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

Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN

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.

Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 7/18/19 – 7/24/19

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Michael McDonald will perform at Denver Botanic Gardens York Street on July 18, photo by Timothy White

Thursday | July 18

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CHRCH, photo by Hannah Stone

What: Michael McDonald w/Strange Americans
When: Thursday, 07.18, 5:45 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens – York Street
Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. This concludes his run of shows in Colorado over this past week.

What: Usnea, CHRCH, Zygrot and Limbwrecker
When: Thursday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Kind of a funeral doom show at Rhino tonight w/Portland, Oregon’s funeral doom juggernauts Usnea and the transcendental occult feral drone of CHRCH from Sacramento.

Friday | July 19

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Spirettes, photo by Tom Murphy

What: We Are A Glum Lot and Spirettes dual album release w/Turvy Organ
When: Friday, 07.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Lulu’s Downstairs – Manitou Springs
Why: Dream pop band Spirettes and neo-math-emo-indie rock band We Are Not a Glum Lot are releasing their new albums simultaneously this evening at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs. Spirettes’ album being Esoteria and We Are Not a Glum Lot’s titled The Price of Simply Existing.

What: Hammer’s House Party: MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sisqo, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, The Funky Bunch
When: Friday, 07.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: At this show you can party like it’s 1992 or 1999 depending on who you’re going to see. MC Hammer was ubiquitous in the early 90s with multiple hit songs that helped to put hip-hop into the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot is perhaps best known for his hit song “Baby Got Back” but he was a big deal in Seattle before that and his records worth listening to generally for their swagger and sly and pointed humor. Biz Markie is a character in hip-hop who burst the boundaries of what was acceptable by owning being a little rough around the edges in his rapping and his outlandish performance persona. His 1989 song “Just a Friend” is a classic of the genre. 2 Live Crew traded in x-rated rap for years and garnered attention for its high profile lawsuit regarding its 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be over the record’s alleged obscenity. Seems quaint and inconsequential now considering how the President of the United States has and continued to talk about women but back in the day it made the news and catapulted the underground group into the national consciousness. Sisqó is the lead singer of Dru Hill but in 1999 he had hit songs like “Thong Song” and “Incomplete.” So you’ll get to take in a good swath of 90s mainstream hip-hop in one concert if you go.

Saturday | July 20

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Flipper circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Flipper 40th Anniversary Tour with David Yow
When: Saturday, 07.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid will front the notorious San Francisco post-punk band Flipper for this tour and he’s one singer who still seems to have some disregard for his personal safety as a performer.

Sunday | July 21

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Elizabeth Colour Wheel, photo courtesy the artists

What: Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/Drowse, New Standards Men and BleakHeart
When: Sunday, 07.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s ritual drone, blackened shoegaze, mystic doom, pagan crust sound on its 2019 album Nocebo is Diamanda Galas-esque in its cathartic intensity and SubRosa-like in its sense of mystery.

Tuesday | July 23

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Starcrawler, photo by Cameron Mccool

What: Beck w/Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler
When: Tuesday, 07.23, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Beck went from eccentric underground artist with releases on K Records and Flipside early in his career to late-era alternative icon in the mid-to-late 90s with hit songs and videos on MTV to mature singer songwriter with a gift for inventive soundscaping. All the while Beck’s genre-bending instincts and disregard for expectation and convention has meant all of his albums are worth a listen. Cage the Elephant has made a bit of a name for itself by mixing together punk, psychedelia and bluesy garage rock. Even though Spoon has hit the greatest hits compilation (minus tracks from great albums like Girls Can Tell and Hot Thoughts), the Austin-based, arty post-punk outfit has raised its songwriting bar with every album since its 1996 debut Telephono bringing in electronic elements more to the fore on 2017’s Hot Thoughts and always with the rhythm anchoring and guiding the music. That politicians and public radio station managers cite Spoon as a favorite band shouldn’t be held against them. L.A.’s Starcrawler opens the show with its mélange of punk, 70s glam and stoner rock. Which might get the group lumped in with the recent wave of 90s fuzz rock worshippers. But Starcrawler’s songwriting tends to unironically embrace the swagger of yesteryear and take inspiration from the bands that influenced grunge rather than simply the 90s amalgamation of all of it.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 5/31/19 – 06/5/19

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Judas Priest performs at Broadmoor World Arena on June 5

Friday | May 31

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Big Freedia circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Hieroglyphics w/Rap Noir, Stoney Hawk, S.A.V.E.1, Mike Wird, LoS, Stonewall BLVD
When: Friday, 05.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Hieroglyphicsfrom Oakland, California and have long been one of the most influential groups in underground hip-hop. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure and the four members of Souls of Mischief (Phesto, A-Plus, Opio nd Tajai), Hieroglyphics operate in a way that’s classic, old school hip-hop, composing using a sort of free form jazz style with sampling and vocals and more experimental production and the feel of a 70s exploitation film but one where maybe the music was made by a Gil Scott-Heron and Lee Scratch Perry collaboration. This show will include all original members so you’ll get to see some of the sharpest and most deft wordplay in the game.

What: Chromeo, Thievery Corporation, Big Freedia, Adeline, Peanut Butter Wolf
When: Friday, 05.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Electro soul stars Chromeo seem to bring their bombastic, weirdo new wave pop to Red Rocks every summer and consistently bring artists that will push their fans’ collective music brains beyond their current bounds. This time basically co-headlining with downtempo dub duo Thievery Corporation. More on the outside of the loose realm of music in which the aforementioned operate are Big Freedia and Peanut Butter Wolf. The former is an icon of New Orleans sissy bounce. Which is a really abstract way of saying that Big Freedia is a charismatic and highly energetic performer whose performances blur the line between sissy bounce, noisy industrial dance and a kind of what might be called punk dub. It’s impossible to ignore and may alienate some people with how strange it is to some sensibilities but also one of the most powerful things you’ll get to see at Red Rocks this summer. Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of experimental hip-hop/electronic music/post-punk imprint Stones Throw, which has regularly issued some of the most fascinating music of the past 23 years.

Saturday | June 1

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Dead Milkmen, photo by Jessica Kourkounis, 2014

What: Goth Prom 4 featuring Assemblage 23, DJs Kilgore, Slave1 and Dutch Confetti
When: Saturday, 06.01, 5 p.m.
Where: EXDO Events Center
Why: This year’s edition of Goth Prom will be headlined by EBM/Future Pop legend Assemblage 23. The Seattle-based group has managed to consistently make emotionally honest and compelling music in a realm of industrial dance that is often basically unconscious self-parody that aims to be edgy and dark but misses the mark more often than not. At least Assemblage 23 songs are well-written and seem more aimed to evoke a headspace and mood rather than adherence to tropes.

What: Dead Milkmen w/Granny Tweed
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Dead Milkmen were an irreverent punk band from a time when a lot of punk and hardcore was taking itself entirely too seriously. But Dead Milkmen stretched the boundaries of 80s punk by observing few conventions beyond an iconoclastic spirit.

What: Painting With Statue, Echo Beds, DJ Pop CTRL and Animal / object
When: Saturday, 06.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Painting With Statue is a trio from California that makes noise via what sounds like analog field recording manipulation, sampling and raw low end and white noise. Animal / object is Colorado’s premier avant-garde spontaneous composition band. Who knows what DJ Pop CTRL will be this time other than weirdo folk pop. Echo Beds rarely plays now due to work on its new record so here’s a now rare chance to see the organic-industrial, noisy post-punk legends in the flesh and steel.

What: Places Back Home w/Spirettes, Everignite, Random Temple
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Peanut Butter Wolf w/DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Esmé Patterson w/Carsie Blanton
When: Saturday, 06.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Leavitt Pavillion

Sunday | June 2

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Universal Devils, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Summitus Kitharlogus
When: Sunday, 06.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A left of field guitar mini fest with performances by or featuring: Weasel Tears, Equine, Amos Helvey, Adam Selene, Lepidoptera, Farrrell Lowe, Joe Mills, Sean Patrick Faling-sonic friction guitarworks, Prayer Hands, Death In Space, Saduwu, Brother Saturn, Sean Mlekush, Space Geist, Bradley Franlik Santulli, Broken Guitar Ensemble, BentonamO, bios+a+ic, Night Grinder.

What: Whiskey Orphans, Slow Poisoner and Universal Devils
When: Sunday, 06.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Whiskey Orphans sounds like the name suggests. Fortunately, that means more than hard drinking Americana. There is also a touch of sensitivity and wistfulness underlining the sparse melodies. Universal Devils is Tricky Dick Wickett’s one-man metallic singer songwriter project and more odd and original than those mere words could convey.

Monday | June 3

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KEN mode, photo by Brenna Faris

What: KEN mode w/Abrams, BleakHeart and Ten Foot Beast
When: Monday, 06.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: KEN mode is a metallic, noisy, post-hardcore band whose name is a shortened version of “Kill Everyone Now mode” and in terms of blowing up a groove and cutting a riff into relentlessly jagged pieces, the band has done plenty of that in the more absurdly humorous over-the-top abstract sense. It’s latest album Loved from 2018 has song titles that read like chapters in the diary of a nihilistic misanthrope. For example: “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” “The Illusion of Dignity,” “Learning To Be Too Cold” and “Fractures in Adults.” Given the title of the record one has to respect the dark sense of humor informing all of it including the creepy album cover. Fans of Unsane and Jesus Lizard will find much to like here.

Tuesday | June 4

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Tuesday, 06.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Ivywild School Gymnasium
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, the long-running alt-country act from Denver, brings its Vaudeville west and vibrantly emotional and lively performance to Colorado Springs along with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, among others, and with the Pink Monkey Birds he brings a lifetime of stories, insight and masterful songwriting to making his own music with a body of work as worthy as anything else in which he’s been involved.

Wednesday | June 5

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Snails and Oysters circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Snails and Oysters and Little Fyodor solo
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This month’s editon of Weird Wednesday maintains peak weirdness with Gothsta who does odd keytar pop songs. Then again, if keytar is involved it’s going to be strange but that just enhances the bizarro nature of the music anyway. Plus some legit keytar covers of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear from her unless you’ve been listening to The Space Lady and not even then. Snails and Oysters is Joe Mill’s solo avant-garde/ambient guitar project in which his combines textures and moods to weave a unique soundscape. Little Fyodor is kinda King Weirdo in Denver and has been for decades going from tape collage/manipulation project Walls of Genius to Little Fyodor and Babushka Band. When a lot of punk is fairly conformist, Fyodor is decidedly not that with a visual presence and songwriting diversity and acumen that is so punk it should be its own subgenre with a clever name you won’t read here because Fyodor is also fairly difficult to pigeonhole as merely punk.

What: Judas Priest w/Uriah Heep
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Broadmoor World Arena
Why: Judas Priest started in 1969, a year after Black Sabbath formed. But unlike the latter Priest came into its own shortly before the release of its debut album, 1974’s Rocka Rolla. By then iconic vocalist Rob Halford brought his elemental, wide-ranging singing to the band and guitarist Glenn Tipton joined and with K.K. Downing gave the group its signature two guitar sound that gives its music a dynamism and depth that has been influential on many heavy metal and hard rock bands since. After the debut album, Judas Priest embarked on a series of genre-defining records starting with 1976’s majestic Sad Wings of Destiny. The group weathered the manufactured scandals of the 80s when would-be censors targeted the band, and a broad range of other artists, for the corruption of youth and suicide. Judas Priest’s often remarkably thoughtful and in recent years as heavy metal has become embraced by a more mainstream audience the group’s vivid storytelling and energy is finding an audience with a new generation of fans.

Opening the show is Uriah Heep who are arguably the progenitors of a style of melodic boogie rock and hard psychedelia that has been heavily influential on a younger generation of heavy metal musicians. It, too, started up in 1969 and operated in a similar milieu of music as the aforementioned Sabbath as well as Deep Purple. Like the latter, Uriah Heep had a prominent keyboard presence in its songwriting and no strangers to songs about wizards, the forces of evil and the life of a hard touring band. But more so than some of the other bands mentioned above, Uriah Heep clearly has a foot in English folk rock that informs its song structures and vocalist Bernie Shaw’s evocative cadence. The group hasn’t done any major touring in years so this is a rare chance to see them live.

Best Shows in Denver 05/10/19 – 05/15/19

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Tim Hecker performs Sunday May 12 at The Bluebird Theater

Friday | May 10

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FEELS, photo by Shervin Lainez

What: FEELS w/Midwife, Sweetness Itself and The Lifers
When: Friday, 05.10 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: FEELS recently put out its sophomore effort Post Earth. Like its 2016 self-titled debut, the new album makes it obvious the group was the next step in musical evolution out of the garage, psych, fuzz rock era of a few years back that had grown stagnant and utterly predictable. FEELS has always been too weird for that seeming to be rooted in a style of songwriting that was more introspective and bedroom confessional punk poetry than trying to fit into some scene. Unless that scene was one where your eccentric, authentic self was cultivated and nourished. So yeah, while Post Earth may have some familiar elements it just comes off like a band trying to figure out what it wants to be by trying a lot of different things and thing coming back to embracing what makes its individual members shine in sync with each other to make the kind of punk that has more in common with the first wave where almost anything goes and no one is insisting on aesthetic orthodoxy than the niche subgenres that have come in between then and now. That uniqueness translates to a uniquely energetic live show as well.

What: Call of the Void w/Green Druid, Casket Huffer and BleakHeart
When: Friday, 05.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Call of the Void celebrates the release of its new album Buried in Light with this show with some of Denver’s heaviest. Call of the Void has been, no pun intended, grinding it out since 2011 when it was called Ironhorse. But the quartet has always been more than grindcore and more than death metal. Its song dynamics, its lyrics and vocals are closer to bands like Neurosis and Isis than some of its more obvious peers and influences. Buried in Light feels like more of a science fiction album about life post impending human colony collapse.

Saturday | May 11

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

What: GYES 6: Gort Vs. Goom, How to Think, Lady of Sorrows and Full Bleed
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: There are no “cool” bars nearby, the neighborhood is still sketchy sandwiched between CU Medical Centroplex, rapid development sprawl stumbling in from the west, the dystopian built-on-flight-fuel-soaked-ground of the Stapleton Development to the north and to the south the part of Aurora that is largely forgotten. Northwest Aurora, one of the few parts of central-ish Denver metro that has stubbornly resisted the influence of Nü Denver because it’s not along easily accessed by main arterial streets beyond Colfax. And yet, due to not predatory development The People’s Building exists and has events that you might want to go to including Get Your Eyes Swoll. Because of the booking involved it’s usually something very underground and definitely outside the mainstream. There’s probably literally no branch of Denver Metro underground music happening in public spaces in Aurora in general much less the Northwestern portion of the city tucked into Denver’s armpit like an infected splinter some fool has been trying to ignore for years until it became in demand once the vultures swooped in to buy out all the lower middle class homeowners with their dubious offers about buying ugly houses and the like. So for now, head east and maybe, just maybe, see prog punk weirdo duo Gort Vs. Goom and Lady of Sorrows who will bring her operatic, darkwave soundscaping to Denver’s dankest suburb.

What: Velveteers vinyl release w/The Kinky Fingers and Television Generation
When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Silo Sound
Why: Velveteers thankfully came along a few years back to save rock and roll from its tired tropes and cartoonish, patriarchal clap trap with a buzzsaw, thunderous vengeance and fiery live show. And you get to see The Kinky Fingers who make a great case that even when most bands are boring us with trendy post-psych burnout bullshit, one can take a style and inject it with elegance and imagination and make it worth our while to continue to go and see. Television Generation is the greatest power pop, grunge-not-throw-back-but-throw-forward wiseacre cultural commenting smart snark band in Denver. And that’s saying something.

What: iZCALLi album release w/Don Chicharron and The Hollow
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: You could do worse with your Saturday night than go see iZCALLi celebrate the release of its latest album. The band is fairly straight ahead rock and roll but with personality and some warped tones and dangerous flourishes in its party time jams. Good thing because otherwise Don Chicharron would wipe the floor with them with their own celebratory psychedelic room-wreck-ed-ness. Both have plenty of Latin music influence built in to keep going wack-full-gringo with Stevie Ray Vaughan worship or some shit. The Hollow doesn’t suck either. They’ll bring some of the metal and scrape the earth with it but Spencer Townshend Hughes and company know how to sculpt a tune with more grace and artfulness than a bunch of the clumsy metaphors in this write-up.

What: Disposal Notice, Eraserhead Fuckers, Wolfblitzer, hxcmidi
When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinceropolis
Why: hxcmidi may look like she’s about to get up and throw down some yikes-level bedroom hip-hop but Aisha has a lot more in common with Realicide and thus the name—psyche sundering, harsh electronic beat and samples backed hardcore that shatters gentrified consciousness. Eraserhead Fuckers, now that guy looks like he’s going to show us all how to make a sweet Power Point and use FTP to load it to our pathetic starter websites and then laugh about it all later while getting “crunk” with his friends (a term about which they will all laugh like meme-lord gamers). But his lyrics shit through with incisive sounds and ideas are the shank the MAGA-hat wearing lunkheads and their cross-generational brethren need in this time of crisis.

What: DJ & Live PA sets by: Trisicloplox, $addy, Kid Mask, TimeLord SFX, Blank Human
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Okay, so you don’t want to have your mind blown by any of the above in their specific ways yet you want to get out to the chillzone without being put soundly to sleep. Technically this is a noise show but one with a stacked line-up of people who know how to transform the whole genre into mind-altering realms of sound and beat-driven injections of inspired strangeness. None of the acts are alike but share the same spirit of being furiously against boredom and musical mundanity.

Sunday | May 12

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EVP, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble
When: Sunday, 05.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For this first show in Colorado (probably) since March 2012 when Hecker performed in the Odd Fellows Hall in Boulder at an event sponsored by Communikey (now mostly defunct, boundary pushing electronic music group and festival), there will probably be more illumination than at an Autechre show or even the aforementioned performance where the light came from Hecker’s gear and the fire “Exit” sign. If footage of recent shows are any indication, it’ll be a fog-enshrouded affair with beams of light but none of it distracting from Hecker’s deep soundscapes and imagination-stirring, environmental drones. His recent Konoyo and Anoyo albums are less relatively pop-oriented than their immediate predecessor and not granulated like a sonic fog-sandstorm of the 2011’s Ravedeath, 1972. More like Hecker is giving us modern music with a similar mindset that informed the KPM 1000 catalog and Harold Budd and Eno collaborating again to go full abstract journey into sonic analogs of conscious awareness beyond the Bardo Thodol.

What: Cowgirl Clue, Venus305 and EVP
When: Sunday, 05.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Forget the pictures of Ashley Rose Calhoun holding a BC Rich guitar. You could make something better at home with the proper routing tools, some basic electronic skills, soldering and some YouTube tutorials. And let’s hope she did and she’s using it as some kind of controller at some point. Kudos to her for putting on the cover of her album something colorful and strange. At any rate, her free-associating samples/synth track dance pop is playfully and unabashedly eccentric and like an update on electroclash. The local openers, Venus305 and EVP are like-minded weirdoes with confrontational performance styles that bring some edge to industrial dance and hip-hop-inflected pop.

Monday | May 13

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Julia Jacklin, photo by Nick McKk

What: Julia Jacklin w/Black Belt Eagle Scout
When: Monday, 05.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Julia Jacklin’s vocal style is reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Marianne Faithful with the sort of controlled, breathy yet tight and directed couplets. On her 2019 sophomore album Crushing, Jacklin evokes a smoky atmosphere enshrouding an introspective meditation on existential independence and rankling at the social expectations that undermine one’s sense of self. As facile as it is to say considering both songwriters are from Australia but fans of Aldous Harding will find much to appreciate with Julia Jacklin’s delicate and nuanced hand at songwriting and creatively poetic sensibilities. That and Jacklin just lays out how people need to step off and stop trying to make her fit into some mold that makes them feel comfortable with their own shortcomings and vices and let her figure out who she wants to be and where she wants to go on her own terms. Crushing is a heartfelt declaration of independence in one’s own heart and mind.

Tuesday | May 14

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Evan Dando of The Lemonheads, photo by Michel van Collenburg

What: The Lemonheads with Tommy Stinson
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Like other bands of the era, The Lemonheads predated the alternative music eruption of the early 90s and were part of it on its own terms. Even though the band had signed to Atlantic for the release of its 1990 album Lovey it didn’t strike it big like it might have had the record come out a year or two later. The mixture of Americana, hard rock and punk coupled with Evan Dando’s gift for writing hooks and melodic songs with some bite and personal insight was very much what would be in great demand from 1991 onward but somehow The Lemonheads were never fully able to capitalize on what was becoming a trend but was also the group’s signature sound and sensibility. And yet, Lemonheads garnered some modest mainstream popularity before going on hiatus with Dando embarking on a solo career in 1998. The band has reunited as of 2005 and the songwriting has become tighter with essentially an edgier power pop sound but with Dando’s typically thoughtful, self-effacing words about heartache and loss. Tommy Stimson you should know from being the bass player of The Replacements but he also did his time in Guns ‘n Roses as well. As a solo artist, he’s a songwriter of no small gifts himself.

What: The Dandy Warhols w/Cosmonauts
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Dandys always put on a lively and emotionally and sonically engulfing live show. Read our interview with Courtney Taylor Taylor here.

What: Garbage w/Pleasure Venom
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: One of the great bands of the late alternative rock era that managed to remain great through to now. Shirley Manson is truly one of the most commanding singers fronting any band now and often disarmingly so because is able to belt out the tunes but with a nuance and delicacy of feeling that makes her performances so powerful.

Wednesday | May 15

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Hatebreed, photo courtesy the artist

What: Hatebreed w/Obituary, Madball, Prong, Skeletal Remains
When: Wednesday, 05.15, 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Hatebreed is well known for being one of the torchbearers of 90s metalcore with its aggressive tones and spiky grooves. But one thing that seems obvious taking a sampling of its music throughout its career is that there’s a bit of the influence of Mike Scaccia-period Ministry. The willingness to let sounds hang atmospherically over the top of a driving, splintery, industrial riff. It’s an interesting contrast to the sort of tough guy image projected into the songwriting and presentation. In some ways Hatebreed is an interesting bridge in sound between Obituary’s driving death metal and Prong’s clipped dynamics and industrial dance/death disco sensibilities.

 

What: Walk Off the Earth w/Matt and Kim, Gabriela Bee of the Eh Bee Family
When: Wednesday, 05.15, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Walk Off the Earth isn’t for everyone—that kind of folksy pop/indie rock/self-aware humor, posi-tip, quirky songwriting with elevated moods and a penchant for doing covers of songs that one would assume done out of a sense of irony but not so with Walk Off the Earth. At the end of 2018, though, the group lost its longtime member Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor due to natural causes and there was some speculation that the band was going on hiatus. But the quartet is now devoting the tour in honor of the memory of Taylor. Knowing the group, it’ll be as joyous as it has ever with a similarly exuberant set from indie rock party band openers Matt and Kim.

Best Shows in Denver 03/7/19 – 3/13/19

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Low performs at Globe Hall on March 8. Photo by Shelly Mosman

Thursday | March 7

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RUMTUM circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: RUMTUM mural unveiling w/Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO
When: Thursday, 03.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: John Hastings who performs ambient/IDM/instrumental pop music as RUMTUM recently received a commission from Meow Wolf to do a mural at The Oriental Theater. Tonight is the unveiling and the evening will incorporate interactive visual installations by WMD and FOREST and performances/DJ sets from Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO.

Who: Rhadoo w/Peter Blick (Below Radar) and Liminal
When: Thursday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Rhadoo is known to connoisseurs of electronic music internationally but in his home country of Romania, he’s a star, a legend of his scene, who is all but mainstream. He brings his chill and hypnotic mixture of house and techno to Black Box for a night of music including a set from Peter Blick of Below Radar (a Denver and San Francisco curator of choice underground electronic music events) and the Liminal collective.

Who: Satin Spar, Ruehlen/Seward and TARP
When: Thursday, 03.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Madelife
Why: Experimental music label Shadowtrash Tape Group and the Madelife gallery present this evening of synth and percussion duos.

Friday | May 8

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And the Kids, photo by Guzman

Who: Low w/Rivulets
When: Friday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For going on three decades Low has written some of the most affecting, emotionally raw, tender and thoughtful music in America. Its influential early albums are classics of slowcore which is to say it was music in direct contrast to the louder and more bombastic trend of popular music of the day. It required and deserved your attention and reflection on the songs. Toward the turn of the century the band’s palette of sounds expanded and it embraced dynamics of volume and its ability to make the ambiance and the mood of a song more nuanced yet immediate. For 2018’s Double Negative, the trio basically reinvented its use of sound. Rather than the pastoral grandeur of years past and the emotionally rich and vibrant offerings of its more rock period, Low seems to have inverted those elements to make something that would be more expected in the realm of abstract industrial music, textured ambient and the avant-garde generally. Except all the songs have a pop quality. Maybe it’s the structures, or the way the band is able to make the dark, fractured music accessible. It is arguably the band’s most interesting album in years from a career that isn’t short on arresting and noteworthy material. What might be even more interesting is how this band will pull off such unusual and challenging material live.

Who: The Playground Ensemble perform 8 Songs For a Mad King
When: Friday, 03.08, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Denver’s Playground Ensemble will put on a production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ambitious, 1969 masterpiece Eight Songs for a Mad King. The work includes unusual vocals, shifting musical styles, pointed depictions of Mad King George III and a theatrical presentation with elaborate stage props. There will be two performances on this night, as indicated above, and it’s guaranteed there won’t be much like this in Denver in 2019.

Who: Judah Friedlander
When: Friday, 03.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Judah Friedlander is most known for his unusual and brilliant stand-up comedy and for appearing in and writing for some of the most interesting television series of the last twenty years including Wonder Showzen, Spin City, Flight of the Conchords and LateLine. But he is also one of the country’s most sharp and insightful cultural critics and commentators. For this performance there will be plenty of both. Few comedians worth their salt are essentially content free and Friedlander most certainly is not.

Who: Heathen Burial, Masons and Clutch Plague
When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Form
Why: A show that bridges the gap between abstract metal and noise.

Who: And The Kids w/Toth and Corsicana
When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: And The Kids’ When This Life is Over has one of the most fetching album covers of 2019. Fortunately it represents well the reticence and exuberance and sensitivity informing the music within. Musically it’s fuzzy, upbeat rock in the modern indie vein but And The Kids are willing to veer off the mid-tempo, safe path and indulge passages that sound like they could go off the song’s rails. Also, in “Champagne Ladies” we get lyrics like “Life is a bastard, life wants to kill you/Don’t get old/Life is a bastard, it wants to kill you/Don’t let go.” Which about sums up too much of life for people grinding away and struggling to not just survive but create for oneself a life worth living even with seemingly insurmountable challenges in place. Also on the bill is Toth, the side project of Rubblebucket’s Alex Toth whose eclectic instrumentation and gift for utilizing space in his songwriting shines with this project as well. The deeply imaginative and soothing debut full-length from Toth, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary comes out on May 10.

Saturday | March 9

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Cloud Catcher circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chimney Choir w/Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Superficially one might describe Chimney Choir as an experimental folk band. But the thought and creativity that goes into the songwriting and especially the always captivating live shows, most of them interactive and often involving elaborate sets and costumes, sets the band apart from most its peers but not competitively, not by setting the bar higher for others to reach but as an example of what’s possible if you’re willing to challenge yourself and put in the time as a creative person to achieve something for yourself that hopefully resonates with others.

Who: Cloud Catcher EP release w/Bleakheart, Cadaver Dog
When: Saturday, 03.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Cloud Catcher is supposedly breaking up later this year so this is one of your last chances to catch the great Denver sludge metal act with bands that may not be in its usual wheelhouse like the hardcore outfit Cadaver Dog. Cloud Catcher is also gifting us with one final EP available at the show. Perhaps we’ll also hear what Rory Rummings and company are up to next soon.

Who: Graves w/Hex Cougar and Gangus
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Not the post-Misfits band, Graves is DJ and producer Christian Mochizuki, He did production work with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Big Sean, for example, and his hybrid hip-hop and progressive trance style of bass music has earned him an audience of his own. He’ll probably be doing sets at bigger venues before too long so if this is your thing, catch it at a small club like Larimer Lounge.

Who: Ned Garthe Explosion, The Savage Blush and Palo Santo
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: After many of the lesser psychedelic garage rock bands have passed into irrelevance, three of the standouts from Denver are playing on a bill together tonight. Ned Garthe Explosion is clearly the craziest, weirdest and funniest of the bunch. But The Savage Blush makes the most of its minimalist instrumentation and Palo Santo always sounds like it’s from a few decades ago but yet not a throwback.

Sunday | March 10

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Tuck Knee, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Tuck Knee w/No Sign of Remorse, Secticide and didaktikos
When: Sunday, 03.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Tuck Knee is releasing its debut album. Fans of Minor Threat may cry foul at the comparison but Tuck Knee has that kind of energy and conviction and instincts for fairly non-doctrinaire hardcore songwriting. Didaktikos? No slouches in that vein either.

Who: The Sound of Animals Fighting w/Planes Mistaken for Stars and Lorelei K
When: Sunday, 03.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Sound of Animals Fighting was a brilliant amalgamation of math-y post-hardcore and ambient. Comprised of prominent musicians in the post-hardcore world and lead by Rich Balling of Rx Bandits, the group operated between 2004 and 2009. Also on this tour is one of post-hardcore greatest bands, Planes Mistaken for Stars from Denver. That band’s emotionally searing songs were anthems for the pulsing and tortured collective heart of underground punk in the 2000s.

Monday | March 11

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Animal / object circa December 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Freq Boutique 024
When: Monday, 03.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the twenty-fourth edition of Freq Boutique, the WMD-sponsored showcase of synthesizer tech and gear as well as a sort of open mic for which one can sign up on the event page.

What: Solos/Duos – Denver Avant-Garde Music Society featuring Animal / object
When: Monday, 03.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: This is the monthly avant-garde open mic curated by Denver Avant-Garde Music Society. The evening opens with a performance from Animal / object, the spontaneous composition group whose evolving membership includes long-time Denver avant-garde musician Kurt Bauer at the core often with contributions from Paul Mimlitsch, Arnie Swenson, Reed Weimer and Gordon Gano.

Tuesday | March 12

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Carlos Medina, photo courtesy Meow Wolf

Who: Carlos Medina w/Pink Hawks and The Savage Blush
When: Tuesday, 03.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Carlos Medina, the “psychedelic Mariachi” has already built a sizeable underground following for his unique brand of music that is rooted in Mariachi but with pop flourishes and a fascinating takes on rhythm and use of tone to set the music outside the realm of pure tradition. His touring circuit has taken him to a wide variety of venues treating audiences (knowing or otherwise) to his corridos psicodélicos. As an artist-in-residence at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Medina had a direct connection to the Meow Wolf collective who produced and released his debut full-length El Cantador. Perhaps his exquisitely crafted songs don’t scream out “psychedelic” to those that don’t speak Spanish. But check out the darkly beautiful video for “No Le Digan” and you get a taste of the creative context of the music and Medina’s rich vision that sees the imaginative possibilities inherent in his cultural background and his place as an artist within it. Medina gets compared to Tom Waits but probably because he too is an interpreter and re-interpreter of culture par excellence.

Who: A Night to Survive: Right to Survive Campaign Kickoff Concert
When: Tuesday, 03.12, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: This is a “Yes on 300” fundraiser/kickoff featuring musical performances from some of Denver’s finest: Esmé Patterson, Laura Goldhamer, Wheelchair Sports Camp.

Wednesday | March 13

Who: Sandy Ewen (NYC) + Ryan Seward, Cash/Westerman, Channel Worker
When:Wednesday, 03.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Sandy Ewen is, according to the bio on her website, a “sound artist, visual artist and architect who moved to New York City from Houston in 2018. Her sound art incorporates the use of prepared guitar, the use of textures and objects not conventionally associated with music (like railroad spikes, steel wool, bolts and so on) as well as an array of offbeat instruments used as vessels or raw sound to create an environment and experience. If you’re looking for conventional music, this show won’t be that. Rather, how sound can be an artform that doesn’t fit within the confines of song structure in any tradition.

Best Shows in Denver 1/10/18 – 1/16/18

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 10, 2019

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Nekrofilth, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Nekrofilth album release w/Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster
When: Thursday, 01.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nekrofilth releases its new album Worm Ritual tonight at a show with heavy psychedelic bands Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster. Nekrofilth’s sound is more akin to classic early thrash and black metal. On the new record the band does cover “Poison” by Venom, after all. Like the latter and Slayer, Nekrofilth has a playful quality to its aggression and ripping guitar work. Song titles like “Vomit Dog,” “They Took My Skin,” “Ready to Defile” and “Severed Eyes” suggest a healthy sense of the viscerally absurd with an unironic joy in the cartoonishly horrific the way one might enjoy the gnarliest B horror movie. Fans of blackened thrash rejoice, Nekrofilth has what you’re looking for.

Who: Random Temple w/Thistledown
When: Thursday, 01.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Buzzard
Why: “Rhythm & Folk” band Thistledown will perform with Random Temple’s more production-oriented electronic project under his own name.

Friday | January 11, 2019

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Product Lust circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Product Lust album release show w/Goon, Herse, Candy Apple
When: Friday, 01.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Product Lust’s feral and driving 2018 album Year of the Rat is being celebrated tonight with a now rare live show as vocalist Kat Salvaggio is attending school out of Colorado. The seething post-punk band’s wiry energy fits in well with weirder hardcore and punk and thus this bill with Goon, Herse and Candy Apple is an opportunity to see bands that have punk of some stripe as their root but who are taking that spark in interesting directions.

Who: Lazarus Horse
When: Friday, 01.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Lazarus Horse is the band that comes about when someone with good taste in music and good creative instincts writes a bunch of experimental rock music that doesn’t seem obviously influenced by anything else but creative flights of fancy, escaping to daydreams while doing meaningless work as a tool for staying sane in a civilization that’s grinding its best people into the dirt. It’s the soundtrack to that internal rebellion that becomes contagious.

Saturday | January 12, 2019

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Chromadrift’s Drew Miller as Brother Saturn circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents: Chromadrift album release w/Gold Trash and Bowshock
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chromadrift’s Cloudless Mind is the bright, ethereal flow of textured melodies that eases the freeze of winter. Fans of IDM and more abstract post-rock will appreciate Drew Miller’s blend of processed guitar, live synths and sequencing. Though the album dropped on January 3, this will be your first chance to see this music live in the new year. Also performing is noisy electroclash duo Gold Trash and downtempo jazz improv group Bowshock.

Who: NightWraith album release w/Glacial Tomb, BleakHeart
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: NightWraith’s self-titled, debut full length is coming out on color vinyl. The Denver-based group’s left of center mix of folky black metal, thrash and psychedelic doom is steeped in pastoral mythology.

Who: e-scapes, Zealot and The Far Stairs
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This’ll be probably the first indie rock show worth checking out in Aurora, Colorado since The Masculine organized one in 2009 at the old Other Side Arts space in downtown. The People’s Building is also downtown and across the street from Aurora Fox Theater. Zealot includes former members of The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer, Ideal Fathers and other bands most people haven’t heard of but should check out. The Far Stairs is a band that makes strange music sound more catchy and accessible than it has any right to.

Who: Pink Hawks, Atomga, Roka Hueka
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird
Why: The local Afrobeat band all-star line-up.

Who: Pineross EP release w/Lady Gang
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Ubisububi Room
Why: Kevin Larkin of Chimney Choir fame is releasing his most recent EP Esplanade at this show in the extra intimate and cozy Ubisububi Room underneath the Thin Man and St. Mark’s. Lady Gang sounds like a full band but is just Jen Korte making maximum creative use of a loop station to augment her already considerable talents as a singer-songwriter.

Who: Luke Vibert, Seied and Kanyon Walker
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Luke Vibert has long been on the forefront of modern experimental electronic dance music in various forms. Fans of Dilla, Flying Lotus and Blockhead will find a lot to like in Vibert.

Sunday | January 13, 2019

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Crushed!?, photo by @scenesplitter

Who: Crushed!? W/The Uglys, Tides, Stonewall BLVD and Arctobog
When: Sunday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Originally from the much smaller nearby town of Belen, Crushed!? is now based out of Albuquerque. Its post-hardcore sound has more in common with the likes of a more melodic At the Drive-In or Touché Amoré than the more screamo end of that music. Initially the music reminds one a bit of the great punk bands of the late 90s and early 2000s who adopted a bit of the math rock thing. But its rhythms are more inventive and wide-ranging like something one might have expected out of 90s DC and other East Coast rock like Versus, Helium and The Dismemberment Plan. The group’s 2018 album Sins of the Father is refreshingly difficult pin with a specific genre designation.

Monday | January 14, 2019

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Entrancer (right) with Docile Rottweiler (left) at Synesthesia 2014. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: R.Ariel, Kafari, Entrancer and Voight
When: Monday, 01.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: DATELINE
Why: This event is a combination of touring art installation courtesy and musical performances at DATELINE art gallery. R.Ariel’s new album Where You Are is an emotionally uplifting album of ethereal sounds and buoyant flow of bright tones. Kafari’s 2018 album Beholding is a masterpiece of minimalism like it was composed while somehow spending contemplative mornings underwater and absorbing a deep sense of peace. Entrancer has been spending years honing the ability to explore whatever directions his mastery of synthesis and beatmaking takes him. His 2018 album Decline Vol. 1 is true soundscaping that draws you into a sonic journey that while impressionistic and composed of deep layers of tone and texture conveys a sense of place physically and emotionally. Is the “Decline” of the title something to dread or something to greet as the inevitable cycle of life and death? The album offers no pat answers but it certain captures the ineffable moments of decline of a phase of one’s life, of civilizations and of all authoritarian orders. Voight may finally play a deep house/techno set. If not, it’ll be, by far, the loudest project of the night with its fiery and intense industrial post-punk shoegaze.

Who: Solos/Duos – Denver Avant Garde Music Society
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This night, long held at other venues over the years, has re-emerged at Thought//Forms gallery. You never know what you’ll see but this night you’ll also get to see a set from Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band Animal / object.

Who: Freq Boutique
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This reoccurring event organized by electronic equipment company WMD, this night is sort of an open mic for synthesizer enthusiasts. This night’s festivities may include a set from hip-hop/experimental electronic dance artist Strange Powers.

Tuesday | January 15, 2019

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Mick Jenkins, photo by Sam Schmieg

Who: Mick Jenkins w/Kari Faux
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Mick Jenkins 2018 sophomore album Pieces of a Man is a bit of a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album of the same name. Like Scott-Heron, Jenkins offers snapshots of the world around him in words with musical accompaniment to set the vibe. The organization of the album and the experience of listening to it is something like a hip jazz and poetry night. The opening track is called “Heron Flow” as a nod to Gil and his record’s opening track, the influential song poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Jenkins and his collaborators evoke the feel of a hazy after hours jazz club across the record with a sense of blending old school production and present day wordsmithing. Jenkins makes fairly mundane life experiences seem mythic and cool as Scott-Heron did in his day. Also on this bill is one of modern hip-hop’s greatest talents, Kari Faux. Her EPs, partly boosted by music appearing in the comedy series Insecure, combine a rebellious swagger with an otherworldly and mysterious quality – a rarity in music generally.

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Ensiferum, photo by Andy Whittle

Who: Ensiferum w/Septicflesh and Arsis
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Helsinki, Finland’s Ensiferum is a melodic death metal band in the vein of the Gothenburg style but on the more orchestral end. Its use of acoustic guitars and folk structure and progressions give its music an expansive feel that evokes images of standing at the helm of one’s longboat charging toward unsuspecting European enclaves in the ninth century. Fans of Enslaved may enjoy Ensiferum’s similarly joyful performances.

Who: Supersuckers w/The Hangmen and Reno Divorce
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Supersuckers started playing its brand of fuzzy cowpunk in Tucson, Arizona in 1988 before moving to Seattle in 1989 near the beginning of when more than a few music journalists from beyond the Pacific Northwest were starting to take not of happenings in the Emerald City’s underground. The band never made the big time the way the grunge bands everyone has heard of did but it has been able to carve out a career for itself and its wiseacre, intentionally lowbrow humor. Who else would start off their 1992 album on Sub Pop, The Smoke of Hell, with a song called “Coattail Rider” at the peak of the alternative rock explosion? Such chutzpah must continue to be honored. Oh yeah, the trio’s 2018 album, out on Acetate Records, is called Suck It. That the underground rock world has come back around to the sound Supersuckers perfected three decades ago is surely not lost on the band as a choice bit of irony. The song “History Of Rock n’ Roll” in which Eddie Spaghetti sings about how Supersuckers, the greatest band in the world is a footnote in the history of rock ‘n roll suggests they’re well aware.