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.

The UMS Virtual Festival Livestreams From the Hi-Dive on July 25, 2020

The Milk Blossoms at UMS 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

As with all things live music the annual The Underground Music Showcase (UMS to most) can’t happen in the usual manner but the organizers put together a lineup for a virtual music festival, variety show and retro telethon. Partnering with Colorado Music Relief Fund which supports Colorado musicians and music industry professionals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event with run on Saturday, July 25, 2020 from 7 p.m. through 10 p.m. Mountain Time. There will be prize giveaways and party supplies delivered to viewers and while not quite the sprawling marathon of music, local and otherwise, it promises to provide some humor and good times with hosts comedians Christie Buchele and Nathan Lund. The event will broadcast from the Hi-Dive a venue that has been associated with the festival for most its run thus far.

This year’s lineup (in alphabetical order) includes:
Down Time
Float Like a Buffalo
Lily Fangz
Los Mocochetes
Nathaniel Rateliff
Neoma
Ramakhandra
The Milk Blossoms
The Still Tide
TheyCallHimAP
Turvy Organ
Wave Decay
Wes Watkins
Whitacre
Wildermiss
YaSi

With additional music provided by DealzMakesBeats.

For more information including where to catch the livestream, please visit undergroundmusicshowcase.com. And you can donate to Colorado Music Relief Fund at www.comusicrelief.org/home.

Best Shows in Denver 3/5/20 – 3/11/20

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

Thursday | March 5

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

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

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

Friday | March 6

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Down Time, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | March 7

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Best Coast, photo by Eddie Chacon

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

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

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

Monday | March 9

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Wednesday | March 11

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Plague Garden, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 11/21/19 – 11/27/19

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Lisa Prank performs at Hi-Dive on November 24. Photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Thursday | November 21

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Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier


What: Zeta (Venezuela), Clarion Void, Disposal Notice, Its Just Bugs
When: Thursday, 11.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Venezuelan band Zeta has been developing its experimental hardcore sound since 2003. It’s sound is a parts progressive rock and punk but in a way that’s expressive and moody while not sacrificing the intensity. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Mochima.

What: Mt. Joy w/Wilderado and Adam Melchor
When: Thursday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Wilderado’s new single “Surefire” sounds wistful and nostalgic in a way that allows for words to develop into an introspective narrative that blooms into an expansive melody alongside the story. Reminiscent of the way The War On Drugs echoes some of the vibe of Bruce Springsteen’s reflective, diary-like lyrics, this offering from the band builds on the atmospheric experiments of its 2018 EP Favors with more electric instrumentation and a more immersive sound without compromising the group’s use of space as a canvass for its emotional colorings.

Friday | November 22

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Married a Dead Man, photo by Ana Irene Valdes-Behrens

What: Married a Dead Man w/False Report, Dead Characters
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Denver’s Married a Dead Man is releasing its second album Awakening this night. The group’s sound might be described as somewhere between Xmal Deutschland’s wiry, urgent, dark atmospherics and modern pop melodies. The new set of songs, no doubt honed from live performances, are not just bandwagon new post-punk revival and darkwave. At times Megan Kelley’s performance and songwriting chops from her time as a solo artist infuse the songs with a warmth and coherence that gives the music a broader range than the genre of late can sometimes have with songs like “Burn” having a massive, expansive, dramatic dynamic that stretches the boundaries of what one might this band is capable of at first blush. Worth delving into beyond a casual listen.

What: Wildermiss w/Slow Caves
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wildermiss is a Denver-based indie rock band that is probably on the verge of much wider circles than simply relatively successful local band status. Its new EP In My Mind captures the spirit of our time now of great contrasts of emotional states and expectations, a mixture of fear and hopefulness that most people are experiencing due to the state of the planet, politics, culture and economics. We stand on the precipice of disaster and promise of a better future if we do not lack the will to make it happen. In My Mind expresses that tension well across its length.

What: Briffaut, Down Time and Inaiah Lujan
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Briffaut’s new album A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away is a nice capsule of this band’s idiosyncratic songwriting. Fans of both King Krule and Deerhunter will find something to love about the band’s lush and unpredictable song structures and raw, emotional swells of tone and a disregard for whether a song or style or performance fits in with some established aesthetic outside its own. Too much music in the indie world is boringly predictable. Not just the indie world. Imitators of milquetoast artists and already successful formulas are rife in music now as at all times since popular music has been a thing. Thankfully Briffaut and its willingness to embrace its own weirdness has been intact since the beginning and gloriously so on the new album of imaginative soundscapes, completely unconventional songwriting and the ability to utterly transport us outside our usual frames of musical reference.

What: King Diamond w/Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Idle Hands
When: Friday, 11.22, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

What: Faim, Tuck Knee, Gack
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Atomga w/Dandu, Spellbinder and DJ Yahru
When: Friday, 11.22, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: False Cathedrals, Gila Teen, How to Think and Wolf Larva
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Sour Boy, Bitter Girl and Dirty Shrines
When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

What: Broncho w/Hot Flash Heat Wave and Rinse & Repeat
When: Friday, 11.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Saturday | November 23

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Blood Incantation, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Dreadnought and Superstition
When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Blood Incantation recently released its new album Hidden History of the Human Race. The Denver-based death metal band is a big of an enigma in that it has been slowly building a cult following for years and playing few local shows. But its songs, especially live, come across as larger than life, psychedelic although imbued with the technical precision of the best death metal, and as oddly accessible as the genre has ever been. The record is a science fiction concept album but one that has a cover designed by Bruce Pennington who did cover art for A Canticle For Leibowitz and the Dune books after the initial novel. Plus the guy did the iconic cover for Gene Wolfe’s landmark science fiction fantasy book The Shadow of the Torturer. Fine stuff for an album that is a thrilling reminder that death metal can still be fun and not a forbidding drag.

What: Black Star Gang ft. Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, DJ Premier w/Brother Ali, Evidence and The ReMINDers
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Black Star is a hip hop duo comprised of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), two of the sharpest critics of American culture and innovators in the genre themselves. The project only has one album up to now, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, but rumor has it they have another in the works produced by Madlib. So if you’ve caught the recent live performances maybe you’ve heard some of the new material and it seems likely it’ll be on display for this show.

What: Lusine w/JUSCHILL and HU
When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Broncho w/Hot Flash Heat Wave and Rinse & Repeat
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs, Chella & The Charm, The Maykit
When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge

Sunday | November 24

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The Shift circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lisa Prank w/The Tangles (fka The Tickles) and Horse Girl
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lisa Prank has established refined and thoughtful emo pop songs as a national artist since starting the project in Denver several years back. Her new record Perfect Love Song is a a little fuzzier, more confident but just as wise and as insightful.

What: Shibui Denver #8: Dead Orchids and The Shift
When: Sunday, 11.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For this edition of Shibui Denver we will have two bands that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. The Shift is an improvisational, experimental progressive rock band and includes Esmé Patterson and former Bad Weather California bassist Jeremy Averitt. Dead Orchids’ dark, brooding songs are a vital mix of post-punk and Americana but without the trendy habits that often mar bands trying their hand at either.

What: Vérité and YaSi
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Kris Kristofferson & The Strangers
When: Sunday, 11.24, 5 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Neyla Pekarek’s Rattlesnake w/Chris Fleming, Bluebook and The Newfangled Four
When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Goon w/Whiskey Autumn and We Are Not a Glum Lot
When: Sunday, 11.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

Monday | November 25

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Midwife w/Hogwaller
When: Monday, 11.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Forest Room 5
Why: Midwife is an ambient folk artist of the highest order who was recently tapped to perform at The Flenser showcase at the Roadburn Festival in 2020 with her debut album on that record label later in the year. See her at these small rooms while you still can.

Tuesday | November 26

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HIDE circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: HIDE w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Cau5er
When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, performance art-oriented industrial band HIDE is the urban dystopian futurist ritual catharsis we need now to burn off the darkness of the modern world. Its new album Hell is Here is a searing, discordant exorcism of the demons that plague the body politic.

What: B. Dolan w/Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

Wednesday | November 27

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The Hu, photo by Altankhuyag

What: Pigface w/eHpH, DJ N810, DJ Mudwulf
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Pigface is the long-standing industrial supergroup with roots going back to the 80s with members of Ministry, KMFDM and other industrial luminaries. EhpH is a Denver-based duo whose mix of EBM and industrial rock is actually compelling and cathartic and doesn’t come off like its members’ musical imagination got stuck in the early 2000s.

What: Shark Dreams w/Nuancer, The Milk Blossoms and GhostPulse
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Best local dream pop line-up in more than a minute with some of Denver’s best. Shark Dreams is more the kind of drifty indie pop with a leg in glittery, slowcore dynamic. Nuancer is as informed by experimental electronic music as pop. The Milk Blossoms are a hip-hop trio disguised as a heartfelt, hyper sincere, experimental indie pop group with a sense of humor and humanity. GhostPulse weaves together downtempo beats, unconventional instrumentation and luminously cloudy atmospherics.

What: The Hu w/Crown Land
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 6 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: The Hu is a rock band from Mongolia that performs with traditional instruments, uses throat singing and yet its songs are an exquisite hybrid of Mongolian folk music and heavy metal. Could be corny but it is not, it is powerful, stirring stuff. Fans of Laibach will enjoy the sound of this band even though the styles are so different. Around since 2016 The Hu recently released its debut album The Gereg on Eleven Seven Records.

What: Neon Indian w/Lou Rebecca
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Emma Mayes & The Hip w/Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Flaural w/Oko Tygra, Wet Nights and DJ Lexie
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: An Evening of Never Kenezzard 2 sets
When: Wednesday, 11.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

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Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

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Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

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Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

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SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

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GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

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HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

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Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

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Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Best Shows in Denver 4/11/19 – 4/17/19

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Earl Sweatshirt at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on April 11, photo by Steven Traylor

Thursday | April 11

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.

Who: Life After Earth and Brother Saturn
When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.

Who: Slow Magic w/Covex
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Who: Dead Characters, Obtuse, Bernie & The Wolf Rita Rita, Fragile Fires
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Who: Great Falls w/False Cathedrals, Muscle Beach, Fathers
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Who: Blacc Rabbit w/Shark Dreams and Jeff Cormack
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | April 12

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Lusine, photo by Sarah M

What: Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.

Who: Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.

Who: Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh
When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Tandem Bar
Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.

Saturday | April 13

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Jane Siberry, photo courtesy the artist

Who: DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.

Who: Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: People’s Building
Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.

Who: Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe
Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.

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Shana Cleveland, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.

Who: Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide
When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.

Sunday | April 14

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Swervedriver, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”

All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.

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Failure, photo by Priscilla C Scott

In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.

Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.

Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.

After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.

2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.

What: Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.

Monday | April 15

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Ex Hex, photo by Michael Lavine

Who: Ex Hex w/Moaning
When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.

Tuesday | April 16

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Buke & Gase, self-portrait

Who: Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.

Who: Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.

Who: Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.

Wednesday | April 17

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HEALTH, photo by Faith Crawford

What: HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station
When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.

Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.

Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.

Best Shows in Denver 11/15/18 – 11/20/18

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Gouge Away performs at the Hi-Dive on Friday, November 16, 2018. Photo by Ron Yamasaki

Thursday | November 15, 2018

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Daughters, photo by Reid Haithcock

Who: Daughters w/Echo Beds
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When noise/experimental rock band Daughters reunited in 2013 there was no guarantee the group would do more than play a limited number of shows before going on hiatus again. Its first attempt at a record was scrapped because it didn’t feel, according to vocalist Lex Marshall, authentic to what the band was about. Its music was confrontational and visceral, executed with a savage precision and it didn’t fit too well into the boxes in which the group was often thrown: grindcore, math rock, art-metal, post-hardcore. Daughters bridged the gap between the disorientingly surreal and amped emotional immediacy. Its 2018 record You Won’t Get What You Want pushes the band’s sound into greater vistas of experimentation with its core sound, coming upon what sounds like some forgotten chapter of an industrial, post-punk and noise hybrid from the 80s. The words and the sounds of the record, however are very much of the now with a world teetering on the brink of chaos, a darkly liminal period that might make for the perfect backdrop to a J.G. Ballard novel. That Echo Beds, which recently released its own similarly-minded record, Buried Language, will open the show and set the stage for the sonic mayhem to follow.

Who: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin created some of the most iconic horror movie soundtracks of all time having done those for Dario Argento’s Deep Red as well as the European release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But perhaps the group’s crowning musical achievement was the score for Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror classic Suspiria. The haunting music and unsettling vocalizations (often done by Simonetti himself) was the perfect companion to a movie not short on rich color and deeply affecting atmosphere. This version of Goblin lead by Simonetti will perform the soundtrack live during a screening of Suspiria with what Simonetti jokes about as Goblin’s other “greatest” hits following the film.

Who: Galleries, Grass and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: There was a time not so long ago that Denver had, to put it charitably, way too many “psych rock” bands in the trendy mold. But lurking around in that world and a step or more apart from it were bands developing decidedly in their own directions while still rooted somewhat in the realm of psychedelic rock. Wild Call’s gritty, atmospheric, emotionally-charged songs seem like something from another era when subgenre’s didn’t matter so much as ethos and approach, finding your own voice rather than operating in a style even if you pulled from various styles in your songwriting but having something meaningful to say and an interesting way to say it. Grass borrowed a bit of that warped warble from My Bloody Valentine but sounds more like it learned a lot about edgy and nearly unraveled sounds from some of the more blustery bands on Siltbreeze in the 2000s like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe a few nods in the direction of the Reatards. A maximalist lo-fi. Galleries is more like a band re-imagining classic rock through the lens of the influence of grunge and 2000s garage rock so it sure does sound a little different from any of that.

Friday | November 16, 2018

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Escort, photo by Tom Edwards

Who: The Flux Crew in concert
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Pine Street Church Boulder 1237 Pine Street
Why: Dino J.A. Dean will be the conductor of this fifteen piece ensemble that will engage in, according to the Facebook event page “real time collaborative composition.” What this means is essentially improv in the overlapping contexts of jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde. The musicians performing come from a broad spectrum of local artists from noise, jazz, classical, funk, folk, rock etc. all sonically synergizing toward a mutual musical goal. Dean’s illustrious career in theater, jazz, punk, dance and experimental music of a broad stripe from when he was in funk bands in the Los Angeles area, working as a sideman for Ike and Tina Turner and in the 80s playing trombone controlled synthesizer in the 80s with Jon Hassell. Dean has also worked with the late jazz great Butch Morris, acclaimed playright/actor/director Sam Shepard and modern dance choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. To name a few. Dean will bring that experience in collaborating with other artists in guiding the proceedings in this unique performance with his musical group The Flux Crew.

Who: Gouge Away, Drug Church, Heart Attack Man and Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is an hardcore band from Albany, NY, but one that isn’t on the nostalgia trip that some hardcore has been on in recent years. Drug Church has more in common with IDLES from the UK whose own expansively sonic songs tackle personal and social issues with an unbeatable combination of wry wit and sheer emotional intensity. Gouge Away from Fort Lauderdale has been making some of the most powerfully compelling punk of the last few years. But, and especially on its 2018 album Burnt Sugar, Gouge Away brings a particularly imaginative approach to its headlong rush of energy by not just writing most songs with the same dynamic, injecting atmosphere into its sustained bursts of fiery noise. In that way it has more in common with 90s noisy punk bands like Unwound and Karp. Unabashedly political, minus any boring didactic perspectives, Gouge Away is one of the bands keeping punk relevant a quarter a decade after it seemed to have been co-opted by the mainstream.

Who: The Motet w/Escort
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Motet is celebrating its twentieth year as a band in 2018. Founded by drummer/arranger Dave Watts, the group’s blend of Afrobeat, jazz and funk may be something one would expect from a band from Boulder but it’s also surprisingly fresh and the musicianship legitimately respectable. Also joining the veteran Colorado band is Escort from Brooklyn. Like-minded in some ways, Escort performs music that one can trace roots to back to when 70s funk and disco met in fruitful rather than laughable ways. Think more in the vein of Commodores and Chic but updated after American musicians absorbed European influences and the resurgence of jazz reclaimed from academia and the ossified old commercial jazz market. The Motet performs same time same venue on Saturday, November 17 The Motet but with with Cory Wong who will include special guest Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck in the line up.

Saturday | November 17, 2018

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J Mascis, photo courtesy Sub Pop

Who: Wax Trax Fortieth Anniversary w/Slugger
When: Saturday, 11.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Wax Trax might be the longest running record/music store in the Denver metropolitan area. While music stores might be considered a bit of an anachronism today they still serve an important function as a place to discover stuff you may not know about without the awkwardness of algorithms making suggestions based on what you view on a website. They are also places where you can meet other humans who might have a shared interest and where one might encounter something as quaint as a flyer for a show for bands you know nothing about and might find interesting. Also, not all local bands worth your time have a robust, easily found online presence. Besides, what music fan doesn’t enjoy organically finding something by browsing and not having something specific in mind? Wax Trax has been more than that. It has employed local musicians, one of its owners, Duane Davis, wrote incisive music reviews and other articles for several years and he and others at Wax Trax were involved in the local imprint Local Anaesthetic which put out records by some of the best punk and post-punk bands of the 80s. With the documentary about the store and the label that emerged out of that when the store’s founders moved to Chicago having screened in Denver last weekend it only seemed reasonable to have the actual celebration of the store’s first forty years at the Mercury Café. In the 80s both businesses were neighbors on 13th Avenue and Mercury Café was a hub for live, underground music—the relationship was somewhat synergistic. While there may not be a lot of live music for this event, aside from the psychedelic rock band Slugger fronted by current Wax Trax employee Gabriel Abelo, some of the memorabilia and stories shared will be worth attending to witness.

Who: J Mascis w/James Elkington
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: J Mascis is rightfully known as the influential guitar shredder extraordinaire of influential rock band Dinosaur Jr. His buried vocals amidst blistering yet melodic songs turned out to be perfectly capable of laid back utterances that articulated the feelings and thoughts of someone that was checked out of the sanitized insipidity of much of 80s popular culture, offering an alternative, more personal, and ultimately more truthful perspective of living as a kind of weirdo in Reagan’s/Bush’s America. Mascis wrote most of those songs and for years he’s established a solo career that parallels the subject matter he has explored with Dinosaur except he’s able to be more nuanced in his vocal delivery and in later years, his broad songwriting palette has become more obvious. The 2018 record Elastic Days is lush and eclectic with contributions from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession, Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy and Zoë Randell of Luluc. But on the road, and for this show, it’ll be J and what he describes as “a little fort around” himself of amps, various stands and other refinements. At Ophelia’s the intimacy of the room will surely make this a memorable show.

Who: Hive w/Weathered Statues, Rotstrotter, Aseethe and Vexing
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hive from Minneapolis is a melodic crust band not to be confused with the band HIVE from Chicago who are also from the Midwest and no strangers to blackened metal. So the excellent Denver-based crust/grind band Rotstrotter is a good fit on the bill as is the like-minded Vexing. Iowa’s Aseethe is a doom band and not too far removed from the same milieu of heavy music. Weathered Statues, though, are a dark, post-punk band whose musical DNA seems to include Xmal Deutschland, The Cure and DA! But there’s an undercurrent of dance rhythms that thankfully are nothing like what all these post-punk revival era “dance punk” bands were peddling. Just a clear sense of rhythm and pacing that draws you into the song as surely as its dusky atmosphere’s and Jennie Mather’s commanding vocals. Weathered Statues plays first and may confuse some people expecting all conventionally heavy music for the night.

Who: Municipal Waste w/Toxic Holocaust and Haunt
When: Saturday, 11.17, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: At a time when metalcore was reaching its apex, Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste was making the kind of crossover music that would come back into vogue again nearly a decade after its 2001 inception. For the uninitiated, that crossover meaning the kind of music that emerged around the mid-80s when bands like DRI, which may have started out as hardcore punk, fed into its metallic instincts and synthesized hardcore and thrash metal, which itself was informed by punk. Because it was an early re-adopter, Municipal Waste became a bit of a cult band. Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind was also someone who was tapping back into that crossover sound in the late 90s but injected into his songwriting some of the evil sound and brutality of black metal.

Sunday | November 18, 2018

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Wrong, photo courtesy Relapse Records

Who: Wrong, Portrayal of Guilt, Abrams, False Cathedrals
When: Sunday, 11.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Wrong is the kind of noise rock band that probably wouldn’t have quite happened in the 90s or earlier. While the Unsane and Helmet influence is there giving the music a precise yet savage edge, one can hear the stretch of sounds into distended otherworldliness as though steeped in the industrial psychedelia of post-Twitch Ministry and the haunted sludge of pre-Superunknown Soundgarden. It also has a bit of the near hysteria catharsis one hears in Daughters. The band’s 2018 album Feel Good has positive intentions but the songs themselves are all about feeling bad and purging that low end of one’s life.

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Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Adrian Glickman

Portrayal of Guilt’s 2018 album Let Pain Be Your Guide is a nightmarish set of pronouncements about the acceptance of life’s seemingly unacceptable but all too real aspects. It’s not all relentless, grind-y hardcore because there’s a nuance of sounds and dynamics that give harsh and brutal music a fascinating dimensionality that makes what might be forbidding music to many an accessibility built on how relatable the lyrics really are in the current social and political climate worldwide. Many songwriters express well the pains of some aspects of existence, Portrayal of Guilt’s songs sound like a direct line to that experience in case anyone is confused.

Tuesday | November 20, 2018

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Japanese Wallpaper, photo by Giulia Giannini McGauran

Who: Shallou w/Japanese Wallpaper
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Japanese Wallpaper is Gab Strum who seems to be a bit of an electronic music prodigy. In 2014, when he was a mere 17 years old, his song “Breathe In (ft. Wafia)” was featured in Zach Braff’s film Wish I Was Here. Strum’s brightly ethereal compositions sound like the next two steps in the evolution of chillwave and informed by the same production methods born out of hip-hop that informed that musical movement. Soothing without being soporific, Strum’s songs would be perfect for when you want to take some time to contemplate something important with clarity of mood and mind. Some of his newer material like “Fooling Around” is celebratory yet introspective and reveals Sturm’s clear evolution as an artist into realms of music beyond the tranquil minimalism of his earlier offerings.

Who: Odonis Odonis w/Church Fire and Voight
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Odonis Odonis sounds like DAF reborn in the techno/rave scene of Detroit 90s. At least on its latest album, 2017’s ominously luminous No Pop. The duo is joined this night by two Denver bands whose own music embody a similar wedding of darkwave industrial beats and a masterful command of incorporating noise with the more electro-dance-oriented Church Fire whose cathartic live show never disappoints and the post-punk/dark techno band Voight who are arcing out of a long period of legit A Place to Bury Strangers worship into more fascinatingly beat-driven territory.

Wednesday | November 21, 2018

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Kyle Emerson, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kyle Emerson, Stelth Ulvang and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Kyle Emerson isn’t already making waves on the indie touring circuit, he should be soon. The veteran Denver songwriter has been paying serious dues for a few years now touring small clubs and venues across America. His psychedelic folk pop are imbued with emotional warmth and insight as heard most recently in recorded form on his 2017 full-length album Dorothy Alice. The album closer “Post Egomania” is a perfect way to sum up the emotional and spiritual journey of the rest of the album. For this homecoming show from his most recent tour Emerson will share the stage with Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers and one of Denver’s best indie rock bands, the not-so-obviously-but-unmistakably experimental Down Time.

Who: Reverb & The Verse
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bonacquisti Wine
Why: Reverb & The Verse is one of the longer running hip-hop crews in Denver and one of the most diverse and boundary pushing in a way that’s difficult to say where the root of its music might lay beyond that of the breadth of palette that exists in hip-hop. Shane Etter, one of the band’s main producers from its early days is well-versed in a wide range of electronic music and recently did mastering on the 2018 album from literate documentarians of dystopian America, hip-hop duo Curta. Here is an infrequent opportunity to catch one of Denver’s finest live.

Best Shows in Denver 10/20/18 – 10/24/18

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Mothers performs with Megabog and Down Time on Saturday, October 20 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Tonje Thilesen

Due to technical difficulties, it wasn’t possible to write up the first two dates of this show list in even remotely a timely manner. For now we present to you the rest of the week’s picks as we’re able to complete the writing.

Saturday | October 20, 2018

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Megabog circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: MC 50 with Starcrawler and The Yawpers
When: Saturday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Influential, even foundational, early punk band MC 5 is now on tour celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as MC 50 playing from the band’s respectable catalog that not only injected radical politics into rock music in an overt way but put an indelible stamp on the rawest version of the music post-1960s. The lineup for this tour will include original guitarist Wayne Kramer, former Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould and Zen Guerilla frontman Marcus Durant.

Who: Dark Descent Records Ninth Anniversary
When: Saturday, 10.20, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Dark Descent Records celebrates nearly a decade of unleashing extreme metal from its headquarters in Colorado. For this edition of its annual showcase you can see Cianide, Krypts, Adversarial, Sempiternal Dusk, Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation

Who: Four Fists (P.O.S. + Astronautilus) w/Angel Davanport and Boss Eagle
When: Saturday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: After guesting on each other’s albums for years, P.O.S. and Astronautilus finally teamed up for a collaborative project yielding the album 6666. It’s what you might expect when two titans of alternative hip-hop that know each other’s work and processes well put their heads and hearts together. Poignant social commentary and, refreshingly, a perspective that points to ways that people might take on social injustice and the world’s ills that they can handle. All while giving us tautly composed and imaginative beats that sound like a sampling of all modern electronic music going back to the 8-bit video game aesthetic the 80s as perhaps an abstract display of how culture is a continuum that can’t be truly broken by even influential bad actors. And if you’re not into the heady content aspect, the debut album from Four Fists is a collection of bangers.

Who: Mothers w/Megabog and Down Time
When: Sunday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Kristine Leschper of Mothers and Erin Bergy of Megabog don’t fit in any easy, pat category as both have used elements of rock and folk in making their respective, boundary pushing pop music. Leschper and Bergy also both masterfully walk that line between accessibility, challenging their respective audiences and freely experimenting with sounds and song format.

Who: MAX w/Nina Nesbitt and EZI
When: Saturday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Schneider, aka MAX, has had a career in film, television and modeling but along the way he also established himself as an up-and-coming soul pop vocalist. Nina Nesbitt is a Scottish singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who got a big break opening for Ed Sheeran on the European leg of his 2012 tour. In 2018 Nesbitt is set to release her sophomore album and there’s a good chance that you’ll get to see some of that material live for this tour. If you show up early you can catch EZI, aka Esther Zyskind who has roots in the singer-songwriter realm but these days, makes lush, moody, synth-driven pop songs.

Who: Blerd #2
When: Saturday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This event says how Afro Punk is never coming to Denver and it, thus, shines a light on the most interesting and forward-thinking Denver artists of color. Tonight’s showcase includes two of the mightiest Denver musical acts with the otherworldly tones and transcendent hip-hop of R A R E B Y R D $ and The Maybe Sos, an experimental hip-hop duo comprised of notable Denver poets and musicians Bianca Mikahn and Jenee Elise Donelson. Also on the bill are Toluwa and Obi.

Sunday | October 21, 2018

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Old Sport, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: UK Subs w/Agent Orange, Guttermouth and No Takers
When: Sunday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: UK Subs were one of the bands out of the early English punk milieu that incorporated aspects of the pub rock scene of the same era in the mid-to-late 70s. Beginning with its 1979 album, Another Kind of Blues, the group has released a record beginning with every letter of the English alphabet including 2016’s Ziezo. The Subs have also remained a vital live act since the 70s and haven’t exactly toned down the politics edge, decidedly working class left, of their body of work even when they have written songs about going concerns of youth and everyday life. Also headlining this bill is California surf punk band Agent Orange. Like most of the southern California punk bands that emerged from Orange County in the late 70s and early 80s, Agent Orange had that aggressive intensity that was key to hardcore but also an instinct for melody that gave its songwriting an accessibility that may in some ways have helped give birth to pop punk. Agent Orange didn’t really get stuck in a specific punk niche perhaps one aspect of why the band, like the Subs, has endured and evolved.

Who: Mom Jeans w/Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed and Old Sport
When: Sunday, 10.21, 6 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California has been making some waves in underground music with its irreverent yet earnest songs. Over the past several years a blend of math rock, emo and pop punk has re-emerged in America as various musicians have drawn on the music of their younger years for inspiration and combined it with an interest in various musical styles that maybe they didn’t get to see firsthand when it was originally active. And then, of course, making it their own and using it as a vehicle for writing about similar frustrations and struggles but with a broader palette of sounds and cultural references. The group’s 2018 album Puppy Love is not short on meaningful songs with surreally humorous titles like “Jon Bong Jovi” and “You Can’t Eat Cats Kevin.” Also on the bill is like-minded Denver band Old Sport.

Monday | October 22, 2018

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Pond, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Pond w/Sur Ellz
When: Monday, 10.22, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Pond isn’t a Tame Impala side project even though the group has shared members and the latter has taken on ex-members of the former as part of Kevin Parker’s live lineup. Tame Impala went in a more overtly experimental electronic dimension with its excellent 2015 album Currents. Pond’s more prolific career has taken interesting turns and it’s 2017 album The Weather was also much more electronic but very well within the realm of a psychedelic aesthetic. One might compare it to when Super Furry Animals went more off its own deep end than usual but rather than soul wending into dream pop.

Who: A Perfect Circle w/Tricky and Night Club
When: Monday, 10.22, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: On the surface this is an odd pairing of bands. A Perfect Circle is one of the projects of Maynard James Keenan of Tool and for earlier records, it was a hard rock and even metal band. For it’s 2018 album Eat the Elephant the group has transformed fully into an atmospheric pop band. The sound is so different yet not seemingly forced or brimming with try hard musical gestures it’s like it’s a new identity for the group achieved after years of development. Night Club is a darkwave rock band comprised of Emily Kavanaugh and former Warlock Pinchers and Foreskin 500 guitarist Mark Brooks. Though mostly known for his work in film and television these days (for example he wrote for and directed episodes of Metalocalypse), with Kavanaugh in Night Club Brooks has been part of a band that sounds like it mulched 90s EBM and Future Pop with the inspired industrial sleaze of Lords of Acid and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult and made something that could make a virtue of the cheese factor of all that music without having to express the worst excesses. Night Club is more akin to modern Gary Numan than wack industrial rock and that makes all the difference. And Tricky is on the bill. As in former member of Massive Attack and downtempo pioneer with a respectable trip-hop career playing Red Rocks perhaps for the first time in decades.

Tuesday | October 23, 2018

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88rising, photo courtesy the artists

Who: Windhand w/Satan’s Satyrs
When: Tuesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand has for nearly a decade refined its fluid doom soundscaping like a pagan metal Bardo Pond. The group recorded its 2018 album Eternal Return with Jack Endino, the architect of the so-called Seattle sound of the late 80s and early 90s. With Endino’s assistance, Windhand cast its gritty grandeur in sharper focus than ever before with the intricacies in tone and texture not essentially buried and blurred together in the mix as part of an unintentional aesthetic choice because that’s how doom is “supposed” to sound. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals have also never sounded better, coming through the fogbank of sounds like a beacon in the night.

Who: 88Rising: 88 Degrees & Rising Tour
When: Tuesday, 10.23, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: 88rising is a media company that is bringing some of its star artists on this tour showcasing its efforts as a management and marketing company, record label and video production service. Nothing too new there. But most of its artists are Asian pop, trap, hip-hop and R&B projects. For this tour you’ll get to see Rich Brian, Joji, Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, KOHH, NIKI and AUGUST 08.

Wednesday | October 24, 2018

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Joan Baez, photo by Dana Tynan

Who: Joan Baez
When: Wednesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Joan Baez has been an important figure in American popular music since the early 60s when she helped to popularize folk music to an increasingly commercial and widespread audience. She was an early advocate of Bob Dylan and helped to bring his own talent to national audience as well. Baez famously used her platform and her music to raise awareness of human rights and environmental issues, a course she has followed throughout her career up to and including “Nasty Man,” a protest song she wrote against Donald Trump in 2017. It was a viral hit and it was her first published and released piece of original material in over two decades. Baez followed this with her first studio album in nearly a decade with 2018’s Whistle Down the Wind, an album in which she puts her superb interpretations on the songs of other writers including an interesting choice with Anohni’s “Another World.” Currently Baez is on what is being cited as her final formal tour, dubbed “Fare Thee Well Tour.” If this is Baez’s last hurrah, it’s quite a capstone on the career of an artist possessed of a powerful voice and an uncommon sense of compassion and duty to her fellow creatures on planet earth.

Best Shows in Denver 9/13/18 – 9/19/18

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Angel Olsen performs at The Paramount Theatre on 9/17/18. Photo by Taylor Boylston

Thursday | September 13, 2018

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Joe Dosik, photo by Curtis Essel

Who: Joe Dosik w/Moonglade
When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.

What: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown
When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.

Who: Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.

Who: Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.

Friday | September 14, 2018

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Landgrabbers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.

Who: Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush
When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year.
Who: UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.

Saturday | September 15, 2018

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Nothing, photo by Ben Rayner

Who: Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut
When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo Courtesy of Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Who: Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver)
Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.

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Eyebeams, black light poster image courtesy Eyebeams

Who: Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo)
When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.

Who: Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.

Sunday | September 16, 2018

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Luxury Hearse, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2 OUTS: An Electronic songwriter gathering: Pearls and Perils, Mirror Fears, And I, Keldari Station, Church Fire, Gold Trash, EVP, Panic Priest, Blackcell, Strange Powers, Lady of Sorrows, Juniordeer, $addy, eHpH, Nighttimeschoolbus, Luxury Hearse, Voight
When: Sunday, 09.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A veritable cornucopia of great Denver musicians writing songs using electronic instruments or, in the case of Voight, using a guitar but writing with electronic music sensibilities. If you go to one event the rest of the year and want a great and fairly broadly representative slice of Denver music that uses electronic instrumentation in a boundary-pushing, interesting way, there won’t be a better chance to see it all in one place because no one else is thinking of an event like this with the level of quality curation that went into it.

Who: WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos
When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.

Monday | September 17, 2018

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Angel Olsen circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.

Who: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers
When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.

Tuesday | September 18, 2018

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Nine Inch Nails, photo by Corinne Schiavone

Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.

Wednesday | September 19, 2018

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Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco see above for 09.18.

Who: Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.

Who: The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.

Who: Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.

Who: Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.