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 03/29/18 – 04/04/18

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Colin Ward as Alphabets circa 2010. Raptor Jazz, a celebration of Ward and his legacy at The Black Box on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | March 29, 2018

 

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.

Who: DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell
When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.

Who: Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.

Friday | March 30, 2018

 

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It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Monocle Band & The Dress Downs
When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder
Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.

Who: Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.

Who: Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty
When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.

Saturday | March 31, 2018

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Chrome circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chrome w/EchoBeds and Phallic Meditation
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Check out our write-up on Chrome and interview with Helios Creed for some reasons to go to this show.

 

What: Raptor Jazz a Ceremony of Life for Colin Ward/Fundraiser feat. Docile Rottweiler, French Kettle Station, UR Presents Acid Rain (live), Sugarsplat 2.0, Shaman Fight Club, AcidBat, Kid Mask, Toucan, visuals by Orchidz3ro and Jak Turbo
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Colin Ward left an indelible imprint on Denver’s DIY art and music world during his short life before he died at the end of January 2018. This event is a celebration of his life and influence performed by many of those closest to him and a fundraiser for his memorial fund to preserve his art and music going into the future.

Monday | April 2, 2018

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Herse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard
When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.

Tuesday | April 3, 2018

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Pale Waves, photo by Danny North

Who: Pale Waves w/Inheaven
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.

Who: A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.

Wednesday | April 4, 2018

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Boy Harsher, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight
When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain II on May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 12/7/17 – 12/13/17

Atmosphere
Atmosphere performs across Colorado in December. Photo by Dan Monick

Thursday: December 7, 2017

Who: Atmosphere w/Musab + Ink Well (Mink), deM atlaS, The Lioness and DJ Keezy
When: Thursday, 12.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Though Atmosphere is all but a mainstream hip-hop act these days, Slug and Ant had their roots in underground hip-hop in the 90s. As cofounders of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the influential Minneapolis hip-hop imprint, Slug and Ant participated in that creatively rich and collaborative environment nationally that included the Mush Records and Anticon Records imprints and Slug’s participation in Deep Puddle Dynamics, the alternative hip-hop supergroup that also included Sole, Doeseone, Alias and Jel of Anticon. But Atmosphere slowly started to enjoy greater levels of commercial success after the 90s while still remaining an innovative and interesting project. By the time of 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, Atmosphere worked with Tom Waits on “The Waitress.” Each of Atmosphere’s subsequent albums have charted respectably on the Billboard charts. But none of that would matter a bit if the music wasn’t worthwhile. On 2017’s Fishing Blues, Slug has returned to the deeply introspective delivery style that made his early work so compelling. Except the naivete is gone but the need to express his truth from the perspective of an older person who doesn’t find some of the bravado of his youth so charming and who finds the desperation to be oh-so-clever boring. Atmosphere today doesn’t lack for the energy for which it’s become known but it is more sharply channeled. Atmosphere is performing numerous shows throughout Colorado over the next ten days or so, the front range shows shows, in addition to the Thursday, December 7 date in Denver include shows on Saturday, December 9 at The Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, December 10 again at Ogden Theatre in Denver, December 12 at Black Sheep in Colorado Springs and December 13 at Boulder Theater in Boulder.

Friday: December 8, 2017

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Ian Cook circa 2013, phot by Tom Murphy

Who: Ian Cooke The Flight I Flew album release show and Going Away Party
When: Friday, 12.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ian Cooke is moving to South Carolina in 2018 to be with his partner of the last handful of years. And when you listen to his 2017 album The Flight I Flew, you can tell he went through an extended period of emotional confusion and turmoil ultimately coming to a place where his heart and and head are in alignment and his creative music given a focus that maybe it hadn’t had in such a short span of time that it took to assemble the new record. You can hear in the album’s songs the epiphanies, the self-realizations, the accepting of forgiveness that takes real work on the part of both people, and the commitment to personal accountability that you don’t hear in a lot of pop music even when it is as thoughtful and ambitious as the type Cooke has written his entire career. Friday’s show will be the full band spanning Cooke’s catalog while Saturday’s show will focus on Cooke’s quieter songs in a solo format. Either way, here’s your chance to see one of Denver’s truly greatest songwriters perform before you only get to see him maybe once a year.

Who: Death in Space, Shawn Mlekush and Herpes Hideaway
When: Friday, 12.08, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked on Colfax
Why: Aleeya Wilson is a Girls Rock Denver alumna who was probably a bit different from her peers as she used her guitar to make noise and ambient music rather than whatever popular musical style was favored among teens of that time. As a musician and writer, Wilson has tended toward conceptual work with a visceral quality making few if any concessions to mainstream accessibility. Supposedly this is one of her last noise shows in Denver though she’ll probably do some more while in grad school out of state. Shawn Mlekush is one of the synth players in experimental electronic band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory. No, not making that up. So his set will be interesting. And of course there’s the dark ambient of Herpes Hideaway. That entity is the solo project of Patrick Urn whose contributions to industrial band In Ether, the production on some Church Fire material and his various noise, hip-hop and electro efforts over the years may not be widely known but in the underground Denver experimental scene, widely respected. Herpes Hideaway finds Urn adopting the character of a witch-like being from another dimension evoking the fears and pains of humanity and purging them from the collective unconscious. Maybe not but that’s the vibe of the live show.

Sunday: December 10, 2017

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Unsane, photo by Dan Joerigh

Who: Unsane w/Plaque Marks and Pueblo Escobar
When: Sunday, 12.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Unsane crawled out of the 80s stained by the crushing, avant-garde noise rock of Swans, the organic-mystical industrial of Einsturzende Neubauten and perhaps the punishingly grinding transcendence of Flipper. So much so that the band has been often mistaken for a metal band, though that influence is probably there too through the more early doom and thrash end of that music. These days Unsane’s closest musical cousins are probably bands like Eye Hate God and the current incarnation of Neurosis. Its songs sounding like a Rob Zombie movie feels to watch in their finest moments—harrowing, unblinking in its depiction of the horrors humankind inflicts on itself, all awash in heightened emotions. Philadelphia’s Plaque Marks includes members of Creepoid, Ecstatic Vision and Fight Champ so it’s noisy post-hardcore-ish sound is beautifully disorienting. Like if Butthole Surfers had somehow emerged after the 31G imprint bands and modern psychedelic doom had their impact and its members decided they needed to push beyond their immediate influences. Pueblo Escobar is a Denver-based, metallic post-hardcore band that actually lives up to a name like that with dark, edgy songs played with an exuberant sense of fun.

Who: Ultrametal Presents: The Last King of Poland (10) w/John Gross (11), Meme Girls (11:30), Killd By (9:30), Birth (10:30), Ghost House (8:30), French Kettle Station (8) and Blank Human (9)
When: Sunday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Noise tends not to get much stage time outside of DIY venues and Mutiny so this noise showcase at Syntax, a venue that often has a more open booking policy than most clubs, is a welcome change of setting for a show like this. It’s a broad spectrum of noise and not a whole lot in the way of the harsher side. John Gross of Page 27 is playing a rare solo set. Killd By will make the kind of hyperkinetic dance music that only Colin Ward could make in his manipulation of self-created samples inside his beats. Birth is as much performance art as weirdo breakcore. French Kettle Station will likely be his usual energetic post-punk/synthwave delivered with a visceral energy. Blank Human, a noisy kind of ambient. Touring through from Chicago is Last King of Poland who will bring his beat-driven ambient noise tracks. Set times indicated above in parentheses.

Monday: December 11, 2017

Hunter Dragon
Hunter Dragon circa February 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Hunter Dragon birthday/going away party w/Lazarus Horse and Midwife
When: Monday, 12.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hunter Adams pushed in many different musical directions when he moved to Denver in the mid-2000s from St. Louis. You could consider some of what he did in the indie pop vein, but he also made experimental synth music that bordered on the ambient. His restless imagination wouldn’t let him settle for anything rote so some of his later music was a completely unique sort of electronic dance pop music but infused with an edgy emotional honesty that you pretty much never hear in that sort of music. Adams is a true original with a rich imagination that he expresses with his music eloquently and vividly. Now Adams is moving away from Denver yet again and celebrating the occasion, along with his birthday, with Lazarus Horse and avant-folk artist Midwife. With Madeline Johnston of the latter, Adams was involved in Tiny Amp Tapes so hopefully he can still have some involvement with imprint from afar.

Tuesday: December 12, 2017

Male Blonding
Male Blonding, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Panther Martin w/Couches, Male Blonding and Godchild
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Panther Martin, the Denver-based indie rock band, has never suffered from a lack of strong songwriting but it’s recent Drats EP finds the band pushing past its obvious influences (The Strokes, maybe some Pavement in there as well as other tuneful purveyors of tastefully fuzzy tone). Couches from San Francisco seems to be coming from a similar place musically but more punk, more from the House of Reatard. Male Blonding may have the greatest rhythm section in Denver indie rock but one that plays to the band’s richly emotive songwriting lead in part by Noah Simons’ commanding yet melancholic vocals.

Who: Hott Mt w/déCollage and Moon Magnet DJ set lost-lake.com/event/1582575-hott-mt-denver
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hott Mt apparently tracked down Wayne Coyne a handful of years ago and got him to work with them on some music and a video. He later became a fan of the band’s ethereal, synth driven pop music reminiscent of Air’s elegantly crafted nostalgia-inducing tonality and The Helio Sequence’s meshing of guitar rock and gossamery synth pop. Maybe think Black Moth Super Rainbow a bit too. Check out the band’s excellent 2017 album AU. Seems a good pairing with déCollage’s playfully colorful psychedelic music that sounds like it’s being channeled from a world where all classic children’s literature isn’t fiction but a wondrous world worth exploring.

Wednesday: December 13, 2017

Empress
Empress circa 2016, photo by Kelly Spencer

Who: Empress w/Grass and Paper Knees
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Empress’ 2017 album, Passion Fade, perfectly synthesizes the band’s instinct for dark, beat-driven industrial music, death rock and the heavier end of post-punk—think The Cult and early Death In June. Gritty, borderline abrasive stuff with corrosive atmospheres. In a bit of inspired pairing, Boulder’s lo-fi noise rock phenoms Grass are also on the bill. Fans of Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones, Eat Skull and the Reatards should check out Grass.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series 2017 finale
When: Wednesday, 12.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This will be the final installment of the 2017 edition of The Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records with a focus on more experimental electronic acts from Denver. The shows happened in the basement of Hooked on Colfax with Glasss bringing in a P.A. to allow the room to be awash in rich sounds. For this final show of the year in that series, Glasss will bring in various artists to perform. Some of them may even collaborate but, as with the rest of the series, it’ll be quality and interesting stuff.