Best Shows in Denver and Beyond June 2022

Failure performs at the Bluebird Theater on Wednesday June 8, 2022
Quits at Hi-Dive, March 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06.03
What: Scream Screen: Sisters w/Quits
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Theresa Mercado is hosting her latest Scream Screen series this month with various bands opening the proceedings. Tonight it’s Brian De Palma’s 1972 psychological horror film Sisters starring future Lois Lane from the 1978 Superman movie. Opening are local noise rock legends Quits and their eruptive, cathartic and always riveting live show. Will be strange to see this in the front of the theater at Sie Film Center so that would be worth going to see alone.

Saturday | 06.04
What: Five Points Jazz Festival
When: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Where: Various Venues
Why: It’s free and you can catch a bevy of local and some non-local modern jazz greats like Buckner Funken Jazz, Denver Jazz Trio, Five Points Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Annie Booth Sextet, Ron Ivory and Suite ti and Las Luces featuring educator and local avant-garde jazz legend Joshua Trinidad.

Fear in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 06.04
What: Fear w/The Potato Pirates and Cease Fire https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/417884
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Rescheduled from NYE 2021. FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving having turned 72 in 2022 this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.

Tomberlin, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Sunday | 06.05
What: Tomberlin w/Jana Horn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tomberlin’s new record, her second, i don’t know who needs to hear this… (2022) is like an atmospheric jazz pop record with her vocals at the center and a truly imaginative soundscape ghosting into the background to haunt the spare beat and minimal instrumentation. If the songwriter’s sound and style can be lumped into the broadly clumsy umbrella of folk it’s more in the vein of artists who made liberal use of field recordings but in this case it’s more like taking an interest in a sound and a sample like one might if one were a hip-hop or electronic music artist looking to give a beat some character and unconventional emotional resonance. Tomberlin’s vocals are of course the usual strong but gentle flavor one would hope for but she always seems to find a way to use it guide he mood while syncing with the rhythm in ways that keep the vibe fresh and evocative.

Blackwater Holylight, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 06.07
What: Blackwater Holylight w/Spirit Mother and Keefduster
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Much in a similar way that SubRosa brought a tribal, deeply atmospheric, psychedelic sensibility to heavy music, Blackwater Holylight takes some of the grit and heft of doom but lightens in with broad atmospheric and moody vistas of sound. Its 2021 album Silence/Motion includes a nice element of the electronic so that it sounds like it could and should be a soundtrack to the next Panos Cosmatos film. But there’s nothing kitsch about Blackwater Holylight. Denver’s Keef Duster will bring its own flavor of psychedelic doom/space rock to open the show with former Dirty Few singer Kim Phat bringing some entrancing melodies into the mix.

Failure, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 06.08
What: Failure w/sneak peek at Failure documentary
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Failure got started in the early era of what came to be called alternative rock having founded in 1990 in Los Angeles right before the glam metal that seemed ubiquitously popular tanked in the next two years once early alternative rock bands like Jane’s Addiction helped to popularize music that had been in the underground with its successful Lollapalooza tour subverted the record industry. Failure enjoyed some of the fallout of that time but its own music didn’t exactly fit in with trendy styles and sounds. It had a hard rock edge, an art rock ambition in the songwriting and atmospheric sensibilities that some might have associated with shoegaze or space rock but very much its own flavor. Its mid-90s albums Magnified (1994) and Fantastic Planet (1996) showed how you could meld heavy, monolithic, deeply dynamic sounds with blissful melodies in a way that had a cinematic quality that the band members would bring to the more sound design approach to composition it would perfect when it reunited in 2013 after a six year hiatus. Since that reconvening it might be argued that Failure has been releasing the best music of its career with its sublimely dark dissonance and nuanced emotional palette including its 2021 album Wild Type Droid. For this show you will get a preview of the forthcoming documentary about the band due out in 2023 featuring interviews with the broad array of artists (not all musical) who have been impacted by Failure’s particular brand of sonic magic.

French Kettle Station circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 06.09
What: Insane Angel, Grunkster, Sell Farm, French Kettle Station
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Insane Angel is an unusual amalgam of jazz, indie pop and folk and includes members of Horn Horse and Palberta. Grunkster is kind of like a lo-fi IDM/glitch pop project. Sell Farm is hard to quantify easily but has been part indiepop, part dub, part cavernous industrial in the Godflesh vein minus the metallic aspects. French Kettle Station is an eclectic artist whose output runs a broad range of ideas and aesthetics though one might hear in his work aspects of New Age pop, glitchcore, ambient, post-rock and croony classic pop and always an energetic, commanding performance.

The Black Angels, photo by Alexandra Valenti

Thursday | 06.09
What: Black Angels w/Dion Lunadon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Before being thoroughly associated with modern psychedelic rock and even long after, The Black Angels from Austin, TX were early adopters of blurring all lines between early psychedelic rock, Krautrock, shoegaze, freak folk and noise rock. And to this day its body of work endures because they have always been one of the best practitioners of modern psych including advocating for other artists with its formerly annual (currently on hiatus) Austin Psych Fest, one of the most astutely curated festivals of the modern era. Dion Lunadon spent a decade playing in and writing songs with A Place to Bury Strangers but is releasing his first solo album since leaving APTBS in 2020 with Beyond Everything due out June 10, 2022 on In the Red Records. Early singles promise a driving, noisy psychedelic rock album with the dynamic flourishes that Lunadon brought so masterfully to APTBS and The D4.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive, December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06.10
What: Hex Casette album release, Church Fire, eHpH and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: For a handful of years Hex Cassette has been crafting and refining his style of confrontational industrial dance pop music and in the past year or two he started to become known in the underground for highly energetic performances informed by a darkly playful sense of humor. For this show he’s releasing his new album Pomegranate Death, a collection of songs that fans of M83 and TR/ST will appreciate for the immersive melodies and underlying hopeful mood even as many of the songs are about death and overcoming personal challenges to embrace a vital life. And sure Hex Cassette is one of the most exciting of the newer projects in the Denver underground but for this album release/tour kick off show, Hex Cassette has invited spirited and political industrial dance, synth pop heroes Church Fire whose own shows are cathartic and deeply emotional without skimping on the enthusiasm and energy to balance out the sense of despair and melancholic mood that is part of some of its material honoring loss and recognizing elements of our culture hostile to the the very existence and dignity of people that don’t fit into a very conservative view of mainstream society. There is also eHpH, the EBM/industrial band whose own music takes aim at fascism and authoritarian impulses in American culture and whose evocative soundscapes and irresistible rhythms have made it a staple in local darkwave circles for several years. Former Corda Vera front person Simone Fohrman has been at her solo project Pink Lady Monster since 2020 with its blend of dream pop and indie rock with an experimental flourish in the production and signal processing.

Ambar Lucid, photo by Keith Bennett

Friday | 06.10
What: Ambar Lucid w/Miki Ratsula
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ambar Lucid taught herself to play piano, guitar and ukulele and took in YouTube videos to work on her vocal technique. And her output of music since 2019 reflects that generation of pop artists that isn’t defined by narrow conventions of the art form. In her sound and production you hear the R&B influence, her Latin music roots, the influence of hyper pop and perhaps forward thinking artists like Charli XCX. It’s a pure fusion of styles and aesthetics she has made her own as evidenced by her 2020 album Garden of Lucid and her new single “girl ur so pretty.” Lucid’s own life sounds like something from a movie as her father was deported to Mexico when she was 8 years old and she didn’t see him or her sister until ten years later. Which speaks to issues of immigration and how the laws surrounding that have a direct impact on people and their families and the intimate knowledge of which is part of why the songwriter has been such an active advocate for immigrants’ rights. Sharing the bill with Lucid is non-binary pop songwriter Miki Ratsula whose R&B infused songs with colorful and evocative music videos are in themselves an act of resistance to prejudice in being so appealing and imaginative in making everyday life for a non-binary person seem like what it is—normal and not short on joy and fulfillment in ways that are accessible to anyone. Miki’s March 2022 debut album i owe it to myself is filled with ample examples of the aforementioned.

Friday | 06.10
What: Scream Screen: Madhouse w/Weathered Statues
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This edition of Scream Screen will give you a chance to see in a theater Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 slasher Madhouse in which one sister is stalked by her psychotic twin. The film was included on the “video nasty” list in its day and banned in the 1980s in the UK. Opening will be local post-punk/Xmal Deutschland-esque band Weathered Statues.

Sunflower Bean, photo by Driely S

Saturday | 06/11
What: Sunflower Bean w/Liily
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Sunflower Bean started garnering a national audience after the release of its debut album Human Ceremony in 2016 it seemed as though the band’s fusion of post-punk and shoegaze aimed it in a particular musical direction but since then up to and including its 2022 album Headful of Sugar the trio has embraced its knack for pop songcraft and hooks. The new record showcases a band able to write coolly sultry R&B-inflected songs that fit in with its own history of lushly atmospheric songs that can be not just melancholically evocative but subtly cathartic. If one were into overblown comparisons for the song “Who Put You Up To This?” it’s like hearing Cocteau Twins after they sequestered themselves in a studio and only listened to Delfonics and Marvin Gaye for a few months before writing their next record.

Saturday | 06.11
What: Big Head Todd and the Monsters w/Violent Femmes
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Todd Park Mohr is bar none the most prominent Colorado musician of Asian ancestry and his band Big Head Todd and The Monsters have been crafting a respectable body of work that blends rock, folk, alternative rock and jazz with an ear for improvisational flourishes. Starting in Boulder in 1984 the group really pulled together a solid set of songs for its 1990 second album Midnight Radio. Reworking its best song “Bittersweet” for its 1993 release Sister Sweetly the group hit upon a formula that took it from prominent local band to platinum selling act whose music was prominent on radio for the rest of the decade. And since the 90s Big Head Todd has been releasing worthwhile albums if you’re into blues rock bordering on jam band folk rock. Opening the show is long time college rock cult band Violent Femmes whose music became a staple of alternative radio since the early 80s with its 1983 self-titled debut with every track more or less a classic of a world of music upon which alternative rock in the 1990s was built. Beyond the eccentric and brilliant songwriting part punk, part folk and part outsider music Violent Femmes have long been one of the great live bands of, yes, American music and would be worth going to see for this show alone but you get to see two greats of the alternative era.

Saturday | 06.11
What: Still Corners w/Foxes in Fiction
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: UK dream pop band Still Corners create warmly contemplative songs with a dusky soulfulness that has translated well from its early very ethereal, shoegaze-y material to its more countrified 2021 album The Last Exit and its imagery of open vistas in the American west. Not quite in the realm of Chromatics in its evocation of Lynchian noir but like something inspired by a romantic version of a Jonathan Demme slice of working class Americana.

Purity Ring, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday and Sunday | 06.11 and 06.12
What: Purity Ring w/EKKSTACY
When: 8 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom and Boulder Theater
Why: Purity Ring’s production style established firmly on its 2012 debut album Shrines has proven incredibly influential on modern electronic pop and hip-hop. Its own amalgamation of dream pop, hip-hop and witch house is otherworldly and transporting and in its music you can hear the future of forms of electronic music like hyper pop and glitchcore because Purity Ring has already been there and moved on to other realms of soundscaping and the crafting of emotionally resonant sounds, textures and dynamics. Having worked with Danny Brown and Katy Perry, the duo’s stylistic flexibility has resulted in albums brimming concepts and sound design elements rendered as coherent songs that are sure to be tapped for years to come. Its live show is more theatrical and unusual that one might expect as the group uses devices to control sound and lighting that it had to make itself so the presentation is always compellingly unconventional.

Everclear, photo by Ashley Osborn

Sunday | 06.12
What: Everclear w/Fastball and The Nixons
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Before singles from the 1995 Everclear album Sparkle and Fade made the band stars of later era alterative rock singer and primary songwriter Art Alexakis had already been through the ups and downs of being a musician, drug addiction and parenthood and was in his mid-30s to late 30s when his band took off, breaking many stereotypes of musical success. Songs like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “Everything to Everyone” were all but ubiquitous on Top 40 radio and stations with alternative rock heavy playlists. But inside all of those songs were nuggets of wisdom and a raw honesty that was suffused in the band’s live performances. By the turn of the century Everclear didn’t enjoy the commercial popularity it once had and key members of the band had departed by 2003 but Alexakis has continued on doing what he does best: write meaningful songs that shed light on the human condition with wit, humor and compassion. One record that has gone by the wayside was the group’s fantastic 1993 debut album World of Noise which is being reissued in 2022 and for the first time on vinyl in the fall. People who only know the band from its hits may be surprised with how raw and vital it is like something you might expect from an early grunge or punk band of that time but also with Alexakis’ gift for an ear worm hook. Celebrating the re-issue of the record Everclear is touring with other late alternative rock bands Fastball and The Nixons for a billing of bands who experienced their greatest success in the 90s but who remain potent live acts.

Cau5er at Hi-Dive, May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 06.12
What: Dragon Drop, Cau5er, sororityboy, Juniordeer and sintax
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to pick one show to go see some of the best and most imaginative underground electronic artists from Denver in the vein of hyper pop, industrial noise and glitch pop this would be the show to go see.

Tuesday | 06.14
What: Compactor, Sleeping With The Earth, No More Cheering, Cremedelacrvp, Tolerant
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Okay, this would be the other show to go see some electronic acts that take soundscaping to another level except this bill includes New York industrial noise legends Compactor, Portland, Oregon-based ambient noisenik Sleeping With The Earth and harsh noise/power electronics artist Cremedelacrvp.

© 2022 These Arms Are Snakes Photo by: Shayla Martin

Wednesday | 06.15
What: These Arms Are Snakes w/Git Some
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: These Arms Are Snakes is a post-hardcore band that gets lumped in with the genres of metalcore and mathcore and there is some validity to that. But a lot of its music is closer to noise rock and the new compilation of its early demos and non-album tracks and other odds and ends Duct Tape & Shivering Crows (which came out on April 15, 2022 on Suicide Squeeze Records) bears out how this band could elude easy categorization. It includes former members of 90s metalcore pioneers Botch and experimental rock band Kill Sadie. The band’s wiry, sonic savagery had a kind of brutal fluidity to it that seemed to have come out of that era of post-hardcore that included synthesizers to give its music more than the bare bones rock band level of impact with atmospherics that felt as dreamlike as it did visceral. Opening the show are like-minded Denver noise rock legends Git Some who never broke up but rarely play live and itself includes former members of Planes Mistaken For Stars and Luke Fairchild from Quits. So this show will definitely get a little off the hook with the energy and intensity.

Bummer, photo by Skylar Cowdrey

Wednesday | 06.15
What: Whores w/Bummer and Capra
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Atlanta’s Whores sound like a glorious, mutant hybrid of Unsane and Big Black. But if you’re into KARP or Helmet’s more free moments you’ll appreciate the band’s spirited onslaught. Bummer from Kansas City released its latest album Dead Horse (as in beating a—clear proof of the group’s dark sense of humor including about itself because someone probably told them they sound like they’re doing that after all these years making music like this) in 2021. It shares obvious influences from the likes of KARP and the Amphetamine Reptile roster of bands like Cherubs and The Jesus Lizard. But its sound is very different from the style of Whores with more spiraling guitar riffs and open harmonic flourishes. They have a song on Dead Horse called “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick” and even if you’re a fan of the Boss the song title is irreverently puerile for a song that’s a psychedelic noise scorcher with undeniable appeal. Capra from Lafayette, LA fills out this line-up with its own pointed and noisy metalcore with incredible momentum and a brutal grace.

Hovvdy, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Wednesday | 06.15
What: Hovvdy w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Austin-based band Hovvdy released its most recent album True Love in 2021 and like many other artists are finally able to take that music on the road. The hushed vocal harmonies paired with lush and richly layered instrumental arrangements are part of the duo’s core sound but this time around the tender and intimate sound hits with a little more of the gentle warmth that characterized its earlier work and its songs of heartbreak and hope seem imbued with a spirit of thoughtful introspection that offers a perspective beyond hokey pronouncements that everything is going to be okay. Rather, the hard times and misfortune that seems to have visited the entire world and rushed into everyone’s lives require a much more nuanced take and response on even the minutiae of life and Hovvdy brings the type of nurturing energy to this batch of songs that would benefit many people to hear.

Bestial Mouths at Hi-Dive May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 06.16
What: Bestial Mouths w/Lowfaith and Turismo Blu
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with Denver-based post-punk band Lowfaith and acid house artist Turismo Blu.

Thursday | 06.16
What: Bob Log III w/Bolonium and Legs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bob Log III was once a member of mutant blues rock duo Doo Rag and was doing that sort of Mississippi Delta blues mixed with punk thing before a lot of people got around to that by the mid-to-late 90s. By the end of the 90s Bob had gone on his own with his current moniker as a solo act with his The Road Warrior meets Troma sartorial aesthetic and somehow makes his music seem futuristic even as it embraces old time blues with no irony. Bolonium is a Denver band whose own stylistic link to Troma should seem obvious as its antics have included a live game show during its set but its music is somewhere betwixt an even more cartoon-y Devo and They Might Be Giants and with all the kitsch of a very self-aware but never giving up the joke Adult Swim show skit as band.

Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06/17
What: Scream Screen: The Mafu Cage w/Shocker Mom
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This edition of Scream Screen features Karen Arthur’s 1978 psychodrama The Mafu Cage. The titular creatures, the “mafus,” are the pet monkeys one of the mentally unbalanced Cissy played by Carol Kane whose sister Ellen (Lee Grant) is an astronomer. There is some demented dynamic between the two sisters who share a mansion in Los Angeles but for the exact plot it’s perhaps best viewed rather than read about in summary. The musical guest is Shocker Mom whose brilliant blend of soulful R&B, ambient music and IDM isn’t something you get to see often enough. Robin Walker aka Shocker Mom is also one half of experimental hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus.

Saturday | 06.18
What: Jerry Paper w/Bobby Amulet and Sell Farm
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Jerry Paper is one of the more imaginative hip-hop producers/artists to have emerged out of the 2000s. Their records, especially those for respected and forward thinking label Stones Throw, always seem to have some unusual and creative approach to songwriting and sound sculpting so that even when their beats wax into cosmic yacht rock territory they don’t skimp on the forays into weird realms of sound. Their latest record is the psychedelic and chill Free Time. Bobby Amulet from Denver is the musical moniker of Connor Spell whose own affection for lush, adult-contemporary-esque disco sounds are a good fit on a bill with Jerry Paper. Sell Farm? You don’t really know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be interesting whether it’s the more dub flavoring in the indiepop realm or epic soundscapes or whatever it is the group will be up to this time around.

Laney Jones, photo by Libby Danforth

Sunday | 06.19
What: Blitzen Trapper w/Laney Jones
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Levitt Pavillion
Why: Blitzen Trapper is one of the bands that really introduced the easy listening 70s adult contemporary vibe back into indie folk in a big way. But they’ve managed to evolve a great deal as a band and refine their sound from early alt-country roots into a finely honed blend of 70s laid back rock, folk and jazz. Opening Laney Jones’ new album Stories Up High has more personal psychological insight than many things you’ll hear this year. Her voice is warm, strong and vulnerable with her signature, subtle vibrato. And that coupled with orchestral musical arrangements and expansive and deeply textured guitar work makes every track linger in your heart with a rich emotional resonance.

New Standards Men at Hi-Dive December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 06.19
What: ABANDONS, New Standards Men and Shauna Corinne Murray
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ABANDONS from Denver might be described as post-metal or post-rock but its creative ambitions are wider than that. They mix samples and vocals in with their linger and slow burning atmospherics particularly on “Coffee Highway.” But songs like “Ghost Ranch” and “Cotopaxi” the spiraling riffs and feedback sculpting wax unconventionally psychedelic. In that way they are regularly a good fit on a bill with New Standards Men whose own hybrid of psychedelia, noise rock and Krautrock through a classic art rock lens is never fully predictable in a way that is consistently refreshing. Shauna Corinne Murray used to be based in Portland, Oregon but now hails from Albuquerque but her singer-songwriter compositions on piano are informed by a touch of the avant-garde.

Monday | 06.20
What: Lo Moon w/Social Animals
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Lo Moon emerged with a public presence in 2016 it seemed to have its aesthetic, sound, production and media engagement strategy fully formed while maintaining a bit of mystique about its origins. Like it had been around for years writing that music and resisting the normal urge to put it out into the world in an era when it would have been easy to do so. That approach apparently worked for the Los Angeles quarter because its 2018 self-titled album came out on major label Columbia. Its blend of dream pop and rock shaped by an ear for production and the role of a strong live mix in creating powerfully evocative moods garnered the band an opening slot for the 2017 leg of Ride’s reunion tour before having an album out. In 2022 the group finally released its sophomore album A Modern Life even after Columbia dropped the band during the latter part of its recording process. The album builds on the virtues of its earlier material while taking a different direction in the songwriting emphasizing more the lush R&B side of its sonic palette and more akin to contemporaries like Private World and seeming stylistic nods to Tears For Fears.

Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Empath w/Supreme Joy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Empath has evolved various sounds during the course of its existence and its 2022 album Visitor is its most experimental offering yet. If the band can still be called punk based on impressions of its earlier albums at this point Empath has embraced a synth-infused dream pop approach that fans of early Japanese Breakfast might appreciate. But songs like “Born 100 Times” has more than a bit of the energetic, noisy weirdness that points most directly to its more punk origins. But really this band’s music has always resisted easy categorization after the manner of many bands from Philadelphia where no matter the genre tag might be placed on its sound it doesn’t quite fit and in the case of Empath the world of music is just that much more interesting.

Tuesday | 06.21
What: Weval
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Dutch production duo Weval has been assembling some of the most imaginative electronic dance music around since 2013. Its use of vibrant analog synth tones in its tracks and meditative yet irresistible rhythms builds with layers of colorful melodies that hit with a soothing physicality. Its 2021 EP Changed for the Better and 2022 four-song release Time Goes reveal Weval’s ability to go beyond its early production style into something that evokes a sense of exploration and wonder with songs that have a fresh quality in where Weval tie texture to atmosphere in a dynamic flow that engrossingly dreamlike.

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Modern English
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Modern English is obviously most known for its 1982 hit single “I Melt With You.” Likely lumped in with the “New Wave” of the time the undeniably catchy yet meaningful song with its cool vocal dynamics was really only a sample of where the group came from. Based out of Colchester in the east of the UK Modern English came up at a time when its early, brooding, post-punk songs fit right in with the likes of contemporaries like Magazine, Joy Division and The Sound. Its 1981 debut album Mesh & Lace is much darker and more experimental than 1982’s After the Snow but both albums represent Modern English’s ability to navigate a variety of moods without being stuck in a particular mode of expression so that it could embrace when the mind waxes to melancholia as well as times of joyful celebration of connection. After some mishaps the rest of the 80s with record labels and not quite being able to match the commercial success of its most famous single the band split by 1991. Upon convening in the mid-90s Modern English didn’t seem too prolific in the releasing of songs or albums its 2016 comeback record Take Me to the Trees bridges the breadth of its songwriting styles and flavors well with songs worthy of its first two records and as a live band the quintet still brings that passion and emotional nuance to its performances that struck a chord with audiences early on its career.

Lesser Care at Hi-Dive April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Lesser Care w/don’t get lemon, Natural Violence
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lesser Care from El Paso, Texas is one of the closest bands we’ll see to a pure shoegaze and post-punk hybrid in the vein of The Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction. Though its exquisitely ethereal melodies are the stuff of daydream bliss the trio performs with an energetic intensity one might more expect from a group that came out of punk. Its 2022 album Underneath, Beside Me gets released on vinyl in July. don’t get lemon from Austin comes from a similar sonic perspective but more electronic in its establishing of mood with a production style that is right out of lo-fi darkwave but with uplifting vocals that sit in the urgent dynamic of its flow of sounds not unlike a more dream pop early Depeche Mode. Natural Violence might be more techno-infused post-punk noise with a strong performance art element or maybe former School Knights and current American Culture guitarist Michael Stein will be exploring a new vista of sound for his imaginative songwriting.

Windhand, photo from Bandcamp

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Windhand w/Un https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/426122
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand has been crafting cosmic, psychedelic doom since its 2008 inception. Its most recent album Eternal Return (2018) is a fuzz-laden journey into mythological constructs of emotional and psychological spaces. Its hypnotic rhythms and Dorthia Cottrell’s powerful and sultry vocals are reminiscent of some of Kylesa’s more meditative yet moments. Seattle’s Un is more in the realm of heavy, contemplative post-rock with an knack for evoking the otherworldly with a processional elegance paired with a feral sensibility once the songs take flight.

Pale Waves, photo by Katia Temkin

Wednesday | 06.22
What: 5 Seconds of Summer w/Pale Waves
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: 5 Seconds of Summer is a pretty standard mainstream pop act and one of the biggest people who normally read previews for this site may not know about. But it’s songwriting is strong enough and its musicianship accomplished enough there’s no need to be embarrassed by being into its pop hooks. Sure they got their start as YouTube stars and got a bump up into an international audience touring with One Direction but also managed to parlay these breaks into a large international fandom on the merits of its own creative work. But a major reason to go to this show as well is opening act Pale Waves. Underneath the effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Its forthcoming album Unwanted releases on August 12, 2022.

Dead Boyfriend, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 06.24
What: Scream Screen: Ginger Snaps w/Dead Boyfriend
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This iteration of June’s Scream Screen will be a showing of Ginger Snaps (2000) directed by John Fawcett. It’s about a pair of sisters one of whom, the titular Ginger, becomes a werewolf and goes on a bit of a killing rampage that comes to a head by the end of the film. No spoilers. The musical act opening the proceedings is Dead Boyfriend whose recorded output suggests a lo-fi indie/bedroom pop aesthetic with delicately raw emotional sensibilities that fans of early Joanna Newsom or Dear Nora might appreciate.

HULDER, photo by Liana Rakijian

Saturday | 06.25
What: True Brewing Bacchanal: Khemmis, Panopticon, Hulder, Vastum and Dreadnought
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: True Brewing is the metal themed brewery on Broadway in Denver and this mini-festival features some of the better local and not so local metal bands running. Khemmis’ psychedelic doom has struck a chord with audiences far beyond Denver with its intricate melodies and songwriting chops. Dreadnought puts a different flavor into the mix of doom with keyboards adding a layer of dynamic atmosphere and a touch of classical sensibility. Hulder is a Belgian/American solo black metal project based out of Portland. Her latest album offers her signature flood of crushing riffs and Cascadian atmospherics but also a touch of the more ambient side of the songwriting. The hovering riffs over propulsive drumming from its new album The Eternal Fanfare is something we have come to expect from a solo black metal act but the songwriter sounds like a being from myth declaring tales of a perilous future but not one without its share of glory and adventure.

Saturday | 06.25
What: Goo Age, Hippies Wearing Muzzles, Sleepdial and Lowern
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Goo Age is Garrett Williamson and Adrian Wright who craft New Age music seemingly with analog synths and sequencers for a sound like an 80s video game about going on vacation and having playful adventures in a mostly benevolent landscape. It’s like Art of Noise or Anne Dudley solo but scoring the aforementioned video game that doesn’t involve killing other creatures or exploiting the environment but, rather, creative achievements and those more down to earth and not dire. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is the analog synth project of Lee Evans, bassist of slop pop band Kissing Party. Sleepdial is one of the projects of Luke Thinnes aka French Kettle Station but in the past Sleepdial has been his guitar driven ambient music though these days who can say exactly what you’ll see.

Kamasi Washington, photo by Russell Hamilton

Saturday | 06.25
What: Kamasi Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kamasi Washington is the rare modern jazz leader whose work as a saxophonist in conjunction with other artists and collaborators and his work as a sideman is so powerfully expressive he can uplift and break your heart without having to utter a word, such is the mastery of his musicianship as guided by a superior creative imagination with his craft. He hasn’t put out an album since the epochal Heaven and Earth in 2018 though he has done music with Dinner Party which features other jazz greats Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and 9th Wonder. In the live setting where he can improv and push his compositions beyond their usual bounds is where Washington shins brightest.

Fleet Foxes, photo by Emily Johnston

Tuesday and Wednesday | 06.28 and 06.29
What: Fleet Foxes w/Tim Bernardes
When: 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom and Vilar Performing Arts Center (Beaver Creek)
Why: Fleet Foxes are one of the best and most creative bands out of the indie folk milieu of the 2000s. Before going on hiatus in 2013 after the departure of longtime member Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes were something of an indie rock supergroup with more than one gifted songwriter in the band. But since reconvening in 2016 the band has pushed its sound in interesting directions and perhaps most distinctively with its 2020 album Shore and its evocatively delicate and sensitive compositions informed by a taking stock of life and sussing out what feels like needs to be said and despite orchestral soundscapes has a refreshing simplicity.

Kraftwerk, photo by Reema Shah of Out of the Dark Photography

Thursday | 06.30
What: Kraftwerk 3-D
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Kraftwerk has to be considered among the most influential bands of the past five decades and more as pioneers of putting synthesizers into music equal parts visionary pop, art rock and the avant-garde. Every synth pop band or derivations thereof are all descended from Kraftwerk’s unique and idiosyncratic songwriting and soundcraft. Every techno artist and DJ culture practitioner owes a great deal to Kraftwerk’s experiments in sound. Its early recordings included more than a few not purely electronic instruments but as the band evolved through the 70s and the 80s it ditched even acoustic percussion in favor of the electronic equivalent even if it didn’t dispense with the physicality of its sound both futuristic and minimal and immediately accessible even its stranger moments. For this tour you will get to see its 3-D presentation at Red Rocks with 3-D projections that anyone who has seen these shows can tell you add an experiential dimension to the music that listening to it at home can’t fully replicate with Kraftwerk itself delivering a powerful performance even without “rocking out” as its members finely control its orchestrated flow of deeply evocative sounds. The 2020 tour had to be canceled because of the early stage of the pandemic and this revamping of the presentation from previous 3-D tours from Kraftwerk will prove that the band doesn’t really rest on false laurels.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2022

ADULT., photo courtesy the artists
Dehd, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday | 05.02
What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.

Mudhoney, photo by Niffer Calderwood

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Interpol w/Matthew Dear
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.

Moodlighting in April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 05.05
What: Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.

Thursday | 05.05
What: Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.

BleakHeart November 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.06
What: BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.

Friday | 05.06
What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.

Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08
What: Henry Rollins
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08
Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.

Dorothy, photo by Courtney Dellafiora

Sunday | 05.08
What: Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.

Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09
What: The Church
When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09)
Where: Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09)
Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.

Monday | 05.09
What: Fontaines D.C.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.

Monday | 05.09
What: Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.

Slow Crush, photo by Kat De Laet

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Slow Crush w/SOM
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Metz w/Moon Pussy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.

MXMTOON, photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Tuesday | 05.10
What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12
What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12)
Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.

Thursday | 05.12
What: Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.

Friday | 05.13
What: William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.

Fozzy, photo by Adrienne Beacco

Friday | 05.13
What: Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma
When: 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.

ADULT. circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.14
What: ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bluebird Theater, March 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.15
What: OMD w/In The Valley Below
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.

Collen Green, photo by Jason MacDonald

Monday | 05.16
What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.

Tuesday | 05.17
What: Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea
When: 8:30 doors 9 show
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.

Author & Punisher, photo by Becky DiGiglio

Wednesday | 05.18
What: Author & Punisher w/MVTANT
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.

Thursday | 05.19
What: Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.

Molchat Doma, photo courtesy Sacred Bones Records

Friday | 05.20
What: Molchat Doma w/Pompeya
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.

Elder Island, photo by Nick Kane

Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21
What: Elder Island w/JORDANN
When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21)
Where: Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21)
Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Kurt Vile, photo by Adam Willacavage

Monday | 05.23
What: Kurt Vile and the Violators
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.

Monday | 05.23
What: Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.

Spoon, photo by Oliver Halfin

Tuesday | 05.24
What: Spoon w/Geese
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.

Bauhaus, photo by Gary Bandfield

Wednesday | 05.25
What: Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.

A Place To Bury Strangers, photo by Heather Bickford

Thursday | 05.26
What: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.

Thursday | 05.26
What: Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.

Built to Spill, illustration by Alex Graham

Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28
What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28)
Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.

Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Friday | 05.27
What: The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.

Animal Collective circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.27
What: Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.

Friday | 05.27
What: Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.

Ezra Furman, photo by Tonja Thilesen

Saturday | 05.28
What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.

Grace Cummings, photo courtesy the artist
Causer in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.30
What: Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.

The Body, photo by Zachary Harrel Jones

Tuesday | 05.31
What: The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland https://globehall.com/event/the-weather-station-helena-deland-presented-by-kgnu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice https://www.missionballroom.com/event/405967-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 13: New Standards Men

New Standards Men, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Snappy Little Numbers

New Standards Men on Facebook

New Standards Men on Instagram

Best Shows in Denver December 2021

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

Thursday | 12.03
What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.

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

Friday | 12.03
What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.

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

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

Saturday | 12.04
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.

Monday | 12.06
What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.

Eyehategod at Bluebird Theater January 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 12.07
What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod
When: 6/7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.

Tuesday | 12.07
What: Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.

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

Thursday | 12.09
What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.

Friday | 12.10
What: N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.

Screwtape at Gothic Theatre November 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.10
What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.

Saturday | 12.11
What: Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil
When: 9:30/10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.

Friday | 12.17
What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.

Riddy Arman, photo by Mike Vanata

Friday | 12.17
What: Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.

Lindsey Buckingham, photo by Lauren Dukoff

Monday | December 20
What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.

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

Thursday | 12.23
What: Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.

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

Friday | 12.31
What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.

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

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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

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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

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

Thursday | January 16

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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.