The Body has long been a band that you could rely on to roll into town once a year or so for years before the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to live shows as we know it for a good long while. The band’s uniquely cathartic, experimental extreme metal, monolithic onslaught was something you could take for granted as an inevitability. And finally the duo returned to Denver for a show at Larimer Lounge that was not a bill of all metal or heavy bands in any conventional sense and that is part of why this show felt particularly impactful. On a personal note when I walked up to the merch table drummer/programmer Lee Buford complimented by Chari XCX t-shirt and it was sincere. I would have been surprised but The Body is a band that has made no bones about its appreciation for music far afield of that for which it’s known and its 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness paired heaviness with 80s dance tracks. For me this acknowledgment of a mutual appreciation for one of the more interesting pop artists of today set a mood for the show to come.
Less than a week prior Polly Urethane had performed with Rusty Steve for a powerful set opening for A Place to Bury Strangers. For this show Polly Urethane performed alone for a set of music completely different from her performance the previous Thursday. She had the long white cowl on hand for part of the set but performed much of the show in black with a t-shirt. Elegant piano work and operatic classical style vocals paired with an old Realistic Air Force Sound Effects record sampled directly and some of Polly’s electronic pieces.
The music felt like part of a greater arc of performance wherein Polly broke that stage and audience barrier by going out into the crowd with her extended mic chord and while on stage stood on top of monitors balancing there somehow as if setting an example of fearlessness vulnerability. When she brought her left leg up on top of the piano while leaning forward to play it and sing it challenged notions of how the instrument is “supposed” to be played in performance and gave a visual element to the show that seemed to change regularly so that you really had no chance to get bored not that the music itself gave that opportunity either as it fused classical convention with the avant-garde in equal measure and performance art as much as musical.
Anyone that hadn’t seen Midwife in a good long while, like many of us, couldn’t have been quite prepared for how much Madeline Johnston has honed her set. Not that she lacked for emotional power before and maybe it’s all just a matter of the weight of the past few years that went into the writing of the music and fine tuning its performance and presentation but every song hit deep. If your heart didn’t break from the way Johnston held pauses in the flow of the song to allow the unspoken emotional swell to build before heading back in to direct that energy to greater heights and depths you have probably lost the capacity to be affected by music. It’s just Johnston, her guitar and maybe some backing tracks and it’s spare stuff but it has all been refined for maximum evocative power at this point. You can feel the anguish and sorrow cathartically flowing through songs like the utterly crushing and devastating “S.W.I.M.” – the hazy soundscapes and perfectly accented guitar riffs coupled with Johnston’s warmly gentle vocals and ability to draw out the distillation of despair and memories of better times honors the loss she depicts in her songs in a way that hits all the emotional keys in your brain the way maybe they need to be more often.
The whole set felt like one, extended, beautiful exorcism for a few moments the sadness of the living memory of people and places and situations you’ll never get back. It was shamanic in effect and transcended simple music which is an utter rarity in live music with how Johnston is able to make your time with her feel so intimate, moving and healing.
Maybe it never hit full before but the colossal, gritty and unusual sounds that had made The Body such an interesting band in the past had always been something of an orchestration of sounds, textures, rhythms and moods that Chip King and Lee Buford orchestrate in a two person format to accomplish nuances that full bands sometimes don’t. King’s eccentric, screechy vocals have subtleties of their own and part of that is the syncopation of his vocals with guitar and percussion. Buford using both electronic drums and acoustic is somehow both utterly bludgeoning and elegant in execution like he is fully aware of how every aspect of what he’s doing has the potential to have an effect on the listener and his partner in crime King’s emotional state during the performance and vice versa. And yet it felt so spontaneous and raw it was easy to miss unless you were keyed into that dynamic between the two musicians and the crowd. King’s feedback sculpting spiraled out like a jet engine at times and within those scorched gyres of distorted guitar fragments there was a great sense of release and a joyful abandon that seemed like the reason to play and to witness music like this.
King and Buford performed with a zen-like intensity and focus yet released the energy they coiled up across the set with a dynamic force that was impossible to rest and in which to be caught up. After over a decade of seeing this band now and then this show made it obvious that The Body has built into its craft and its songwriting a lack of laurels upon which to rest and if its eclectic and prolific set of releases isn’t proof enough it’s that absorbing of disparate influences into its music that is channeled into the show that sets it apart from many other extreme metal bands experimental or otherwise.
Death Hags brings to the single “This ∞ Mind” (from the album Big Grey Sun #4) a rather tonally vivid dream pop sensibility. There are ethereal melodies but there are jagged edges that give definition to their character that are bit like lightning in a storm allowing delineation of the boundaries of clouds in a thunderstorm. The album itself is a bit of a journey through luminously dreamlike soundscapes with a touch of fuzzy psychedelia providing some bite to the soothing aesthetic of the songwriting. This song in the beginning is reminiscent of Midwife’s 2020 album Forever but rather than the soul shearing heartache the track feels like the other side of that emotional black hole and a contemplation of possibilities that one hopes for and seem within reach if you truly take the time to plot some trajectories for your energies in making what are now mere hopes and dreams happen. Watch the gorgeously mysterious and colorful music video for “This ∞ Mind” on YouTube and follow Death Hags at the links below.
Monday | 05.02 What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.
Tuesday | 05.03 What:Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.
Tuesday | 05.03 What:Interpol w/Matthew Dear When: 6 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.
Thursday | 05.05 What:Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.
Thursday | 05.05 What:Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.
Friday | 05.06 What:BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.
Friday | 05.06 What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.
Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08 What: Henry Rollins When: 7 p.m. Where:Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08 Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.
Sunday | 05.08 What:Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act When: 6 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.
Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09 What: The Church When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09) Where:Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09) Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.
Monday | 05.09 What:Fontaines D.C. When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.
Monday | 05.09 What:Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden When: 7:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.
Tuesday | 05.10 What:Slow Crush w/SOM When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.
Tuesday | 05.10 What:Metz w/Moon Pussy When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.
Tuesday | 05.10 What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.
Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12 What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12) When: 8 p.m. Where:Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12) Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.
Thursday | 05.12 What:Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.
Friday | 05.13 What:William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.
Friday | 05.13 What:Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma When: 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.
Saturday | 05.14 What:ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.
Sunday | 05.15 What:OMD w/In The Valley Below When: 7 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.
Sunday | 05.15 What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.
Sunday | 05.15 What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores When: 6:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.
Monday | 05.16 What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.
Tuesday | 05.17 What:Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea When: 8:30 doors 9 show Where: Fox Theatre Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.
Wednesday | 05.18 What:Author & Punisher w/MVTANT When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.
Thursday | 05.19 What:Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak When: 6 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.
Friday | 05.20 What:Molchat Doma w/Pompeya When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.
Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21 What: Elder Island w/JORDANN When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21) Where:Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21) Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.
Monday | 05.23 What:Kurt Vile and the Violators When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.
Monday | 05.23 What:Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.
Tuesday | 05.24 What:Spoon w/Geese When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.
Wednesday | 05.25 What:Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.
Thursday | 05.26 What:A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.
Thursday | 05.26 What:Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.
Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28 What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family When: 7 p.m. Where:Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28) Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.
Friday | 05.27 What:The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo) When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.
Friday | 05.27 What:Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.
Friday | 05.27 What:Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.
Saturday | 05.28 What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.
Monday | 05.30 What:Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.
Tuesday | 05.31 What:The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.
Wednesday | 03.09 What:Monolord w/Firebreather and The Munsens When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Monolord formed in 2013 at a time when the whole wave of stoner rock was pretty much over and before doom metal hits its ascendency later in that decade. Its members had been part of a more boogie rock oriented band Marulk but at rehearsal had riffed in more drawn out dynamics and sustained atmospherics while incorporating those impulses into coherent songwriting. So its current sound while rooted in what is now called doom metal contains melodic elements lend its crushing rhythmic leads an accessibility that sounds more like an updated version of power metal. The group’s 2021 album Your Time to Shine is arguably its most streamlined manifestation of an aesthetic that draws on the psychedelic heaviness of Sleep and Kylesa and infuses it with its own impulse to impart a mood of catharsis and triumph to its listeners.
Friday | 03.11 What: Owosso, Moon Pussy, Church Van and Gestapo Pussy Ranch When: 9 p.m. doors, 9:30 p.m. show Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Moon Pussy’s scorched earth noise rock and underpinnings in musical experimentation can be disorienting in the best way. Like Big Black with creatively expressive human drums instead of a drum machine. This will be Owosso’s first show. The group is comprised of veterans of the local punk/post-hardcore and indie rock scenes including people from Modern Goon. The group was been described as “post indie wook rock” but it’s hopefully safe to assume it’s not some ironic jam band with punk roots. Though if it is it’ll probably be alright anyway considering the band’s lineage.
Saturday | 03.12 What: Mitski w/Michelle When: 8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Mitski released her latest album Laurel Hell in 2022 and it is arguably her most vulnerable and raw album while also her most poignantly melancholic. Few other artists have articulated the disillusionment of the current era and the perils of an over mediated culture with as much precision and resonance as Mitski over the course of her two most recent records. As a live performer Mitski always has something different in her repertoire like on her most recent tour in 2019 when she had stage sets and a costume that looked like somewhere between a workout suit and a martial arts dancer uniform.
Saturday | 03.12 What:Jen Korte & The Loss, Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds and Heated Bones Where: Hi-Dive Why: Jen Korte & The Loss this time out is basically her excellent experimental singer-songwriter project Lady Gang but with a full band instead of pulling off the full range of sounds herself. But it’ll still be Korte deep diving into emotionally rich explorations of hurt, resilience and the complex nuances of human experiences and relationships. Korte’s imaginative musicianship and songwriting elevates her work beyond the usual expectations one might have when one thinks of singer-songwriter. Her body of work is eclectic and runs a range of Americana, indie rock, folk and what might be described as experimental pop with loops and electronics. Many artists reach a point where they rest on their laurels and Korte hasn’t done so.
Saturday | 03.12 What:Mayhem w/Watain and Midnight Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Mayhem is indeed the legendary black metal band from Norway whose lore and history is worth looking into for the lurid details alone. It makes for a fascinating origin story. But the music and its harrowing and heavy sweeps of epic storytelling speaks for itself as does the unforgettable stage presence of frontman Attila Csihar who always brings a deep sense of theater and performance art to every one of his performances whether with Mayhem or SunnO))). The show will be worth it to see what he does alone and that chilling, sepulchral, operatic voice.
Sunday | 03.13 What:Drug Church, One Step Closer, Soul Blind and Lurk When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Drug Church is a band that has managed to bridge the sonic worlds of pop punk, hardcore and noise rock with super catchy hooks and made powerful and meaningful music in the process. Currently touring in support of its forthcoming album Hygiene out March 11, 2022.
Sunday | 03.13 What:Sumac w/Blood Spore and Patrick Shiroishi When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: SUMAC formed in 2014 when Kurt Ballou of Converge connected guitarist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer, House of Low Culture) who had written the initial elements of songs with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn to help realize Turner’s vision of crafting the heaviest music of his career then thus far. Brian Cook of Russian Circles and formerly of These Arms Are Snakes and Botch rounded out the classic and current line-up in time for the group’s debut album. The resulting four albums since (The Deal from 2015, What One Becomes in 2016, Love in Shadow out 2018 and May You Be Held released in 2020) are indeed some of the heaviest records of recent years. But as with Turner’s other projects it’s never just heavy for the sake of that quality, it’s intricate and imaginative, emotionally charged soundscapes in which the contributions of all the players seems to be highlighted. Certainly with the most recent album it’s not relentlessly crushing dynamics but a flood of textures seemingly elevated in a suspended and sustained whirlpool of sound that rushes through you and then out like experiencing a state of being. Calling it post-metal or sludge metal is one way of giving people an idea of what they’re in for but the music itself has more in common with artists like Neurosis and SunnO))) than with some other bands lumped under those genre designations. Perhaps it is conceived of as a mind-altering experience to perform and thus witness when you’re in the room with it live. The fact that SUMAC has collaborative albums with noise legend Keiji Haino who is highly selective with whom he does work speaks much to how SUMAC isn’t merely a metal or heavy band.
Turner has long been a champion of forward thinking underground music since the 90s with his label Hydra Head Records which issued releases from the likes of Boris, Big Business, Cave In, Daughters, Dälek, Jesu, Kayo Dot, Oxbow, Khanate, Harvey Milk, Xasthur and The VSS. Its roster is a kind of who’s who of heavier experimental music of its heyday. Through the label and touring Turner has had a vehicle for exploring his creative interests in music and visual art which brings an added dimension to SUMAC’s releases as well and the ethos with which the band operates. On its current tour the group will be joined by purveyors of death doom Blood Spore and Los Angeles-based avant-garde saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. Listen to our interview with Aaron Turner on Bandcamp.
Monday | 03.14 What:Lala Lala w/Elton Aura When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Lillie West was already stretching the boundaries of music that might loosely grouped under the vague term “indie rock” earlier in her career with imaginative pop songwriting. But with her 2021 album I Want The Door To Open with Yoni Wolf as co-producer she finely tunes her soundscapes as perfect complements to her expressively ethereal vocals andan exploration of themes of where an artist fits in with a world in which they often need to make their own lives the fodder for some of their most meaningful work and how that can affect your sense of self. It’s a bit like synth pop for fans of Holly Herndon or Virginia Wing.
Monday | 03.14 What:Portrayal of Guilt w/End, Yashira and Wake When: 7:30 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Portrayal of Guilt might be described as a post-hardcore, grindcore adjacent noise rock band with the visceral live quality all that implies. But there is a bit of the irreverent trickster to their presentation and their 2021 album Christfucker was sent out in a jacket that displayed the letters “ST” like “Self-Titled” so that maybe the record could be stealth sold at record stores in more conservative areas of the country and as a signal to fans of the ridiculousness of actual censorship and not the myth of it perpetrated by bad faith actors. Wake from Calgary, Alberta is of like mind and its 202 album Devouring Ruin is like a psychedelic flavor of later era Napalm Death.
Tuesday | 03.15 What:Choir Boy w/Riki When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Choir Boy is a post-punk band from Salt Lake City that has garnered a bit of a cult following in recent years for its tender, synth-pop ballads about loss and desire recalling the likes of the more melancholic end of Thompson Twins and Felt. Riki sounds like she came from an alternate dimension where she had a career making sensual pop songs for David Lynch movies with her soulfully expressive voice. Elements like cool jazz saxophone and chimes that might sound cheesy and dates in the music of other people just sounds perfect for the mood Riki has evoked of late night adventures in secret Bohemian dives across two albums: her 2020 self-titled and Gold from 2021. Not many artists have a maintained a mystique to them but Niff Nawor aka Riki certain has.
Thursday | 03.17 What:Wayfarer w/Midwife and Snakes Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Denver’s Wayfarer is finally getting to celebrate the release of its 2020 album A Romance With Violence and bringing its flavor of dark Americana, at turns spaghetti western and doomy black metal, to stage bigger stages. This night the band’s guests are Midwife and her intensely evocative and poignant ambient folk and art country/dark pop supergroup Snakes.
Thursday | 03.17 What:Ellen Allien w/Mr. Frick and Mort.Domed Where: Bar Standard Why: Ellen Allien aka Ellen Fraatz makes a rare appearance in Denver and brings her experimental style of techno that is somewhere between minimal, IDM and acid house with an imaginative flair that can seem subtle until you listen to her work alongside other artists in similar realms of music.
Thursday | 03.17 What:Squirrel Flower w/Tenci When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower recently released Planet EP, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2021 sophomore album Planet (i). Her gritty yet introspective songs like “Hurt A Fly” are so honest and real about her mistakes and shortcomings you feel that deeply in your own heart. Williams really has a gift for creating strong imagery and emotional impressions and matching it with songwriting that is simultaneously forceful and vulnerable like she respects your time with the music and wants it to be a fortifying experience to give it a listen.
Friday | 03.18 What:NightWraith album release w/Space in Time, Ghosts of Glaciers and Ashes For theMute When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Calling any band a “supergroup” is a bit of a misnomer but Denver’s NightWraith has a major pedigree of Denver metal and art rock luminaries including the following with their past and current bands in parentheses as applicable: Benjamin Pitts (To Be Eaten, The New Rome, False Cathedrals, Vimana, Black Sleep of Kali, In The Company of Serpents, Giant Eyeball and others), Igor Panasewicz (Valiomierda, Vimana, Necrosophik Abyss, Abhoria), Isidro “Spy” Soto (Ashes For The Mute, Primitive Man), Caleb Tardio (I Sank Molly Brown) and Jerry Hilger (who is just the affable guy you run into in the scene regularly and wonder when he was going to be in a band). In 2019 NightWraith put out its excellent self-titled debut but on this night the outfit celebrates the unleashing of its new record Offering (available digitally, on CD and limited edition vinyl starting March 25). The early singles highlight the way this quintet brings together melodic riffs with epic sensibilities and black metal grit for an orchestral display of a particularly glorious brand of heavy metal. There is a playfulness to the songs that also doesn’t detract from the heaviness of the riffs and the elegantly precise dynamics. Also on the bill is the psychedelic hard rock and metal of Space In Time whose own hybrid influences from the likes of Hawkwind, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep has resulted in an always surprisingly powerful performance. You also get to see the instrumental post-metal band Ghosts of Glaciers and cosmic black metal outfit Ashes For The Mute in which “Spy” will be doing double duty for the night. Clearly the best metal show of the week.
Friday | 03.18 What:Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and f-ether When: 7 p.m. Where: LFX Filmworks Why: Lost Walks released its weighty and harrowing new album Blood Lantern in December 2021. The theatrical, dark Americana of Wolf, Woman, Man, its 2017 debut album, is still at the root of this new batch of music but the band which collaborates with a regular dance troupe for its performances shed some of the folk and blues aspects of its prior musical incarnation in any obvious ways and sounds now more like Neurosis except that Dameon Merkl still sounds like the mysterious and charismatic figure you want to narrate a future documentary about H.P. Lovecraft. Also for this show you get to see members of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club bring their own imaginative and compelling style of gritty old time music and theater while f-ether performs his own highly refined and stylized techno and house-informed electronic soundscapes. Considering the venue expect more than a touch of theater to the show.
Friday | 03.18 What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and De Gringos y Gremmies When: 8 p.m. Where: The Squire Lounge Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock revival band originally based out of Huntsville, Alabama but now out of Houston. But that doesn’t quite do justice to the legend of this band that you hear from anyone that has seen them from not just the kaiju (giant monsters in Japanese popular culture i.e. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others not so well known) aesthetic and themes but also the kabuki masks, the use of fire when they can and energetic/borderline unhinged live performances that are part of the lore of the group as well. But make no mistake, yeah, a surf rock revival band but one with chops and imagination and not the rote surf rock that has plagued the indie underground for way too long. Think more like Man Or Astro-man or The Mermen. As for TripLip, some journalist wrote this about them in 2013 and they are a much neglected local institution: “A drum and bass instrumental duo (not in the EDM sense, of course), TripLip can’t be said to fit into any particular musical subgenre. Reminiscent only of a a band these two guys have probably never heard of — Denver’s The Hellmen, because of its perfect fusion of jazz, punk, noise rock and surf with flourishes of improvisational funk — it can safely be said that TripLip isn’t following any trends, local or otherwise, because there’s nothing trendy about what the act is doing. The outfit’s solid musicianship and sonic creativity is refreshingly out of time and place, and it’s always interesting. – Tom Murphy, Westword. 11/24/2013”
Saturday | 03.19 What:Circle Jerks w/Negative Approach and 7 Seconds When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Circle Jerks were one of the earliest and one of the most enduringly influential hardcore bands out of Southern California in the late 70s with former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris. Morris’ surreal and absurdly wry sense of humor and self-deprecating social commentary informed much of the band’s material which can be lost in flood of energy of the live show and Morris’ exuberant energy as a vocalist. This tour is technically the 40 year reunion tour that was supposed to happen in 2020 but everyone knows what happens there so here’s your chance to see the Jerks in high form with Morris, guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and Joey Castillo formerly of Queens of the Stone Age joining on drums. But wait, there’s more. Negative Approach is also one of the pioneering bands of hardcore having formed in Detroit and fronted by one of the most elemental vocalists of our time in John Brannon. Brutal, nihilistic and desperate in lyrics and crushing and devastating in sound. And then of course 7 Seconds from Reno, Nevada also helped to lay the foundations of hardcore beginning in 1980 with the fast and hard dynamics with a core of catchy melodicism that helped shape a body of work that in itself has inspired generations of punk bands since.
Saturday | 03.19 What:Daikiju, TripLip and friends When: 7:15 p.m. Where: The Matchbox Why: See above on 3.18 for this show in case you had to miss that performance.
Monday | 03.21 What:Daikaiju w/TripLip and Ego Death When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Final chance to catch Daikaiju with TripLip before the touring band hits the road for places out west.
Monday | March 21 What:W.I.T.C.H. w/Night Beats and Mauskovic Dance Band When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Incredibly W.I.T.C.H. is the Zamrock band formed in the 1970s meaning of course that they’re pioneers of the unique flavor of psychedelic rock that happened in Zambia during that decade before multiple forces led to the demise of the movement by the mid-1980s. Articles have written about the movement and vinyl reissues of classics by Witch and of course Ngozi Family lead to a resurgence in interest in that era of music and the reunion of Witch in 2012. Not often you get to catch legends like this in the flesh. But also on the bill is the great psychedelic garage rock band Night Beats from Seattle who were always weirder and more interesting than most of the recent wave of American psychedelia. Also opening is Mauskovic Dance Band whose blend of cumbia, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Krautrock sensibilities will fit right in with the headliners.
Tuesday | 03.22 What:Jawbox w/despAIR Jordan When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Jawbox emerged from the vibrant late 80s and early 90s post-punk/post-hardcore DC punk scene to go on to become one of the most influential guitar bands of the 90s and beyond. Its 1991 debut album Grippe is like the missing link between Dinosaur Jr and midwest post-punk and hardcore like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun. But the beautifully atonal and angular “Savory” from the 1994 album For Your Own Special Sweetheart, the band’s major label debut, was a surprise hit during that era before the alternative rock being championed by major labels was a watered down version of the music seemingly flooding forth in the early part of the decade. Jawbox split in 1997 and didn’t reunite except briefly in 2009 until 2019 though in 2021 founding member Bill Barbot left the group replaced by War on Women guitarist and singer Brooks Harlan. Opening the show is Denver’s despAIR Jordan whose own post-punk flavor is as informed by melodic hardcore as it is the atmospheric, melancholic variety.
Tuesday | 03.22 What:Yves Tumor When: 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Yves Tumor is like the Prince of experimental electronic music whose exuberant stage presence is as colorful as Bowie at peak weirdness but whose sensibilities and aesthetic are very much of the present. That their music has been coming out on Warp Records is saying something about the forward thinking quality of the songcraft and for someone who many might consider a weird hip-hop artist, Tumor has cited Throbbing Gristle as a major influence.
Tuesday | 03.22 What:New Candys and Mint Field w/Wave Decay When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze. Mexico City’s Mint Field brings its own ambient/shoegaze soundscapes to the show with touches of psych folk and cinematic aesthetics making what can often be abstract music that transports you to other spaces into something that feels deeply personal. Wave Decay’s soothing dream pop sound combines motorik beats with gossamer melodies.
Tuesday | 03.22 What:Indigo De Souza w/Field Medic When: 7 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.
Wednesday | 03.23 What:Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Wombo, Apollo Shortwave and H-Lite When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat has been a fixture of underground American art punk. Somewhere between angular post-punk, funk and jazz, the duo’s releases have been varied and always interesting with viscerally impactful and fun live shows. Its forthcoming album Nightclub Daydreaming has all the hallmarks of a great Ed Schrader offering with intricate rhythmic minimalism but decidedly moodier and more atmospheric than we’ve come to expect from the project’s rich sonic palette. Wombo’s psychedelic alternative rock with the dispassionate vocals have been one of the more consistently interesting left field bands out of the indie milieu of recent years that fans of Dry Cleaning and Ganser might appreciate. H-Lite’s electronic experiments unites minimal techno with a more playful and expansive type of glitchcore.
Wednesday | 03.23 What:Lightning Bolt w/Problems When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Saying that Lightning Bolt is a noise rock duo is a little like saying a hurricane is a storm. Doesn’t quite cover it. Though only a duo, Lightning Bolt seems to produce more sound than one might expect from just two people and its aggressive rhythms and explosive live performances are like small scale riot of their own. Which one might expect from a group from Providence, Rhode Island where some of the wildest and noisiest bands of the modern era (Mind Flayer, Arab on Radar, Six Finger Satellite and The Body to name a few) have come from over the past 30 years. Sonic Citadel, the band’s 2019 and latest album, is a masterclass of constant motion and barely controlled chaos and inspired weirdness. In place are also the usual rambunctious soundscape of intense yet modulated drums, processed vocals, distorted bass played both for rhythm and as accents in a call and response dynamic with lyrics sung with a nearly unhinged style. If you’ve never seen Lightning Bolt be prepared for pretty much anything to happen except that it’ll be more fun than you can usually have in a small rock club. Problems is the strange yet also fascinating techno house music project of Darren Keen based out of Lincoln, Nebraska whose 2020 album Ought Not Be Overthought is worth a listen for anyone interested in electronic music that doesn’t have obvious connections to what anyone else is doing yet remains accessible to most people.
Wednesday | 03.23 What:Dance With The Dead & Magic Sword w/Das Mortal When: 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Dance With The Dead is a synthwave band currently touring on the festival circuit and in support of its new album Driven To Madness. But a major reason to go to this show is to see Boise’s Magic Sword whose own mix of fantasy and science fiction imagery and hard rock synthwave is on another level than most like-minded artists as the band members perform as space knights and other than differently colored costume lights largely anonymously. With a handful of albums out and their own comic, Magic Sword is consistently entertaining and its music though technically born out of a gimmick has an appeal far beyond that like the kind of retro science fiction action movie soundtrack for a film that has yet to be made.
Thursday | 03.24 What: Yob w/True Widow and Glacial Tomb When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Yob guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt founded Yob in 1996 after spending some years in hardcore bands in Eugene, Oregon. The mid-90s weren’t exactly the height of the popularity for metal of any kind but in embracing the kind of heavy music that was being called “stoner rock” in the 90s but today the sludgy, sometimes psychedelic, metal might be called doom or post-metal depending on where on the stylistic spectrum the music falls. But whatever genre tags one might put on what Yob has done at this point its newer music as having emerged on both Clearing the Path to Ascend and Our Raw Heart has more than a little in common with experimental heavy artists like Neurosis and Isis (the former having been released on Neurot Recordings). Despite the sometimes cosmic bent of the lyrics and themes of mortality and struggle there is a real joy to the band’s live performances that draws you in for a shared catharsis. Denver death doom band Glacial Tomb opens the show and in the middle is True Widow from Dallas whose blend of doom and shoegaze is entrancingly melodic and moody.
Friday | 03.25 What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine When: 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Gary Numan is a pioneer of synth pop whose work with his old band Tubeway Army along with the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Fad Gadget and Human League brought a sophistication of creative vision, nuanced social commentary and inventive incorporation of synthesizers into well-crafted pop songs proved influential on a generations of other artists. Numan forged a solo career for himself with 1979’s The Pleasure Principle and the hit single “Cars.” Since that time Numan has reliably experimented with technology and his own songwriting approach in ways that proved to be an influence on many of the more popular industrial bands of the 80s and 90s including Nine Inch Nails. Pick up anywhere in Numan’s recent catalog and there is worthwhile material including his 2021 album Intruder with its thoughtful commentary on climate change and its impact on the world and not just one human civilization. I Speak Machine is an electronic artist of recent years whose own synthscapes recall the era of music Numan helped to establish with horror cinema aesthetics and a live show to match. Definitely for fans of ADULT. and Xeno and Oaklander.
Saturday | 03.26 What:Quits w/Endless Nameless, Sell Farm and Pythian Whispers When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Quits is like the Hasil Adkins of post-hardcore noise rock. Endless Nameless are like the Iceburn collective of post-Canadian instrumental art shoegaze. Sell Farm is the Townes Van Zandt of doom industrial twee. Pythian Whispers is the Hüsker Dü of elevated Krautrock. These absurd characterizations are true in spirit so come on down and see for yourself. Full disclosure, the author of this bit is in Pythian Whispers.
Saturday | 03.26 What: Dust City Opera w/Split Lips When: 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its new album Alien Summer with its colorful story arc of science fiction, horror and the drama of the human experience. The sound mixes a bit of the group’s dark Americana with fuzzy rock grit to lend all of the songs more of an edge than one might assume given the band’s theatrical presentation. The new album sounds like something that could have come out of the later era indiepop bands steeped in the 90s version of that music like Beulah or Red Pony Clock but with a bit more refinement of sound.
Sunday | 03.27 What: Kat Von D w/Prayers When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kat Von D is perhaps best known as a tattoo artist who has been in a couple of reality shows related to the profession. But in 2021 she released her debut album Love Made Me Do It and its mix of darkwave and synthpop is surprisingly accomplished. Her set alone with be worth seeing but opening is her husband Rafael Reyes’ band Prayers who garnered a good deal of attention as a “Cholo Goth” band when really Prayers is just one of the best modern electronic post-punk bands with a bit more actual edge to go along with the moody soundscapes and intense and dramatic lyrics.
Monday | 03.28 What: The Spirit of the Beehive w/Deeper When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Spirit of the Beehive probably seemed like a slightly weird indie rock/pop band early in its career but anyone that has been paying attention across the arc of its albums it’s like the Philadelphia-based group has been pulling back the veils of normalcy and convention with every album. Pleasure Suck and its hazy atmospherics and melodic left turns was reminiscent of something Black Moth Super Rainbow or Stargazer Lilies might do. This shifting to more experimental songwriting continued on 2018’s Hypnic Jerks with an approach to songwriting and structure reminiscent of cinema rather than simply music. With Entertainment, Death (2021), The Spirit of the Beehive is further opening its Pandora’s Box of unexpected tonal experiments, textures and raw sound composition to craft pop songs unlike much of anything anyone is making, even genius weirdos like Deerhoof. Often the songs sound like you’re stepping into a room in a horror movie funhouse and not sure where to find the exit and find you like it there. Deeper is one of Chicago’s bright post-punk stars and their album Auto Pain is something akin to music The Cure might have done if they had gone the route of angular art rock and emerged in the 2010s having been impacted by The Rapture and Women.
Monday | 03.28 What: Blunt Bangs (Athens, GA), Supreme Joy, Moodlighting and Public Opinion When: 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Blunt Bangs from Athens, GA includes Reggie Youngblood formerly of buzz indie band Black Kids. But this project is like power pop with a touch of soul. The Big Star influence is obvious but the self-aware lyrics are very much in tune with the social environment of today and the cultural touchstones and lingo of the moment and a poignant portrait of the struggles young people have navigating relationships and a world that seems to make most aspects of life challenging for everyone. Blunt Bangs also includes Eli Saragoussi formerly of psychedelic garage rock phenoms Hair Cult. Also on the bill are Ryan Wong’s lo-fi post-punk band Supreme Joy and twee dream pop outfit Moodlighting who are set to release their new album Boy Wonder with a show at the Hi-Dive on May 5, 2022.
Tuesday | 03.29 What:Nation of Language w/Glove and Ducks Ltd. When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Nation of Language released its debut album Introduction, Presence in 2020 at a time when no one could or did tour but its bass-driven, moody synth pop songs were reminiscent of early OMD in a way worthy of that obvious influence. The group’s 2021 album A Way Forward was aptly named because the synthesizers came more to the front for a starker yet richer sound overall. It initially recalled Magnetic Fields’ 1995 album Get Lost and its rhythms and pacing seemed to draw on Krautrock influences like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia and Ashra. And an exploration of OMD’s 1983 artpop masterpiece Dazzle Ships. But whatever the influences or inspirations, Nation of Language has fused the avant-garde with pop in a way with modern methods that draw you in and induce a mood of looking toward a future of possibilities. Glove is a post-punk/darkwave band from Tampa, Florida, a city rightfully more well known for its influential death metal milieu. But Glove’s knack for composing songs that wed energetic rhythms with pulsing low end to melancholic mood may do something toward changing that impression. Its new album Boom Nights breaks free from the cookie cutter darkwave sound that has emerged with more lo-fi recordings. Glove’s album has not slick production so much as strong. Reminiscent of The Prids and Modern English circa Mesh & Lace. Ducks Ltd. from Toronto, Ontario released Modern Fiction on Carpark in 2021 and its ebullient jangle pop sounded like a mix of New Order, all that great 80s Kiwi rock and groups out of the C86 movement of that era. But the content of the songs were inspired by an examination of modern human civilization in decay and its impacts on our lives on a very personal level. The songwriters also took some cues from the fiction of Graham Greene whose life in MI6 and fiction were likely the model of spy fiction to follow.
Tuesday | 03.29 What:Dummy, Greet Death, Infant Island, American Culture, Dirt Sucker, Candy Apple When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: [Greet Death and Infant Island show moved to this event due to issues with Meadowlark Bar] Dummy from Los Angeles released its latest album Mandatory Enjoyment in 2021 and immediately established itself as a band to watch with its consistently fascinating soundscapes somewhere betwixt post-punk, Krautrock, indie pop and whatever avant-garde mix of all that you’d call Stereolab. Greet Death is the kind of modern shoegaze band that sounds like its members came up through post-hardcore or some kind of punk or metal as its guitar work has some nice sharp edges even as its soundscapes sound like the shattered glass of disappointed emotions. Its 2019 album New Hell is overflowing with a sublime catharsis that genre bends in ways that one doesn’t hear much in this realm of music. Unless you’re listening to Drowse or another band with seemingly similar roots and an ear for vulnerable emotional expressions put very much forward. American Culture from Denver is no stranger to these hybrid musical impulses and singer Chris Adolf has been someone who never limits himself to a narrow genre though an innovator in indiepop going back to the 90s with bands like Love Letter Band, Bad Weather California, V-Tech Orchid and the various musical incarnations of American Culture with its Cure-esque guitar soundscapes and raw yet tenderly executed vocals. Candy Apple from Denver might be considered hardcore but only if you include the influence of early Christian Death and maybe Jesus and Mary Chain.
Tuesday | 03.29 What:Video Vision w/DJ Julian Black and DJ Niq V When: 9 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Video Vision is a post-punk/deathrock band from Athens, Georgia whose 2021 album Inked in Red feels both melodramatic and intimately rendered. Sounds like something plucked from the early 80s except for the synth treatments which feel very modern. The male and female vocals recall the dynamics you’d hear in a 45 Grave song but with more ethereal music, just that grit and confidence seems very much in place.
Wednesday and Thursday | 03.30 and 03.31 What: Wilderado w/flipturn When: 7 p.m. Where:Aggie Theatre and Bluebird Theater Why: Though Wilderado released its self-titled debut album in October 2021, the band originally based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, now out of Los Angeles, has put in its time over the last seven years honing its songcraft and performances through regular touring. Its sounds sound like they were written with acoustic guitar in a living room contemplating a feeling or a thought that strikes you so strongly you end up writing it down or committing it to memory as best you can. But those skeletons of songs get the full-fledged manifestation across an album of lively pop songs that are stronger for having been worked out before any adornments and embellishments are added.
Wednesday | 03.30 What: Black Ends (Seattle), Sell Farm, Joseph Lamar and Fainting Dreams (members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos) When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Black Ends and its “gunk pop” sounds like something you’d get if you took an experimental punk band and found a way to deconstruct the traditional sounds and structures into this melted mutant version. Meaning it’s more original than most things you’ll see actually on tour and would have found a home on Siltbreeze in the 2000s alongside Pink Reason, Eat Skull and the like. Sell Farm is a dub-industrial-indie pop band whose own sound experiments in real time pretty much place it outside all trendy styles happening right now which is always a reason to go see a band. Joseph Lamar is a glam R&B space alien whose soulful vocals can’t be constrained by convention either and his songwriting while hyper tuneful also colors outside the lines of expectation. If Fainting Dreams includes members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos and still playing this show they’re probably using their considerable musical talents and chops to make something unusual and interesting as well.
Thursday | 03.31 What:Prism Bitch w/Horse Girl and Bud Bronson & The Good Timers When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Prism Bitch from Albuquerque, New Mexico fuses synth pop with garage rock in unpredictable ways while not compromising solid pop songwriting yet coming off very unfiltered and punk. Horse Girl is part inspired performance art and art pop with a show that always breaks that barrier between the spectator and performer in creative ways. Brilliant weirdos, always. Bud Bronson & The Good Timers is the best power pop band out of Denver. Full stop.
Thursday | 03.31 What:Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum When: 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Oftentimes when actors get into making music it’s either quaint, ill-considered our insufferable. But Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum which includes Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) alongside Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie) is shockingly good. Like a synth pop glam rock band. Its debut album THANKS FOR COMING comes off more like an art rock concept record the likes of which you’d expect more from the 1970s with strong ideas and commentary on life and society and ambitious songwriting. But with modern sensibilities like the musicians are well aware that Radiohead and Arcade Fire already happened. Its tonal exercises are poignant and evocative and the songs cinematic.
Thursday | 12.03 What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie When: 10 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.
Friday | 12.03 What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer When: 7/8 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.
Saturday | 12.04 What:…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.
Monday | 12.06 What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.
Tuesday | 12.07 What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod When: 6/7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.
Tuesday | 12.07 What:Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.
Thursday | 12.09 What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.
Friday | 12.10 What:N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.
Friday | 12.10 What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.
Saturday | 12.11 What:Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 9:30/10 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.
Friday | 12.17 What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.
Friday | 12.17 What:Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.
Monday | December 20 What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.
Thursday | 12.23 What:Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.
Friday | 12.31 What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.
Saturday – Monday | September 4-6 What: Down In Denver Fest When: Labor Day Weekend Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With the erosion of the national and local media especially in coverage of local music and culture as a parallel to increasing income inequality the curation of a local scene virtually everywhere in America has all but disappeared. Publications that once served as active legacy institutions that traditionally documented and preserved local culture in a robust way have either dissolved or transitioned to a digital marketing portal model with a subsequent narrowing of content and cultural mission. Music festivals often following a lifestyle branding concept in sync with the lifestyle model of much of digital media following the implosion of the blogosphere can feel like Philip K. Dick circa Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was more of a prophet than we’d prefer to believe. The Down in Denver Fest organizers remember a time when the rich and broad diversity of Denver’s local scene was more honored and represented in local music festivals and older artists were not expected to retire but, rather, respected for their past and current efforts. While Denver and other cities are in disarray with the forces of drastic income inequality and subsequent gentrification local cultural history seems to pass into irrelevance like a social media feed more quickly than at any previous moment in human history, episodes without context, products to consume and discard. But this is antithetical to lived human experience and human life and our collective craving for connection not just to other people but our experiential, existential context that defines our lives for a certain period or our entire lives. Maybe Down In Denver Fest won’t provide this to everyone but the inspiration behind it is the understanding that local culture and the people who make it a living thing past and present are not just the atomized dots of a marketing galaxy but a continuum that can be and is accessible. So go expecting to see a broad slice of bands representing decades of Denver music history from bands from a variety of genres and styles to DJs from the Denver underground. Visit the event website for the line-up and schedule and to sample artists. Also listen to the Queen City Sounds Podcast featuring a handful of stories from the Denver scene from some of the people that were involved and have helped to make various corners of the city’s musical milieu.
Monday | September 6 What:Midwife w/Sympathy Pain and Sketches When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Midwife is touring more broadly in support of her 2021 album Luminol, a soothing yet heart wrenching record mourning deep loss and fumbling for healing the caustic burns on your heart from the death of friends, the crumbling of the cultural infrastructure that gave one’s life more definition than it might have had and a nation and international community in disarray from grand forces of inequality and the rise of fascism and science denial with no seeming relief on the horizon. It isn’t a dire record but an honest one cast in gossamer guitar work and introspective, dreamlike vocals that tap into those dark places of the mind and not to say it’s all going to be okay but rather as a reminder that you’re not crazy and your feelings of despair, deep discontent and righteous anger are real and valid. Midwife is also performing at Trident Bookstore in Boulder on September 8 and The Coast in Fort Collins on September 12.
Thursday | September 9 What:Denver Meatpacking Company w/I’m A Boy, Wiff and Sleep Demons When: 7 p.m./8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver Meatpacking Company pull liberally from 90s alternative rock for inspiration but its fuzzy guitar work is couched in solid pop hooks that prevent it from sounding like a throwback act. Which makes it a good pairing with I’m A Boy and its own power pop sensibilities and refreshingly unaffected love for bombastic and theatrical rock and roll.
Sunday | September 12 What: Denver Does Denver When: 1-10 p.m. Where: Green Valley Ranch Town Center Amphitheater 5060 Argonne St., Denver, CO 80249 Why: It has been 11 years since the last Denver Does Denver event happened when various musicians in the Denver scene covered music by peers and influences in local music at the Meadowlark Bar and its environs. This reboot of the event, once again curated by educator and member of experimental funk and world music phenoms Pink hawks, Yuzo Nieto, is taking place outdoors in Green Valley Ranch and features a typically fascinating set of musicians showcasing the creative wares of other bands and songwriters that otherwise wouldn’t normally be thus recognized for their impact.
Thursday | September 16 What:St. Vincent When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Annie Clark has been experimenting with concepts across her musical career and giving us not only a respectable body of work and consistently fascinating songwriting and inventive musicianship but a creative arc in which she’s willing to take risks. None more so than her 2021 album Daddy’s Home. It is clearly a well-arranged series of vignettes about life in New York City as told through the sonic lens of 70s pop and rock like an East Coast answer to Joni Mitchell’s fantastic and insightful 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. The structure of the album feels like reading a short novel with a cinematic scope and revelations about character and concept reminiscent of the flow of Virgnia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Every tour, certainly for her last three albums, has involved creative and entrancing production and even set design subverting the standard rock and pop paradigm so if you go expect some of that deep creativity for which Annie Clark and St. Vincent are rightfully known.
Friday | September 17 What:Herbie Hancock When: 7 p.m. Where: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Why: Herbie Hancock and his stunningly brilliant keyboard and synth work alongside his mindblowingly talented collaborators put on one of the greatest live shows going regardless of genre. His roots in some of the jazz legends of the 60s and 70s are impressive enough but his albums under his own name often reveal a passion and genius for composition that he channels into accessible and engrossing songs and performances that remain relevant and powerful.
Friday and Saturday | September 17-18 What:Westword Music Showcase When: See schedule per day at http://www.westwordshowcase.com Where: Rino Arts District and Mission Ballroom Why: The Westword Music Showcase returns with an expanded presentation in the Rino Arts District northwest of downtown Denver including performances at the Mission Ballroom for headlining acts like Young The Giant, Kaytranada, Thundercat, Matoma, Hippo Campus and Duke Dumont with a bevy of local acts nominated by experts in the local scene tapped for their knowledge by the long running alternative weekly paper.
Monday | September 20 What: Mannequin Pussy w/Angel Du$t and Pinkshift When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy has long commented on sexism and its effect on identity and how those issues dovetail into the colonist mentality and the most deleterious and sometimes subtle corrosive effects of capitalism. But doing so in a way that seems as tender and sensitive as it is ferocious, cast in noise rock and melodic punk. In 2021 Mannequin Pussy released its gloriously caustic EP Perfect.
Monday and Tuesday | September 20 and 21 What: Mdou Moctar When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mahamadou Souleymane is a Tuareg songwriter from Niger who is known to the musical world at large as Mdou Moctar with a growing international following despite the lyrics to his songs being in Tamasheq. His intricate guitar work and sincere performance style renders what might seem exotic to some Americans immediately relatable. Moctar’s fusion of blues and rock with West African musical styles and sounds come off both familiar and arrestingly fresh. In 2021 he released the album Afrique Victime through Matador, his first for an imprint other than specialist label Sahel Sounds. An intense and engaging performer, Moctar’s gracious and self-effacing demeanor doesn’t quite prepare you for the emotionally charged journey of the show but makes it one you want to take.
Tuesday | September 21 What: Twin Tribes and Wingtips w/Plague Garden When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: A great pairing of the Brownsville, Texas lo-fi post-punk band Twin Tribes and Chicago’s darkwave pop sensations Wingtips. The former released a beautifully curated remix album in 2021 called Altars including remixes from Turkish post-punk legends She Past Away, Dave Parley of Prayers, Wingtips and Bootblacks. Wingtips’ new record Cutting Room Floor is a gorgeously composed set of expansive and bright yet hazily moody and reflective pop songs subverting the tropes of sounds and aesthetics borrowed from 80s era synth pop by many modern artists and seemingly as influenced by the likes of Thompson Twins and Howard Jones as Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. Opening the show is Plague Garden whose 2021 album Requiem of Souls is a great expansion on their brooding and atmospheric blend of industrial and post-punk into more pop territory including an excellent cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 hit single “Twisting in My Sobriety” that highlights the song’s then unfashionable level of self-examination.
Tuesday | September 21 What:Torres w/Ariana and The Rose When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres has from early in her career blended a more electronic pop aesthetic with a raw and gritty folk-inflected songwriting style and dynamically emotional vocals. Her 2021 album Thirstier is brimming with high contrast sounds that give the songs a forcefulness that was always there in her music but made unmistakable this time around.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Waltzer w/Vision Video, Voight, Lord Friday the 13th When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Waltzer is Sophie Sputnik who fronted punk band Killmama for more than a few years. But her music theater background seems to have been yearning for greater expression if the debut Waltzer album Time Traveler is any indication and the bizarre music video for “Destroyer” which is like a humorous horror movies as a backdrop to soulful, R&B pop. Maybe Sputnik got to listening to a lot of Erykah Badu, Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren but she makes that lush, almost orchestral sound seem spare as well. Athens, Georgia-based post-punk/pop band Vision Video is an interesting contrast with its 2021 album Inked in Red reminiscent of 80s jangle pop, XTC and Pink Turns Blue. Voight is a Denver-based band that collides together noise rock, industrial/techno beats, emotionally-charged vocals and caustic shoegaze-y soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Front 242 w/Consolidated, Blackcell and DJ N810 When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Front 242 is one of the pioneers of the EBM wing of industrial music of the 80s with its stark visual style akin to a stylized Futurist aesthetic. Claiming to be apolitical and even amoral, Front 242’s pulsing, atmospheric dance music nevertheless takes aim at corrupt religious and political figures without an explicitly verbalized critique, rather choosing to present them as absurd and cartoonish. By contrast the overtly political industrial band Consolidated is part of this tour and from its album titles, to its music and confrontational performance style the group from San Francisco leaves no doubt about its leftist politics and activist cultural orientation while also injecting very pointed commentary with humor that also manages not to distract from the message. Denver’s long-running noise/industrial/EBM duo Blackcell opens the show with its own richly imagined and immersive soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Ratboys X Wild Pink w/Bellhoss When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Earlier in 2021 Wild Pink released A Billion Little Lights, a pop album of lush orchestration and sage and sharply observed comments on one’s changing perspectives and priorities as one ages into adulthood physically and psychologically and the subsequent realization that the sureties of now will sometimes seem like the follies and cringe-worthy moments of the future. While songwriter John Ross wrote the album from the perspective of a single human life the themes seem to resonate strongly with society overall in the past decade and coming to terms with blind spots, injustice, inequality and chronically bad habits that have a fallout for oneself and others.
Saturday | September 25 What: Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Two giants of Denver sludge metal, Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard both demonstrate how heavy, doomy metal can be dynamic and even expansively psychedelic while hitting hard. Expect a new Lost Relics EP soon and Never Kenezzard’s follow-up to the excellent 2016 album Never Say…
Monday | September 27 What:Esmé Patterson When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020 landed just in time to thwart plans for Esmé Patterson and her band to tour in support of her then new album There Will Come Soft Rains. The new record showcased Patterson’s ear for subtle emotional dynamics in songwriting and for expressing the complexity of one’s feelings in an uncluttered way. The spare melodies of the new batch of songs also demonstrate an attention to space in the songs perhaps as a symbolic way of honoring the need to such in one’s life in order to make sense of what can feel overwhelming. Not a pandemic record but sure seems like one that addresses little things in life we often ignore in our rush to push through everything when we need to and never really taking the time to feel what we need to in order to maintain a healthy state of mind.
Wednesday | September 29 What: Judas Priest w/Sabaton When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Perpetually underrated yet highly influential, Judas Priest is one of the pioneering bands of heavy metal that still occasionally tours and is still a powerful live act due in no small part to singer Rob Halford’s expressive and operatic vocals. With hits like “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” from its 1980 album British Steel, Judas Priest started to break into the mainstream with subsequent regular rotation on MTV. Getting to see Judas Priest at a theater like the Mission Ballroom with its excellent sound and seating layout is likely to be the most enjoyable environment to take in the band’s broad range of moods and highly charged dynamics.
Thursday | September 30 What: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon are rappers from Houston and Edmonton, Canada respectively but who both draw on an electric palette of sounds and influences and their use of imaginative beats and production have set them apart from many peers from early on in their respective careers. Their individual blends of classic rapping with free associating sounds and textures in the beat with an ear for songwriting and impassioned delivery make this one of the hip-hop shows to see this year in Denver. Fat Tony is touring following the 2020 release of his album Exotica and Cadence Weapon with his 2021 album ParallelWorld.
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.
What:The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.
What:Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.
What:Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.
What:Chuck Prophet When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.
What:Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.
What:SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.
What:Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Wednesday | March 4
What:Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.
What:Kyle Emerson w/Turvy Organ, Panther Martin and Crystal Seth When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive 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. Tonight he shares the bill with stars of the local indie rock milieu in Turvy Organ and Panther Martin.
What:Stonefield w/Pink Fuzz, SSIIGGHH When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Amy, Hannah, Holly and Sarah Findlay are four sisters that formed the hard psychedelic rock band Stonefiled in 2006 in Darraweit Guim in Victoria, Australia. Its early offerings (for example Through the Clover) were in the realm of 70s boogie rock with hints of the psychedelia that would characterize their later songwriting. By the time of 2019’s Bent, the group hasn’t shed its infectious tunefulness but its overall sound is much heavier, brimming with expertly sculpted melodic fuzz and at times bordering on a fusion of Krautrock and early 2000s stoner rock. Fans of Stereolab, Trans Am and Hawkwind will find a lot to like about this latest incarnation of the band’s evolution.
What:Ezra Furman w/Kelley Stoltz When: Saturday, 2.22, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ezra Furman’s 2019 album Twelve Nudes is a lush yet somehow lo-fi collection of songs filled with raw emotion and experiences presented with a startling honesty couched in the sound of some 1960s girl group sound fused with fuzzy garage rock production. It’s a fascinating and bracing listen that gets past your filters before the impact of what you’re hearing hits you and the experience awakens you to the playful weightiness of Furman’s songwriting.
What:Shadows Tranquil, Emerald Siam, Midwife and Ophelia Drowning When: Saturday, 2.22, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Dark, shoegaze-y post-punk band Shadows Tranquil performs this night with the brooding yet transcendent Emerald Siam, Midwife’s riveting, ethereal, tender, intimate soundscapes and Danish dungeon synth project Ophelia Drowning.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Kendra & The Bunnies brings an unconventional and disarming creativity and sensitivity to a folk psychedelia that seems out of place and out of time. When so many modern indie bands are still mining Laurel Canyon, Kendra & The Bunnies tapped slightly into the vibe of Northern California hippies and made it their own.
What:Cyclo-Sonic, Joy Subtraction and The Pollution When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: Cyclo-Sonic is comprised of veterans of Denver’s great second era of punk in the 80s with former members of The Fluid, The Frantix, Rok Tots and The Choosey Mothers. Which would mean not much if the band wasn’t any good but it turns out that the band’s leftfield reinterpretation of melodic proto-punk and garage is shockingly vital and compelling. Joy Subtraction came out of the more arty end of punk inspired by the likes of Alice Donut and Nomeansno. The Pollution is an unlikely merging of psychedelic prog and punk.
What:Shibui Denver #10: Fern Roberts and Red Wing Black Bird When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This edition of Shibui Denver will feature darkwave project Red Wing Black Bird and the latest band from former Emerald Siam and Light Travels Faster bassist Todd Spriggs, Fern Roberts.
What:Chastity Belt w/Nanami Ozone and Hugh F When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Chastity Belt has been on a great run of seeming to reinvent its aesthetic over the past two or three records. Its 2019 self-titled record has seemingly shed whatever influences informed its earlier work in favor of a more introspective, dream pop-esque, borderline post-punk aesthetic but rooted in a sophisticated expression of emotional complexity, the kind that only comes with processing loss whether personally, or of one’s place in the world or of one’s community or feeling lost in a world where things seem upended and your place in it seems tentative. Who can say is the reason for this change but it is the group’s finest offering to date in its ability to evoke feelings that a more straight ahead rock and roll songwriting style struggles to articulate.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Sunday, 2.23, 4-6 p.m. Where: The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland 4-6 p.m.
What:Hannibal Buress w/Al Jackson and Tony Trimm When: Monday, 2.24, 10”:15 p.m. Where: Denver Comedy Works Why: This is a free pop up comedy event featuring Hannibal Buress whose sharp, surreal comedy takes aim at the ridiculousness of modern life and odd ideas we all take for granted. He has also appeared in film and numerous television shows including brilliant turns on the Eric Andre Show and Broad City. For tickets signup/rsvp @ www.hannibalburess.com also text 312-584-5839 for a chance at tickets.
Tuesday | February 25
What:American Nightmare w/Ceremony When: Tuesday, 2.25, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: American Nightmare is a legit hardcore band in the modern mold. Ceremony was right there with them, though having formed in 2006 during American Nightmare’s hiatus from 2004-2011. But around the time of Ceremony’s 2012 album Zoo its sound if not its raw, confrontational energy as a live band was changing. Hints of a shift from hardcore into something more experimental was all over that record and by the time of The L-Shaped Man from 2015, Ceremony was a post-punk band. Its latest album, In the Spirit World Now has expanded the use of synths in the band’s overall sound has morphed even further in the direction of dance-y darkwave like Devo if that band had somehow emerged following the post-punk revival of the late 90s and early 2000s.
What:Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.
What:Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.
What:New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.
What:Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.
Wednesday | January 15
What:Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.