Best Shows in Denver April 2022

IDLES, photo courtesy the artists
Baroness, photo courtesy the artists

What: Baroness
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Friday | 04.01
What: Brandon Wald (owner of Black Ring Ritual Records out of ND), Viator, Many Blessings, Maltreatment, Tripp Nasty and MPW
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: There aren’t too many noise shows or places to see noise in Denver these days meaning a form of music/sound art is hard to come by in the live setting where it is best experienced. But this show will include local stars like Many Blessings aka Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man doing his harsh industrial noise project and Tripp Nasty whose body of work is so diverse and broad that some of it is in the realm of noise so who knows how that will manifest for this show so just best to go if you’re so inclined. Brandon Wald runs Black Ring Ritual Records, home to some of the more prime noise records and tapes of the last several years and his own noise is part power electronics, abstract industrial, harsh ambient and musique concrète.

Friday | 04.01
What: The Blue Rider w/Cleaner and Wes Watkins
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Psychedelic garage rock band The Blue Rider hasn’t been playing much in recent years since Mark Shusterman has been busy playing in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So catch the always surprisingly powerful and brain expanding show with Wes Watkins who has been involved in a variety of projects over the years like Wheel Chair Sports Camp and the aforementioned Night Sweats. But his own music betwixt jazz, R&B and funk is worthwhile in its own right.

Friday and Saturday | 04.01 and 04.02
What: The Goddamn Gallows & Scott H. Biram w/JD Pinkus
When: 8 p.m. both nights
Where: Larimer Lounge (04.01) and Swing Station (Laporte, CO on 04.02)
Why: The Goddamn Gallows sound like something you’d get if you mixed a scuzzy punk band, some murder ballad honky tonk and Black Sabbath. Scott H. Biram plays solo and while many men of his ethnic persuasion have abused the blues and country in ways largely boring and unforgiveable, Biram’s songwriting is so strong, diverse and sincere yet poetic he’ll make you forget those other guys that served as a blight in blues clubs for decades. JD Pinkus is indeed the bass player of Butthole Surfers and member of Honky. But this tour showcases his fragmented, haunted psychedelic country material. His 2021 album Fungus Shui is the peak of that aesthetic as crafted by Pinkus thus far.

Monday | 04.04
What: Spiritualized
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With the 2022 album Everything Was Beautiful expected out on April 22, 2022, Jason Pierce finds yet another way to blend freaky, spooky yet warmly engaging folk with space rock in ways transporting and transcendent. The roller coaster dynamic of late 90s music has long since given way to lush orchestral builds that flow in unpredictable yet satisfying directions so that listening to the album gets your brain to go down a different path than previous records from Pierce. With any luck the live show will reflect this bright aspects of this album without losing the dark cool that has made the songwriter’s material so fascinating since his early days with Spacemen 3.

SASAMI, photo by Alice Baxley

Tuesday | 04.05
What: SASAMI w/Jigsaw Youth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Squeeze, the 2022 album from SASAMI, is definitely a departure from the songwriter’s 2019 self-titled debut. Whereas there was a deeply chill energy to the downtempo aspect of that album, there is a more distorted and visceral quality to Squeeze that seems like a mirror image of the wonderfully ethereal quality of that first record. This might seem like too wide a stylistic swing, Sasami Ashworth has had a very eclectic career playing in Cherry Glazerr and contributing to albums by artists as widely different as Vagabon and Wild Nothing. Ashworth explores metallic sounds and much more aggressive song dynamics this time around while pushing the boundaries of her knack for pop songcraft with songs that sound sometimes metal, sometimes industrial, sometimes grunge and all made accessible. Fans of the broad spectrum of St. Vincent’s catalog would appreciate what SASAMI has been doing the past few years and beyond.

girl in red, photo by Jonathan Kise

Tuesday | 04.05
What: girl in red w/Holly Humberstone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: girl in red is the performance moniker of Marie Ulven Ringheim whose guitar pop has garnered critical acclaim beyond her home country of Norway. Her 2021 debut album if i could make it go quiet found the songwriter expanding beyond the bedroom pop compositions and recordings that brought her to prominence and it charts her struggles with the various ways in which one’s mind can sabotage your life. In addressing these personal demons in such a direct, honest and relatable way with such luminously warm melodies Ringheim doesn’t insult herself or the listener by suggesting something as trite as it’s all going to work out. Her depictions of the head spaces in which you can get stuck seem so vivid and immediate that they seem like something you can overcome or at least survive and dare to want more for yourself and reach for it than you seem to think is possible when you’re in the depths of your own personal hell.

Tuesday | 04.05
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Baby Tate, photo by Scrill Davis

Wednesday | 04.06
What: Charli XCX w/Baby Tate
When: 06:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: This show should probably be at a bigger venue but hey you get a chance to see Baby Tate before word gets out that her sex positive songs aren’t all production in the studio and in music videos. Sure, her mom is Dionne Farris who hopefully most people remember from her time in Arrested Development before branching out into a popular music career under her own name. But Baby Tate’s confidence isn’t just swagger, regardless of subject matter and word choice there is a deft and creative wordplay that syncs her words with the always imaginative beats with a fine ear for the use of bass that one doesn’t hear in enough hip-hop these days. Fans of Kari Faux should probably give Baby Tate a listen. And of course headlining is Charli XCX who is touring in support of her 2022 album Crash. Whether the record is the end of a chapter in the pop star’s career or hinting at a more experimental future direction, the singer sounds as confident as ever and the eclectic influences are on display so that beyond the typically strong vocals the driving bass of post-punk and the expert electronic dance music production allows for all elements to flow freely together in a way divergent from the hyperpop aesthetic of earlier offerings. Of all the pop songwriters in the mainstream, Charli XCX has long been one of the more consistently inventive and fascinating whose lyrics also hit as poignant and poetic.

Thursday | 04.07
What: CELE Presents: Chihei Hatakeyama w/Carl Ritger and Wind Tide
When: 7-11 p.m.
Where: 860 Vallejo St. (Denver)
Why: Chihei Katakeyama is an ambient/experimental electronic/drone artist from Tokyo, Japan whose work has found a home on Kranky but lately largely out of his own White Paddy Mountain imprint which showcases other artists that operate in similar realms of composition and sound design. Carl Ritger has been producing prepared environmental sound experiences under his own name and as Radere and a fixture of Denver’s ambient music scene for more than a decade. Wind Tide is presumably the musique concrète/ambient artist from Littlefield, Texas whose use of field recordings and processed noise captures the essence of the background sounds of civilization that often go ignored unless brought explicitly to your attention though not often as creatively as Wind Tide has done in an extensive Bandcamp catalog.

Jawbreaker, photo by John Dunne

Thursday and Friday | 04.07 and 04.08
What: Jawbreaker w/Descendents, Face To Face and Samiam
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Between 1986 and its break-up in 1996, Jawbreaker helped to shape the aesthetics and sound of what became pop punk and emo during that time and going forward. With albums like 1994’s influential 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You from 1995, which the group celebrates with this tour, Jawbreaker brought an existential self-examination to the lyrics and a creativity to the dynamics and textures of its songs that transcended the genres it helped to define. The trio has been back together since 2017 with a documentary about the band Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker releasing that same year. Listening back to its old albums the fingerprints of that music is clearly evident on a large swath of punk-oriented music of the past 25 years. Also on this bill are pioneering pop punk band The Descendents whose own anthemic songs likely proved an inspiration for Jawbreaker and both Face to Face and Samiam also sharing the stage this night.

Sarah Shook & The Disamers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Saturday | 04.09
What: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers w/Lillian
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook could have had a perfectly fine and successful career sticking to the modern country sound of their excellent first two records Sidelong and Years. Shook’s expressive vocals and finely crafted songs have always been informed by a thoughtful sensitivity with some grit underlying the delivery. The new album, 2022’s Nightroamer, produced by Dwight Yoakam collaborator Peter Anderson, has touches of effects on Shook’s voice which might strike some longtime fans as odd but overall those sonic details and a more expansive quality to the sound in general on the album feels like it opened up the singer’s songwriting a bit and lends it a quality that sounds more full and the musical equivalent of a color photo versus a black and white. Both have their appeal but more hues in emotion are emphasized. Lillian is a Denver-based singer-songwriter whose luminous songs in an Americana vein are difficult to pigeonhole. Her new album Chasing Shadows will be released at a show at The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club on April 21.

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

Saturday | 04.09
What: Lose Your Head II: Ponce (Swampy Erotic Punk Blues), Julian St. Nightmare (Goth Rock), Ray Diess (Goth Pop), Savant Tarde (Post Wave), Hex Cassette (SynthGoth For Satan), Painted City (Synth Pop)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: Lose Your Head is an event that highlights some of Denver’s better underground bands in a more dawkwave, post-punk and experimental pop vein. The genres listed above in parentheses work as a vague idea of what you’re in for. Julian St. Nightmare are a visceral yet atmospheric post-punk band. Hex Cassette is industrial darkwave pop with a confrontational and wildly energetic live show. Painted City is for sure synth pop but in that art rock sense one might have seen more in the early 80s but with a sensibility that speaks to having coming up post-Radiohead. Ray Diess is definitely “Goth Pop” but also with a theatrical live show that fans of classic EBM will appreciate.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Abandons, Brother Saturn, Equine and Denizens of the Deep
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Brother Saturn will celebrate the release of his latest album Dreams of Sand at this show. As per usual, ethereal soundscapes that are both subtle and transporting and fans of the Hearts of Space program will find a lot to like with his material in general. Abandons is a heavier post-rock band. Denizens of the Deep also produces ambient/noise/modern classical music in a variety of modes but the latest album End Times is a good deal of distorted synth drone over mournful, melancholic compositions and moody piano. Equine is avant-garde prog informed by modal jazz and cosmic mathematics.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Fern Roberts, Vampire Squids From Hell and Mossgatherers
When: 8-11 p.m.
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Fern Roberts is a band that isn’t easy to classify and its latest album I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow occupies a musical space between late 80s Talk Talk, Animal Collective and Beach Fossils. Vampire Squids From Hell are an instrumental, psychedelic surf rock band.

Melvins, photo by Bob Hannam

Sunday | 04.10
What: Ministry w/Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: For this tour Ministry is mainly tapping into its songs from Psalm 69 and earlier and even playing”Supernaut” which leader Al Jourgensen covered for an EP by his side project 1000 Homo DJs. So maybe some other early material is in store for the rest of the tour as well. Corrosion of Conformity wasn’t explicitly a crossover band but one whose hardcore bridged the worlds of punk and thrash almost from the beginning. And of course Melvins are always a reliably entertaining live act that has pushed its own envelope since its early days in the 80s when it inspired a great swath of the grunge scene including guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne teaching Kurt Cobain to play guitar and drummer Dale Crover having been a member of Nirvana for a time in the early days. The trio’s impact on modern rock music is often underrated but indelible. In 2021 Melvins released two albums, Working with God, a record more in line with its always compelling noise rock, and Five Legged Dog, an acoustic album. You never have to worry about a rote Melvins show so get there early and see one of the truly great bands of the last 40 years in a place that sounds as great as Mission Ballroom.

Girl Talk, photo by Joey Kennedy

Monday | 04.11
What: Girl Talk w/Hugh Augustine
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gregg Gillis as Girl Talk took the mashup to new levels in the 2000s as a DJ who, inspired by 90s IDM, alternative artists and noise, created surprisingly unique blends of sounds, rhythms and musical concepts. In 2022 Girl Talk released a collaborative album with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. And Smoke DZA called Full Court Press in which Gillis was able to use his production expertise to weave together the contributions of three hip-hop artists not short on personality and idiosyncratic styles. The album represents Gillis’ first full record since 2010’s All Day but also one of the higher points of an already interesting and genre bending career.

Bootblacks, photo by Katrin Albert Photography

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bootblacks w/Plague Garden and DJ Kilgore
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Bootblacks started in New York City in 2010 around the early stage of the current wave of darkwave and post-punk. Its intricate rhythms and brooding atmospherics sync well with what feels like a visceral intensity, especially live, that brings an urgency and forcefulness to the music that is missing from the music of some later bands tapping into similar sources of inspiration. Bootblacks didn’t get to tour on its 2020 album Thin Skies for reasons with which we’re all too entirely familiar so this tour will find the band able to give the material its proper presentation. Fans of Chameleons will appreciate Bootblacks dusky take on dreamlike, observational nightlife anthems. Plague Garden is a similarly-minded post-punk band from Denver with roots in punk and EBM.

Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, photo by Thomas Girard

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Mercury Rev
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev started around the same time around the beginning of the 90s on opposite sides of the country. But both incorporated elements of folk, psychedelic rock and experimental soundscaping into their respective mix of sounds. BJM became an influential band in the American and international underground with a fiercely DIY spirit that went from making records to touring and promoting its music. Singer Anton Newcombe’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics and ever evolving songwriting injected the expansive and imaginative spirit of late 60s psychedelic rock and art rock into a the zeitgeist of the often anemic late-90s post-alternative rock musical landscape and culture with ample personality and unpredictable live shows, some going sideways, mostly striking a chord with disaffected creative people wherever the band toured. Since that time Newcombe has tried his hand at a variety of musical styles while maintaining a subversive and forward thinking creative vision channeled into prolific output. In late spring we can expect to see the release of the new BJM record Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and its the result of Newcombe’s active experiments in composition and production over the past few years in his Berlin studio. Of course live the group is reliably vital. Mercury Rev from upstate New York was started by former Flaming Lips guitarist Jonathan Donohue and with longtime guitarist Grasshopper, Mercury Rev too has been on a creative arc that has taken them to fascinating places from early, warped psychedelia and space rock to the deeply affecting dream pop of breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs (1998) and explorations of personal mythology and the ways our inner lives manifest in how we make sense of the world on every album since. Live, Mercury Rev is transcendent, inspirational and just the thing you need to fill up after a long time being hollowed out by the less fun aspects of life.

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bill Frisell Trio
When: 6 p.m.
Where: MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater
Why: Bill Frisell is one of the great living jazz guitarists. From Baltimore, Frisell spent many of his formative years in Denver and Colorado as a graduate of East High School. Going to Berklee took him back to the east coast and he was a studio musician for the prestigious jazz label ECM and when he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey he became a fixture in the NYC jazz scene where he came to collaborate with multiple luminaries of the era including John Zorn, going on to become a member of Naked City, the wildly experimental jazz band. By the late 80s Frisell had relocated to Seattle and continued his already noteworthy solo career but also continuing to collaborate with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and on film and television scores. Frisell maintains his connections to the Denver avant-garde and occasionally plays locally including this rare chance to see his trio at the MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 04.15
What: The Velveteers w/Dry Ice and Rose Variety
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The Velveteers released its most recent album Nightmare Daydream in 2021 and demonstrated a great leap forward in terms of songwriting for anyone that hadn’t been keeping up with the band in its live performances. Produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, Nightmare Daydream is a blues rock record informed by imaginative songwriting with lyrics that reveal an astute assessment of relationships, the social scene around the world of music and the nuances of human psychology but channeled into bombastic songs that in the live setting have proven to be forceful and captivating. Anyone that saw the Gothic Theatre album release show got to witness a band in full command of its powers with a fiery performance that felt like you were getting to see a famous rock band on the verge of reaching a far wider audience. With upcoming dates with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet it’s likely the trio’s star will be rising so catch The Velveteers for a hometown show at The Fox Theatre before it breaks through to a mainstream audience.

Friday | 04.15
What: Mogwai w/Nina Nastasia
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Scottish post-rock band Mogwai has consistently delivered cinematic guitar music across the breadth of its career going back nearly three decades. But even at that its 2021 album As the Love Continues comes as a bit of a surprise as it includes even more evocative vocals in no way buried in the mix as well as those more processed and a finely nuanced soundscaping with electronic elements and rock instrumentation working in perfect sync to at times remind one of a Wendy Carlos composition (i.e. “Fuck Off Money”). There are no mediocre Mogwai albums but it is one that goes to wider vistas musical vistas than to which the band has traveled in some time.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Actors w/Scifidelic, Weathered Statues and DJ Sin
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Canadian post-punk band Actors have been crafting New Wave-inflected darkwave for around a decade now and its 2021 album Acts of Worship sounds like a dance club soundtrack from a forgotten, 1980’s transcendental science fiction movie. Like maybe if the club Tech Noir from The Terminator got its own movie after being re-opened in 2020. The album’s echoing guitar riffs, melodically brooding vocals, hazy synth lines accented with crystalline tones are reminiscent of early 80s Human League had the league fully incorporated guitars and taken some inspiration from Fad Gadget. And the warping, upbeat, melancholic melodies of songs like “Killing Time (Is Over)” is thoroughly captivating with its unconventional dynamics like something you’d hear on an early Brian Eno “solo” album.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Calm./Time w/Wilt to Live and Lucy Freedom at Mutiny Information Café 8 p.m.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Calm./Time is one of the great hip-hop projects of Denver music with sharp, political lyrics infused with an incisive and playful sense of humor. With some of the most creative beats steeped in not only classic alternative hip-hop but experimental music and art pop, Calm. (comprised of rapper Time and producer Awareness) always seems to make high concept social commentary accessible and engaging.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Pile (Rick Maguire solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: From the Facebook event page because I can’t do better: “While the band is known for its dynamic and bombastic live performances, Maguire recontextualizes the material by performing on his own, something he has continued to do throughout the project’s history. 2021 saw documentation of this aspect of Pile in Songs Known Together, Alone, a solo re-imagining of 15 songs across Pile’s catalog.”

Snail Mail, photo by Tina Tyrell

Sunday | 04.17
What: Snail Mail w/Joy Again
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Lindsey Jordan seems to have packed more than a lifetime of heartbreak and pain into her 2021 Snail Mail album Valentine. The title track alone so vividly captures what it feels like to be in the worst throes of a bad breakup and is kind of an inverted Valentine expressing feelings of love and affection that have no direction because of the split and how that can churn inside you leaving you in agonized confusion. Which is a tricky feeling to get across. “Ben Franklin” is apparently about Jordan’s time in a rehab facility, a place for which there all sorts of reasons to end up in for a time, and in the music video for the song she moves about with an energetic playfulness the way many people do with words and actions until they’re ready to have the breakthroughs that are necessary to move on. But the whole record is a brilliantly poetic pop exploration of the various phases of being in some of life’s lowest places set to lush arrangements and inventive guitar compositions that are reminiscent of the more interesting late 90s emo bands that blurred genre lines like Rainer Maria and Milemarker except that Jordan’s sounds reflect the gentleness better suited to expressing wounded feelings and lingering hurt. And yet there is a sense that these songs helped Jordan to crawl through the most vivid memories of their inspirations.

Sunday | 04.17
What: Radolescents w/The Haji, Noogy and Egoista – canceled
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Radolescents is Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer of the Adolescents along with original Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew’s son Frank Agnew Jr on vocals, Dan O’Donovan on guitar and Dan Colburn on bass performing the Adolescents’ 1981 self-titled record aka The Blue Album in its entirety. Rikk Agnew has been responsible for some of the most inventive and memorable guitar tones out of punk rock including his performance on the 1982 deathrock classic Only Theatre of Pain while a member of Christian Death. Live performance video out there for this lineup has been pretty solid so here’s a chance to see one of the most iconic bands out of punk of the last 40+ years.

Sunday | 04.17
What: mssv aka Main Steam Stop Valve (Mike Bagg, Stephen Hodges and Mike Watt)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: mssv has quite a pedigree including obvious master bass player Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame but also Stephen Hodges who played drums on Tom Waits records like Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. He also played on various soundtracks including those for Until the end of the World and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. No big deal. But with Mike Bagg whose own performance resume is respective for his work with distinguished jazz artists and avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline. Together they make what might be described as a mutant type of free jazz and surf rock.

Monday | 04.18
What: Sleep w/Superwolves (Matthew Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The right people are going to appreciate this strange folk and blues band Superwolves comprised of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Chavez guitarist/singer Matthew Sweeney opening for psychedelic sludgerocks’s heaviest of the heavy, Sleep. Some people are going to be so put off and angry that will be amusing on its own. Too bad for those people though because two great bands on one bill with this stylistic swing should happen more often. Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) has influenced a generation of musician though his various bands over the years and his solo records as well for inventive and intricate guitar work and heartfelt, tender, poetic and witty lyrics and Sleep has perhaps more than any other single band outside of Black Sabbath spawned the doom metal genre as we know it but few have equaled their sonic grandeur and imaginative songwriting.

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

Monday and Tuesday | 04.18 and 04.19
What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo CozmoRescheduled, date TBD
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo made a name for himself as the frontman for Laguardia in the the first half of the 2000s and then for a decade as the lead singer for Eastern Conference Champions. But since 2015 he has been recording and performing under the Mondo Cozmo moniker and crafting heartfelt and genre eclectic music. His new album, 2022’s This Is For The Barbarians takes Ostrander deep into his roots in rebellious folk artists like Bob Dylan and his more experimental electronic interests at the same time. The album is like a Radiohead album but more informed by folk and more overtly pop but with the appropriately rough around the edges quality to suit the times that surrounded the process of writing the songs with Ostrander commenting on the highs and very low depths of the world in the past half decade and his insight into personal psychology and the American zeitgeist is as cathartic as it is inspirational. And yes, opening for Toxic Airborne Event whose own long career of luminously gritty alternative rock has garnered a bit of a cult following. Its 2020 album Hollywood Park, sharing the title with singer Mikel Jollett’s memoir of the same name from the same year, was unsurprisingly as literarily as musically as poignant album as any in the group’s career to date and certainly seemingly its most personal.

IDLES, photo by Tom Ham

Tuesday | 04.19
What: IDLES w/Automatic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: IDLES first came to the attention of a wider international audience with the 2017 release of its debut full length album Brutalism. Its exhilaratingly spirited live shows and the poetic intensity and social consciousness and deep self-examination reflected in the lyrics had an immediately appeal that seemed another high point in the then relatively recent resurgence of punk and post-punk that made that style of music seem relevant and exciting again. The 2018 second album Joy As An Act of Resistance in title alone sounded like a call to action for putting energy and will into the world around you that engages people in a positive and compassionate yet passionate manner. Since then 2020’s Ultra Mono took some knocks by various critics as a creative plateau if not a dip in the exciting potential of the band’s previous work but Crawler (2021) proved IDLES is not out of ideas and certainly not out of the incredible energy that is clearly behind its live performances. When IDLES performed at Larimer Lounge 2018 it was unlike most club shows of late with lead singer Joe Talbot ranging far into the crowd to break down the performer and audience barrier the way the songs often do, like they’re speaking directly from your life. Opener Automatic is a trio from Los Angeles whose own flavor of rhythm-and-synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of early OMD. Its forthcoming and second album Excess releases on June 24, 2022 with retrofuturist music videos that compliment its aesthetic so well. In commenting on the song “New Beginning” the band references the Swedish science fiction film Aniara which is one of the better neo-dystopian films of recent years.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Soft Kill w/Alien Boy, Topographies, Candy Apple and Destiny Bond
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Soft Kill was one of the earliest of the current wave of darkwave/post-punk bands with a decent string of releases with its 2020 album Dead Kids R.I.P. City being its finest and a poignant commentary on the confluence of the growth of Portland, Oregon both organically and through the poisonously mutant manner that the tech industry and other moneyed interests have initiated globally and the ways in which underground music scenes and cultures have been all but washed out of larger and perceivedly hip cities. The music was a little predictable in that obviously influenced by The Cure and The Chameleons way early on but that latest record has some more inventive songwriting and what comes across as a sincere and tender, melancholic observational lament on people lost and a way of life for creative people and others involved in vital subcultures essentially made a thing of the past or at least a shadow of its former self. Alien Boy is also from Portland and its own melancholic blend of punk, emo and atmospheric guitar rock is imbued with its own melancholic spirit inspired by the struggle with the usual everyday stuff that can be a drag if you’re at all sensitive and thoughtful but also with a culture that in too many quarters is hostile to the very existence of certain sectors of society. Candy Apple from Denver perfectly combines spirited hardcore and Hüsker Dü and The Jesus And Mary Chain-esque noise rock. Destiny Bond also from Denver comes from a similar realm of music but one closer to emo but more aggressive in its expression of vulnerability.

Black Map, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.19
What: 10 Years w/Black Map and VRSTY
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Black Map is a post-hardcore band from San Francisco comprised of members of Far, Dredg and Trophy Fire. Though supporting alternative metal band 10 Years on this tour its 2022 album Melodoria is the kind of melodic heavy music that bends toward emo and definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of Circa Survive as its not on the screamo or pop punk end of post-hardcore.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Jon Spencer & The HITmakers w/Quasi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Spencer has been giving us gloriously demented and exciting psychedelic blues and garage rock since at least his time in Pussy Galore. But with his new band he collides together all of the stuff you might expect with industrial music production and willingness to introduce non-musical sounds and concepts into the mix. The group’s new album Spencer Gets It Lit is like a retrofuturist science fiction movie as imagined through the lens of an unlikely Suicide and the Cramps team-up and then turned into wonderfully strange and sometimes unsettling songs, which has been Spencer’s modus operandi through various projects for decades. Anything to weird out the squares and honestly the world has been in desperate need for such creative gestures in increasing amounts over the last several years. On the record you can hear the synth and vocal stylings of Sam Coomes of opening band Quasi which is no experimental rock slouch project either with drummer Janet Weiss who in rock and roll right now has to be considered one of the top tier talents. Most people probably know her from her long stint in Sleater-Kinney but anyone lucky enough to have seen her with Quasi or Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks has seen a different facet of her considerable talent.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Blushing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is pretty much the shoegaze or shoegaze adjacent show of the year with Blushing touring in support of its new album Possessions. Its hazy and urgent melodies are enveloping and hypnotic. Letting Up Despite Great Faults also based in Austin weaves in a bit more twee pop stylings into its gorgeous soundscapes. Its own new album, IV, is back to back entrancing material about the more subtle sides of life and daily struggles and in “She Spins” one of the great melodic guitar progressions of the past two decades. Old Soul Dies Young from Denver mixes expansive guitar atmospheres with an almost black metal grit and lo-fi aesthetic seemingly inspired in part by anime and manga, or so its releases on the group’s Bandcamp suggests. Moodlighting like Letting Up Despite Great Faults puts the pop songcraft at the center of its own amalgam of indiepop and dream pop.

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Parquet Courts w/Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you were to name the top ten post-punk bands now that are pushing that form of music forward with creativity and ambitious songwriting while putting out some of the most sharp critiques of modern politics and society, Parquet Courts would be near the top of that list. Its 2021 album Sympathy For Life has an almost mystical album art design and its songs combine the use of mythical storytelling with stories of the folly of human civilization, especially late stage capitalism, and our often flawed ways of coping in the face of a deeply uncertain future.

Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Friday | 04.22
What: Waxahatchee w/Madi Diaz
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Katie Crutchfield has been releasing deeply personal and insightful folk pop albums as Waxahatchee since her 2012 solo debut album American Weekend. Crutchfield’s gift for articulating existential uncertainty, personal devastation and yearning has imbued her recorded output with a underlying but always present spirit of compassion for self and others. Her 2021 album Saint Cloud expands her sound palette further with synths and programming serving as a backdrop, a context for songs that speak directly to a world of accelerating sources of anxiety and by grounding her songs in directly relatable experiences rather than contemplative theoreticals. The songs come off like a great country record informed by imaginative songwriting that pairs grit with poetic observations as ingredients in keeping present when so many things drive us to dissociate.

Friday | 04.22
What: Emerald Siam, Weathered Statues and We Are Not a Glum Lot
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Emerald Siam has long been fusing a dark and melancholic sound with a brightness of spirit that rises through the psychological murk that can bog everyone down so easily these days. Its membership includes former members of bands like Twice Wilted, Tarmints, The Bedsit Infamy and Wild Call and its alchemical use of rhythm tied to dynamic rhythms plus frontman Kurt Ottaway’s passionate vocals is hard to beat. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound is rooted in the classics of that subgenre but there is something so upbeat and spirited about its sound and performance that associating the music with something gloomy seems inaccurate as its moody atmospherics have an expansive energy. We Are Not A Glum Lot all but suggests it’s going to be a an emo band of some kind and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark as its intricate guitar melodies and wiry rhythms have a leg in 2000s emo but also one in shoegaze and gritty post-punk. Think something like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with Jawbox and you have some idea of what you’re in for.

Saturday | 04.23
What: Ho99o9 w/N8NOFACE
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Ho99o9 from Newark, NJ have somehow managed to completely fold together industrial music, hip-hop, hyperpop, hardcore and noise for one of the most immediately riveting sounds around. The live show is as visceral and as confrontational as you might imagine but also brimming with a sense of joy at shattering the conventions of established genre music-making.

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, photo by Chris Phelps

Saturday and Sunday | 04.23 and 04.24
What: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs w/Sammy Brue
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Mike Campbell is indeed the influential guitarist who was once a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a co-writer of many of the band’s hit songs across decades. This is his new band and they’re touring small venues in support of the band’s lively new album External Combustion. So go expecting an arena rock level show at these small theaters. Less polished than the Heartbreakers, this project from Campbell showcases the musician consistently cutting loose a little more than he has in his long and storied career.

PUP, photo by Jess Baumung

Sunday and Monday | 04.24 and 04.25
What: PUP w/Sheer Mag, Pink Shift
When: 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre and Boulder Theater
Why: PUP is one great bands to have emerged out of the 2010s as purveyors of the kind of heartfelt pop punk that seemed to revitalize that style of music and bring to it a healthy sense of self-deprecation and introspection expressed in spirited, anthemic songs that feel less like refurbished angst and more like catharsis in camaraderie. Its new album The Unraveling of PUPTheBand has more than its fair share of tasty hooks but also of lyrics that vividly capture the frustrations of the average person trying to navigate the vicissitudes of life in the modern world seemingly on the brink of some kind of disaster. Sheer Mag is the punk band that sounds like it grew up listening to a ton of AC/DC and Slade but ended up discovering working class punk and decided not to see why those sounds and ideas should be separate. Its 2019 album A Distant Call has the visual aesthetics of a Judas Priest record but lyrics that were a sharp critique of plain old American greed and political corruption and the immediate and deleterious impacts on every aspect of life.

Particle Kid, photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger

Monday | 04.25
What: The Flaming Lips w/Particle Kid
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Flaming Lips will forever be to some people the scrappy weirdo band from Oklahoma that made strange, psychedelic music with vivid lyrics about life’s challenging and colorful moments before and after a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s before circumstances within the band and a crisis of creativity sent the group back to the drawing boards. After the parking lot experiments in performance, the perhaps ill-considered yet brilliant Zaireeka released on four CDs meant to be played simultaneously for the full effect of the music and then deep diving into alternative methods of recording with its creative high point then thus far with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. In the 2000s the band’s star ascended further than most people might have expected with its various stylistic experiments and becoming the kind of band that seemed to be playing every festival and embraced by fans of unusual rock music and jam band types. And then the Lips would put out some of its most daring and deeply introspective and insightful albums like 2013’s The Terror and American Head from 2020. If history seems correct for the Lips, this would be a tour to see. Opening the show is Particle Kid and his eclectic, countrified, psychedelic new record TIME CAPSULE includes collaborations with J Mascis and Willie Nelson. Which sounds like it could be a trainwreck but instead it’s an unusually touching set of contemplative, observational songs on American culture and our trying to make sense of it all. It is somehow both nostalgic and imbued with a paradoxically chill immediacy.

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

Monday | 04.25
What: Yumi Zouma w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yumi Zouma from Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand have spent the last eight years or so crafting tender dream pop imbued with a buoyant energy tempered by hazy, introspective tones. It’s 2022 album Present Tense explores the nuances of love and romance in the current period with a poetic sensibility and music that flows with a smoothly cinematic quality lending each song feel like a short film with all the drama of the story coming together poignantly in under four minutes. Jazz-like structures and strings throughout the album renders it like a new take on chamber pop without any of the pretentiousness.

Deftones, photo by Tamar Levine

Monday | 04.25
What: Deftones w/Gojira and VOWWS
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Deftones are arguably the most influential of the newer style of metal band that came to prominence in the 1990s. The ability of the band to not just tap into a hybrid metal aesthetic but to weave in an always interesting and evolving atmospheric element that has been a part of its songwriting since early on. 2000’s White Pony was like a dream pop album written with the sound palette of a brooding metal group in search of a sound that better expressed the breadth and depth of emotions of its content with the tonal nuance to hit the ears with something more creative and interesting than the usual bludgeoning edginess of much of 90s metal. The combination gave the anger and pain in the album a raw accessibility than it might have had otherwise. The group’s 2020 album Ohms pushed the songwriting further into a more soundscape-y mode that had more in common with the likes of Failure and at times Swervedriver than metal. But that record came out in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic and of course the veteran band didn’t have a way to tour in support of what might be its finest set of songs until this run of shows with support from French death metal band Gojira and prominent darkwave duo VOWWS.

Deserta, image from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Deserta w/Little Trips and Mon Cher
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Deserta is a Los Angeles-based shoegaze band whose songs sound like a more benevolent side of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The project’s new album Every Moment, Everything You Need has whispery vocals that fit right in with the languid builds and grainy melodies and insular mood. Its previous album 2020’s Black Aura My Sun was reminiscent of a more summery Slowdive if influenced by bedroom pop and the new record like a modern take on 80s New Wave but with sultry guitar atmospherics that trail off into the middle distance. Little Trips is a lo-fi dream pop outfit from Denver with a knack for subtle synth melodies that integrate well with chill beats and Mon Cher, also from the Mile High City, is a synth and piano-driven dream pop trio whose melancholic spaciousness is refreshingly not in some trendy mold of that style of music broadly speaking.

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Bloody Knives w/Twin Image and Juliet Mission
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Austin’s Bloody Knives sound like what might be called an industrial shoegaze band with fairly strong electronic and electric musical components in its sound and seeming inspiration from 90s experimental electronic pop. Twin Image is the latest project from former Fell frontman and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Wambeke and this time it’s more like a shoegaze/slowcore hybrid which is roughly the lane in which Fell existed but Twin Image is even more introspective and somehow more brash. Juliet Mission includes former members of alternative rock/shoegaze band Sympathy F and this long-running project truly captures and expresses the dark, moody vibe of Denver from back when downtown at night was both a perilous and magical place, evoking the specific melancholic flavor that is one of the hallmarks of the city no matter how much shine Nü Denver projects try to gloss over the top.

Knocked Loose, photo by Perri Leigh

Wednesday | 04.27
What: Knocked Loose w/Movements, Kublai Khan and Koyo
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: While metalcore battered itself into self-parody as a movement sometime in the 2000s its leading lights and adjacent artists of note like Poison the Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and others have endured as an influence on hardcore and heavy music for their ability to express a furious kind of outrage through cathartic live performances and having a more imaginative take on that hybrid musical style that can seem monolithic. Since the 2010s metalcore has experienced a kind of renaissance with Knocked Loose from Oldham County, Kentucky being one of the most prominent bands out of that new wave. In 2021 Knocked Loose released its latest EP A Tear In The Fabric of Life with an full animation of the EP by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Jonsson from a story by Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris. This time out the band seems to be drawing out its grindcore influence a bit while expanding its dynamic range.

Thursday | 04.28
What: MONO w/Bing & Ruth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Japanese post-rock band MONO has been quite prolific in its 23 years of existence releasing creatively ambitious, mostly instrumental rock albums that speak more eloquently to emotions and ideas in a nuanced and eloquent way than many standard issue rock bands that spell out what they have to say more explicitly. This has mean the group’s music takes on rendering its meaning beyond specific cultural context. The music is rock but also extends to a modern version of classical music with elegant structure and formal composition tempered by an organic spontaneity. Live this quality translates perhaps most directly.

Vahco Before Horses circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 04.28
What: Vahco Before Horses, Polly Urethane, Pearls and Perils, Blank Human, Esu the Illest, Space Pirate, Morpgorp and Joohs Uhp
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Vahco Before Horses is moving to the Netherlands soon and this is going to be his last show as a resident of Denver. The producer/singer/musician has run a local record label called Glasss and now Glass Melts which focused on more experimental music in the local underground and beyond. Vahco spent some time on both coasts in the music industry at various levels and brought some of that sensibility to his work in music in Denver. His own music is a surprisingly soulful form of electronic pop music with powerful vocals and vivid emotional portraits of life. Also on this bill is experimental downtempo artist Pearls and Perils, the weirdo techno of Blank Human, avant-garde mashup hip-hop hooligans Joohs Uhp, transcendent industrial pop soundscaper Polly Urethane, forward thinking rapper-producer Esu the Illest and others. Though kind of a farewell show to Vahco it’s also a fairly solid showcase of one important branch of left field underground music from the Mile High City.

VR Sex, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 04.29
What: VR Sex w/Lunacy
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: VR Sex is the more punk alias of Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty fame. This project is more gritty in tone, noisier and more brash. Adopting the performance moniker of Noel Skum (an irreverent anagram of Elon Musk which is pretty on point), Clinco’s songwriting for VR Sex is ordered around clashing dynamics that sound like the kinds of songs a futuristic biker gang might listen to when getting up to some crimes aimed at yet another attempt at authoritarian control of all things in an asymmetrical warfare approach to taking down the man. The new record Rough Dimension with its cover clearly a nod to The Blair Witch Project all too poignantly encapsulates in sound the static, urgency and chaos that we face every day but blasting it apart with buzz saw riffs and attitude. Lunacy from Pennsylvania recently released Echo In The Memory is a bracing, ghostly industrial post-punk record that sounds like life after humans per the History Channel series but for real—gorgeously stark soundscapes with firm rhythm lines and washes of ethereally caustic atmospheres.

Big Thief, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 04.29
What: Big Thief w/Kara-Lis Coverdale
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Big Thief became so popular so quickly you might be excused for dismissing it out of hand as a buzz band of the moment. But its particular brand of indie folk rock strikes deep chords, comes off as deeply honest and personal and its use of space expertly rendered so that it feels like Adrianne Lenker is singing directly to you about your own life. Its 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You seems so developed and practiced yet also unvarnished and vulnerable. If there is a popular style of indie folk that has been plaguing playlists and the airwaves and watering down the impact of the music, Big Thief here is the opposite of that by embracing what might be considered flaws as simply an essential aspect of our analog humanity and the way we live and exist in a world where not everything is streamlined for easy consumption and the band takes many sonic chances on the record that many artists on a similar level of popularity would not and that makes what Big Thief is doing now seem incredibly refreshing.

Tempers, photo by Julia Khoroshilov

Saturday | 04.30
What: Tempers w/Lesser Care, Julian St. Nightmare and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tempers from NYC has been developing its dusky darkwave synth pop for the last several years with albums that seem to draw on a hazy 80s post-punk aesthetic for inspiration but also rooted in modern techno. Its 2022 album New Meaning is arguably its most coherent effort yet with songs about coming to terms with living in a time of great uncertainty and needing to create meaning where it might be eroding in meaningful ways in various areas of life and in the world around you. The cover image of the staircase to nowhere that is a part of contemporary creepy pasta culture as manifested so powerfully in Butcher’s Block, the third season of prematurely canceled horror anthology series Channel Zero. As a symbol for the album it works too as an enigmatic image that requires us to imagine where we might make the staircase take us and the peril of not building something beyond the great unknown that seems to be paralyzing the psyches of so many and otherwise sowing insecurity and desperation in a social environment that wasn’t already short on such things.

Saturday | 04.30
What: LEAF w/Negativland and SUE-C
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Arts Hub
Why: Lafayette Electronic Arts Festvial returns with a set from legendary performance art/avant-garde electronic/sound collage project Negativland and live cinema artist SUE-C collaborating on a performance that comments on the dystopian tech environment that is plaguing so much of life in the 21st century thus far.

Best Shows in Denver October 2021

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

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

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

Sol Vida Worldwide performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist

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

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

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

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

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

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

Japanese Breakfast, photo by Peter Ash Lee

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

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

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

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen

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

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

cleopatrick, photo by Tanner Pare

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

Cellista, image by Yellow Bubbles Photography

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

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

Valley Maker, photo by Bree Burchfield

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

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

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

Cradle of Filth, image courtesy the artists

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

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

Kal Marks, photo by Greg Scranton

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

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

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

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

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

Tokyo Police Club, photo by Taylor Ohryn

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

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

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 2/7/20 – 2/12/20

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Wolf Parade performs at The Gothic Theatre on February 8 with Land of Talk, photo by Pamela Evelyn and Joseph Yarmush

Friday | February 6

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Mainland Break, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Day of Jubilee: Sliver and Marcus Church
When: Friday, 2.07, 5-9 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Marcus Church is a Denver-based power pop trio. Its gently jangle-y and fuzzy melodies sound like singer/guitarist Dustin Habel spent a whole lot of time obsessively listening to only records produced by Mitch Easter and the complete discographies of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. That also means there’s a tender earnestness to the songwriting imbued with an uncommon tenderness and humanity. Sliver bypassed the 90s grunge nostalgia wave of recent years by making no bones about its musical roots in its hard driving, explosively emotional guitar rock. Mudhoney influence aside, its aesthetic is most informed by both the self-effacing, sensitive, introspective side of Pacific Northwest noise punk and the wiry, politically conscious end of DC hardcore.

What: Mainland Break w/Panther Martin, Mystic Wool and The New Creep
When: Friday, 2.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Denver power pop band Mainland Break is releasing its video for “Gun Without Hire” at this show. The five piece band sounds like it listened to a whole lot of bands on the Flying Nun imprint in the 80s, some Swell Maps and The Feelies while forming and distilled that influence into upbeat pop songs.

What: Neal Cassady Birthday bash
When: Friday, 2.07, 8 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café

What: Juliet Mission
When: Friday, 2.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Art Society

What: Disposed, Toxic Wife, Colfax Spank and Caustic Soda
When: Friday, 2.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Englewood Tavern

Saturday | February 8

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Courtney Barnett, photo by Lili Waters

What: Wolf Parade w/Land of Talk gothictheatre.com/events/detail/386833
When: Saturday, 2.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: CanadianWolf Parade returns touring in support of its new record Thin Mind. Its blend of post-punk and power pop has helped define the aesthetic of modern indie rock as sonically eclectic with thoughtful lyrics.

What: Courtney Barnett
When: Saturday, 2.08, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Stanley Hotel
Why: Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has written some of the most personally insightful lyrics of the past two decades paired with emotionally vibrant guitar work and songwriting. She will perform solo for this rare, intimate show at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.

What: Lupe Fiasco w/Old Man Saxon, OTIS and HYP3
When: Saturday, 2.08, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Shake the Baby Til the Love Comes Out (NYC), Simulators, Turvy Organ and Birdhouse View
When: Saturday, 2.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Dr. Montgomery Maxwell, Juniordeer, HXCMIDI, Human Consumption and Savage Bass Goat
When: Saturday, 2.08, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Street Cats Making Love w/Grayson County Burn Ban
When: Saturday, 2.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | February 9

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Miniature Tigers circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Miniature Tigers w/Katzú Oso
When: Sunday, 2.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Miniature Tigers’ 2019 album Vampires of Daylight is an exploration of singer/songwriter Charlie Brand’s painful breakup and his return to writing and performing music after going through agonizing experiences that had him over the edge and art therapy through painting instead of music. The result is a raw yet tender album of deeply emotional songs about loss and the confused and tortured feelings that run you through the wringer.

What: Joseph w/Deep Sea Diver
When: Sunday, 2.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Wednesday | February 12

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The Paranoyds, photo by Tony Accosta

What: The Paranoyds w/Spendtime Palace and Princess Dewclaw
When: Wednesday, 2.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Paranoyds’ psychedelic fuzz pop is a spirited and surreal take on noisy post-punk. Like The Raincoats having come up in Southern California on pop punk and American pop music with a similarly splintery aesthetic and exuberant live performances. Currently touring again in support of its excellent 2019 album Carnage Bargain.

What: Vale of Pnath w/Gorod and Saeva
When: Wednesday, 2.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Best Shows in Denver 12/26/19 – 12/31/19

Thursday | December 26

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Sliver w/Sad Bug, The Slacks, Forla De La Luna, Black & White Motion Picture
When: Thursday, 12.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Lately Sliver frontperson Chris Mercer has been taking vocal lessons from Ed Sheerhan so that they could stop “sounding like I’m totally ripping off Eddie Vedder.” While their songwriting reveals a deep affection for the Everclear catalog the band tries to steer Mercer away from their dreams of having “basically a Silverchair tribute band.” See for yourself if any of this is true tonight.

What: Nektromantic w/Juliet Mission and Plague Garden
When: Thursday, 12.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge
Why: Nekromantic is the bi-monthly post-punk and darkwave night at the Shag Lounge but in the new year those nights will be the second and third Thursday and another night at the Skylark to be announced soon. This evening’s schedule includes a rare live band showcase with Juliet Mission, a post-punk band with roots in the late 80s and early 90s Denver underground scene as all three members were in an early line-up of jazz-inflected shoegaze band Sympathy F. Plague Garden is the post-punk side project of the members of eHpH and Paul Baker of Red Wing Black Bird.

What: Homegrown
When: Thursday, 12.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Grafenberg Sketch Comedy And Improv Theater
Why: This is a live performance from Homegrown, a comedy troupe consisting of contributors of some of the best current comedy television series running with Anne Lane (Rick and Morty), Betsy Sodaro (Disjoined and Bob’s Burgers) and Haley Mancini (Shameless and Powerpuff Girls). Opening the night are Justin Franzen, Nick Ross and Max Schwarz opening

What: Slynger w/Vic N’ The Narwhals and George Cessna
When: Thursday, 12.26,7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | December 27

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Green Druid (older), photo by Tom Murphy

What: Green Druid w/Scepter of Eligos and Tricoma
When: Friday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Sludge metal night at Lost Lake. Green Druid is more on the psych end of doom and Tricoma on the black metal end of the same.

Saturday | December 28

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DeVotchKa, photo by Jen Rosenstein

What: DeVotchKa w/The Copper Children
When: Saturday, 12.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: First of two year end shows for Denver-based, dark cabaret band DeVotchKa who have recently come back from a several years of hiatus in releasing new music with 2018’s excellent This Night Falls Forever. The band has been through several permutations of its development as a creative group from the “gypsy punk” phase early on to its now more orchestral, grand melodrama and broad emotional expression.

What: Velnias w/Gruesome Relics, Fell Harvest
When: Saturday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Born Readies, Elektric Animals and The Ghoulies
When: Saturday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Monday | December 30

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Kid Congo Powers & Pink Monkey Birds circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds and Hang Rounders
When: Monday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is continuing its tradition of New Year’s Eve shows across two nights starting on this date with the same bill both nights. The Denver-based band is part Vaudeville act and dramatic, countrified post-punk with its stylized and compelling live show. Also on the bill is Kid Congo Powers’ classic Chicano rock band. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but with the Pink Monkey Birds he’s able to shape that into his own musical vision steeped in the aforementioned and glam rock. Hang Rounders is an unabashedly classic country band with a modern flavor.

What: Fuzzy J w/Chris Shrift and Kali Krone
When: Monday, 12.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Tuesday | December 31

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Chimney Choir, photo courtesy the artists

What: Chimney Choir (light shadow) album release party
When: Tuesday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Avant-garde pop group Chimney Choir is releasing its latest album (light shadow) tonight and as per usual, you’re in for the kind of show that pretty much no one else is doing and which will involve multi-media, physical props, costumes and more than likely some inspired audience participation aspect just for this show, probably never to be repeated again.

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds and Hang Rounders
When: Tuesday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Devotchka w/Banshee Tree and Kiltro
When: Saturday, 12.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Best Shows in Denver 9/6/18 to 9/12/18

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Killing Joke performs Friday, September 7, 2018, at The Oriental Theater. Photo courtesy artist

Thursday | September 6, 2018

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Midge Ure, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Midge Ure and Paul Young w/Kayla Marque
When: Thursday, 09.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Midge Ure is perhaps know to most for his bright and ethereal vocals and guitar work for new wave/synth pop pioneers Ultravox. With hits like “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes,” Ultravox was one of the defining bands of the era. But Ure’s career has been broad, varied, lengthy and distinguished as a participant in a particularly creative era of music with stints in Rich Kids with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and with influential but not oft-cited early synth pop band Visage. Ure was a touring guitarist and keyboard player with Thin Lizzy during its Black Rose era and his solo career has been quite respectable with collaborations with, among others, Kate Bush and Mick Ronson. For this tour, Ure is playing from across his discography including classic Ultravox cuts.

Friday | September 7, 2018

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with Sasha Grey, photo by Allan Amato and Lawrence McCarthy

Who: Killing Joke and <PIG>
When: Friday, 09.7, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Killing Joke’s stark apocalyptic death disco was basically the template for industrial rock. Its fervid and unblinking depiction of an international industrialized economy destroying the planet and our humanity in the process had a great deal of appeal when the band started in 1978 and seems even more relevant forty years hence when the proof of the destructive nature of late capitalism on the entire planet, including human society, is manifest. Depending on the era of the band in which you checked in or will check in, its live act is a tribal experience with frontman Jaz Coleman a figure channeling the fears and anxieties of the moment and transforming them into inspiration through a shamanic performance. The last time Killing Joke came to Denver in November 2003, Coleman took stage dressed in an outfit that looked like he’d crafted it after ekeing out a living on a remote tundra hunting wild bison with wooden spears, two large pieces of leather sewn together with thick thread made from sinew. He carried a wooden staff like some Celtic mystic, face smeared with dark ash to emphasize the whites of his eyes. When the music started it was like primeval human experiences and those borne of industrial civilization came together. Most bands can’t pull that off. This tour is likely to be just as gloriously weird and inspired.

Also on the bill is <PIG>, the project fronted by Raymond Watts. The latter’s résumé reads like a who’s who of industrial music history. Sure, he’s been an essential member/collaborator of KMFDM since that band’s easliest days. For example, he also worked with Psychic TV in the 80s, he was a touring soundman for Einstürzende Neubauten in the 80s, and he’s worked with Foetus. Watrs’ own music has explored realms of industrial music that expands what it is and what it can sound like. Watts somehow makes music that contains elements of ambient, noise, industrial beats and guitar without sounding like he’s trying to fit in with a trend or “genre” industrial music of any kind. As an artist he’s consistently explored different avenues of sound including Japanese experimental rock band Schwein. In recent years, Watts composed music for the fashion world, perhaps most notably for Alexander McQueen. In 2018 <PIG> released the “That’s The Way (I Like It)” EP which is a small collection of remixes and the cover of the K.C. And the Sunshine Band classic in collaboration with Sasha Grey who has been making a bit of a name for herself as a maker of music and an actress beyond the adult film world. Because of the latter, the song’s video debuted on Pornhub, a first for Watts.

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The Juan Maclean, photo by Tonje Thielsen

Who: Option4 and Friends w/The Juan Maclean
When: Friday, 09.7, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Brennen Bryarly became one of the biggest independent promoters of electronic dance music in the country in the past decade. But when he’s had time to indulge making music of his own under the Option4 moniker it’s always been worth a listen. This night he shares the stage with associates as well as The Juan Maclean, the influential neo acid house/nü disco project started by John Maclean, the former guitarist for noise rock legends Six Finger Satellite. These days Maclean does his sets with collaborators Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem fame and Nicholas Millhiser of synth pop band Holy Ghost!

Who: Dead Kennedys w/T.S.O.L., The Dwarves, Runaway Kids and Reno Divorce
When: Friday, 09.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Don’t go expecting Jello Biafra fronting Dead Kennedys. Ron “Skip” Greer, formerly of East Bay punk and Wynona Riders, has been in the frontman role since 2008. Do go expecting to hear plenty Dead Kennedys classics performed by the classic lineup minus Biafra. Also on the bill are other punk greats like T.S.O.L., the band that refused to just stick with punk musical and sartorial orthodoxy when it dropped the usual hardcore imagery and sound and adopted glam and drag and moody post-punk. And whatever T.S.O.L. wanted, which is pretty punk.

The Dwarves spent a lot of years on the intentionally offensive tip in the vein of G.G. Allin minus the more unsanitary performance stunts. In 1993 the band announced that its guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed had been stabbed to death with a hoax that went so far as to list the HWCBN as The Dwarves’ “late” guitarist on the 1993 release of Sugarfix. That stunt lost the band its label signing with Sub Pop. Four years later the group reconvened and proved it was always more than a campaign to alienate everyone with pushing the extreme stunts envelope and has produced a solid body of garage punk including its 2018 album Take Back The Night on Burger Records. Not for everyone but if you have a wicked and irreverent sense of humor you have to appreciate a band willing to call its 1999 compilation Free Cocaine.

Who: Venus Cruz & Friends
When: Friday, 09.7, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Venus Cruz is a multifaceted talent and multi-instrumentalist who on her own or in collaboration with other musicians or in an ensemble finds the sweet spot at the intersection of soulfulness, innovation and accessibility. As the host of Jazz Odyssey on KVUO on Wednesday nights 10 p.m. to 12 a.m., Cruz champions the most forward thinking artists under a broad umbrella of what jazz can be conceived of being.

Saturday | September 8, 2018

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The Verve Pipe, photo by Derek Ketchum

Who: The Verve Pipe w/The Hollow and Citra
When: Saturday, 09.8, 6 p.m.
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: The Verve Pipe is most well-known for a handful of singles in the mid-90s with “Photograph” and “The Freshmen” and in 2001 with “Colorful,” which introduced them to an even wider audience on the soundtrack of Rock Star. Even though the band’s songs were uncommonly thoughtful and discussed topics like addiction, suicide, sexual abuse and issues of social justice in a sensitive way one might not expect from a rock band then with radio hits. But when The Verve Pipe didn’t score a big hit its excellent self-titled 1999 album and when its 2001 album Underneath, despite its having a hit song, didn’t move millions of units either the major label world lost interest. Fortunately, fan interest remained and when the possibility of crowdsourcing became an option for a band that had ably managed its own business affairs and marketing before ever signing to a big label, The Verve Pipe returned to having a viable music career again by simply picking up where it left off when the label was taking care of everything. The result has been a fruitful second, or even third, chapter for the band including its 2017 album Parachute, which is a fine example of how a band can reconcile the idealism of its early career with evolution into adulthood without getting boring.

Who: Wovenhand w/Echo Beds
When: Saturday, 09.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Wovenhand was a reincarnation of David Eugene Edwards as a songwriter from 16 Horsepower into originally more familiar, Gothic folk territory but in increasingly divergent directions including the adoption of Middle Eastern musical ideas with 2008’s Ten Stones and more immersion in Eastern European and Balkan musical forms. With 2012’s The Laughing Stalk, though, Wovenhand sound was harder, darker and more in the realm of fiery post-punk. Was it his new bandmates including former Planes Mistaken For Stars and current Git Some guitarist/vocalist Charles French bringing in that sensibility or a natural evolution of Edwards’s songwriting? Likely a combination as Edwards even covered the likes of Joy Division and The Gun Club while in 16 Horsepower. Whatever the catalyst for the change in sound, Wovenhand remains a haunting and powerful live band.

Denver’s Echo Beds came together out of the local punk and experimental music scene with principals Keith Curts and Tom Nelsen having put in their time make more conventional music and crafting music on the outer edge of accessibility. As Echo Beds the duo has worked with other collaborators over the years but the core of the band has been one to explore the possibilities of unconventional percussion (organic and electronic), harrowing textural noises as compositional elements and a charged emotional delivery it metes out in small, incredibly intense doses. This past summer the group released the nightmarishly beautiful full-length Buried Language through The Flenser.

Who: 1476 w/Alterity, Oblivion Her Majesty, Feigning, No Roses
When: Saturday, 09.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: 1476 from Salem, Massachusetts is fairly impossible to pin down to any narrow genre as its body of work encompasses neo-folk, post-punk and black metal without its music sounding like a song-to-song exercise in either. Fans of Neurosis, Coliseum and Wipers will find something to like about 1476, especially its 2017 album Our Season Draws Near.

Monday | September 10, 2018

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Mac Demarco, photo by Coley Brown

Who: Mac DeMarco w/Noname, Free Nationals, DJ Jonathan Toubin
When: Monday, 09.10, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why: Mac DeMarco is a modern guitar hero to some, a retro indie punchline to others. What’s missed in the overblown fandom and uninspired dismissal of an artist one hasn’t taken the time to delve into is the fact that DeMarco has evolved significantly since his time in Makeout Videotape a decade ago. His songwriting has also been more than any easy genre designation, more sonically and emotionally rich than any movement with which he might be lumped. The songwriter has described his own music as “jizz jazz,” whatever that’s really supposed to men, but jazz is the underlying aesthetic and structure to his songwriting.

Demarco’s new album This Old Dog sounds like he spent some years brushing up on his Steely Dan-isms without ripping off the band. There is an introspective lushness to several of the songs not to mention the chutzpah of a twenty-six-year old (at the time of the songwriting anyway) writing a record filled with songs written from the perspective of looking back on what feels like a long life. And to be fair, with as much touring, songwriting, life experience and hustling that DeMarco had to have packed into his life thus far it probably does feel warranted to take stock through one’s art. This Old Dog bears that out and it’s often languid pace feels like he’s felt that in a way that only someone who is a bit world weary would know. Not that DeMarco’s been beaten up by the hammer blows that life deals you as you get toward double his age now but he’s managed to articulate the feelings of wondering what this is all signifies, the self-doubt, the realization of mortality and trying to cope with the loss of key people in your life as well as someone with a decade or more hence on him. Will this translate to a large format performance? One can hope and that Red Rocks is a place where people can take in some of this material with the thoughtfulness that went into its making.

Tuesday | September 11, 2018

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Juliet Mission circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dark Tuesdays: Juliet Mission with DJs St. Evil and Fernando
When: Tuesday, 09.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Blue Ice
Why: Juliet Mission was born out of the early days of Denver post-punk/alternative rock band Sympathy F when Andre Lucero, Anthony Morales and Doug Seaman were weaving threads of inspiration from the pall of gloom over Denver’s sprawl of urban decay and post oil industry bust decades into darkly beautiful melodies. In the 2000s the band finally released a collection of songs but has more or less remained dormant, playing occasional shows, for the past decade. Now on the cusp of releasing its latest albums, Juliet Mission has been playing live including this rare appearance at Blue Ice for the Dark Tuesdays event that brings together some of Denver’s better darkwave, industrial, Goth and post-punk DJs.

Who: Acid King w/Love Gang and Keef Duster
When: Tuesday, 09.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Acid King emerged from San Francisco in the early 90s when its amalgam of heavy metal and psychedelic rock wasn’t exactly in vogue. That just meant the band could develop its sound and aesthetic without that being co-opted by any mainstream movement or corporate record labels looking to cash in on a then potentially commercial trend. The group, still fronted by guitarist Lori S., took its moniker from the nickname of a serial killer and its songs are not short on themes of the occult, and evil after the manner of a horror writer, of course, resulting in a body of work that would be a great companion to the comic art of Richard Corben and Erol Otus or a movie based on the story by Laird Barron. Long before “stoner rock” became a thing, Acid King was in there doing their own pioneering work in that realm alongside the likes of Sleep, Kyuss and St. Vitus. Yeah, all the creative descendents of Black Sabbath but also some of the best.

Wednesday | September 12, 2018

Who: Mike Krol (Merge) w/Shiii Whaaa and Super Bummer
When: Wednesday, 09.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Mike Krol’s new seven inch “An Ambulance” / “Never Know” out on Merge Records is an immediate no-brainer-love-it for fans of late 2000s lo-fi noise punk/pop stars like Times New Viking, The Reatards, No Age, Psychedelic Horseshit, Eat Skull and Pink Reason. The shitgazers, the bands that celebrated exuberance and coloring outside established lines even for punk and more consciously experimental rock with garbage distortion and pegging the needles on the recording console, the bands that found homes on forward thinking labels like, yes, Merge, and Siltbreeze. Mike Krol is from that lineage of sonics but charting his own flavor. More contemporaneously, if you’re a fan of Clarke & The Himselfs don’t sleep on Mike Krol.

Who: Warm Thoughts, Obtuse, Candy Apple, Old Haunts, Incontinuity
When: Wednesday, 09.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Warm Thoughts from Los Angeles used to be called Dad Punchers and who doesn’t love a name like that? But Warm Thoughts is probably a better long term name for a band you want to take places where “Dad Punchers” might not read too well. Or, you know, you find yourself being a dad and you’re in the band. At any rate, the emo-inflected pop punk band recently released its latest album I Went Swimming Alone and is making a stop in Denver playing with like-minded bands including Obtuse whose anthemic lo-fi pop punk might be described as defiantly self-loathing underlined with a spirit of accepting that for many of us life isn’t exactly overflowing with glamour and validation.