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 and Beyond 10/17/19 – 10/23/19

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Guerilla Toss performs at Hi-Dive on October 19, 2019, photo by Vanessa Castro

Thursday | October 17

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Sun Blood Stories

What: Sun Blood Stories, Space Jail, The Teeth of the Hydra and Prayer Hands
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City Studio
Why: Sun Blood Stories from Boise, Idaho, has been creating its experimental psychedelic music since 2011. Though the band emerged around the time when the most recent wave of psychedelic rock was headed toward its peak, Sun Blood Stories seemed to come from a different place. Its shows feel a bit like you’re seeing what a traveling, shamanistic musical ceremony might be like. Its songs, some rock, some weirdo folk, all informed by an attempt to create a mood and an experience as much as, or more so, than melody. The group is now touring in support of its 2019 album Haunt Yourself.

What: 303 Synth City: Patternshift, Malibu Nights, Niq V, Bob Sync
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room

What: Brent Penny, Cuckoo, Shanea
When: Thursday, 10.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: False Report (EP release) w/In My Room, Pacific Nerve, Cagemates
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | October 18

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Temples, photo by Laura Allard Fleischl

What: Temples w/Honey Harper
When: Friday, 10.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Temples from Kettering, England made big waves with its debut album Sun Structures at the apex of the neo-psychedelic era. But one thing that has set Temples apart from its peers is its mastery of layered dynamics like an orchestration of oil projections. The Krautrock-like rhythms, the sheets of luminous ethereal sounds, the haunted and the soaring vocals, guitars carrying both melody and texture shimmering throughout, Temples didn’t get stuck playing in an indie folk band that discovered weird pedals one day and jammed out to “Anemone” by the Brian Jonestown Massacre endlessly. Temples perfectly weds pop songcraft with mind-altering sound experiments. Its 2019 album, Hot Motion, finds the band exploring new vistas of evocative soundscaping mixing a palette of classic psychedelic era rock sounds and strong songwriting with modern sensibilities.

What: Riceboy Sleeps (Jónsi & Alex Somers) w/Wordless Orchestra
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Most people probably know Jónsi as a member of Sigur Rós and thus no stranger to transcendent, orchestral music. With his partner Alex Somers he makes experimental ambient music and their latest album, their first with this project in a decade, is 2019’s Lost & Found. The show will be an evocative production with Wordless Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames with orchestra arrangements by David Handler. A mixture of classical, ambient and the avant-garde, the footage from this tour so far has shown a moving performance of uncommon grace and hushed intensity.

What: Hilary Leftwich book release of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Book Bar

What: Deep Club presents: Galcher Lustwerk w/WNGDU and Ponyrok
When: Friday, 10.18, 11 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Colfax Speed Queen album release of Dirty Mirror w/The Kinky Fingers, Savage Blush and Ladies Night
When: Friday, 10.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Saturday | October 19

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Aldous Harding circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Aldous Harding w/Hand Habits (solo)
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Aldous Harding’s weirdo folk songs and compellingly eccentric performances is definitely for fans of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Her 2019 album Designer is a showcase for her storytelling genius.

What: Guerilla Toss w/cindygod and Corner Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A brilliant collision of dub, post-punk and psych-synth imbued disco, Guerilla Toss brings an upbeat yet surreal sensibility to its shows. It’s new record, What Would The Odd Do? released October 18 and this is more or less the band’s tour kickoff show.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll 11: The Vagrant Sea, Landgrabbers
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The Vagrant Sea is a punk-inflected noise rock band or a noisy punk band. Either way its members are veterans of Denver’s underground rock scene including former members of The Symptoms, Dirty Lookers, Tarmints and many others. Landgrabbers is a honky tonk punk band with emphasis on the latter. At a time when most punks are aiming for a niche subgenre, Landgrabbers refreshingly focus on writing solid songs and leave the fashion show, sonically and otherwise, to those more inclined.

What: The Distillers w/Death Valley Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Distillers’ brash punk rock burned bright and flamed out between starting in 1998 and breaking up in 2006 leaving behind a few records of songs about raging against feeling like being kicked to the bottom rung but making that kind of scrappy underdog status seem glorious. Singer Brody Dalle cut a commanding figure and after the band split she spent some time writing music in Spinnerette and under her own name. But as of 2018, The Distillers are back together at a time when maybe its ferocious performances with snotty yet tuneful songs will find a wider audience hungry for something that vital. Also on the bill is Death Valley Girls whose inspirationally bizarre blend of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelia is truly born of an individual collective imagination channeled into spirited performances.

What: Clay Rendering, Weathered Statues, French Kettle Station, Prison Glue
When: Saturday, 10.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Clay Rendering is often called a mix of dream pop and black metal and that’s fair enough but it might also be considered a rebirth of synth infused death rock. Its 2019 album California Black Vows sounds like what Iceage might have sounded like if it went more darkwave and less in the direction of The Bad Seeds.

What: Jonathan Richman w/Tommy Larkins
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill
Why: Because Jonathan Richman is the godfather of twee pop and radical sincerity in vulnerability in rock music. And he hasn’t exactly toned down that approach as a performer in nearly fifty years. He’s a national treasure.

Sunday | October 21

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters, Weaken, Voight and Fatal Fantasy (DJ)
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Zodiac (Colorado Springs)
Why: All Your Sisters from Los Angeles and Denver’s Echo Beds (playing the Monday show in Denver at Rhinoceropolis) are headed out on a tour to the East Coast. The former released the album Trust Ruins in April 2019 and re-established itself as practitioners of harrowing, industrial death disco. Voight are a jagged machine of sound and sometimes convulsive, sometimes broodily intense sounds that erupt with a barrage of cathartic energy to purge the dulling effects of late capitalism.

What: The Japanese House w/Overcoats
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Haunter, Noctambulist, Casket Huffer, Zygrot
When: Sunday, 10.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Municipal Waste, Napalm Death, Sick Of It All and Take Offense
When: Sunday, 10.20, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and Backseat Vinyl
When: Sunday, 10.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Monday | October 21

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All Your Sisters circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters w/Echo Beds, Midwife and B|_ank
When: Monday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: For All Your Sisters see above on October 20. Echo Beds is an alchemical combination of stark hardcore aesthetics and organic industrial post-punk.

What: Whitney w/Lala Lala
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Whitney’s debut album Light Upon the Lake (2016) benefited from both hitting a trend early of the sort of Laurel Canyon, countrified psychedelic pop embraced in the American underground and from its exquisite arrangements and ear for dynamics in a way that has been missing from far too much modern pop music. The follow-up album, 2019’s Forever Turned Around is a tender and sensitive meditation on the fear and confusion hanging in the collective psyche of late complicated by issues of addictions of various kinds, a heavier than expected set of subjects from music that sounds so spacious and heavenly.

What: J.S. Ondara w/Elise Davis
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and The Corner Girls
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Tuesday | October 22

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Chelsea Wolfe, photo by Ben Chisholm

What: Chelsea Wolfe w/Ioanna Gika
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Stanley Hotel
Why: What could be more perfect than the haunting intensity of Chelsea Wolfe’s songs, performed acoustically as is the style of at least one of her albums, at the haunted Stanley Hotel in advance of Halloween? Wolfe recently released her new album Birth of Violence which features some of her more acoustic songwriting than the heavy drones and atmospheric black metal of her last few offerings. It showcases a more intimate side of Wolfe’s deeply personal storytelling rather than the nightmarish visions with which you might be more familiar with the artist and a testament to her enduring talent.

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The KVB, photo by George Katsanakis

What: The KVB w/Numb.er and Eventually It Will Kill You
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The KVB’s synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of Fad Gadget’s dark avant-pop with its distorted, urgent soundscapes and brooding, introspective vocals. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Submersion.

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John Paul White, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

What: Shovels & Rope w/John Paul White (of The Civil Wars)
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: John Paul White one half of bluesy Americana duo The Civil Wars with Joy Williams. In 2019 he released his third solo album The Hurting Kind. Its flavor is a little more introspective than some of his previous work with The Civil Wars. But the level of detail and warmth of tone is there. Apparently he was inspired by the almost orchestral production and songwriting of early 60s Nashville acts and he brings that sensibility to this new batch of songs by taking his gift for turning simple and spare elements into a lush sound that touches on fine emotional notes. Exquisitely crafted songs by one of America’s premier songwriters. Shovels & Rope is the alternative country band from Charleston, South Carolina comprised of Cary Ann Hearst and former Denverite, and former Tinker’s Punishment frontman, Michael Trent.

What: Mating Ritual, Hembree, Compass & Cavern
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Wednesday | October 23

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mxmtoon, photo by Nicole Busch

What: mxmtoon w/Alexander 23
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: mxmtoon went from bedroom pop musician to international renown from 2017 to 2019 initially releasing more humorous songs and moving on to more sincere expressions of feeling. Her 2018 debut EP plum blossom garnered her critical acclaim for her finely composed pop songs that feel spontaneous and insouciant. Through social media and other internet outlets like TikTok, Vine, Snapchat, Soundcloud, mxmtoon, or Maia, has made comedic videos and shared her work connecting with hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2019 she released her debut full-length, self-released, the masquerade. There’s something lighthearted but genuine about her songs and her intuitive knack for an earworm melody and wordplay is consistently impressive.

What: Free Music, Koto Robo, Cop Circles album release, French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Cop Circles is the weirdo afrobeat/avant-garde jazz influenced project of one Luke Leavitt. He is releasing his latest album Penultimate Conclusions at this show. Also on the bill is eccentrically brilliant experimental pop project Free Music from Minneapolis, the relentless and inspired adult contemporary/glitch/synth pop hybrid of French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs’ transporting modular synth compositions and Koto Robo’s synthesis of 80s video game sounds (though not 8-bit) and synth pop.

What: Agnostic Front w/The New Narrative, Clusterfux and Out For Blood
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater

What: Girlpool, American Grandma and Bellhoss
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Best Shows in Denver 12/27/18 – 1/2/18

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Church Fire drops Summer Camp Doom Diary @ Hi-Dive this Saturday, 12/29/18.                       Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | December 27, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.

Who: Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith
When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.

Friday | December 28, 2018

 

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Green Druid, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid
When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.

Who: Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad
When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife
When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.

Saturday | December 29, 2018

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Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.

Who: Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith
When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.

Who: Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.

Who: Itchy-O w/PPL MVR
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.

Sunday | December 30, 2018

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Cloudless Rain (left) with Sheet Metal Skin Graft (left) circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits
When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.

Who: Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.

Who: The Beach Boys
When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.

Who: Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.

Who: cindygod EP release
When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.

Monday | December 31, 2018

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Rubedo at We Labs with Ikey Owens (3rd from left), November 15, 2013. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.

Who: Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.

Who: Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman
When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Wayfarer and George Cessna (solo)
When: Monday, 12.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The third and final show of SCAC’s NYE residency featuring opening sets from Denver doom band Wayfarer and George Cessna performing a solo set.

Wednesday | January 2, 2019

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Adam Selene, photo by Spookie Darling of Darling House Media

Who: Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell
When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?

Best Shows in Denver 10/11/18 – 10/17/18

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ADULT. performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, 10/13/18, with Plack Blague and Voight

Thursday | October 11, 2018

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The Church circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Karl Blau w/Porlolo and High Plains Honky
When: Thursday, 10.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Karl Blau has had a rich and varied career spanning the past two decades or so. As a member of lo-fi rock band D+ he wrote songs and performed with Bret Lunsford formerly of Beat Happening and future Microphones and Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum. As a solo artist and musical curator with his Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society musical subscription artist, Blau has been involved in making music in widely disparate styles and often hybridizing them or outright creating something that’s impossible to classify beyond maybe simply pop. In recent years, Blau has been writing songs that seem shaped by everything else he’s made up to now with bossa nova percussion, African pop vocal cadences, hip-hop-and-reggae-informed lyrical phrasing and indie/freak folk sensibilities. In the past Blau has performed solo with a loop pedal and pulled off what sounds like a full band minus robust drums so you’re never full sure what you’re in for barring that it’ll be exceptional.

Who: The Church
When: Thursday, 10.11, 7:30/8 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: Australian rock band The Church is currently undertaking it’s tour for the thirtieth anniversary of its 1988 album Starfish. The band had already made a name for itself with fans of adventurous, inventive, literate and thoughtful yet heartfelt rock music. But Starfish was the group’s breakthrough to not just a wider audience but the mainstream with hits like “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile.” While the group is justly celebrating the release of its iconic album for itself and fans that maybe didn’t get to see The Church in its 80s heyday (pardon the referential joke to the band’s 1985 album of the same name), the band’s new material is as vital as anything it has done in the past and you’ll get the best of both worlds at this show.

Friday | October 12, 2018

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Ralph Gean (with Andrew Lindstrom) circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 10.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Record labels Snappy Little Numbers and Anxious and Angry collaborated on this two day festival at the Hi-Dive with some of the better local and not local punk and punk-related bands. For this night you can see two night headliners Off With Their Heads as well as Riverboat Gamblers, SPELLS, Dirty Few, Black Dots, Hooper and Modern Goon.

What: Franksgiving 2018
When: Friday, 10.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This yearly event benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America is hosted by local connoisseur of weird music Franklin Bell. Naturally he always finds some of the best local odd yet accessible bands for the vent. As usual, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, one of Denver’s longest running and most consistently interesting weirdo punk institutions will perform as well as not-widely-recognized-but-absolutely-a-local-rock-and-roll-legend Ralph Gean, Fyodor drummer Tricky Dick Wicket’s side project that isn’t Universal Devils, Whiskey Orphans, the “sweet and sensitive keyboard songs” of No Pants Katie with DJ Frank Bell spinning kooky kuts.

Who: Screwtape w/Potato Pirates, Noogy, World Movement and Ultraviolet
When: Friday, 10.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Screwtape’s politically-charged hardcore and dynamic live show has already made it a favorite among local fans of punk and the group is kicking off its latest tour to the south with this show sharing the bill with ska-punk veterans Potato Pirates and Colorado Springs hardcore outfit Ultraviolet.
Who: Multidim Records Official Launch Party
When: Friday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Leon
Why: Multidim Records is a new Denver-based label focusing on emerging artists in electronic and abstract music. Founded by Tommy Metz (Glissline) and Michael David King (Cities of Earth), this event will feature some of the artists on the label’s roster including the respective projects of the label’s founders as well as Andre Cactus + Ah, River and Mirror Fears.

Saturday | October 13, 2018

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Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: ADULT. w/Plack Blague and Voight
When: Saturday, 10.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: For twenty years, Detroit’s ADULT. has been on the forefront of mixing electronic pop, techno and industrial music with an experimental flair. In the late 90s, ADULT. helped to pioneer the sound and aesthetic that came to be called electroclash by around the turn of the century. As the duo explored sounds and performance it garnered a cult following among connoisseurs of electronic music paired with a dynamic and sometimes confrontational performance style. It adopted and mutated the sound and production ideas running through underground techno throughout the 2000s giving it a powerful and imaginative soundscape to match singer Nicola Kuperus’s emotionally-nuanced vocals. The band’s 2018 album This Behavior was the darker side of the songwriting that went into the 2017 album Detroit House Guests—both rich and dense with sonic detail and inventive rhythms.

Also on the this leg of the tour is Lincoln, Nebraska’s Plack Blague. Raws Schlesinger had been, maybe still is, involved in the Nebraska grind and extreme metal scene in various bands. But Plack Blague is a bit like a leather daddy Big Freedia but with beats that are the industrial and techno analogue to sissy bounce. On previous occasions in Denver, Plack Blague may have seemed to be a sonically abrasive spectacle but the act’s songs have taken on a compelling form beyond the spectacle without sacrificing the striking visual aspect of the band including Schleslinger’s undeniably amazing dance moves.

What: Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 2
When: Saturday, 10.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This second night of Anxious Little Friends Fest includes performances from Off With Their Heads, The Bollweevils, SPELLS, Friends of Cesar Romero, Lawsuit Models, Great American House Fire and Bad Year.

What: KGNU Quarterly Showcase
When: Saturday, 10.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the KGNU Quarterly Showcase features some of Denver’s most innovative electronic artists. Shocker Mom’s dreamy, ambient R&B is the latest vehicle from Robin Walker. As a member of Cougar Pants, walker, along with Jessica Hughes, made a particularly tender and emotionally deep yet playful type of indie pop. As a solo performer, Walker distinguished herself as a talented vocalist and songwriter whose use of sound taps into a pre-linguistic part of the human brain, communicating the vibrations of a loving, healing aspect of the universe—which she has manifested most strongly with Shocker Mom. Also catch her in excellent hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus. Larians is the solo side project of Male Blonding singer/guitarist Noah Simons. His brilliant take on IDM, techno and ambient may just be getting started but it’s obvious he’s learned a few things to build beyond from Burial and Aphex Twin. Bios+a+ic is the solo project of Textures Ambient Showcase and Symbolic Insight head Wesley Davis. All of his albums with the project are different and conceptual, representing ideas and sound experiments that tickled Davis’ imagination at the time of their creation. Also on the bill are All Mask and DJ Winter

Sunday | October 14, 2018

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Future Generations, photo (cropped) by Shervin Lainez

Who: Henry Rollins Travel Slideshow Tour
When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: It’s been a good longer while than usual since Henry Rollins has done one of his spoken tours. This time around he’s sharing his photography and telling stories from his travels around the world. His spoken word shows are always worth checking out and with the images to prompt his memory and engage those who show up it will be a more immersive experience when coupled with his already fantastic storytelling.

Who: Future Generations w/Zuli and Whiskey Autumn
When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Brooklyn has long been home to eclectic indie rock with artists, of necessity, trying out innovative musical ideas and strong songwriting in order to stand out. Future Generations’ 2018 album Landscape is like a stroll through a person’s day and life and composed as though the melodies and rhythms are a soundtrack with electronic, ambient textures to give the songwriting a context that connects all the music. Sure, each piece can be enjoyed on its own but the record feels like a new take on the classic album format from a time when bands felt like there were no throwaway songs and thought in terms of interconnecting themes. Probably not a concept album but one that works on a very conceptual level too.

Tuesday | October 16, 2018

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A Place To Bury Strangers circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Kraus and cindygod
When: Tuesday, 10.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: A Place To Bury Strangers is often credited as one of the bands that helped to re-popularize shoegaze in the underground. But the band’s contribution has run deeper as guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackerman created unique guitar pedals with functionality that has helped push the sound of the instrument into new realms of noise and texture. As part of the pedal and sound equipment company/DIY space Death By Audio, Ackerman and company contributed to its creative community in a direct, pragmatic way. APTBS fused lo-fi, shoegaze, noise, post-punk and hardcore in fascinating ways. For an album or two it felt like maybe the project had plateaued even if the songwriting was still good. But the 2018 album Pinned with new drummer Lia Simon Braswell demonstrated that the band hasn’t run out of ideas for heady and disorienting soundscaping. Opening the show is Denver’s cindygod, the follow-up band to shoegaze/noise rock duo Gauntlet Hair. Now the band is a quartet with an even more exhilarating panoply of sound.

Wednesday | October 17, 2018

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Gold Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sarah Ruth Alexander, Polecat Moon Pussy and Gold Trash
When: Wednesday, 10.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: [update, Shiny Around the Edges no longer on the bill] Sarah Ruth Alexander’s brooding yet luminous compositions utilizing effected vocals and acoustic instruments have made Dallas’ They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy one of the more interesting bands and critically acclaimed bands that in the past his intentionally been more or less off the internet because its music works best live. Alexander’s solo performances recall some of the most chilling moments of Nico’s solo work, The Marble Index, Desertshore and The End in particular, in its use of organic instruments in a manner suggesting an electronic music aesthetic as a way to tap into deeply rooted spaces in the psyche. One might also hear in her songs resonances with Jarboe’s more intensely tranquil performances with Swans. Moon Pussy is a noise rock band from Denver and Gold Trash could be said to be a soulful yet noisy version of an electroclash band.

Best Shows in Denver 6/21/18 – 6/27/18

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Lithics perform at Tuesday 6/26/18 at Lost Lake with Super Bummer and Male Blonding. Photo by Christie Maclean.

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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Bios+a+ic circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Bios+a+ic and Acidbat
When: Thursday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: For this edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 you can see Wesley Davis doing a rare performance as Bios+a+ic, his long-running ambient/experimental electronic and acoustic instrument project. Davis curates the Textures Ambient showcase series now hosted the last Sunday of every month (including this Sunday, 6/24) at Mutiny Information Café. This event marks the twenty year anniversary of Davis’ label Symbolic Insight. Also on the bill is Acidbat, Seth Ogden’s noise-techno-downtempo-IDM project. Though not short on the experimental of electronic soundscaping, Acidbat pushes the use of rhythm and beats in interesting directions.

Who: Cindygod w/French Kettle Station and Whoopsi
When: Thursday, 06.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Probably a good reason to go to this show is to see New Wave Dance phenom French Kettle Station and his emotionally charged performance. But the main reason is to see the debut of Andy Rauworth’s and Craig Nice’s new band Cindygod. Rauworth and Nice were the indie rock duo Gauntlet Hair who made waves in the late 2000s/early 2010s with its energetic, noisy, sparkly rock songs. The group signed to Dead Oceans and did a short bit of touring before calling it quits in August 2013. For this band Rauworth is joined by Anton Krueger formerly of Bollywood Life (now H-Lite) and Eamonn Wilcox
who some may remember performing as Running Niwot a few years back.

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Pop Up: Music & Art with Calm., Adolfo Romero and poet Jesus Rodriguez, art by Goat Witch Goods
When: Friday, 06.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The benefits of this show will go to benefit the undocumented community. It will include performances from poets Jesus Rodriguez and Adolfo Romero as well as the great Denver-based hip-hop duo Calm. whose own music reflects growing up poor in Park Hill and North Denver and an organic intellectual tradition. Also, rapper Chris Steele might lay down some of his surreal humor between songs and drop some knowledge outside the context of Calm.’s music.

Who: Pearls & Perils, Vahco and Victoria Lundy
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Soulful downtempo and synths show from Glasss Records artists Pearls & Perils and Vahco. Olivia of Pearls & Perils creates a deep cloudscape of sound with her beats and her sultry voice and Vahco’s experimental R&B and powerfully emotive singing gives his songs a quality that transcends any specific genre of music to which it might be attached. Victoria Lundy is the godmother of experimental electronic music in Denver at this point from her time in Carbon Dioxide Orchestra two decades ago to her Theremin work for avant-pop outfit The Inactivists to the music under her own name that reflects the influence of Twentieth Century classical and avant-garde electronic music as well as her own imaginative use of synth and Theremin.

Who: Pink Hawks w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Polyphoni
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Pink Hawks are one of few legit Afrobeat outfits in Denver led by Yuzo Nieto. The latter helped start the project as more of a free jazz trio but followed his instincts into more out jazz and Latin music to whatever it is one might exactly describe Pink Hawks now. Also on the bill is the great, jazz-inflected Denver hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp whose playful yet deeply meaningful songs bridge the personal and the political with rapper/beatmaker Kaelyn Heffernan’s social activism. WSC doesn’t really sound like anyone else, reflective of its diverse roots.

Who: Sliver, Pout House, Yellnat, Hair Club and Galleries
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s a free show but that is no knock on its quality. Galleries is a heavy psychedelic band from Denver but one where the songwriting comes before simply rocking with a weirdo flourish. Sliver is a punk and grunge band influenced by, of course, Nirvana, but also hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and post-punk/proto-grunge band Wipers from Portland, Oregon. As good as any of those bands? Maybe. But, contrary to the band’s protestations otherwise, Sliver does not in fact suck.

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Trve Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Bacchanal Night 1: Krallice, Wayfarer, Fórn, Many Blessings
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Trve Brewing has been hosting a weekend of great extreme metal for several years now and this first night includes legendary black/technical death metal shredder Mick Barr with his band Krallice as well as Denver doom outfit Wayfarer and Many Blessings, the ambient/instrumental doom/noise project from Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man.

Who: Definitely, Maybe, Thistledown, Ancient Elk and Laura Goldhamer
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Definitely Maybe includes former members of the late, great, math rock band Scatter Gather. Ancient Elk shows us where avant-folk, psychedelia and soul meet. Laura Goldhamer has long been an influential figure in Denver’s later era indie pop and experimental folk world not just for her music but for her steering bookings at the now defunct DIY space Brooks Center Arts as well as her beautifully imaginative filmmaking.

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures 4 year anniversary at Mutiny w/Mingo, Bios+a+ic and The {Nothing} 
When: Sunday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This Textures anniversary show also celebrates 20 years of Wesley Davis’ Symbolic Insight imprint. For the occasion, Davis will perform as Bios+a+ic, his long running ambient project. Additionally, Mingo, whose work has also been featured on Hearts of Space Program, will put in one of his few performances and The {Nothing} is a newer ambient/experimental project that is Travis Sturm who will provide the usual, greatly evocative visuals under his orchidz3ro moniker.

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Horrors w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Even though The Horrors were basically a The Birthday Party tribute band early on, as evidenced by its promising debut album Strange House, it at least was one that seemed halfway credible. As the band evolved, and as the band aged out of their early 20s, The Horrors took on other flavors like late-era Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized with the 2009 Primary Colours album, motorik beats and all. With 2011’s Skying The Horrors made its inspirations in electronic music much more obvious but so well blended with the rock instrumentation that it was practically a new band whose gift for otherworldly and transporting compositions was fully formed. While not sounding the same at all one might say that The Horrors have become the British equivalent of Deerhunter. With 2014’s Luminous The Horrors went further into the realm of the electronic but with 2017’s V, the band has come to engaging in more straightforward pop songcraft while not shedding its experimental instincts and what it has learned during its impressive arc of development as a band. To say nothing of the group’s great visual style and theatrical performances which give the music its proper and impactful context.

Opening the show is Denver-based dream pop band Oko Tygra. Singer/guitarist Joshua Novak has been making emotionally stirring music since his days of performing as a what one might say singer-songwriter. Of course Novak’s songwriting seemed much more sonically ambitious from the beginning and with this band he’s able to create the kind of downtempo, lush music that has been in his imagination waiting for the right way to see expression for years.

Who: Men I Trust w/Pearl Sugar and Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Montreal’s Men I Trust operate independently of labels and PR folk pushing their music to press. And often that means the band is probably punk or some kind of rock. But no, the group’s music is minimalist, downtempo dream pop and its ethos reminiscent of bands that used to play the American DIY circuit in the late 2000s when you could never fully predict what kind of music would come through playing place in Denver like Rhinoceropolis, Mouth House and the like. Men I Trust has more in common with Cocteau Twins and Alvvays than modern synth pop or post-chillwave acts and its production sophisticated for a band existing largely outside the traditional channels of the music industry. But, really, isn’t that how many bands these days are doing it? From learning the skills to produce, mix and master their music and create music videos mainly to have control over one’s output but also because you can learn all those skills and not have to pay someone outside your immediate orbit to do the work. That part doesn’t really make the band unique in this day and age. However, Men I Trust seems like it’s put more than their fair share of time into releasing quality product from inception to setting it off for others to enjoy.

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Projectors w/Still Woozy
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Whatever one thinks of Dirty Projectors you can’t really down a band that seems to explore new territory or at least find different angles on ideas it already developed well on earlier releases. Its forthcoming album Lamp Lit Prose (due out July 13, 2018) finds David Longstreth and company doing as it has done for years in weaving together a wide spectrum of musical traditions and ideas to produce music that many may find quirky but which pushes forward what pop music can be. This time the spidery and labyrinthine guitar work and non-western rhythm schemes inside fairly mathy overall structures is a fascinating wrinkle for a band that has rejected certain comparisons to prog. Because it’s not prog. It is, however, using technical musical ideas as a framework to experiment with unconventional ideas in its own musical legacy.

Who: Lithics w/Super Bummer and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Inevitably Lithics get compared to No Wave early NYC and Bush Tetras. And that sort of wiry, writhing alienation is part of its sonic DNA. But the urgent atonal math rock-esque quality of some of its songs and the junk-jangle riffs remind one a bit of great 90s math rock weirdos like A Minor Forest, Polvo and Autoclave as well as art punk peers like Palm and US Weekly. Nevertheless, Lithics, from Portland, Oregon, has distinguished itself with stark melodies and jagged changes of pace as well as singer Aubrey Hornor’s intense stage presence and piercing gaze that channels perfectly songs brimming with nervous energy distilled into brilliant nuggets of postmodern poetic meditations on the neuroses plaguing anyone paying attention in the world in the past decade. Its new album, Mating Surfaces (out now on Kill Rock Stars), is exactly the kind of harum scarum post-punk disco we need as an salve to challenge and help cope with the conformist shittiness that has taken over our national politics. Bonus: you get to see two of Denver’s greatest post-punk acts with the more psych Super Bummer and Male Blonding’s deeply atmospheric sound grounded by one of the greatest rhythm sections in the Mile High City.

Who: The Sidekicks w/Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Sidekicks, from Cleveland, Ohio, spends most of their excellent 2018 album Happiness Hours proving that you can still be a pop-oriented punk band and not have to perpetually navigate life as an emotionally stunted teenager. It’s not a melancholy album. It’s not cynical. It’s not rife with the voice of someone who feels like they have it all figured out. What the band has figured out, though, is that their version of punk doesn’t have to fit the formula they grew up with in terms of instrumentation or the flavor of the sentiments expressed in the words—that punk, too, can evolve and grow with you if the people making it are willing to reimagine the music they love for a time in life they never really thought about reaching without feeling like they had to put anything fun behind. Denver bands Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive also didn’t get the memo on needing to keep on making punk like you never outgrew shitty street punk and problematic emo.

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thurston Moore
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café
Why: Thurston Moore wasn’t just a charismatic member of one of alternative rock’s most influential and iconic bands. He was an ambassador for the underground in music and art throughout the 80s and through to today. He is also a scholar of the Beat movement and an instructor on that subject at Naropa University. Tonight he will be doing readings from his book Stereo Sanctity – Lyrics & Poems.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Dorian, Chromadrift, Denizens of the Deep
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday will have a focus on some of Denver’s greatest ambient bands. Chromadrift just released his latest album Skyline. It’s organic/electronic/textural beats frame luminous compositions reminiscent of Dntel will be soothing enough to make one forget how busy the Baker District has become of late. Denizens of the Deep’s soundtrack-y ambient music is the aural equivalent of an A.E. Van Vogt story set in some detailed yet completely alien and haunted far future after civilization has fallen for the umpteenth time—haunted, suggestive of decaying urban landscapes and dark yet comforting.