Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

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

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

Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records

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

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

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

Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord

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

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

Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records

Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN

Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released

Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser

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

BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records

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

Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records

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

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

Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser

Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute

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

Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released

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

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

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

cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk

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

Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released

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

Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records

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

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

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

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

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

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

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

Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records

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

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

Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released

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

Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union

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

Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican

Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records

Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress

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

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

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

Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish

Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party

Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records

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

French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk

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

Galleries | Resolve | self-released

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

Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records

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

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

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

Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings

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

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

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

Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records

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

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

Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International

Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom

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

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

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

Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released

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

Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim

Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser

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

Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released

Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine

Memory Bell | Solace | self-released

Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop

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

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

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

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

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

Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain

Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four

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

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

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

Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House

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

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

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

No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City

Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records

Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records

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

Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released

Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released

Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released

Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records

Pole | Fading | Mute Records

Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records

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

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

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

Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records

Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records

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

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

Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners

Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop

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

Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released

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

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

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

Spice | s/t | Dais Records

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

Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings

Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records

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

Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador

Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music

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

Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey

Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim

SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise

Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium

The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released

The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh

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

The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze

The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos

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

TI-83 | Demo | self-released

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

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

Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records

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

Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records

Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released

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

Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records

Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings

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

Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky

WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound

Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop

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

Best Shows in Denver 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 11/7/19 – 11/13/19

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Frankie Cosmos performs at Bluebird Theater on November 7, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Thursday | November 7

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Stephen Steinbrink circa October 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett
When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.

What: Juan MacLean DJ set w/boyhollow and Retrofette (DJ set)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box

What: HXXS (KC), Luxury Hearse, Kid Mask, Blood Wolf (NM)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

Friday | November 8

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Rett Rogers

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.

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FILTH circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 1
When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs

What: Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.

What: Codename: Carter w/SPELLS and Zephyr
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Roots
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium

Saturday | November 9

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Pedestrian Deposit circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27

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Necropanther, photo courtesy the artists

What: Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.

What: Pink Hawks’ Scorpio Party: Pink Hawks, Los Mocochetes, Brothers of Brass, DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: Zebroids, Mr. Pacman, The Half Hearts, Ladies Night
When: Saturday, 11.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Integrity w/Limbwrecker, Victim of Fire and Clusterfux
When: Saturday, 11.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Sunday | November 10

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Pile, photo by Elisabeth Fuchsia

What: Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy
When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.

What: Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.

What: FUTUREBIRDS w/Rowboat and Paul DeHaven
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | November 11

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

What: Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.

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Aquabats, photo courtesy the artists

What: The Aquabats
When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.

What: RAREBYRD$, Staple (WI), Gone Full Heathen, Heathen Burial and Denizens of the Deep
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Ulthar w/Nightfell, Malum Mortuus and Saeva
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Decide Today (ex-Realicide), Watabou, Church Fire and Techno Allah
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Tuesday | November 12

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Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.

What: FKA Twigs
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.

What: Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.

What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Wednesday | November 13

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The Coathangers, photo by Jeff Forney

What: The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.

What: Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.

What: MONO w/Bell Witch
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: The Get Up Kids w/Kevin Devine and The Whiffs
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Mr. Phylzzz w/Simulators, Church Van and Moon Pussy
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Best Shows in Denver 8/29/19 – 9/4/19

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Phonebooks (Colin Ward and Stephan Herrera L-R) circa 2010 at Rhinoceropolis. CRFW Benefit at Rhinoceropolis on August 29, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 29

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Cop Circles circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: DJ Fresh Kill, Earth Control Pill, Cop Circles and H-Lite
When: Thursday, 08.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This is a benefit show for the CRFW Fund which supports the body of work of the late Colin Ward and which “assists artists via grants and other means of support.” Ward would have turned 29 on this August 29 and the artists on the bill were friends and creative comrades of the artist and musician. A lot of high energy electronic dance music from DJ Fresh Kill and H-Lite, conceptual No Wave afrobeat post-disco from Cop Circles and the chill soundscaping of Earth Control Pill.

What: The Sugar Hill Gang w/Furious 5 and White Fudge & The Antagonist
When: Thursday, 08.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: For a lot of people The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap band. But hip-hop pre-dated that by some years beginning with the soundsystem parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc. The Sugar Hill Gang was probably the earliest, commercially successful rap group with its 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight.” Also on this bill is the Furious 5 who, with Grandmaster Flash, had been a pioneering hip-hop crew before The Sugar Hill Gang hit the charts. So this is a bit like getting to see some of the earliest days of hip-hop as we know it in one show.

Friday | August 30

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Paw Paw circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Meek, Future Scars, Kali Krone, Madelyn Burns
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Meek mixes live drums with 31G and-esque processed vocals and electronic beats for a result that’s somewhere between noise and industrial. But really not like much except for maybe, maybe, solo USAISAMONSTER minus guitar. Santa Fe’s Future Scars is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole except to say it’s a rock or a pop band but it has the cutting, hard hitting guitar drive of metal, the delicacy and texture of the most tender indie rock, the soaring vocals of some torch song pop and post-punk rhythmic drive. And that’s for one song. Other times, meditative, heavy drone with introspective melodies like Emma Ruth Rundle. Kali Krone’s dreamy slowcore seems about perfect for the swelter cool off. Madelyn Burns’ spooky singer-songwriter should appeal to fans of early Grouper.

What: Mutual Benefit w/Paw Paw and Card Catalog
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mutual Benefit’s moody, soundscape-y pop songs are like getting a glimpse into someone’s having processed some deep thinking and distilled it to the poetic essence of those collective feelings. Loosely in the realm of Americana but with some great sound collage in the songwriting. Paw Paw is the project of former Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop. Sort of ambient, sort of organic electronic pop, experimental solo guitar and synth songs to transport you to another, better place for a half an hour or so.

What: Nuancer LP release w/SSIIGGHH, Dr3aMC@$T, Larians and Andy AI
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Daniel DiMarchi is the genius bass player in the great dream pop band Tyto Alba and great indie rock band Oxeye Daisy. But part of what makes him a great bass player is his true ear for tonality and composition which he brings to his experimental electronic pop project Nuancer and this is the release show of I Hardly Know Her. Also on the bill is a rare show from Larians, the solo project of former Male Blonding guitarist/singer Noah Simons. Though a guitarist, Simons has long had an interest in left field and forward thinking electronic music like Burial and Larians is the manifestation of that interest. And tonight Larians releases the first EP Looming Boy. If Nicolas Jaar made trap it might sound something like that.

What: I Hate It Here, Causer, $addy, Eraserhead Fuckers and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The noise/heavy processed dance ambient/industrial show of the week. Granted the only one but heavy hitters like noise rapper Eraserhead Fuckers, hypnogogic environment sculptor Kid Mask and post-Goth ambient noise genius $addy alone make this a noteworthy lineup.

Saturday | August 31

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The Velveteers, photo by VOSSLING

What: The Velveteers UK tour kickoff w/Boot Gun, The Kinky Fingers and Bitter Suns
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers is a rock and roll trio from Denver whose live show is surprisingly powerful, forceful and grippingly emotional. The group is headed to the UK for a tour and this is the kickoff show with some of Denver’s other great, local, non-subgenre-specific rock bands including The Kinky Fingers who may be in the garage psych vein but its songwriting so tight and poignant it’s strikingly original.

What: To Be Astronauts, Meet the Giant, The Center and Bad Britton
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hard rock band To Be Astronauts is relasing its “Thoughts and Prayers” single tonight. Hard rock is a little generic a term. So yeah, in their sound you’ll hear a bit of industrial rock, grunge and anthemic punk without being stuck on any of that. And other like-minded bands are on the bill including Meet the Giant who, despite their ethereal and moody atmospheric rock gets heavy and driving often enough that they’ll fit in here.

Sunday | September 1

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

What: Molly Burch w/Jackie Cohen and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 09.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Molly Burch has the kind of classic pop voice that many try to imitate but few nail the cadence and tonality that she seems to do so effortlessly. Her songs are intricate and delicate but her poetic observations sharp and illuminating. Jackie Cohen taps into an earlier era of music but her sound is more like a strange strain out of ABBA and 60s girl groups. Bellhoss is in good company here with Becky Hostetler’s idiosyncratic storytelling and inventive guitar work somewhere betwixt Dinosaur Jr, Edith Frost and Joanna Newsom. Yeah, let’s go with that until a better description of this unique songwriter and performer comes to mind. Hostetler will also make all the charmingly awkward jokes on stage so you don’t have to.

What: The Wes Watkins (EP release) w/Dr3@m Ca$t and Snubluck
When: Sunday, 09.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wes Watkins is the brilliant trumpet player and vocalist whose talents have brought grace, cool and imagination to a broad swath of Denver music including his stint in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. But The Other Black, playing with poet, mystic, avant-garde hip-hop songwriter Bianca Mikahn, Wheelchair Sports Camp and others? His track record speaks for itself and tonight he’s releasing his new EP, a collection of jazz-inflected pop songs that seem to be streaming from a time in the future while sounding like it had to be recorded in the past putting Watkins out of time thus timeless, as seems appropriate for his soulful musical stylings.

Tuesday | September 3

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Shonen Knife circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shonen Knife w/Me Like Bees and Sexy Pistils
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Shonen Knife is the legendary Japanese punk bands whose roots go back to the late 70s when not many women were playing music in Japan much less in a punk band. Its songs are often about fanciful and mythical things but its songwriting is sharp, powerful and uplifting.

What: Holy Grove (PDX), DØNE (SLC, ex-SubRosa), and Shepherd
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: A kind of doom metal show including the latest project from former SubRosa drummer Andy Patterson, DØNE.

What: Ian Svenonius DJ set / Dream Wish of a Casino Soul Closing Party
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Philosopher, brilliant social commentator, media mogul and genius frontman (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, Chain and the Gang etc.) Ian Svenonius will hold court with one of his unique DJ sets for the closing party for the art exhibit Dream Wish of a Casino Soul.

Wednesday | September 4

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SunnO))) circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SunnO))) w/David Pajo and BIG BRAVE
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: SunnO))) creates such intense, dense frequencies and slow dynamics with, assuming Atilla Csihar will be on hand, otherworldly vocals that run a broad spectrum of tonality that your brain may work differently after the show. Calling it “extreme metal” just doesn’t cut it as it’s a truly ritualistic experience and so engulfing you feel like you’ve really been through something by the end. David Pajo is the iconic guitarist of Slint, The For Carnation and a host of other bands including a short stint in the death metal group Dead Child. His solo material runs a fairly wide range of sounds and emotions and as Papa M he recently toured with Mogwai. Not to be missed. BIG BRAVE is a cathartic collision of industrial, drone metal and emotional exorcism.

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Dorian, Hypnotic Turtle Radio DJ, Cabal Art
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday is the monthly musical showcase that lives up to its name and curated by Claudia Woodman. This time she will be performing in her persona of Gothsta and for this performance she says, “Gothsta covers goth songs on the melodica that have some link to climate change-related themes, because Gothsta is depressed about global warming. Gothsta will have some extra special content that has to do with the Amazon burning and will be joined by Hypnotic Turtle’s Diablo Montalban for dueling melodicas/improv along with noise loops generated for this performance.” It’s rare that anything lives up to hype like that but this show probably will.

Best Shows in Denver 9/27/18 – 10/3/18

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Courtney Barnett headlines The Ogden Theatre on September 29 and 30 with Waxahatchee. Photo by Pooneh Ghana.

Thursday | September 27, 2018

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2X4 Duo Fest: Smashy Claw, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Gold Trash and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This second annual edition of 2X4 Duo Fest features four duo bands (thus the name, of course). For this edition, as with the 2017 event, organizer Logan Rainard of Gort Vs. Goom assembled a genre-diverse bill. His own band, Gort Vs. Goom would have been considered punk 40 years ago before what that was supposed to sound like got more or less settled by some codification of the genre. Bass, drums, vocals and raw power with some nods to prog and art rock. Gold Trash is part noise, part electroclash and general pop chaos. Sugar Skulls and Marigolds would probably fit easily into a broadly metal world except the band’s musical range includes their “acoustic” set which sounds more like ghostly post-punk. Smashy Claw is what would happen if a couple of very self-aware geeks decided to get into writing eccentric alternative pop songs. Only if those geeks weren’t wasting our time with filking and had a real knack for good songwriting.

Who: Too Many Zooz w/Honeycomb
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Too Many Zooz is a percussion and horns-driven jazz band that performs a style of music it calls “brass house” in that it employs acoustic instruments to make sounds that are like the use of samples in an electronic hip-hop beat. The group has performed with Beyoncé on the strength of its chops and creativity and its own albums and shows are an impressive display of what one can do with instruments you’re using to seeing in other contexts once you engage your imagination to see their possibilities in others. The group recently released a video for the single “Car Alarm” in which the trio brilliantly plays around, yes, a car alarm and makes it work.

Who: Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and Iress
When: Thursday, 09.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Boston’s Slothrust combines a kind of jazz-inflected R&B mixed with fuzzy rock. It’s sound has been compared to the 90s revival of the past few years but the structure of its songs often have more in common with hip-hop than grunge and its quieter more introspective side with soulful folk. Its new record, 2018’s The Pact, brings these sides together well in a well-sequenced album that has the eclectic musicality and depth of expression in its thoughtful lyrics that we’ve come to expect from the band.

Also on this tour is Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon. The band’s sound defies easy categorization beyond hard rock but it has some loose around the edges wildness akin to Babes in Toyland and L7. Except Jessica Boudreaux’s voice is both melodic while cutting through the fuzzy sparks of the band’s driving forward momentum. Some might call Summer Cannibals garage punk but it’s guitar work is much more compelling than most of that wave of music and its musical vision more coherent as well.

Friday | September 28, 2018

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Too Many Zooz – Pug In A Tub Tour w/Honeycomb and The Alcapones
When: Friday, 09.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: For Too Many Zooz see above for 09.27 at The Bluebird.

Who: Gary Numan w/Nightmare Air and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: For those somehow not familiar, Gary Numan beyond his 1979/1980 Top 40 hit “Cars,” was a pioneer of the use of synthesizer as a compositional element in pop music. His old band Tubeway Army was a post-punk project and that sort of moody, brooding element continued on into Numan’s career under his own name. Throughout the 80s, Numan explored themes of alienation, the impact of technology on human civilization and psychology and the ways technology could be used to write and produce music. Numan also experimented with integrating other styles of music outside his perceived repertoire and his body of work and through the 90s were an obvious influence on industrial music generally and industrial rock specifically. In the 2000s Numan has delved further into conceptual work in his songwriting especially his two most recent albums, 2013’s Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and 2017’s Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Numan is no stranger to using dystopian science fiction ideas or even simply examination of possible futures extrapolated from the present in his music but Savage is one wherein he posits a near future where global warming has caused a worldwide desert. In seeking answers what remains of humanity seeks answers in ancient religion rather than trying to deal with the world as it is with disastrous results. As with most science fiction a warning with some uncomfortable truths about humans contained within it and a suggestion to seek creative solutions rather than what we think is tried and true.

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Guerilla Toss, image courtesy the artist

Who: Guerilla Toss w/Black Belt Eagle Scout and H Lite
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Guerilla Toss came up through the underground/DIY music world of Boston and New York where it experimented with musical ideas and concepts, developing what might be described as weirdo electro No Wave funk. Except that wouldn’t encompass completely a sound and performance style that includes the threads of punk fury and wiry energy, noise, prog and the avant-garde. The group recently released its latest album Twisted Crystal, an album that seems to transform some of the band’s frantic, nervous energy into dense yet beautifully expansive atmospheres while using its angular dynamics straight into those more fluid. It’s a fascinating mixture of ideas and sounds that is both alien and comforting in a way that a surreal cartoon or live action show from your youth can be.

Who: Modern Goon, Luxury Hearse, A Light Among Many, New Standards Men album release
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: New Standards Men released it’s new album People Wonder digitally on September 24. But it’s celebrating the release of the record with this show with like-minded peers at Denver Distillery. The Denver-based band has been releasing some of the more interesting experimental heavy guitar music of recent years in the Mile High City but the material on the new album has as much in common with 90s, dark math rock legends like A Minor Forest and Don Caballero as it does with even an adventurous doom band of today though some of that style of deep droning is present on the songs “Tanned Womb” and “Thirteen Alaskan Islands/Pacific Blood.” But it’s the sparkle and drift over the driving fuzz that makes the music breathe and invites the imagination to project onto its soundscape.

Who: Flahoola, To Be Astronauts, Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver Meatpacking Company may hearken back to early alternative rock in the grunge vein but it does so with a charming self-consciousness that transcends any mere nostalgic kick. Flahoola as well but their sound is more like an early 2000s melodic stoner rock band that injects more energy into the rhythm.

Who: Weaponizer and Necropanther
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Two of the best bands from Denver that in another era would have been considered thrash but thrash already happened and today’s metal bands that aren’t going for pure throwback cachet have been influenced by a broad spectrum of music, heavy and otherwise. Weaponizer’s more gritty style is like a more menacing, grind-esque, speed metal. Necropanther’s sound is closer to melodic death metal but a little too animalistic in the vocals for all of that.

Saturday | September 29, 2018

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What: Whaaat!? A Festival for Games and Experimental Interaction
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder
Why: This is a one day event dedicated to experimental games (arcade/video, tabletop et. al.) with featured speakers on the subject of gaming and development. Mattie Brice is not just a game designer but an activist in the games industry whose work includes Mainichi, in which players take on the role of the daily life of a transgender person. Her work has also been important on the subject of diversity in the gaming world generally. Pippin Barr, like Brice, is a game designer and educator who teaches game design and programming. Barr’s games are often unconventional and challenge traditional notions of what computer games can be including The Artist is Present, inspired by and involving performance artist Marina Abramović’s piece of the same name. The event gives attendees a chance to witness and participate in cutting edge games and interact with some of the minds behind them. Those interested should register at www.whaaat.io.


Who: Ned Garthe Explosion, Oxeye Daisy and Church Fire
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ned Garthe Explosion makes a good case for why modern psychedelic rock isn’t dead. Even from early on, the show itself has been chaotic and colorful enough to be worthy of the term psychedelic in not only sound, content and presentation. And yet, the songwriting has always been solid and interesting. Oxeye Daisy has seemingly leapt past 90s alt-rock nostalgia into a musical zone that, sure, bears the influences of that era, that is more energized atmospheric pop than anything throwback. Its sound is very much of the present and fans of Wye Oak and Japanese Breakfast should take note. Church Fire has secretly and not so secretly been one of Denver’s most engaging live bands for not just its irresistible dance beats but its willingness to go beyond the map of middle-of-the-road accessibility mixing in noise, industrial dynamic edge and Shannon Webber’s impassioned vocal delivery.

What: Industrial Music For the Masses Vol. 2: DJ Ed Gein and eHpH
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Milk Bar Green Room
Why: Denver EBM/industrial rock band eHpH has been hitting a strong creative vein of late crafting vibrant and engrossing atmospheric electronic music shot through with a palpable emotional power. Always interesting, the duo is now starting to hit its stride as a band.

Dr. Hamburger

Who: Belly Eater, Curt Oren, Real Dom, $addy, Oxygen Thief and Dr. Hamburger
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Fairly broad spectrum of noise and related music at this show. Belly Eater from Ohio is sort of a noisy, Atari Teenage Riot-esque breakcore punk band. Chicago’s Curt Oren does avant-garde audio-acoustic music including processed saxophone. Real Dom from Iowa threads together synthwave and noise. $addy makes bizarro video game music for stuff way more interesting and haunting than Sad Satan and without the disturbing baggage of the latter. Oxygen Thief is true bedroom techno dungeonwave, or something. Dr. Hamburger has landed in Denver from Rochester, New York to share his processed real time environment noise. Somehow none of these acts sound anything alike and the bill is better for it.

Who: Chelsea Wolfe w/Russian Circles
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Chelsea Wolfe’s knack for making deep, dark, loud music was built on a foundation of the dynamics and sonics of acoustic, old world folk music. Along with her channeling her experiences with sleep paralysis, anxiety and other psychological trauma into her art, Wolfe’s music has an unexpected depth and emotional intensity beyond anyone trying to pen her music in as doom or Goth or neofolk or anything so narrowly defined. For this tour she’s sharing dates with instrumental metal group Russian Circles whose own music seems to come from a primordial place from which all ancient religions and rituals find their root. Although associated with metal, Russian Circles sounds like its music origins are steeped in posthardcore and, like Wolfe, ancient, certainly pre-Christian, folk music.

Who: Lyrics Born w/Indigenous Peoples, AG Flux and Bukue One
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Tsutomu Shimura used to call himself Asia Born because he was actually born in Tokyo. But early in his career he changed his hip-hop moniker to Lyrics Born so that the perception of his work would be a product of its own merit rather than through some essentialist filter. To his credit, Lyrics Born’s fluid delivery and vocal centered, funk-driven, songs bring an experimental dimension to a style of hip-hop that sounds like something from a classic 80s era rather than something that is pushing stylistic boundaries. Lyrics Born is now touring on his first album in a few years, Quite a Life.

Who: Cuckoo, Magpies (MT), Grave Moss and Surrender Signal
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Magpies got started in Havre, Montana, close to the Canadian border, in 2006 and given its bright, introspective indie rock probably didn’t find too big an audience at home before moving to Missoula in 2012 where, like most bands that don’t have some kind of marketing budget or an influential PR team, it plays to small rooms regularly. But the band did what not every group does, it went on tour and has released multiple albums including 2017’s Annex. Brooding, fuzzy and anthemic, it’s something for fans of Rainer Maria and Eleventh Dream Day.

Rounding out the bill are three Denver bands that resist pat classification. Cuckoo may have at one point sounded a little like a math rock version of a hardcore band but now that math-y side has become more dominant with intricate guitar work in the context of a spare and simple songwriting context. Grave Moss is sort of like a death rock band if that band wasn’t brooding so much as burning with nervous energy and dynamics. Surrender Signal’s mixture of introspective moods, cool melodies peppered with atonal highlights and emotional urgency is reminiscent of acts on the Teenbeat imprint and early Merge Records.

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Courtney Barnett’s witty, self-effacing songwriting goes beyond merely clever wordplay and a poignant observation here and there. It’s often as though she’s tapping into a modern contemporary zeitgeist or able to express her experiences, feelings and imagined scenarios in a way that is immediately relatable to anyone that has taken some time to ponder what life is all about or at least be amused by circumstances that resist immediate interpretation. Throughout her career, Barnett has been especially adept at humanizing anxiety as experienced. Barnett doesn’t treat the experience as simply a condition to be treated in a clinical fashion, rather she articulates with telling details and humor how that emotional wrecking ball affects one’s life in a myriad of ways, shining a compassionate light on its several darkened corners of in the psyche. You can pick up anywhere in Barnett’s catalog and get a record worth taking the time to delve into but her 2018 album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a seemingly more subdued affair sonically speaking if not so much in the words. When you call songs “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” you’re not mincing words and on the new record Barnett spares us the niceties in favor of personal truth.

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee is no stranger to laying bare a powerful vulnerability in her own songwriting and performances. Her own storytelling has a warmth and intimacy that when coupled with the spacious, expansive quality of the music an impact that lingers with you long after the song is over. Crutchfield transmogrifies the fear, uncertainty and anxiety at the heart of the experiences of most people living today in this crumbling and increasingly demanding civilization into anthems of to soothe and comfort without sugarcoating the way things are. Waxahatchee released the Great Thunder EP in 2018.

Sunday | September 30, 2018

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Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett see above for 09.29.

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Earthless, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Who: Earthless w/Mad Alchemy and Green Druid
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: San Diego’s Earthless is on a surface level a sort of bluesy psychedelic rock band akin to Mountain or Uriah Heep. Except with a modern sensibility like its members have already heard and been imprinted a bit by peers like Dead Meadow and Sleep. But Earthless’ embrace of the imagery of natural mysticism and the aesthetics of kosmische musik gives its music an air of otherworldliness even as it employs rock and roll sounds and rhythms that may be familiar to many of its listeners. Its new album, 2018’s Black Heaven, has the band following the rabbit hole of its musical intuition down paths it might not have taken if the songwriting was consciously crafted with standard song structure.

What: Textures: Chromadrift, Blank Human and Ancient Inc. 
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase features dream pop/guitar drone artist Chromadrift, Blank Human’s modular synth compositions (Blank Human’s Dan Coleman is also in experimental electronic/industrial duo Luxury Hearse) and Ancient Inc., a project that uses field recordings, ancient acoustic instruments and production to create its textured sonic atmospheres.

Who: Brighter Death Now w/Theologian, Echo Beds, Page 27 and Gruesome Relics
When: Sunday, 9 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: As Brighter Death Now, Roger Karmanik has been a prolific and influential maker of forbidding industrial soundscapes and noise. His now defunct record label Cold Meat Industry introduced the world to some of the most innovative and challenging music of its time from 1987 to 2013. This is a rare chance to see the Swedish artist live in Denver with a handful of like-minded local acts.

Monday | October 1, 2018

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Presets, photo courtesy the artist

Who: The Presets w/Blood Red Shoes
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Presets from Sydney, Australia is a duo making the kind of electronic pop that on the surface is fun, high energy dance music. But their latest album, 2018’s Hi Viz makes it more obvious the depth of influence and innovation going on underneath what seems obvious. “Beethoven” and other tracks are reminiscent of the dark, cavernous, mysterious club vibe that was an aspect of the music of Underworld in the 90s—a calming tone amid urgent rhythms. Along with fellow Sydney electronic artist Flume, The Presets helped to bring Australia’s dance music world to a global audience. Even though Hi Viz, as the name suggests, was aimed at broadening the duo’s potential fan base with a diversity of musical ideas loaded into the tracks, the experiments also made for one of the more interesting electronic albums of this year thus far.

Who: The Breeders w/Sasami and Boyhollow
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alternative rock band The Breeders came through Colorado in the spring touring in support of its 2018 album All Nerve. While one of the band’s stronger efforts of the past twenty years it also includes an interesting pick of a cover song with “Archangel’s Thunderbird” by classic psychedelic prog band Amon Duul II. The band is also bringing along Sasami as in Sasami Ashworth, former member of Cherry Glazerrr, on her solo tour in the wake of the release of a couple of acclaimed singles.

Who: Lucy Spraggan w/The Dollhouse Thieves, Sarah Slaton
When: Monday, 10.01.18 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Lucy Spraggan is a singer/songwriter from the UK who was already making a name for herself as an artist of note before auditioning for The X Factor and, in fact, had already signed to Columbia before any episode in which she appeared aired to the public. Spraggan is an LGBTQ activist in the UK and she and her partner foster disadvantaged children and that points to the compassion and and emotional strength of her songwriting. 2017’s I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing is brimming with the aforementioned along with an irreverent and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor. Spraggan’s new album is set for release in 2019 but for this tour you may get to hear some of that material.

Who: IDLES w/Bambara
When: Monday, 10.01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: IDLES from Bristol, UK put out an album in 2018 called Joy as an Act of Resistance. A bold title and one the band was able to live up to at a time when too much of punk is fairly traditionalist in most ways. Musically it’s more experimental than a lot of punk and could be considered post-punk but the vibe is there and the critique of cultural distraction as aspirational reward, fake do-gooders, self-destruction and toxic masculinity is refreshing. Also on the tour is Brooklyn, New York’s Bambara. There’s a lot of darkwave-inspired bands and a new post-punk revival that’s been going on for nearly a decade but Bambara manages to stand out with some genuinely deep personal darkness in the vocals and sonics reminiscent of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Birthday Party in post-come down mode. It’s own 2018 album, Shadow On Everything, delivers on the promise of that title.

Tuesday | October 2, 2018

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at Oriental Theater circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: <PIG>, eHpH, Offerings to Odin, and DJ n810
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Raymond Watts of <PIG> has been an influential figure on the sound and aesthetics of industrial music going back to the early-to-mid 80s as a producer, an artist and a sound engineer. While touring with Einsturzende Neubauten he had to tangle with a challenging live sound situation with that band’s use of large art pieces and experiments as noisemakers as well as more conventional instrumentation. He contributed to some of KMFDM’s most interesting work and with <PIG> he was an innovator in both industrial rock and finely sculpted ambient music. For this tour it’s mostly going to industrial rock but Watts’ stage performance draws on the antics of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford and the aesthetics of a Kenneth Anger’s 1963 film Scorpio Rising. Or if not, that’s what it looked like while he was touring with Ohgr over the summer of 2018.

Who: Vase Vide w/Patrick Hale Coyle and Housekeys
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Vase Vide is yet more proof that Colorado Springs is “hiding” some of Colorado’s most interesting bands. Sure, synth pop, but too weird and inherently experimental for just that. Daniel Oglesby’s and Kellie Palmblad’s vocal layers and treatments are certainly accessible but challenge conventional notions of what forms pop music can take. Along with the music and visual presentation of the band, Vase Vide may not be so well-known in Denver but the quality of the imagination going into its music and concept should garner the group national and international attention.

Wednesday | October 3, 2018

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Dr. Hamburger, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Enji, Dr. Hamburger and Gothsta
When: Wednesday, 10.03, 9 p.m. doors/9:15 show
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: October’s Weird Wednesday will be extra weird with video game electronics/guitar looping from Enji who will probably perform in an unusual mask. Gothsta is Weird Wednesday host Claudia Woodman’s keytar band and so a bit of glam presentation and the odd but on point cover. Dr. Hamburger is Cameron Farrash from Rochester, New York whose layers of textured beats, drone, harsh noise and ambient tones creates a surreal, even otherworldly ambiance.

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

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

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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

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

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

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 01/25/18 – 01/31/18

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Echo Beds perform tonight, January 25, 2018, at Mutiny Information Café. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 25, 2018

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Dinosaur Jr, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: GLAARE, Fearing, Echo Beds and Voight
When: Thursday, 01.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Los Angeles-based post-punk bands GLAARE and Fearing will bring their lushly dark compositions to Mutiny, sharing the stage with like-minded Denver acts Echo Beds and Voight. GLAARE’s sound is closer to shoegaze bands with a strong electronic production component like Slowdive and Seefeel. Fearing shares some of those tendencies for slow, soaring atmospheres but with a darker flavor. Both bands had 2017 releases, GLAARE’s To Deaf and Day and Fearing’s Black Sand so expect a show that favors that era of each band’s music. Fans of Black Marble, John Maus and The Prids will find plenty to like about this show.

Who: LANDLINES film premiere w/Dinosaur Jr and Thurston Moore DJ set
When: Thursday, 01.25, 6:15 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Vans is releasing its first full-length snowboard film, LANDLINE. Directed by Tanner Pendleton, who made Crazy Loco, about renowned young snowboarder Jed Anderson the screening will be preceded by a panel discussion with filmmakers and others affiliated with the production of the film. The presentation will include a performance from Dinosaur Jr who did some music for the soundtrack as well as a DJ set from Thurston Moore. It’s free but to attend please click the link above or here to RSVP.

Friday | January 26, 2018

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Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Grinder album release w/Kid Mask and Muscle Brain
When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Brad Schumacher is a veteran of the Saint Louis noise scene and when he relocated to Denver a few years back his Night Grinder project was a unique combination of experimental bass playing and noisy soundscapes. His new album Animus bridges musical worlds: industrial, noise, ambient, IDM and glitchcore. Although sometimes abrasive and alien, Animus has an undeniable immediacy and intimacy that is the hallmark of Schumacher’s work generally. On the occasion of the release of the album, Night Grinder will be joined by post-punk band Muscle Brain and experimental electronic wunderkind, Kid Mask.

Who: Denver Meatpacking Company, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Waiting Til Three
When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: With the most recent garage rock revival in the rearview with some stubborn holdouts still grinding it out, now increasingly replaced with the inevitable re-invention and resurgence of the kind of fuzzy rock style popular in the 90s, the oversaturation point of the next wave is rapidly approaching. Fortunately, Denver Meatpacking Company is doing it right by writing songs in the quiet-loud vein popularized by Mission of Burma and then Pixies by giving the songwriting a mature but not tamed edge. Vic N’ The Narwhals are clearly influenced by garage rock, psychedelia and more classic rock and roll but blend enough raw energy with sophisticated songcraft to bypass immediate comparisons. Waiting Til Three often seems like the duo took some cues from In the Whale and 2000s garage rock but it has enough genuinely tender material to make you not think it’s not just another band riding that retro music nostalgia train.

Who: EVP, eHpH, Church Fire and Angel War
When: Friday, 01.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor 2.0
Why: Some of Denver’s finest darkwave artists will perform at Flux in Colorado Springs this night. The forbidding, darkly luminous industrial pop of EVP, eHpH’s thorny EBM and Church Fire’s politically charged and fiery dance song rituals will make that library building the place to be in the Springs for the duration of the show.

Saturday | January 27, 2018

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STRFKR, photo by Erika Reinsel

Who: STRFKR w/Reptaliens
When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: STRFKR has come a long way since starting as a Joshua Hodges solo project. But the components of the bands sound have remained consistent even as it has refined and evolved from a more indie-synthpop sound of its early albums. The band’s first three albums were a great soundtrack to suburban aspirational daydreaming of a more meaningful existence minus the anxiety. By the time of 2013’s Miracle Mile, STRFKR’s sound wended toward the more funk end of its musical instincts, reflecting its full-band lineup at that point. 2016’s Being No One Going Nowhere fully incorporated the robust low-end that buoyed the more laid back melodies for which that band had become known. In 2017 the band delved into its backlog of unreleased material for three volumes of rarities. But beyond just an “odds and sods” collection, the three volumes of Vault trace Hodges’ personal struggles and unguarded moments as a musician channeled into creative endeavors. With any luck, you’ll get to hear some of this material on the current STRFKR tour.

Who: Circuit Des Yeux w/Howling Hex
When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: 2017’s Reaching For Indigo is the latest album from Chicago’s Circuit Des Yeux, the more or less solo project of Haley Fohr. With the project, Fohr has explored human relationships, including socialized roles and identity, in a deep way paired with accessible yet boundary pushing music that is beholden to neither pop or avant-garde conventions. The live show is performance art as much as musical so go expecting to see something different from the usual sort of thing you’d see at a small bar/venue like Larimer Lounge. Also on the bill is Denver’s Howling Hex, the long-running project of Neil Michael Hagerty who some may know from his days in Royal Trux and Pussy Galore. Howling Hex finds Hagerty and his collaborators taking concepts and rhythms pioneered by ranchero and norteño artists in making repetition of theme and meter a hypnotic and creative form of songcraft. Of course Hagerty injects other elements of sound into the mix making Howling Hex really unlike any other band with his own roots in music and not much obviously like a Mexican folk style band either.

Who: Church Fire, Eyebeams and Milk Blossoms
When: Saturday, 01.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Church Fire never bores with its compelling, inspiring shows with music that mixes fiery punk attitude with noise, synth pop and electronic dance music. The Milk Blossoms turn vulnerable, fragile musical and emotional elements into powerful, deeply affecting songs that are somehow both cathartic, gentle and thought provoking. Eyebeams prove that psychedelia had places to go that were not rooted in the garage rock of the past decade. Songwriter and singer Suzi Allegra’s words creatively suss out the intricacies of identity and dreaming with immediacy and insight.

Sunday | January 28, 2018

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Dirty Fences, photo by Justin Aversano

Who: Dirty Fences w/Sliver and Fast Eddy
When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Brooklyn’s Dirty Fences sound like the group immersed itself in classic power pop, 70s Oz rock and American proto-punk and carved its own sound out of that raw material. Its latest record, 2017’s Goodbye Love sounds like an homage to life in its ups and downs, to taking risks for fun and experiences beyond everyday mundanity and to the stories that come out of being willing to saying yes to promising opportunities as they come your way. Sliver melds the vitality and aggression of East Coast post-hardcore with the darkness and edge of early 90s grunge into a surprisingly effective amalgamation.

Who: Textures featuring Denizens of the Deep, Psychic Secretary and The Teeth of the Hydra
When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Textures, the monthly ambient showcase run by Wesley Davis of Symbolic Insight and bios+a+ic. This time around it’s the abstract environment sculpting compositions of The Teeth of the Hydra, the IDM-esque and hardware based futuristic ambient of Psychic Secretary and the organic/instrument and software composed soundtracking of Denizens of the Deep.

Monday | January 29, 2018

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Josh Ritter, photo by Laura Wilson

Who: Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band w/Nicki Bluhm
When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Josh Ritter sounds nothing like Neil Young. But he shares Young’s knack for having a consistent, identifiable sound while seemingly never allowing himself to get stagnant or stuck in a boring rut. He also has a similar ability to find ways to talk about everyday life in a way that provides insight and an intimate view into his own psyche, flaws and all without getting maudlin. His latest record, Gathering, is warmly upbeat and almost celebratory while giving a sense of an introspective mood—like you’re being invited into a series of private moments with a friend who isn’t trying to hide or isolate but is still a little emotionally raw from life’s slings and arrows of late.

Who: Breakdancing Ronald Reagan (album release) w/Stye, Docile Rottweiler, Ancient, INC., DJ Anime Love Hotel
When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Breakdancing Ronald Reagan aka Jonathan Cash is releasing his first album as a Denver resident. Even while based in Austin until 2017, Cash was no stranger to the Denver noise scene as a performer at Denver Noise Fest and other events in town. His combination of harsh noise and surrealistic sound collage along with a sometimes confrontational but always visceral performance has made his shows a hit with noiseniks beyond his usual bases of operations. Also on the bill is Stye, the solo project of Nick Salmon of Voight, H. Lite (formerly Bollywood Life) and other local luminaries of the noise world.