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 2/21/20 – 2/25/20

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt performs at Bluebird Theater on February 23, photo by Beto Barkmo

Friday | February 21

Stonefield1
Stonefield, photo courtesy the band

What: Kyle Emerson w/Turvy Organ, Panther Martin and Crystal Seth
When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. Tonight he shares the bill with stars of the local indie rock milieu in Turvy Organ and Panther Martin.

What: Stonefield w/Pink Fuzz, SSIIGGHH
When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Amy, Hannah, Holly and Sarah Findlay are four sisters that formed the hard psychedelic rock band Stonefiled in 2006 in Darraweit Guim in Victoria, Australia. Its early offerings (for example Through the Clover) were in the realm of 70s boogie rock with hints of the psychedelia that would characterize their later songwriting. By the time of 2019’s Bent, the group hasn’t shed its infectious tunefulness but its overall sound is much heavier, brimming with expertly sculpted melodic fuzz and at times bordering on a fusion of Krautrock and early 2000s stoner rock. Fans of Stereolab, Trans Am and Hawkwind will find a lot to like about this latest incarnation of the band’s evolution.

What: Jack Wright/Ben Wright+Michael O’Neill/Ryan Seward, New Standards Men, Ryan McRyhew and Chris Culhane
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of avant-garde jazz, improvisational experimental rock and analog synth composition.

What: Tonguebyte (EP release) w/Paul Maul, Cagemates and CFX Project
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Saturday | February 22

EzraFurman_JessicaLehrma2
Ezra Furman, photo by Jessica Lehrman

What: Ezra Furman w/Kelley Stoltz
When: Saturday, 2.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ezra Furman’s 2019 album Twelve Nudes is a lush yet somehow lo-fi collection of songs filled with raw emotion and experiences presented with a startling honesty couched in the sound of some 1960s girl group sound fused with fuzzy garage rock production. It’s a fascinating and bracing listen that gets past your filters before the impact of what you’re hearing hits you and the experience awakens you to the playful weightiness of Furman’s songwriting.

What: Shadows Tranquil, Emerald Siam, Midwife and Ophelia Drowning
When: Saturday, 2.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Dark, shoegaze-y post-punk band Shadows Tranquil performs this night with the brooding yet transcendent Emerald Siam, Midwife’s riveting, ethereal, tender, intimate soundscapes and Danish dungeon synth project Ophelia Drowning.

What: Kendra & The Bunnies
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kendra & The Bunnies brings an unconventional and disarming creativity and sensitivity to a folk psychedelia that seems out of place and out of time. When so many modern indie bands are still mining Laurel Canyon, Kendra & The Bunnies tapped slightly into the vibe of Northern California hippies and made it their own.

What: Cyclo-Sonic, Joy Subtraction and The Pollution
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 1010 Workshop
Why: Cyclo-Sonic is comprised of veterans of Denver’s great second era of punk in the 80s with former members of The Fluid, The Frantix, Rok Tots and The Choosey Mothers. Which would mean not much if the band wasn’t any good but it turns out that the band’s leftfield reinterpretation of melodic proto-punk and garage is shockingly vital and compelling. Joy Subtraction came out of the more arty end of punk inspired by the likes of Alice Donut and Nomeansno. The Pollution is an unlikely merging of psychedelic prog and punk.

What: Bernstock 2020: Innerspace, False Report, Castele, Lungburn, Rotten Reputation and Wall of the Fallen
When: Saturday, 2.22, 5 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Local Denver punk and hardcore bands come together for a fundraiser to benefit the only candidate in the Democratic race to run against Trump that fully embraces a pro-working class agenda and grassroots democracy.

What: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Colfax Speed Queen and Pout House
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Sorted #12: Objekt and Pariah
When: Saturday, 2.22, 10 p.m.
Where: TBA

Sunday | February 23

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt, photo by Beto Barkmo

What: Shibui Denver #10: Fern Roberts and Red Wing Black Bird
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of Shibui Denver will feature darkwave project Red Wing Black Bird and the latest band from former Emerald Siam and Light Travels Faster bassist Todd Spriggs, Fern Roberts.

What: Chastity Belt w/Nanami Ozone and Hugh F
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chastity Belt has been on a great run of seeming to reinvent its aesthetic over the past two or three records. Its 2019 self-titled record has seemingly shed whatever influences informed its earlier work in favor of a more introspective, dream pop-esque, borderline post-punk aesthetic but rooted in a sophisticated expression of emotional complexity, the kind that only comes with processing loss whether personally, or of one’s place in the world or of one’s community or feeling lost in a world where things seem upended and your place in it seems tentative. Who can say is the reason for this change but it is the group’s finest offering to date in its ability to evoke feelings that a more straight ahead rock and roll songwriting style struggles to articulate.

What: Kendra & The Bunnies
When: Sunday, 2.23, 4-6 p.m.
Where: The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland 4-6 p.m.

What: Standards, Floral, How to Think and Birdhouse View
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Dweezil Zappa Hot Rats Live + Other Hot Stuff 1969
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Monday | February 24

What: Hannibal Buress w/Al Jackson and Tony Trimm
When: Monday, 2.24, 10”:15 p.m.
Where: Denver Comedy Works
Why: This is a free pop up comedy event featuring Hannibal Buress whose sharp, surreal comedy takes aim at the ridiculousness of modern life and odd ideas we all take for granted. He has also appeared in film and numerous television shows including brilliant turns on the Eric Andre Show and Broad City. For tickets signup/rsvp @ www.hannibalburess.com also text 312-584-5839 for a chance at tickets.

Tuesday | February 25

CEREMONY_RickRodney1
Ceremony, photo by Rick Rodney

What: American Nightmare w/Ceremony
When: Tuesday, 2.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: American Nightmare is a legit hardcore band in the modern mold. Ceremony was right there with them, though having formed in 2006 during American Nightmare’s hiatus from 2004-2011. But around the time of Ceremony’s 2012 album Zoo its sound if not its raw, confrontational energy as a live band was changing. Hints of a shift from hardcore into something more experimental was all over that record and by the time of The L-Shaped Man from 2015, Ceremony was a post-punk band. Its latest album, In the Spirit World Now has expanded the use of synths in the band’s overall sound has morphed even further in the direction of dance-y darkwave like Devo if that band had somehow emerged following the post-punk revival of the late 90s and early 2000s.