What:Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.
What:Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.
What:New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.
What:Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.
Wednesday | January 15
What:Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.
What:The Ocean Blue When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Dream pop band and precursors of modern indie pop, The Ocean Blue, makes a stop in Denver in support of its new album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Read our interview with singer/guitarist David Schelzel here.
What:Dog Basketball and Dry Ice album release When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m. Where: Old Main Chapel CU 1600 Pleasant St. Boulder 80302 Why: Dual album release show from experimental pop band Dog Basketball and “psychedelic dream punk” band Dry Ice from Denver. A rarity to see any show at Old Main much less something this underground and experimental.
What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlet and WitchHands When: Friday, 12.6, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: She Past Away is the Turkish post-punk band from Bursa that began in 2006 and making them early adopters of the current darkwave movement. Its synth and bass-driven songs have a different quality than its Western European and American counterparts while sharing that dark, introspective quality that is clearly descended from the likes of D.A.F., Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox with an aesthetic that isn’t so far removed from its punk roots. The group’s third and latest album 2019 Disko Anksiyete saw a dual release on Fabrika Records and Metropolis Record and with a US tour currently under way it’s proof that its music transcends barriers of language.
What:Altas with Tiffany Christopher When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Open Media Why: Instrumental rock band Altas performs at Denver Open Media for a free show with Tiffany Christopher. Altas released the powerfully cinematic All I Ever Wanted Was in June 2019.
What:May Erlewine w/Dango Rose When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m. Where: Tuft Theatre (Swallow Hill) Why: May Erlewine is a prolific blues folk artist from Big Rapids, Michigan with fifteen albums under her belt since 2003 including 2019’s In the Night. Erlewine cut her teeth as a live performer, according to a piece on MTV.com, while hitch hiking across North America and performing on the streets. For In the Night Erlewine picked herself up from the state of despair that hit many people in the wake of the Trump presidency and use her music as way to address 45’s ignorant and hateful and destructive remarks and behaviors with thoughtful commentary and observations on life and the American culture she and many of us know to be much more authentic than the spewage from a pampered, narcissistic child of privilege. But expect that music to be delivered with Erlewine’s usual warmth, nuance and strength with her dynamic and elegant voice.
What:Lettuce w/Antibalas and Chris Karns When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Lettuce is an experimental funk band that has crossed over into the realm of jam bands and EDM even though its music has ranged far afield of that for years including its 2019 album Elevate. The group freely borrows from styles and sounds to craft its signature synthesis of funk, Afrobeat, jazz and electronic pop.
What:Anamanaguchi w/Default Genders and Nullsleep When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Mix an anthemic J-pop band with an 8-bit glitchcore project and a progressive rock/jazz fusion band and task it to make dynamic and engrossing video game music with an uncommon sense of space, composition and emotional impact and you have Anamanaguchi. Particularly on its 2019 album [USA]. Seems gimmicky at first but the New York-based band doesn’t get stuck in the hyperactive songwriting that plagues a lot of “Nintendocore” acts or the dull focus on displays of technical prowess and knowledge of theory that is behind a lot of prog. Just well crafted, expansive pop songs that feel like endless possibilities and the positive ghosts of childhood reverie manifested in sound.
What:Alex Cameron w/Jackladder and Emily Panic When: Monday, 12.9, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Alex Cameron’s 2019 album Miami Memory is like a set of vignettes about people in crisis. But the take is one of compassion and understanding without trying to underplay or make light of the struggles. At a time when a lot of synth pop is generic, Cameron’s eccentric and psychologically insightful take on songwriting is strikingly different with a knack for changing up the vibe, texture and tone of his songs throughout an album. Just watch the video for “Far From Born Again” for a bit about Cameron’s keen understanding of the human condition.
What:FEELS w/Midwife, Sweetness Itself and The Lifers When: Friday, 05.10 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: FEELS recently put out its sophomore effort Post Earth. Like its 2016 self-titled debut, the new album makes it obvious the group was the next step in musical evolution out of the garage, psych, fuzz rock era of a few years back that had grown stagnant and utterly predictable. FEELS has always been too weird for that seeming to be rooted in a style of songwriting that was more introspective and bedroom confessional punk poetry than trying to fit into some scene. Unless that scene was one where your eccentric, authentic self was cultivated and nourished. So yeah, while Post Earth may have some familiar elements it just comes off like a band trying to figure out what it wants to be by trying a lot of different things and thing coming back to embracing what makes its individual members shine in sync with each other to make the kind of punk that has more in common with the first wave where almost anything goes and no one is insisting on aesthetic orthodoxy than the niche subgenres that have come in between then and now. That uniqueness translates to a uniquely energetic live show as well.
What:Call of the Void w/Green Druid, Casket Huffer and BleakHeart When: Friday, 05.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Call of the Void celebrates the release of its new album Buried in Light with this show with some of Denver’s heaviest. Call of the Void has been, no pun intended, grinding it out since 2011 when it was called Ironhorse. But the quartet has always been more than grindcore and more than death metal. Its song dynamics, its lyrics and vocals are closer to bands like Neurosis and Isis than some of its more obvious peers and influences. Buried in Light feels like more of a science fiction album about life post impending human colony collapse.
Saturday | May 11
What:GYES 6: Gort Vs. Goom, How to Think, Lady of Sorrows and Full Bleed When: Saturday, 05.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: There are no “cool” bars nearby, the neighborhood is still sketchy sandwiched between CU Medical Centroplex, rapid development sprawl stumbling in from the west, the dystopian built-on-flight-fuel-soaked-ground of the Stapleton Development to the north and to the south the part of Aurora that is largely forgotten. Northwest Aurora, one of the few parts of central-ish Denver metro that has stubbornly resisted the influence of Nü Denver because it’s not along easily accessed by main arterial streets beyond Colfax. And yet, due to not predatory development The People’s Building exists and has events that you might want to go to including Get Your Eyes Swoll. Because of the booking involved it’s usually something very underground and definitely outside the mainstream. There’s probably literally no branch of Denver Metro underground music happening in public spaces in Aurora in general much less the Northwestern portion of the city tucked into Denver’s armpit like an infected splinter some fool has been trying to ignore for years until it became in demand once the vultures swooped in to buy out all the lower middle class homeowners with their dubious offers about buying ugly houses and the like. So for now, head east and maybe, just maybe, see prog punk weirdo duo Gort Vs. Goom and Lady of Sorrows who will bring her operatic, darkwave soundscaping to Denver’s dankest suburb.
What:Velveteers vinyl release w/The Kinky Fingers and Television Generation When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: Silo Sound Why: Velveteers thankfully came along a few years back to save rock and roll from its tired tropes and cartoonish, patriarchal clap trap with a buzzsaw, thunderous vengeance and fiery live show. And you get to see The Kinky Fingers who make a great case that even when most bands are boring us with trendy post-psych burnout bullshit, one can take a style and inject it with elegance and imagination and make it worth our while to continue to go and see. Television Generation is the greatest power pop, grunge-not-throw-back-but-throw-forward wiseacre cultural commenting smart snark band in Denver. And that’s saying something.
What:iZCALLi album release w/Don Chicharron and The Hollow When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: You could do worse with your Saturday night than go see iZCALLi celebrate the release of its latest album. The band is fairly straight ahead rock and roll but with personality and some warped tones and dangerous flourishes in its party time jams. Good thing because otherwise Don Chicharron would wipe the floor with them with their own celebratory psychedelic room-wreck-ed-ness. Both have plenty of Latin music influence built in to keep going wack-full-gringo with Stevie Ray Vaughan worship or some shit. The Hollow doesn’t suck either. They’ll bring some of the metal and scrape the earth with it but Spencer Townshend Hughes and company know how to sculpt a tune with more grace and artfulness than a bunch of the clumsy metaphors in this write-up.
What:Disposal Notice, Eraserhead Fuckers, Wolfblitzer, hxcmidi When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinceropolis Why: hxcmidi may look like she’s about to get up and throw down some yikes-level bedroom hip-hop but Aisha has a lot more in common with Realicide and thus the name—psyche sundering, harsh electronic beat and samples backed hardcore that shatters gentrified consciousness. Eraserhead Fuckers, now that guy looks like he’s going to show us all how to make a sweet Power Point and use FTP to load it to our pathetic starter websites and then laugh about it all later while getting “crunk” with his friends (a term about which they will all laugh like meme-lord gamers). But his lyrics shit through with incisive sounds and ideas are the shank the MAGA-hat wearing lunkheads and their cross-generational brethren need in this time of crisis.
What:DJ & Live PA sets by: Trisicloplox, $addy, Kid Mask, TimeLord SFX, Blank Human When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Okay, so you don’t want to have your mind blown by any of the above in their specific ways yet you want to get out to the chillzone without being put soundly to sleep. Technically this is a noise show but one with a stacked line-up of people who know how to transform the whole genre into mind-altering realms of sound and beat-driven injections of inspired strangeness. None of the acts are alike but share the same spirit of being furiously against boredom and musical mundanity.
Sunday | May 12
What:Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble When: Sunday, 05.12, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: For this first show in Colorado (probably) since March 2012 when Hecker performed in the Odd Fellows Hall in Boulder at an event sponsored by Communikey (now mostly defunct, boundary pushing electronic music group and festival), there will probably be more illumination than at an Autechre show or even the aforementioned performance where the light came from Hecker’s gear and the fire “Exit” sign. If footage of recent shows are any indication, it’ll be a fog-enshrouded affair with beams of light but none of it distracting from Hecker’s deep soundscapes and imagination-stirring, environmental drones. His recent Konoyo and Anoyo albums are less relatively pop-oriented than their immediate predecessor and not granulated like a sonic fog-sandstorm of the 2011’s Ravedeath, 1972. More like Hecker is giving us modern music with a similar mindset that informed the KPM 1000 catalog and Harold Budd and Eno collaborating again to go full abstract journey into sonic analogs of conscious awareness beyond the Bardo Thodol.
What:Cowgirl Clue, Venus305 and EVP When: Sunday, 05.12, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Forget the pictures of Ashley Rose Calhoun holding a BC Rich guitar. You could make something better at home with the proper routing tools, some basic electronic skills, soldering and some YouTube tutorials. And let’s hope she did and she’s using it as some kind of controller at some point. Kudos to her for putting on the cover of her album something colorful and strange. At any rate, her free-associating samples/synth track dance pop is playfully and unabashedly eccentric and like an update on electroclash. The local openers, Venus305 and EVP are like-minded weirdoes with confrontational performance styles that bring some edge to industrial dance and hip-hop-inflected pop.
Monday | May 13
What:Julia Jacklin w/Black Belt Eagle Scout When: Monday, 05.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Julia Jacklin’s vocal style is reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Marianne Faithful with the sort of controlled, breathy yet tight and directed couplets. On her 2019 sophomore album Crushing, Jacklin evokes a smoky atmosphere enshrouding an introspective meditation on existential independence and rankling at the social expectations that undermine one’s sense of self. As facile as it is to say considering both songwriters are from Australia but fans of Aldous Harding will find much to appreciate with Julia Jacklin’s delicate and nuanced hand at songwriting and creatively poetic sensibilities. That and Jacklin just lays out how people need to step off and stop trying to make her fit into some mold that makes them feel comfortable with their own shortcomings and vices and let her figure out who she wants to be and where she wants to go on her own terms. Crushing is a heartfelt declaration of independence in one’s own heart and mind.
Tuesday | May 14
What:The Lemonheads with Tommy Stinson When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Like other bands of the era, The Lemonheads predated the alternative music eruption of the early 90s and were part of it on its own terms. Even though the band had signed to Atlantic for the release of its 1990 album Lovey it didn’t strike it big like it might have had the record come out a year or two later. The mixture of Americana, hard rock and punk coupled with Evan Dando’s gift for writing hooks and melodic songs with some bite and personal insight was very much what would be in great demand from 1991 onward but somehow The Lemonheads were never fully able to capitalize on what was becoming a trend but was also the group’s signature sound and sensibility. And yet, Lemonheads garnered some modest mainstream popularity before going on hiatus with Dando embarking on a solo career in 1998. The band has reunited as of 2005 and the songwriting has become tighter with essentially an edgier power pop sound but with Dando’s typically thoughtful, self-effacing words about heartache and loss. Tommy Stimson you should know from being the bass player of The Replacements but he also did his time in Guns ‘n Roses as well. As a solo artist, he’s a songwriter of no small gifts himself.
What:Garbage w/Pleasure Venom When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: One of the great bands of the late alternative rock era that managed to remain great through to now. Shirley Manson is truly one of the most commanding singers fronting any band now and often disarmingly so because is able to belt out the tunes but with a nuance and delicacy of feeling that makes her performances so powerful.
Wednesday | May 15
What:Hatebreed w/Obituary, Madball, Prong, Skeletal Remains When: Wednesday, 05.15, 5:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Hatebreed is well known for being one of the torchbearers of 90s metalcore with its aggressive tones and spiky grooves. But one thing that seems obvious taking a sampling of its music throughout its career is that there’s a bit of the influence of Mike Scaccia-period Ministry. The willingness to let sounds hang atmospherically over the top of a driving, splintery, industrial riff. It’s an interesting contrast to the sort of tough guy image projected into the songwriting and presentation. In some ways Hatebreed is an interesting bridge in sound between Obituary’s driving death metal and Prong’s clipped dynamics and industrial dance/death disco sensibilities.
What:Walk Off the Earth w/Matt and Kim, Gabriela Bee of the Eh Bee Family When: Wednesday, 05.15, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Walk Off the Earth isn’t for everyone—that kind of folksy pop/indie rock/self-aware humor, posi-tip, quirky songwriting with elevated moods and a penchant for doing covers of songs that one would assume done out of a sense of irony but not so with Walk Off the Earth. At the end of 2018, though, the group lost its longtime member Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor due to natural causes and there was some speculation that the band was going on hiatus. But the quartet is now devoting the tour in honor of the memory of Taylor. Knowing the group, it’ll be as joyous as it has ever with a similarly exuberant set from indie rock party band openers Matt and Kim.
Who:Hockey Dad w/Hunny When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.
Who:A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.
Friday | February 8, 2019
Who:Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.
Who:Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.
Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.
Who:Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?
Saturday | February 9, 2019
Who:Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.
Who:An Evening With Nels Cline 4 When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.
Who:Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.
Sunday | February 10, 2019
Who:Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why:Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.
Monday | February 11, 2019
Who:Gang of Four w/Plume Varia When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.
Wednesday | February 13, 2019
Who:SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.
Who:Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.
Who:Why? plays Alopecia w/Lala Lala When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: 2008’s Alopecia signaled the break between Yoni Wolf’s solo work as Why? and the band of the same name. As with its 2005 predecessor Elephant Eyelash, Alopecia included contributions from Wolf’s former cLOUDDEAD bandmates Doseone and Odd Nosdam. But Alopecia opened up even more frank lyrics and surreal soundscapes from Yoni Wolf and his brother Josiah and signaled a true synthesis of hip-hop and lo-fi indie rock in a way few other artists had accomplished up to that time except for maybe hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, Aesop Rock and experimental music weirdos such as Black Moth Super Rainbow and Karl Blau. Why? took that sensibility and made it into something grand and, to use a now overused term, epic—private musings given a cinematic presentation. It might be argued that later Why? albums are better or achieve greater heights of artistic achievement but Alopecia is the bedrock upon which they were built and remains one of Wolf’s finest records in an already impressive career.
Who:Morlox album release w/Demoncassettecult, Juniordeer, Flesh Buzzard, Housekeys When: Thursday, 11.8, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Patrick Urn established his production and noise-making bonafides as a member of industrial band In Ether in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then he has spent time in various cities in America including Seattle and Pittsburgh where he made dark ambient music, hip-hop beats and soundscape noise in projects like Herpes Hideaway and Syphilis Sauna. In the mid-2010s Urn returned to Denver and one might say quietly re-established himself as a producer of note among those in the know in the underground. Having worked with, among other artists, Church Fire, Urn demonstrated a mastery of sampling as a tool for composition in both the recorded and live environment. With his latest album Report From Sector zx88z out on Glasss Records, Urn worked with multiple noteworthy noise and hip-hop artists to fill out songs that were already strong, making them even more fascinating. R A R E B Y R D $, ERASERHEAD FUCKERS and Sheetmetal Skin Graft as well as HarmOny ov thee FYRE formerly of political punk band Dangerous Nonsense all shine on the record and give the songs an accessibility not always found with artists that are associated with noise and industrial music. But Urn’s music making could never be said to be limited to genre conventions of any kind. Check out this show if you’re into seeing someone pushing the envelope of electronic music because it may be the last time to see Urn perform some of these songs before he moves on to his next sonic adventure.
Who:The Orb w/Mental 69 When: Thursday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: The Orb basically took the electronic and production ideas then influencing and synthesizing into various manifestations of what became rave music in the 90s and created a style of ambient dub and house that influenced IDM, trip hop and anyone making electronic dance music with an adventurous bent in the 90s and beyond. The duo’s latest release is 2018’s No Sounds Are Out of Bounds. If you’re thinking of going, these guys put forth sounds that transcend the usual two guys with headphones nodding their heads on stage sort of thing. Their music will reorient your brain in good ways getting to experience it on a loud sound system.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Don Chicharrón When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process. Y La Bamba recently released a seven inch of “Mujeres” b/w “Paloma Negra” and will drop the new full length, also titled Mujeres, in February also on Tender Loving Empire.
Friday | November 8, 2018
Who:Glacial Tomb album release w/Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness When: Friday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glacial Tomb recently released its self-titled debut full-length comprised of seven songs of relentless blackened death metal driven by powerful yet nuanced percussion. It’s primal stuff that sounds like it was inspired by a not so far future that isn’t post-apocalypse so much as post-collapse of human world civilization as we know it. Guitars as insectoid sirens, vocals as feral pronouncements of the remnants of humanity clinging to twisted versions of earth-based occult mysticism in the attempt to garner a few more years through brutal rituals and quests to find what’s left of the planet where life itself, and not just human, might flourish again while the rest of the planet works through the toxins making it all but uninhabitable. At least that’s what the record sounds like if you let your mind wander a little. Joining the trio tonight are other local extreme metal stars in Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness.
Saturday | November 10, 2018
Who:Special Guest featuring The Milk Blossoms, Eyebeams and Wheelchair Sports Camp When: Saturday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Next Stage Gallery Why: Special Guest is a series featuring some of Denver’s most interesting and innovative musical projects. The Milk Blossoms is a band whose amalgam of outsider pop, lo-fi R&B and vivid emotional recreations is always surprisingly deeply evocative. The Milk Blossoms is a psychedelic indie pop group with songs that deftly and thoughtfully navigate the vagaries of one’s own mind, illuminate nuanced perspectives on relationships with others and society in general and explore evolving concepts of identity. Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant meeting of hip-hop, electronic production and avant-garde jazz. Also, vocals and songwriting from hopefully future Denver mayor/Colorado governor Kalyn Heffernan.
Who:Den Mother w/Klaus Dafoe and Bryon Parker When: Saturday, 11.10, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Why: This lo-fi pop/rock show includes Bryon Parker of noisy post-punk band Simulators (he recently released a collaborative single with Jad Fair whose solo career is noteworthy on its own but who was also a member of foundational indie pop band Half Japanese and may be known for his album with Daniel Johnston). It is also the final show from indie rock band Den Mother whose own Misun Oh is leaving Denver for Ohio after living in the Mile High City for over a decade. She was once married to cartoonist/visual artist/songwriter John Porcellino of King Cat Comics and Stories fame (she is depicted in several issues). But she also contributed to Denver’s underground music and art community as a gifted practitioner of Chinese medicine and as a musician and supporter of the local music world in her own right as a member of French Chemists and other projects.
Who:SPELLS, Eyes and Ears (tape releases), Great American House Fire (tape release) and Hooper When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Good thing SPELLS says 80% is good enough so that the other bands that aren’t such a party punk band can shine. Eyes and Ears comes off of de facto hiatus with a new release and a reminder that pop and loosely conceived punk can be fun if the people in the band don’t take it too seriously. Great American House Fire also releases a tape this night with its unique take on the kind of music that came out of late 90s emo, post-hardcore and Americana. Hooper might be considered pop punk but it’s a bit too gritty for that even if the anthemic and glittery melodic hardcore flavor of some of its sounds suggest the pop punk connection.
Who:Deca w/Felix Fast4ward and Stay Tuned When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Deca from New York is operating in that realm of hip-hop that uses samples that give the music a downtempo vibe with a touch of the otherworldly. Like maybe Deca drew some inspiration from, of course, J Dilla and Blockhead. The 2018 album Flux is instrumental album that works incredibly well on its own as a sound environment form of storytelling but also well suited to someone else’s words. Like-minded Denver acts Felix Fast4ward (whose own beats cross effortless between the realms of hip-hop and deep house) and Stay Tuned whose songs are socially critical but playful and powerful.
Sunday | November 11, 2018
Who:Cro-Mags w/EyeHateGod When: Sunday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: This double bill of two legends of punk and heavy music is interesting given the backgrounds of members of both bands. John Joseph of Cro-Mags grew up in foster care in New York City, Mike Williams of EyeHateGod got to experience life after both his parents died when he was a child and he left home in his mid-teens and occasionally spending time homeless. Cro-Mags were one of the most important and influential of the New York City hardcore scene known for a kind of tough guy image that was combined with ideas about self-defense, physical as well as psychological, in a hostile world and a clear need for camaraderie with like-minded types in a real, human way that isn’t in step with stoic, tough guy machismo. EyeHateGod’s records, coming out starting in 1990, had songs about self-loathing, despair at humankind’s collective self-destructive behaviors including cruelty toward one another. Williams’ words so insightful about how those self-destructive tendencies in the human psyche manifest on the personal level continued to evolve and refine its critique not just of society and the self but also of the bases of cultural norms themselves. But never abstract, always accessibly personal and vulnerable.
Who:Endless Nameless, Giardia, Feigning, Masons When: Sunday, 11.11, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Endless, Nameless is a jazz-inflected math rock band from Denver. Fans of Covet should check them out. Giardia is a jazzy experimental metal band. Masons make the kind of post-rock that bridges the gap between breezier shoegaze and the more introspective side of Modest Mouse. Feigning will bring something a bit darker with its noisy, menacing darkwave.
Tuesday | November 13, 2018
Who:Behemoth w/At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room When: Tuesday, 11.13, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Behemoth formed in Gdańsk, Poland in 1991 shortly after the nation re-established itself as a democratic republic after decades of domination by the then splintering U.S.S.R.. It was a time when black metal and death metal were cohering in the European underground and a theatric sensibility informed how that music was performed throughout Scandinavia and formerly communist states. Initially, the band had a sound that was not unlike that of its peers, a kind of taking thrash and death metal and either pushing it to a brutal, forbidding extreme or giving it an epic, almost orchestral, grandeur. Behemoth did a little of both and injected the music with occult and fantastical/mythological imagery and themes—which it has continued to do up to and including its 2018 album I Loved You at Your Darkest. But the latter is arguably the band’s best album at times sounding like it synthesized a Napalm Death-esque assault with a sonic transcendence, creating a contrast that the band uses with great dynamic affect across the whole record. That you also get to see At The Gates, the Swedish melodic/Gothenburg death metal legends that came up at the same time as Behemoth in the early 90s, and Wolves in the Throne Room, the Olympia, Washington-based black metal band whose own sound is informed by the natural environment of their home region and synth heavy Krautrock, is more than just a bonus but probably the best heavy music line up in that vein for the rest of the year.
Wednesday | November 14, 2018
Who:Rubblebucket w/Thick Paint and Toth When: Wednesday, 11.14, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Rubblebucket’s 2018 album Sun Machine is a powerful and intimate depiction of survival and the drive to create something meaningful in the most trying of circumstances. Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth had been a couple but had split while making the new record and in there too Traver struggled with and overcame a bout with cancer and Toth came to terms with his own challenges with alcoholism. Those kinds of pressures often break bands and relationships of all kinds. But the bond between the two artists persisted and they found a way to articulate difficult truths with a poetic truth and its typically eclectic and dynamic songwriting. This may not be the band at its yet-to-be-attained peak but it certainly is a high point for Brooklyn duo.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Mirror Fears, Lady of Sorrows and Hot Slag When: Wednesday, 11.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday includes performances from ambient/dance/noise phenom Mirror Fears. Lately she’s been performing some visionary deep house style music that isn’t a huge departure from her already fascinating work in the realm of emotionally-charged darkwave. Lady of Sorrows is darkwave/dream pop with operatic vocals. Hot Slag has similarly dusky soundscapes but more in the vein of a compelling crossbreeding of IDM and weirdo hip-hop.
What:Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bakery Why: This is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production spans six performances starting Friday and Saturday evening of February 23 and 24 with a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sundays. On February 23, the opening band is Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia. February 24 has indie pop group The Green Typewriters on board. March 2 will include a performance from Ersatz Robots and the final evening show will have a surprise guest on March 3.
Who:The Kinky Fingers album release w/Don Chicharron and Godchild When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: The Kinky Fingers have always been a band that made a virtue of simple, clean melodies. At a time when it seemed there was entire too much surf rock and neo-psychedelic rock, The Kinky Fingers shined with the strength of its songwriting. With its new album, Garbage Plate, the band has expanded its sound and boosted its emotional range. The album has been a long time coming. Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Rochester, New York, Garbage Plate is a surprisingly thoughtful set of songs that sound like party anthems. Regarding the meaning of the album title, the band says “[a] Garbage Plate is a plate of fried potatoes, baked beans, hot dogs, onions, mustard, and a chili-like meat sauce. Intense. As the name suggests, the music rings through so many genres, textures and tastes it feels a perfect fit for the deteriorating American dream, which once tasted so sweet and now feels more like a bellyache.” Expect the usual sharply observant songs about the vicissitudes of life with some poignant, and creatively rendered, social commentary mixed in. The Kinky Fingers will also play at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho on Friday, March 23 at Ha Penny at 11:20 p.m.
Who:Slow Caves 7” release w/Gleemer and Panther Martin When: Friday, 02.23, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: On its new 7”, Fort Collins’ Slow Caves seems to have evolved well beyond the more languid pace and sound of its earlier pop songs. “Poser” has some of the structure and dynamics of the band’s surf rock leanings but there is more grit and drive to its winningly polished melodies. Joining Slow Caves for the occasion of releasing its new record are noisy math rockers Gleemer and Panther Martin, a band that may have started out in the realm of garage and psych rock but its intricate yet uncluttered musicianship reveals a knack for writing songs of often surprising emotional complexity.
Who:Necropanther CD release w/The Munsens, and Abrams When: Saturday, 02.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver death thrashers Necropanther are releasing a new album tonight with Eyes Of Blue Light. Imagine what it would sound like if a melodic death metal band Gothenburg style wrote a Dune-themed record inspired in part by Municipal Waste and Thrash Zone-period D.R.I.. Well, Necropanther recorded the album in Denver but got it mastered in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström who has put his sonic fingerprints on the broad spectrum of that city’s melodic death metal scene. Also on stage this night are sludgy doom-sters The Munsens and the equally menacing Abrams whose own version of sludge/doom is energetically dynamic and otherworldly in the vein of bands like Neurosis and Isis.
What:Textures featuring Cpt. Howdy, Brother Saturn, MYTHirst When: Sunday, 02.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This is the latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase. This time the return of heavy synth duo (trio), Cpt. Howdy, the super chill, abstract ambient of Drew Miller (of Chromadrift) as Brother Saturn (he calls it a shoegaze band and yeah, if you’re thinking more like Seefeel rather than the more rock-oriented stuff) and MYTHist’s electro-acoustic take on IDM.
Monday | February 26, 2018
What:Decibel Magazine Tour: Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and Khemmis When: Monday, 02.26, 6 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Decibel Magazine, one of the major magazines that focuses on metal and heavy music in general, has been on this tour for several years now and this time out the even is headlined by Norway’s Enslaved. The band has always had melodic elements to its brutally majestic sound. But with it’s 2017 album E, the group seems to have written the music with a cinematic presentation in mind like they were composing a soundtrack for the next Thor movie. In a similar vein of invoking indigenous spirits and associated imagery in the music are the opening bands on this leg of the tour. Denver’s Khemmis is often described as a doom band but its songs far more melodic than such designations suggest. The hanging chords and sludgy flourishes are there but so is an apparent dedication to fairly traditional songcraft giving the band an appeal beyond what one might assume to be its audience. Myrkur, from Denmark, is the black metal project of Amalie Bruun. Her expansive, lush songs bring together the gritty and the sublime and transcendent matched by her seemingly effortless transition between. Mareidt, the project’s 2017 release, included a guest vocal from the like-minded Chelsea Wolfe on the track “Funeral.” Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington all but retired from any active touring several years back so this is a rare chance to catch the band’s Cascadian black metal in Denver. The group performed in Colorado Springs in October 2017 in the wake of the release of its most recent album, 2017’s Thrice Woven. A WITTR show is fairly tribal in presentation with visuals invoking meeting at a communal fire to share stories and to participate in a collective ritual and the music is a manifestation of that spirit.
Who:Palm w/Spirit of the Beehive and Plague Survivor When: Monday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palm was originally from Philadelphia but calls New York City it’s home base these days. It’s flavor of neo-math rock is less focused on actual technique and more on what you can do with technique and dynamics if you inject some imagination into the playing and writing. If you’re a fan of groups like US Weekly, Laddio Bolocko, Don Caballero and A Minor Forest you’ll probably appreciate what Palm is doing. Its new album, 2018’s Rock Island, expands on the band’s previous, beautifully claustrophobic structures without losing its masterful ability to create tension and release at the perfect moments.
Who:Haunted Summer w/Tyto Alba, Ghostpulse and Magic Cyclops When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Haunted Summer could be broadbrushed as a post-chillwave dream pop project reminiscent of Devotion-period Beach House because its entrancing melodies are possessed of a similarly gorgeous emotional afterglow. But its Robin-Guthrie-circa-Mysterious-Skin-soundtrack guitar textures and drifty dynamics akin to those of Former Selves or Candy Claws. Whatever went into inspiring the band’s sound, it’s excellent 2017 album, Spirit Guides has a warmth and intimacy that propels the songs into having an immediacy that isn’t always the purvey of bands attempting a similar style of music. Tyto Alba, like Haunted Summer, is a band that is great at working in the realm of the edges of your memory to invoke something that isn’t nostalgia but has an emotional resonance that stimulates the feelings that normally coalesce into comforting reverie.
Who:Eraserhead Fuckers, Juniordeer, Ultraviolet, Morlox and Brkn Jwbne Tape Manipulator When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Just reading the list of band names should give you some idea of the strangeness you’re in for if you make it to this show. Morlox should be a well-known artist in Denver because his influence on the local industrial and noise scene is undeniable but he has also had an impact on experimental pop band Church Fire and their facility in weaving together industrial music and hip-hop production ideas into their own songwriting. He rarely performs live so if that’s your thing, be there. Also, Eraserhead Fuckers is technically hip-hop but so confrontational, abrasive and surreal that most hip-hop fans aren’t going to be into it unless maybe they didn’t have a difficult time getting into something like Death Grips, .clipping, Earl Sweatshirt or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Tuesday | February 27, 2018
Who:Talib Kweli w/Niko Is, DJ Spintelect and Time When: Tuesday, 02.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Talib Kweli Greene would have secured his place in hip-hop history with Black Star, his collaborative project with Mos Def. But Kweli’s talent, intellect and curiosity has brought him to various efforts as a rapper, producer and activist. Rather than make more than a brief list of the people he’s worked with like Dave Chappelle, Kanye West and Dead Prez, it would be more worthwhile to note how Kweli’s albums have long been filled with thoughtful and creative social critiques alongside solid beats and music so that his albums never come off feeling didactic or preachy even as he minces no words—because his stories and words are also not short on humanity. Kweli can be pointed but he clearly takes in the bigger picture beyond any topical content. Along on the tour is Niko Is, a likeminded artist whose own imaginative wordplay sketches vivid images of aspirational daydreams and everyday life rendered into poetry. Opening the show is Denver’s Time, a rapper whose literary lyrics display a gift for surreal stories and political analysis grounded in his own experiences growing up in “the nutty.” Meaning North Denver, of course. Sometime in 2018 it’s anticipated that we’ll see a new album from Calm., Time’s hip-hop duo with longtime collaborator, the producer Awareness.
Wednesday | February 28, 2018
Who:Why? w/The Florist When: Wednesday, 02.28, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Yoni Wolf aka Why? was once in influential, experimental hip hop group Clouddead but when that outfit split in 2004 he formed an indie rock band called Why? with his brother Josiah and friends. And yet calling Why? indie rock is a bit imprecise because the band is far more experimental with its use of sound, the poetry of its lyrics and the the visual presentation of the music as well. At times Why? can be a multimedia experience with interaction between performers and video as well as making a theater sized show seem like something more suited to a stadium. Whatever the experience of the show might be it’s something the group has evolved for years and rooted in a music that is pushing and challenging the kind of complacency of being so in love with one’s established sound by making music that can never rest easy in a staid formula. The latest Why? record, 2017’s Moh Lhean, is typically impossible to adequately characterize and yet has all the unique wordplay and imagery that has made Why? a consistently interesting project from the beginning.
Who:Rachael Yamagata w/Hemming When: Tuesday, 02.27, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Rachael Yamagata has been at her solo career since 2001. Likely often broadbrushed as a singer-songwriter, Yamagata’s music transcends stereotypes that have crept up about singer-songwriter artists even though, obviously, artists like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and plenty of others are good examples of singer-writers. Like Ray LaMontagne (with whom Yamagata has worked) and Greg Laswell, Yamagata writes songs about life that provides a unique insight and illumination into subjects well-worn by artists since time immemorial. Yamagata’s voice is calming yet not short on evoking peak emotional moments with a gift for articulating complexity of feeling. Her music, richly detailed and textured, provide the perfect backdrop to her honest storytelling. Her 2016 album Tightrope Walker in particular minced few words about life challenges but did so in a lushly poetic fashion.