The Ghost of Helags use a beat like the electronic equivalent of a fast pace tambourine strike to set the pace of “Looking For Mary” and it gives the synthpop song a character like you’re hearing an old psychedelic folk song. But the swelling synth melody and sustained keyboard chords have a brightness and uplifting quality reminiscent of Chromatics or an early OMD song and imbued with a similar sense of romanticism in a song that appears to be about finding or rediscovering one’s sense of wonder and ability to cast aside the forces that would erode and eclipse one’s passions and light. Listen to “Looking For Mary” on Spotify and follow The Ghost of Helags at the links below.
Friday | 06.03 What:Scream Screen: Sisters w/Quits When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Theresa Mercado is hosting her latest Scream Screen series this month with various bands opening the proceedings. Tonight it’s Brian De Palma’s 1972 psychological horror film Sisters starring future Lois Lane from the 1978 Superman movie. Opening are local noise rock legends Quits and their eruptive, cathartic and always riveting live show. Will be strange to see this in the front of the theater at Sie Film Center so that would be worth going to see alone.
Saturday | 06.04 What:Five Points Jazz Festival When: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. Where: Various Venues Why: It’s free and you can catch a bevy of local and some non-local modern jazz greats like Buckner Funken Jazz, Denver Jazz Trio, Five Points Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Annie Booth Sextet, Ron Ivory and Suite ti and Las Luces featuring educator and local avant-garde jazz legend Joshua Trinidad.
Saturday | 06.04 What: Fear w/The Potato Pirates and Cease Fire https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/417884 When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Rescheduled from NYE 2021. FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving having turned 72 in 2022 this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.
Sunday | 06.05 What:Tomberlin w/Jana Horn When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tomberlin’s new record, her second, i don’t know who needs to hear this… (2022) is like an atmospheric jazz pop record with her vocals at the center and a truly imaginative soundscape ghosting into the background to haunt the spare beat and minimal instrumentation. If the songwriter’s sound and style can be lumped into the broadly clumsy umbrella of folk it’s more in the vein of artists who made liberal use of field recordings but in this case it’s more like taking an interest in a sound and a sample like one might if one were a hip-hop or electronic music artist looking to give a beat some character and unconventional emotional resonance. Tomberlin’s vocals are of course the usual strong but gentle flavor one would hope for but she always seems to find a way to use it guide he mood while syncing with the rhythm in ways that keep the vibe fresh and evocative.
Tuesday | 06.07 What: Blackwater Holylight w/Spirit Mother and Keefduster When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Much in a similar way that SubRosa brought a tribal, deeply atmospheric, psychedelic sensibility to heavy music, Blackwater Holylight takes some of the grit and heft of doom but lightens in with broad atmospheric and moody vistas of sound. Its 2021 album Silence/Motion includes a nice element of the electronic so that it sounds like it could and should be a soundtrack to the next Panos Cosmatos film. But there’s nothing kitsch about Blackwater Holylight. Denver’s Keef Duster will bring its own flavor of psychedelic doom/space rock to open the show with former Dirty Few singer Kim Phat bringing some entrancing melodies into the mix.
Wednesday | 06.08 What:Failure w/sneak peek at Failure documentary When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Failure got started in the early era of what came to be called alternative rock having founded in 1990 in Los Angeles right before the glam metal that seemed ubiquitously popular tanked in the next two years once early alternative rock bands like Jane’s Addiction helped to popularize music that had been in the underground with its successful Lollapalooza tour subverted the record industry. Failure enjoyed some of the fallout of that time but its own music didn’t exactly fit in with trendy styles and sounds. It had a hard rock edge, an art rock ambition in the songwriting and atmospheric sensibilities that some might have associated with shoegaze or space rock but very much its own flavor. Its mid-90s albums Magnified (1994) and Fantastic Planet (1996) showed how you could meld heavy, monolithic, deeply dynamic sounds with blissful melodies in a way that had a cinematic quality that the band members would bring to the more sound design approach to composition it would perfect when it reunited in 2013 after a six year hiatus. Since that reconvening it might be argued that Failure has been releasing the best music of its career with its sublimely dark dissonance and nuanced emotional palette including its 2021 album Wild Type Droid. For this show you will get a preview of the forthcoming documentary about the band due out in 2023 featuring interviews with the broad array of artists (not all musical) who have been impacted by Failure’s particular brand of sonic magic.
Thursday | 06.09 What:Insane Angel, Grunkster, Sell Farm, French Kettle Station When: 9 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Insane Angel is an unusual amalgam of jazz, indie pop and folk and includes members of Horn Horse and Palberta. Grunkster is kind of like a lo-fi IDM/glitch pop project. Sell Farm is hard to quantify easily but has been part indiepop, part dub, part cavernous industrial in the Godflesh vein minus the metallic aspects. French Kettle Station is an eclectic artist whose output runs a broad range of ideas and aesthetics though one might hear in his work aspects of New Age pop, glitchcore, ambient, post-rock and croony classic pop and always an energetic, commanding performance.
Thursday | 06.09 What: Black Angels w/Dion Lunadon When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Before being thoroughly associated with modern psychedelic rock and even long after, The Black Angels from Austin, TX were early adopters of blurring all lines between early psychedelic rock, Krautrock, shoegaze, freak folk and noise rock. And to this day its body of work endures because they have always been one of the best practitioners of modern psych including advocating for other artists with its formerly annual (currently on hiatus) Austin Psych Fest, one of the most astutely curated festivals of the modern era. Dion Lunadon spent a decade playing in and writing songs with A Place to Bury Strangers but is releasing his first solo album since leaving APTBS in 2020 with Beyond Everything due out June 10, 2022 on In the Red Records. Early singles promise a driving, noisy psychedelic rock album with the dynamic flourishes that Lunadon brought so masterfully to APTBS and The D4.
Friday | 06.10 What:Hex Casette album release, Church Fire, eHpH and Pink Lady Monster When: 7 p.m. Where: Jester’s Palace Why: For a handful of years Hex Cassette has been crafting and refining his style of confrontational industrial dance pop music and in the past year or two he started to become known in the underground for highly energetic performances informed by a darkly playful sense of humor. For this show he’s releasing his new album Pomegranate Death, a collection of songs that fans of M83 and TR/ST will appreciate for the immersive melodies and underlying hopeful mood even as many of the songs are about death and overcoming personal challenges to embrace a vital life. And sure Hex Cassette is one of the most exciting of the newer projects in the Denver underground but for this album release/tour kick off show, Hex Cassette has invited spirited and political industrial dance, synth pop heroes Church Fire whose own shows are cathartic and deeply emotional without skimping on the enthusiasm and energy to balance out the sense of despair and melancholic mood that is part of some of its material honoring loss and recognizing elements of our culture hostile to the the very existence and dignity of people that don’t fit into a very conservative view of mainstream society. There is also eHpH, the EBM/industrial band whose own music takes aim at fascism and authoritarian impulses in American culture and whose evocative soundscapes and irresistible rhythms have made it a staple in local darkwave circles for several years. Former Corda Vera front person Simone Fohrman has been at her solo project Pink Lady Monster since 2020 with its blend of dream pop and indie rock with an experimental flourish in the production and signal processing.
Friday | 06.10 What: Ambar Lucid w/Miki Ratsula When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Ambar Lucid taught herself to play piano, guitar and ukulele and took in YouTube videos to work on her vocal technique. And her output of music since 2019 reflects that generation of pop artists that isn’t defined by narrow conventions of the art form. In her sound and production you hear the R&B influence, her Latin music roots, the influence of hyper pop and perhaps forward thinking artists like Charli XCX. It’s a pure fusion of styles and aesthetics she has made her own as evidenced by her 2020 album Garden of Lucid and her new single “girl ur so pretty.” Lucid’s own life sounds like something from a movie as her father was deported to Mexico when she was 8 years old and she didn’t see him or her sister until ten years later. Which speaks to issues of immigration and how the laws surrounding that have a direct impact on people and their families and the intimate knowledge of which is part of why the songwriter has been such an active advocate for immigrants’ rights. Sharing the bill with Lucid is non-binary pop songwriter Miki Ratsula whose R&B infused songs with colorful and evocative music videos are in themselves an act of resistance to prejudice in being so appealing and imaginative in making everyday life for a non-binary person seem like what it is—normal and not short on joy and fulfillment in ways that are accessible to anyone. Miki’s March 2022 debut album i owe it to myself is filled with ample examples of the aforementioned.
Friday | 06.10 What:Scream Screen: Madhouse w/Weathered Statues When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This edition of Scream Screen will give you a chance to see in a theater Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 slasher Madhouse in which one sister is stalked by her psychotic twin. The film was included on the “video nasty” list in its day and banned in the 1980s in the UK. Opening will be local post-punk/Xmal Deutschland-esque band Weathered Statues.
Saturday | 06/11 What:Sunflower Bean w/Liily When: 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: When Sunflower Bean started garnering a national audience after the release of its debut album Human Ceremony in 2016 it seemed as though the band’s fusion of post-punk and shoegaze aimed it in a particular musical direction but since then up to and including its 2022 album Headful of Sugar the trio has embraced its knack for pop songcraft and hooks. The new record showcases a band able to write coolly sultry R&B-inflected songs that fit in with its own history of lushly atmospheric songs that can be not just melancholically evocative but subtly cathartic. If one were into overblown comparisons for the song “Who Put You Up To This?” it’s like hearing Cocteau Twins after they sequestered themselves in a studio and only listened to Delfonics and Marvin Gaye for a few months before writing their next record.
Saturday | 06.11 What:Big Head Todd and the Monsters w/Violent Femmes When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Todd Park Mohr is bar none the most prominent Colorado musician of Asian ancestry and his band Big Head Todd and The Monsters have been crafting a respectable body of work that blends rock, folk, alternative rock and jazz with an ear for improvisational flourishes. Starting in Boulder in 1984 the group really pulled together a solid set of songs for its 1990 second album Midnight Radio. Reworking its best song “Bittersweet” for its 1993 release Sister Sweetly the group hit upon a formula that took it from prominent local band to platinum selling act whose music was prominent on radio for the rest of the decade. And since the 90s Big Head Todd has been releasing worthwhile albums if you’re into blues rock bordering on jam band folk rock. Opening the show is long time college rock cult band Violent Femmes whose music became a staple of alternative radio since the early 80s with its 1983 self-titled debut with every track more or less a classic of a world of music upon which alternative rock in the 1990s was built. Beyond the eccentric and brilliant songwriting part punk, part folk and part outsider music Violent Femmes have long been one of the great live bands of, yes, American music and would be worth going to see for this show alone but you get to see two greats of the alternative era.
Saturday | 06.11 What:Still Corners w/Foxes in Fiction When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: UK dream pop band Still Corners create warmly contemplative songs with a dusky soulfulness that has translated well from its early very ethereal, shoegaze-y material to its more countrified 2021 album The Last Exit and its imagery of open vistas in the American west. Not quite in the realm of Chromatics in its evocation of Lynchian noir but like something inspired by a romantic version of a Jonathan Demme slice of working class Americana.
Saturday and Sunday | 06.11 and 06.12 What: Purity Ring w/EKKSTACY When: 8 p.m. and 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom and Boulder Theater Why: Purity Ring’s production style established firmly on its 2012 debut album Shrines has proven incredibly influential on modern electronic pop and hip-hop. Its own amalgamation of dream pop, hip-hop and witch house is otherworldly and transporting and in its music you can hear the future of forms of electronic music like hyper pop and glitchcore because Purity Ring has already been there and moved on to other realms of soundscaping and the crafting of emotionally resonant sounds, textures and dynamics. Having worked with Danny Brown and Katy Perry, the duo’s stylistic flexibility has resulted in albums brimming concepts and sound design elements rendered as coherent songs that are sure to be tapped for years to come. Its live show is more theatrical and unusual that one might expect as the group uses devices to control sound and lighting that it had to make itself so the presentation is always compellingly unconventional.
Sunday | 06.12 What:Everclear w/Fastball and The Nixons When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Before singles from the 1995 Everclear album Sparkle and Fade made the band stars of later era alterative rock singer and primary songwriter Art Alexakis had already been through the ups and downs of being a musician, drug addiction and parenthood and was in his mid-30s to late 30s when his band took off, breaking many stereotypes of musical success. Songs like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “Everything to Everyone” were all but ubiquitous on Top 40 radio and stations with alternative rock heavy playlists. But inside all of those songs were nuggets of wisdom and a raw honesty that was suffused in the band’s live performances. By the turn of the century Everclear didn’t enjoy the commercial popularity it once had and key members of the band had departed by 2003 but Alexakis has continued on doing what he does best: write meaningful songs that shed light on the human condition with wit, humor and compassion. One record that has gone by the wayside was the group’s fantastic 1993 debut album World of Noise which is being reissued in 2022 and for the first time on vinyl in the fall. People who only know the band from its hits may be surprised with how raw and vital it is like something you might expect from an early grunge or punk band of that time but also with Alexakis’ gift for an ear worm hook. Celebrating the re-issue of the record Everclear is touring with other late alternative rock bands Fastball and The Nixons for a billing of bands who experienced their greatest success in the 90s but who remain potent live acts.
Sunday | 06.12 What: Dragon Drop, Cau5er, sororityboy, Juniordeer and sintax When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: If you were to pick one show to go see some of the best and most imaginative underground electronic artists from Denver in the vein of hyper pop, industrial noise and glitch pop this would be the show to go see.
Tuesday | 06.14 What: Compactor, Sleeping With The Earth, No More Cheering, Cremedelacrvp, Tolerant When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Okay, this would be the other show to go see some electronic acts that take soundscaping to another level except this bill includes New York industrial noise legends Compactor, Portland, Oregon-based ambient noisenik Sleeping With The Earth and harsh noise/power electronics artist Cremedelacrvp.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:These Arms Are Snakes w/Git Some When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: These Arms Are Snakes is a post-hardcore band that gets lumped in with the genres of metalcore and mathcore and there is some validity to that. But a lot of its music is closer to noise rock and the new compilation of its early demos and non-album tracks and other odds and ends Duct Tape & Shivering Crows (which came out on April 15, 2022 on Suicide Squeeze Records) bears out how this band could elude easy categorization. It includes former members of 90s metalcore pioneers Botch and experimental rock band Kill Sadie. The band’s wiry, sonic savagery had a kind of brutal fluidity to it that seemed to have come out of that era of post-hardcore that included synthesizers to give its music more than the bare bones rock band level of impact with atmospherics that felt as dreamlike as it did visceral. Opening the show are like-minded Denver noise rock legends Git Some who never broke up but rarely play live and itself includes former members of Planes Mistaken For Stars and Luke Fairchild from Quits. So this show will definitely get a little off the hook with the energy and intensity.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:Whores w/Bummer and Capra When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Atlanta’s Whores sound like a glorious, mutant hybrid of Unsane and Big Black. But if you’re into KARP or Helmet’s more free moments you’ll appreciate the band’s spirited onslaught. Bummer from Kansas City released its latest album Dead Horse (as in beating a—clear proof of the group’s dark sense of humor including about itself because someone probably told them they sound like they’re doing that after all these years making music like this) in 2021. It shares obvious influences from the likes of KARP and the Amphetamine Reptile roster of bands like Cherubs and The Jesus Lizard. But its sound is very different from the style of Whores with more spiraling guitar riffs and open harmonic flourishes. They have a song on Dead Horse called “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick” and even if you’re a fan of the Boss the song title is irreverently puerile for a song that’s a psychedelic noise scorcher with undeniable appeal. Capra from Lafayette, LA fills out this line-up with its own pointed and noisy metalcore with incredible momentum and a brutal grace.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:Hovvdy w/Mini Trees When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Austin-based band Hovvdy released its most recent album True Love in 2021 and like many other artists are finally able to take that music on the road. The hushed vocal harmonies paired with lush and richly layered instrumental arrangements are part of the duo’s core sound but this time around the tender and intimate sound hits with a little more of the gentle warmth that characterized its earlier work and its songs of heartbreak and hope seem imbued with a spirit of thoughtful introspection that offers a perspective beyond hokey pronouncements that everything is going to be okay. Rather, the hard times and misfortune that seems to have visited the entire world and rushed into everyone’s lives require a much more nuanced take and response on even the minutiae of life and Hovvdy brings the type of nurturing energy to this batch of songs that would benefit many people to hear.
Thursday | 06.16 What:Bestial Mouths w/Lowfaith and Turismo Blu When: 8 p.m. Where: Fritzy’s Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with Denver-based post-punk band Lowfaith and acid house artist Turismo Blu.
Thursday | 06.16 What:Bob Log III w/Bolonium and Legs When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bob Log III was once a member of mutant blues rock duo Doo Rag and was doing that sort of Mississippi Delta blues mixed with punk thing before a lot of people got around to that by the mid-to-late 90s. By the end of the 90s Bob had gone on his own with his current moniker as a solo act with his The Road Warrior meets Troma sartorial aesthetic and somehow makes his music seem futuristic even as it embraces old time blues with no irony. Bolonium is a Denver band whose own stylistic link to Troma should seem obvious as its antics have included a live game show during its set but its music is somewhere betwixt an even more cartoon-y Devo and They Might Be Giants and with all the kitsch of a very self-aware but never giving up the joke Adult Swim show skit as band.
Friday | 06/17 What: Scream Screen: The Mafu Cage w/Shocker Mom When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This edition of Scream Screen features Karen Arthur’s 1978 psychodrama The Mafu Cage. The titular creatures, the “mafus,” are the pet monkeys one of the mentally unbalanced Cissy played by Carol Kane whose sister Ellen (Lee Grant) is an astronomer. There is some demented dynamic between the two sisters who share a mansion in Los Angeles but for the exact plot it’s perhaps best viewed rather than read about in summary. The musical guest is Shocker Mom whose brilliant blend of soulful R&B, ambient music and IDM isn’t something you get to see often enough. Robin Walker aka Shocker Mom is also one half of experimental hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus.
Saturday | 06.18 What:Jerry Paper w/Bobby Amulet and Sell Farm When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Jerry Paper is one of the more imaginative hip-hop producers/artists to have emerged out of the 2000s. Their records, especially those for respected and forward thinking label Stones Throw, always seem to have some unusual and creative approach to songwriting and sound sculpting so that even when their beats wax into cosmic yacht rock territory they don’t skimp on the forays into weird realms of sound. Their latest record is the psychedelic and chill Free Time. Bobby Amulet from Denver is the musical moniker of Connor Spell whose own affection for lush, adult-contemporary-esque disco sounds are a good fit on a bill with Jerry Paper. Sell Farm? You don’t really know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be interesting whether it’s the more dub flavoring in the indiepop realm or epic soundscapes or whatever it is the group will be up to this time around.
Sunday | 06.19 What:Blitzen Trapper w/Laney Jones When: 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavillion Why: Blitzen Trapper is one of the bands that really introduced the easy listening 70s adult contemporary vibe back into indie folk in a big way. But they’ve managed to evolve a great deal as a band and refine their sound from early alt-country roots into a finely honed blend of 70s laid back rock, folk and jazz. Opening Laney Jones’ new album Stories Up High has more personal psychological insight than many things you’ll hear this year. Her voice is warm, strong and vulnerable with her signature, subtle vibrato. And that coupled with orchestral musical arrangements and expansive and deeply textured guitar work makes every track linger in your heart with a rich emotional resonance.
Sunday | 06.19 What:ABANDONS, New Standards Men and Shauna Corinne Murray Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: ABANDONS from Denver might be described as post-metal or post-rock but its creative ambitions are wider than that. They mix samples and vocals in with their linger and slow burning atmospherics particularly on “Coffee Highway.” But songs like “Ghost Ranch” and “Cotopaxi” the spiraling riffs and feedback sculpting wax unconventionally psychedelic. In that way they are regularly a good fit on a bill with New Standards Men whose own hybrid of psychedelia, noise rock and Krautrock through a classic art rock lens is never fully predictable in a way that is consistently refreshing. Shauna Corinne Murray used to be based in Portland, Oregon but now hails from Albuquerque but her singer-songwriter compositions on piano are informed by a touch of the avant-garde.
Monday | 06.20 What: Lo Moon w/Social Animals When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Lo Moon emerged with a public presence in 2016 it seemed to have its aesthetic, sound, production and media engagement strategy fully formed while maintaining a bit of mystique about its origins. Like it had been around for years writing that music and resisting the normal urge to put it out into the world in an era when it would have been easy to do so. That approach apparently worked for the Los Angeles quarter because its 2018 self-titled album came out on major label Columbia. Its blend of dream pop and rock shaped by an ear for production and the role of a strong live mix in creating powerfully evocative moods garnered the band an opening slot for the 2017 leg of Ride’s reunion tour before having an album out. In 2022 the group finally released its sophomore album A Modern Life even after Columbia dropped the band during the latter part of its recording process. The album builds on the virtues of its earlier material while taking a different direction in the songwriting emphasizing more the lush R&B side of its sonic palette and more akin to contemporaries like Private World and seeming stylistic nods to Tears For Fears.
What:Empath w/Supreme Joy When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Empath has evolved various sounds during the course of its existence and its 2022 album Visitor is its most experimental offering yet. If the band can still be called punk based on impressions of its earlier albums at this point Empath has embraced a synth-infused dream pop approach that fans of early Japanese Breakfast might appreciate. But songs like “Born 100 Times” has more than a bit of the energetic, noisy weirdness that points most directly to its more punk origins. But really this band’s music has always resisted easy categorization after the manner of many bands from Philadelphia where no matter the genre tag might be placed on its sound it doesn’t quite fit and in the case of Empath the world of music is just that much more interesting.
Tuesday | 06.21 What:Weval When: 7 p.m. Where: Meow Wolf Why: Dutch production duo Weval has been assembling some of the most imaginative electronic dance music around since 2013. Its use of vibrant analog synth tones in its tracks and meditative yet irresistible rhythms builds with layers of colorful melodies that hit with a soothing physicality. Its 2021 EP Changed for the Better and 2022 four-song release Time Goes reveal Weval’s ability to go beyond its early production style into something that evokes a sense of exploration and wonder with songs that have a fresh quality in where Weval tie texture to atmosphere in a dynamic flow that engrossingly dreamlike.
Wednesday | 06.22 What: Modern English When: 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Modern English is obviously most known for its 1982 hit single “I Melt With You.” Likely lumped in with the “New Wave” of the time the undeniably catchy yet meaningful song with its cool vocal dynamics was really only a sample of where the group came from. Based out of Colchester in the east of the UK Modern English came up at a time when its early, brooding, post-punk songs fit right in with the likes of contemporaries like Magazine, Joy Division and The Sound. Its 1981 debut album Mesh & Lace is much darker and more experimental than 1982’s After the Snow but both albums represent Modern English’s ability to navigate a variety of moods without being stuck in a particular mode of expression so that it could embrace when the mind waxes to melancholia as well as times of joyful celebration of connection. After some mishaps the rest of the 80s with record labels and not quite being able to match the commercial success of its most famous single the band split by 1991. Upon convening in the mid-90s Modern English didn’t seem too prolific in the releasing of songs or albums its 2016 comeback record Take Me to the Trees bridges the breadth of its songwriting styles and flavors well with songs worthy of its first two records and as a live band the quintet still brings that passion and emotional nuance to its performances that struck a chord with audiences early on its career.
Wednesday | 06.22 What:Lesser Care w/don’t get lemon, Natural Violence When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lesser Care from El Paso, Texas is one of the closest bands we’ll see to a pure shoegaze and post-punk hybrid in the vein of The Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction. Though its exquisitely ethereal melodies are the stuff of daydream bliss the trio performs with an energetic intensity one might more expect from a group that came out of punk. Its 2022 album Underneath, Beside Me gets released on vinyl in July. don’t get lemon from Austin comes from a similar sonic perspective but more electronic in its establishing of mood with a production style that is right out of lo-fi darkwave but with uplifting vocals that sit in the urgent dynamic of its flow of sounds not unlike a more dream pop early Depeche Mode. Natural Violence might be more techno-infused post-punk noise with a strong performance art element or maybe former School Knights and current American Culture guitarist Michael Stein will be exploring a new vista of sound for his imaginative songwriting.
Wednesday | 06.22 What: Windhand w/Un https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/426122 When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand has been crafting cosmic, psychedelic doom since its 2008 inception. Its most recent album Eternal Return (2018) is a fuzz-laden journey into mythological constructs of emotional and psychological spaces. Its hypnotic rhythms and Dorthia Cottrell’s powerful and sultry vocals are reminiscent of some of Kylesa’s more meditative yet moments. Seattle’s Un is more in the realm of heavy, contemplative post-rock with an knack for evoking the otherworldly with a processional elegance paired with a feral sensibility once the songs take flight.
Wednesday | 06.22 What:5 Seconds of Summer w/Pale Waves When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: 5 Seconds of Summer is a pretty standard mainstream pop act and one of the biggest people who normally read previews for this site may not know about. But it’s songwriting is strong enough and its musicianship accomplished enough there’s no need to be embarrassed by being into its pop hooks. Sure they got their start as YouTube stars and got a bump up into an international audience touring with One Direction but also managed to parlay these breaks into a large international fandom on the merits of its own creative work. But a major reason to go to this show as well is opening act Pale Waves. Underneath the 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. Its forthcoming album Unwanted releases on August 12, 2022.
Friday | 06.24 What: Scream Screen: Ginger Snaps w/Dead Boyfriend When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This iteration of June’s Scream Screen will be a showing of Ginger Snaps (2000) directed by John Fawcett. It’s about a pair of sisters one of whom, the titular Ginger, becomes a werewolf and goes on a bit of a killing rampage that comes to a head by the end of the film. No spoilers. The musical act opening the proceedings is Dead Boyfriend whose recorded output suggests a lo-fi indie/bedroom pop aesthetic with delicately raw emotional sensibilities that fans of early Joanna Newsom or Dear Nora might appreciate.
Saturday | 06.25 What:True Brewing Bacchanal: Khemmis, Panopticon, Hulder, Vastum and Dreadnought When: 6 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: True Brewing is the metal themed brewery on Broadway in Denver and this mini-festival features some of the better local and not so local metal bands running. Khemmis’ psychedelic doom has struck a chord with audiences far beyond Denver with its intricate melodies and songwriting chops. Dreadnought puts a different flavor into the mix of doom with keyboards adding a layer of dynamic atmosphere and a touch of classical sensibility. Hulder is a Belgian/American solo black metal project based out of Portland. Her latest album offers her signature flood of crushing riffs and Cascadian atmospherics but also a touch of the more ambient side of the songwriting. The hovering riffs over propulsive drumming from its new album The Eternal Fanfare is something we have come to expect from a solo black metal act but the songwriter sounds like a being from myth declaring tales of a perilous future but not one without its share of glory and adventure.
Saturday | 06.25 What: Goo Age, Hippies Wearing Muzzles, Sleepdial and Lowern When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Goo Age is Garrett Williamson and Adrian Wright who craft New Age music seemingly with analog synths and sequencers for a sound like an 80s video game about going on vacation and having playful adventures in a mostly benevolent landscape. It’s like Art of Noise or Anne Dudley solo but scoring the aforementioned video game that doesn’t involve killing other creatures or exploiting the environment but, rather, creative achievements and those more down to earth and not dire. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is the analog synth project of Lee Evans, bassist of slop pop band Kissing Party. Sleepdial is one of the projects of Luke Thinnes aka French Kettle Station but in the past Sleepdial has been his guitar driven ambient music though these days who can say exactly what you’ll see.
Saturday | 06.25 What:Kamasi Washington When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Kamasi Washington is the rare modern jazz leader whose work as a saxophonist in conjunction with other artists and collaborators and his work as a sideman is so powerfully expressive he can uplift and break your heart without having to utter a word, such is the mastery of his musicianship as guided by a superior creative imagination with his craft. He hasn’t put out an album since the epochal Heaven and Earth in 2018 though he has done music with Dinner Party which features other jazz greats Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and 9th Wonder. In the live setting where he can improv and push his compositions beyond their usual bounds is where Washington shins brightest.
Tuesday and Wednesday | 06.28 and 06.29 What: Fleet Foxes w/Tim Bernardes When: 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom and Vilar Performing Arts Center (Beaver Creek) Why: Fleet Foxes are one of the best and most creative bands out of the indie folk milieu of the 2000s. Before going on hiatus in 2013 after the departure of longtime member Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes were something of an indie rock supergroup with more than one gifted songwriter in the band. But since reconvening in 2016 the band has pushed its sound in interesting directions and perhaps most distinctively with its 2020 album Shore and its evocatively delicate and sensitive compositions informed by a taking stock of life and sussing out what feels like needs to be said and despite orchestral soundscapes has a refreshing simplicity.
Thursday | 06.30 What:Kraftwerk 3-D When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Kraftwerk has to be considered among the most influential bands of the past five decades and more as pioneers of putting synthesizers into music equal parts visionary pop, art rock and the avant-garde. Every synth pop band or derivations thereof are all descended from Kraftwerk’s unique and idiosyncratic songwriting and soundcraft. Every techno artist and DJ culture practitioner owes a great deal to Kraftwerk’s experiments in sound. Its early recordings included more than a few not purely electronic instruments but as the band evolved through the 70s and the 80s it ditched even acoustic percussion in favor of the electronic equivalent even if it didn’t dispense with the physicality of its sound both futuristic and minimal and immediately accessible even its stranger moments. For this tour you will get to see its 3-D presentation at Red Rocks with 3-D projections that anyone who has seen these shows can tell you add an experiential dimension to the music that listening to it at home can’t fully replicate with Kraftwerk itself delivering a powerful performance even without “rocking out” as its members finely control its orchestrated flow of deeply evocative sounds. The 2020 tour had to be canceled because of the early stage of the pandemic and this revamping of the presentation from previous 3-D tours from Kraftwerk will prove that the band doesn’t really rest on false laurels.
“Flicker Screen,” the latest single from Desert Liminal’s 2021 album Glass Fate, comes on like a parallel universe version of Chromatics: Lush, warm vocals, ghostly atmospherics and strong melodic lines on the piano paired with assertive yet finely accented percussion. It’s a song whose emotional flavor is nostalgic because it’s about memory, identity, our cognitive orientation and aspirations. The flicker screen of the title invokes the mechanics of cinema and how those mediated and highly processed images can embed themselves in your imagination though as your own interpretation of events and when you impose that type of understanding and interpretation on living people who don’t live episodically within neat frame lines and according to a script with a narrative through line or according to a cohesive aesthetic to suit anyone’s tastes. Yet the song isn’t a stripping back of a romanticized view of the world. It does employ hazy layers of atmosphere and an introspective vocal delivery but its yearning for something better and more organic and thus more unpredictable and un-controlling in which everyone involved can be who they are authentically. Listen to “Flicker Screen” on Spotify where you can listen to the rest of Glass Fate and follow the band at the links provided.
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.
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