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 2/21/20 – 2/25/20

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt performs at Bluebird Theater on February 23, photo by Beto Barkmo

Friday | February 21

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Stonefield, photo courtesy the band

What: Kyle Emerson w/Turvy Organ, Panther Martin and Crystal Seth
When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. Tonight he shares the bill with stars of the local indie rock milieu in Turvy Organ and Panther Martin.

What: Stonefield w/Pink Fuzz, SSIIGGHH
When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Amy, Hannah, Holly and Sarah Findlay are four sisters that formed the hard psychedelic rock band Stonefiled in 2006 in Darraweit Guim in Victoria, Australia. Its early offerings (for example Through the Clover) were in the realm of 70s boogie rock with hints of the psychedelia that would characterize their later songwriting. By the time of 2019’s Bent, the group hasn’t shed its infectious tunefulness but its overall sound is much heavier, brimming with expertly sculpted melodic fuzz and at times bordering on a fusion of Krautrock and early 2000s stoner rock. Fans of Stereolab, Trans Am and Hawkwind will find a lot to like about this latest incarnation of the band’s evolution.

What: Jack Wright/Ben Wright+Michael O’Neill/Ryan Seward, New Standards Men, Ryan McRyhew and Chris Culhane
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of avant-garde jazz, improvisational experimental rock and analog synth composition.

What: Tonguebyte (EP release) w/Paul Maul, Cagemates and CFX Project
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Saturday | February 22

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Ezra Furman, photo by Jessica Lehrman

What: Ezra Furman w/Kelley Stoltz
When: Saturday, 2.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ezra Furman’s 2019 album Twelve Nudes is a lush yet somehow lo-fi collection of songs filled with raw emotion and experiences presented with a startling honesty couched in the sound of some 1960s girl group sound fused with fuzzy garage rock production. It’s a fascinating and bracing listen that gets past your filters before the impact of what you’re hearing hits you and the experience awakens you to the playful weightiness of Furman’s songwriting.

What: Shadows Tranquil, Emerald Siam, Midwife and Ophelia Drowning
When: Saturday, 2.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Dark, shoegaze-y post-punk band Shadows Tranquil performs this night with the brooding yet transcendent Emerald Siam, Midwife’s riveting, ethereal, tender, intimate soundscapes and Danish dungeon synth project Ophelia Drowning.

What: Kendra & The Bunnies
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kendra & The Bunnies brings an unconventional and disarming creativity and sensitivity to a folk psychedelia that seems out of place and out of time. When so many modern indie bands are still mining Laurel Canyon, Kendra & The Bunnies tapped slightly into the vibe of Northern California hippies and made it their own.

What: Cyclo-Sonic, Joy Subtraction and The Pollution
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 1010 Workshop
Why: Cyclo-Sonic is comprised of veterans of Denver’s great second era of punk in the 80s with former members of The Fluid, The Frantix, Rok Tots and The Choosey Mothers. Which would mean not much if the band wasn’t any good but it turns out that the band’s leftfield reinterpretation of melodic proto-punk and garage is shockingly vital and compelling. Joy Subtraction came out of the more arty end of punk inspired by the likes of Alice Donut and Nomeansno. The Pollution is an unlikely merging of psychedelic prog and punk.

What: Bernstock 2020: Innerspace, False Report, Castele, Lungburn, Rotten Reputation and Wall of the Fallen
When: Saturday, 2.22, 5 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Local Denver punk and hardcore bands come together for a fundraiser to benefit the only candidate in the Democratic race to run against Trump that fully embraces a pro-working class agenda and grassroots democracy.

What: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Colfax Speed Queen and Pout House
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Sorted #12: Objekt and Pariah
When: Saturday, 2.22, 10 p.m.
Where: TBA

Sunday | February 23

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt, photo by Beto Barkmo

What: Shibui Denver #10: Fern Roberts and Red Wing Black Bird
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of Shibui Denver will feature darkwave project Red Wing Black Bird and the latest band from former Emerald Siam and Light Travels Faster bassist Todd Spriggs, Fern Roberts.

What: Chastity Belt w/Nanami Ozone and Hugh F
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chastity Belt has been on a great run of seeming to reinvent its aesthetic over the past two or three records. Its 2019 self-titled record has seemingly shed whatever influences informed its earlier work in favor of a more introspective, dream pop-esque, borderline post-punk aesthetic but rooted in a sophisticated expression of emotional complexity, the kind that only comes with processing loss whether personally, or of one’s place in the world or of one’s community or feeling lost in a world where things seem upended and your place in it seems tentative. Who can say is the reason for this change but it is the group’s finest offering to date in its ability to evoke feelings that a more straight ahead rock and roll songwriting style struggles to articulate.

What: Kendra & The Bunnies
When: Sunday, 2.23, 4-6 p.m.
Where: The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland 4-6 p.m.

What: Standards, Floral, How to Think and Birdhouse View
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Dweezil Zappa Hot Rats Live + Other Hot Stuff 1969
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Monday | February 24

What: Hannibal Buress w/Al Jackson and Tony Trimm
When: Monday, 2.24, 10”:15 p.m.
Where: Denver Comedy Works
Why: This is a free pop up comedy event featuring Hannibal Buress whose sharp, surreal comedy takes aim at the ridiculousness of modern life and odd ideas we all take for granted. He has also appeared in film and numerous television shows including brilliant turns on the Eric Andre Show and Broad City. For tickets signup/rsvp @ www.hannibalburess.com also text 312-584-5839 for a chance at tickets.

Tuesday | February 25

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Ceremony, photo by Rick Rodney

What: American Nightmare w/Ceremony
When: Tuesday, 2.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: American Nightmare is a legit hardcore band in the modern mold. Ceremony was right there with them, though having formed in 2006 during American Nightmare’s hiatus from 2004-2011. But around the time of Ceremony’s 2012 album Zoo its sound if not its raw, confrontational energy as a live band was changing. Hints of a shift from hardcore into something more experimental was all over that record and by the time of The L-Shaped Man from 2015, Ceremony was a post-punk band. Its latest album, In the Spirit World Now has expanded the use of synths in the band’s overall sound has morphed even further in the direction of dance-y darkwave like Devo if that band had somehow emerged following the post-punk revival of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

Heilung_RubenTerlouw_@Wuodans
Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

MuscleBeach_Oct4_2018_TomMurphy
Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver 12/05/19 – 12/09/19

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She Past Away performs at Marquis Theater on December 6, photo by Jonas Fransson

Thursday | December 5

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The Ocean Blue, photo courtesy Darin Back

What: The Ocean Blue
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Dream pop band and precursors of modern indie pop, The Ocean Blue, makes a stop in Denver in support of its new album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Read our interview with singer/guitarist David Schelzel here.

What: Dog Basketball and Dry Ice album release
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Old Main Chapel CU 1600 Pleasant St. Boulder 80302
Why: Dual album release show from experimental pop band Dog Basketball and “psychedelic dream punk” band Dry Ice from Denver. A rarity to see any show at Old Main much less something this underground and experimental.

What: Morbid Angel w/Watain and Incantation
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Friday | December 6

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlet and WitchHands
When: Friday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: She Past Away is the Turkish post-punk band from Bursa that began in 2006 and making them early adopters of the current darkwave movement. Its synth and bass-driven songs have a different quality than its Western European and American counterparts while sharing that dark, introspective quality that is clearly descended from the likes of D.A.F., Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox with an aesthetic that isn’t so far removed from its punk roots. The group’s third and latest album 2019 Disko Anksiyete saw a dual release on Fabrika Records and Metropolis Record and with a US tour currently under way it’s proof that its music transcends barriers of language.

What: Altas with Tiffany Christopher
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: Instrumental rock band Altas performs at Denver Open Media for a free show with Tiffany Christopher. Altas released the powerfully cinematic All I Ever Wanted Was in June 2019.

What: Josh Miller (MI), New Standards Men, Dean Berlinerblau and 50 Miles of Elbow Room
When: Friday, 12.6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Elektric Animals w/The Hollow, Star Garbage, False Report
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Saturday | December 7

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May Erlewine, photo by Michael Poehlman

What: May Erlewine w/Dango Rose
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Tuft Theatre (Swallow Hill)
Why: May Erlewine is a prolific blues folk artist from Big Rapids, Michigan with fifteen albums under her belt since 2003 including 2019’s In the Night. Erlewine cut her teeth as a live performer, according to a piece on MTV.com, while hitch hiking across North America and performing on the streets. For In the Night Erlewine picked herself up from the state of despair that hit many people in the wake of the Trump presidency and use her music as way to address 45’s ignorant and hateful and destructive remarks and behaviors with thoughtful commentary and observations on life and the American culture she and many of us know to be much more authentic than the spewage from a pampered, narcissistic child of privilege. But expect that music to be delivered with Erlewine’s usual warmth, nuance and strength with her dynamic and elegant voice.

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Lettuce, photo Courtesy Casey Flanigan

What: Lettuce w/Antibalas and Chris Karns
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lettuce is an experimental funk band that has crossed over into the realm of jam bands and EDM even though its music has ranged far afield of that for years including its 2019 album Elevate. The group freely borrows from styles and sounds to craft its signature synthesis of funk, Afrobeat, jazz and electronic pop.

What: Vio-Lence, Havok and Axeslasher
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: American Grandma presents SUPERDOG w/Midwife and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Saturnalia: Church Fire, Chess at Breakfast, Punk Rock Burlesque, Katalysk, Plasma Canvas
When: Saturday, 12.7, 6 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

What: Don Chicharron, Wolf van Elfmand, Dylan Earl, Tiger Saw and DJ Wax Dattie
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Cattle Decapitation w/Atheist, Primitive Man and Vitriol
When: Saturday, 12.7, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: M I N O R w/Quiet Warlock and Phil Beard
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Sharone album release w/Something For Tomorrow, Asylum 9 and 21 Taras
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: The Slacks, The Crooked Rugs and Sliver
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

Sunday | December 8

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Anamanaguchi, photo by Leia Jospe

What: Anamanaguchi w/Default Genders and Nullsleep
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Mix an anthemic J-pop band with an 8-bit glitchcore project and a progressive rock/jazz fusion band and task it to make dynamic and engrossing video game music with an uncommon sense of space, composition and emotional impact and you have Anamanaguchi. Particularly on its 2019 album [USA]. Seems gimmicky at first but the New York-based band doesn’t get stuck in the hyperactive songwriting that plagues a lot of “Nintendocore” acts or the dull focus on displays of technical prowess and knowledge of theory that is behind a lot of prog. Just well crafted, expansive pop songs that feel like endless possibilities and the positive ghosts of childhood reverie manifested in sound.

What: Surrender Signal, No Comma, Downward Sun and We Are Not a Glum Lot
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | December 9

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Alex Cameron, photo by Chris Rhodes

What: Alex Cameron w/Jackladder and Emily Panic
When: Monday, 12.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2019 album Miami Memory is like a set of vignettes about people in crisis. But the take is one of compassion and understanding without trying to underplay or make light of the struggles. At a time when a lot of synth pop is generic, Cameron’s eccentric and psychologically insightful take on songwriting is strikingly different with a knack for changing up the vibe, texture and tone of his songs throughout an album. Just watch the video for “Far From Born Again” for a bit about Cameron’s keen understanding of the human condition.

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

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

Thursday | September 26

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Pink Turns Blue circa 2016, photo by Daniela Vorndran

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

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

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

Friday | September 27

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Bellhoss, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | September 28

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Dodie, photo by Kyle Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | September 29

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Rowboat, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Tuesday | October 1

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Periphery, photo courtesy the artists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday | October 2

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Kishi Bashi, photo by Max Ritter

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

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

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Loving, photo by Harold Hejazi

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

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

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

Best Shows In Denver 8/1/19 – 8/7/19

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Stef Chura performs at Larimer Lounge on Tuesday, August 6

Thursday | August 1

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Gary Wilson, photo courtesy the artist

What: Line Brawl (final show), Potato Pirates, C.O.ntrol T.V., Remain & Sustain and Mindz Eye
When: Thursday, 08.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Line Brawl was one of the best hardcore acts out of Denver’s scene in the most recent wave of that sort of music. Its short, sharp dynamics and fit a lot of fury into songs that built up and ended with all but the sparest self-indulgence cut out. Catch them for the last time with some other heavy hitters in the local punk scene.

What: Part Time w/Gary Wilson and French Kettle Station
When: Thursday, 08.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Part Time has been around for over twenty years at this point, probably, and its music sounds like it began in the late 80s inspired by The Power Station gone synth pop. Could be outsider, definitely eccentric. Also on the bill is Gary Wilson who is a bit of an underground music legend going back to the 1970s. But as a teenager in the late 60s he met and hung out with avant-garde composer John Cage and his own music, however pop-oriented some of it may be, has retained a decidedly experimental edge. In the early 80s he quit music and in the mid-90s was cited by Beck as an influence. Before quitting music he received fan mail from the likes of The Residents. And around the turn of the century Wilson was coaxed into returning to playing his own music and has been writing and occasionally playing out since and this is a rare opportunity to get to see this utterly unique pop songwriter live. Opening the show is synth, drums and guitar prodigy French Kettle Station whose Arthur Russell-esque synth pop songs are delivered with an earnest, passionate intensity.

Friday | August 2

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Warpaint circa 2016, photo by Mia Kirby

What: My Morning Jacket w/Warpaint
When: Friday, 08.02, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: My Morning Jacket is doing a two night run at Red Rocks again this year. The band has enjoyed some mainstream success for a fairly varied body of work that’s genre-bending with elements of folk, psychedelic rock, Americana and alternative rock. Opening the show is Warpaint, a band whose music has also spanned a broad range of sounds from its early post-punk-y/shoegaze-y sound to its more current phase where the band is writing the music collectively and influenced by the sonics of production and hip-hop as much as any rock that has influenced the group’s sound.

What: Nina Storey w/Jeremy Dion
When: Friday, 08.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Nina Storey’s powerful voice imbues her eclectic music with a warmth and energy that can be lacking in the realm of the blues, jazz and pop singer-songwriters. Her versatility as a songwriter has resulted in a rich and varied body of work. Years ago Storey was a staple of the Denver music scene but has since branched out and garnered a much wider audience.

Saturday | August 3

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French Kettle Station circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: My Morning Jacket w/Amo Amo
When: Saturday, 08.03, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: See above for My Morning Jaket. Amo Amo is sort of a psychedelic dream pop band but one that sounds like it came up listening to a lot of surf rock, Laurel Canyon pop and Linda Ronstadt.

What: French Kettle Station tour kickoff w/DJ Pop Ctrl, Birth, Break Dancing Ronald Reagan and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 08.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: French Kettle Station is headed off on tour to take his emotionally charged and passionate synth pop/yacht rock hybrid to places that could use a shot in the arm of enthusiasm in this era of seeming cultural exhaustion.

Sunday | August 4

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Murder By Death, photo by Tall James Photography

What: Murder By Death
When: Sunday, 08.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Green Russell (1422 Larimer St.)
Why: Murder By Death has reliably been putting out thought-provoking poetic albums of wiry, energetic Americana having come up through 90s punk. But its 2018 album The Other Shore finds the band diving into inner space and finding new dark corners of the psyche to bring to light in its inimitable style but with a shade more introspection and atmospheric flourish.

Tuesday | August 6

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Everything is Terrible, photo by Jim Newberry

What: Stef Chura w/French Vanilla and Bellhoss
When: Tuesday, 08.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Stef Chura honed her gritty songwriting for years in Ypsilanti, Michigan and Detroit, doing home recordings and playing in friends’ bands all the while, before releasing Messes in 2017 through Urinal Cake Record. Sure there’s some sculpted fuzz in the guitar and bass but she doesn’t come off like she’s drawing direct inspiration from 90s rock but more from the kind of noise and garage rock of the 2000s, bands like Tyvek, Times New Viking and maybe even some of Jay Reatard’s various projects. Her songwriting has that similar kind of off-the-cuff, splintery quality that sounds like it could come unhinged yet focused. Her 2019 album Midnight, out on Saddle Creek Records, finds Chura vividly sketching situations and people in short lines and bouncy yet flowing dynamics that wed contemplation with embracing the feelings of the moment. Chura also goes off the map throughout her songs so that the pace never gets tedious and her use of sound always imaginative and evocative.

What: Everything Is Terrible
When: Tuesday, 08.06, 7 and 9 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: The people behind the brilliantly surreal and irreverent video blogging site/channel Everything is Terrible is bringing its show on tour including a stop at Sie Film Center for a live multi-media performance that will include the puppets, bizarre characters, skids and the sacrifice of Jerry Maquire VHS tapes to the group’s now massive collection that will one day permanently reside in a pyramid in the desert. Strange stuff and we need more inspired, intentional, creative weirdness in these times.

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Opening Bell with Tamio Shiraishi (one of the founders of Fushitsusha), photo by Mariah Robertson

What: Action Beat (UK, members of The Ex), Opening Bell (NYC) and New Standards Men
When: Tuesday, 08.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Action Beat includes G.W. Sok, former vocalist of The Ex and is a noise rock band with some free jazz structures, frantic, relentless stuff. Opening Bell is a New York City-based duo comprised of Armando Morales and M. Thomas Reisinger. The latter was based in Denver for years where he was in some of the most forward thinking and strange bands of the time like the experimental post-hardcore band Motheater, processed guitar/bass/vocals noise soundscape group Epileptinomicon and math-y noise drum, bass, vocals and synth duo Mjolniir DXP. Opening Bell sounds like a further trip into processing generated sounds into unsettling yet somehow soothing layers of ambient noise. New Standards Men is an experimental guitar group who mix doom-y metal with Krautrock-esque prog. Targets is a noisier than usual hardcore band.

What: Flume w/JPEGMAFIA, Slowthai and Collin McKenna
When: Tuesday, 08.06, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Harley Streten got started producing music at age thirteen with a program he got in a box of cereal but by the end of his teens in 2010 he began making much more sophisticated house music as HEDS (his initials). As Flume Streten was making electronic dance music that seemed to push the boundaries of the realm of EDM with he seemed to most associated. His compositions are always more imaginative and bring together sounds that one doesn’t often hear in the genre and his production, whatever tools and methods he’s using, isn’t focused on technique, which he has already mastered, but on the emotional flavor of the sounds and how they fit into a bigger arc of feeling across the course of a song. His latest EP, 2019’s Quits, showcases his knack for creative hip-hop beats as well. Also on this tour is JPEGMAFIA whose pointed political and experimental hip-hop is informed as much by weirdo industrial groups like Throbbing Gristle as it is 90s hip-hop and pop.

Wednesday | August 7

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JPEGMAFIA, photo courtesy the artist

What: Flume w/JPEGMAFIA, Slowthai and Collin McKenna
When: Wednesday, 08.07, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: See above for Flume and JPEGMAFIA.

What: Weird Wednesday: Succulent, Mt. Illimani and Full Bleed
When: Wednesday, 08.07, 6 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday at its new home at Bowman’s Vinyl Lounge will feature sad, sometimes acoustic songs by Randall Chambers as Mt. Illimani. He was in the garage rock band The Carnivores and post-punk group Phenobarbital for those who were fortunate enough to catch either. Full Bleed is sort of an instrumental noisy guitar/prog band.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 7/18/19 – 7/24/19

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Michael McDonald will perform at Denver Botanic Gardens York Street on July 18, photo by Timothy White

Thursday | July 18

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CHRCH, photo by Hannah Stone

What: Michael McDonald w/Strange Americans
When: Thursday, 07.18, 5:45 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens – York Street
Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. This concludes his run of shows in Colorado over this past week.

What: Usnea, CHRCH, Zygrot and Limbwrecker
When: Thursday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Kind of a funeral doom show at Rhino tonight w/Portland, Oregon’s funeral doom juggernauts Usnea and the transcendental occult feral drone of CHRCH from Sacramento.

Friday | July 19

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Spirettes, photo by Tom Murphy

What: We Are A Glum Lot and Spirettes dual album release w/Turvy Organ
When: Friday, 07.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Lulu’s Downstairs – Manitou Springs
Why: Dream pop band Spirettes and neo-math-emo-indie rock band We Are Not a Glum Lot are releasing their new albums simultaneously this evening at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs. Spirettes’ album being Esoteria and We Are Not a Glum Lot’s titled The Price of Simply Existing.

What: Hammer’s House Party: MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sisqo, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, The Funky Bunch
When: Friday, 07.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: At this show you can party like it’s 1992 or 1999 depending on who you’re going to see. MC Hammer was ubiquitous in the early 90s with multiple hit songs that helped to put hip-hop into the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot is perhaps best known for his hit song “Baby Got Back” but he was a big deal in Seattle before that and his records worth listening to generally for their swagger and sly and pointed humor. Biz Markie is a character in hip-hop who burst the boundaries of what was acceptable by owning being a little rough around the edges in his rapping and his outlandish performance persona. His 1989 song “Just a Friend” is a classic of the genre. 2 Live Crew traded in x-rated rap for years and garnered attention for its high profile lawsuit regarding its 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be over the record’s alleged obscenity. Seems quaint and inconsequential now considering how the President of the United States has and continued to talk about women but back in the day it made the news and catapulted the underground group into the national consciousness. Sisqó is the lead singer of Dru Hill but in 1999 he had hit songs like “Thong Song” and “Incomplete.” So you’ll get to take in a good swath of 90s mainstream hip-hop in one concert if you go.

Saturday | July 20

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Flipper circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Flipper 40th Anniversary Tour with David Yow
When: Saturday, 07.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid will front the notorious San Francisco post-punk band Flipper for this tour and he’s one singer who still seems to have some disregard for his personal safety as a performer.

Sunday | July 21

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Elizabeth Colour Wheel, photo courtesy the artists

What: Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/Drowse, New Standards Men and BleakHeart
When: Sunday, 07.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s ritual drone, blackened shoegaze, mystic doom, pagan crust sound on its 2019 album Nocebo is Diamanda Galas-esque in its cathartic intensity and SubRosa-like in its sense of mystery.

Tuesday | July 23

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Starcrawler, photo by Cameron Mccool

What: Beck w/Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler
When: Tuesday, 07.23, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Beck went from eccentric underground artist with releases on K Records and Flipside early in his career to late-era alternative icon in the mid-to-late 90s with hit songs and videos on MTV to mature singer songwriter with a gift for inventive soundscaping. All the while Beck’s genre-bending instincts and disregard for expectation and convention has meant all of his albums are worth a listen. Cage the Elephant has made a bit of a name for itself by mixing together punk, psychedelia and bluesy garage rock. Even though Spoon has hit the greatest hits compilation (minus tracks from great albums like Girls Can Tell and Hot Thoughts), the Austin-based, arty post-punk outfit has raised its songwriting bar with every album since its 1996 debut Telephono bringing in electronic elements more to the fore on 2017’s Hot Thoughts and always with the rhythm anchoring and guiding the music. That politicians and public radio station managers cite Spoon as a favorite band shouldn’t be held against them. L.A.’s Starcrawler opens the show with its mélange of punk, 70s glam and stoner rock. Which might get the group lumped in with the recent wave of 90s fuzz rock worshippers. But Starcrawler’s songwriting tends to unironically embrace the swagger of yesteryear and take inspiration from the bands that influenced grunge rather than simply the 90s amalgamation of all of it.

Best Shows in Denver 06/20/19 – 06/26/19

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Mitski performs at Red Rocks with Death Cab for Cutie on Tuesday, June 25, photo by Bao Ngo

Thursday | June 20

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Future Punx, photo courtesy the artist

What: Glasss Presents the Final Speakeasy Series Season 3: Adam Selene, Abeasity Jones and MYTHirst
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final edition of the Speak Easy Series not just Season 3 but overall. Each date has been a well-curated showcase of Denver’s underground experimental music underground with a reach covering a lot of that territory in a way few if any other events have in recent years. Tonight’s show includes some of the local scene’s hip-hop and production stars as named above.

What: SCAC with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Thursday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is the long-running, legendary Americana post-punk band with a theatrical flair and costumes to enhance a strong visual presence on stage. Joining them tonight is Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Also favoring matching outfits in the vein of influential Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters, the group is fronted and lead by one of rock’s great songwriters and guitarists. Kid Congo Powers brought great finesse, inventiveness and a keen ear for melody and dynamics to groups like Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

What: Mystery Lights w/Future Punx and Slynger
When: Thursday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mystery Lights is an odd and fascinating mix of retro synth bands and proto-punk. Give its new record Too Much Tension! a listen. Like early Zen Guerilla but weirder. Future Punx is also on tour from Brooklyn with its synth funk punk akin to Les Savy Fav and The Epoxies but with more synth than the former and less pop punk than the latter. Its own 2019 album The World Is A Mess (which includes an almost brooding cover of “The World’s A Mess (It’s In My Kiss)” by X) sure does sound like some people from the future looking back on the Twentieth Century New Wave and punk era the way some indie rockers have looked back on Laurel Canyon, classic rock and 80s glam rock for inspiration and cherry picked sounds to assemble in idiosyncratic fashion.

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Hembree, photo by Stephen Shireman

What: Bloxx, Hembree and Warbly Jets
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Bloxx is a four piece from London whose sound makes one think its members evolved out of the music that defined its early youth and rediscovered 90s alternative rock and mulched it all in favor of a charmingly melodic, fuzzy emo-esque songwriting style reminiscent of newer bands like Culture Abuse. Kansas City’s Hembree rides that line between post-punk and synth pop well and its 2019 album House On Fire is filled with darkly luminous yet urgent dance songs.

Friday | June 21

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Nick Murphy, photo by Willy Lukatis

What: Gasoline Lollipops., Dust Heart and Grayson County Burn Ban
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Andy Thomas has been a fixture of Denver music for close to two decades as a member of bands like Ghost Buffalo, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer, Only Thunder and, more recently, Lost Walks. Around a decade ago he started releasing music under his own name and as Andy Thomas Dust Heart and exploring different facets of his own songwriting. He is now releasing music as simply Dust Heart and tonight he releases his single “Plastic Walls” and “The Last Gap.” Thomas’ command of the musical vocabulary of Americana and punk has long been established. With the new material the songwriter delves further into something more akin to gritty power pop with charged guitar riffs and his always emotionally resonant vocal delivery. He’ll be performing the Punk Is Dad benefit tonight at the Oriental Theater with other like-minded local acts. Look for our interview with Thomas coming soon.

What: Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker w/Beacon
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nick Murphy announced in 2016 that he would drop his long-running stage name of Chet Faker with the release of his next album, that being 2019’s Run Fast Sleep Naked. The Australian singer and songwriter’s mixture of R&B and downtempo electronic pop struck a chord in the first half decade of his career so far and his new album is the result of some wanderlust and making the music and putting together ideas as he went along. The album is a mixed bag but sometimes such material translates better live than as a loose concept album and you can see for yourself tonight as Murphy transforms the Ogden into a more intimate environment in which his songs can shine in the interpretation of the recorded music.

Saturday | June 22

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Oh, Rose at Treefort Music Fest, photo courtesy the artist

What: Yeasayer w/Oh, Rose
When: Saturday, 06.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington has been making C86-esque pop songs for around half a decade and garnering some buzz for its emotionally warm and ebullient yet introspective songwriting. Fans of Shop Assistants and perhaps Black Tambourine will find much to like about Oh, Rose in general but especially it’s forthcoming album While My Father Sleeps due out on August 23, 2019 on Park The Van Records. The group is opening for Yeasayer whose genre bending sound makes psychedelic rock, non-Western rhythms and prog work well together by not bothering to recognize a boundary between all of that. The result is what might be considered “indie funk” but with a more imaginative live presentation of the music than those terms together might suggest.

What: Alphabeat Soup #41: Rico Eva (Riq Squavs), MYTHirst, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes and Love Cosmic Love
When: Saturday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: With the demise of Deer Pile, Alphabeat Soup, the periodic showcase of some of Denver’s most forward-thinking electronic music producers, is finding a new home at Thought//Forms.

What: TRVE DadFest
When: Saturday, 06.22, 1 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: TRVE Brewing and Dad Fest combined forces for this event to bring a day and night of stars of extreme, doom and experimental (and combinations thereof) metal from Denver and beyond. But as per usual for DadFest, there will music well outside that like ethereal soundscaper Midwife, Denver noise legends Page 27 and beat-driven noise auteur Data Rainbow. Our pick for the later heavy stuff if one must choose? BIG|BRAVE’s 2019 album A Gaze Among Them is a towering locomotive of driving beats that transcends narrow concepts of doom, noise and industrial. But, really, everything on the bill is worth your time—not something one can say about every festival, tastes differing. The event happens at two venues, schedule listed below.

Hi-Dive Schedule (upstairs and downstairs as indicated)
Up: Dreadnought 7:50-8:10
Down: Noctambulist 8:15-8:35
Up: In the Company of Serpents 8:40-9:00
Down: Vale 9:05-9:25
Up: Midwife 9:30-9:50
Down: Of Feather and Bone 9:55-10:15
Up: BIG|BRAVE 10:20-10:50
Up: Wake 11:05-11:25
Up: Vanum 11:40 – finis

Mutiny Schedule
Lost Relics 2:00-2:20
New Standards Men 2:35-2:55
Chair of Torture 3:10-3:30
A Light Among Many 3:45-4:05
Livid 4:20-4:40
Whilt 4:55-5:05
909 5:20-5:40
Flesh Buzzard 5:55-6:05
Heathen Burial 6:20-6:40
Data Rainbow 6:55-7:05
Page 27 7:20-7:40

Sunday | June 23

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Howard Jones circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Vulture Wake w/Joy Subtraction and State Drugs
When: Sunday, 06.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A Vulture Wake is a sort of melodic punk super group including Chad Price of ALL and Drag the River) and members of Lagwagon and Real McKenzies. But you won’t be getting some odd pop punk or melodic hardcore redo, it’s songwriting goes a bit beyond all of that with technical proficiency used with imaginative and evocative guitar riffs. Joy Subtraction doesn’t play much these days but its punk is borderline post-punk and its sharp take on social and political issues lacks is way more clever and insightful than that of at least two or three other bands. But not just any two or three other bands.

What: Howard Jones w/Men Without Hats and All Hail the Silence
When: Sunday, 06.23, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Howard Jones is a pioneer of synth pop and one who learned to use difficult and temperamental equipment to compose some of the biggest hits of the 1980s like “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What Is Love” and “Like to Get to Know You Well.” While for some these may be light pop songs Jones’ voice expressive and highly emotional deliver stood out even back then in the heyday of that music. As a live performer now Jones is surprisingly forceful and charismatic with an expertly crafted light show whose music seems prescient considering the direction synthwave and chillwave has developed.

Monday | June 24

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Ginger Root, photo by Seannie Bryan

What: Ginger Root w/Oko Tygra and Hi-Fi Gentry
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: As Ginger Root, Cameron Lew has been making lush downtempo synth pop that sets itself very much apart with an attention to the low end. It gives his songs a sonic depth and flow that credibly gives a nod to 70s dance music and soul. Frankly, some filmmakers who are trying to nail that 70s and 80s vibe should hit up Lew to score and/or music supervise their projects because more than most people making music now who probably wasn’t alive at that time, he gets it and it’s not just having access to the vintage gear. But listen for yourself to his new singles “Weather” and “Slump” here.

What: Stevie Wonder
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Stevie Wonder needs no introduction as a legend of soul, funk, R&B and jazz. He’s performing at this Red Rocks show as a fundraiser for SeriesFest.

Tuesday | June 25

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Mitski, photo by Bao Ngo

What: Death Cab for Cutie w/Mitski
When: Tuesday, 06.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Mitski Miyawaki recently announced that after her fall live bookings she was taking a hiatus from the grinding, album-release-cycle-and-touring of the music industry that allows little time for cultivating one’s life and creativity separate from its considering for delivering up to an audience in a form they are expecting. Miyawaki has had a respectable career and body of work up to now including her 2018 album Be the Cowboy. The latter pushed her songwriting to new heights of creativity in telling stories, self-examination and soundscaping. And a deep level of emotional honesty. With an album as great Be the Cowboy where does a songwriter go without repeating oneself while under the gun to produce something more quickly than one’s brain is prepared to deliver? With any luck she’ll find the time away from the cultural realm that Hunter S. Thompson famously critiqued before it got as bad as it is now by writing: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good [people] die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Wherever Miyawaki lands we wish her good fortune and happiness while hoping she comes back with a new set of music that continues her legacy of great songs.

Death Cab for Cutie is a band that helped to define and shape what “indie rock” has meant, sounded like and looked like since at least the late 90s. Now that the group has been fairly commercially successful for several years at this point its songwriting may lack some of the urgency and poignancy of its earlier output at least the band has a few decent songs with every album since the turn of the decade.

Wednesday | June 26

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J. Hamilton Isaacs, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Harry Tuft
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park – Shady Grove
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of bluegrass and folk in Denver having run the Denver Folklore Center in the 60s through the 70s and as a founder of Swallow Hill. He seldomly performs but when he does his interpretations of other people’s songs and standards is always interesting and his originals worthy as well. As a champion of music for decades, Tuft ironically didn’t have many chances to play his own music until his 80s and he does so with emotional power and grace.

What: Die ANGEL, Xambuca, Equine, Ian Douglas Moore and J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Die ANGEL is Ilpo Väisänen of noise/drone legends Pan Sonic and Dirk Dresselhaus of avant-guitar group Schneider TM. With Die ANGELthe duo explore the kind of noise, ambient, sound environment composition that is an experience in itself in flowing sounds, tones and rumbling low end. It is a physical as well as a psychological experience that will engulf the room at Thought//Forms. Xambuca is a San Francisco-based modular synth and production artist who will bring his own depth of sonic field to the proceedings. Denver’s Equine is Kevin Richards whose avant-garde guitar work has been part of the Mile High City’s underground for nearly two decades as a member of weirdo, jazz/noise post-hardcore band Motheater and blackened noise duo Epileptinomicon. J. Hamilton Isaacs is one of the local music world’s champions of modular synth music as well as a noteworthy artist in his own right producing entrancing (no pun intended for those in the know) synth/dance music that blurs the line between ambient and more academic synth experiments.

What: No Vacation w/Okey Dokey and Hello, Mountain
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No Vacation’s take on surf rock-inflected dream pop is truly elegant and transporting like they’re able to relax and let whatever is in them speak through their collective efforts. Of course a lot of practice and playing together was involved but the band makes it look effortless and easy.

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

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

Thursday | April 25

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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