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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

KyleEmerson_RettRogers
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.

Filth_Feb24_2017_TomMurphy
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

PedestrianDeposit_Jun10_2012_TomMurphy
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

Pile_ElisabethFuchsia
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

hippocampus-creditpoonehghana
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

EmeraldSiam_Apr28_2018_TomMurphy
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

TheCoathangers_JeffForney
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

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

Thursday | October 10

JoshuaTrinidad_Jun29_2019_TomMurphy
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

AdiaVictoria_2019_ShervinLainez
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

MuscleBeach_Oct4_2018_TomMurphy
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.”

Starcrawler_Autumn_de_Wilde
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

ron_pope_the_nighthawks3_NicoleMago2
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

ChameleonsVox_Sep13_2017_TomMurphy
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

NashvillePussy_Sep23_2011_TomMurphy
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

Cellista4_sm
Cellista performs at Mercury Café on Friday, September 27, 2019

Thursday | September 26

PinkTurnsBlue-2016_DanielaVorndran
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

Bellhoss_Aug6_2019_TomMurphy
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

Dodie_KyleJones
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

MikeWattAndTheMissingmen_Apr22_2011_TomMurphy
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

Rowboat1_Jul14_2018_TomMurphy
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

Periphery_012119_2010
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

Processed with VSCO with ku1 preset
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.

Loving_HaroldHejazi
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

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

Friday | August 9

GeneLovesJezebel_IanCollins
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

ThisWIllDestroyYou_Veronika_Reinert
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

UmbrasAnimas_Jun30_2019_TomMurphy
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

PlumeVaria_Jun8_2019_TomMurphy
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

kamasi_washington3_Durimel
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

Altas_2019
Altas releases All I Ever Wanted Was at Rhinoceropolis on June 8. Photo by Evan Semoìn

Thursday | June 6

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

MichaelFrantiAndSpearhead_JayBlakesberg
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

GunStreetGhost_AdamRojo
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

Those_Darn_Gnomes_Anita_Martinez
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.

Possum1
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

EmmaRuthRundle1
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.

Best Shows in Denver 05/16/19 – 05/22/19

Tav-KlausPichler1
Tav Falco’s Panther Burns performs at Lion’s Lair on May 18. Photo by Klaus Pichler

Thursday | May 16

JohnnyMarr_NiallLea1
Johnny Marr, photo by Nial Lea

What: Old Time Relijun w/Shooda Shook It and Moon Pussy
When: Thursday, 05.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Colliding Captain Beefheart-esque outsider atonality with non-western elements of rhythm, Old Time Relijun’s shamanistic, Sun City Girls-esque jazz was unlike much of anything else going on when it launched in the late 90s. Now back together after nearly a decade hiatus, OTR is touring widely in the wake of the release of its 2019 album See Now and Know. Also on the bill for the night is Tucson-based No Wave funk-esque quartet Shooda Shook It and Denver’s confrontational, deconstructionist noise rock stars Moon Pussy.

What: An Evening With Johnny Marr
When: Thursday, 05.16, 7/8:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Johnny Marr is the iconic guitarist from post-punk legends The Smiths. His solo career is also full of worthwhile material in which he gets to show off his gift for complex yet seemingly simple melodies. Live, Marr performs material from across his career and anyone that has seen him might even say the unlikely and point out that his vocals for classic Smiths material are at least as good as Morrissey’s. As the title of the show suggests, an entire evening of Marr’s music and selections from catalog of The Smiths and some choice covers.

What: Glissline
When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ross-Broadway library
Why: Tommy Metz has been making beautiful and affecting ambient/IDM music for over a decade. With Glissline he pushes the production methods further than ever while making very experimental music so accessible it always takes you by surprise.

What: John Catdog and Sobremarcha Musicgroup
When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: John Catdog’s boundary pushing mix of what might be described as abstract industrial dance music and noise informed by radical politics. At other times more downtempo and chill but always interesting. Sobremarcha Musicgroup is a project of Amber Gomez, a formerly Chicago-based DJ and producer whose bright, gently urgent tracks will definitely fill out the room and beyond this night.

What: Jenny Lewis On the Line Tour 2019 w/Karl Blau
When: Thursday, 05.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: On The Line is Jenny Lewis’ latest record and it is the exquisitely composed, lush pop that Lewis has made so well for years with her usual literary flair. But in promoting the record, Lewis might have struck some people as very unvarnished and disarmingly off-the-cuff. But we kind of need that from more artists these days especially those whose art gives one the impression of their embracing classic forms of art and established ways. Jenny Lewis has always been a bit subversive and a little different in the humor department, one might say a secret weirdo who operates in the open, which is why her creative output remains worthwhile because all the weirdness, the eccentricity is there amid the expertise in presenting a conventional front.

Friday | May 17

Calpurnia.-PoonehGhana1
Calpurnia, photo by Pooneh Ghana

What: Nitzer Ebb w/Liebknecht and DJ n810
When: Friday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: With the stridently urgent rhythms and confrontational feel of its 1987 album That Total Age, Nitzer Ebb, like Front 242 and D.A.F., established a template for much later EBM with any bite and vitality.

What: No Gossip in Braille release show w/Emerald Siam and Weathered Statues
When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: No Gossip in Braille is releasing its debut effort Bend Toward Perfect Light on Cercle Social Records at this show. The post-punk duo of Keith Curts of Echo Beds and formerly of Ghost Orchids and Subpoena The Past and Bryan S. Becker formerly of experimental guitar band Annik has crafted a brooding post-punk album of refined emotional expression and lush atmospheres driven by gently urgent electronic percussion. Vocally it’s a bit of a different direction for Curts than most people who have seen his bands in the past two decades are used to as rather than the screaming and highly processed sounds in Echo Beds or Glass Hits, Curts hits some truly melancholic and introspective depths to match the elegant and ethereal guitar work.

What: Duncan Barlow and Natalie Rogers reading
When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Duncan Barlow is known to many for his time in hardcore and post-hardcore bands (Endpoint, Guilt, By the Grace of God) from Louisville, Kentucky as well as punk and Americana bands from Denver (D. Biddle, Lion Sized). But lately he’s been a professor living in Vermillion, South Dakota teaching at the University of South Dakota and continuing to write literary fiction including his 2019 novel A Dog Between Us. Natalie Rogers is a writer whose diverse work background (911 dispatcher, adult caretaker, teacher etc.) informs her own works of fiction. Both will read selections from their body of work.

What: Calpurnia w/Slow Caves
When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Calpurnia’s fuzzy indie rock sounds a bit like a throwback to 70s power/bubblegum pop like The Sweet or The Raspberries though likely filtered through the lens of latter day practitioners of related sounds like Twin Peaks and The Strokes. The band is really young with singer and guitarist Finn Wolfhard turning 17 in December so the band will grow beyond its most obvious current influences. Tracks like “Greyhound,” though, more than hint at promising uses of sound ahead.

What: Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and The Velveteers
When: Friday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Jenny Lewis w/Karl Blau
When: Friday, 05.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Mishawaka Amphitheatre

What: The Beeves (album release) w./Augustus, Nate Cook and Meeting House
When: Friday, 05.17, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Denver Hex Pre-Party: Muscle Beach and Church Fire
When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Saturday | May 18

R A R E B Y R D $
R A R E B Y R D $, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Fem Fest 2019: 2 Kayla Marque, 3 RAREBYRD$, 4 The Milk Blossoms, 5 YaSi
When: Saturday, 05.18, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Why: The 2019 edition of Fem Fest is a celebration of female identified artists and musicians with workshops, a bazaar, DJs, a photo book and live music throughout the course of the event. Of course attendance is open to people of all ages and genders. The numbers listed above before the band/artist is the time slot in the afternoon/evening you can expect to catch their set. Experimental hip-hop and whatever kind of pop one might like to use to describe The Milk Blossoms. But no matter who you choose to check out there are only some of Denver’s greatest on the festival.

What: KGNU Quarterly Showcase: Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Florea (solo), Ghost Tapes and The Guest List
When: Saturday, 05.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: All the local bands on this bill would be worth going to see alone. But the surprise announcement of a performance from Tav Falco’s Panther Burns put the show at the top of our list for this week. The group started in Memphis and its membership included the likes of founding member Alex Chilton of Big Star who performed and toured with the band until 1984 including the well-known 1979 television appearance on Marge Thasher’s Strait Talk program. The host attempts to skewer the band’s performance but Falco deftly turns her criticisms into a chance to make a case for music that truly is rock and roll and not an attempt at following established formula. Falco’s eccentric and brilliant, arty, psychedelic blues punk has exerted a strong infuence on the likes of Jon Spencer, The Oblivians, Spacemen 3, Primal Scream and The Gories. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2018 album of inspired covers (and some originals) ranging 80 years of American music: Cabaret of Daggers. Don’t sleep on this one because a band as legendary and as unique as Tav Falco’s Panther Burns rarely makes an appearance in Denver much less at a small club like Lion’s Lair.

What: Calpurnia w/Slow Caves
When: Saturday, 05.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre

What: Kirin J. Callinan w/Jorge Elbrecht and French Kettle Station
When: Saturday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Time (FL), TetraKroma, Atonal Stimulant
When: Saturday, 05.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Sutphin (KS), TWINK, Felony Charge, Tuck Knee and No Sign
When: Saturday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery

What: Proud Souls Backyard BBQ feat. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Zeparella the All-Female Zeppelin Powerhouse, Saddle of Southern Darkness and New Ben Franklins
When: Saturday, 05.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

What: Cub Sport w/Minor Poet and Modern Suspects
When: Saturday, 05.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Monday | May 20, 2019

Xiu_Xiu_Live Andrea Petrovicova_2
Xiu Xiu, photo by Andrea Petrovicova

What: Xiu Xiu w/Elyria Sequence
When: Monday, 05.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Since 2012’s Always, Xiu Xiu’s albums have become darker and like collections of harrowing stories commenting on the horrors of society. None more so than 2019’s Girl with Basket of Fruit. It could have had its own season of the now canceled SyFy series Channel Zero. There is the experimental folk side of Xiu Xiu that was compelling and thrillingly emotionally raw, a quality that Jamie Stewart developed further in the context of the synth-driven exorcisms of his most recent records. Reminiscent of Suicide in both evocation of stark psychological spaces and richness of tone and mood, Xiu Xiu now embodies what many darkwave bands would like to be but are not yet there.

ChristineAndTheQueens_Suffo_Moncloa
Christine and The Queens, photo by Suffo Moncloa

What: Florence + The Machine: The High as Hope Tour 2019 w/Christine and the Queens
When: Monday, 05.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Was it an accident that Florence + The Machine are playing Red Rocks the night after the airing of the final episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 19? Probably. But it’s more interesting to speculate that is no coincidence for a band that wrote the chilling ballad “Jenny of Oldstones” based on the quasi-mythical wife of Duncan Targaryen, ancient ancestor of Daenerys, of course. Either way, Florence + The Machine’s music has a deserved reputation for its uplifting and diverse mix of pop styles and expansive moods buoyed by Florence Welch’s refined yet soulful vocals. Opening the show is Christine and the Queens, or, simply, Chris, the performance moniker of Héloïse Adelaide Letissier who has used the project and even the name of the project to experiment with adopting a persona and to discuss in song and performance the nature of identity itself. A heady proposition, perhaps, but it has been very much a part of Letissier’s push to writing pop music that challenges assumptions while somehow remaining incredibly accessible. Fans of David Byrne and Laurie Anderson will appreciate Letissier’s almost free association yet coherent compositional style, especially as manifested on her 2018 album Chris, and the sheer playfulness of her songs and stage persona.

What: Omni w/Vic N’ The Narwhals
When: Monday, 05.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Lord Buffalo w/Palehorse/Palerider, Matriarch and Shadows Tranquil
When: Monday, 05.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Tuesday | May 21

TheTwilightSad_DebiDelGrande3
The Twilight Sad, photo by Debi Del Grande

What: The Twilight Sad w/Kathryn Joseph
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Being a cult band can be rough going knowing that you’re doing something special and different, pushing music in a similar vein forward by taking chances and not following trends. Well, to some extent anyway, that has paid off for Scotland’s The Twilight Sad. Post-punk and shoegaze has been a crowded field for the past two decades especially lately when it seems everyone that suddenly realized they liked The Cure and dark post-punk started a band. But The Twilight Sad’s willingness to utilize raw noise and sing with urgency instead of with an affectless, almost disengaged style has always seemed vital and reminiscent of bands like The Comsat Angels and The Sound more than some other bands who might claim similar influences. The group nearly called it quits half a decade ago but it started garnering unexpected attention for its then new album, 2014’s Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, as well as an opening slot on tour with The Cure where the band distinguished itself well. In 2019 the group released its latest album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time and reaffirming itself as a band that doesn’t try to sugarcoat or downplay life’s down sides in its songwriting while providing an excellent soundtrack to work through those times. That part of what informed the writing of the record was tapping into some old Brian Eno songs using Eno’s Oblique Strategy cards as an impetus to writing songs that would be fun to play live sets the new record apart from much of modern rock music by trusting in processes outside of conscious thought to inject creativity into your art.

What: Hyperdontia, Mortiferum, Spectral Voice and Of Feather and Bone
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera

What: Florence + The Machine: The High as Hope Tour 2019 w/Christine and the Queens
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: Camp Cope w/An Horse and Oceanator
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Wednesday | May 22

Radkey_Oct25_2018_TomMurphy
Radkey, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Radkey w/One Flew West and And the Black Feathers
When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Radkey gets lumped in with punk and, oddly, proto-punk probably because its sound is crunchy, dynamic rock music with great, melodic vocal harmonies. But it is a rock and roll band comprised of three brothers whose songwriting owes no stylistic debt to any particular movement or artist. Maybe you could say its reminiscent of Thin Lizzy combined with a good, modern pop punk band. Wherever Radkey is coming from with its music, its high energy live shows are always entertaining. In 2019 the group released its latest album, No Strange Cats…P.A.W where it switches the pace of the songs up more than ever expanding its already respectable dynamic range.

TheFaint_BillSitzmann
The Faint, photo by Bill Sitzmann

What: The Faint w/Choir Boy, Closeness and boyhollow
When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Before it became fairly trendy in the late 2000s and 2010s, The Faint was drawing upon 80s synth pop and mixing it with emotionally-charged post-punk. The band’s second proper album Blank-Wave Arcade from 1998 was a bit of an anomaly somehow reminiscent of Falco, Duran Duran, The VSS and the more interesting 90s emo. By the time of 2001’s Danse Macabre the group had refined to perfection a fusion of electronic and post-punk without sounding like much of anyone else. Eighteen years later The Faint is pushing itself in interesting directions as evidenced by the release of its new album Egowerk. The songwriting straddles the world of electronic dance music and post-punk and with lush production and Todd Fink’s always expressive and melodious vocals swimming in atmospheric grandeur. It is the band’s least traditionally rock sounding record and chances are most suited to the group’s visually dynamic light show.

What: Rhett Miller of The Old 97’s w/Anthony Ruptak
When: Wednesday, 05.22, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater

Best Shows in Denver 04/25/19 – 05/01/19

Interpol_Matador
Interpol headlines Red Rocks on May 1.image courtesy Matador Records website

Thursday | April 25

Starjammer5_SquiddsMadden
Starjammer, photo courtesy Squidds Madden

Who: Starjammer featuring Kuf Knotz
When: Thursday, 04.25, 4 p.m. – ?
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer, the avant-garde dub reggae one-man/device band, will be playing two sets tonight in phases like a rocket launch. The Launch Pad Prep runs from 4-7 and the Late Night Lift Off starts at 9 and runs until the musical equivalent of escape velocity is reached. Or at least until you have to leave whether you want to or not.

Who: Bowshock and El Tigr3
When: Thursday, 04.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records includes Bowshock, the experimental improv psych jazz reggae band.

Who: Stop Motion EP release w/Ramakhandra, Fresh Fruit!
When: Thursday, 04.25, 7
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | April 26

Yawpers_Live_2018_by_Michael_Passman_0
The Yawpers circa 2018, photo by Michael Passman

Who: The Yawpers release of Human Question w/In the Whale and Fast Eddie
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Yawpers have been writing solid, rough around the edges, southern fried punk rock and roll for years. While earlier releases honestly cataloged singer Nate Cook’s headlong dive into desperation and self-destruction, Human Question, with the image of an immolating figure walking out of the fields into the forest on the cover, is more introspective and taking into consideration a subject as the title suggests—what is the purpose and significance of living in the world as a creature fully capable of being self-aware, reflective and capable of extremes of behavior and of consciously choosing a path other than the most immediate and obvious. The record is a collection of rockers but, especially with the single “Carry Me,” The Yawpers prove that they are capable of more than rocking and that even at the root of that is a raw and nuanced cauldron of emotion and now more an ability to write from a place beyond primal urges with a finely tuned discernment as articulated with fiery displays of musical and poetic catharsis.

Who: Superorganism w/Simpson
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Originating in London, Superorganism is an international, multi-ethnic indie pop band whose members met through various internet channels and mutual friends. Its sound might be described as electronic music pitched to sound like something made using unorthodox, highly tactile instruments. In some ways the group’s 2018 self-titled debut is reminiscent of Kala-period M.I.A. with its fusion of styles and sounds and strong visual element to its performances.

What: PRF BBQ Day 1
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: This is a three day music festival featuring some of the better Denver underground bands. On this night you can catch Dead Characters, New Standards Men, Modern Goon and Clutch Plague.

Who: Lotus
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Certainly Lotus’ fan base is largely comprised of those with a love of all things jam band. And Lotus’ free flowing groove and sprawling improvisations fit in that pocket as well. But there’s something more experimental to the band’s music slightly beneath the surface. Its 2018 album Frames Per Second showcases this well with unusual jazz structures and dynamics, moody bass lines, vocal processing, playful and colorful synth work. Like the inevitable musical offspring of Steely Dan and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lotus sounds like a band with chops playing fairly straightforward yet intricate grooves but there is a layer of subversiveness to keep it interesting beyond technical flourishes.

Who: Murs w/DJ Eps, Locksmith, Cojo and AstroGrizz
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Who: Cactus Blossoms w/Jack Klatt
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Outrun presents Final Wave
When: Friday, 04.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hyperspace Arcade

Saturday | April 27

MoonPussy_Jan25_2019_TomMurphy
Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lotus w/Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans
When: Saturday, 04.27, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: If Lotus wasn’t responsible for this line-up directly, someone somewhere put together a great bill of bands who share a similar sensibility in adventurous electronic music suited to a large stage format.
What: DMX w/DJ Chonz
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Weird Touch
When: Saturday, 04.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s one of many hip DJ nights probably more focused on indie releases than average that we’re fortunate to have in Denver.

What: The North Ensemble
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Trident
Why: An avant-garde improvisational show in the back room/outdoors area in the back of Trident. Boulder likes to act like it’s weird but stuff like this is the rare occasion when it is in a productive way.

What: PRF BBQ Day 2
When: Saturday, 04.27, 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Simulators will rip your face off with their angular noise rock and when Moon Pussy finishes the process with its cybernetic psychedelic post-punk you will be glad you went unless you’re into safe, boring music. The other bands are probably worth it too. Schedule below.

430 – 500 – Simulators
515 – 545 – The Oxford Coma
600 – 630 – Moon Pussy
645 – 715 – Laurium
Food break
815 – 845 – Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends
9 – 930 – Hooper
945 – 1015 Sewingneedle
1030 – Future Scars

Sunday | April 28

LaDispute_PoonehGhana
La Dispute, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: La Dispute w/Gouge Away and Slow Mass
When: Sunday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe it’s because Jordan Dreyer was a writer before ever making music. Maybe it’s because La Dispute’s take on post-hardcore and emo isn’t tied to the usual sounds and progressions. Sure you can hear bits of the influence of At The Drive-In and Refused but on another level the band’s music sounds like a heavier Bright Eyes or even Slint—that sense of desolation and desperation. Also on this bill/tour are two other bands within the realm of punk that are a bit different yet share some of the same sensibilities with Gouge Away, a band that combines an atmospheric heaviness with eruptive energy and an unexpectedly forceful frontperson in Christina Michelle. Slow Mass is one of the better bands out there that has fused emotionally taut math rock with fluid post-hardcore.

What: Shibui Denver #2 – Victoria Lundy and Blank Human
When: Sunday, 04.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver avant-garde veteran Victoria Lundy may play some of her classical material on Theremin or some of her spookier faire with the same as well as synth. Blank Human is a drone/ambient project from Dan Coleman also of Luxury Hearse.

What: PRF BBQ Day 3
When: Sunday, 04.28, 4 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Final evening of PRF BBQ including a performance from glam/psych post-punk stars Teacup Gorilla.

400 – 430 – Flowlines
445 – 515 – 50 Miles of Elbow Room
530 – 600 – Little Beards
615 – 645 – Falsetto Boy
Food break
745 -815 – Church Van
830 – 900 – Teacup Gorilla
915 – 945 – Purple Honey
1000 – The Gary

What: Sabroso Taco Fest: The Offspring, Bad Religion, The Vandals, Black Flag, Strung Out, Dwarves
When: Sunday, 04.28, 12 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Kind of a craft beer and taco event with some of the more well-known names in punk. One of the few chances to see Greg Ginn perform with the new version of Black Flag. No matter one’s opinion on that matter, Ginn is always startlingly impressive with the material.

Monday | April 29

BeachFossils_EvanTetreault1
Beach Fossils, photo by Evan Tetreault

Who: Beach Fossils w/George Clanton
When: Monday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Beach Fossils is from Brooklyn but capture a more West Coast breeziness in its melancholic surf pop confections. Unlike artists mining similar territory, Beach Fossils’ songwriting in its emotional colorings. That Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell contributed to the group’s 2017 album Somersault gives the direction Beach Fossils have been going some cachet by lending some of her low key yet evocatively powerful vocals to the record. George Clanton brings his lush, IDM-esque, deeply atmospheric electronic pop along for this leg of the tour as well.

Tuesday | April 30

Bayonne_JackieLeeYoung
Bayonne, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Who: Bayonne and Palm Daze
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Roger Sellers as Bayonne uses minimalist layers of texture-as-percussion and simple melodies to craft atmospheric pop that recalls late 2000s chillwave and its capacity to seemingly dispel anxiety and angst. His latest record, 2019’s Drastic Measures, should be on anyone’s short list for summer listening and to save for the winter months when it seems like warmer times are a distant memory.

What: Ambigere (WA), Causer, Paranoid Preacher and Emotional Calcification
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: The noise show for the week.

What: Sage Francis & B. Dolan: Epic Beard Men and Vockah Redu and Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Sage Francis and B. Dolan, two giants alternative hip-hop and superb lyricists, are touring in their collaborative alternate personas Epic Beard Men. The masterful phrasing won’t be in short supply tonight with Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp and its jazz and beats rooted offerings.

What: Santigold w/Naeem 
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

What: The 1975, Pale Waves and No Rome — canceled
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

Wednesday | May 1

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Lil Pump, photo by Gabe Shaddow

Who: Interpol w/Car Seat Headrest, Japanese Breakfast and Sunflower Bean
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Interpol could just tour on the strength of its fan base and pick some weird music industry management openers (and maybe that is part of this booking) but instead the post-punk stars are having three of the best indie rock bands opening the show. Between Car Seat Headrest’s lo-fi, emotionally raw math rock, Sunflower Bean’s driving, brooding post-punk and Japanese Breakfast’s highly imaginative and powerful guitar rock soundscaping the opening sets alone are worth the price of admission but then you get to see Interpol whose back catalog has held up better than that of many of its peers from the late 90s and early 2000s.

What: Lil Pump w/Lil Skies
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lil Pump turned 18 last August so expecting wisdom and thoughtfulness even on his 2019 album Haverd Dropout might be a bit much. He’s got a long way to go before his mumble trap is in the same league as Migos or his raps and performance in the same realm as Vince Staples or anyone in the A$AP crew or Odd Future. But it’s obvious he’s borrowed a lot from all of them. Nevertheless, Lil Pump is likeable enough despite his deficits and as he grows as an artist and as a human hopefully he’ll grow in more interesting and original directions so that the implicit faith that collaborators like Kanye West, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz put in his sophomore album. It’s clear Pump is a weirdo so with any luck he’ll embrace that side of himself and give us a third album on which he truly lets his freak flag fly.

What: Weird Wednesday: Orbiting Olympia, Elk Minister, Tears to Light
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Weird Wednesday this month features Orbiting Olympia which is a grand alchemy of Eve Orenstein’s opera training and Sean Faling’s mastery of synthesizers both analog and otherwise. Elk Minister is a multi-instrumentalist, self-styled mystic and songwriter who has been sitting on his material for years. His visual presentation on his social media accounts look like he’s come back from some junkyard holy site with the appropriate twenty-third century raiment.

Lizzo_LukeGilford
Lizzo, photo by Luke Gilford

What: Lizzo w/Tayla Parx
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The show is sold out but if you can get in you can catch rising hip-hop/pop star Lizzo before she starts playing much larger venues (like her October date in Denver at the Fillmore) from now on. Her 2019 album Cuz I Love You has the kind of frisson that sounds, at times and certainly the “Juice” single, like something that might have come out of a late 70s-period Studio 54 playlist. Except not dated. And across the record Lizzo shows off her chops as a vocalist of great emotional power and a songwriter with a keen ear for dynamics. Fans of Prince are well-advised to give Lizzo’s new album a deep listen because it’s worth it.

What: Ben Kweller w/Mainman and Modern Love Child
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Best Shows in Denver 2/21/19

Serengeti3
Serengeti performs at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on February 26

Thursday | February 21, 2019

Who: Tokyo Rodeo w/The Born Readies, The Vashon Seed and Landgrabbers
When: Thursday, 02.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: There’s a not insignificant segment of Denver underground music consisting of bands that play all the dive bars and small clubs, garnering an audience but playing music that isn’t being championed much by the local press. But solid bands with good energy and presence and songwriting chops. Some of it straight ahead, bluesy, or southern fried, rock, some of it with a leg in other styles of music but always respectable. In recent years some of these bands included Cutthroat Drifters, The Patient Zeroes and, of course, Tokyo Rodeo. Meaningful storytelling, unexpectedly interesting moods mixed in with layered dynamics and nuanced rhythms that a straight-ahead rock band eschews in favor of run-of-the-mill rocking. There’s more depth to Tokyo Rodeo than all of that and while probably not for everyone that might read this site for the weird music, absolutely worthwhile.

Who: The Gones, Calamity Champs and Sunrise Drive
When: Thursday, 02.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Matt Sumner and Kelly Prestridge are the rhythm section of weirdo art pop band The Inactivists. Sure, plenty of humor there, but also a lot of respectable musical talent. The Gones are their power pop band. Because of who they are along with songwriter and guitarist Jef Krauth there is a sense of humor informing the music but really just a great pop band with some punk energy driving it.

Friday | February 22, 2019

Bison Bone
Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bison Bone album release w/The River Arkansas and Jess Parsons
When: Friday, 02.22, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bison Bone is releasing Take Up The Trouble tonight. The Denver-based Americana band has always written sonically diverse story songs with a literary flair. The new set of recordings seems less dusky than previous offerings but ineffably more direct and confident. Live, like a great honky tonk band that hasn’t devolved into self-parody.

What: Lifeforce 35mm
When: Friday, 02.22, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This concludes The Scream Screen series celebrating the films of Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Lifeforce is his 1985 homage to Hammer horror films in the science fiction disaster fame with the antagonists in the form of three naked vampires from space. Which sounds more lurid and corny than this dark and unusual movie happens to be.

Who: The Bellrays w/The Atom Age and Hot Apostles
When: Friday, 02.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The BellRays are what a lot of bluesy garage rock bands want to be. From Riverside, California, sounding like they hung out with the MC5 in the late 60s. Fronted by the charismatic Lisa Kekaula since the early 90s, The Bellrays are one of the greatest American rock and roll bands right now.

Who: How to Think, Full Bleed, I’m a Boy
When: Friday, 02.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The latest in the Get Your Ears Swoll series at The People’s Building in Aurora. I’m A Boy is one of the most underappreciated, yet best, most dynamic live rock bands out of Denver. Part glam, part power pop, the group includes former and current members of 40th Day and Gata Negra. How to Think claims to be an experimental rock band and it is but its soundsculpting on various songs is like if a funk band abstracted that a whole lot and made use of loops and a sampling aesthetic. Other times How to Think is an unadulterated yet unusual, noisy rock band the likes we saw more of in the heyday of alternative rock before that whole thing got reduced to a limited genre.

Saturday | February 23, 2019

ItsJustBugs_Oct17_2017_TomMurphy_web
It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Plastic Daggers EP release w/Its Just Bugs, FATHERS
When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Kind of a Sailor Records showcase but this time in celebration of the release of Plastic Daggers’ latest EP Stitches. Somewhere between punk and bluesy garage rock, Plastic Daggers are appropriately named with their fuzzy riffs honed to a fine edge propelled by a nearly mechanistic drive. Its Just Bugs blends hip-hop, metal, punk and noise for a sound and presentation that seems coherent and of a while despite its eclectic sonic palette. FATHERS is a post-hardcore band for fans of the likes of Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan.

Who: American Standards, Kenaima, Tuck Knee, Didaktikos
When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is a hardcore show featuring some of Denver’s best younger bands in that vein of music. Catch them early on in their development before they have it figured out.

Who: Rat Bites (last show), Grave Moss (last show), Moon Pussy and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 02.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Carioca Café
Why: Noise rock band Grave Moss has the vibe of an early death rock band but the exorcistic quality of some 80s and/or early 90s performance art like something Diamanda Galas or Karen Finley might have done. Unfortunately, the band is calling it quits after this show. And so is Rat Bites, a group that might have fit in best during the heyday of 31G Records where its unconventional punk wouldn’t have seemed as out of step with where punk went boring. Moon Pussy is similarly-minded and its use of truly inventive guitar treatments built from the onboard electronics out alongside cathartic vocals and rhythms that operate at odd angles against rock orthodoxy makes it one of the most interesting bands in Denver or anywhere now. For fans of Daughters and Parts & Labor.

Sunday | February 24, 2019

BryceVine-FrankMaddocks2
Bryce Vine, photo by Frank Maddocks

Who: Bryce Vine w/Travis Thompson and 7715
When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Bryce Vine is not yet widely known but that’s likely to change with the spring 2019 release of his debut full-length Carnival on Warner Brothers. His deftly executed raps combine aspirational fantasizing (while making it seem attainable if not already inevitable) and introspective speculation. His coolly confident vocals seem to transfer that quality to the listener. With beats that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-crated, electronic indie pop song, Bryce’s music has a cross-genre appeal with undeniable swagger and elegance.

Monday | February 25, 2019

TalosNiallOBrien
Talos, photo by Niall O’Brien

Who: Talos with Aurora
When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Talos, aka Eoin French, recently released his second album Far Out Dust on February 8, 2019. It’s emotionally soaring, richly melodic synth pop. French is skilled at putting together tiny details in a song like he’s live composing an impressionistic film that evolves into something with greater density of detail and color as it progresses on its timeline. His vocal range lends his songs an unconventional range of sonic texture with interesting upper register intonation. Fans of Perfume Genius will find much to like with Talos and his articulation of yearning without desperation.

Who: Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus
When: Monday, 02.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Peter Murphy and David J were two of the four founders of influential art rock/post-punk band Bauhaus. For this tour the two musicians will perform selections from the band’s iconic albums in celebration of the forty years of the group’s founding. Though inspired by glam rock, punk and dub, Bauhaus was also steeped in the avant-garde in film, music, literature and theater. It gave their performances a ritualistic quality that its members took to their projects after Bauhaus initially split up in 1983 (with reunions in 1998 and a brief return from 2005 through 2008). With Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins having toured in 2017 playing Tones On Tail songs as Poptones, maybe we’ll get to see a Love and Rockets tour for Hot Trip To Heaven (as the band never toured for that record, one of its best) or even a full-fledged Bauhaus reunion. Until that now remote possibility this is as close as you’re going to get to seeing these songs get their proper delivery.

Tuesday | February 26, 2019

FATWF-Credit-David-Evanko-3
Frankie And The Witch Hands, photo by David Evanko

Who: Serengeti w/French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: David Cohn aka Serengeti is a prolific musical and artistic chameleon. He often adopts a persona that shapes the aesthetic of a musical project so that when he performs those songs you’ll get a truly idiosyncratic show. Whether that’s as Kenny Dennis or his numerous collaborations with other notable underground/alternative hip-hop artists like Why?, Jel & Odd Nosdam, Sufjan Stevens Sicker Man, Cohn’s imagination and creative vision brings a focus to the project that would be difficult to duplicate or imitate. Opening the show is synth pop/performance art superstar French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $, Denver’s premiere ambient gangsta rap/abstract dub mystic trio. Maybe the only one but an act not to miss on any bill.

Who: Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: See above for 2.25 entry on Peter Murphy and David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus.

Who: Bob Mould Band w/The Trujillo Company
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: For those not in the know, Bob Mould was the pioneering guitarist for Hüsker Dü, a band that operated between the late 70s through the late 80s and one that often played and toured in the punk underground of its hometown of Minneapolis and far beyond. But it never fully fit in with the hardcore scene because its sonics were too weird and its knack for beautiful melodies amidst sometimes abrasive music too much like pop. Hüsker Dü was making a music for the future and exerted a massive influence on all guitar music of the alternative rock era by the early 90s. Mould would start a new band called Sugar as well as launch a solo career immediately after the 1987 dissolution of Hüsker Dü and has navigated a respectable musical career since. Mould still plays with the drive and passion that informed any of his previous projects and his 2019 album on Merge, Sunshine Rock, could be a safely personal record, and it’s not short on that, but Mould injects some of the sharp social and political critique that made Hüsker so interesting but poetically taking on modern concerns with an ear for nuance.

Who: Frankie and the Witch Fingers w/Lot Lizard and Eye and the Arrow
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Frankie and the Witch Fingers sound like they absorbed a ton of early garage and surf rock and the Nuggets compilation then realized they couldn’t simply regurgitate and mime it in the 2000s after so many other bands had done that so well since the 60s. Their music isn’t that fast, silly riffing and then primal scream formula that “worked” for too many bands in the 2010s. Rather, as evidenced on the group’s excellent full-length ZAM, Frankie and the Witch Fingers brought the elegant and intricate leads and the imagination to its songs. They have songs called “Dracula Drug,” “Dark Sorcerer” and “Head Collector” so clearly an offbeat sense of humor and appreciation for kitsch is part of the group’s musical DNA. Yet, the band never comes off as gimmicky or silly. Direct support is post-punk band Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (read our interview with bassist Patrick Nelson here) whose own ghostly garage psych underpinnings fit in well with this bill.

Wednesday | February 27, 2019

Thumpasaurus_CodyChoice
Thumpasaurus, photo by Cody Choice

Who: Thumpasaurus w/Boogie Mammoth and Denver Jamtronica
When: Wednesday, 02.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Sure, Thumpasaurus drummer/producer is Henry Was, son of Don Was. But pedigree is not necessarily and indication of one’s artistic talent. But Thumpasaurus, on the surface a wildly eclectic, weirdo funk band and one informed by a bizarre creative vision that incorporates meme culture (see their video for “You Are So Pretty”), outfits that look like someone borrowed liberally from designers who were told to make clothes for an adult contemporary punk band inspired by a peak EDM light show and the strangeness of Frank Zappa telling listeners to talk to any vegetable. Whatever the constellation of influences, Thumpasaurus have made it their own and now the group is touring in support of its 2018 album The Book of Thump.