Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.

Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.

Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.

Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek

black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.

Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.

Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.

Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.

Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.

Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.

Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound

Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.

Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.

Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.

Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound

Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.

Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released

No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.

NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.

Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van

Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released

Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.

She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.

Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines

SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.

The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.

Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.

We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.

Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

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

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

Thursday | November 21

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Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier


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

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

Friday | November 22

MarriedaDeadMan_ Ana_Irene_Valdes-Behrens2019
Married a Dead Man, photo by Ana Irene Valdes-Behrens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | November 23

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Blood Incantation, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | November 24

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The Shift circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday | November 25

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Tuesday | November 26

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HIDE circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Wednesday | November 27

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The Hu, photo by Altankhuyag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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