Best Shows in Denver and Beyond September 2022

Boris performs at Bluebird Theater with Nothing on 9/14 , photo by Yoshihiro Mori
Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks in September 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 09.02 and 09.03
What: Nine Inch Nails w/Yves Tumor
When: 7
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails is too famous and for too long and rightfully so to bother to get detailed about its significance in popularizing industrial and electronic music and even ambient. The band’s shows are always innovative and pushing the performance envelope in some way whether that be in the visual presentation, with the sound production end, with sets that change throughout the show or playing with how the band itself presents its music as a live act. Nine Inch Nails doesn’t skimp on putting on probably the best show you’ll see this year or among the top tier at the least. And Trent Reznor or someone in the NIN camp always finds one of the coolest, up-and-coming, genre boundary challenging, innovative musical project going and for these two shows it’s Yves Tumor the experimental electronic and R&B artist whose shows are part Prince, part HEALTH, part Janelle Monáe but very much his own glorious earth alien charismatic psychedelia.

Courtney Barnett, photo by Mia Mala McDonald

Saturday | 09.03
What: Here and There Festival: Japanese Breakfast, Courtney Barnett, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Courtney Barnett’s “Here And There” Festival makes a stop in Denver at the Mission Ballroom on September 3 with a unique lineup that for the Denver date in addition to Barnett includes Japanese Breakfast, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine.

The concept for the event was born of Barnett’s love of curation. As the owner of Milk! Records for the past decade Barnett has championed and released music by artists from her home town of Melbourne, Australia as well as US artists like Sleater-Kinney, Chastity Belt, Hand Habits and others.

Over the course of the tour from August through September, lineups will include all of the following artists: Alvvays, Arooj Aftab, Bartees Strange, Bedouine, Caroline Rose, Chicano Batman, Courtney Barnett, Ethel Cain, Faye Webster, Fred Armisen, Hana Vu, Indigo De Souza, Japanese Breakfast, Julia Jacklin, Leith Ross, Lido Pimienta, Lucy Dacus, Quinn Christopherson, Sleater Kinney, Snail Mail, The Beths, Waxahatchee and Wet Leg.

Barnett quickly went from a beloved and critically acclaimed indie artist known for her masterful use of the English language and powerful and imaginative guitar work and songwriting when her early EPs released 2012-2013 to widely celebrated singer-songwriter of no small cachet by the time of the 2015 release of her debut full length album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. With each record Barnett has distinguished herself as a songwriter able to expose her vulnerabilities and anxieties in a way that conveys a solidarity with other people and their own struggles.

Sharing the bill is Japanese Breakfast, the band lead by Michelle Zauner whose own trajectory as an artist parallels that of Barnett going from playing all the small clubs on the same circuits a little under a decade ago and delivering emotionally arresting pop songs that aren’t short on musicianly artistry. In 2021 she released her memoir Crying in H Mart to great acclaim in its poignant and loving depiction of her life coming up with a Korean mom, coming into playing music and the passing of her mother from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Her own pop music has as much in common with art rock in its creative ambition and songwriting with her songs easily fitting into the categories of dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelia, indie rock and R&B.

Arooj Aftab is the US-based Pakistani singer and songwriter who is the first person of Pakistani origin to be awarded a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for her song “Mohabbat.” Her style is a hybrid of experimental folk, jazz and more traditional Pakistani music with elements of her 2021 album Vulture Prince reminiscent of Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufism. But her orchestral arrangements and powerfully tranquil yet emotionally rich vocal delivery defies easy categorization.

Bedouine aka Azniv Korkejian is a Syrian-American musician who grew up with both mainstream music via MTV and traditional Armenian and Arabic music. Her third album Waysides (2021) is a masterful evocation of loss, isolation, yearning and introspective insight cast in the sounds of Laurel Canyon era folk.

Jim Ward, Feb. 19, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Sunday | 09.04
What: The Get Up Kids w/Sparta
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Get Up Kids from Kansas City were one of the defining bands of 90s emo but stylistically never quite trapped in the tropes of the genre and its songwriting came to include keyboards and more focused pop songcraft without sacrificing the energy and intensity of its early music. Like Jawbreaker, The Get Up Kids made music in a style that isn’t cringey decades later unlike that of some of their peers. For this tour the band will perform its debut full length album Four Minute Mile as well as the Woodson EP in their entirety. Jim Ward of Sparta came up through similar circles of 90s underground punk and post-hardcore as a member of the influential and incendiary At The Drive In. But when the latter split in 2001 and part of the group went on to form The Mars Volta making music of a very different style, Ward continued to refine the style of music he’d helped develop in ATDI. The angular punk with searing emotional energy and intellect informing the lyrics. The group went on hiatus in 2008 and outside of a brief reunion in the early 2010s didn’t fully come back together until 2017. During the interceding years wrote and released music under his own name and with Sleepercar and honed his songwriting so that when Sparta returned to write and release 2020’s Trust the River the artistic growth was obvious and what has been put out from the forthcoming self-titled Sparta album is like a fusion of that fiery sonics of early Sparta and a more refined focus in the dynamics and structure of the songs to hit with emotional precision.

Sunday | 09.04
What: Echo & The Bunnymen w/Cayucas
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Echo & The Bunnymen were and are one of the classic bands out of the second wave of UK post-punk with a rooting in the first. The Bunnymen brought a romantic sensibility to the lyrics and a sense of mystery and tenderness to the music that has made its songs age exceedingly well apparently having formed outside immediate and obvious influences rather drawing inspiration from across decades of music and aiming to craft their own creative mythmaking. You’ll hear the hits, probably, but also deep cuts that will please true fans of the group’s deep well of great material.

Peter Hook at the Royal Albert Hall on September 29, 2018, photo by Jody Hartley

Monday | 09.05
What: An Evening With Peter Hook & The Light – Joy Division: A Celebration
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Peter Hook is of course one of the founding members of influential post-punk band Joy Division. For this occasion Hook will make an evening of a broad spectrum of that band’s songs. Anyone that has seen Peter Hook & The Light knows that Hook isn’t phoning in some greatest hits set. The band conjures the spirit of the original music and Hook’s own bass lines are iconic and foundational the sound, the mood, the cadences of post-punk and by extension through New Order pop and dance music. He brings a commanding presence and no small amount of his own fire to the performances though he shares bass duties with his son Jack who some may have seen play in The Smashing Punpkins. Hook’s three books The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (2010), Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (2012) and Substance: Inside New Order (2016) are essential reading for not just entertainment value but for the perspective and sense of history and culture that Hook was there to witness and in some ways shape.

Flume, photo by Nick Green

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | 09.05, 09.06, 09.07
What: Flume ( w/Pospa, Sega Bodega at Mission on 9.05 – w/TSHA, Porspa and Oklou on 09.06 – w/Eprom, Shlomo and Oklou on 09.07
When: 7 p.m. for 09.05 and 5 p.m. for 09.06-09.07
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.05) and Red Rocks (09.06-09.07)
Why: Harley Streten has come a long way since learning basic production from a DJ and mixing program CD he got from a box of Nutrigrain. From early smaller club shows far afield from his home home town of Sydney, Australia, Streten as Flume steadily but fairly rapidly established himself as one of the more innovative ED artists of the 2010s whose facility with sculpting atmosphere and melody and merging it seamlessly with unconventional beats to make for music that has been able to evolve, absorb and move beyond micro-stylistic shift in the world of electronic dance music and today he’s one of the most popular artists in a realm of music that has remained important but seemingly plateaued in its cultural impact. But Streten’s musical imagination and skills have consistently kept him ahead of the curve and in mentoring newer artists in an organic way his shows are not just a showcase for his own work but that of potential future stars already doing interesting work.

Thursday | 09.08
What: Alphabet Soup #52: Felix Fast4ward, Reed Fox, Furbie Cakes, Sky Floor and Green Leader https://blackboxdenver.co/events/alphabeat-soup-sep8
When: 9
Where: Black Box
Why: Long-running experimental electronic dance-oriented music showcase Alphabet Soup returns with some of the local scenes more daring producers and imaginative soundscapers.

Kal Marks in October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Kal Marks – My Name is Hell Tour w/Moon Pussy and Cherished
When: 9
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Boston’s Kal Marks recently released its new album My Name Is Hell. The record out on NYC label Exploding In Sound is a further development of the group’s hybrid of emo, noise rock, pop collage and post-punk. The live band brings a visceral energy that takes the core of the recorded material and transforms it into cathartic performances that seem simultaneously passionate and vulnerable. Also playing this show is the crackling ball of nervous energy and roiling angular dynamics that is Moon Pussy whose fractured soundscapes and raw power transforms anxiety and amused outrage into inspiration. Cherished has become one of the most emotionally charged, melancholic shoegaze bands in Denver and elsewhere and the melodically gloomy counterpart to the other bands you’ll get to witness at this show.

Friday | 09.09
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine and DJ Slave1
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan probably needs no introduction and this is a show rescheduled from the spring for the foundational synth pop and industrial rock songwriter and musician. Maybe you only know “Cars” or “Down In the Park” but Gary Numan has had a long and consistently boundary pushing career and whose body of music is like a distinguished career in the kind of science fiction as song that puts the human experience at the center and thus it has aged well and his intense and riveting live shows are proof positive of the enduring vitality of his creative genius.

Flogging Molly 2021, photo by Katie Hovland

Friday | 09.09
What: Flogging Molly & The Interrupters w/Tiger Army and The Skints
When: 5
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Celtic punk can be a bit niche for many but Flogging Molly’s songwriting transcends that niche partly due to the exceptionally powerful vocals courtesy actually Irish lead singer Dave King. Though often lumped in with the pop punk world in which its spirited performances seem to find a natural home, there is a charming nuance of sound and style in the group’s music that lend its tales of poverty, love, death, revelry and struggle an artfulness to its clearly authentic sentiments. The band’s latest album Anthem includes “A Song Of Liberty” that starts out, at least in the music video and in the lyrics, to be a show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine against Russia but extends that solidarity with struggles for national liberation across decades and across continents. There’s nothing performative or phony about that messaging in the music nor in the band’s general, internationalist working class solidarity born out of basic compassion for other humans.

Emerald Siam in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Church Fire and Emerald Siam
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians, longtime project of Jay Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, is celebrating the release of its latest album Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion with this show at the Bluebird. This band is also an Americana band in a dark vein akin to that of some of SCAC’s own style but generally darker, more overtly literary and conceptual and in the live setting often accompanied by an element of the ritualistic. Breaking with local scene custom, and all the better for that, the opening bands aren’t going to be Americana at all except in the larger sense that political, darkwave industrial band Church Fire wouldn’t emerge anywhere but America where its incisive critique of the perils of patriarchy and religion as infused into the culture and politics as a lived experience perhaps has the greatest impact, or that Emerald Siam’s own moody, garage rock noir flavored post-punk would seem like an odd affectation coming from anyone but people who have breathed deep in what it’s like to live and struggle in the fractious society that is the USA.

Friday | 09.09
What: Westword Music Showcase Part 1
When: 7
Where: Various Venues in RiNO
Why: This is the first night of the Westword Music Showcase and it’s free. So some best bets no explanations given because there’s a lot going on this night.
7pm: Honey Blazer
8 pm: Bellhoss, Plasma Canvas or Kayla Marque
9 pm: Endless Nameless, Ritmo Cascabel, Bluebook
10 pm: Julian St. Nightmare
11 pm: Despair Jordan
12:20 am: Pink Fuzz or Citra

Allison Russel, photo by Marc Baptiste

Friday and Saturday | 09.09 and 09.10
What: Brandi Carlise ( w/ Lucius and Allison Russell on 09.09 and w/Indigo Girls and Allison Russell on 09.10)
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Brandi Carlisle is rightfully an incredibly famous and commercially successful singer-songwriter for her broad stylistic and emotional range as an artist with a powerful and expressive voice. Her latest album is In The Canyon Haze. Opener Allison Russell is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter whose debut solo album Outside Child released in 2021 on respected jazz, folk and Americana label Fantasy. Her orchestral yet spare arrangements bring her powerfully soulful vocals together in a style that might be described as Appalachian jazz R&B yet it works because Russell’s commanding presence and facility in playing multiple roles in performance is riveting for both its instrumental virtuosity and emotional resonance. See her band’s performance on KEXP below.

Saturday | 09.10
What: Westword Music Showcase Day 2
When: 12
Where: Various Venues Around Mission Ballroom
Why: This is the Westword Music Showcase day where you need to buy a ticket and here are some recommendations with no details.
2 pm: The Mañanas
2:35: Cannons
3:20: Ramakhandra
4:05: Wet Leg – canceled
5: Don Chicharrón
8:40 N3PTUNE
9:30: The Flaming Lips

Lucy Dacus, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 09.12
What: The National w/Lucy Dacus
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: The National rose to prominence in the 2000s and its brooding, atmospheric pop songs has certainly been one of the templates of modern indie music. Even early on its lush production and layered, orchestral arrangements felt like a natural successor to 90s indiepop and its contemplative lyrics can’t help but strike a chord with anyone that actually takes them in. Matt Berninger’s vocal delivery always seems to come across like he’s reading from a memoir from some future decade and having a poignant memory to relate, the kind that takes you back vividly to that time in a way that makes it possible to articulate with the benefit of life experience—something not everyone can do as well as Berninger does. After a eight acclaimed albums The National has returned with material for the upcoming ninth album and performing some of that at its 2022 live shows. Opening the proceedings is accomplished songwriter Lucy Dacus. Some may know Dacus more for her membership in supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. But Dacus’ records under her name are a body of personally insightful and emotionally fortifying songs that the songwriter delivers with an understated cool that nevertheless doesn’t mask the feelings and examinations thereof that went into distilling them into musical poetry. Even on her first album No Burden (2016), Dacus displayed a sophistication of songwriting at twenty one that can take many more years to attain. 2021’s Home Video has moments of almost uncomfortable rawness and honesty that aren’t made easier to hear with the gentle performances. Rather the songs are a vivid trip through psychological spaces perhaps we all experience but sometimes try to forget and Dacus makes it seem okay to think and feel these things because emotional self-honesty can be as healing as it can be searingly painful and haunting. Dacus brings that kind of compassionate energy and sense of mystery to her live performances as well so clearly a fine match for the headliner.

Stereolab in 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Stereolab w/Fievel is Glauque
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stereolab is the long-running experimental rock and electronic band formed in 1990 in London with former members of leftist political pop band McCarthy, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier. The new group would adopt lo-fi pop aesthetics, Krautrock, avant-garde electronic and musique concrète into its ever evolving sound so that the “groop” could never get fully stuck in its own stylistic rut. Stereolab has become one of the most respected and beloved cult bands of the 90s that endured through the late 2000s before going on hiatus for a decade until 2019. Its most recent release is the 2022 compilation album Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On, Vol. 5 which brings together tracks from across its career including a 1997 collaboration with arch experimentalists Nurse With Wound and other non official album tracks that have formerly been hard to come by including the 1992 Low Fi EP that marked the first appearance with the group of the late Mary Hansen and longtime and current member Andy Ramsay. The live shows are a combination of impassioned performance and sultry cool.

Full of Hell, photo by Jess Dankmeyer

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Full of Hell & Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Mortuous and God is War
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Might be the noisy heavy show of the month. Death grind legends Full of Hell whose 2021 album Garden of Burning Apparitions is as relentless as it is unsettling in its haunting vibes co-headlines with progressive death metal weirdos Blood Incantation from Denver who recently released an entire synth album though you probably won’t hear much of that for this show. Vermin Womb just release the blistering and thrillingly punishing Retaliation EP and will probably hit the stage hard with economical precision in its sonic brutality and exit before you’re full aware of what hit you.

Boris, photo by Yoshihiro Mori

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Boris w/Nothing
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For the past thirty years Japanese rock band Boris has truly explored so many different styles of heavy and experimental across its prolific career that one would have to be hesitant to try to define the group’s aesthetic because from album to album it’s always been an exploration of the trio’s interests at the time from gear to songwriting to genre. In addition to the impressive and influential body of work under its own name, Boris has multiple collaborative albums with noise legend Merzbow, albums with Michio Kurihara of psych legends Ghost (not to be confused with the Swedish heavy metal band) and an album with respected Japanese avant-garde musician Keiji Haino. Its most recent album is its 2022 and second album titled Heavy Rocks. And as advertized it’s a rock album that is heavy but this time more in the vein of a strange and fascinating hybrid of punk, glam rock and heavy psychedelia. Live Boris has a mystique that renders all of its music strange and alluring rendered with a forceful intensity. Also on this tour is post-hardcore/noise rock band turned heavy shoegaze outfit Nothing whose 2020 album The Great Dismal is a great exercise in mood sculpting through hazy melodies and introspective vocals making observations on the decay of society and a fragile hope for things in the world to flow toward the better.

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: Kikagaku Moyo
When: 7:30 (09.14) and 7 (09.15)
Where: Fox Theatre (09.14) and Ogden Theatre (09.15)
Why: Legendary psychedelic folk prog band Kikagaku Moyo from Tokyo is taking its live show on the road one last time with two shows in Colorado. In May 2022 the group released its latest and likely final album Kumoyo Island and revealed the influence of cosmic funk on its sound in addition to the fusion of Japanese folk and Krautrock.

Wilco, photo by Annabel Mehran

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Wilco w/Margo Price
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Wilco is of course one of the most critically acclaimed indie rock bands going on three decades now and deservedly so. There isn’t a Wilco record that isn’t worth an earnest listen. Its 2022 album Cruel Country isn’t just brimming with solid songwriting and performances but the social commentary is poignant and personal in a way worthy of early Bob Dylan. The title track addresses youthful misconceptions about the country of one’s birth and the evolution of one’s nuanced understanding not just of countries but one’s own place in them. Perhaps unintentionally but one hears a touch of the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty on this record but that just gives it a cultural resonance across decades that is probably warranted in making meaningful and creative statements about society in the times we’re in now rather than hit issues of national identity on the nose. Of course the show will include material well beyond the new album and Wilco is reliably delivers a lively and highly entertaining performance. Opener Margo Price is one of the rising stars of modern country music but of course this means she’s not just a charismatic performer but her own songwriting expands the boundaries of what that music can be. Her new single “Been To The Mountain” borders on the psychedelic and is reminiscent of more adventurous country artists of the past like Lone Justice and Green on Red.

The Head and the Heart, photo by Shervin Lainez

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: The Head and the Heart w/Hiss Golden Messenger
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.14) and Red Rocks (09.15)
Why: The Head and the Heart has established itself as one of the definitive artists of indie rock of the past decade and more. Earnest vocals and spacious arrangements and expansive melodies are components of its sound from early on but the Seattle based sextet has a knack for crafting pop hooks and imaginative arrangements that easily get stuck in your head but you don’t mind because it’s not repetitive or insipid, just heartfelt and memorable. Its 2022 album Every Shade of Blue seems to have pared its usual sonic mode to a spare minimalism that may not be what some fans are expecting from The Head and the Heart but within each one hears an experiment with where the group will go with its next album. Coming out of the pandemic every band can probably be excused for indulging a wide range of songwriting ideas that can make their new album sound like a transitional effort and maybe that’s what the sound of this record may come across as being yet there are undeniable gems on the record including the title track. At the very least at the show you’ll get to see old favorites live and see how The Head and the Heart pulls off material from the new record.

Perturbator, photo by David Fitt

Thursday | 09.15
What: HEALTH w/Perturbator and Street Sects
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: This tour features some of the most inventive modern electronic industrial artists going. HEALTH got its break as one of the most prominent bands to come out of the DIY music scene around the non-profit venue The Smell in the mid-2000s. Weaving together noise, electronic dance music and darkly urgent post-punk, HEALTH has garnered a global audience with its ferocious live shows and idiosyncratically stylish aesthetics. Perturbator is more in the vein of blending industrial rock with 1980s horror movie synth soundtracks but delivered with a confrontational energy. James Kent aka Perturbator has a background in black metal and brings that attitude to his compositions and performance. 2021’s Lustful Sacraments turns down the aggression of Perturbator’s sound a little in favor of a touch of ethereal guitar melody and creative use of space in the mix lending the overall sound a haunting undercurrent. Street Sects is an industrial punk duo from Austin, Texas whose use of drastic dynamic shifts and spiky rhythms in a cloak of fog and metallic percussion that has been a flagship band of the experimental music label The Flenser. Its shows can have an unhinged intensity with a sense of danger to them though lately they haven’t as often brought out the bladeless chainsaw to change out into the crowd.

Pink Turns Blue, photo by Daniel Vorndran

Thursday | 09.15
What: Pink Turns Blue, Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Pink Turns Blue is the influential post-punk/darkwave band from Berlin, Germany that made waves in the 1980s through the mid-1990s for its moody yet triumphant songs imbued with a political awareness and sense of urgency within its gloomy melodies and dynamically measured paces. The group got back together in 2003 after the so-called post-punk revival that happened shortly after it broke up the first time and prior to the development of the modern darkwave scene yet clearly, directly or otherwise, exerted a bit of influence on artists in both periods. TAINTED is the 2021 record by the band and contains some of its most poetic and poignant political material of its career in challenging the world’s mishandling or really ignoring of the climate crisis and the rise of authoritarianism and income inequality—all seemingly so pressing now.

Alice Glass, photo courtesy Sacks & Co 2018

Thursday | 09.15
What: Alice Glass w/Uffie
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Alice Glass is perhaps most widely known for her work in electronic duo Crystal Castles where her expressive and otherworldly yet intimate vocals were a large part of the appeal of the project. After parting ways with Crystal Castles in 2014 later accusing her bandmate of assault and sexual misconduct, Alice Glass has emerged a solo artist whose work has a unique emotional resonance and vulnerable intensity that vibes perfectly with the inventive and mysterious beats in a style that sounds like it’s taken elements of hyper pop and the 8-bit electronic production of her earlier music and pushed it in a direction that suited the likely painful subject matter of her songs. After a 2017 debut EP Glass had some conflict with her label and parted ways but released her debut full length PREY//IV in February 2022 and she’s still putting out some honest words that speak truth about the kind of struggle and pain a lot of people go through every day especially people that have experienced abuse and in doing so provides maybe a tiny bit of catharsis with the music and with her powerful live show.

Melvins, photo by Chris Casella

Friday | 09.16
What: Melvins w/We Are The Asteroid and Taipei Houston
When: 7
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Melvins are one of the foundational bands of the heavy punk scene out of the Pacific Northwest and one of the primary influences on the bands that became the first wave of grunge. But Melvins never got stuck there or with that legacy even as it evolved its early sound and went on to explore a multitude of ideas in the music they made and how it was presented and where they would play and the kinds of tours they would tackle including the time they played every U.S. State in fifty days. All along the way Melvins have left us an impressive body of albums that push the boundaries of what heavy music can be and with every album Melvins offer something very different from the one that came before. This time around for the newly released 2022 album Bad Moon Rising there has been little advance promotion or videos or really much of a peak into what it sounds like. Making it a good excuse to go see one of the most entertaining and consistently impressive live rock bands of the modern era.

Friday | 09.16
What: George Cessna & His Band perform Lucky Rider w/Rose Variety, Fainting Dreams and DBUK
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: George Cessna & His Band will perform the 2021 album Lucky Rider in its entirety. The existential and haunting, lo-fi record distills the essence and spirit of being a creative and thoughtful person in the current time dealing with a multitude of challenges from those of the pandemic, to an increasingly neglectful media environment for the arts especially those local, trying to navigate personal challenges while reaching deep into self to find a reason to keep doing creative work when all sensible arrows point elsewhere. It is one of the most poignant personal music statements in the last few years and worth getting to witness in the live setting.

Grace Ives, photo by Samuel Metzger

Friday | 09.16
What: Grace Ives w/Super Bummer
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Grace Ives’ 2022 album Janky Star has likely snuck onto the year end best lists of more than a few music critics because not only are her eccentric pop songs imaginative crafted but speak to the current cultural moment. There is a meta self-awareness that is employed to make earnest commentary on mental health and seeking out deeper meanings in a cultural environment where so much is thrown your way often decoupled from context. All the songs on the album are short and to the point but rich with ideas. Ives says a great deal in a small space without overwhelming the listener. Somewhere between synth pop, hip-hop and even some bit of progressive rock Ives’ music has obviously absorbed a lot of modern music and come out more surprisingly original for it.

Friday | 09.16
What: Patched Out – Live Electronic Dance Music Party: Acidbat, Paul City, Love Cosmic Love, ALX-106
When: 9:01
Where: Black Box
Why: This is a more than ordinarily experimental electronic music showcase featuring local artists who pull from not only electronic dance music but noise and industrial styles. Minimal techno, glitchy acid house, mutant deep house grime.

Wild Rivers, photo by Samuel Kojo

Friday | 09.16
What: Wild Rivers w/Violet Skies
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Toronto-based indie folk trio Wild Rivers released its sophomore album Sidelines in 2022, the follow up to its 2016 self-titled debut. Like most bands Wild River basically had to take a couple of years off from performing live and maybe rediscover and reimagine its sound some but in this case Wild Rivers leaned into its superb use of space and minimal instrumentation for a good deal of the material to allow for the gentle, warm and expressive touch of the vocals to sit center but also in allowing the percussion and rhythm to guide the music subtly but firmly, a feature of music one doesn’t often hear so clearly in folk-oriented music.

Porridge Radio, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Saturday | 09.17
What: Porridge Radio w/Blondshell and Moodlighting
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porridge Radio is a post-punk band from Brighton, UK formed after songwriter and lead vocalist Dana Margolin realized she needed a band to fully bring to life the songs she had been crafting and mainly performing at open mics and her own bedroom. There is a grittiness to the atmospheric music that can be found rooted in Margolin’s raw and tenderly honest lyrics and the way the band manifests the layered the contrasting emotions the singer/guitarist brings to bear and let out in often unexpected and engulfing outbursts that make it obvious you’re not listening to a conventional indie band because Porridge Radio doesn’t try to smooth over the rough edges. Its new album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky (2022, Secretly Canadian) is rich with poetic metaphors for relationships fracturing and the struggles of one’s inner life that are too often kept bottled up and never addressed. Porridge Radio lets that anxiety out in a gripping sustained catharsis. Tourmate Blondshell aka Sabrina Teitelbaum is a songwriter based in Los Angeles whose own vulnerabilities and insecurities are also laid out in exuberant pop songs. Blondshell’s sound, though, is more akin to 90s alternative rock in its liberal use of fuzz and bombastic song structures to give some sonic and emotional boost to songs about the kinds of thoughts and experiences that can make us feel like we’re falling apart and failing ourselves yet finding some redemption and positive transformation in being willing to own the feelings and work through them. Moodlighting is a dream pop band from Denver whose fragile and winsome melodies are charged with an ethereal melancholy that lends the music more depth than seems obvious on first encounter.

Blondshell, photo by Dominique Falcone

Saturday | 09.17
What: Sick of It All and Agnostic Front w/Crown of Thornz
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Agnostic Front may predate the existence of Sick Of It All by six years and technically part of the first wave of hardcore, but New York City hardcore didn’t really get its due or hit its stride until later in the eighties and these two bands were a couple of the leaders of that punk milieu along with Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and others.

Colin James, photo by James O’Mara

Saturday | 09.17
What: Colin James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Colin James is a Canadian blues and rock guitarist/vocalist who got his big break into a national and international music world when his band was tapped to open last minute for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984 when another opening act was no longer available. Since then James has expanded upon his electric and acoustic blues style and was an early adopter of swing in the early 90s when straight ahead blues wasn’t as much in favor for a number of years and his Colin James and the Little Big Band project enjoyed some success when the swing revival was under way throughout the 90s. But in the 2000s and 2010s it seemed as though blues enjoyed a bit of a renaissance including the popular Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and numerous blues festivals that have come about since the turn of the century. James’ most recent album, 2021’s Open Road, is a collection of interpretation of blues classics and original material that showcases the musician’s masterful command of the musical idiom and ability to innovate within it.

Sunday | 09.18
What: Bob Mould Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts!
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Bob Mould is of course the co-founder of Hüsker Dü and Sugar but his solo albums have provided some of his best and most refined songwriting to date. This tour will be a chance to see Mould perform from across his solo catalog including the 2020 Blue Hearts album which included Jon Wurster of Superchunk fame and Jason Narducy also of Superchunk filling in for Laura Ballance. So this performance will probably include both of those guys and Mould’s own lively presence.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

Sunday | 09.18
What: Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Freedom Move…
When: 7
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a First Nations hip-hop duo from Kitamaat Village, BC but now based in Vancouver. Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce have a style that people that appreciate trap and hyper pop would appreciate including the meta self-awareness required to pull that off with creativity and artistry. So of course there is a deep sense of play and humor in the music but so many of its songs hit as poignant and as powerfully as the best hip-hop especially in painting a portrait of life in their First Nations community and the unique struggles attendant with that experience.

Monday | 09.19
What: Pavement w/Annalibera
When: 6:30
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Almost all indie bands of any originality worth listening to can trace their roots to the idiosyncratic and masterful guitar rock of Pavement. The group long made a virtue of unconventional song structure, Stephen Malkmus’ unusual vocal style and an almost free associating lyrics. Its loosely arranged guitar jangle both loping and angular leaves room for truly creative improvisation that have yet to be fully appreciated by many fans who might be put off by how much Pavement’s music resonates with free jazz and a psychedelic blues jam. Live Pavement has remained a brilliant head scratcher which is really the reason to see them live if you can afford the exorbitant ticket price because even though the influence on modern music is obvious no one has really been able to quite mimic the idiosyncratic melodies and bizarre observational lyrics.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: of Montreal w/Locate S, 1 and Duck Turnstone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: of Montreal is one of the longest running bands that emerged out of the 90s indiepop milieu with roots in the Elephant6 collective (i.e. Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel). Its colorful album cover imagery and borderline performance art stage personae come from a real place of genuine eccentric creativity informed by an experimental literary approach to lyrics and not just conceptual album arcs but individual songs as well. There is a deep imagination discernible on any of its albums including the 2022 offering Freewave Lucifer F<ck F^ck F>ck. This new music sounds even more like a collage of psychedelic pop and space rock glam.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: PROBLEMS w/Goo Age, Andy Loebs, DJ Arman and DJ Fresh Kill
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Daren Keen has been responsible for some of the most creative electronic and noise music of the past several years and with his project PROBLEMS it’s like he is mixing techno with surreal spoken word, hip-hop and electronic dance music as a vehicle for what might be musical autobiography as exposure of neuroses and insecurities inverted bravado.

Thursday | 09.22
What: Dan Deacon w/PROBLEMS
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Dan Deacon is one of the most prominent experimental electronic pop artists to have emerged from the American DIY underground whose graduate degree in electro-acoustic and computer music he has put to direct use as a composer and songwriter whose work can be found across a long career of high concept albums and film scores. The former also serving as sage commentary on modern American culture. His shows tend to be incredibly interactive involving audience participation which may make the stage at Meow Wolf more conducive to such adventures than more traditional concert venues. Also on the bill is PROBLEMS mentioned above for that date at Glob.

Built to Spill, photos by Isa Georgetti, collage be Lea Meida

Friday | 09.23
What: Built to Spill w/The French Tips and ORUA
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill needs no real introduction as one of the bands to emerge in the 1990s that embraced a noisy punk sound and jammy psychedelia at once to craft a body of work that could express deeply personal contemplations on life as well as commentary on the nature of existence. Its new record When The Wind Forgets Your Name is one of its most gritty and bracing in years with Neil Young-esque guitar leads and Doug Martsch’s signature, haunted, playful mystic vocals offering more of the band’s unique creative vision that never seems trapped by an era or style of music thus its continued vitality.

…And The Black Feathers, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: …And The Black Feathers EP release w/The Trujillo Company, Jaguar Stevens and Bootleg Baldwins
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: …And The Black Feathers is a band that somehow grinds out bluesy garage rock without sounding like its trying to be some other artist. It’s tempting to compare it to John Spencer Blues Explosion but it’s not that bizarre yet there is something otherworldly to its performances and air of having come to us from the same parallel dimension that gave us Tav Falco and Kid Congo Powers. The group is releasing its first EP in a few years.

Dehd, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 09.23
What: Dehd w/Exum
When: 8
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dehd is a trio from Chicago that is somehow able to be funny and incredibly poignant and powerful at the same time with an eclectic body of work that blurs the line between blues, punk, garage rock and dream pop. Its 2022 album Blue Skies is one of its more melancholic and contemplative records but as per usual there is a defiant spirit running through the music that directly translates to the live show where Dehd take minimalist elements and turn it into something that seems so gloriously bombastic and celebratory it exorcises some of the pain and disappointment that went into making the writing of the songs possible.

Divide and Dissolve, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 09.23
What: Divide and Dissolve w/Matriarch and Vulgarian
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Divide and Dissolve is an instrumental doom band from Melbourne, Australia. And yes, instrumental but its songs crafted from saxophone, guitar and percussion are a commentary on colonialism and its corrosive effects not just on indigenous culture but on itself as an extension of a racist economic system that ultimately commodifies all things and all people and devalues life, the earth and inspires so many to rationalize its predation because they benefit from its narrow vision of sharing resources and the “proper” use of our time in what little of it we have on the earth. The music sounds like a deconstruction of that system and the 2021 album Gas Lit leaves no question about how “the legacy of greed has grown from its seed to infiltrate every place, every face, releasing a suffering recorded in stone and in bone, so old that language can’t console it.”

f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: F-ether tour kickoff w/UaZit, FOANS, Knife Band and Causer
When: 7:30
Where: Glob
Why: F-ether is one of the few producers in Denver who is steeped in both the noise, electronic dance and rock scenes who seems adept at navigating these musical concepts in crafting his own playful and imaginative tracks. He’s setting off on his latest tour and celebrating with likeminded, creative electronic artists for this show including the always powerful and engrossing Causer.

Foreign Air, photo by Luke Adams

Saturday | 09.24
What: Foreign Air w/Anna Shoemaker and Ghostpulse
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Foreign Air got together when Jacob Michael’s former rock band U.S. Royalty split in 2017 and he came to work with Jesse Clasen whose own rock bands The Bear Romantic and HRVRD had played shows with U.S. Royalty. For their band together the duo tapped into a more electronic music production approach to crafting lush pop songs. The sound is can range from lo-fi, spare but energetic post-punk flavored pop to enveloping melodic haze given solidity with organic instrumentation. The advance tracks from the new Foreign Air album Hello Sunshine finds the band using the sound palette of modern indie pop and funk with an ear toward more unconventional arrangements and rapid adding and dropping of layers to convey not just gradations of sonic saturation but in doing so the emotional as well. Anna Shoemaker’s 2022 debut album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) is a collection of sharply observed sketches of lived experience expressed through gritty guitar pop and quiet-loud dynamics akin to 90s alternative rock. But as with lyrics like on her new single “I’m Your Guy” Shoemaker’s songwriting subverts convention by threading her songs with modern electronic details that give the music some unexpected turns of phrase in parallel with her taking relationship, gender and sexuality norms in pop music and turning them over in a way that is both rebellious and gives those normally not in the usual power structure of culture another way of imagining how things can be and dispensing with othering.

Anna Shoemaker, photo by Emma Berson

Saturday | 09.24
What: Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends w/Almanac Man and An Antiquated Bluff
When: 8:30
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: To the casual listener Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends may sound like they listened to a lot of stoner rock and Monster Magnet before forming this band but there is something subversive in the way the group has used its music to challenge transphobia and hideously lazy and destructive thinking in general. Its 2022 split with The Erratic Retaliator Strategy is part noise rock and part philosophical exploration of social phenomena with titles like “Competitive Grief” and “The Misplaced Optimism of the Doomed.” That’s keeping it real. Also on the bill is Denver-based experimental noise rock band Almanac Man and emo Americana math rock phenom An Antiquated Bluff whose own songs examine and attempt to exorcise the anguish of external and internalized oppression.

Trentemøller , photo by Karen Rosetzky

Sunday | 09.25
What: Trentemøller w/TOM & his Computer
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Anders Trentemøller has been perfecting his particular fusion of moody rock and the electronic under the project moniker of his surname since 2006. The tonally cool downtempo of his earlier albums seemed to anticipate and transcend the forthcoming darkwave movement of the 2010s as his own minimalist compositions organically unfolded to enhance the nuanced melancholy of the song lyrics. In 2022 the songwriter released his latest album Memoria which features the usual reconciliation of thematic and musical contrasts with gritty, saturated synth and ethereal melodic drift over steady beats all conspiring to produce a dynamic that seems aimed at raising spirits against the gloom of the album’s subject matter of acceptance of when things feel off or aren’t going how one might prefer. It gives an element of complexity that feels like a process you’d need to go to shed deep seated regret and process bittersweet memories without forgetting what made them significant.

Laveda, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 09.25
What: Laveda w/Isadora Eden, Nina De Freitas and Alana Mars
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Laveda from Albany, NY is a dream pop/shoegaze band whose gorgeously lush melodies and warmly evocative singing never masks its all too real and bracing assessments of the world as it is and the challenges we face and the feelings we go through as we try to navigate a culture and society that isn’t giving an adequate response to the specter of climate disaster, fiscal malfeasance from the top, legislative and judicial corruption and all the ways the powerful are making life more difficult for those not in positions of power on a granular level. Sure, ethereal, heavy guitars but as a kind of ambient catharsis and path to staying out of the pits of despair even while giving voice to the concerns that when they hit you at once can paralyze your psyche. But also enjoyable as one of the best new shoegaze bands operating in America.

Julia Jacklin, photo by Nick Mckk

Monday | 09.26
What:
Julia Jacklin w/Katy Kirby
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On her new album Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin makes uncertainty seem so comforting and reassuring. Like her 2019 album Crushing, this new album has concepts guiding its exploration of themes one does not often hear in music written in a way that sounds like something that landed in the Twenty-First Century from the 1960s with the wash of melody accomplished with spare, organic musical elements in miniature orchestral fashion and Jacklin’s introspective vocal style that seems to draw out the nuances of emotion and psychological details of how we feel that can often be brushed under in the push of the raw, face fronting emotional experience. Jacklin emphasizes the whole picture in its lived experience. On Pre Pleasure she makes acceptance of unresolved feelings and situations seem as satisfying as we’re going to get out of so many circumstances in life.

Monday | 09.26
What: Rein w/DJ Eli and Niq V
When: 8
Where: HQ
Why: Swedish darkwave/industrial artist Rein makes a stop in Denver after her performance at the Coldwaves festival in Chicago. Her blend of synth pop and a gritty and stylized delivery that balances aggression and grace like a more Goth-y Youth Code and more steeped in 90s EBM but with the same sort of punk style and spirited performance.

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Foreign Resort, Hapax and Plague Garden
When: 8
Where: HQ
Why: Also fresh off their performances at Coldwaves X in Chicago are Depeche Mod-esque, Danish post-punk band The Foreign Resort and the urgent and almost strident melancholic sound of HAPAX from Naples, Italy. Local support from Plague Garden’s whose emotionally charged, electronically infused post-punk is well outside the cookie cutter trendiness that can be heard in too much modern post-punk and darkwave.

Tatsuya Nakatani, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Nakatani Gong Orchestra w/Ryan McRyhew and Ben Donehower
When: 7:30
Where: Scorpio Palace
Why: Master percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani brings his 10-piece gong orchestra for an intimate performance at Scorpio Palace (formerly known as Rhinoceropolis). Nakatani will conduct the ensemble in performance with bowed gong. Prior to the 10-person performance there will be a trio comprised of Nakatani and local improvisors Ryan McRyhew, aka Ntrancer who will utilize a Hordijk system, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Donehower who some may know for his avant-pop project Petite Garçon. Seating is limited for this unique performance and doors are 7:30 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 8 p.m.

Genesis Owusu, photo by Bailey Howard

Tuesday | 09.27
What: Khruangbin w/Tennis, Vieux Farka Touré and Genesis Owusu
When: 5
Where: Civic Center Park
Why: Houston’s Khruangbin has emerged as one of the most popular bands to have emerged from modern American psychedelic rock. It’s sound has trended more toward a upbeat funk and soul sound like the kind of music you’d expect to hear as a regular guest on a modern incarnation of Soul Train. On its 2020 album Mordechai it certain seems to tape into the energy and style of later P-Funk and the kind of mutant funk of early 99 Records bands. But whatever the exact aesthetic one might try to push on Khruangbin its music defies easy pigeonholing and has as much in common with the aforementioned as it does with W.I.T.C.H. and Afrobeat. Opener Owusu Genesis is a Ghanaian-Australian artist who doesn’t just make music but designs his own fashion and those impulses seem to inform each other in an asymmetrical way in that he mixes and matches styles and aesthetics to create something uniquely his own. With rich synth work and polyrhythms his music might be considered hip-hop but his vocal style is decidedly different and playful and imaginative the way one might hear an analog of in Thundercat’s solo material where it would be difficult to pigeonhole him as well. His 2021 debut album Smiling with No Teeth is a genre busting delight of experimental hip-hop and electronic pop.

Pale Waves, photo by Kelsi Luck

Wednesday | 09.28
What: Pale Waves w/Gatlin
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Underneath Pale Waves’ effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Pale Waves recently released its third album Unwanted on August 12, 2022.

The Luka State, photo by Rob Blackham

Friday | 09.30
What: The Luka State w/Micky James
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Luka State from Winsford, Cheshire brings its tour to Denver ahead of the release of its sophomore full length The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. If its new single “Stick Around” is any indication the group isn’t short on the anthemic melodies that drove its earlier releases. Its live show looks more fiery and intense than one might expect from songs coming from a place of seeming thoughtful vulnerability.


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 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 9/19/19 – 9/25/19

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Jay Som performs at Larimer Lounge on September 24, 2019

Thursday | September 19

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Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, photo by Josh Ludlow

What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Meatbodies and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The unlikely named Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia at least picked an apt moniker because it captures what you’re in for. Oh, sure, stoner rocked psychedelia thrown together with prog and fuzzy melodies and tripped out choruses. Its new album And Now For the Whatchamacallit has surreal song titles like “My Friend’s a Liquid,” “Digital Hunger,” “Hymn For A Droid” and “Keen For Kick Ons.” If Lewis Carroll had been born in the 90s and grew up at a time when the older kids in Tame Impala and Pond were kicking around in the local scene he might have ended up in a band like this.

What: Why? w/Barrie
When: Thursday, 09.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Swim (Baltimore), Horse Girl, Eamonn Wilcox and Cop Circles
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

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Cuco, photo courtesy the artist

What: Cuco w/Ambar Lucid and KAINA
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: At twenty-one Omar Banos aka Cuco is a bonafide pop star who came up on Chicano rap stars like Baby Bash and MC Magic. Like the latter he also sings and raps in English and Spanish. Banos has also folded into his soundscapes a laid back kind of psychedelic pop sound. While his songwriting and the production thereon is strong and evocative, his music videos and storytelling shows a side of life that is honest, surprisingly candid and often uncomfortable but real and therein lies the power of the presentation of his music. “Bossa No Sé” from his debut album Para Mi (2019) navigates the troubled waters of a breakup with sensitivity, complexity and comfort with uncertainty and confusion. Cuco’s balance of the romantic and the realistic has been fascinating so far.

What: GEL SET (L.A.), Natural Violence, DJ Noah Anthony, DJ Rewd and guest
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar

Friday | September 20

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Melvins, photo by Chris Mortenson

What: The Melvins w/Redd Kross and Toshi Kasai
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have done pretty much whatever they’ve wanted to that was fun for them music-wise since beginning in 1983. Before grunge was a thing, Melvins had already perfected that sound and aesthetic as well as a certain strain of doom. Most left field heavy music today can probably trace a bit of influence to the band originally from Montesano, Washington. The group’s prolific catalog covers a good deal of sonic territory and the band has collaborated with the likes of industrial music pioneer Lustmord, Jello Biafra and, recently, with Swedish noise-punk stars Shitkid (who are performing select dates on the current tour) on the Bangers EP. The group has experimented with the format of its lineup such as when the members of Big Business joined for two drummers and a bassist. And now with two bassists and a single drummer. Or as Melvins Lite with Mr. Bungle (among other projects) member Trevor Dunn on bass. Melvins might also be the only American band to have played all fifty states in fifty days. You never quite know what you’re in store for with a Melvins show except that it’ll be worth your time unless heavy, imaginative music and powerful performances thereof aren’t your thing. Melvins bassist Steven McDonald is doing double duty this tour with his original band, the influential punk/power pop group Redd Kross.

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Boris, photo courtesy the artists

What: Boris w/Uniform
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Japanese heavy, experimental psych and drone extravaganza, Boris, is currently touring in support of its 2019 album LφVE & EvφL due out October 4. If you’re going expecting their mind-altering psychedelic freakouts, rumor has it you may be let down. But if you are into the slow roiling drone the band has engaged in in the past but updated and more like a psych SunnO))) this would be the tour to catch. Opening the show is industrial noise band Uniform which is comprised of former members of The Men and Drunkdriver.

What: Brian Wilson (Al Jardine & Blondie Chaplin featuring selections from Friends, Surf’s Up and the hits) w/The Zombies
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Eventually It Will Kill You showcase 2nd anniversary: TWINS (ATL), Golden Donna (PDX), Lone Dancer Peer Review b2b E.I.W.K.Y., you already know
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The anniversary party for Denver electronic music and darkwave imprint Eventually It Will Kill You.

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

What: 30 Years of Work: VAHCO 1989-2019 Physical release w/Dead Characters, Chromadrift, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS, Bowshock and Demoncassettecult
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Vahco Before Horses aka Vahco Strickland has spent the last thirty years involved in producing, promoting and writing music in various formats and styles. This show celebrates his career retrospective and the release of the flash drive containing one hundred of his songs. The performances will include collaborations with various members of bands affiliated with his Glasss Records imprint as well as a showcase for his more electronic pop songs and his industrial ambient collage songwriting as Demoncassettecult.

Saturday | September 21

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Zealot album release w/Simulators and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is releasing its debut album The Book of Ramifications. But what this debut album doesn’t make obvious are the musical roots of the group in Denver underground rock. Does that matter? It does if you know who The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, Supply Boy, Façade and Ideal Fathers were. Or The Outfit, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer or Fingers of the Sun were. Much less Catatonic Lydia or Le Divorce. All of that goes into informing the upbeat, well-crafted pop songs that comprise the band’s new album and the sizzling, wiry energy of its performances. There is a tick toward the positive running through the record. Rather than a “city of the dead” there’s “City of the Living.” Instead of irrevocable mistakes there’s “Fix it in Post.” Rather than a dark horse there’s a “Show Pony.” Instead of a broken heart there’s “Overloud Heart.” You get “Somnambulist” instead of insomnia. “Black Paint” rather than institutional yellow. A “Snake Goddess” rather than the insecure dictator Yaweh. “Casio Argento” in place of Dario or Asia. And more. It’s an upbeat record with some tight melodies and a charming economy of songwriting. The Simulators will bring the angular menace of its music and Vanilla Milkshakes will deliver earnest, blustery pop punk as companion to Zealot’s fastidious songcraft. Oh yes, there’s also a companion covers album called Revised Edition featuring renditions of all the songs on the new record as done by the band’s local scene peers as well as a solo cover done by the band’s bassist Suzi Allegra. All of which is a gesture not many bands would bother to attempt to release concurrent with a new album.

What: Das Ich w/Velvet Acid Christ, Oberer Todpunkt, DJ Katastrophy
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway

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Anna Morsett of The Still Tide, photo by Anthony Isaac

What: Charlie Cunningham w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Still Tide’s Anna Morsett has played in Colorado musical projects as varied as Ark Life, Porlolo and These United States as well as with Natalie Tate and Brent Cowles. But perhaps where she shines brightest is in her own band The Still Tide. Her guitar work is both ethereal and fiery, her ear for dynamics and tone keen and imaginative. Morsett’s songwriting is both intimate yet expansive, introspective and yearning, reconciling contrasts with a broad emotional palette. And she’s opening for noteworthy UK singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham whose 2017 album lines included the deeply evocative single “Minimum” and its entrancing atmospheres.

What: Wovenhand w/Jaye Jayle
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Evan Patterson is rightfully known for his heavier music with Young Widows and Breather Resist. But his Jaye Jayle project is taking him in a different direction with a pastoral songwriting style that serves well the contemplative storytelling of the music he initially wrote as a solo project rather than something that needed to fit into the format of a full, loud band. These days he has partners in realizing the musical vision and the results is a kind of haunted Americana. Which makes it an ideal pairing with Americana infused post-punk/noise rock band Wovenhand from Denver. Wovenhand started out as very much in the post-Sixteen Horsepower vein continuing what singer and main songwriter David Eugene Edwards had been developing since the late 80s. But in the past decade the music has become more sonically intense (it was always emotionally so) and incorporating a broader range of dynamics and sounds so that early fans may even find it, except for Edwards’ undeniable spiritual presence, unrecognizable.

What: Bison Bone, Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Greg Laswell w/Sarah Slaton
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Greg’s warmth and humanity expressed in clever and insightful turns of phrase has made him a national treasure of a songwriter.

What: Future Days: Can Tribute
When: Saturday, 09.21, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Mdou Moctar w/Pale Sun
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mdou Moctar might be the most internationally renowned guitarist and songwriter out of Niger in the modern era and his electric adaptations of Tuareg guitar music has made him a favorite among discerning music fans who are open to such fusions of musical ideas, rhythms and sounds. To the uninitiated he may sound like an exotic prog artist but his music is deep and sophisticated. He is again touring in support of his 2019 album Ilana (The Creator).

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 1: 1476, Only Echos, Postnihilist, Causer, Kid Mask, Videodrome, GACK, DOX, Didaktikos, Tuck Knee and secret guests 
When: Saturday, 09.21, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Rarely do anniversaries happen on a numerically specific date related to a venue or an endeavor of any kind of this all day all evening marathon of music across two dates celebrates the continued success of Denver’s DIY venue Seventh Circle Music Collective.

What: Speedealer w/Barstool Messiah and Valiomierda
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

Sunday | September 22

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Surf Curse, photo by Julien Sage

What: Surf Curse w/Dirt Buyer
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Surf Curse is a duo from Los Angeles whose name may convey the impression it’s one of those surf rock/garage psych bands that have plagued the musical landscape for around a decade. And to some extent that’s exactly what these guys are. Except there’s something raw about their songwriting and performances and their music videos, whoever is directly involved in their scripting and design, speak to an uncommon creative imagination and as though the people in the band had in mind films that their songs might suit. Pick any of the videos and you’ll find something that’s a cut above most videos most bands are making these days. The band’s new album, Heaven Surrounds You, was released on September 13 on Danger Collective. For a duo Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck manage to have a full sound yet spare songwriting so they’re doing something right.

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 2,: JSR (Alex from this band named Seventh Circle), Sliver, Arctobog, Curtis T and the Duffel Bag Boys, Caustic Soda, The Slacks, Unit-Y, Pinetree Janitorial Service, American Psychonaut, Astral Planes, Hellspoon and Activate Boner and secret guest
When: Sunday, 09.22, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Second day of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s seven year anniversary going from early afternoon until midnight.

What: Pop Will Eat Itself w/Chemlab and Scifidelic w/DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Pop Will Eat Itself is a genre bending band that dispensed with the usual stylistic boundaries between grebo, sleaze rock and industrial dance music akin to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Chemlab was one of the bands that helped define the sound and aesthetic of industrial rock in the 90s fusing old school industrial with hard rock.

Monday | September 23

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Acid King, photo courtesy the artists

What: Acid King w/Wizard Rifle and Warish
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: MarquisTheater
Why: Acid King is on tour in support of the twentieth anniversary of its classic psych doom album Busse Woods. The group began in the early 90s when its sound was very much not in vogue but two decades later its heavy, experimental psych metal, not fully duplicated by other artists, has made it a cult band among connoisseurs of that realm of music.

What: God is an Astronaut w/Spiral Cell and Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | September 24

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Boy Scouts, photo by Ulysses Ortega

What: Jay Som w/Boy Scouts and Affectionately
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jay Som’s hazy pop songs have a personal emotional insight and sophistication of songcraft that can be easy to miss when you’re lost in the moment with her. Her new album Anak Ko blurs the lines between noisy shoegaze, indie pop and the 70s Laurel Canyon sound. Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts has written one of the most affecting, vivid and cathartic set of songs about loss and healing from sorrow and setbacks of the past few years for the new Boy Scouts album Free Company. Her unconventional melodies and song dynamics give her compositions a depth and complexity that reward repeatedly exploring her catalog.

What: Like A Villain, Harms, Earth Control Pill and Debaser
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Like A Villain is sort of an industrial ambient act whose dark and heavily textured atmospheres explore the personal and collective psyche in operatic vocals and processed loops. The new album What Makes Vulnerability Good, released on September 20, 2019, makes exquisite use of space in tone and rhythm that it engulfs you gently before you realize it.

Wednesday | September 25

Photo: Dara Munnis. @daramunnis
Tash Sultana, photo by Dara Munnis (@daramunnis)

What: Tash Sultana w/The Tesky Brothers
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Tash Sultana is a guitar prodigy whose psychedelic rock, blues and folk songs created with her expert ability to play multiple part at once and along with loops is impressive on its own but the energy and enthusiasm with which she plays is infectious. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sultana crafts her songs real time in an almost orchestral manner as an orchestra of one. Difficult to pigeonhole a genre for Sultana as her songwriting style is unique but might be compared to an artist like Tune Yards.

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Russian Circles, photo courtesy the artists

What: Russian Circles w/Facs
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Russian Circles is an instrumental metal band from Chicago but it’s songs are more akin to post-rock in their use of mood and nuanced dynamic builds from spare tonal echoes to roilingly triumphant riffs that burst and rain down like ash following a volcanic eruption or like a dam bursting releasing a torrent of sonic water and debris. Its 2019 album Blood Year finds the band evoking ancient civilizations (“Kohokia”) and primal mythological imagery (“Hunter Moon” and “Ghost on High”). Opening the show is Chicago’s Facs. The latter is making the kind of post-rock that is more like some of the most experimental post-punk going now. Guitarist and vocalist Brian Case was once a member of weirdo math rock band 90 Day Men and experimental rock band Disappears. With Facs he and the rest of the band are pushing the creative envelope with song structure, texture and dynamics. That group’s 2019 EP Lifelike has a secure place on our year end best list for its chilling, cinematic soundscapes and gritty, stark, moody songwriting.

Best Shows in Denver 9/5/19 – 9/11/19

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Kristin Hersh band performs Tuesday, September 10 at the Hi-Dive, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | September 5

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Hot Snakes circa 2018 at the Oriental Theater, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Hot Snakes w/SPELLS
When: Thursday, 09.05, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: It would be too facile to cite biographical information about Hot Snakes at this point. Influential noise rock band from San Diego comprised of former/current members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, Pitchfork and Obits. Its shows are incendiary, its songs imbued with a dark yet dry sense of humor and its angular guitar rock also not short on dynamic grooves that seem too confrontational to work as unconventional dance music but don’t tell that to John Reis. The group is currently re-touring in support of its monumental 2018 album Jericho Sirens. If you go early to catch SPELLS, just think of them as an 80% version of Hot Snakes because that’s good enough. And other inside jokes that don’t work on the internet.

What: The 5.6.7.8s w/The Ghoulies and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: The 5.6.7.8s are a lively surf rock and rockabilly band from Japan who came to a larger public consciousness in the West after appearing in Kill Bill Vol. 1. The Ghoulies are a similarly-minded sorta rockabilly garage punk band and The Vanilla Milkshakes will make all the awkward jokes that desperately need to be made and break up the evening some with its well-crafted, outsider pop punk.

What: The Funs, Sweetness Itself, American Culture, Natural Violence
When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The Funs is a band from Illinois that combines a twee indie pop sensibility with a dream pop sound palette. Think Black Tambourine post-shoegaze. American Culture took the Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets thing and put it through an indie pop lens and listened to a bunch of Cure records and came up with something different but bearing the fingerprints of all of that in its sound and ethos. Natural Violence is Michael Stein’s (Homebody, School Knights) latest project. A kind of spindly, super refined post-punk pop band.

What: Mystic Wool, Arc Sol and Total Trash
When: Thursday, 09.05, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Arc Sol is former Silverface guitarist Michael Thompsons’s new band that somehow welds Neil Young-esque rock wih psychedelia without really sounding like he’s trying to be in the same lineage as any of that in the past decade and that’s impressive on its own. Total Trash is a Denver indie rock supergroup including former and current members of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Lil’ Slugger, Quantum Creep and Eyebeams. Mystic Wool’s synth compositions sound as though someone had to go on some prolonged retreat with no access to the internet and just a music player that had the Deerhunter discography, early Air albums, Candy Claws and Harmonia albums.

Saturday | September 7

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Mannequin Pussy, photo courtesy Epitaph

What: TEARS to LI6HT, Hate Minor and Claudzilla
When: Saturday, 09.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This show is a fundraiser for ProgressNow Colorado’s Keep Abortion Safe initiative and it will include sets from experimental electronic artist TEARS to LI6HT, experimental noise rock duo Hate Minor and Claudzilla’s melodica Goth strangeness.

What: Mannequin Pussy w/Destroy Boys and Ellis
When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Mannequin Pussy’s melodic punk is anthemic, emotionally raw and affecting. Like some sort of power pop band from the 80s with the expansive songwriting style and inventive dynamics but whose lyrics are soul searching and pointed but never cruel. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was full of joyful chaos exorcising trauma and sadness with bursts of sound and energy. The new record, 2019’s Patience, is more introspective but no less imbued with the radical vulnerability and personal insight that has made its music worth a deep listen from the beginning.

What: Audio Dream Sister, Whiskey Orphans, Austin Sterling
When: Saturday, 09.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Audio Dream Sister hasn’t played in a million years. Meaning maybe in half a decade or more or so it seams. The sludge rock band from Denver was a staple of the heavy rock and punk scene for years and its adept songwriting and psychedelic sensibilities set it apart from the “stoner rock” set of the day.

What: De La Soul w/DJ Mick
When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: De La Soul brought something a little strange to hip-hop when it came onto the scene in the 80s blending psychedelic rock aesthetics with weirdo funk and rap. It also used that perspective to examine social issues from a different angle and in its own way had as incisive a social critique as contemporaries like Public Enemy and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Sunday | September 8

 

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Old Sport circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: King Crimson
When: Sunday, 09.08, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: King Crimson was one of the earliest of the progressive/art rock bands to have emerged in the late 60s, incorporating classical music concepts and a sense of dramatic orchestration into ambitous rock songs. Its 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King set a creative high water mark for the progressive rock genre with imaginative lyrics and songwriting that employed musical chops with real creativity to write emotionally arresting songs like the title track and “21st Century Schizoid Man.” While guitarist Robert Fripp is the sole remaining original member he has been the musician in the band that has steered the ship consistently from the beginning through its various phases from the early sort of amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, classical and psychedelia through the experimental hard rock phase of the 2000s through to today.

What: King of Heck (NV), Endless, Nameless, Old Sport and Zephyr
When: Sunday, 09.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: King of Heck from Nevada is a “desert rock” band that sounds like it came up on a lot of Gravity Records bands, Fugazi, melodic post-hardcore and modern underground emo. Old Sport from Denver is a great blending of post-hardcore and noisy proto-alternative rock like Dinosaur Jr.

Monday | September 10

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight, Dancing Plague (OR), French Kettle Station and Luxury Hearse
When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A darkwave show at Seventh Circle with Denver’s shoegaze/post-punk/industrial synthesists Voight, EBM/dance Goth group Dancing Plague from Oregon, French Kettle Station and his animated 80s adult contemporary/avant-garde/New Wave music and Luxury Hearse’s beat driven ambient pop.

What: Hazel English w/Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hazel English is oft compared to another Oakland, California artist Day Wave. But one might just as well compare her hazy, bright dream pop to the work of Alvvays because it has a similarly wistful and expansive quality that gives one a sense of introspective yearning. Joining her on the bill is Denver indie pop group Modern Leisure. Singer Casey Banker has been crafting some of the more thoughtful and impassioned pop songs out of Denver for more than a decade and Modern Leisure is the continuation of his legacy.

Tuesday | September 10

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Silence in the Snow circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Kristin Hersh (electric trio) w/Fred Abong
When: Tuesday, 09.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kristin Hersh formed post-punk band Throwing Muses with Tanya Donelly in 1981 when both were fourteen years old. But that band went on to be one of the early alternative rock bands that helped to define the aesthetic of the UK record label 4AD with its emotionally powerful music and inventive songwriting. In that band and as a solo artist Hersh has used mythology and culture and her own struggles with mental illness to produce a body of work that is both startlingly intimate and imaginatively far reaching in scope. Her latest record, 2018’s Possible Dust Clouds draws on specific mythologies and personal history to deliver a set of songs that strikes deep emotional chords expressed with Hersh’s signature, textural voice and warmth as well as unconventional rhythms and guitar voicing. Somehow Hersh’s songs seem like manifestations of archetype and the forces of nature cooperating to speak eternal yet personal truth through her.

What: Silence in the Snow, Echo Beds, Blood Loss and Causer
When: Tuesday, 09.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Oakland’s Silence in the Snow sometimes comes off like a neo-darkwave band because it is but its root is an urgent post-punk akin to the likes of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and Xmal Deutschland. Its new record Levitation Chamber finds the band mixing ethereal guitar with high emotive vocals and deep, irresistible rhythms.

Best Shows in Denver 8/29/19 – 9/4/19

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Phonebooks (Colin Ward and Stephan Herrera L-R) circa 2010 at Rhinoceropolis. CRFW Benefit at Rhinoceropolis on August 29, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 29

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Cop Circles circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: DJ Fresh Kill, Earth Control Pill, Cop Circles and H-Lite
When: Thursday, 08.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This is a benefit show for the CRFW Fund which supports the body of work of the late Colin Ward and which “assists artists via grants and other means of support.” Ward would have turned 29 on this August 29 and the artists on the bill were friends and creative comrades of the artist and musician. A lot of high energy electronic dance music from DJ Fresh Kill and H-Lite, conceptual No Wave afrobeat post-disco from Cop Circles and the chill soundscaping of Earth Control Pill.

What: The Sugar Hill Gang w/Furious 5 and White Fudge & The Antagonist
When: Thursday, 08.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: For a lot of people The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap band. But hip-hop pre-dated that by some years beginning with the soundsystem parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc. The Sugar Hill Gang was probably the earliest, commercially successful rap group with its 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight.” Also on this bill is the Furious 5 who, with Grandmaster Flash, had been a pioneering hip-hop crew before The Sugar Hill Gang hit the charts. So this is a bit like getting to see some of the earliest days of hip-hop as we know it in one show.

Friday | August 30

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Paw Paw circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Meek, Future Scars, Kali Krone, Madelyn Burns
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Meek mixes live drums with 31G and-esque processed vocals and electronic beats for a result that’s somewhere between noise and industrial. But really not like much except for maybe, maybe, solo USAISAMONSTER minus guitar. Santa Fe’s Future Scars is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole except to say it’s a rock or a pop band but it has the cutting, hard hitting guitar drive of metal, the delicacy and texture of the most tender indie rock, the soaring vocals of some torch song pop and post-punk rhythmic drive. And that’s for one song. Other times, meditative, heavy drone with introspective melodies like Emma Ruth Rundle. Kali Krone’s dreamy slowcore seems about perfect for the swelter cool off. Madelyn Burns’ spooky singer-songwriter should appeal to fans of early Grouper.

What: Mutual Benefit w/Paw Paw and Card Catalog
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mutual Benefit’s moody, soundscape-y pop songs are like getting a glimpse into someone’s having processed some deep thinking and distilled it to the poetic essence of those collective feelings. Loosely in the realm of Americana but with some great sound collage in the songwriting. Paw Paw is the project of former Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop. Sort of ambient, sort of organic electronic pop, experimental solo guitar and synth songs to transport you to another, better place for a half an hour or so.

What: Nuancer LP release w/SSIIGGHH, Dr3aMC@$T, Larians and Andy AI
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Daniel DiMarchi is the genius bass player in the great dream pop band Tyto Alba and great indie rock band Oxeye Daisy. But part of what makes him a great bass player is his true ear for tonality and composition which he brings to his experimental electronic pop project Nuancer and this is the release show of I Hardly Know Her. Also on the bill is a rare show from Larians, the solo project of former Male Blonding guitarist/singer Noah Simons. Though a guitarist, Simons has long had an interest in left field and forward thinking electronic music like Burial and Larians is the manifestation of that interest. And tonight Larians releases the first EP Looming Boy. If Nicolas Jaar made trap it might sound something like that.

What: I Hate It Here, Causer, $addy, Eraserhead Fuckers and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The noise/heavy processed dance ambient/industrial show of the week. Granted the only one but heavy hitters like noise rapper Eraserhead Fuckers, hypnogogic environment sculptor Kid Mask and post-Goth ambient noise genius $addy alone make this a noteworthy lineup.

Saturday | August 31

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The Velveteers, photo by VOSSLING

What: The Velveteers UK tour kickoff w/Boot Gun, The Kinky Fingers and Bitter Suns
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers is a rock and roll trio from Denver whose live show is surprisingly powerful, forceful and grippingly emotional. The group is headed to the UK for a tour and this is the kickoff show with some of Denver’s other great, local, non-subgenre-specific rock bands including The Kinky Fingers who may be in the garage psych vein but its songwriting so tight and poignant it’s strikingly original.

What: To Be Astronauts, Meet the Giant, The Center and Bad Britton
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hard rock band To Be Astronauts is relasing its “Thoughts and Prayers” single tonight. Hard rock is a little generic a term. So yeah, in their sound you’ll hear a bit of industrial rock, grunge and anthemic punk without being stuck on any of that. And other like-minded bands are on the bill including Meet the Giant who, despite their ethereal and moody atmospheric rock gets heavy and driving often enough that they’ll fit in here.

Sunday | September 1

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

What: Molly Burch w/Jackie Cohen and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 09.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Molly Burch has the kind of classic pop voice that many try to imitate but few nail the cadence and tonality that she seems to do so effortlessly. Her songs are intricate and delicate but her poetic observations sharp and illuminating. Jackie Cohen taps into an earlier era of music but her sound is more like a strange strain out of ABBA and 60s girl groups. Bellhoss is in good company here with Becky Hostetler’s idiosyncratic storytelling and inventive guitar work somewhere betwixt Dinosaur Jr, Edith Frost and Joanna Newsom. Yeah, let’s go with that until a better description of this unique songwriter and performer comes to mind. Hostetler will also make all the charmingly awkward jokes on stage so you don’t have to.

What: The Wes Watkins (EP release) w/Dr3@m Ca$t and Snubluck
When: Sunday, 09.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wes Watkins is the brilliant trumpet player and vocalist whose talents have brought grace, cool and imagination to a broad swath of Denver music including his stint in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. But The Other Black, playing with poet, mystic, avant-garde hip-hop songwriter Bianca Mikahn, Wheelchair Sports Camp and others? His track record speaks for itself and tonight he’s releasing his new EP, a collection of jazz-inflected pop songs that seem to be streaming from a time in the future while sounding like it had to be recorded in the past putting Watkins out of time thus timeless, as seems appropriate for his soulful musical stylings.

Tuesday | September 3

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Shonen Knife circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shonen Knife w/Me Like Bees and Sexy Pistils
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Shonen Knife is the legendary Japanese punk bands whose roots go back to the late 70s when not many women were playing music in Japan much less in a punk band. Its songs are often about fanciful and mythical things but its songwriting is sharp, powerful and uplifting.

What: Holy Grove (PDX), DØNE (SLC, ex-SubRosa), and Shepherd
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: A kind of doom metal show including the latest project from former SubRosa drummer Andy Patterson, DØNE.

What: Ian Svenonius DJ set / Dream Wish of a Casino Soul Closing Party
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Philosopher, brilliant social commentator, media mogul and genius frontman (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, Chain and the Gang etc.) Ian Svenonius will hold court with one of his unique DJ sets for the closing party for the art exhibit Dream Wish of a Casino Soul.

Wednesday | September 4

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SunnO))) circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SunnO))) w/David Pajo and BIG BRAVE
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: SunnO))) creates such intense, dense frequencies and slow dynamics with, assuming Atilla Csihar will be on hand, otherworldly vocals that run a broad spectrum of tonality that your brain may work differently after the show. Calling it “extreme metal” just doesn’t cut it as it’s a truly ritualistic experience and so engulfing you feel like you’ve really been through something by the end. David Pajo is the iconic guitarist of Slint, The For Carnation and a host of other bands including a short stint in the death metal group Dead Child. His solo material runs a fairly wide range of sounds and emotions and as Papa M he recently toured with Mogwai. Not to be missed. BIG BRAVE is a cathartic collision of industrial, drone metal and emotional exorcism.

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Dorian, Hypnotic Turtle Radio DJ, Cabal Art
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday is the monthly musical showcase that lives up to its name and curated by Claudia Woodman. This time she will be performing in her persona of Gothsta and for this performance she says, “Gothsta covers goth songs on the melodica that have some link to climate change-related themes, because Gothsta is depressed about global warming. Gothsta will have some extra special content that has to do with the Amazon burning and will be joined by Hypnotic Turtle’s Diablo Montalban for dueling melodicas/improv along with noise loops generated for this performance.” It’s rare that anything lives up to hype like that but this show probably will.

Best Shows in Denver 5/23/19 – 5/29/19

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Spirit of the Beehive performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, May 25. Photo by Emily Burtner.

Thursday | May 23

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Onkilter 1 release: Church Fire, Data Rainbow, Felix Ayodele, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Offthesky, Otem Rellik & Patrick Lee followed by DJ Ilind
When: Thursday, 05.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Multidim is a Denver-based experimental electronic record label that recently released its debut compilation of some of the Mile High City’s most interesting and inventive projects. The compilation, as well as this showcase, will donate all proceeds to the non-profit Youth On Record, an organization whose mission is to provide at risk youth with music education from performance, composition, production and the business end of things as well.

What: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 3: Equine and Julien Miller
When: Thursday, 05.23, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series features guitar wizard Kevin Richards’ project Equine. By introducing left field methods, chord structures, signal manipulation and unconventional composition methods in general, Richards is pushing the frontier of the styles and sonics of guitar-base sound art.

What: Necromantic
When: Thursday, 05.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge
Why: Necromantic is an old school Goth DJ night with plenty of the best of the newer darkwave and industrial music mixed in. Each second and fourth Thursdays of every month you can partake of the evening’s main DJs as well as select guests to bring a little bit of that old Denver flavor back into downtown.

Friday | May 24

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Refused circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Hives and Refused w/Bleached
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Two power houses of punk and garage rock, Refused and The Hives respective, will make this a memorable night where you will probably be not just pleasantly surprised but inspired by the sheer energy and charisma of both bands. Refused in particular pioneered multiple genres of punk on its 1998 masterpiece The Shape of Punk to Come. Bleached includes former members of irreverent noise punks extraordinaire Mika Miko. And the group went through a phase of exploring various sounds before fully developing its knack for intimate pop songs with some bite, attitude and punk energy.

What: Tommy Wright III
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Tommy Wright III must be considered one of the early progenitors for the style of underground hip-hop that one hears echoing in the work of the various members and associates of A$AP, Odd Future and Migos. The creatively profane lyrics and subject matter of his songs, the lo-fi-but-deep production style with the finely treated loops as heard in so much modern trap is present in one form or another in Wright’s 90s output through today. This is a rare chance to see the legendary producer live in Denver and witness his mastery of outsider gangster rap up close and personal.

What: Cloud Rat, Gadget, Immortal Bird and 908
When: Friday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of a deathgrind show given Gadget from Sweden and Cloud Rat from Michigan are on the bill. 908 from Colorado Springs definitely fits into what will be a night of short, furious sets.

Saturday | May 25

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Rowboat, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slugger and Michael Thompson
When: Saturday, 05.25, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Wax Trax – Sidewalk outside
Why: Slugger is basically showing where psychedelic rock can go when the musicians focus on the songwriting over adhering to some style. Michael Thompson of Arc Sol will also perform a solo set of his songs informed by a broad range of unusual music.
What: LUTHI at Denver Day of Rock
When: Saturday, 05.25, 6-7 p.m.
Where: 16th Street Mall
Why: The Denver Day of Rock will have plenty of bands, local and otherwise, to see throughout the day and evening all along the 16th Street Mall. In the early evening you can catch LUTHI from Nashville, Tennessee. The seven-piece band perform music that’s a compelling blending of funk, downtempo pop and what might be called post-Daft Punk psychedelia. There’s some unusual X-factor about the band that keeps it well apart from “party” bands in general while also providing suitable music for a dance party.

What: Jello Biafra’s Incredibly Strange Dance Party
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Jello Biafra needs no introduction and this is an edition of his Incredibly Strange Dance Party where he’ll bring some of the most bizarre dance tracks to DJ at the Lion’s Lair and knowing Biafra he may even join in on the dancing, adding to the strangeness.

What: Spirit of the Beehive w/Strange Ranger, Cuckoo and Rowboat
When: Saturday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Spirit of the Beehive could be something like a light psych indie rock band but its aesthetic has a bit of a collage element and its songs sound out of phase with the contemporary world and its sometimes ennervating cultural climate. It’s music is a side step into spaces more dreamlike and mysterious. The rock instruments integrating perfectly with the warping and wefting electronic compositions is beautifully disorienting. In 2018 the band released Hypnic Jerks, a title and songs suggesting the band is coming at the world from a different angle than a lot of people. Like Unknown Mortal Orchestra but more grounded in American 90s weirdo indie pop.

What: Lav Andula, Asymptote, I Hate It Here, Causer and Tepid
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of experimental techno and noise including the debut of Tepid, the solo project of Voight’s Nick Salmon.

Sunday | May 26

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Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #3; Shocker Mom, Space Geist and DJ Vahco
When: Sunday, 05.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Shibui Denver is a monthly event last Sundays of the month at Mutiny Information Café. It’s designed to start and end early and aims to showcase some of the best Denver underground acts and the occasional touring band that fits the format of being a little different. Tonight’s featured guests are Shocker Mom, Robin Walker’s ambient beat driven pop act whose album >^^< will be included in our much belated Favorite Albums of 2018 listing. Walker has been a prolific songwriter and collaborator in Denver as a solo artist under her given name, while a member of indie pop duo Cougar Pants, in hip-hop outfit Nighttimeschoolbus, sitting in with rapper Time and folk pop artist Jason Horodyski. Vahco Before Horses heads Glasss Records through which he boosts, produces and finds spaces to showcase the music of some of Denver’s most forward thinking underground artists. This night he will DJ Denver bands and several from the Glasss Roster. Space Geist is a solo guitar band in which riffs will be looped and manipulated in post to produce, with any luck, disorienting tones and rhythms.

What: Alien Weaponry w/Dreadnought and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Sunday, 05.26, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alien Weaponry is a band from Waipu, New Zealand. While operating somewhat in the realm of melodic thrash its lyrics are often in Maori because its three members are of that extraction and it suits the music in a way for which English sometimes seems inadequate. Opening the show are psychedelic doom folk band Dreadnought and heavy ambient noise/industrial dark psychedelic band Palehorse/Palerider also from the Mile High City.

Tuesday | May 28

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Sebadoh, photo by Justin Pizzoferrato

What: Sebadoh w/Flower and Race to Neptune
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sebadoh didn’t invent lo-fi rock but in the early 90s it helped to chart the direction much of that style of music would go by incorporating field recordings alongside off the cuff recording and an emphasis on feeling over precise capture of “professional” fidelity in the studio. Naturally the band went on to take that aesthetic into actual recording studios but the spirit of play and fidelity to emotional honesty and spontaneous energy remained. Currently Sebadoh is touring in support of its newly released record Act Surprised. Flower was and is now again from New York City that in the 80s reflected the city of legend and its mixture of evolving Bohemian subcultures, melting pot ethnicity, gritty urban decay, a sense of possibilities and the avant-garde alongside emerging popular culture. Musically that meant Flower was well within the realm of post-punk at the time. It wasn’t so far in the past that The Ramones, Patti Smith Group, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Suicide and countless others had built the foundation of what punk could be and even less far back since the bands that emerged out of that milieu, directly inspired by it in various ways like the No Wave groups, Sonic Youth, SWANS, Live Skull, Bush Tetras, Arthur Russel, Liquid Liquid, ESG, The Lounge Lizards and other unfortunately less-well-known bands that made up the ecosystem of the New York underground. Flower formed in 1986 while Richard Balulyut was still in college and its sound fit into the rich diversity of the then NYC scene. The group split in 1990 soon after which Balulyut and two of his brothers formed indie/alternative rock band Versus which went on to some acclaim in the 90s. The latter band reconvened in 2017 and it dawned on Balulyut that he could write new music in the more post-punk, some might now say darkwave, style of Flower and now the band is on tour in support of its new material and there’s a better than half a chance you’ll get to see some of its older material live as well.

What: Closet Witch, Law of the Night and Bi-Proxy
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kind of a grind-y hardcore night including a set from Closet Witch from southeast Iowa. Molly Piatetsky’s feral vocals are something to witness.

Update: This show was combined with another at Syntax Physic Opera at 8 p.m. with a line up that is now Full of Hell, Primitive Man, Genocide Pact, In The Company of Serpents and Closet Witch.

Wednesday | May 29

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Skeletonwitch, photo by Nico Poalillo

What: Sleep w/Big Business
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Sleep is one of the most influential bands out of the world of doom metal. Though its sound was lumped in with “stoner rock,” which seems apt seeing as it’s until recently latest album was called Dopesmoker comprised of a single track over an hour long. Its psychedelic, towering drones live up to the hype as do the more concise songs, like those on the 1992’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain. Sleep is almost as heavy as it gets and its high volume show as engulfing as you would hope for. Big Business is a sludge rock band well suited to the bill. The members of the band were part of The Melvins for around a decade and recently released a new record. The Beast You Are is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.

What: Skeletonwitch w/Soft Kill and Wiegedood
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Skeletonwitch has been perfecting and then evolving its technical melodic death metal sound since its inception in 2003. Its latest record, 2018’s Devouring Radiant Light finds the band bringing in even more unconventionally atmospheric elements into its brutal and unrelenting soundscape. All while maintaining the dark imagery and animalistic, distorted vocals like they are telling stories of a mythical past in our current impending, post-apocalypse after climate change has cleansed the earth of much of human civilization.

Best Shows in Denver 04/25/19 – 05/01/19

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Interpol headlines Red Rocks on May 1.image courtesy Matador Records website

Thursday | April 25

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Starjammer, photo courtesy Squidds Madden

Who: Starjammer featuring Kuf Knotz
When: Thursday, 04.25, 4 p.m. – ?
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer, the avant-garde dub reggae one-man/device band, will be playing two sets tonight in phases like a rocket launch. The Launch Pad Prep runs from 4-7 and the Late Night Lift Off starts at 9 and runs until the musical equivalent of escape velocity is reached. Or at least until you have to leave whether you want to or not.

Who: Bowshock and El Tigr3
When: Thursday, 04.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records includes Bowshock, the experimental improv psych jazz reggae band.

Who: Stop Motion EP release w/Ramakhandra, Fresh Fruit!
When: Thursday, 04.25, 7
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | April 26

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The Yawpers circa 2018, photo by Michael Passman

Who: The Yawpers release of Human Question w/In the Whale and Fast Eddie
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Yawpers have been writing solid, rough around the edges, southern fried punk rock and roll for years. While earlier releases honestly cataloged singer Nate Cook’s headlong dive into desperation and self-destruction, Human Question, with the image of an immolating figure walking out of the fields into the forest on the cover, is more introspective and taking into consideration a subject as the title suggests—what is the purpose and significance of living in the world as a creature fully capable of being self-aware, reflective and capable of extremes of behavior and of consciously choosing a path other than the most immediate and obvious. The record is a collection of rockers but, especially with the single “Carry Me,” The Yawpers prove that they are capable of more than rocking and that even at the root of that is a raw and nuanced cauldron of emotion and now more an ability to write from a place beyond primal urges with a finely tuned discernment as articulated with fiery displays of musical and poetic catharsis.

Who: Superorganism w/Simpson
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Originating in London, Superorganism is an international, multi-ethnic indie pop band whose members met through various internet channels and mutual friends. Its sound might be described as electronic music pitched to sound like something made using unorthodox, highly tactile instruments. In some ways the group’s 2018 self-titled debut is reminiscent of Kala-period M.I.A. with its fusion of styles and sounds and strong visual element to its performances.

What: PRF BBQ Day 1
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: This is a three day music festival featuring some of the better Denver underground bands. On this night you can catch Dead Characters, New Standards Men, Modern Goon and Clutch Plague.

Who: Lotus
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Certainly Lotus’ fan base is largely comprised of those with a love of all things jam band. And Lotus’ free flowing groove and sprawling improvisations fit in that pocket as well. But there’s something more experimental to the band’s music slightly beneath the surface. Its 2018 album Frames Per Second showcases this well with unusual jazz structures and dynamics, moody bass lines, vocal processing, playful and colorful synth work. Like the inevitable musical offspring of Steely Dan and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lotus sounds like a band with chops playing fairly straightforward yet intricate grooves but there is a layer of subversiveness to keep it interesting beyond technical flourishes.

Who: Murs w/DJ Eps, Locksmith, Cojo and AstroGrizz
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Who: Cactus Blossoms w/Jack Klatt
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Outrun presents Final Wave
When: Friday, 04.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hyperspace Arcade

Saturday | April 27

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Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lotus w/Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans
When: Saturday, 04.27, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: If Lotus wasn’t responsible for this line-up directly, someone somewhere put together a great bill of bands who share a similar sensibility in adventurous electronic music suited to a large stage format.
What: DMX w/DJ Chonz
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Weird Touch
When: Saturday, 04.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s one of many hip DJ nights probably more focused on indie releases than average that we’re fortunate to have in Denver.

What: The North Ensemble
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Trident
Why: An avant-garde improvisational show in the back room/outdoors area in the back of Trident. Boulder likes to act like it’s weird but stuff like this is the rare occasion when it is in a productive way.

What: PRF BBQ Day 2
When: Saturday, 04.27, 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Simulators will rip your face off with their angular noise rock and when Moon Pussy finishes the process with its cybernetic psychedelic post-punk you will be glad you went unless you’re into safe, boring music. The other bands are probably worth it too. Schedule below.

430 – 500 – Simulators
515 – 545 – The Oxford Coma
600 – 630 – Moon Pussy
645 – 715 – Laurium
Food break
815 – 845 – Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends
9 – 930 – Hooper
945 – 1015 Sewingneedle
1030 – Future Scars

Sunday | April 28

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La Dispute, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: La Dispute w/Gouge Away and Slow Mass
When: Sunday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe it’s because Jordan Dreyer was a writer before ever making music. Maybe it’s because La Dispute’s take on post-hardcore and emo isn’t tied to the usual sounds and progressions. Sure you can hear bits of the influence of At The Drive-In and Refused but on another level the band’s music sounds like a heavier Bright Eyes or even Slint—that sense of desolation and desperation. Also on this bill/tour are two other bands within the realm of punk that are a bit different yet share some of the same sensibilities with Gouge Away, a band that combines an atmospheric heaviness with eruptive energy and an unexpectedly forceful frontperson in Christina Michelle. Slow Mass is one of the better bands out there that has fused emotionally taut math rock with fluid post-hardcore.

What: Shibui Denver #2 – Victoria Lundy and Blank Human
When: Sunday, 04.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver avant-garde veteran Victoria Lundy may play some of her classical material on Theremin or some of her spookier faire with the same as well as synth. Blank Human is a drone/ambient project from Dan Coleman also of Luxury Hearse.

What: PRF BBQ Day 3
When: Sunday, 04.28, 4 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Final evening of PRF BBQ including a performance from glam/psych post-punk stars Teacup Gorilla.

400 – 430 – Flowlines
445 – 515 – 50 Miles of Elbow Room
530 – 600 – Little Beards
615 – 645 – Falsetto Boy
Food break
745 -815 – Church Van
830 – 900 – Teacup Gorilla
915 – 945 – Purple Honey
1000 – The Gary

What: Sabroso Taco Fest: The Offspring, Bad Religion, The Vandals, Black Flag, Strung Out, Dwarves
When: Sunday, 04.28, 12 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Kind of a craft beer and taco event with some of the more well-known names in punk. One of the few chances to see Greg Ginn perform with the new version of Black Flag. No matter one’s opinion on that matter, Ginn is always startlingly impressive with the material.

Monday | April 29

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Beach Fossils, photo by Evan Tetreault

Who: Beach Fossils w/George Clanton
When: Monday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Beach Fossils is from Brooklyn but capture a more West Coast breeziness in its melancholic surf pop confections. Unlike artists mining similar territory, Beach Fossils’ songwriting in its emotional colorings. That Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell contributed to the group’s 2017 album Somersault gives the direction Beach Fossils have been going some cachet by lending some of her low key yet evocatively powerful vocals to the record. George Clanton brings his lush, IDM-esque, deeply atmospheric electronic pop along for this leg of the tour as well.

Tuesday | April 30

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Bayonne, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Who: Bayonne and Palm Daze
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Roger Sellers as Bayonne uses minimalist layers of texture-as-percussion and simple melodies to craft atmospheric pop that recalls late 2000s chillwave and its capacity to seemingly dispel anxiety and angst. His latest record, 2019’s Drastic Measures, should be on anyone’s short list for summer listening and to save for the winter months when it seems like warmer times are a distant memory.

What: Ambigere (WA), Causer, Paranoid Preacher and Emotional Calcification
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: The noise show for the week.

What: Sage Francis & B. Dolan: Epic Beard Men and Vockah Redu and Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Sage Francis and B. Dolan, two giants alternative hip-hop and superb lyricists, are touring in their collaborative alternate personas Epic Beard Men. The masterful phrasing won’t be in short supply tonight with Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp and its jazz and beats rooted offerings.

What: Santigold w/Naeem 
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

What: The 1975, Pale Waves and No Rome — canceled
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

Wednesday | May 1

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Lil Pump, photo by Gabe Shaddow

Who: Interpol w/Car Seat Headrest, Japanese Breakfast and Sunflower Bean
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Interpol could just tour on the strength of its fan base and pick some weird music industry management openers (and maybe that is part of this booking) but instead the post-punk stars are having three of the best indie rock bands opening the show. Between Car Seat Headrest’s lo-fi, emotionally raw math rock, Sunflower Bean’s driving, brooding post-punk and Japanese Breakfast’s highly imaginative and powerful guitar rock soundscaping the opening sets alone are worth the price of admission but then you get to see Interpol whose back catalog has held up better than that of many of its peers from the late 90s and early 2000s.

What: Lil Pump w/Lil Skies
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lil Pump turned 18 last August so expecting wisdom and thoughtfulness even on his 2019 album Haverd Dropout might be a bit much. He’s got a long way to go before his mumble trap is in the same league as Migos or his raps and performance in the same realm as Vince Staples or anyone in the A$AP crew or Odd Future. But it’s obvious he’s borrowed a lot from all of them. Nevertheless, Lil Pump is likeable enough despite his deficits and as he grows as an artist and as a human hopefully he’ll grow in more interesting and original directions so that the implicit faith that collaborators like Kanye West, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz put in his sophomore album. It’s clear Pump is a weirdo so with any luck he’ll embrace that side of himself and give us a third album on which he truly lets his freak flag fly.

What: Weird Wednesday: Orbiting Olympia, Elk Minister, Tears to Light
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Weird Wednesday this month features Orbiting Olympia which is a grand alchemy of Eve Orenstein’s opera training and Sean Faling’s mastery of synthesizers both analog and otherwise. Elk Minister is a multi-instrumentalist, self-styled mystic and songwriter who has been sitting on his material for years. His visual presentation on his social media accounts look like he’s come back from some junkyard holy site with the appropriate twenty-third century raiment.

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Lizzo, photo by Luke Gilford

What: Lizzo w/Tayla Parx
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The show is sold out but if you can get in you can catch rising hip-hop/pop star Lizzo before she starts playing much larger venues (like her October date in Denver at the Fillmore) from now on. Her 2019 album Cuz I Love You has the kind of frisson that sounds, at times and certainly the “Juice” single, like something that might have come out of a late 70s-period Studio 54 playlist. Except not dated. And across the record Lizzo shows off her chops as a vocalist of great emotional power and a songwriter with a keen ear for dynamics. Fans of Prince are well-advised to give Lizzo’s new album a deep listen because it’s worth it.

What: Ben Kweller w/Mainman and Modern Love Child
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake