Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 13: New Standards Men

New Standards Men, photo by Tom Murphy

New Standards Men make music that defies simple genre categorization. Its threading together and fusing of multiple streams of influence has produced a music that has the subversive spirit of punk, psychedelia and the avant-garde, the technical prowess of jazz and metal and all informed by a sense of humor and disregard for stylistic convention. All while creating a prolific and surprisingly coherent and strong body of work including its 2020 and 2021 companion albums I Was A Starship and Spain’s First Astronaut respectively. The group came together in late 2016 when current members Drew Bissell and Jeremy Brashaw started jamming with another friend to produce music that drew on a desire to make music through a sort of improvisational/spontaneous composition approach that continues in the writing process to this day. The aforementioned albums were written and recorded during the same session but with the music having a slightly different flavor, one more heavy, psychedelic doom jazz, the other more John Zorn-esque free jazz. Companions in mood but clearly different facets of the New Standards Men sound. With now shows happening for over a year the group couldn’t release I Was A Starship in the usual fashion with the album release show but the record managed to pretty much sell out of its first run. It was then the band approached Chuck Coffey of the Denver-based Snappy Little Numbers imprint with the thought of reissuing the album and a tape of Spain’s First Astronaut and give a second wave of energy behind promoting those recordings. We had a chance to sit down with Bradshaw and Bissell to discuss their long history in underground music in both southern Iowa, where both spent much if not all of their formative years, and Denver and their deep comprehension of the dynamics of scenes as well as the process of making and releasing their music.

On Thursday, December 9, New Standards Men will have an album release show at the Hi-Dive as a co-album release show with Alien Neighborhood, joined for the night on stage by SPELLS and Moon Pussy. Listen to the interview with the band on Bandcamp below and connect with New Standards Men and Snappy Little Numbers at the links provided.

Snappy Little Numbers

New Standards Men on Facebook

New Standards Men on Instagram

Best Shows in Denver December 2021

Napalm Death, photo courtesy the artists
Spyderland at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Midwife at Hi-Dive September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Friday | 12.03
What: Lose Your Head: Vitrina (EBM), Hex Cassette (synth goth for Satan), Horse Girl, Ray Diess (synth pop), John Baldwin (pop)
When: 6:30/7 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Place (1527 Champa)
Why: A showcase of some of the newer darkwave/synth pop bands out of Denver at a new venue in the cultural wasteland of downtown.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, photo by Krystal Morris

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.

Eyehategod at Bluebird Theater January 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Moon Pussy at Hi-Dive October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Screwtape at Gothic Theatre November 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Riddy Arman, photo by Mike Vanata

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.

Lindsey Buckingham, photo by Lauren Dukoff

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.

Church Fire at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

FEAR at Marquis Theater in June 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Best Shows in Denver October 2021

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

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

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

Sol Vida Worldwide performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist

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

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

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

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

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

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

Japanese Breakfast, photo by Peter Ash Lee

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

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

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

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen

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

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

cleopatrick, photo by Tanner Pare

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

Cellista, image by Yellow Bubbles Photography

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

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

Valley Maker, photo by Bree Burchfield

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

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

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

Cradle of Filth, image courtesy the artists

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

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

Kal Marks, photo by Greg Scranton

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

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

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

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

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

Tokyo Police Club, photo by Taylor Ohryn

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

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

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.

A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released
This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it  was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life  that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.

Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records

Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?

ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records
Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.

Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group
A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.

Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord

A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight
With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less  ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris  Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and  physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of  hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk  music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A  Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are  more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those  dreams real. 

Autechre | Sign | Warp Records
Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.

Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records

Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN

Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released

Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser

blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released
Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of  Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human  condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are  leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the  modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the  world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or  not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary  Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.  

BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records

Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum
Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.

Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records

Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records
Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.

Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records
Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.

Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser

Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute

Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records
Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.

Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released

Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records
Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.

Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records
Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.

Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released
This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch  Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic  vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that  give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for  pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death  tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent  main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as  mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that  artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.  

cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk

Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop
Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.

Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released

Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released

Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records

Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released

Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings

Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records
Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.

Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze
Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos

Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records

Dyad | Dormant | self-released
Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like  Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for  Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases  their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of  non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard  progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor.  Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk,  Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the  soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo  future jazz sounds. 

eHpH | Infrared | self-released
This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its  introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice  sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity.  The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on  the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most  fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals  draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The  pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing  tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides  a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH  has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the  group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more  contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the  past. 

Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records

Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union

Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim
In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob  Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular  synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp  page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths  and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single  track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted  ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the  heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the  inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.

Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican

Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records

Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress

Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records

Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings
Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.

Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind
The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.

Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish

Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party

Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records

Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records
Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.

French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk

Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD
A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.

Galleries | Resolve | self-released

Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records
Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.

Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records

Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean
In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his  brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and  Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music  who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd  Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is  reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and  bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a  worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local,  experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly  capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of  The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure  Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in  Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.

H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released
Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for  this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous  swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious  sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness  and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a  singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces  that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses  with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.

Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records
Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.

Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings

In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released
In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its  interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with  meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic  set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with  elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The  Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the  enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company  of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own  heavy explorations of the human psyche. 

IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan
Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.

Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records
A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.

Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records

jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records
This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make  statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep  even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called  
“NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so  unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents  than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the  relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to  sound. 

Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released
Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the  trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is  impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to  passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty  demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing  rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent,  and thus thematically limited, perspective. 

Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International

Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom

King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador
Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.

Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego
Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.

KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released
Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the  hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious  emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring  the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks,  Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while  at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and  hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious  thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you  to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself. 

Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released

Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind
Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.

Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim

Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser

Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records
Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic  and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy  has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed  drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and  anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective  unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of  sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence.  These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which  are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come  home to roost of late. 

Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released

Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine

Memory Bell | Solace | self-released

Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop

Midwife | Forever | The Flenser
Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music  and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with  so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And  the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of  hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted,  ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and  sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache  and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into  your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely  restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and  heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen. 

Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released
Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.

Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records
Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.

Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records
Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.

Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records
Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.

Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain

Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four

Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records
Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop  jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured  vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record  the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and  on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go  will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock  riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be  the theme song of these United States.  

Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac

Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records

Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House

Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media

New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released

Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released
The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead.  And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic  record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about  the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop  quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with  a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version  of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of  something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put  on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.  

No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City

Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records

Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records

Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records
Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.

Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released

Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released

Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released

Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records

Pole | Fading | Mute Records

Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records

Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records
On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That  element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the  Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The  vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic  drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is  like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an  appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.

Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records
Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.

Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records
If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.

Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records

Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records

Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released
Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop  out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through  a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite  there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms  seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s  and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross  between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto. 

Riki | s/t | Dais Records
Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.

Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners

Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop

Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM
An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.

Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released

Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey
Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.

SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records

SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers
This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of  adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its  anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the  songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We  Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the  working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be  in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little  Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed  throughout. 

Spice | s/t | Dais Records

Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser
Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.

Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings

Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records

Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released
Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically,  Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album.  Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the  shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and  frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other  media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to  communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of  sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we  can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.  

Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador

Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music

Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released
An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.

Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey

Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim

SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise

Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium

The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released

The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh

The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun

The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze

The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos

Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released
Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.

TI-83 | Demo | self-released

Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory
Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with  historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist  whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On  These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess,  Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle  commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it  seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical  pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.

Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International
Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.

Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records

Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records
Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.

Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records

Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released

Voight | s/t | self-released
Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote  and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like  it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out,  percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a  person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a  coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without  ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.

Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records

Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings

White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released

Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky

WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound

Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop

Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records
Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

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

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

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

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

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

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

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

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

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

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

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

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

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

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

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

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

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

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

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

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

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

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

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

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

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

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

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

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

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

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

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

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

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

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

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

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

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

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

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

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

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

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

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

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

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

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

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

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

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

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

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

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

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

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

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

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

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

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

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

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

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

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

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

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

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

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

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

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

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

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

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

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

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

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

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

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

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

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

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

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

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

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

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

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

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

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

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

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

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

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

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

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

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

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

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

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

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

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

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

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

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

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

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 11/7/19 – 11/13/19

Frankie Cosmos
Frankie Cosmos performs at Bluebird Theater on November 7, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Thursday | November 7

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Stephen Steinbrink circa October 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett
When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.

What: Juan MacLean DJ set w/boyhollow and Retrofette (DJ set)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box

What: HXXS (KC), Luxury Hearse, Kid Mask, Blood Wolf (NM)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

Friday | November 8

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Rett Rogers

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.

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FILTH circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 1
When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs

What: Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.

What: Codename: Carter w/SPELLS and Zephyr
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Roots
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium

Saturday | November 9

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Pedestrian Deposit circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27

NECROPANTHER Photo
Necropanther, photo courtesy the artists

What: Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.

What: Pink Hawks’ Scorpio Party: Pink Hawks, Los Mocochetes, Brothers of Brass, DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: Zebroids, Mr. Pacman, The Half Hearts, Ladies Night
When: Saturday, 11.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Integrity w/Limbwrecker, Victim of Fire and Clusterfux
When: Saturday, 11.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Sunday | November 10

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Pile, photo by Elisabeth Fuchsia

What: Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy
When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.

What: Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.

What: FUTUREBIRDS w/Rowboat and Paul DeHaven
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | November 11

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

What: Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.

Aquabats-ApprovedPress
Aquabats, photo courtesy the artists

What: The Aquabats
When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.

What: RAREBYRD$, Staple (WI), Gone Full Heathen, Heathen Burial and Denizens of the Deep
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Ulthar w/Nightfell, Malum Mortuus and Saeva
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Decide Today (ex-Realicide), Watabou, Church Fire and Techno Allah
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Tuesday | November 12

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Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.

What: FKA Twigs
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.

What: Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.

What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Wednesday | November 13

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The Coathangers, photo by Jeff Forney

What: The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.

What: Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.

What: MONO w/Bell Witch
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: The Get Up Kids w/Kevin Devine and The Whiffs
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Mr. Phylzzz w/Simulators, Church Van and Moon Pussy
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Best Shows in Denver 10/10/19 – 10/16/19

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Sleater-Kinney performs Sunday 10/13 at The Ogden Theatre. Photo by Nikko LaMere

Thursday | October 10

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Joshua Trinidad, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Comet is Coming w/Joshua Trinidad
When: Thursday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Comet is Coming is a London-based trio whose synthesis of jazz, Afrobeat and electronic music is true improvisational kosmische for the modern era. Its two 2019 albums Trust In the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery and The Afterlife take you on a journey to the outer edges of inner space with soundscapes that wouldn’t be out of place on the long running NPR ambient program Hearts of Space or in a musical realm of the 1970s where Tangerine Dream, Fela Kuti and Gong played the same circuit and mutually influenced each other. So who from Denver could open for this outfit? Only one name really comes to mind and that’s jazz scientist improviser supreme, Joshua Trinidad and his own daring displays of mind-altering sonic experimentalism within an expanded realm of jazz.

What: Cécile McLorin Savant
When: Thursday, 10.10, 6:30-10 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Cécile McLorin Savant brings major late night vibes to this other great jazz show in Denver tonight. She takes feelings and stretches them out into a form more easily comprehended than the sometimes gnarled shapes they can take in our hearts. She gives them an air of elegance and soulful comprehension they deserve and interprets them back in her soaring, sonorous voice.

What: Vic N’ The Narwhals w/Claire Morales, Easy Lovin’, The Rewind and 21 Taras
When: Thursday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Friday | October 11

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Adia Victoria, photo courtesy the artist

What: Tank & The Bangas w/Adia Victoria
When: Friday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Adia Victoria’s 2016 album Beyond the Bloodhounds introduced the world to the songwriter’s brooding, expressive, bluesy songwriting. Her 2019 album Silences finds Victoria expanding her sound, now operating in a realm somewhere between Rubblebucket’s soulful pop and Nick Cave’s smoldering intensity. Tank and The Bangas’ hybrid of hip-hop, jazz and R&B is deeply eclectic, lively, layered and uplifting in a way that feels sincere and wholesome without being hokey or self-righteous.

What: Cadaver Dog Japan tour kickoff w/Nekrofilth, Videodrome, Chair of Torture and Pontius Pilate
When: Friday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: ’68 w/The Inspector Cluzo, The Messenger Birds, Plastic Daggers
When: Friday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Gun Street Ghost, Ryann Lee, George Cessna
When: Friday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern

Saturday | October 12

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach w/Palehorse/Palerider, Church Fire and Simulators
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s been a few years since the release of Muscle Beach’s self-titled album. But that time has seemingly been spent honing its sharp edges and wiry and explosive dynamics. Now we have Charms, the new full-length being released at this show. Each track has the irreverently humorous and surreal titles you’d hope a band that sounds like a barely controlled psychotic break with every track would have to let you know that this music is an outlet for the kind of frustration and outrage that is part of everyday life these days. “Ballistic Medicine,” “Rage Charles,” “Swim Team Six,” “When Horns Grow Teeth”? Crazy stuff and the sort of precise yet unhinged post-hardcore that is easy to get wrong. The band’s shows are supercharged and dynamic minus any of the machismo the genre can indulge in too often. But Muscle Beach has never fit neatly into a genre and in its clashing crashing sound there is mood and moments of introspection spliced together with angst blown out into shards of pure catharsis. And the bill is fortunately not a lot of music like that. Palehorse/Palerider is like a doom band gone into some pagan tribal version of industrial space rock. Church Fire is purging ritual, politically incendiary, darkwave dance pop. Simulators is thorny, angular, ebullient post-punk. Easily the local line-up of the week to catch a nice representative slice of Denver underground.

What: Cherubs w/Moon Pussy and Quits
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ
Why: Cherubs formed in 1991 in Austin, Texas and were plugged into the milieu of noisy, weirdo post-punk that one might have associated with the Amphetamine Reptile record label. Except that Cherubs were signed to Trance Syndicate, the label owned by Butthole Surfers’ drummer King Coffey. Think something like Jesus Lizard, Unsane and a doomier Failure. The band broke up in 1994 but came back together twenty years later and have been back to making heavy psychedelic music not much like anything else that overtly claims to mix either. Its new record, 2019’s Immaculada High, is a colossal slab of disorienting riffs and surreal imagery. Opening are two of Denver’s own finest noise rock outfits. Moon Pussy is a trio who improbably combine fluid dynamics with sharp edged soundscaping and emotionally exorcistic vocals. Quits includes current and former members of Denver noise rock legends Git Some, Hot White and Sparkles.

What: Stiff Little Fingers w/The Avengers
When: Saturday, 10.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Stiff Little Fingers from Belfast, Ireland and The Avengers from San Francisco, USA formed the same year, 1977. The Avengers even opened for the Sex Pistols at their final show at Winterland in 1978. Both bands had significant releases in 1979 and Stiff Little Fingers’ Inflammable Material took the subject of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland at the time as a through line for the songs and their stark depiction of life in their hometown and the violence and political oppression then hitting hard. The Avengers’ self-titled EP minced no words on critiquing American culture and racism. Seems the subject matter of their songs are all too relevant again so this tour together is timely.

What: Zizia, Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward
When: Saturday, 10.12, 7:30-10 p.m.
Where: Glitter City Nights
Why: Zizia is Amber Wolfe and Jarrod Fowler who perform a kind of environmental audio experience. Like ambient but it brings in field recordings that bring a sense of place with more traditional instruments and sound-making objects for a unique listening experience. Ryan Mcryhew has performed as Entrancer making forward thinking electronic dance music with modular synths and he is currently expanding his methods to explore the possibilities of those methods in expressing ideas and concepts beyond the purely artistic. Ryan Seward is an avant-garde, improvisational percussionist who for this show will perform Michael Pisaro’s 2011 composition, “A drum acted upon by friction, gravity and electricity.”

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Starcrawler, photo by Autumn de Wilde

What: Starcrawler w/Poppy Jean Crawford and Pink Fuzz
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: On the Starcrawler’s latest album Devour You, the band’s fetchingly fuzzy punk reaches new heights as the group expands its song dynamics and refining its fiery delivery and mixture of distorted and clean sounds across the board. The crashing atonality the group is willing to entertain in the new batch of songs delivers on the promise of its earlier efforts as it moves beyond the sort of sludgy post-grunge doom pop that rightfully garnered it attention as a band to watch with a charismatic frontwoman in Arrow de Wilde.

What: Tank & The Bangas w/Adia Victoria
When: Saturday, 10.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Digable Planets w/5ve and GaDJet
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: The Heroine, Tokyo Rodeo, Lost Relics and Stone Deaf
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern

What: Heavy Shit at Streets: Messiahvore, Never Kenezzard, Sounds Like Words, Audio Dream Sister
When: Saturday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

Sunday | October 13

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Ron Pope, photo by Nicole Mago

What: Sleater-Kinney w/Joseph Keckler
When: Sunday, 10.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: In the mid-90s Sleater-Kinney brought some raw emotional power and intellect to its wiry post-punk and spent the next twenty plus years or so refining that vision and making poignant and inspiring social commentary about what you can aspire to and achieve as a woman in a culture hostile to your dreams. The trio touring for the first time without long time drummer Janet Weiss, and with new drummer Angie Boylan, is taking the music of it’s latest album, the St. Vincent produced The Center Won’t Hold.

What: Ron Pope
When: Sunday, 10.13, 6 p.m.
Where: eTown Hall
Why: Ron Pope is a prolific songwriter from Marietta, Georgia who now calls Nashville home. In a city with numerous singer-songwriters, Pope has stood out with his keen ear for hearing and articulating the thoughts and feelings of the most lonesome times in your life when you’re in your own head sorting through and processing the feelings you don’t often get to when you’re meeting the demand on your psyche of everyday life. His introspective lens and ability to communicate that interiority in a relatable way can be heard across his catalog of spare yet evocative songwriting.

What: Preening, Horse Girl, Harms, Fragrant Mummery
When: Sunday, 10.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Jeremy Porter and the Tucos, The Born Readies, Television Generation
When: Sunday, 10.13, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern

Tuesday | October 15

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Chameleons Vox circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Chameleons Vox and Theatre of Hate and Jay Aston
When: Tuesday, 10.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Chameleons Vox is Mark Burgess, iconic vocalist of Manchester-based post-punk band The Chameleons (in the USA often as The Chameleons UK) who started up in 1981 and whose deeply atmospheric and emotionally raw songs were a major influence on most of the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and beyond with echoes of influence reverberating throughout the post-punk revival of the 1990s and early 2000s to the darkwave of the past decade. Socially critical and thought-provoking, The Chameleons’ body of work had plenty of style but as a kind of compelling delivery system for psychically nourishing content.

What: The Rifle, Pure Weed, Jess Parsons and Bellhoss
When: Tuesday, 10.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Too Many Zooz w/Thumpasaurus
When: Tuesday, 10.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater

Wednesday | October 16

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Nashville Pussy circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Big K.R.I.T. W/Rapsody and Domani Harris
When: Wednesday, 10.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom

What: Nashville Pussy w/Wild Call and Last Rhino
When: Wednesday, 10.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

 

Best Shows in Denver 9/26/19 – 10/2/19

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Cellista performs at Mercury Café on Friday, September 27, 2019

Thursday | September 26

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Pink Turns Blue circa 2016, photo by Daniela Vorndran

What: Pink Turns Blue w/Radio Scarlet and DJ Katastrophy
When: Thursday, 09.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Pink Turns Blue formed in Berlin in 1985. Its dark, moody atmospherics and driving bass lines meant its sound very much resonated with the post-punk of the day as it included synths in the mix and guitar chords that rang out and gave the songwriting an introspective quality. Fans of Chameleons and The Sound will probably much to like about Pink Turns Blue’s melancholic urgency and Mic Jogwer’s desperate yet resigned vocals. The group toured with Laibach in 1987 band recorded subsequent albums in Ljubljana, Slovenia smuggling in studio equipment from the West to do so. When the group moved to London in 1991 it lost some of its momentum and split in 1995. But since 2003 Pink Turns Blue has been active once again ahead of the revival and rebirth of darkwave that has been going on for the past decade. Also on the bill is Radio Scarlet, a Denver-based death rock band.

What: Toro Y Moi wChannel Tres (DJ set)
When: Thursday, 09.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Animal / object, Arc Sol and Joohsup
When: Thursday, 09.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Animal / object is Denver’s premier avant-garde improvisational band utilizing unconventional instrumentation. Arc Sol is proof you can be influenced by progressive rock, psychdelia and Silver Jews and refreshingly sound like none of that while bearing their mark. Joohsup is a left field hip-hop noise duo.

Friday | September 27

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Bellhoss, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cellista’s Transfigurations w/Sean Renner
When: Friday, 09.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Mulimedia artist Cellista recently released an album called Transfigurations with a companion book, A Listener’s Guide to Cellista’s Transfigurations, that gives the ambitious work some context. The album explores those moments in life and in one’s personal and maybe creative development when you are struck and forced to consider the moment and evolve taking in that transformational input. With the processed samples of authoritarian voices speaking to that effect is both chilling and a reminder of those times when we could have stepped in to take a different path but haven’t yet. The album seems arranged as piece of politically-charged, avant-garde literature with an elegantly composed soundtrack that deconstructs and re-synthesizes classical music, pop, hip-hop and sound design. For the live performances of Transfigurations Cellista will incorporate dance, film, music and literature for an experience like little else going on this week or any other in Denver.

What: Babymetal w/Avatar
When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Babymetal is a Japanese “kawaii metal” band whose relentless death metal is overlaid with J-pop-esque vocals and melodies. And the stage shows just like something out of a big time production of a Japanese pop band on one of the massive Saturday marathon variety shows, choreographed dance moves and matching outfits. Gimmicky, to be sure, but weird enough to be enjoyable.

What: Dodie w/Adam Melchor
When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Dodie Clark is an English singer-songwriter whose spare melodies and breathy vocals give the space for her sharply observant and poetic lyrics to develop and create vivid images in your mind of a situation and feeling, a real slice of the experience of that moment. Her 2019 album Human expands the sonic palette some while also imbuing Clark’s voice with more clarity and impact.

What: Adrian Belew w/Saul Zonana
When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Adrian Belew is the brilliant and inventive guitarist whose solo albums are worth exploring for this imaginative songwriting. But some may remember him for his time playing in King Crimson, as a live member of Talking Heads, in Tin Machine with David Bowie or even on William Shatner’s 2004 album Has Been.

What: Mile High Comedy Festival Presents Maria Bamford w/Aparna Nancherla and Jackie Kashian
When: Friday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: The Bammer is the genius, socially critical surrealist of the current era.

What: Bellhoss tour kickoff w/Short Shorts, Mainland Break and Claire Heywood
When: Friday, 09.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bellhoss is taking off for a tour of the American West and launching that with this show including some of Denver’s most interesting indie rock bands in Short Shorts and Mainland Break. Bellhoss’ Becky Hostetler nails the anxiety and hope of modern life on her tender and earnest pop songs.

Saturday | September 28

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Dodie, photo by Kyle Jones

What: John Densmore
When: Saturday, 09.28, 2 p.m.
Where: Boulder Book Store
Why: Doors drummer John Densmore will be signing copies of his 2010 book Doors Unhinged.

What: Dodie w/Adam Melchor
When: Saturday, 09.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

What: Adrian Belew w/Saul Zonana
When: Saturday, 09.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

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Mike Watt and The Missing Men circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Mike Watt & The Missingmen w/Slim Cessna
When: Saturday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Mike Watt is indeed the bassist singer who was a part of Minutemen and fIREHOSE and who has been playing bass in the Stooges of late. This trio includes Tom Watson who was a member of jangle-y post-punk band Slovenly and Raul Morales who also plays with Watt in Mike Watt and the Secondmen. This project combines Watson’s textured, melodic guitar style with Watt’s angular, jazz-inflected, wiry and urgent rhythms. Watt being one of the most animated and talented bass players in all of punk and rock and a sharp social critic is always worth checking out. He’s still jamming econo and the band’s tours and booking are still well within the realm of DIY in the old school and modern sense.

What: Sway Wild w/Megan Rose Ellsworth
When: Saturday, 09.28, 7 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: What saves Sway Wild from being the kind of “Indie” radio darling band that is the stuff of too many would-be tastemaker playlists crafted by those with fairly conventional and safe taste in music is not just Mandy Fer’s warm vocals and her and Dave McGraw’s dynamic songwriting. It’s that making up its charming melodies and playful performances is imaginative and creative instrumentation that displays their technical prowess as players channeled into zesty, tightly crafted pop songs. Currently the trio, which includes Thom Lord, is on tour in support of its self-titled, full-length debut.

Sunday | September 29

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Rowboat, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #6: Total Trash and Rowboat
When: Sunday, 09.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This latest edition of Shibui Denver showcases Total Trash and Rowboat. The former is a psychedelic noise pop group whose members have played with the likes of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Quantum Creep, Lil Slugger, The Pseudo Dates and other bands that mean little if you’ve not been paying attention to the Denver underground of the past ten years. But it also means some of the more creative musical talents in the realm of local rock music have come together to make something different from what they’ve done before. Rowboat combines literary yet deeply emotional and heartfelt lyrics with haunting atmospheres and melodies in songs that plumb the depths of human existence and the things that give meaning to our lives.

What: Mike Watt & The Missingmen w/Slim Cessna
When: Sunday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

Tuesday | October 1

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Periphery, photo courtesy the artists

What: Periphery w/Veil of Maya and Covet
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Progressive metal band Periphery sounds more like a post-hardcore band than simply metal. And probably because the attack of its songs is fairly angular and driving in a way that sounds more like it comes out of a similar place of primal energy. Although there’s plenty of precision and technical prowess on display in its songs with many songs in drop C on the six-string, the group’s songs often sound like they’re about to fly off the rails. Sometimes bands with those types of sounds and dynamics take themselves way too seriously but Periphery’s 2019 album is called Periphery IV: Hail Stan. There is a song called “Chvrch Bvrner” and references to the supernatural and animals. So someone in the band, probably everyone involved, has a healthy sense of humor and an ability to see its music in a way that evolves organically than the sort of pure logic level that is often assumed with the genre.

What: Plague Vendor w/No Parents and The Ghoulies
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Plague Vendor came off as a fairly straightforward melodic punk band early on. But at this point, and particularly on its new album By Night, the band from Whittier, California has evolved its sound into something more akin to glammy post-punk without sacrificing its fiery energy.

What: An Evening With Paula Cole
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Buffalo Rose
Why: Paula Cole made her popular music bonafides as an act on Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live tour from 1993-1994. Her musical background includes having studied jazz singing at Berklee College of Music and in her dusky, soulful vocals you hear that training put to good use. In 1996 her second album This Fire yielded the hit single “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and like anything popular it got played ad infinitum making it easy to dismiss Cole like any other pop act put forth by the music industry as it tried to find hitmakers in the collapse of the alternative music explosion of the early 90s. But Cole, turns out, has always been a strikingly powerful performer and her performances for the final Lilith Fair tour in 1998 undoubtedly won her fans who had written her off previously. Currently Cole is performing a string of intimate shows in support of her 2019 record Revolution.

What: Ghosts of Glaciers album release w/In the Company of Serpents and Echo Beds
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver-based progressive metal/post-rock trio Ghosts of Glaciers returns with its new album The Greatest Burden released through Translation Loss Records. More than even previous releases, the group conceives of this arc of songs in cosmological time from the primordial oceans that spawned life (the opening track titled “Primordial Waters” through the inevitability of the decay and collapse of the eons long cycle of life and the fall into the chaos that will once again spawn new worlds and universes. The music charts that path with slow, dynamic arcs that dive into furious, churning progressions and sublime, swimming melodies. To celebrate the release of this new record the band will share the stage with local doom juggernauts In the Company of Serpents who have some of the most compelling and powerful art in the local scene and industrial post-punk legends Echo Beds.

What: The Waterboys
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Waterboys came out of Edinburgh, Scotland with a blend of Celtic folk and post-punk and made inroads into the world of 80s “college rock.” While not as dark and overtly political as an arguably like-minded band like New Model Army, The Waterboys extolled the virtues of a universal mysticism based in nature and how that connects everyone. Fans of The Hothouse Flowers and The Alarm will definitely find much to like about The Waterboys who are now touring in support of their 2019 album Where the Action Is.

What: Prissy Whip, Moon Pussy, New Standards Men
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Prissy Whip is an eruptive industrial noise rock band with the emphasis on noise and breakneck dynamics. Who to compare them to other than maybe Melt Banana? New Standards Men is the kind of weirdo experimental metal band you get when the people in the band are into way more music than what you might think listening to what they’re doing. Probably into Naked City as much as the Locust and Neurosis. Moon Pussy combines gnarly song dynamics with a thorny tunefulness that is impossible to ignore making it one of the most interesting bands out of Denver right now.

What: Titus Andronicus w/Control Top
When: Tuesday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Wednesday | October 2

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Kishi Bashi, photo by Max Ritter

What: Weird Wednesday: After the Carnival, Cop Circles, Enji w/Cabal Art
When: Wednesday, 10.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: No Wave disco artist Cop Circles will bring plenty of the weird this time around for this edition of the monthly showcase of unusual and outside music curated by Claudia Woodman.

What: Wheelchair Sports Camp w/Dry Ice and Rocket Dust
When: Wednesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant combination of jazz chops in the live end of the music and experimental beatmaking and playful, conscious wordplay on the production and MC end. And a powerful and compelling live band to boot. This is the group’s launch show for its upcoming tour.

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Loving, photo by Harold Hejazi

What: Loving
When: Wednesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Victoria, British Columbia’s Loving turns the sort of introspective, light psychedelic pop sound on a different angle because its music really does sound like the band is going to take you on a trip to some otherworld realm of elegance where time and space are interactive concepts driven by your imagination so better brush up on your creative skills before sitting down to one of the band’s trippy folk records.

What: Kishi Bashi w/Takénobu
When: Wednesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: The Pharcyde w/Ladygang (Weds) and Wes Watkins (Thurs)
When: Wednesday, 10.02 and Thursday 10.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

Best Shows in Denver 8/9/19 – 8/14/19

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Rolling Stones perform at Mile High Stadium on August 10. Photo by Dave Hogan.

Friday | August 9

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo by Ian Collins

What: The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel
When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.

What: The Yellow Rake 15 year anniversary night 1 w/Simulators, Moon Pussy, Charly Fasano, Brian Polk and Karl Christian Krumpholz
When: Friday, 08.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Yellow Rake is a Denver-based literary and culture magazine that is celebrating a remarkable fifteen years in existence with performances from local bands Simulators and Moon Pussy and writers and artists Charly Fasano, Karl Christian Krumpholz and Yellow Rake founder Brian Polk. The celebration will run two nights beginning tonight at Mutiny Information Café.

What: Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word
When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tracks
Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.

Saturday | August 10

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This Will Destroy You, photo by Veronika Reinert

What: This Will Destroy You w/Brin
When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.

What: Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour
When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mile High Stadium
Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.

What: GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.

What: The Yellow Rake 15th Anniversary Night 2: SPELLS, Black Dots, Muscle Beach and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second night of The Yellow Rake’s celebration of fifteen years of existence takes place at the Hi-Dive with some of Denver’s best punk and post-hardcore bands.

What: Glasss Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.

12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat

Sunday | August 11

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Glasss Fest Day 2
When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above for Glasss Fest.

1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
4:30 Wngdu
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
9:30 Sadbug
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set

Tuesday | August 13

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Plume Varia, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.

What: Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.

What: Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.

Wednesday | August 14

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Kamasi Washington, photo by Durimel

What: Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington
When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 06/06/19 – 06/12/19

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Altas releases All I Ever Wanted Was at Rhinoceropolis on June 8. Photo by Evan Semoìn

Thursday | June 6

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Reverend Dead Eye circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Reverend Dead Eye w/Vic N’ The Narwhals and DJ Rett Rogers
When: Thursday, 06.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Reverend Dead Eye now lives in Switzerland and mostly tours Europe but on occasion he graces his old stomping grounds (literally and figuratively) of Denver and treats us to a set of wild-eyed gospel blues post-punk. He will be joined this evening by rock and roll band Vic N’ The Narwhals with a DJ set from Blue Rider and Bad Licks guitarist Rett Rogers.

What: Honduh Daze, Moon Pussy and Demoncassettecult & Junior Deer duo
When: Thursday, 06.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Vachco Before Horses is celebrating his birthday doing a duo set as Demoncassettecult and Junior Deer so it’ll be a bit of weirdo hip-hop and ambient soul. Moon Pussy is like Denver’s industrial-esque equivalent of a noise rock band like Shellac but with some on board guitar processing to help sculpt those sounds into the bands already eruptive, angular and cathartic groove.

What: Talib Kweli w/Voz 11, 1-natVson-1 and Time
When: Thursday, 06.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Talib Kweli is one of the reigning poet laureates of hip-hop, politically charged as his is and otherwise. Check in anywhere in his catalog and you’ll find something vital and thought-provoking and outright compelling whether that’s records under his own name or projects like Black Star. As usual the opening acts for one of his shows is quality including Time whose fusion of underground/experimental hip-hop, humorous and organically intellectual wordplay and socio-political insight is never less than mind-expanding and fun. Voz 11 is kind of an industrial rap artist who will be joined for this show by Wesley Davis of Symbolic Insight Records and ambient solo project Bios+a+ic.

Friday | June 7

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Spearhead, photo by Jay Blakesberg

What: Michael Franti and Spearhead w/Snarky Puppy and Victoria Canal
When: Friday, 06.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Whether you prefer his time in industrial rap groups The Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy or his current work in conscious reggae fusion folk band Spearhead, Michael Franti has been aiming his creative compass toward critiquing the dominant paradigm with the goal of creating a better, more nurturing and healthier world. As per usual, prior to the concert proper there will be a yoga session at Red Rocks starting at 4:30 p.m.. May seem quaint to some but at least Franti isn’t giving mere lip service to self-improvement. The band is currently touring in support of Stay Human, Vol. II which came out in January. Also on the bill are jazz fusion prog stars Snarky Puppy.

What: Instant Empire w/Anthony Ruptak and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 06.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Instant Empire. The indie rock band has been through some changes but has endured to give us Cathedral, a set of the usual thoughtful songwriting and evocative music from the band. Read our interview with Scotty Saunders from the band soon.

What: Amygdala, Caffeine, Euth, Sore Eyes and Herse
When: Friday, 06.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A show that proves that current hardcore is not all the same or trying to mimic the sound or style from something 35+ years ago while not skimping on the energy and sense of danger that made that music exciting in the first place.

What: Pete Tong
When: Friday, 06.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Pete Tong is an influential figure in modern electronic music and EDM. Early in life he was something of a soul music DJ on radio in the UK and then as the 80s moved on, a pioneering DJ of Acid House and the Balearic beat that his friend Paul Oakenfold helped to popularize. Oakenfold, joking, coined the expression “It’s all gone Pete Tong” in 1987 to indicate things have gone a bit wrong. Through his ongoing electronic music shows at the BBC (Essential Selection and It’s All Gone Pete Tong) and his efforts at curating and making accessible electronic dance music in the USA. Tong has done big shows in Ibiza and all around the world but this night he’s doing his thing at a small club like Bar Standard.

What: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Curse Mackey and Church Fire
When: Friday, 06.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is not just the horror carny pioneering industrial dance band but also, on most nights, one of the greatest, most fun live bands of all time. Denver’s Church Fire is not nearly as camp but there is an element of playful theatricality to its performances of its own brand of industrial music that is really more a kind of politically-informed synth pop. No down side.

Saturday | June 8

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Gun Street Ghost, photo by Adam Rojo

What: Out There Arts Fest with Blackcell, Church Fire, DJ Mudwulf, Raw Form, Vahco, DJ Spinshits
When: Saturday, 06.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Grace
Why: This is an event to showcase the art space Grace and includes live performances from the above as well as visual/conceptual art and artists, workshops, food and outdoor murals.

What: Altas w/Plume Varia and Voight
When: Saturday, 06.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: With its new album All I Ever Wanted Was, Denver-based instrumental rock band incorporated the electronic/synth side of the band more completely with keyboard player Meghan Lillis contributing full in the songwriting and arranging process with the core and founding trio of Enrique Jimenez, Israel Jimenez and Juan Carlos Flores. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias lived up to its name and the cinematic scope the band has always conjured with its songwriting. But there is an even greater cohesion and focus this time out with some tongue in cheek titles from a band whose membership has always been on point with the humor. “Cosas Nunca Dichas” is Spanish for “Things Never Said.” The dual meaning including the fact that there are no lyrics in an Altas song is pretty good. “Glasgow Smile”? Surely a significance beyond suggesting it’s a nod to Mogwai exists but that’s also pretty choice as Mogwai use plenty of inside jokes and humor for songs that need no spelling out of meaning. “Valentin Trujillo (An Unsung Hero)” is presumably a reference to the famous Mexican actor who was a major star in the 1980s and whose films often dared to make thoughtful commentary on the politics and culture of his home country and beyond. The final song on the album “Rattenkönig,” or “Rat King” in German. There’s got to be a story there and we hope to bring that to you at some point. The more you delve into the new record and its gorgeously expanded dynamic and sonic palette the more there is to discover as with all great albums. And hey, you get to see the great dream pop band Plume Varia and industrial post-punk soundscapers Voight while you’re at it.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll 7: Sliver, Married a Dead Man and Hate Minor
When: Saturday, 06.08, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Hate Minor is an artsy prog duo with former Nightshark and Aenka saxophonist Becca Mhalek on drums. Married a Dead Man is a death rock/post-pun/darkwave four-piece that came out of hardcore. Sliver, how a band that mapped out and deconstructed and reconstructed “Break Stuff” as inspiration for all their songs is on a bill like this it’s difficult to say. Good thing singer/guitarist Chris Mercer’s bandmates are patient, understanding, indulgent people and when he, as promised, he gets around to writing the next album around “Sick of Life” because it “nearly got [him] to join the Navy, dude,” some people can join in on the intervention.

What: Gun Street Ghost album release w/Jeff Cramer and New Mexican hi-dive.com/event/1855201-gun-street-ghost-album-release-denver
When: Saturday, 06.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: In calling the new Gun Street Ghost album Battles it seems as though the band is preparing us for a record brimming with great stories of the struggles we’d rather avoid or skip but which we fight every day without knowing it. Thinking person’s pop written in the language of honky tonk Americana.

What: Johnnascus, Karhlyle, Causer, Kid Mask, HXCMIDI and Henny Graves
When: Saturday, 06.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Austin’s Johnnascus is an industrial rap artist whose videos are not only interesting but borderline scary in the way Creepy Pasta videos can be. It’ll be a good pairing with Detroit’s Karhlyle and his downtempo techno/hip-hop, Kid Mask’s own genre bending noise/industrial hip-hop beatmaking and the electronic/breakcore hardcore of HXCMIDI.

What: Neckbeard Deathcamp, Theories, Dryad and Malevich
When: Saturday, 06.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar-K (Colorado Springs)
Why: Neckbeard Deathcamp is the parody black metal/noise industrial band that put out the gloriously titled White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers in July 2018. Brilliant send-up and the music is oddly legit as well.

Sunday | June 8

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Those Darn Gnomes, photo by Anita Martinez

What: Bobcat Goldthwait and Dana Gould gothictheatre.com/events/detail/372302
When: Sunday, 06.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: A lot of people probably remember Bobcat Goldthwait as that crazy guy with the piercing whine from the Police Academy movies. But he never would have got there if not for his brilliant work as an alternative comedian in the 1980s when he would pierce hypocritical pieties with confessional and surrealistic observations and bits that helped to push comedy in a more interesting direction at arguably the early peak of the popularity of stand-up. He has gone on to be a noteworthy filmmaker whose movies (e.g. Shakes the Clown, God Bless America and World’s Greatest Dad) not just darkly humorous but which shine a light on aspects of our culture that are often ignored and if we stopped doing so we might have a healthier society. Dana Gould has been performing his own brand of borderline surreal comedy since the early 80s as well and coming to be known by a more mainstream audience though a comedian of choice for those with a taste for left field humor for decades.

What: Fuck Your Birthday w/Those Darn Gnomes, Narcissa and Galleries
When: Sunday, 06.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Fuck Your Birthday is an American and Chinese, noisy math/garage rock band. That means it has elements of early 90s emo and harder-edged garage rock but doesn’t really fit in with either to well. More like Rainer Maria or Japandroids than some post-hardcore or screamo band. Those Darn Gnomes are somewhere betwixt a free jazz performance art band, grindcore and art folk. Narcissa is a like-minded band from Denver and Galleries is sort of a psychedelic hard rock band.

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Possume, photo courtesy the artist

What: Slugger w/Possum, After the Carnival and more
When: Sunday, 06.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Toronto’s Possum is a fuzz-toned, heavy psych band. And while that sound is basically old hat at this point except to later comers to modern psychedelia, Possum’s version of that is not the kind that comes off like neo-Laurel Canyon vibe worshipping indie rockers discovering the use of a Memoryman and a Big Muff with a tiny bit of wah. It’s mind-melting epics take a deep dive into drawn out melodic grooves that take some chops and commitment to sonic exploration to craft. Also the band has a song called “Wizard Beard” so it’s not all without a sense of humor. Sharing the bill is a band with a tentacle or two in 70s hard rock and psychedelia with Slugger. But as with Possum, Slugger’s strength is in the songwriting and being of that world rather than wearing it like a trendy outfit.

Tuesday | June 11

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Emma Ruth Rundle, photo courtesy the artist

What: MONO w/Emma Ruth Rundle
When: Tuesday, 06.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theaterthos
Why: Tokyo’s MONO makes post-rock with a classical music sensibility that makes a lot of other bands working in that realm of music seem safe and quaint. Emma Ruth Rundle’s heavy, dark, doom folk is somehow both intimate and majestic. Her latest album On Dark Horses is a trip to, as the title suggests, the shadowy places of the psyche in search of an inner truth that can be elusive unless you’re willing to go all in and face the buried pain and your dark side with compassion and acceptance. It’s her heaviest record to date and her most daring to date.