Plack Blague started as a side project of grindcore outfit Wasteoid. Drummer Raws Schlesinger wanted an outlet for his interest in electronic music, noise and dance music and Plack Blague became, for about a decade, the occasional vehicle for that when it launched on Halloween 2001 and a pretext for Scheslinger to play some of the weirder shows he would have been going to anyway. With the untimely passing of Jeffmetal Sayers of Wasteoid in September 2011, Schesinger went on to focus his energy on Plack Blague and hone its craft, visual style and performances and along the way went from something of a local and regional legend to a star of the American underground able to fit bills of multiple musical genres and one of the most powerful and compelling live acts running. Depending on which record you pick up or show you catch you might hear more of the noise side of Plack Blague or more of the electronic dance aspect but in place is the leather daddy gear and Schlesinger’s dynamic stage show comparable to a more industrial and noise Big Freedia—the same raw intensity and infectiously fun energy. Schlesinger also regularly issues aesthetically striking merch and does t-shirt screenings for himself and other artists. But as you will hear in our recent interview with Raws he has a strong sense of community and connection to underground music culture both within the rich history of Lincoln, Nebraska punk and extreme music and the larger culture beyond his regional scene.
You can witness the spectacle of Plack Blague for yourself at the Hi-Dive this Saturday, November 6, 2021 for the 4 year anniversary of the Eventually It Will Kill You label along with Kontravoid, Many Blessings and Closed Tear. But until then, please listen to our extended interview with Raws Schlesinger below and hear about his deep roots in Lincoln punk and the modern era of underground music in America and beyond. And o check out Plack Blague’s music and order merch, visit the Bandcamp page.
Wednesday | 11.03 What:Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.
Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04 What: Wolf Alice w/The Blossom When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.
Thursday | 11.04 What:Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.
In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.
Thursday | 11.04 What:The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.
Thursday | 11.04 What:Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.
Thursday | 11.04 What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.
Friday | 11.05 What:Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn When: 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic When: 6 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.
Monday | 11.08 What:Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.
Tuesday | 11.09 What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.
Wednesday | 11.10 What:Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.
Wednesday | 11.10 What:Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.) When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.
Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12 What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim When: 6 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.
Friday | 11.12 What:Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.
Friday | 11.12 What:Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Julien Baker w/Dehd When: 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why:Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli Where: Oriental Theater Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss When: 9 p.m. Where: Roxy on Broadway Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.
Monday | 11/15 What:Surfbort — CANCELED When: 8 p.m. Where: The Coast (Fort Collins) Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.
Monday | 11.15 What:Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire Where: Oriental Theater Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Black Marble w/Voight When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets Where: Oriental Theater Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.
Wednesday | 11.17 What:Caribou w/Jessy Lanza When: 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.
Wednesday | 11/24 What:Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac When: 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.
Friday | 11.26 What:The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.
Friday | 11.26 What:Baroness When: 8 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.
Saturday | 11.27 What:Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.
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.
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.
Who:Telefon Tel Aviv w/Steve Hauschildt When: Thursday, 1.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: On Dreams Are Not Enough, Telefon Tel Aviv delves into states of mind and existence as represented by the titles of the song: “I dream of it often,” “Standing at the bottom of the ocean,” “Mouth agape,” “Eyes Glaring” etc. The compositions combine texture and tone in a way processed to convey a sense of space and a journey into the imagination in a way to perhaps suggest that indeed merely having dreams is inadequate to having a life worth living even if we are often guided by them. Like a nod to Langston Hughes’ famous lines about a dream deferred. A dream does not, after all, occupy the same space in the psyche as conscious experiences. Songwriter Joshua Eustis invites on a journey to make these sonic spaces that might have sat in the backburner of his mind manifest. Steven Hauschildt has been crafting exquisite sonic experiences with software and analog synth for years including during his time with experimental electronic pop group Emeralds. As a solo artist his mastery of emotional colorings is impressive and his latest offering is 2019’s Nonlin.
What: Natural Violence Tape Release Show w/Many Blessings, DJ Pop CTRL and Dem Deya Sound System When: Thursday, 1.30, 8 p.m. Where: Meadowlark Bar
Friday | January 31
What:Whipporwill w/Natalie Tate When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive Why: Whipporwill’s 2019 album The Nature of Storms charts a perilous personal journey that could have ended the band as it endured a fraught tour that took it through extreme, inclement weather followed by a period of personal travails that would test anyone’s resolve to continue with something as dubiously rewarding a music often is. But the result is a dynamic set of songs that transcends expectations knowing the group has roots in folk and indie rock as its compositions are imaginative and evocative with an ear not just for melody but deep atmosphere and emotional tenor. Whipporwill doesn’t hit us with an album full of the same, tried and true dynamics, rather, a series of well developed concepts as set pieces and short stories connected by a larger narrative about life and the interconnected significance of our experiences. Natalie Tate is one of Denver’s most interesting and talented songwriters who hasn’t played around town much but her combination of musical chops and a spirit of experimentation and innovation in songcraft has branched in fascinating directions since she emerged in the local music scene several years back.
What:Goon (album release) w/Sunk Cost, Gack and Sweet Kiss When: Friday, 1.31, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Goon’s Natural Evil takes modern hardcore in a much more experimental direction with the use of noise and atmospheric sounds in a way that is both pointed, intense while warping those edges and taking the angular quality of the music and splaying the dynamic in unpredictable and ultimately wilder directions. The record frankly showcases how a merely excellent hardcore band can become one that can influence more than connoisseurs of that style of music as the appeal transcends subgenre.
What:Jacket of Spiders, Swami and Flat Earth When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Tarmints, Twice Wilted and Cynic’s Bane. The result is surging, swirling guitar rock that is both colossal and ethereal and frankly out of step with a lot of what’s happening in Denver at the moment. Fans of the members’ previous bands as well as Space Team Electra and Bowery Electric should check out what the band is doing.
What:Damn Selene album release w/R A R E B Y R D $, 3Two and Stoney Bertz When: Saturday, 2.01, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Damn Selene has been one of the most respected hip-hop artists of the Denver underground for a handful of years in the more experimental end of that scene. The artist’s beats are rooted in noise, darkwave and industrial soundscaping paired with emotionally charged vocals taking at aim at society with honesty and a gift for combining storytelling with mythmaking and self-examination. Those qualities manifest brilliantly on the new album Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore. Selene’s vibrant synth work and transporting melodies vibe well with those of R A R E B Y R D $ whose blend of radical vulnerability and swagger weaves well with its own entrancing beats informed by a rich palette of sounds drawing from dub, analog synth music, classic hip-hop, noise, ambient music and whatever has caught the trio’s ear at the moment.
What:The Heroine, Tokyo Rodeo and Stone Deaf When: Saturday, 2.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Just when the whole “Southern Rock” thing seems played out, rote and utterly performative, The Heroine from San Antonio is there to play up every trope with a sincerity and conviction that is impossible to mime and has to come from an honest place. The Heroine sounds a bit like a way better and non-wack version of Motley Crue circa Dr. Feelgood and performs its shows like they have something to prove to someone even if only to themselves. Tokyo Rodeo from Denver performs with a similar spirit with its own songs reflecting a fire to live an authentic and vibrant life creating the kind of music that sounds like the people making it really lived and felt deeply and aimed for the catharsis of creative expression that only comes from some form of rock and roll.
What:EarthGang w/Mick Jenkins, Wynne and Jurdan Bryant When: Monday, 2.03, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: EarthGang’s 2019 album Mirrorland was inspired by the 1978 film The Wiz and the band ran with the surreal quality of the film and infused it into a journey into the modern American cultural and political landscape with the attendant perils, struggles and triumphs. The Atlanta-based duo excels at using the formats of jazz, sampling, rap and soul to craft music that might be called psychedelic in another musical context except it isn’t disorienting, it’s focused on lived experience and creating the world you want to see rather than escapism.
Wednesday | February 5
What:Weird Wednesday: Ruche Mere, Claudzilla, Space Jail When: Wednesday, 2.05, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes performances from series host Claudzilla and her strange synth pop songs and unique covers, Ruche Mère a duo that uses electronic and organic instruments including bells and improvised percussive textural sounds to create what might be described post-industrial/post-civilization found object folk and Space Jail’s IDM-esque, ambient psychedelic folk soundscapes.
What:Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.
What:Heilung When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.
What:The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.
What:Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.
What:Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.
What:Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut) When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.
What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m. Where: The Squire Lounge
Sunday | January 19
What:Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.
Tuesday | January 21
What:GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.
What:Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.
What:Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 1 When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs
What:Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27
What:Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.
What:Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.
What:Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.
What:Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.
What:The Aquabats When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.
What:Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.
What:FKA Twigs When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.
What:Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.
What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Wednesday | November 13
What:The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.
What:Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.
What:Jail Wolf w/Hotel Garuda, ford When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Sajeeb Saha got started making electronic music and did remixes for the likes of Odesza and Dirty South before embarking on making the kind of effervescent pop that appeared on his 2016 EP Kindred Spirits as Jai Wolf. The EP reflected his earlier production experience in terms of the musical ideas and details that one might hear on an EDM record. But it also incorporated the kind of expansive and psyche cleansing musicality of the post-chillwave efforts of artists like Toro Y Moi and Washed Out. Three years later the new Jai Wolf album, The Cure to Loneliness sounds like a massive leap forward evolving the eccentric sonic flourishes of EDM into more interesting features of a song and tighter songwriting with a wider array of instrumentation including guitar and percussion that sounds like a human is behind the performance somewhere. Intact and more fully realized in its expression, though, is Saha’s gift for expressing a sense of wonder and hope, qualities that are much needed given the state of the world. The same line-up same time performs at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, May 3.
What:Speakeasy Series: Denizens of the Deep and Felix Fast4ward When: Thursday, 05.02, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This edition of the Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Recorods are master Denver soundsculptors Denizens of the Deep and Felix Fast4ward. Both fit somewhere in the realm of ambient and electronic dance music and psychedelia without needing to fit in any of those categories.
What:Monolord w/The Munsens and The Well When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Solid doom show including Monolord from Gothenburg, Sweden, a city more well-known for its melodic death metal. Monolord sounds more like they grew up listening to pre-1995 Melvins and that’s a positive.
What:A Rembrance for Brittany Strummer w/Typesetter, Cheap Perfume and Ersatz Robots When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Brittany Strummer was not in bands but as a fan and associate of bands and the punk community and a friend to many she touched many lives nationally and even internationally. For this show some of her friends are getting together to celebrate her life and legacy with live music.
What:Shpongle w/Tipper, Desert Dwellers, Leo P (from Too Many Zooz) When: Thursday, 05.02, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Shpongle has kind of a silly name and its fusion of world music, psychedelia and electronic dance music isn’t for everyone but it’s shows are like an idiosyncratic ritual of spectacle and depth of sound. Tipper’s deep ambient abstract dance could be headling this show as well but is only on this first date of Shpongle’s 2-day run at Red Rocks.
Friday | May 3
What:Faces Under the Mirror, Rosegarden Funeral Party, Vio\ator and eHpH When: Friday, 05.03, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Darkwave show of the week with electro-industrial band Faces Under the Mirror, Dallas-based post-punkers Rose Garden Funeral Party, noisy dark industrial project Vio/lator and Denver EBM duo eHpH whose electronic industrial soundscapes have a bit of confrontational energy built into the mix.
What:Jacket of Spiders When: Friday, 05.03, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Art Society Why: The debut show of the new band from former members of Tarmints/Twice Wilted/Cynic’s Bane/Soulbender ,AJ Hathaway, Bobby Jamison and Bobby Bane.
What:Copper Leaf, Bear and the Beasts and Gun Street Ghost When: Friday, 05.03, 9 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: A free show. Somewhere betwixt Americana and late 90s/early 2000s indie pop with a charming richness of musical detail is Copper Leaf. Bear and the Beasts is like-minded but more rock and probably more influenced by the likes of Lucero. Gun Street Ghost is kind of a gritty Americana band but Mike Perfetti’s masterful storytelling and charisma sets any of his projects apart from most other bands.
What:Roller Disco 2 When: Friday, 05.03, 11:30 p.m. Where: Roller City Why: Late night culture is back to being nascent and underground in Denver but this is something along those lines where your entry fee gets you a skate rental and new wave and synth pop songs appropriate to the occasion playing into the wee hours.
What:Tyto Alba album release – Sucker w/Panther Martin and Modern Leisure When: Saturday, 05.04, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Anyone paying attention to the Denver underground rock scene with any taste or discernment would tell you that Tyto Alba is one of the city’s best bands. Its ear for melody and keen sense of dynamics has resulted in a body of work that is emotionally rich and deeply evocative. Its dream pop is a master class in contrasts between strong rhythms and delicate, gauzy melodies and Melanie Steinway’s thought-provoking lyrics delivered with a gift for expressing nuanced sometimes uncomfortable truths with a vulnerability and strength of conviction that isn’t common enough. The group’s new album Sucker is a showcase for the band’s songwriting versatility. Tyto Alba already had a sound of fascinating contrasts and complexities (moody, bright, melancholic, emotional truthfulness and acceptance of the range of one’s feelings) but Sucker is the band at its peak of development so far. In the hands of other artists some of the material could be brutal but a sense of compassion has also long informed the music.
What:Skating Polly w/MONSTERWATCH and Backseat Vinyl When: Sunday, 05.05, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Because Skating Polly had to come up as musicians in an insular way and didn’t come up on trends the way many other musicians have, its almost outsider blend of primal grunge and garage rock is unlike much else in the scenes of the revival of either of the past decade.
Monday | May 6
What:Pedestrian Deposit w/Entrancer, Anime Love Hotel, Sunk Cost When: Monday, 05.06, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Pedestrian Deposit combines layers of sound to create an engulfing sonic experience. From organic stringed instruments, field recordings, tape collage, harsh noise and electronic instrumentation, the duo from Los Angeles is unlike many bands in the realm of “noise” and its shows border on a kind of ritual born out of urban decay and neglect. Also sharing the bill are techno wizard and ambient artist Entrancer and noise sculptor supreme Sunk Cost.
What:Lolo Zouaï: High Highs to Low Lows Tour w/Jean Deaux When: Monday, 05.06, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Lolo Zouaï’s 2018 full-length High Highs to Low Lows is surprisingly downtempo and world weary for an artist in her early 20s. She cites Too Short as an influence so maybe that is a factor. Its lush production and trap-esque and gritty, ethereal flavor bears comparison to Alice Glass’s solo EP of a couple of years ago.
What:Winter w/Ancient Elk When: Monday, 05.06, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Samir Winter and the band that takes its moniker from her surname is fortunately not sticking to one sound for an entire career. Yes, those blissfully atmospheric pop songs from the debut album benefited from Winter’s strong, evocative singing. But the 2018 album Ethereality sounds like the group adopted a bit of the muscular, fuzzy upbeat rock sound of other groups that are tapping into the 90s but Winter’s buoyant yet introspective presence gives it some depth. Denver psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk is changing its name and supposedly this is the show where the new name and presumably new line-up will be launched.
Tuesday | May 7
What:Perturbator w/GOST and Many Blessings When: Tuesday, 05.07, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Perturbator takes that sort of analog synth John Carpenter worship soundtrack thing and elevates it with even more dramatic flourish and volume by transforming it into industrial dance music.
What:Real Dom, Terror Pigeon, Techno Allah, Aman When: Tuesday, 05.07, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since the late 2000s Terror Pigeon has created bombastic synth poppy dance music with deep grooves like they were some band out of Brooklyn rather than Nashville.
Wednesday | May 8
What:Fasano Twin Film Night When: Wednesday, 05.08, 10 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Charly and Vincent Fasano have been fixtures of the front range art, poetry and music scene for close to three decades. Charly “The City Mouse” will be screening some of his short films while Vinnie “Cheap” will provide musical accompaniment with his experimental jazz group Still Birth of Cool.
Who: Mac Sabbath w/Franks & Deans bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/359843 When: Thursday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Mac Sabbath performs Black Sabbath covers, with fast food themed lyrics, in the guise of fast food characters from some chain gone dark. Are they really aliens from another dimension like Bizarro or escaped mental patients? Who can say, really. But when Black Sabbath gives you the nod of approval maybe your weirdo cover band has some legitimacy. The group has two official music videos released since its inception in 2014 and a flexi disc for the “Pair-a-Buns” single and nothing else yet since singer Ronald Osborne has declared a complete denial of the existence of technology after the 70s. Why not record or, even more quaint, an 8-track? We may yet see such releases from the mysterious band. But for now, and for purposes of the sheer spectacle of the thing, Mac Sabbath is best seen live.
Sunday | November 25, 2018
Who:Elvis Costello & The Imposters When: Sunday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Elvis Costello is probably too famous for any introduction. What he contributed/contributes to music is a gift for perfectly capturing a mood, a moment, a frame of mind with detail and humanity. This doesn’t always mean he’s writing songs that fit in with what some people might think of as the “appropriate” way to think and feel about the subject of the song. You may even listen to one of his songs and think, to put it charitably,“What a jerk!” But that’s the point. Whether a character created for the song or a bit of an abstraction of his actual thoughts, Costello’s songs are compelling because whether or not you share the sentiments the songs are poetic and believable pulling up just shy of being sentimental even if he does often employ a sense of nostalgia. His character sketches are vivid and resonate with an emotive familiarity. Currently the songwriter is touring with his band The Imposters in support of Costello’s 2018 album Look Now.
Who:Centered: Steve Hauschildt, Reighnbeau and J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Sunday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: Savoy at Curtis Park Why: Steve Hauschildt probably became first known to a national audience during his 2006-2013 run with experimental electronic trio Emeralds. The group fused ambient music with pop and the minimalist end of Twentieth Century classical music. As a solo artist, Hauschildt has delved further into exploring the possibilities of minimalism in composition and creating an sound environment with depth and texture. His 2018 album Dissolvi is reminiscent of a Squarepusher record with the beautiful level of tonal detail but after any deep house influence. Not an ambient dance record, per se, but it could be considered one of the best. Reighnbeau from Santa Fe, NM is a band that includes Bryce Hample, Colleen Johnson and Madeleine Johnston. So for the uninitiated, heavy hitters in underground ambient and experimental pop. Its sound tends toward an organic tone while employing plenty of sonic material that could only come from a computer or other electronic device. The group has a layered sound suggesting a complex mixture of emotions. J. Hamilton Isaacs has been a fixture of Denver’s experimental music scene for over a decade whether he is often acknowledged for it or not. His own beat-driven electronic experiments blend together sequencing/sampling and modular synthesis. Always different, always interesting.
Who:Textures: Wonderlust, Chromadrift, Crimson Highways When: Sunday, 11.25, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This months’ Textures Ambient Showcase features post-rock/ambient soundscape artist Chromadrift whose Drew Miller also composes soundtrack-y music in a more abstract shoegaze vein as Brother Saturn. Also, Daniel Mescher as Crimson Highways uses loops and electronics to compose impressions and textured emotional colorings to transport you away from the tonight’s cold.
Monday | November 26, 2018
Who:Pale Waves w/Kailee Morgue and The Candescents When: Monday, 11.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Manchester, UK band Pale Waves doesn’t overtly flout conventional song structure and what makes for solid pop melodies. But the band’s early material, upbeat in tone and pacing, hit some of the same emotional touchstones as artists like CHVRCHES and Lorde. But Pale Waves look like an updated version of a dark post-punk band from the 80s and many of its songs, particularly on the 2018 full-length debut My Mind Makes Noise., explore themes of loss, existential uncertainty and identity with an assurance and sensitivity one might not expect from a pop band with a strong visual aesthetic. About the title, singer Heather Baron-Gracie told us that it is an acknowledgment of how our minds are filled with ideas and emotions and it can sometimes be overwhelming but that we can, to some extent, also choose which noises we amplify and feed. In providing interesting contrasts that challenge assumptions (Goth-ish-presenting band making emotionally rich pop songs, pop songs with deeply melancholic themes), Pale Waves demonstrates to people who care to pay attention that one needn’t adhere to narrow expectations in music or in one’s own life.
Who:Echo & The Bunnymen w/Enation When: Monday, 11.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Echo & The Bunnymen didn’t just write that song in Donnie Darko, what was it, “The Killing Moon”? Or for an earlier generation, didn’t just do that Doors cover for the soundtrack to The Lost Boys. “People Are Strange,” though. At any rate, Echo & The Bunnymen for post-punk connoisseurs was one of the most consistently interesting bands of the 80s because until it’s 1987 self-titled album, the one that broke the band to the mainstream, of course, with the hit “Lips Like Sugar,” the group had had a string of fascinating, critically acclaimed records. There was an elegance of sentiment, a poetic sensibility and a deeply imaginative quality to the band’s music. Like it was tapping into the unconscious and creating its own mythology cast in dreamlike detail—shrouded in indigo lights and fog, early morning sunlight and mist. The first four Echo & The Bunnymen records are post-punk canon and for the rest of its career there’s been plenty of strong material, even on 1990’s fan-reviled, Ian McCulloch-less album Reverberation. McCulloch remains an enigmatic, romantic weirdo mystic of rock and roll which some my find confounding at times but, really, don’t we all need someone out there maintaining their own mythology in that way that is not harmful but gives hope to anyone who dared to dream of a more interesting world and had the guts to see making it a reality as an iconic band.
Who:The Body, Author & Punisher and Many Blessings When: Monday, 11.26, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Two of the best bands that don’t fit too well into the world of metal or heavy music but don’t really fit into any other realm of music either except for maybe noise are sharing the stage tonight. And with Denver’s Many Blessings, a solo noise project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy. The Body from Providence, Rhode Island have long blurred any lines between doom, grindcore, hardcore, noise, industrial, electronic pop and ambient music. Just depends on the album. The group has been fairly prolific across its 19 years of existence but perhaps none more so than 2018 when the band produced a split industrial group Uniform as Mental Wounds Not Healing, an early 2018 record I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer (a grinding dirge that never seems to get boring) and the fall release O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of the Earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. Live, the band unleashes intense energy while keeping it weird. No mean feat and The Body does so brilliantly. Author & Punisher is a one-man industrial band. Tristan Shone is an artist and a mechanical engineer who builds his unique instrumentation. One his early tours he definitely played DIY spaces in Denver but has made a bit of a name for himself outside noisenikdom and recognized for his innovative methods of composition. His latest album, 2018’s Beastland out on Relapse Records, is simultaneously possibly his most accessible and challenging record to date. As a frame of reference, imagine a late 80s Ministry and late 90s Neurosis collaboration album.
Tuesday | November 27, 2018
Who:Street Sects w/Ten Foot Beast When: Tuesday, 11.27, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Street Sects fills the room with fog in order to disorient you already before its barrage of sounds, lights, rhythm and, on occasion, a bladeless chainsaw brought forth to make for a performance designed to take you out of your comfort zone. Is it noise? Industrial? Inspired by confrontational punk? Perhaps specifically by tales of Alan Vega swinging that bike chain at early Suicide shows in New York? Who can say. What is certain is that while its live shows are not short on visceral thrills, its records stand on their own as well. Its latest record, 2018’s The Kicking Mule is like a futuristic industrial noir with darkly amusing and hardboiled titles like “269 Soulmates,” “Suicide By Cop,” “Dial Down the Neon” and “Still Between Lovers.”
Who:Sharone (“I Love You, Goodbye” single release) w/Melody In Heart, Blake George, Sean Hennigan When: Tuesday, 11.27, 7:30 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Sharone Borik debuted as a talented singer-songwriter before launching her dark, hard rock band Sharone & The Wind in 2016. For this night, Borik is releasing her new solo single “I Love You, Goodbye.” Given Borik’s gift for songwriting and performing with a theatrical flair it should be interesting to see how she presents her solo work this time around.
Who:Glenn Jones and Janet Feder When: Tuesday, 11.27, 7 p.m. Where: Baur’s Why: Two of guitar’s avant-garde greats on one bill. Glenn Jones has been a member of experimental rock band Cul de Sac since 1990 but he was also a collaborator and friend of John Fahey and he has written a film score for Roger Corman. His solo work is often very much in the folk vein but more elaborate and imaginative than too much of what passes as folk these days. Janet Feder was born in Boulder, raised in Denver, and has been pushing the guitar envelope in a variety of ways with form and composition for decades now. While her work might rightfully fall under the umbrellas of prog, the avant-garde, experimental folk and modern classical music, her actual songwriting is fairly organic and highly imaginative. This is a rare chance to see both artists on the same bill.
Wednesday | November 28, 2018
Who:Blockhead w/Yppah, Arms and Sleepers, Mikey Thunder and Jordan Polvina When: Wednesday, 11.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Tony Simon has been making some of the most interesting and transporting beats in hip-hop for nearly 20 years including his collaborations with Aesop Rock, Ilogic and Murs. His solo releases on the respected Ninja Tune imprint paint a tapestry of New York daydreams of the Big Apple of myth and journeys far beyond to places exotic to a city dweller. His compositions, part immersed in classic sampling tradition of taking bits of jazz and funk records and recontextualizing them, part weaving in experimental electronic music—his own and those possibly borrowed., are immediately captivating and mostly on the downtempo vibe. Live the music can be a bit like the DJ on a laptop sort of affair but on the sound system at Cervantes’ it’ll have a full sound.
Who:Cult Leader, God Mother, Call of the Void and Kenaima When: Wednesday, 11.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Salt Lake City’s sludge-grind band Cult Leader recently released its second album A Patient Man. While some of the material is what you might expect of a highly energized band out of its expected realm of music, the group took some hauntingly introspective turns on the record including the track “To: Achlys,” which sounds more like a dire, metallic, brooding post-punk song akin to a late 80s Swans song with a visually stunning music video depicting a man seeking solace in the arms of a stylized figure that resembles a Kali-esque death goddess. The group has been making waves lately and in December is taking Denver-based organo-industrial legends Echo Beds on a short tour. On the bill for this night is the great Denver death-grind outfit Call of the Void and adrenalized mathrcore band Kenaima.
Who:Screwtape EP release w/Noogy, World Movement, Dox and HYFY When: Wednesday, 11.28, 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Screwtape, one of Denver’s greatest political hardcore bands, is finally releasing its second EP and celebrating the occasion at this show at The Oriental Theater with some of its like-minded peers. By hardcore don’t take that to mean a young band imitating some earlier era of the music but taking those roots as inspiration for making something vital and of the now.
Who:Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.
Who:Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.
Who:Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.
Friday | August 10, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.
Who:Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.
Who:Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.
Who:Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.
Saturday | August 10, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.
Who:Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.
Who:Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.
Who:GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.
Who:Goon, faim, Soul Vice When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.
Who:Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.
Tuesday | August 14, 2018
Who:The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.
Who:Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.
Who:Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.
Wednesday | August 8, 2018
Who:Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2 When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.
Who:Beach House w/Sound of Ceres When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.
Who:Father John Misty with TV On the Radio When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.
Who:Post Animal w/Slow Pulp and Serpentfoot When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Chicago’s Post Animal sounds like a power pop band that has adopted some sludge rock edginess and a lot of psychedelia to warp those edges into interesting directions. Its new album When I Think Of You In a Castle makes you wonder what would have happened had The Sweet and ELO merged because the exquisitely tuneful melodies rock with an earnestness out of step in this decade where many try and fail miserably at projecting that authenticity much less at sustaining the quality songwriting across an entire record. The changes of pace, dynamics, tone and atmosphere throughout the album also proves the band cares enough about its own art and potential listeners to not brand its career with a same-y aesthetic. Post Animal is a rock band but one that isn’t stuck in rock-ist clichés as its sonics are as transporting as they are riveting.
Who:Pretty Mouth video release w/Archipelaghost and Oxeye Daisy When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Pretty Mouth is debuting its video for “This Poison Loves You” at this show at Ophelia’s. The Denver-based quartet combines the drawn out pacing and dynamics of alt-country with windswept dream pop, singer Marie Litton seemingly channeling the energy of ancestral spirits to effect a an emotional catharsis throughout the performance. Joining Pretty Mouth for the occasion is avant-garde pop outfit Archipelaghost and like-minded neo-alternative rock band Oxeye Daisy, which recently released an excellent self-titled debut engineered by Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons.
Friday | June 29, 2018
Who:Froth: A Rhinoceropolis fundraiser w/Superstar & Star, Cop Circles, Lux Hearse, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Mirror Fears, Data Rainbow, French Kettle Station When: Friday, 06.29, 7 p.m. Where: Redline Gallery Why: Denver DIY space Rhinoceropolis, which was closed in December 2016 in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, California, for supposed fire code violations, has had multiple hurdles to overcome to re-open including paying rent on the building while it couldn’t be utilized and remodeling to bring the space to code. So this event is happening to help move that along to the final phase before the re-open. The usual suspects of former Rhino inhabitants and those who made the space what it was will be performing but the night will include a special appearance from Neville Lawrence who performs as Superstar & Star, who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska and claims to be the “undisputed king of home-disco.” Watch any of his videos and that’s pretty much impossible to dispute as his VCR 80s era home video aesthetic is much more likeable than one might expect in this age when many things are overproduced and essentially unrelatable.
Who:Strange Goo feat: Pheel, Mirror Fears and PterrorFractyl When: Friday, 06.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: This is the latest edition of Strange Goo which includes some of the most forward thinking experimental electronic artists in Denver. Tonight’s show includes dream noise/industrial pop artist Mirror Fears and post-dub techno soundsculptor PterrorFractyl.
Who:Sliver w/Parking With Planets, The Swamp Rats, Bailout, Theoretic When: Friday, 06.29, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ
Why: It would be enough to go see sludge/surf punkers The Swamp Rats. But it would also be worth your time to check out grunge punks Sliver. That despite singer Chris Mercer dropping the bomb on his own band and admitting that his own take on his own band’s style of punk: “Post hardcore that came out in the early 00’s and beyond is just the poppy emo shit with a lot of screaming.” We beg to differ and declare Sliver a refreshingly emotionally raw and honest rock band with a leg in both DC hardcore and NW proto-alternative rock. Sure, Mercer doesn’t do a great job of ripping off Bad Brains and Wipers but he tries and that has to count for something.
Who:Electric Funeral Fest III Day 1 When: Friday, 06.29, 3 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: This two day festival showcases some of the underground’s best extreme music bands from Denver and elsewhere including Spirit Adrift, Eagle Twin, R.I.P., Aseethe, Amplified Heat, Forming the Void, Love Gang, Urn., Loom, Necropanther, Smokey Mirror, Twingiant, Echo Beds, Augur, Green Druid, Keef Duster and The Rare Breed. Someone also convinced Denver thrash punks Speedwolf to reunite for tonight’s line up. Kudos.
Saturday | June 30, 2018
Who:Rubedo w/Holophrase, R A R E B Y R D $, Picture the Waves and Mace Windu When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: In what has become at least a semi-annual tradition, Rubedo headlines The Bluebird Theater in early summer. The Denver band, parts prog, psychedelic rock, noise rock and avant funk, has been at the forefront of one wing of the local DIY scene for years. For these events Rubedo brings together some of the more interesting bands out of the underground like experimental electro-downtempo band Holophrase and the soulful and lush hip-hop of visionaries of a utopian yet grounded, loving and compassionate future, R A R E B Y R D $.
Who:Electric Funeral Fest III Day 2 When: Saturday, 06.30, 3 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café Why: This second day of heavy and extreme music includes sets from bands across the front range and beyond: Weedeater, Primitive Man, Zeke, Sierra, Duel, Grey Gallows, Cloud Catcher, The Munsens, Communion, Crud, Space in Time, White Dog, Vexing, Pink Fuzz, Wizzerd, Smolder & Burn, Alone and Still Valley
Who:Machinefest w/16Volt, Machinewerx and Society Burning
When: Saturday, 06.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Outdoor location in Wellington, CO
Why: Tempting to call this an event linked to the local Burning Man community and maybe ultimately it is, but in truth it’s an industrial music and sculpture performance event in the middle of nowehere (map on the event page). Coming out for the occasion is infamous/legendary industrial rock band 16 Volt.
Who:Magic Sword w/Church Fire and EVP When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: This show would be worth attending for Denver bands Church Fire and EVP alone because they’re both pushing forward the aesthetics of dance music and electronic pop with energetic and emotionally stirring performances. But Boise, Idaho’s Magic Sword doesn’t make it here nearly enough with their space knight stage personae and one-would-think-wack-but-never-is combination of 80s prog metal guitar and sweeping science fiction movie soundtrack synthscapes. Camp is pretty played out these days but Magic Sword has taken it to another level that makes it endearing like you’re in on the camp so it’s no longer a joke but just fun.
Sunday | July 1, 2018
Who:Immersion w/Brother Saturn When: Sunday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Immersion is the ambient project comprised of Malka Spigel of Israeli/Belgian experimental post-punk band Minimal Compact and her husband Colin Newman who more than a few people may know as being in Wire. In the 80s their respective bands surely rubbed shoulders in the UK and the rest of Europe and in the early 90s when the duo created Immersion as a way to further explore beat-driven, non-rock music it entered a realm of sound and atmosphere that might have been associated with minimalist IDM and ambient/abstract atmospheric artists of the day like Seefeel and Future Sound of London. The group’s recent albums, including 2018’s Sleepless, have shown a willingness for more overt use of guitar to create texture and tone.
Who:Janelle Monáe w/St. Beauty When: Sunday, 07.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Janelle Monáe’s new album Dirty Computer spent a decade percolating and incubating in her rich imagination. Apparently she felt as though she had to present an image safe for public consumption, as it were. The album is even more a concept album than any of her other excellent offerings over the past several years and it tells a story of personal evolution and self-acceptance in the face of a world that tries to define you and impose meaning on you especially if you’re an “entertainer” and black and a woman. The short film Monáe released in the wake of the album gives vivid life to the story with Monáe as an android named Jane 57821 struggling against a dystopian society toward a more open and compassionate future. While her music has always been sonically rich and evocative, with Dirty Computer, Monáe has pushed her art beyond previous boundaries by revisiting some of her perennial themes in creative new ways.
Who:Canyon of the Skull, Giant of the Mountain, Voideater, A Light Among Many When: Sunday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you made it to Electric Funeral Fest III but just want one more night of the heavy, this show will more than do with deep, atmospheric doom act Canyon of the Skull from Austin alongside the more experimental, ambient metal of A Light Among Many.
Who:Nevayda Gunn (last show), Horns and Spyderland When: Sunday, 07.01, 5 – 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: When a lot of rock bands were riding the psych bandwagon and making fairly mundane music that was essentially pop or straight ahead rock with some reverb and yelping, Nevayda Gunn were pushing boundaries of what the music could be and left us one great statement of where it was and where it could have gone with its 2016 album Glitchkraft; A Human Experience. Maybe a slightly art-pretentious title but very much worth a listen. This is their last show. Catch members in Archipelaghost.
Monday | July 2, 2018
Who:Dirty Few 7” release w/Wyldlife, The Bad Engrish, The Born Readies, DJ Ross Taylor Murphy When: Monday, 07.02, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Dirty Few is releasing its new 7” EP, Volcom Sessions out on Snappy Little Numbers (you can order the 7” here). While the band has a deserved reputation for being a rowdy party band one thing that is often overlooked is the songwriting. Somewhere between power pop and post-Reatards garage punk, Dirty Few’s fuzz pop has never sounded more focused and and tuneful. It sounds like someone in the band has been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy but that’s no bad thing. The vocal harmonies really make the songs this time around and this new record represents the band at its current peak.
Tuesday | July 3, 2018
Who:Michael Rault w/Pale Sun and Bear and the Beasts When: Tuesday, 07.03, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Michael Rault, though Canadian, sounds like he spent some time hanging out in Laurel Canyon in the mid-1970s—gently psychedelic pop compositions with a twinge of country rock running through them are the hallmarks of his sound. We’ve heard a lot of that sort of thing in recent years but Rault happens to be better at the songwriting end than most other people mining similar territory. Also on the bill is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun whose cosmic soundscaping has some edge to its hypnotic melodies.
Wednesday | July 4, 2018
Who:Spectral Voice, Superstition, Flowering Blade, Many Blessings When: Wednesday, 07.04, 8 p.m. Where: Meadowlark Bar Why: Spectral Voice is a Denver-based death metal band whose instincts wend toward a more stark sound. And it’s in good company for this show with Many Blessings, the ambient/noise project of Primitive Man vocalist/guitarist Ethan McCarthy, and Aaron Miller of Cadaver Dog doing his solo noise act Flowering Blade. So, musically speaking, all the negative vibes with none of the negative consequences.