah w/Moon Pussy and Limbwrecker
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Djunah is a noise rock band of the kind that fans of the jarring and cathartic music of HIDE and Diamanda Galás might find much to their liking. Fronted by guitarist/singer/Moog bass player Donna Diane, Djunah recently released its new album Femina Furens. The heaviness of the music doesn’t just come from its gloriously clashing dynamics and instrumentation, it’s, per Djunah’s Bandcamp page, “the story of diagnosis and continuing recovery from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. The album’s title comes from the Latin for ‘furious woman.’ The artwork is inspired by representations of the divine feminine in 1970s sci-fi metal art.” Touchstones on a quick listen would have to include Chelsea Wolfe, Patti Smith and Nick Cave for the exuberantly unleashed emotional energy present within. Who better to open than Denver’s Moon Pussy whose own eruptive noise rock while often accompanied by an eccentric sense of humor between songs has a similarly elemental energy that releases personal darkness, pain and frustrations in built and rapidly uncoiled tensions. Limbwrecker has a similar aesthetic though from a place that seems more steeped in a foundation of hardcore and extreme metal.

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Monday and Tuesday | 05.29 and 05.30
What: LCD Soundsystem w/M.I.A. and Peaches
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: LCD Soundsystem is the band started by James Murphy of DFA Records as a vehicle for his experiments in blending indie rock and electronic dance music. Though often associated with “dance punk,” LCD Soundsystem is much more wide-ranging than that designator would suggest with innovative production and a highly experimental approach to songwriting format and style beginning with the early single “I’m Losing My Edge” to its newer material like “New Body Rhumba” from the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach’s 2022 film White Noise based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel of the same name. Perhaps just as noteworthy for this show are the opening artists. Sure, irreverent and theatrical electroclash pioneer Peaches was in Denver recently with a powerful and entertaining show at the Summit Music Hall but rapper M.I.A., who learned how to make her own music from Peaches, hasn’t played in this area since her most recent national tour in 2008 at the Fillmore Auditorium, and her own music and performances are informed by her fusion of hip-hop, experimental electronic dance music, non-Western musical styles and an activist bent that challenges human rights abuse and imperialism.

Helloween, photo by Martin Häusler

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Helloween w/Hammerfall
When: 6
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Helloween is the influential power metal band from Hamburg, Germany. Since 1984 released a string of albums that have often featured concepts and storytelling commenting on the human condition in both personal, emotive narratives and paralleling historical references with current events and commenting on recurring themes of human civilization and the impact of culture and those in power on the lives of people within and without a particular country. The iconography of the pumpkin has been part of the group’s artwork since early on and infuses the often weighty subject matter of the songwriting with a touch of humor and humanity. In 2016 older Helloween lead vocalists Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen rejoined along with long time singer Andi Deris for the kind of sound not many groups in metal have ever had in one band. In May 2023 the group was slated for induction into the Metal Hall of Fame. In the coming days look for our audio interview with guitarist Sascha Gerstner on the Queen City Sounds Podcast series.

Ryan Oakes, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Ryan Oakes w/Layto and Cherie Amour
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ryan Oakes released his new album WAKE UP on May 12, 2023. The album makes good on the rapper’s experiments in genre bending and blending. The subject matter is about personal struggle, mental health difficulties and overcoming adversity but the attitude and delivery is punk set to trap beats and production for a sound that could be a complete disaster but works because the words are raw and real and the music hitting with an exhilarating immediacy. Somehow Oakes takes the anthemic quality of modern post-hardcore emo and a dazzling parade of current cultural references to tell stories of striving and struggling in an era of amplified anxiety and pressure to succeed despite human limitations and vulnerabilities. Oakes doesn’t bother not tapping into hyper pop’s sonic surrealism and industrial hip-hop as well as the aforementioned styles to create a compelling sound of his own.

Drain, photo by Christian Castillo

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Drain w/Drug Church, MSPAINT and TORENA
When: 7
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Drain is a melodic hardcore trio from Santa Cruz, California that recently released its new album Living Proof. Drug Church hails from the opposite end of the country in Albany, NY but its own style of hardcore is also not short on melody but its style is one with some roots in pop punk or the modern, better, version that emerged in the early 2010s. But the real reason to go to this show is to see MSPAINT from Hattiesburg, Mississippi whose debut full length Post-American release came out on Convulse Records. Clearly the band came out of the punk/hardcore scene but it’s synth-driven art punk is stranger and more colorful than a lot of what else is on offer for this night but delivered with the same level of intense energy and outpouring of passion. One might compare the band to Milemarker and The VSS but it’s really its own, unique flavor of challenging-to-classify punk.

Chella and the Charm in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Chris King & The Gutterballs w/Chella and The Charm and Silver Triplets
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chris King & The Gutterballs is a band from Seattle whose flavor of Americana has more in common with CCR than the more modern country folk strain though that’s in the mix too. Chella and The Charm has for the past decade or so provided the kind of Americana that is an urban soundtrack to contemplating life and the sorts of issues and thoughts and feelings that drive an authentic existence and performed with the earthy energy of a rock and roll band. But even within that you can hear the irreverent humor and sharp social commentary and observations on human behavior with affection and insight.

Ultrabomb, photo from

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Ultra Bomb w/Black Dots, The Black Gloves and Shiverz
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Ultrabomb is a punk supergroup featuring Greg Norton of Hüsker Dü, Jamie Oliver of UK Subs and Finny McConnell of The Mahones. The music that’s been available appears to be a particularly vibrant style of power pop and fantastic vocal melodies that one might expect from a group of such punk luminaries.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond August 2022

The Wild Hearts Tour featuring Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker at Sculpture Park August 7, 2022, photo by Alysse-Gafkjen
Horse Jumper of Love, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 08.01
What: Horse Jumper of Love w/Cryogeyser, Cherished and Fainting Dreams
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love is that rare band that can somehow be simultaneously a post-punk band and a psychedelic Americana band. Its new album Natural Part has a haunted grittiness that is at times reminiscent of Big Star at its gloomiest and Built to Spill in an introspective mood. Cryogeyser might be considered a bit of a slowcore band even though plenty of its songs aren’t so slow and employ jangly guitar in the way Lush did in its more pop songwriting. Cherished used to be called Lowfaith and thus an intense deathrock band with knack for moody atmospherics. Fainting Dreams is a Denver-based slowcore duo whose introspective/melancholic songs shimmer and incandesce and bloom with lingering moods.

Psychedelic Furs in July 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.02
What: The Psychedelic Furs w/X
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Psychedelic Furs and X probably need no introduction as bands who in the first case popularized post-punk for a mainstream audience and in the second made arty, literary punk that didn’t shy away from its own roots in country and rockabilly while embracing the ferocious energy of the scene in which it found itself. Both began in 1977. The Furs in London, X in Los Angeles. The former had songs on movie soundtracks most notably the title track, as it were, of the 1986 John Hughes film. The latter were stars of the first underground punk movie of long lasting influence and notoriety, 1981’s The Decline of Western Civilization. Both wrote some of the most memorable songs of their time and genre. Both had many years off between their heyday and their most recent albums but with the most recent albums being among their best. And both still put on a compelling and powerful live show that will sound good in a place like Mission Ballroom.

Florist, photo by Carl Solether

Friday | 08.05
What: Florist w/Marc Merza
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Florist returns with a full band album with 2022’s self-titled album. Though the band is often dubbed with the indie folk label, fair enough, its gently atmospheric music sounds like it was written while contemplating deep feelings and thoughts while having the time to let the mind stretch out in a calm place and replicating that mood in the songwriting. The textural elements of the instrumentation, even when Emily Sprague has composed with her analog synths, are part of the appeal of the band’s music as it establishes a tactile as well as sonic intimacy that sets the band well apart from many other artists whose work is described as indie folk and on the new album there are parts that sound like musique concrète and field recordings used both in the mix and recreated with instruments. It makes for a different kind of listen than the usual pop arrangements that inform the music of most bands. Fans of Mega Bog will appreciate the unconventional style yet immediate accessibility of what Florist has to offer.

The Derelicts, photo by Christina Rogers from

Friday | 08.05
What: The Derelicts w/Cyclo Sonic and Cease Fire
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Derelicts are a punk/garage rock band from Seattle that formed in 1986 around the same time as Mudhoney who had similar musical roots and sensibilities. Maybe they both listened to a lot of The Saints and Radio Birdman. Known for bombastic performances and frontman Duane Bodenheimer’s irreverent stage banter, The Derelicts have remained a bit of an underground legend known among connoisseurs of late 80s and early 90s punk. Chances are The Derelicts encountered The Fluid during that late 80s period when the Denver-based band toured to the Pacific Northwest and played shows with like-minded groups among bands that would go on to form the core of grunge because The Fluid too was a band influenced heavily by the Stooges, garage rock and the like and arguably the most influential punk/post-punk band out of Denver in the 80s and 90s whether other bands know it or not. Matt Bischoff was the bass player for The Fluid but he’d also been in an earlier punk great Frantix from Aurora, Colorado whose single “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic” definitely strikes an immediate chord. These days Bischoff plays guitar in Cyclo Sonic. Sure musically it’s not a big leap from his other bands but fortunately for us Bischoff and his bandmates including Arnie and AJ Beckman formerly of garage punk band The Choosey Mothers and Jif Jipers of punk legends Rok Tots have written a some vital slabs of incredibly catchy punk which can be heard on their 2020 album Candied Rats and the earlier EPs. Cease Fire is a street punk band from Denver that includes former members of The Purple Fluid including Richard Kulwicki, one of the sons of the late great Fluid guitarist the senior Richard “Ricky” Kulwicki.

Angel Olsen at Larimer Lounge 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 08.07
What: The Wild Hearts Tour: Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen w/Quinn Christopherson
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Wild Hearts Tour is a showcase of three of the greatest songwriters to have emerged in the past fifteen years. Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen are all artists who earned their reputations with strong songwriting and an inventive take on their specific musicianship styles establishing their own artistic voice early on in their respective careers. And each has gone on to push the boundaries of expectation for what they would do creatively with a body of work that is inventive and emotionally rich. As performers all three women have an openness and freshness of presentation that lends the show an air of the spontaneous that is consistently strikingly compelling. Van Etten’s 2022 album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a bit of a departure from some of her earlier work with a sound that’s so spare it might throw off older fans but it also has an intimacy that has always been a part of her appeal as a songwriter but this one feels so very up close and direct. Julien Baker’s early releases proved she is a gifted songwriter able to take a very stripped down presentation of the music and letting her powerful and emotive voice speak for itself with wit and perceptive observations of self and of being a human navigating a life often fraught with challenges and discouragement. Her 2021 album Little Oblivions greatly expanded her sonic palette as a songwriter with extensive use of electronics and deep atmospheric elements and yet none of it hid and rather enhanced the expression of a startling and thrillingly raw lyrics that just hit so powerfully with an urgent and honest exploration of conflicted feelings and working through emotional trauma in a way that felt maybe a little too real for some listeners. Angel Olsen has been refining and reinventing her songwriting style and sound since her 2011 debut EP Strange Cacti and with her first full-band release 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness her career seemed to take off. Her creatively expressive vocals lent itself well to stories drawn from her own life and observational songs about the impact of culture and one’s own history on the psyche. Her evocative and pastoral guitar work and voice have worked powerfully in tandem across her career as she freely incorporated aesthetics and musical ideas into her work but always somehow being able to speak to underlying emotions that often defy cogent expression but which Olsen has been able to bring forth across six albums including the classic country flavored 2022 album Big Time which does draw upon an older aesthetic but is fully modern in execution which is no mean feat. Won’t be a subpar moment of music on stage for this show.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen
White Hills, photo by Alex Carter

Sunday | 08.07
What: Telekinetic Yeti w/White Hills and Hashtronaut
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When one thinks of gloriously epic psychedelic metal Dubuque, Iowa is probably not where you’d expect a band like Telekinetic Yeti to come from though the state has long been home to many musical surprises over the years. The duo’s new album Primordial released July 8 on Tee Pee Records, home to some of the cooler heavy psychedelic and doom bands of recent years. “Stoner rock” started getting super stale around 18 years ago but fortunately some of those musicians evolved in to doom metal and then the weirder musicians recognized that Black Sabbath and Sleep both didn’t bother with splitting up heaviness and psychedelia and in fact saw how they could complement each other well in creating mind-altering music. Telekinetic Yeti is of that vintage. White Hills has long been one of the best heavy psychedelic bands going since forming in 2003. Also a duo, White Hills has fortunately been impossible to pigeonhole because yes there are elements of metal, krautrock, space rock, post-punk, ambient, noise and the avant-garde in the group’s music the entirety of its career and each record has been an attempt to do something different in terms of sonics, songwriting, structure, emotional colorings and the potential for performance that goes beyond simple songwriting. The forthcoming The Revenge Of Heads On Fire out September 16 on Cargo Records UK is definitely a stretch into the kind of space rock territory fans of Hawkwind will appreciate. Denver’s Hashtronaut are also fellow travelers of the tripped out, slow burn, heavy psychedelia.

Death Bells, photo by Kristopher Kirk

Sunday | 08.07
What: Death Bells w/Pendant and Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Bells formed in Sydney, Australia in 2015 but moved to Los Angeles in 2018 in search of greater horizons of developing and sharing its unique brand of post-punk. The sophomore album New Signs of Life was a refreshingly spare and stark set of songs with hushed moods and strong melodies. Its new album Between Here & Everywhere seems to have incorporated even more synths and electronic drums for an album that has even further refined the band’s use of repetition as an emotional mnemonic element that has an effect like connecting with ripples of water in the mind all while one hears in the arrangements an element of haunted folk. But one thing is for certain, Death Bells is not really making music in line with the more trendy sounds of modern darkwave and post-punk.

WILLOW, photo by Dana Trippe

Sunday | 08.07
What: Machine Gun Kelly w/Travis Barker and WILLOW
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Machine Gun Kelly is someone whose blend of hip hop and rock you either like or find odd but one thing he has done outside of providing fodder for tabloid news is champion up and coming artists of promise in the realm of pop by bringing them on to his recordings and/or on tour. This time that artist is WILLOW. The latter for sure had a leg up in the realm of entertainment as the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. But not all children of famous, wealthy people end up doing anything of interest beyond casual curiosity. Fortunately Willow Smith isn’t just skating by on those connections even though they have certainly helped her out along the way. Her musical career thus far has been one of reinvention and exploration from early, teenage pop music to her 2021 album lately I feel EVERYTHING in which she debuted a knack for writing pop-punk songs that really do articulate the overloaded feelings of adolescence well and with lyrics that go beyond tropes of the genre. Look for WILLOW’s new album <COPINGMECHANISM> due out later in the summer, the early singles of which find the songwriter evolving further in her fusion of styles and incorporating them into her own sound.

Marissa Nadler at Lost Lake in 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 08.08
What: Marissa Nadler w/Bluebook
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Marissa Nadler is one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. Her musical style that may default to comparisons to folk, Gothic Americana, dream pop and what might be described as pastoral metal has an emotional vibrant and intense yet expansive quality that has rendered her music probably too dark for even the psychedelic and freak folk scene and not hard rock enough for heavy music purists. And yet there’s something compellingly otherworldly about Nadler’s songwriting that has rendered all of her albums and collaborations unique and requiring the listener to enter the songwriter’s emotional universe, one which has direct resonance in a universal sense as Nadler’s mezzo-soprano vocals and intimacy with the roots of her own psychology translates well into a personal myth making and storytelling that is instantly captivating. Her latest album The Path of the Clouds may be her finest yet as she was forced to compose the songs during the depths of the first phase of the pandemic and its companion EP the The Wrath of the Clouds reveals a broad range of emotion and an attempt to move through the anxiety and anomy the ongoing crisis is visiting upon everyone with any level of sensitivity. Bluebook these days is very much in sync with the broodingly brilliant energy of Nadler’s own work especially in the band’s current arrangement like a darkwave-flavored chamber folk band.

Tuesday | 08.09
What: Church of the Cosmic Skull w/Lord Buffalo and Keefduster
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church of the Cosmic Skull sounds like it listened to a lot of Ya Ho Wha 13 along the line of arriving at its unusual brand of psychedelic chamber pop. Lord Buffalo has a vibe like the guys in the band went out into the desert and tried to find signs of the Great Spirit in the dark and forgotten places of the landscape and returned a little haunted, a little mad and a little inspired to make expansive, psychedelic rock to reflect those kinds of journeys outside mundane pursuits.

Ian Sweet, photo by Lucy Sandler

Thursday | 08.11
What: Ian Sweet w/BNNY
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When Ian Sweet released its album Show Me How You Disappear on March 5, 2021 it was right before an extended period of great uncertainty for live music and music careers in general and the industry surrounding all of that. Perhaps it’s a bit too ironic but also oddly good timing for that record to have come out as its psychedelic pop was an exploration of anxiety, the traumas that fuel it and working through the paralyzing guilt that crashes into your brain when you take on the responsibility for the trauma inflicted and overthinking what could have been and what could be in an endless spiral of self-reinforcing, internalized punishment and turmoil. The album’s songs feel like both a realistic depiction of the feelings of processing the aforementioned and a salve on the psychic turmoil that can feel like an inescapable trap. In 2022 Ian Sweet issued the Star Stuff EP which deals with similar emotional territory as Show Me How You Disappear but feels more at peace in its exquisite atmospherics even when it hits some deep melancholic notes. Chicago’s BNNY has been writing similarly emotionally tender material but its own music is more in the realm of slowcore and dream pop. Singer Jess Viscius sounds like she’s singing out of a book of private thoughts and writings drawn from extensive self-examination and deep observation. He group’s 2021 album Everything is reminiscent of both Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 in its beautifully billowing tonal aesthetic.

HELP, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 08.11
What: Red Fang w/Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough and HELP
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Red Fang is the sludge/doom metal band based out of Portland, Oregon who have managed to carve out of a niche for themselves in a crowded field with imaginative music videos, a healthy sense of humor and songwriting that goes beyond simply making melodic heavy music paired with superior tone sculpting. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are playing a collaborative set with a performance of the 2020 album Stygian Bough Volume I. In typical fashion there is a lot of delicacy and nuance in the crushing and transporting heaviness of the music like a mini-metal orchestra but without the cheesiness of some of the more melodic death metal bands, just mystical, haunting soundscapes that feel like a heroic journey through dark places. Opener HELP is a noise rock band also from Portland whose songs seethe with a rage against the power structures that have been increasingly making life more challenging and unsustainable for most people and in the end all life on earth as well. Unabashedly political that sensibility can be heard in its clashing, twisting, angular assault of drums, guitar, bass and vocals with a triumphant spirit we don’t hear often enough and the 2022 album 2053 is worthy of Killing Joke at its most righteously caustic.

Jordana, photo by Sophie Gurwitz

Friday | 08.12
What: Local Natives w/Jordana
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Local Natives have thus far made a pretty good career out of writing the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with undeniably great vocal harmonies that incorporate superbly executed falsetto which isn’t easy to pull off. Opening artist Jordana released her latest album Face The Wall. Jordana Nye played all the instruments and did much of the production for the record. It’s a deeply introspective, confessional set of songs that feel open and gently but strikingly honest. What is perhaps most striking about the songwriting is Jordana’s mastery of transitions and orchestrating the layers of atmosphere. A lot of pop music has solid production or it wouldn’t work but Jordana’s work on the album draws you in and while very real about issues of anxiety and uncomfortable truths makes it all seem like something you can survive even if you may or may not overcome your life’s struggles for good or in the ways you had anticipated.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.12
What: DUG, Moon Pussy, Quits and Almanac Man
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: DUG is comprised of former members of the great noise rock band Buildings from Minneapolis. Noise rock can be a generic term so in the case of DUG it sounded like they took some inspiration from Laughing Hyenas and The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid in equal measure. Moon Pussy from Denver has a catharsis embedded in its eruptive and sometimes caustic but also angularly mind-altering riffs. Quits somehow sounds colossal and on the verge of breakdown and breaking out at the same time making its own sonic barrage exciting and engrossing. Almanac Man somehow splices together an unhinged sludge rock with math-y posthardcore. Like if Clutch and Neurosis had a baby.

Saturday | 08.13
What: Lost 80s Live A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, The English Beat, Naked Eyes, Missing Persons, Stacey Q, Animotion, Dramarama, Tommy Tutone and Musical Youth
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Could be kind of a mess, this many bands on one bill but of course all the acts will get limited stage time to play their 80s hits. But it may also be one of the only opportunities you get to see the legendary and pioneering New Wave band Missing Persons who were always different from its peers and still a compelling live band. Also Flock of Seagulls wrote plenty of evocative, moody synth pop beyond its own hits but will they play songs like “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” or “The More You Live, the More You Love”? Wang Chung is most well known for hits like “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” but its score for the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. proved that the group was capable of crafting enduring art pop of urgency and intensity. Hope if you see their set they’ll indulge a track or two from the soundtrack.

Hooveriii, photo by Alex Bulli

Sunday and Monday | 08.14 and 08.15
What: Hoveriii (with Moose and The Crooked Rugs on 08.14 and with Nolan Potter and Petite Amie on 08.15)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge 08.14 and Vultures 08.15
Why: Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”) recently released its new record A Round of Applause. The record is only eleven tracks and all roughly the length of a radio friendly pop song but it feels like a sprawling yet progressive affair of kaleidoscopic tones and a strong streak of experimentation in what sounds and structures the group was willing to indulge as it took the time to explore what it could do in the studio in shaping and crafting a sound that was fairly different from the jam band stylings of its 2021 album Water For Frogs. Urgent yet playful, the new album finds Hooveriii operating with a focus and economy of style without skimping on imaginative sonic excursions outside the established songwriting lines.

Bodega, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Monday | 08.15
What: Bodega w/The Sickly Hecks and Flora de la Luna
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bodega is a Brooklyn-based art punk/post-punk band whose offbeat sense of humor and fascinating fusion of New Wave rock and the kind of pop band Brian Eno might have started had he not attached himself to Talking Heads and U2 for several years. Its sharply observed lyrics cast modern life in sharp contrast to its historical roots and the legacy thereof at least on its 2022 album Broken Equipment—a title that is such a great metaphor for the tools we’re given to navigate and make sense of the world handed down to us and making do the best we can.

Spaceface, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: Spaceface w/Petite Amie and Pleasure Prince
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: For the past decade Spaceface has been crafting otherworldly, psychedelic pop and its 2022 album Anemoia is a genre swapping, colorful sonic collage of sounds and ideas that seems to free associate styles from across decades. A core of fuzzy guitar and ethereal melodies evoke 70s R&B and funk while the songs often sound like summertime music for a place the band !!! might vacation after being woken from cryogenic slumber in 100 years after a generation as yet unborn has dismantled the foundations of our dysfunctional civilization in favor of something more nurturing and fun for everyone. But really its just gorgeous, retro-furturist psychedelic music that somehow sounds hedonistic without coming off corny. Petite Amie is a similarly-minded band from Mexico City whose own music has lush, downtempo funky vibes like they absorbed the entire ABBA catalog along with heapings of Broadcast, Daft Punk and taking in the films of Sofia Coppola. It has that dreamlike quality that exudes benevolence and mystery like few bands do. It’s the kind of music those of us who remember going to roller skating rinks in the 1970s and 1980s wish we could have been listening to instead of the too often tepid pop hits of the day. The band’s 2021 self-titled album is grand showcase of transporting sounds and soothing soundscapes.

Petite Amie, photo courtesy the artist
…And You Will Knows By the Trail of Dead, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/New Candys
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
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. New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze.

Wednesday | 08.17
What: The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Canadian electroclash pioneer and producer Peaches is touring for the anniversary of the release of her genre landmark album The Teaches of Peaches (2000). The album broke Peaches aka Merrill Nisker to a more mainstream audience despite its playfully profane and unabashedly sexual lyrics. Perhaps its biggest hit “Fuck the Pain Away” is a classic of modern electronic music and Peaches’ confrontational and genre bending live show blurs the boundaries between hip-hop, electronic dance music and punk in a way that both challenges preconceptions and welcomes listeners and those who are there for the show to open up to new ways of thinking about subjects you thought you already knew your thinking about.

The Weeknd, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 08.18
What: The Weeknd
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Empower Field at Mile High
Why: Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd has spent the last decade and a half building a career as one of the most compelling songwriters and producers in popular music. Whether he lends his imaginative soundscaping to R&B, hip-hop, pop or his unique and powerful interpretation of synth pop or lending his skills to the works of other artists, Tesfaye seems to bring a creative sensibility that finds and brings forth the hidden potential in the music and helps that to highlight and enhance the work overall. His new album Dawn FM (2022) bridges all his musical worlds while also being one of the great darkwave records of the past decade. Expect a spectacle for this show especially given the of necessity large format venue as the songwriter seems the type to want to give people something extra for the trouble of showing up and following his music in general.

The KVB in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 08.18
What: The KVB w/M!R!M
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: UK duo The KVB caught the attention of shoegaze and post-punk heads with its early releases starting a decade ago and garnering a bit of a cult following for its highly stylized multimedia aesthetics and seamless synthesis of electronic music and the aforementioned styles. Its 2021 album Unity is a further exploration of the techno production that has informed the band’s music since its early days as fused to downtempo pop in hazy melodies shot through with a forceful energy. M!R!M is the solo project of Jack Milwaukee whose 2022 album Time Traitor recalls a strange blend of early TR/ST and mid-80s synth pop and thus darkwave style but with some R&B sensibility in the beat making.

Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday – Sunday | 08.19 – 08.21
What: Down In Denver Fest
When: 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday, 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturday, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Sunday
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: In the decay of local culture curation born of a robust local media covering music and the arts in a systematic and interested rather than neglectful manner local music coverage and festivals seemingly lack an awareness of the history of the community of the arts and the context in which new artists emerge. This festival was conceived of when in 2021 the UMS, which had been an actively communitarian endeavor in years prior, seemed to have lost its mooring and sense of mission and musicians representing a swath of local music cut out of that sprawling event realized they could put something together that was very much about the local scene and the people who make it up. Assembled in about a month to six weeks the 2021 edition of Down in Denver was a well orchestrated showcase of some of the best local music at any festival all year. This year the event is slightly bigger but in the same format of two stages and now the first day is a free pre-party featuring some prime local talent as well. No skimping. Look for our extended coverage with interviews throughout this week with some of the artists performing and photographic shares on the Queen City Sounds IG account throughout the weekend. To purchase tickets and for the detailed and most up to date lineup and schedule check the link above or here.

Saturday | 08.20
What: Barstool Messiah album release show for Whiskey Baptismal featuring Erica Brown w/Cyclo Sonic and Dust Beneath Dirt
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Barstool Messiah is celebrating the release of its thunderous and soulful new album Whiskey Baptismal with a performance including legendary soul, blues and R&B singer Erica Brown whose vocals in her own music are reason enough to go see the show but whose talents have graced numerous records including the aforementioned and artists one might think well outside her realm of musical expertise. Also on the bill is the exceptional garage punk band Cyclo Sonic comprised of former members of the Fluid, Frantix, Rok Tots and Choosey Mothers.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 08.20
What: Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival Feat. NOFX w/Pennywise, Circle Jerks, The Suicide Machines, Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Dwarves, The Bridge City Sinners, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, PKEW PKEW PKEW, Cheap Perfume and All Waffle Trick
When: 11 a.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Until this tour one would have said that the Jawbreaker tour was the punk tour of 2022. But there’s no need for competition in punk or music and this event happening at Fiddler’s Green includes some of punk’s most important bands of both the pop-punk and hardcore era. And also the great Colorado Springs, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume whose powerful and irreverent songs dismantling patriarchal behavior and human cruelty in general are always worth a gander. It would be facile to list off why every band on the bill matters but Circle Jerks, this might be the last time you get to see them on some kind of national tour. The group began after singer Keith Morris departed Black Flag and his combination of deep contempt for vested authority and surreal and pointed sense of humor found a vital outlet in a new band Circle Jerks which produced a body of work so potent and creative beyond simply being foundational to hardcore that its early records still sound fresh and telling it like it is. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the group’s Wild in the Streets album and thus the setlist might lean a little heavy in that direction. The tour earlier in the year proved the Jerks still have the fire so maybe, just maybe, they’ll tour in 2023 for the 40 year anniversary of its 1983 classic Golden Shower of Hits.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, photo by Danny Clinch

Tuesday and Wednesday | 08.23 and 08.24
What: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats w/Caroline Rose
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nathaniel Rateliff first made waves in Denver with his alternative rock band Born in the Flood. The atmospheric, heartfelt music that came out of that project garnered the songwriter and his bandmates fans far and wide and was poised for at least indie fame when it was invited to be on a live music program Matt Pinfield was helming, recording one of the pilot episodes. The show never aired. Rateliff went on to do some solo music as The Wheel which became a band with local musical luminaries and long time collaborators and friends and it too seemed poised for success in the kind of indie success most bands never quite achieve and that didn’t happen either. Nevermind the quality of the material, the music world is fickle and people just as worthy out of Denver have been overlooked for decades. But then Rateliff got together some friends for a band called Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The name probably came along after the music, as these things go, but the 2015 self-titled debut album yielded a left field and unfortunately locally ubiquitous hit in “S.O.B..” But even if you got sick of hearing it in Denver it finally propelled Rateliff into mainstream success and he took some friends along for that ride that one can tell from interviews he knows can end at any time so now the band is simply enjoying that success while it lasts and is now touring in support of its “COVID” album The Future which is the blues, Americana rock blend that has kept the band in the musical mainstream but there is an interesting spaciousness and stark production at points that point to an acute awareness of the fragility and tentative nature of life and what we take for granted when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable. It’s also the band’s best record of its three thus far.

Wednesday| 08.24
What: Mizmor w/Heretical Sect, Spiritual Poison, Cronos Compulsion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Mizmor’s 2022 album Wit’s End is a meditation on the caustic effect of superstition gone wrong and the extolling of destructive irrationality above compassion and intelligence. In the language of colossal, atmospheric blackened doom it seeks a path through a time of civilizational darkness. Heretical Sect is a blackened death metal outfit from Santa Fe whose spooky atmospherics are driving and not really cartoonishly menacing and the content of shows 2020 album Rapturous Flesh Consumed shares some thematic sentiments as the new Mizmor record. Spiritual Poison you won’t get to see too often and it’s one of Ethan McCarthy’s always interesting noise projects, this one more ambient and enigmatic than even Many Blessings.

Extra Kool and Time of Calm. August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.26
What: Extra Kool album release w/DJ Jon Blaze and Calm.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Englewood Tavern
Why: Extra Kool almost never performs live anymore but Danny Vincennie aka Extra Kool has been writing some of the most heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking and creative raps of the past two decades and more. This night he’s releasing his latest album Not A Ghost…But Dead Inside and it’s proof that if you do something with integrity for your entire career everything you put out will have artistic merit and this album is on par with his entire catalog. Also playing this night is the political and also intensely creative hip-hop duo Calm. with their own literary raps and some of the most colorful, moving and beautiful beats in the Colorado rap game and beyond.

Joan Osborne, photo by Lynn Goldsmith

Saturday | 08.27
What: Madeline Peyroux and Joan Osborne
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities
Why: Joan Osborne burst onto the national music scene with her hit album 1996 Relish and the single “One of Us.” One might be excused to not being into the single so much and perhaps misjudging Osborne’s other music based on the ubiquity of the single in the year or three after its release. But anyone that got to see Osborne around that time whether on one of her own tours or her appearances on the Lilith Tour in 1997 and 1998 witnessed a passionate performer with a raw, authentic style that couldn’t fail to leave a strong impression of the singer/songwriter as a performer and human capable of projecting her feelings and connecting with the audience in a seemingly direct way. For this show, Osborne will performs Relish in its entirety. Madeline released her own noteworthy debut album Dreamland in 1996 as well. The record garnered her a bit of a following but her 2004 follow-up albums Careless Love marked the beginning of her prolific subsequent career as one of the most popular jazz singers of the past couple of decades.

Monday | 08.29
What: Marissa Nadler w/Seance
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Vultures
Why: See above on 08.08 for Marissa Nadler.

Reptaliens, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Cults w/Reptaliens and DJ Boyhollow
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Reptaliens from Portland, Oregon may at initial contact seem like a cool, fairly downtempo, psychedelic indie pop band with earworm vocal melodies. But the more you delve into its lyrics and the subject matter of its albums something far stranger emerges with songs inspired by left field science fiction, bizarre pop culture artifacts and esoteric knowledge. After all who names an album VALIS after the 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick based on true events with possibly metaphysical experiences with an alien intelligence. Headliners Cults enjoyed real indie buzz in the early 2010s when its self-titled debut was released on Columbia. Fortunately the hype wasn’t overblown and Cults’ dream pop offerings had some vitality as evidenced by its often spirited live shows.

Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters w/Totem Pocket, Innerspace, Abandons and Brother Saturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is an all post-rock/post-metal show featuring Salt Lake City’s Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters who might more rightly be considered a shoegaze band with Kate Hoffmeister’s dusky vocals. Abandons is the kind of band who maybe came out of an early interest in progressive metal and art rock that evolved into a skillful crafting of soundscapes and textures in broad, dynamic strokes without writing music aimed at fitting in with a genre or subgenre which is why it’s difficult to make comparisons except to describe the music except partially as sculpted waves of mood. Brother Saturn is Drew Miller’s post-rock project which means some blissed out guitar tonal compositions and electronics that are the more visceral side of his other projects in ambient music.

Elder, photo by Anait Sagoyan

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Elder w/Belzebong and Dreadnought
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ELDOVAR – A Story of Darkness & Light (2021) pretty much established former Massachusetts-based progressive metal band Elder and German psychedelic band Kadavar as purveyors of a heavy art rock that is as creatively ambitious as it is compelling beyond any ability to appreciate the technical skill going into it or the theory. It’s cinematic in the way that mid-70s Genesis was and the delicate touches in the composition give context to heavier passages and the album doesn’t get stuck in the tropes of any genre. Yes, we’ve heard epic, science fiction flavored hard psychedelic rock before but this album feels like something different and worthy of a listen to anyone with an interest in psychedelic rock and where doom can go when it’s not stuck in its familiar habits. Dreadnought is a band whose tribal, heavy pagan psychedelia is a good fit for a bill like this where there isn’t a tired formula guiding anyone’s music.

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.

A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released
This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it  was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life  that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.

Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records

Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?

ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records
Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.

Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group
A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.

Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord

A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight
With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less  ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris  Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and  physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of  hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk  music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A  Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are  more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those  dreams real. 

Autechre | Sign | Warp Records
Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.

Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records


Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released

Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser

blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released
Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of  Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human  condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are  leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the  modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the  world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or  not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary  Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.  

BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records

Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum
Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.

Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records

Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records
Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.

Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records
Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.

Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser

Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute

Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records
Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.

Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released

Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records
Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.

Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records
Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.

Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released
This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch  Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic  vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that  give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for  pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death  tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent  main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as  mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that  artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.  

cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk

Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop
Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.

Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released

Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released

Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records

Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released

Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings

Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records
Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.

Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze
Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos

Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records

Dyad | Dormant | self-released
Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like  Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for  Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases  their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of  non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard  progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor.  Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk,  Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the  soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo  future jazz sounds. 

eHpH | Infrared | self-released
This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its  introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice  sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity.  The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on  the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most  fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals  draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The  pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing  tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides  a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH  has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the  group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more  contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the  past. 

Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records

Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union

Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim
In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob  Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular  synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp  page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths  and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single  track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted  ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the  heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the  inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.

Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican

Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records

Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress

Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records

Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings
Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.

Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind
The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.

Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish

Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party

Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records

Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records
Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.

French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk

Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD
A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.

Galleries | Resolve | self-released

Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records
Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.

Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records

Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean
In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his  brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and  Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music  who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd  Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is  reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and  bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a  worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local,  experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly  capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of  The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure  Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in  Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.

H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released
Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for  this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous  swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious  sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness  and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a  singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces  that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses  with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.

Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records
Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.

Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings

In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released
In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its  interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with  meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic  set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with  elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The  Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the  enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company  of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own  heavy explorations of the human psyche. 

IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan
Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.

Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records
A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.

Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records

jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records
This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make  statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep  even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called  
“NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so  unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents  than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the  relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to  sound. 

Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released
Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the  trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is  impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to  passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty  demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing  rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent,  and thus thematically limited, perspective. 

Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International

Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom

King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador
Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.

Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego
Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.

KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released
Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the  hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious  emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring  the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks,  Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while  at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and  hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious  thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you  to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself. 

Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released

Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind
Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.

Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim

Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser

Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records
Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic  and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy  has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed  drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and  anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective  unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of  sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence.  These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which  are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come  home to roost of late. 

Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released

Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine

Memory Bell | Solace | self-released

Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop

Midwife | Forever | The Flenser
Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music  and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with  so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And  the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of  hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted,  ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and  sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache  and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into  your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely  restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and  heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen. 

Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released
Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.

Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records
Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.

Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records
Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.

Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records
Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.

Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain

Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four

Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records
Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop  jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured  vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record  the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and  on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go  will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock  riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be  the theme song of these United States.  

Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac

Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records

Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House

Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media

New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released

Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released
The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead.  And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic  record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about  the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop  quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with  a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version  of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of  something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put  on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.  

No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City

Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records

Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records

Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records
Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.

Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released

Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released

Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released

Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records

Pole | Fading | Mute Records

Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records

Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records
On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That  element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the  Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The  vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic  drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is  like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an  appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.

Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records
Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.

Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records
If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.

Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records

Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records

Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released
Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop  out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through  a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite  there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms  seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s  and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross  between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto. 

Riki | s/t | Dais Records
Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.

Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners

Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop

Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM
An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.

Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released

Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey
Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.

SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records

SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers
This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of  adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its  anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the  songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We  Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the  working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be  in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little  Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed  throughout. 

Spice | s/t | Dais Records

Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser
Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.

Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings

Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records

Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released
Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically,  Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album.  Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the  shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and  frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other  media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to  communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of  sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we  can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.  

Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador

Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music

Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released
An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.

Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey

Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim

SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise

Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium

The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released

The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh

The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun

The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze

The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos

Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released
Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.

TI-83 | Demo | self-released

Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory
Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with  historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist  whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On  These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess,  Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle  commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it  seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical  pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.

Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International
Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.

Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records

Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records
Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.

Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records

Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released

Voight | s/t | self-released
Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote  and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like  it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out,  percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a  person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a  coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without  ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.

Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records

Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings

White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released

Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky

WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound

Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop

Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records
Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.

Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.

Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.

Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek

black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.

Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.

Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.

Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.

Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.

Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.

Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound

Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.

Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.

Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.

Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound

Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.

Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released

No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.

NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.

Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van

Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released

Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.

She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.

Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines

SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.

The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.

Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.

We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.

Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver 12/13/19 – 12/17/19

Angel Olsen performs at Gothic Theatre December 14 and 15, photo by Cameron McCool

Friday | December 13

Tourist, photo by David Ellis

What: Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.

What: Princess Dewclaw w/Demoncassettecult, Savage Bass Goat, Techno Allah and $addy
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Nova Fest 7: Fathers, Sorry No Sympathy, The Burial Plot, Cheap Perfume and Saving Verona 
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Landgrabbers, Octopus Tree, The Pollution and Electric Condor
When: Friday, 12.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

What: Moral Law, Disposal Notice, Thieves Guild, Pontius Pilate
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Black Dots, Surrender Signal, No Comma, Good Family
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Deep Club Presents: Ash Lauryn
When: Friday, 12.13, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Saturday | December 14

Lot Lizard, photo by James Dean

What: Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.

What: Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.

What: Khemmis w/Wayfarer and UN
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: King Cardinal w/Corsicana and Bellhoss
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 15

Plaid circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford
When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Sunday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Tuesday | December 17

Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Empath w/American Culture and Reposer
When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.

Best Shows in Denver 9/13/18 – 9/19/18

Angel Olsen performs at The Paramount Theatre on 9/17/18. Photo by Taylor Boylston

Thursday | September 13, 2018

Joe Dosik, photo by Curtis Essel

Who: Joe Dosik w/Moonglade
When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.

What: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown
When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.

Who: Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.

Who: Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.

Friday | September 14, 2018

Landgrabbers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.

Who: Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush
When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year.
Who: UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.

Saturday | September 15, 2018

Nothing, photo by Ben Rayner

Who: Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut
When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.

Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo Courtesy of Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Who: Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver)
Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.

Eyebeams, black light poster image courtesy Eyebeams

Who: Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo)
When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.

Who: Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.

Sunday | September 16, 2018

Luxury Hearse, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2 OUTS: An Electronic songwriter gathering: Pearls and Perils, Mirror Fears, And I, Keldari Station, Church Fire, Gold Trash, EVP, Panic Priest, Blackcell, Strange Powers, Lady of Sorrows, Juniordeer, $addy, eHpH, Nighttimeschoolbus, Luxury Hearse, Voight
When: Sunday, 09.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A veritable cornucopia of great Denver musicians writing songs using electronic instruments or, in the case of Voight, using a guitar but writing with electronic music sensibilities. If you go to one event the rest of the year and want a great and fairly broadly representative slice of Denver music that uses electronic instrumentation in a boundary-pushing, interesting way, there won’t be a better chance to see it all in one place because no one else is thinking of an event like this with the level of quality curation that went into it.

Who: WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos
When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.

Monday | September 17, 2018

Angel Olsen circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.

Who: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers
When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.

Tuesday | September 18, 2018

Nine Inch Nails, photo by Corinne Schiavone

Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.

Wednesday | September 19, 2018


Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco see above for 09.18.

Who: Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.

Who: The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.

Who: Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.

Who: Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.