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.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

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

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

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

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

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

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

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

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

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

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

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

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

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

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

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

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

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

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

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

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

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

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

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

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

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

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

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

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

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

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

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

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

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

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

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

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

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

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

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

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

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

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

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

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

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

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

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

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

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

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

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

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

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

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

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

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

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

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

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

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

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

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

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

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

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

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

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

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

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

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

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

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

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

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

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

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

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

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

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

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

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

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

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

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

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

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

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

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

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

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

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

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

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

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

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

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

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

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

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

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

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

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

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver 2/13/20 – 2/18/20

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The New Pornographers perform at the Gothic Theatre on February 15

Thursday | February 13

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Serpentfoot circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Serpentfoot, Plastic Daggers and Fern Roberts
When: Thursday, 2.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Serpentfoot is a Fort Collins-based psychedelic garage rock band kind of in the realm of boogie blues and fuzzy surf rock. Plastic Daggers could be considered a punk band because it has that arch and brass energy and attitude. But with a bass and drums with dual vocals its sound is refreshingly spare yet maximalist. This is the debut show from Fern Roberts, the new band of former Emerald Siam, Overcasters and Light Travels Faster bass player Todd Spriggs.

Friday | February 14

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Chella And The Charm circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Chella and the Charm w/Jen Korte & The Loss, White Rose Motor Oil, Jackie Zubrzycki, Erika Ryann
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is an event called Sweethearts of the Rodeo and features some of Denver’s greatest female-led bands. Chella and the Charm may perform some of its songs more about relationships and love but it’s never simplistic, rote pop Americana platitudes. Chella’s incisive mind poetically peels apart the zeitgeist and presents the strugges and joys with a rare poetic insight. Jen Korte is one of the most versatile and hard-working musicians in Denver whose dynamic songwriting expands the genres and styles in which she chooses to operate.

What: Bianca Mikahn, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and Shockermom
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A showcase for some of the best and most imaginative hip-hop artists in Denver at the moment. Bianca Mikahn’s noise experiments and soundscapes paired with her poetry is always a surprisingly compelling combination. R A R E B Y R D $ breaks hearts and heals minds with their dense beats and passionate vocals and wordplay. Pears and Perils is like if Bjork went more lushly downtempo and did hip-hop. Shockermom fuses emotionally vibrant jazz vocals with ambient hip-hop and one of the best things you’ll see all month.

What: Silversun Pickps w/Eliza & The Delusionals
When: Friday, 2.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Cheap Perfume, Flora De La Luna and The Yellnats
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Colorado Springs-based political punk band Cheap Perfume puts the fun into caustic send-ups of the misogynist aspects of American culture.

Saturday | February 15

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Mattiel, photo by Jason Travis

What: Lloyd Cole
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill
Why: Lloyd Cole came to prominence in the 80s as the lead singer of the great jangle pop band The Commotions. But by the turn of the decade he had gone solo but still writing thought-provoking songs though in a slightly different style suitable to his poetic imagination. In that way he followed a similar path to Robyn Hitchcock when he left The Soft Boys. One of the criminally underknown songwriting greats of our era. Currently touring following the 2019 release of his latest album Guesswork.

What: The New Pornographers w/Diane Coffee
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: There’s always been something orchestral to The New Pornographers’ spacious pop songs. Like something assembled in a studio in the late 60s with Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks but with a modern set of musical ideas and instincts. Its 2019 album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights also highlights how despite the grandeur of its creative vision its songs manage to seem like glimpses into intimate moments of vulnerable, existential contemplation.

What: Mattiel w/Calvin Love
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mattiel has a knack for taking surreal everyday situations and turn them into synth pop epics. Her 2019 album Satis Factory does some sonic time traveling between early 60s girl group and Connie Frances-esque melodies, late 70s New Wave pop wiry energy and a contemporary ironic tone. But her delivery doesn’t feel jaded or detached, just playing with the songwriting format to comment on culture and society in a way that uses nostalgic elements to speak of the present in the past tense.

What: Pictureplane w/ DEBR4H and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Former Denverite Pictureplane jokingly coined the term “witch house” around a decade ago. But his own music transcends such easy categorization as a mélange of hip-hop, glitch pop and noise.

What: Sango w/Savon and Dante ThatGuy
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Eigengrau, Night of Dark Light, Causer and Human Consumption
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Sunday | February 16

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Pinegrove, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Bernie Sanders Rally
When: Sunday, 2.16, 4 p.m.
Where: Colorado Convention Center
Why: For anyone what wants to go and see the current frontrunner in the primaries for the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate for the office of President of the United States.

What: Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Lorelai K and Faces Under the Mirror
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party if keeping the torch alive for darkwave in Dallas at its base of operations Funeral Home before moving to Los Angeles this fall. The band’s 2019 album MARTYR is reminiscent of a melding of Clan of Xymox, Xmal Deutschland and the more glam end of of Concrete Blonde.

What: Darpabong EP release and final show w/The Plastic Rakes and Secret Mormon
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Darpabong is finally releasing its debut EP leaked in 2019 at this show. The “Stoner Doom Dub” band includes members of Gort Vs. Goom so even if this final show is a bit of a goof the music will be legit.

What: Pinegrove w/Whitney Ballen
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pinegrove is currently touring in support of its latest album Marigold. The record is its most focused effort to date conveying a sense of space and simplicity with interlocking, textured tones lending the songs a complexity not immediately obvious. The record comes out in the wake of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall’s undergoing therapy and other work following a 2017 allegation of sexual coercion as outlined in a 2018 article on Pitchfork by Jenn Pelly. If turmoil produces better art, perhaps Hall’s efforts at becoming a better person have lead to a good deal of creative clarity as well.

Tuesday | February 18

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The Jungle Giants, photo by Jesper Hede

What: The Jungle Giants w/Little Image
When: Tuesday, 2.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Jungle Giants from Brisbane, Australia combine an R&B and soul sensibility into its jaunty pop songs. Its music videos suggest an aesthetic informed by independent film and Kurt Vonnegut. Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Quiet Ferocity, in 2019 and 2020 it released singles “Heavy Hearted” and “Sending Me Ur Loving” respectively so on this tour expect to hear new material before it appears on the band’s next record.

Best Shows in Denver 1/23/20 – 1/28/20

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Poppy performs at the Gothic Theatre on January 28, photo by Jesse Draxler

Thursday | January 23

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Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Portrayal of Guilt w/Street Sects, EUTH and Cau5er
When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Portrayal of Guilt is a post-hardcore band from Austin that weaves together elements of grindcore and noise soundscaping to create an angular kind of screamo bristling with menace. Its rhythms are more widely dynamic than one might expect from the mix of sounds and influences with chords allowed to hang to establish a mood that crawls to catharsis. Street Sects, also from Austin, is an industrial noise outfit whose confrontational performances may feel hidden in the banks of fog in its performance zone but the band manages to turn that haze into a realm where the tension it builds to unpredictable moments of eruption. Cau5er is a Denver project that comes partly out of hardcore but is firmly in the worlds of noise and power electronics with an impassioned delivery that belies notions of noise artists all being knob twiddlers. Schedule for the evening below provided as this show is being conducted in cooperation with the show at Mutiny across the street from the Hi-Dive.

Euth 8:30
Cau5er 9:15
Street Sects 10pm
Portrayal of Guilt 11pm

What: Red Death (DC), Enforced (RVA), Chair of Torture and Wide Man
When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Washington DC’s Red Death is a modern crossover band whose synthesis of thrash and hardcore is reminiscent of a more aggro version of what Megadeth was doing earlier in its career. If that sounds appealing, Enforced from Richmond, Virginia and Chair of Torture from Denver are mining similar territory with the latter with more than a leg in grindcore. See schedule for the evening below as it is being done in conjunction with the show mentioned above at the Hi-Dive.

7:30-7:50 Chair of Torture
8:05-8:25 Wide Man
8:40-9:10 Red Death
9:25-9:55 Enforced

What: Yacht w/Mux Mool
When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | January 24

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$addy circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 666/69/420: Dance Night featuring $addy, Trisicloplox, Kid Mask, Platonic Belt, Blank Human
When: Friday, 1.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This is a showcase for some of the most interesting artists in the Denver noise world who incorporate aspects of dance music and glitch into the mix.

What: Casey James Prestwood w/High Plains Honky, Coop & The Chicken Pluckers
When: Friday, 1.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A legitimately good country show with bands that write meaningful music instead of wallowing in country music tropes.

What: Ron Pope w/Caroline Spence
When: Friday, 1.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Hate Minor, The Gurkhas and Plastic Rakes
When: Friday, 1.24, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: R A R E B Y R D $ w/Calico Club and Ginger Perry
When: Friday, 1.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Fatal Mistake IV Benefit: The Consequence, Tuck Knee, Videodrome, F.O.A.M., Direct Threat
When: Friday, 1.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Deer Creek, Barstool Messiah and Never Kenezzard
When: Friday, 1.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Englewood Tavern

What: Necromantic (goth/darkwave DJ night)
When: Friday, 1.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge

Saturday | January 25

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Old Sport circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Use the Sun (Reunion), Old Sport and American Grandma
When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Denver’s Use the Sun is reuniting for one night to bring forth its joyous mixture of melodic punk and surf rock. Also included is a lately relatively rare show from Old Sport who have been part of that resurgence of bands that were influenced by the better, mathier end of emo and post-hardcore. American Grandma is a slowcore band whose elegant and introspective guitar compositions blur the line between folk, ambient and dream pop.

What: Neil Haverstick
When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill
Why: Neil Haverstick is Denver’s biggest proponent of microtonal guitar so much so that he wrote a book about it. His songs, though, come from an emotional place and his roots in blues and folk inform even though his style brings in a great deal of avant-garde thinking into the mix and makes it accessible.

What: Rhinoceropolis Benefit: Cian, Jason Sidney Sanford, Prison Glue, Born Dumb, Lanx Borealis, Birth, Swamps
When: Saturday, 1.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Hail Satan, Brew Ha!Ha! And Asalt
When: Saturday, 1.25, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern

Sunday | January 26

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Lazarus Horse circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #9: The Vanilla Milkshakes, Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers
When: Sunday, 1.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: This latest edition of Shibui Denver will feature outsider pop punk band The Vanilla Milkshakes, the earnest, existential, angular indie rock of Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers’ psychedelic ambient soundscapes with visuals by Mark Mosher, electro-ambient artist and founder of Rocky Mountain Synth Meetup.

Tuesday | January 28

What: GosT w/Church Fire and Elay Arson
When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: GosT blurs the line between metal and synthwave and definitely for fans of Perturbator. Church Fire blurs that line a little too but more in the tribal, pagan vein without hitting you over the head with the aesthetic and its industrial/dance pop hybrid is one of the most compelling things going on in Denver or anywhere.

What: Poppy w/VOWWS
When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Poppy’s genre-mashup is not for everyone. But the theatrical presentation of her mix and remix of extreme metal, kawaii pop and surreal psychedelic pop turns on a dime like something John Zorn might have thought of had Naked City come up in the 90s and 2000s and not in the realm of avant-garde jazz and grindcore. Currently touring in support of her new album I Disagree. VOWWS has managed to shed a lot of the previous associations in the last year with retro rockist tendencies. Its sound is more like a hard edged darkwave to post-punk what a band like True Widow is to metal and shoegaze.

What: Thrice w/mewithoutYou, Drug Church and Holy Fawn
When: Tuesday, 1.28, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 12/20/19 – 12/23/19

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Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 is being released and celebrated during events this weekend

Friday | December 20

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Echo Beds, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Colorado Crew Denvoid Pt. 2 book release
When: Friday, 12.20, 6-8:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This event will present the follow up to Bob Rob Medina’s 2015 book Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks which documented the Denver punk and underground music scene from 1982-1987. This volume, Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 covers the years 1988-1996 in which punk changed, the major current strands of music in Denver emerged into strong, coherent form and the early phase of artist run DIY spaces developed into the form we know now.

What: Emerald Siam w/Echo Beds and Clusterfux
When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The musical accompaniment to Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 mentioned above with bands whose members were part of that late 80s through mid-90s scene.

What: Panther Martin w/Wet Nights, Marti and the Dads
When: Friday, 12.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Reno Divorce w/Tejon Street Corner Thieves and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Colorado People’s Alliance Fundraiser with Gone Full Heathen, Lost Boi, Joel Zigman and more
When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Saturday | December 21

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Causer, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Grimy (Bryan Wendzel) and Cabron (Bob Rob Medina)
When: Saturday, 12.21, 1 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Early afternoon show connected to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 featuring death-grind band Grimy and author Bob Rob Medina’s San Diego-based punk outfit Cabron playing a rare show (as well as another later this night).

What: The Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup Presents: Synth Patrol
When: Saturday, 12.21, 1-3 p.m.
Where: Little Horse Books & Vintage
Why: Early afternoon concert featuring live vinyl sampling from Aefonic (Brian Horsfield), Cold Future (Victor John), monoscene (Christoph Scholtes) and Newecho (Mark Mosher).

What: Jon Snodgrass and Jux County
When: Saturday, 12.21, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Another show connected to the release of Bob Rob Medina’s book Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 including performances from longtime punk stalwart Jon Snodgrass and Jux County, one of the early cowpunk/alt-country bands from the mid-80s and who still occasionally play shows.

What: FOUR! (reunion), Cyclo-Sonic, Mind Rider (Sonny Kay), Cabron
When: Saturday, 12.21, 9 p.m.
Where: 1010 Workshop
Why: The final event related to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 with performances from bands including people featured in the book with pop-punk legends FOUR!, garage punk band Cyclo-Sonic which includes members of The Fluid, Choosey Mothers and Rok Tots, Sonny Kay (Savalas, Angel Hair, The VSS) and Bob Rob Medina (Savalas, Cabron). Rumor has it Medina and Kay will perform a Savalas song.

What: Causer, Equine, Tears to Li6ht
When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Equine is an avant-garde guitar drone solo project of Kevin Richards. Causer is one of the most compelling and inventive newcomers to Denver’s noise scene with their mix of confrontational performance art and noise collage. Tears to Li6ht is a melodic ambient/experimental pop project.

What: Surfacing – Winter Solstice show: Mirror of Truth (Esmé Patterson solo project), EA$$IDE LUPITA Korryne solo, Bell Mine, Kaumaha
When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Titwrench festival will return in 2020 to feature some of the most interesting female, LGBTQIA and marginalized community artists. This event is a showcase for what’s to come and a fundraiser for the future festival. It’s the debut of Esmé Patterson’s experimental music project and will include a performance of Korryne of R A R E B Y R D $’ solo project EA$$IDE LUPITA.

What: Jade Cicada w/Seppa, Shield, Mad Zach, Bricksquash and Schmoop
When: Saturday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

What: Charlie Parr w/Dead Horses
When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Decemburger IV: In the Company of Serpents, Nekrofilth, Ghosts of Glaciers, The Munsens, Casket Huffer, Upon A Fields Whisper
When: Saturday, 12.21, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 22

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Umbras Animas w/Lady of Sorrows, John Gross, Mismo and Pythian Whispers
When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Umbras Animas is bringing its latest drone and shadow pupper theater performance to Rhinoceropolis along with one of the Godfathers of Denver noise John Gross, operatic darkwave synth pop project Lady of Sorrows and soundtrack/soundscape projects Mismo and Pythian Whispers (full disclosure, Queen City Sounds and Art writer Tom Murphy’s band).

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Claudzilla w/Artificial Bladder (synth pop), Preparation (ambient)
When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Weirdo keytar pop maven Claudzilla will perform along with likeminded weirdos Artificial Bladder and Preparation.

Monday | December 23

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EVP, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Aunti Hoppa, Sur Ellz, Techno Allah and EVP
When: Monday, 12.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A show where breakbeat dance music, hip-hop, electro soul and melodic industrial glitch meet.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 11/21/19 – 11/27/19

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Lisa Prank performs at Hi-Dive on November 24. Photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Thursday | November 21

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Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier


What: Zeta (Venezuela), Clarion Void, Disposal Notice, Its Just Bugs
When: Thursday, 11.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Venezuelan band Zeta has been developing its experimental hardcore sound since 2003. It’s sound is a parts progressive rock and punk but in a way that’s expressive and moody while not sacrificing the intensity. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Mochima.

What: Mt. Joy w/Wilderado and Adam Melchor
When: Thursday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Wilderado’s new single “Surefire” sounds wistful and nostalgic in a way that allows for words to develop into an introspective narrative that blooms into an expansive melody alongside the story. Reminiscent of the way The War On Drugs echoes some of the vibe of Bruce Springsteen’s reflective, diary-like lyrics, this offering from the band builds on the atmospheric experiments of its 2018 EP Favors with more electric instrumentation and a more immersive sound without compromising the group’s use of space as a canvass for its emotional colorings.

Friday | November 22

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Married a Dead Man, photo by Ana Irene Valdes-Behrens

What: Married a Dead Man w/False Report, Dead Characters
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Denver’s Married a Dead Man is releasing its second album Awakening this night. The group’s sound might be described as somewhere between Xmal Deutschland’s wiry, urgent, dark atmospherics and modern pop melodies. The new set of songs, no doubt honed from live performances, are not just bandwagon new post-punk revival and darkwave. At times Megan Kelley’s performance and songwriting chops from her time as a solo artist infuse the songs with a warmth and coherence that gives the music a broader range than the genre of late can sometimes have with songs like “Burn” having a massive, expansive, dramatic dynamic that stretches the boundaries of what one might this band is capable of at first blush. Worth delving into beyond a casual listen.

What: Wildermiss w/Slow Caves
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wildermiss is a Denver-based indie rock band that is probably on the verge of much wider circles than simply relatively successful local band status. Its new EP In My Mind captures the spirit of our time now of great contrasts of emotional states and expectations, a mixture of fear and hopefulness that most people are experiencing due to the state of the planet, politics, culture and economics. We stand on the precipice of disaster and promise of a better future if we do not lack the will to make it happen. In My Mind expresses that tension well across its length.

What: Briffaut, Down Time and Inaiah Lujan
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Briffaut’s new album A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away is a nice capsule of this band’s idiosyncratic songwriting. Fans of both King Krule and Deerhunter will find something to love about the band’s lush and unpredictable song structures and raw, emotional swells of tone and a disregard for whether a song or style or performance fits in with some established aesthetic outside its own. Too much music in the indie world is boringly predictable. Not just the indie world. Imitators of milquetoast artists and already successful formulas are rife in music now as at all times since popular music has been a thing. Thankfully Briffaut and its willingness to embrace its own weirdness has been intact since the beginning and gloriously so on the new album of imaginative soundscapes, completely unconventional songwriting and the ability to utterly transport us outside our usual frames of musical reference.

What: King Diamond w/Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Idle Hands
When: Friday, 11.22, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

What: Faim, Tuck Knee, Gack
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Atomga w/Dandu, Spellbinder and DJ Yahru
When: Friday, 11.22, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: False Cathedrals, Gila Teen, How to Think and Wolf Larva
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Sour Boy, Bitter Girl and Dirty Shrines
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

What: Broncho w/Hot Flash Heat Wave and Rinse & Repeat
When: Friday, 11.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Saturday | November 23

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Blood Incantation, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Dreadnought and Superstition
When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Blood Incantation recently released its new album Hidden History of the Human Race. The Denver-based death metal band is a big of an enigma in that it has been slowly building a cult following for years and playing few local shows. But its songs, especially live, come across as larger than life, psychedelic although imbued with the technical precision of the best death metal, and as oddly accessible as the genre has ever been. The record is a science fiction concept album but one that has a cover designed by Bruce Pennington who did cover art for A Canticle For Leibowitz and the Dune books after the initial novel. Plus the guy did the iconic cover for Gene Wolfe’s landmark science fiction fantasy book The Shadow of the Torturer. Fine stuff for an album that is a thrilling reminder that death metal can still be fun and not a forbidding drag.

What: Black Star Gang ft. Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, DJ Premier w/Brother Ali, Evidence and The ReMINDers
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Black Star is a hip hop duo comprised of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), two of the sharpest critics of American culture and innovators in the genre themselves. The project only has one album up to now, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, but rumor has it they have another in the works produced by Madlib. So if you’ve caught the recent live performances maybe you’ve heard some of the new material and it seems likely it’ll be on display for this show.

What: Lusine w/JUSCHILL and HU
When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Broncho w/Hot Flash Heat Wave and Rinse & Repeat
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs, Chella & The Charm, The Maykit
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge

Sunday | November 24

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The Shift circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lisa Prank w/The Tangles (fka The Tickles) and Horse Girl
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lisa Prank has established refined and thoughtful emo pop songs as a national artist since starting the project in Denver several years back. Her new record Perfect Love Song is a a little fuzzier, more confident but just as wise and as insightful.

What: Shibui Denver #8: Dead Orchids and The Shift
When: Sunday, 11.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For this edition of Shibui Denver we will have two bands that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. The Shift is an improvisational, experimental progressive rock band and includes Esmé Patterson and former Bad Weather California bassist Jeremy Averitt. Dead Orchids’ dark, brooding songs are a vital mix of post-punk and Americana but without the trendy habits that often mar bands trying their hand at either.

What: Vérité and YaSi
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Kris Kristofferson & The Strangers
When: Sunday, 11.24, 5 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Neyla Pekarek’s Rattlesnake w/Chris Fleming, Bluebook and The Newfangled Four
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Goon w/Whiskey Autumn and We Are Not a Glum Lot
When: Sunday, 11.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

Monday | November 25

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Midwife w/Hogwaller
When: Monday, 11.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Forest Room 5
Why: Midwife is an ambient folk artist of the highest order who was recently tapped to perform at The Flenser showcase at the Roadburn Festival in 2020 with her debut album on that record label later in the year. See her at these small rooms while you still can.

Tuesday | November 26

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HIDE circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: HIDE w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Cau5er
When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, performance art-oriented industrial band HIDE is the urban dystopian futurist ritual catharsis we need now to burn off the darkness of the modern world. Its new album Hell is Here is a searing, discordant exorcism of the demons that plague the body politic.

What: B. Dolan w/Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

Wednesday | November 27

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The Hu, photo by Altankhuyag

What: Pigface w/eHpH, DJ N810, DJ Mudwulf
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Pigface is the long-standing industrial supergroup with roots going back to the 80s with members of Ministry, KMFDM and other industrial luminaries. EhpH is a Denver-based duo whose mix of EBM and industrial rock is actually compelling and cathartic and doesn’t come off like its members’ musical imagination got stuck in the early 2000s.

What: Shark Dreams w/Nuancer, The Milk Blossoms and GhostPulse
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Best local dream pop line-up in more than a minute with some of Denver’s best. Shark Dreams is more the kind of drifty indie pop with a leg in glittery, slowcore dynamic. Nuancer is as informed by experimental electronic music as pop. The Milk Blossoms are a hip-hop trio disguised as a heartfelt, hyper sincere, experimental indie pop group with a sense of humor and humanity. GhostPulse weaves together downtempo beats, unconventional instrumentation and luminously cloudy atmospherics.

What: The Hu w/Crown Land
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 6 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: The Hu is a rock band from Mongolia that performs with traditional instruments, uses throat singing and yet its songs are an exquisite hybrid of Mongolian folk music and heavy metal. Could be corny but it is not, it is powerful, stirring stuff. Fans of Laibach will enjoy the sound of this band even though the styles are so different. Around since 2016 The Hu recently released its debut album The Gereg on Eleven Seven Records.

What: Neon Indian w/Lou Rebecca
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Emma Mayes & The Hip w/Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Flaural w/Oko Tygra, Wet Nights and DJ Lexie
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: An Evening of Never Kenezzard 2 sets
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

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Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

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Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

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Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

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SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

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GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

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HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

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Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

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Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater