Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 28: Hex Cassette

Hex Cassette at the Hi-Dive December 23, 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Hex Cassette is an EBM/synth pop/confrontational industrial artist from Denver, Colorado. As the solo project of Zachary Jordan, Hex Cassette has been around since the mid-2010s and his gift for crafting fairly accessible, exuberant dance music with a darkwave flavor has garnered him a bit of a local following among people who not only appreciate his particular style of music but potentially of anyone that would like to see musicians engage with the crowd in a way that is aimed at blurring the line between performer and audience and sharing in a dissolving of a complacent dynamic in live music. His spirited shows involve wicked but benevolent humor including a comical needling of the audience and it wouldn’t be unusual to see Jordan not just roaming the stage but coming off stage with his animated style and bringing that energy into the crowd. His latest release is Pomegranate Death and while the themes of death and mortality and irreverence for stuffy, traditional religion and culture remains a feature from the music of Hex Cassette in general, the album is also one that injects into the mix expressions of hopefulness and seeking to live a vital existence. All set to some of the most vibrant electronic music you’re likely to hear all year.

Hex Cassette celebrates the release of the album on June 10, 2022 at Jester’s Palace with other local darkwave greats Church Fire and eHpH as well as experimental indie rock artist Pink Lady Monster. The show is also the tour kickoff for Hex Cassette who will be headed out on a mini-tour of the west where you will be able to purchase a, yes, cassette copy of Pomegranate Death. Listen to our interview with Jordan on Bandcamp linked below.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond June 2022

Failure performs at the Bluebird Theater on Wednesday June 8, 2022
Quits at Hi-Dive, March 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Fear in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Tomberlin, photo by Ebru Yildiz

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.

Blackwater Holylight, photo from Bandcamp

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.

Failure, photo courtesy the artists

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.

French Kettle Station circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

The Black Angels, photo by Alexandra Valenti

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.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive, December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Ambar Lucid, photo by Keith Bennett

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.

Sunflower Bean, photo by Driely S

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.

Purity Ring, photo courtesy the artists

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.

Everclear, photo by Ashley Osborn

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.

Cau5er at Hi-Dive, May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

© 2022 These Arms Are Snakes Photo by: Shayla Martin

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.

Bummer, photo by Skylar Cowdrey

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.

Hovvdy, photo by Pooneh Ghana

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.

Bestial Mouths at Hi-Dive May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Laney Jones, photo by Libby Danforth

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.

New Standards Men at Hi-Dive December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

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.

Lesser Care at Hi-Dive April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Windhand, photo from Bandcamp

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.

Pale Waves, photo by Katia Temkin

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.

Dead Boyfriend, photo from Bandcamp

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.

HULDER, photo by Liana Rakijian

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.

Kamasi Washington, photo by Russell Hamilton

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.

Fleet Foxes, photo by Emily Johnston

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.

Kraftwerk, photo by Reema Shah of Out of the Dark Photography

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.

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland https://globehall.com/event/the-weather-station-helena-deland-presented-by-kgnu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice https://www.missionballroom.com/event/405967-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.

Best Shows in Denver December 2021

Napalm Death, photo courtesy the artists
Spyderland at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.03
What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.

Midwife at Hi-Dive September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.03
What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.

Friday | 12.03
What: Lose Your Head: Vitrina (EBM), Hex Cassette (synth goth for Satan), Horse Girl, Ray Diess (synth pop), John Baldwin (pop)
When: 6:30/7 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Place (1527 Champa)
Why: A showcase of some of the newer darkwave/synth pop bands out of Denver at a new venue in the cultural wasteland of downtown.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, photo by Krystal Morris

Saturday | 12.04
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.

Monday | 12.06
What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.

Eyehategod at Bluebird Theater January 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 12.07
What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod
When: 6/7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.

Tuesday | 12.07
What: Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.

Moon Pussy at Hi-Dive October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.09
What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.

Friday | 12.10
What: N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.

Screwtape at Gothic Theatre November 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.10
What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.

Saturday | 12.11
What: Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil
When: 9:30/10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.

Friday | 12.17
What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.

Riddy Arman, photo by Mike Vanata

Friday | 12.17
What: Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.

Lindsey Buckingham, photo by Lauren Dukoff

Monday | December 20
What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.

Church Fire at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.23
What: Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.

FEAR at Marquis Theater in June 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.31
What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: 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 turning 72 next year 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.

Best Shows in Denver October 2021

The Milk Blossoms perform at Titwrench on Sunday 10.03, photo by Cory Palencia
Muscle Beach circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 10.01
What: Muscle Beach, Cheap Perfume and Mainland Break
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a now rare opportunity to see Denver post-hardcore band Muscle Beach. Fitting somewhere in between noise rock, the aforementioned subgenre of punk and extreme metal, Muscle Beach also somehow manages to create an inviting rather than forbidding energy. Cheap Perfume’s strident and thrilling feminist punk anthems challenge tropes of punk and social convention equally with great energy and sass. Mainland Break’s jangle-y power pop is absolutely for fans of Franz Ferdinand and Nick Lowe with a perfect balance of homespun storytelling and burning off everyday frustration with fuzz-tinged melodies.

Saturday | 10.02
What: Franksgiving 2021: Ralph Gean, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band and The Pollution, DJ Don Bess
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The late Franklin Bell was a local character whose eccentric DJ nights were a hit with the local weirdo music cognoscenti. For several years he held an event called Franksgiving as a fundraiser for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. With the relatively recent passing of Bell, his friend Little Fyodor has taken up the cause in Bell’s name and merch sales as well as proceeds from the evening will be donated to the aforementioned charity. If you show up you’ll get to see Denver rock and roll legend Ralph Gean, the über punk of Little Fyodor & Babushka Band (don’t go expecting another Ramones or Black Flag clone, this is weird, smart, eccentric stuff and as filled with attitude and as informed by existential anxiety as the best of the genre), the psychedelic punk of The Pollution and DJ Don Bess whose own bizarre choice of cuts for the evening will be decidedly different. Some of the city’s finest all on one bill and for a good cause.

Sol Vida Worldwide performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist

Sunday | 10.03
What: Titwrench 2021: Nacha Mendez (Santa Fe), The Milk Blossoms, Machete Mouth, My Name is Harriett (Colorado Springs) and Sol Vida Worldwide
When: 4-10 p.m.
Where: City Park Pavilion 2001 Steele St,
Why: The Titwrench Festival launched in 2009 as a means of shining a light on the creative efforts of marginalized groups beginning with the musical and art works of female identified folks and expanded to other groups including the 2SLBGTQIAP+ community at large and people of color and so on. While the curation has been thusly focused, the festival has always been all ages and inclusive and open to everyone to get to experience creative performances in a safe environment from people whose work isn’t always featured in the usual venues and rooms where you generally get to see live music. The current edition of the festival takes place on Sunday, October 3, 2021 from 4-10 p.m. at the Denver City Park Pavilion. The event will include educational workshops, dance parties, food from Maiz food truck (selling homemade Mexican cuisine) and a market featuring Witch Collective, a group of local artisans and herbalists. Also, this year Suzi Q. Smith will be the MC. Our recent podcast includes interviews with the event organizers (Sarah Slater, Michaela Perez and Katie Rothery) and members of all the performing artists including My Name is Harriet, Machete Mouth, Nacha Mendez, April (Axé) Charmane of Sol Vida Worldwide and Harmony Rose of The Milkblossoms which you can listen to on Bandcamp. For more information on the festival please visit titwrenchcollective.org.

Nacha Mendez performs at Titwrench, photo by M. Cordero
My Name Is Harriett performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist
Machete Mouth performs at Titwrench, photo by Tom Murphy circa 2021
The Shivas at the Gothic Theatre in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 10.04
What: The Shivas w/Rootbeer Richie & The Reveille and Honey Blazer
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Since forming in 2006, Portland, Oregon’s The Shivas has developed a sound that incorporates elements of 60s psychedelic garage rock and pop but out of step with obvious trends. Its idiosyncratic songwriting style has always seemed to have more in common with the 90s indie pop and its emphasis on raw expressiveness and tapping into classic sounds and aesthetics as a vehicle for expressing timeless themes and universal human emotions with an intensity and artistry that feels vital and of the moment and not trying to recreate a previous era of music and culture. The band started making a name for itself in the American underground in the late 2000s but its breakthrough to a wider audience might be traced in the wake of the release of its 2013 album Whiteout! On the respected and influential label K Records. Heavy touring every year and a string of solid albums garnered the band a bit of a cult following when, in 2020, The Shivas, like many touring entities, had to effectively stop operations. The foursome had already written its next album and had to put plans on hold for any kind of release until the following year. During the first part of the pandemic and a de facto blackout of live shows happening, three fourths of the band worked with the unhouse population of Portland through a non-profit and took time to rethink and rework how the band would operate going into the future. In early 2021 the group released its latest album Feels So Good // Feels So Bad through Tender Loving Empire, a record that evokes the sense of urgency and uncertainty that all of us felt during the bleakest times of the 2020-2021 pandemic but which many of us poignantly felt prior to that global, and ongoing, health crisis. It is both a cathartic and comforting listen. Check out our interview with The Shivas on Bandcamp.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

Monday | 10.04
What: Indigo De Souza w/The Slaps
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.

Tuesday | 10.05
What: Arlo Parks w/Michelle
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Arlo Parks’ debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams was one of the more anticipated releases of the past year. Her early EPs showcased a unique and soulful voice from an artist with a deft and easy wordplay that gave an added dimension to her jazz-inflected downtempo pop songwriting. Her performance video for Seattle’s KEXP recorded during the pandemic verified Parks’ self-possession as a performer capable of commanding attention within the coolly dynamic flow of the music.

Japanese Breakfast, photo by Peter Ash Lee

Friday | 10.08
What: Japanese Breakfast w/Luna Li
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With every album Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast has seemed to take on powerful emotional challenges as almost an engine for her creativity. Psychopomp was written while her mother went through treatment for cancer, Soft Sounds From Another Planet was written in the wake of her mother’s death and seemed like a personalized science fiction story as an attempt to make a meaning of events for anyone listening in to her heartfelt sentiments and poetic exploration of inner space channeled into expansive and inventive art rock. Her latest album, Jubilee, is a departure from those first two records in being more overtly pop in the sense that writing a pop song with resonance and poignancy is a challenge and a way to remain focused on something that distills joy for at least a few moments of time with observations that express essential truths. The record has much in common with the great indie pop bands of the 90s and 2000s and how that music was ambitious and experimental in utilizing sounds and song dynamics that were out of step with what was popular but which has gone on to age well. 2021 has been a bit of a banner year for Zauner as it also marks the release of her powerful memoir Crying in H Mart. If you’re lucky enough to have an H Mart in or around your city and, perchance, have spent time in one the book has a special, tactile, cultural resonance that is difficult to fully appreciate without experiencing that gloriously pan-Asian market for yourself.

Friday – Saturday | 10.08 and 10.09
What: Convulse Records 3 Year Anniversary
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Aztlan Theater
Why: Hardcore label Convulse Records celebrates its three year anniversary with a two day festival at the historic Aztlan Theater where many a punk and underground music show took place in the decades leading up to the 21st century. The scheduled performers include Goon, Spine, Militarie Gun, Ingrown, Raw Breed, Discreet, The Consequence, Spy, Urban Sprawl, Faim, Entry, Big Laugh, Video Prick, Punitive Damage, Gel, Scowl, Closed In, Sweat, Cyst, Battlesex, Public Opinion, Direct Threat, MSPaint, Drill Sergeant, Yambag, Rash, Candy Apple, L.I.B., Blood Loss, Reality Complex and Asbestos. See set times below and keep in mind that with all festivals set times can be a little loose around the edges.

Saturday | 10.09
What: Grief Ritual album release w/Church Fire, Lost Relics and Dulled Arrows
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Grief Ritual celebrates the release of its debut album The Gallows Laugh. The band’s blend of post-hardcore and extreme metal is threaded through with surprisingly uplifting melodies as contrasted with distorted vocals and fluidly heavy riffs. Also on the bill are sludge metal greats Lost Relics whose own 2021 album Now We’re Even dropped in April. Dulled Arrows is a bit of a departure from the heavy with its blend of math rock and Americana. Even more of a departure for this show is Church Fire and its revolutionary industrial dance synth pop.

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen

Saturday | 10.09
What: Nation of Language w/Oko Tygra
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: For its new album, A Way Forward due out on November 5, 2021 on PIAS, Nation of Language reached back to the roots of its sound to early pioneers of electronic pop and rock like Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Suicide and OMD. It also has the transformative sense of wonder mixed with nostalgia heard in the music of Tor Lundvall in the 90s as released on the 2019 compilation A Strangeness In Motion. So called minimal synth from the early 2010s was very much part of the emergent modern darkwave movement and Nation of Language has refined those sounds and impulses in a way that should also appeal to fans of Perfume Genius and Future Islands. Opening the show is the great, soulful dream pop band Oko Tygra who though clearly inspired in part by Cocteau Twins also bring an R&B sensibility to its lush and affecting guitar rock.

Saturday | 10.09
What: Supersuckers w/Reno Divorce and Luke Schmaltz
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Supersuckers were part of that whole mess of the Seattle music scene explosion of the early 90s and benefited from that association but somehow survived the fallout of that collapse to become a beloved underground touring act for some 30 years now. Reno Divorce may be a roots punk band but its stories of everyday struggle hit deep and its spirited performances help drive that content home. Luke Schmaltz was and is the frontman for long running Denver punk legends King Rat and he brings a literary flair to his punk songwriting though for this show he’s going solo.

cleopatrick, photo by Tanner Pare

Monday | 10.11
What: cleopatrick w/Zig Mentality and Ready The Prince
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: cleopatrick’s 2021 debut album BUMMER seethes with irresistible intensity. Like a hop-hop album written by guys who make music that sounds like they had to listen to Soundgarden and Sleaford Mods through blown out speakers growing up. The vocal cadence has that kind of flow and the burning, distorted, pulsing guitar work is almost like a sample in the way it is employed in the mix of sounds.

Cellista, image by Yellow Bubbles Photography

Friday | 10.15
What: Cellista PARIAH tour w/Zero Collective (LA) and Herpes Hideaway
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Cellista returns with her latest album PARIAH which is a fairytale concept album of a sort. But it’s a fairytale about confronting injustice by daring to speak the truth even though rejection by one’s community is often inevitable with a long and uncertain road to vindication for refusing to accept the official version of events. In live performance Freya Cellista aims to break down the barrier of performer and audience with a collective experience of the music. The combination of classical music, pop and opera makes the type of creative work one often has to go to a fancy theater or art gallery to see accessible in a smaller setting like Mutiny.

Friday | 10.15
What: The Final Sound (Brooklyn) w/eHpH and Weathered Statues
When: 8 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: New York’s The Final Sound brings its moody post-punk flavored dream pop to Denver in the wake of the release of its 2021 album Automata Theory. Fans of The Chamleons and Pink Turns blue will appreciate what The Final Sound have to offer. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver with a touch of punk brashness that gives the music an expansive momentum and pop flavoring. EhpH is one of Denver’s most interesting EBM/industrial bands even though its latest album, 2020’s Infrared, revealed a bit more than a passing gift for making brooding and deeply atmospheric post-punk.

Valley Maker, photo by Bree Burchfield

Friday | 10.15
What: Valley Maker w/Patrick Dethlefs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Austin Crane was already writing thoughtful, delicately textured folk style songs on the 2010 self-titled debut Valley Maker album. But with the 2021 release of When The Day Leaves it’s like you’re getting to see those modest though sophisticated creative beginnings attain a full bloom with subtle layers of dynamics interlocking and resolving around rhythm of the poetic imagery of the lyrics. It’s a mastery of songcraft in this loose realm of songwriting that one hears in the work of Sam Beam where storytelling, elegant turns of phrase and delicacy of feeling work together with a nuanced evocation of life’s poignant moments strike you with power of gentle epiphany.

Saturday | 10.16
What: 100 Gecs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: 100 Gecs is, loosely and perhaps imprecisely speaking, an experimental pop duo from St. Louis whose sound combines noise, trap, industrial pop, EDM and video game music. The auto-tuned vocals and hyperkinetic yet chill production is the kind of thing that will alienate and outrage more conventionally-minded tastes which is why it’s interesting in the first place in flouting outdated notions of good taste. It is unabashedly its own thing which is why the group has garnered a cult following not just for the music but its non-gendered presentation as performers. If you thought people hated Riff Raff, this is weirder with stage personae that really do push the envelope in a creative way and thus culturally significant for that as well as pushing into hybrid musical territories in making something new and undeniably accessible and interesting if you’re open to the unfamiliar.

Monday | 10.18
What: Erykah Badu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Erykah Badu is one of the pioneers of psychedelic neo-soul whose emotionally vibrant and deep songs have rightfully caught the attention of a wide audience since the late 90s after the release of her 1997 debut album Baduizm. Her gift for jazz idiom and poetry in the context of hip-hop and soul is second to none and her commanding live performances are always moving and worth witnessing.

Cradle of Filth, image courtesy the artists

Monday | 10.18
What: Cradle of Filth w/3TEETH and Once Human
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cradle of Filth is currently touring and performing its 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast in its entirety. The concept album centered around the story of the 16th/17th century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory. So go expecting the band’s usual theatrical, extreme metal bombast with some older fan favorites and perhaps some cuts from the group’s forthcoming album Existence is Futile.

Thursday | 10.21
What: Juliet Mission, Jacket of Spiders, Amalgam Effect
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Juliet Mission is a trio that includes former and current members of classic Denver alternative rock band Sympathy F. Juliet Mission has less jazz elements than the latter and its music is more in vein with the great, gloomy, dark vibe of old Denver. Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Twice Wilted and Tarmints doing a more shoegaze-y and post-punk thing.

Kal Marks, photo by Greg Scranton

Sunday | 10.24
What: Kal Marks w/Moon Pussy and Tender Object
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kal Marks from Boston has been making some of the most scorchingly abrasive yet accessible noise rock this side of Big Black for over a decade all while mixing in haunting atmospherics and irreverent storytelling. The title of the group’s 2019 EP Let The Shit House Burn Down about summed up widespread frustration with the direction of American society and government. Did this band woodshed songwriting while listening only to releases on Amphetamine Reptile, Touch and Go and Siltbreeze before putting out any releases? Probably not but thankfully they sound like that was part of the creative process to shield musical instincts from the temptation to aim for appealing to tastes dullened by having become used to music that sounds tame and having gone through focus group meetings before being marketed as exciting when it’s anything but. Moon Pussy from Denver are a similar type of band with its own eruptive dynamics and emotional intensity coupled with scorching soundscapes.

Tuesday | 10.26
What: Lords of Acid w/Aesthetic Perfection, Praga Khan and MXMS
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Lords of Acid is the Belgian industrial dance band whose overtly sexually themed songs are a hedonistic celebration of life and a repudiation of puritanical sensibilities and a-human hypocrisy. But even if that’s not completely your thing the songs are fun especially in the live setting when you don’t always know what frontman Praga Khan will get up to on stage all in the spirit of a good time. MXMS is the excellent dream pop/downtempo group from Los Angeles whose lush, sultry sound is reminiscent of MIA by way of Crystal Castles and Goldfrapp.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

Wednesday | 10.27
What: Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Lex Leosis
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Snotty Nose Red Kids is a Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo whose production seems as dark as it is playful. Their songs suss out the corners of depression and alienation with sharp couplets that flow with a jagged yet sinuous flow. Currently the group is touring for its fourth full length album Life After.

Thursday | 10.28
What: Mr. Atomic w/Trash and Gila Teen
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Denver’s Gila Teen is what happens when punk and emo kids discover post-punk and manage not to go Goth yet embrace that emotional intensity as a vehicle for making honest art. Mr. Atomic from Fort Collins could be dismissed as yet another 2010s/2020s band that really hopped back on that retro 90s alternative rock revival bandwagon. But its energetic shows and strong songwriting makes such considerations irrelevant because if you band can bring it live that’s all that matters in making it something to recommend.

Tokyo Police Club, photo by Taylor Ohryn

Saturday | 10.30
What: Tokyo Police Club w/Pkew Pkew Pkew https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/405233
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Tokyo Police Club got going in 2005 and benefited directly from the peak years of the music blog phenomenon from roughly 2006-2016. The band hit the sweet spot of a mix of influences that sounded like 90s indie rock like Cursive and Modest Mouse and the then still strong post-punk revival. What set the band apart from a steady stream of cookie cutter indie rock was its strong songwriting and thoughtful, insightful lyrics. This was perhaps best embodied in its first half decade by the 2010 album Champ which the 10th anniversary edition of which TPC announced at the end of 2020 and released in 2021. Opening the show are fellow Canadians Pkew Pkew Pkew and their brand of anthemic pop punk.

Saturday | 10.30
What: itchy-O Hallowmass w/J.G. Thirlwell
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: itchy-O is the experimental, maximalist electronics and rhythm mobile orchestra that has graced Denver, Colorado and worldwide stages for over around a decade. It’s performance art as much as music though both can be enjoyed independently, which is why itchy-O is still interesting and not an inspired gimmick, as the collective has evolved all aspects of its show and recordings from launch. It’s a bombastic and unforgettable spectacle everyone should get to see. Opening the show is legendary producer and influential industrial artist J.G. Thirlwell whose project Foetus helped to pioneer and develop the industrial and noise genres at the beginning of the 1980s. He has been involved in other people’s records for decades including a fascinating collaboration with Zola Jesus for her 2013 remix album Versions.

Best Shows in Denver August 2021

Princess Dewclaw (here performing at Wax Trax, April 2021) performs at The UMS on August 28

With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.

King Crimson, photo by Dean Stocking

Monday | August 2, 2021
What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio
When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.

Friday | August 6, 2021
What:
NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit!
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.

Saturday | August 7, 2021
What: Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.

Small Black, photo by Caroline Mathis

Tuesday | August 10, 2021
What: Small Black and Korine
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.

Tuesday | August 10
What: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ
When: (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.

Oko Tygra at Boulder Theater in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire
Where: HQ
Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.

Thursday | August 12, 2021
What:
Radkey
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.

Oblio Duo in 2006, Steven Lee Lawson on right, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 19, 2021
What: Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.

Tuesday | August 24, 2021CANCELLED
What: The Residents
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.

Gila Teen at Lion’s Lair in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29
What: Glasss Records Stage at the UMS
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.

A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released
This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it  was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life  that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.

Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records

Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?

ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records
Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.

Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group
A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.

Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord

A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight
With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less  ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris  Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and  physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of  hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk  music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A  Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are  more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those  dreams real. 

Autechre | Sign | Warp Records
Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.

Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records

Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN

Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released

Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser

blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released
Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of  Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human  condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are  leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the  modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the  world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or  not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary  Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.  

BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records

Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum
Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.

Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records

Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records
Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.

Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records
Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.

Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser

Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute

Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records
Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.

Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released

Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records
Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.

Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records
Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.

Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released
This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch  Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic  vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that  give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for  pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death  tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent  main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as  mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that  artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.  

cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk

Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop
Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.

Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released

Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released

Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records

Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released

Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings

Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records
Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.

Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze
Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos

Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records

Dyad | Dormant | self-released
Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like  Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for  Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases  their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of  non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard  progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor.  Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk,  Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the  soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo  future jazz sounds. 

eHpH | Infrared | self-released
This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its  introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice  sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity.  The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on  the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most  fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals  draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The  pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing  tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides  a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH  has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the  group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more  contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the  past. 

Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records

Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union

Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim
In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob  Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular  synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp  page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths  and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single  track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted  ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the  heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the  inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.

Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican

Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records

Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress

Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records

Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings
Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.

Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind
The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.

Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish

Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party

Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records

Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records
Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.

French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk

Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD
A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.

Galleries | Resolve | self-released

Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records
Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.

Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records

Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean
In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his  brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and  Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music  who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd  Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is  reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and  bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a  worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local,  experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly  capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of  The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure  Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in  Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.

H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released
Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for  this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous  swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious  sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness  and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a  singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces  that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses  with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.

Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records
Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.

Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings

In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released
In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its  interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with  meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic  set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with  elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The  Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the  enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company  of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own  heavy explorations of the human psyche. 

IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan
Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.

Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records
A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.

Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records

jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records
This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make  statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep  even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called  
“NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so  unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents  than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the  relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to  sound. 

Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released
Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the  trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is  impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to  passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty  demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing  rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent,  and thus thematically limited, perspective. 

Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International

Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom

King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador
Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.

Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego
Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.

KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released
Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the  hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious  emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring  the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks,  Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while  at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and  hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious  thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you  to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself. 

Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released

Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind
Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.

Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim

Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser

Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records
Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic  and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy  has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed  drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and  anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective  unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of  sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence.  These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which  are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come  home to roost of late. 

Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released

Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine

Memory Bell | Solace | self-released

Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop

Midwife | Forever | The Flenser
Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music  and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with  so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And  the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of  hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted,  ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and  sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache  and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into  your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely  restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and  heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen. 

Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released
Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.

Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records
Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.

Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records
Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.

Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records
Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.

Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain

Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four

Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records
Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop  jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured  vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record  the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and  on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go  will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock  riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be  the theme song of these United States.  

Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac

Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records

Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House

Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media

New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released

Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released
The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead.  And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic  record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about  the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop  quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with  a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version  of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of  something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put  on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.  

No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City

Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records

Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records

Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records
Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.

Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released

Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released

Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released

Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records

Pole | Fading | Mute Records

Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records

Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records
On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That  element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the  Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The  vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic  drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is  like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an  appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.

Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records
Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.

Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records
If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.

Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records

Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records

Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released
Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop  out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through  a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite  there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms  seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s  and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross  between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto. 

Riki | s/t | Dais Records
Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.

Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners

Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop

Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM
An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.

Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released

Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey
Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.

SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records

SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers
This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of  adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its  anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the  songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We  Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the  working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be  in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little  Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed  throughout. 

Spice | s/t | Dais Records

Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser
Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.

Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings

Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records

Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released
Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically,  Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album.  Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the  shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and  frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other  media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to  communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of  sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we  can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.  

Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador

Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music

Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released
An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.

Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey

Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim

SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise

Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium

The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released

The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh

The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun

The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze

The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos

Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released
Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.

TI-83 | Demo | self-released

Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory
Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with  historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist  whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On  These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess,  Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle  commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it  seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical  pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.

Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International
Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.

Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records

Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records
Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.

Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records

Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released

Voight | s/t | self-released
Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote  and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like  it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out,  percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a  person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a  coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without  ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.

Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records

Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings

White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released

Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky

WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound

Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop

Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records
Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.

Best Shows in Denver 3/5/20 – 3/11/20

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Lower Dens performs at Globe Hall on March 6, photo by Yassine El Mansouri

Thursday | March 5

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

What: PUP w/Screaming Females, The Drew Thompson Foundation
When: Thursday, 3.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: PUP started out as one of the new wave of pop punk bands but the inherent psychological insight of its early albums blossomed most fully on its unusually thought-provoking 2019 album Morbid Stuff.

What: Paul DeHaven album release Echoes and Overtones w/Lake Mary/Chaz Prymek
When: Thursday, 3.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Ubisubibi Room
Why: Paul DeHaven (formerly of Paper Bird) is releasing his latest album Echoes and Overtones tonight at an intimate show at Ubisububi Room in the basement of The Thin Man. Time time out DeHaven assembled songs from a large batch of material and found a tonal and thematic resonance among his more mellow compositions and brought in old live favorites “Souvenir American Gun” and “I Love You Love Me” to round out an album of pastoral, vivid stories tied to specific times, seasons and places in DeHaven’s life.

Friday | March 6

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Down Time, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lower Dens w/:3LON
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Lower Dens once again gave us a vibrant, evocative electronic art pop album with 2019’s The Competition in which the band uses creativity as a vehicle for exploring the pain and confusion of the current era of history with human civilization at a perilous crossroads between environmental apocalypse and fascism and a path toward a more compassionate and sane future.

What: Down Time – Hurts Being Alive release w/Bluebook and Bellhoss
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A sonically diverse billing with three of the best bands out of Denver’s indie rock underground will perform this night with Down Time releasing its latest album Hurts Being Alive.

What: Day of Jubilee: Marcus Church and Sliver
When: Friday, 3.6, 5 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Rescheduled from February – Marcus Church is a Denver-based power pop trio. Its gently jangle-y and fuzzy melodies sound like singer/guitarist Dustin Habel spent a whole lot of time obsessively listening to only records produced by Mitch Easter and the complete discographies of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. That also means there’s a tender earnestness to the songwriting imbued with an uncommon tenderness and humanity. Sliver bypassed the 90s grunge nostalgia wave of recent years by making no bones about its musical roots in its hard driving, explosively emotional guitar rock. Mudhoney influence aside, its aesthetic is most informed by both the self-effacing, sensitive, introspective side of Pacific Northwest noise punk and the wiry, politically conscious end of DC hardcore.

What: Murder By Death w/Amigo the Devil
When: Friday, 3.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Kid Mask, Scary Psychological, Motherfucker Theresa and Buttstuff
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Kool Keith w/DJ A-L opheliasdenver.com/e/kool-keith-85677324183
When: Friday, 3.6, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Cult of Luna w/Emma Ruth Rundle and Intronaut
When: Friday, 3.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

Saturday | March 7

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Best Coast, photo by Eddie Chacon

What: Best Coast w/Mannequin Pussy
When: Saturday, 3.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Best Coast is touring in support of its 2020 album Always Tomorrow, its first in five years following a period in which singer Bethany Cosentino felt creatively tapped out and the record is about coming back from that space of feeling trapped inside your own anxieties and emotional exhaustion.

What: Dale Watson w/Chella & The Charm
When: Saturday, 3.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: The Trujillo Company, Elektric Animals, Boot Gun, Holy Roller Baby
When: Saturday, 3.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Monday | March 9

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Freq Boutique 36 featuring Victoria Lundy
When: Monday, 3.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the three year anniversary of synthesizer showcase Freq Boutique that includes good food and drink as well as a synth open mic. This edition will include a performance from Theremin and synth artist Victoria Lundy whose own compositions are steeped in pop and the classical avant-garde. She has performed in various Denver bands including The Inactivists, The Goofus Device and Carbon Dioxide Orchestra.

Wednesday | March 11

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Plague Garden, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Gene Loves Jezebel w/Red Wing Black Bird and Plague Garden
When: Wednesday, 3.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: This is the Michael Aston version of Gene Loves Jezebel, the influential 80s post-punk/new wave band whose eclectic aesthetic and lush melodies influenced a segment of what became alternative rock in the 1990s. Opening is darkwave/shoegaze one-man act Red Wing Black Bird whose 2019 album Too Klaus For Comfort was a unique fusion of synth pop and industrial post-punk and swirling guitar. Plague Garden’s flavor of modern death rock seemingly draws inspiration from the early Cure records and Valor Kand-era Christian Death. The duo recently released the haunting and harrowing LEFT IN THE GRAVE.

What: The Wonder Years w/Free Throw, Spanish Love Songs, Pool Kids
When: Wednesday, 3.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

Best Shows in Denver 2/27/20 – 3/4/20

Thursday | February 27

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The Shivas, photo by Adria Ivanitsky

What: The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger
When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.

What: SG1, Liptruce and Turner Jackson
When: Thursday, 2.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | February 28

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Whitacre, photo by Brandon Johnson

What: Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.

What: Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.

What: Chuck Prophet
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall
Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.

What: Drune w/Earthdiver and Dead Characters
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

What: Youthanizer debut and Tuck Knee Tour Kick Off w/Gack, XdeadbeatX and Wolfblitzer
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Luna Luna w/Retrofette and Nightlove
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: MxPx w/Teenage Bottle Rocket
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | February 29

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Rachael Sage, photo courtesy the artist

What: Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.

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SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.

What: Church Fire, Grief Ritual and Limbwrecker
When: Saturday, 2.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Bannock St. Garage

What: The Corner Girls w/Vic N’ The Narwhals and Beau Beverage
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Authority Zero w/Over Time and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Tuesday | March 3

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project
When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.

Wednesday | March 4

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R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.

What: Shigeto w/Mux Mool and Venus Cruz
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Rakim
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

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

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

Thursday | January 23

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Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

Friday | January 24

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$addy circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | January 25

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Old Sport circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

Sunday | January 26

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Lazarus Horse circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Tuesday | January 28

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

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

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