Moon Sand Land Dissects the Internalized Cruelty of American Bravado on “High Tops”

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Moon Sand Land “High Tops” cover

When you’re an American you are constantly expected to put on a brave face or worse to internalize various flavors of bravado or seem like a failure merely for being human. That sort of toxic psychology explains a lot about the dark fascination with reality TV to see people struggling with that facade and fail completely. It’s like we’re perversely entertained by the spectacle of something we’re all dealing with, if we’re honest with ourselves, every day. Moon Sand Land tackles this subject on its song “High Tops” – the need to pretending we’re happy so we’re not considered crazy or broken. And all the weird behaviors we will engage in not knowing their root like getting our physical imperfections “fixed,” retail therapy, PMA as a form of delusional magic, dreaming of wealth that miraculously falls in our lap thinking it will fix all our problems instead of pursuing something personally meaningful. This song with its fractured melody and sense of anxiety amplified desperation as the lyrics describe how things are in the U.S.A. for everyone from all walks of life is refreshingly honest and accurate in its take. A take that is the opposite of nihilistic, rather, hopeful in the face of incredible odds. Fans of Pavement’s frayed edges and poetic honesty and Parquet Courts’ similarly warped melodies and direct line to what it’s all about will greatly appreciate “High Tops.”

moonsandland.bandcamp.com/releases
facebook.com/moonsandland

Best Shows in Denver 4/26/18 – 5/2/18

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Parquet Courts performs Sunday, April 29, 2018 at The Gothic Theatre. Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Thursday | April 26, 2018

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tUnE-yArDs circa March 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: tUnE-yArDs w/My Brightest Diamond
When: Thursday, 04.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: When tUnE-yArDs toured in the wake of the release of the 2009 album Bird-Brains, Merrill Garbus’ soulful singing amid what seemed like a raw combination of loops, percussion and Nate Brenner’s liquid bass lines seemed like something right out of that period’s vibrant bedroom recorder world and so idiosyncratic yet accessible that the duo connected with people that wanted to see something different that didn’t fit in immediately with something we’ve all seen hundreds of times already. The band’s unconventional pop songs seemingly drawing from several musical traditions ended up garnering a wide audience after the release of the 2011 album Whokill. In 2018 the band issued I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, an album on which Garbus, according to an interview with Vox, challenges her own white privilege and other privileges as an artist that has been directly inspired by music made people who didn’t enjoy a similarly privileged existence. Whatever one thinks of such gestures and self-examination and confession, as usual, the tUnE-yArDs record is still refreshingly out of step with a whole swath of popular music except rather than the lo-fi aesthetic of old, the new album has a larger, fuller sound. And Garbus’ words aren’t eyeroll-worthy examples of self-hate and self-flagellation—they’re pointed and self-critical but not cruel.

Who: Glasss Presents: Eraserhead Fuckers w/prettyinpink w/roaddawg, VC Hearts and Shamwow
When: Thursday, 04.26, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: If you’ve been wondering where the weirdo hip-hop has been hiding (it hasn’t been hiding), this would be a great show to check out some of the weirdest. Eraserhead Fuckers is a noise-hip-hop project that somehow lives up to the name with his confrontational performance style and brutal beats. Prettyinpink and roaddawg are doing a collaborative set and their vibe is something in the vein of Earl Sweatshirt or Vince Staples—moody, synth heavy and a little on the gritty side with the words.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Surf Mom
When: Thursday, 04.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The Speakeasy Series edition for this week includes Princess Dewclaw, a band that combines melodic synth compositions with punk rock stridency and a clever dismantling of patriarchal tropes. Church Fire is a duo steeped in noise, electronic dance music, fiery performances and lyrics that feel like a direct line to a celebratory outage and melancholic anthems of healing through honoring the hurting. Surf Mom should probably change its name because it’s beyond surf at this point. Except for the fact that it’s a great band name. The two-piece uses a thorny pop format to comment on social issues and personal struggles in a way that comes off as punk but isn’t stuck with the musical baggage of the same.

Friday | April 27, 2018

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Who: Vulfpeck, Kamasi Washington and Knower
When: Friday, 04.27, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Despite the fact that Vulfpeck is essentially trying to channel a 1970s and 1980s live concert television broadcast program format in presenting its music, and drawing upon that era for musical inspiration as well, even its session-musician-worthy chops don’t diminish its ear for lively and emotionally engaging funk. A bit like Average White Band but no horns, better low end and more unconventional chord progressions. Sharing the bill is one of modern jazz’s bright stars, Kamasi Washington. Perhaps known to many people as a musician and arranger on albums by Pulitzer Prize winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar (including To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN.), Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Run the Jewels, Washington’s own output is impressive in its own right. His 2015 album The Epic had a classic sensibility without sounding like a throwback. Rather, Washington’s emotionally expressive and musically adept compositions articulate a yearning quality, a sense of resignation to reality and the blue feeling that accompanies all such realizations, a harboring of hope and dreams of a better future glimpsed winking in the distance. It was simply a musically ambitious and expansive jazz album but one that had the accessibility of a should-have-been collaboration between Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Lalo Schifrin. In 2018, Washington will release his new album, Heaven and Earth.

What: LEAF (Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival)
When: Friday, 04.27 and Saturday 4.28
Where: Center for Musical Arts
Why: This multi-media festival is all ages and free and runs through the weekend with performances, art demonstrations and film. For more information, you can read our interview with festival curator Dave Fodel here.

Who: Ghost Tapes, The Milk Blossoms, Kdubbs
When: Friday, 04.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghost Tapes has been honing its dusky downtempo jazz/hip-hop/soul sound for a few years around town at house shows, DIY spaces, dive bars and smaller clubs. But even early on the band had a surprising level of sophistication in its musicianship and performance. Its 2017 self-titled album demonstrated hints of Baduizm period Erykah Badu in the poetic wordplay imbued with a thoughtfulness and wisdom that music like that doesn’t get nearly enough credit with possessing. Fitting that Ghost Tapes is sharing the stage with The Milk Blossoms, a band that incorporates elements of hip-hop, indie pop, folk and R&B into its overall sound while also seeming so idiosyncratic to the point of almost being outsider music if not for the band’s command of classic songcraft. The Milk Blossoms’ tender yet emotionally rich and affecting songs make the band pretty much impossible to forget.

Who: Neil Haverstick
When: Friday, 04.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Tuft Theater at Swallow Hill
Why: Colorado’s dean of microtonal guitar, Neil Haverstick, is playing a rare show at Swallow Hill. Haverstick is adept at so many musical styles it’s difficult to say what his focus will be this time out but no matter if it’s avant-garde, classical, blues, jazz or whatever seems to interest Haverstick the most at the moment, it’ll be a worthwhile show to attend.

Who: Commander Cody w/Howlin’ Goatz
When: Friday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Caribou Room, Nederland
Why: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and in its early incarnations operating at a time when Ann Arbor and Detroit were experiencing a kind of golden age of music. Between Motown, Alice Cooper, MC5, Stooges and other notables of the time, that part of the country was the place of origin and home to some of the most important music of the era. It would be an exaggeration to say that Commander Cody and his country rock band was as long term impactful as the aforementioned. But it did yield a couple of novelty hits in its career that are well-remembered by anyone that heard them. “Hot Rod Lincoln” from the band’s 1971 debut album Lost in the Ozone was in the US Top 10 and its 1981 hit “2 Triple Cheese (Side Order of Fries)” from the 1980 album Lose It Tonight had a music video that reached anyone that saw Turkey Television on the Nickelodeon network in the early 80s. There’s a good chance Commander Cody will play both even without His Lost Planet Airmen among a choice selection of his extensive and prolific back catalog.

Saturday | April 28, 2018

 

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Animal / object circa December 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: FoCoMX pick: Animal / object (Kurt Bauer and Karen Sheridan)
When: Saturday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Dome
Why: FoCoMX is an annual music festival held in Fort Collins that mostly showcases Colorado-based acts along the front range from a broad spectrum of musical styles. Perhaps not booked at enough local music festivals is Animal / object. The latter is Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band. Lead by Kurt Bauer formerly of 1980s post-punk band Susan and God, the group has included sculptor/painter Steven Gordon (who will not be performing this particular show), winds player Paul Mimlitsch, novelist Gordon Pryor, experimental electronic musician/graphic designer David Britton, prolific outsider musician Chris Culhane of Lords of Howling and Violent Femmes frontman/guitarist Gordon Gano. For this show, Bauer will perform with Karen Sheridan, formerly of Denver death rock/punk band Your Funeral and atmospheric noise/industrial project Corpses As Bedmates. Always a different show, always interesting and rewarding.

Who: Of Feather and Bone w/Suffering Hour, Wayfarer and Many Blessings
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Of Feather and Bone’s new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion should solidify the band’s reputation as one of the most interesting and innovative grindcore bands going today. Yes, the sonic brutality is there, the relentless pace and the animalistic vocals. But there is a hauntedness, a spookiness to much of the group’s music. Like the darkness is coming from a personal place. Yes, the disgust with human civilization is abstracted a bit through fantastical song titles and the flood of sounds but its visceral and real. Of Feather and Bone celebrates the release of the album with fellow purveyors of extreme, heavy sounds Suffering Hour and Wayfarer. Many Blessings isn’t a grind band per se even though Ethan McCarthy is in one of the heaviest bands in the world in Primitive Man. Many Blessings is an atmospheric noise project with its sound generation based in tools similar to those McCarthy employs with his more well-known projects. But it’s just as heavy as anything else on the bill.

Who: Of Montreal w/Locate S, 1
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Of Montreal is an older band but it’s basically like the psychedelic pop equivalent of Ty Segall in some ways in terms of its prolific and diverse output. And that that prolific stream of work is actually worth exploring. For the 2018 album White is Relic/Irrealis Mood, band leader Kevin Barnes dispensed with the old band format approach to recording and composing so that the record sounds like something that might have been crafted in a virtual environment with Barnes having access to some futuristic, immersive form the the internet in which he can take in/experience knowledge in a way that is more and deeper than mere 3D. Musically it sounds like an indie pop Howard Jones album with touches of glam rock. Most Of Montreal shows are wonderfully colorful and weird and a real experience and with the material for the new album, Barnes and company probably have something spectacular and unexpected for the live show.

Who: Blockhead w/MIDIcinal, Big J. Beats, Lost Glory
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Tony Simon aka Blockhead is a DJ and record producer whose name is often associated with production he’s done for Aesop Rock. His music separate from production work he does for other artists tends toward an imaginative downtempo approach like a radio station for an ultra hip radio station in a hidden part of a city in a weird multiple user video game. Any of his albums will do, whether it’s 2007’s Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book or 2017’s Funeral Balloons, for a trip into a brighter, more chill, yet not soporific, universe.

Who: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever w/Turvy Organ and Serpentfoot
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever from Melbourne, Australia was a band that you could either like or find meh based on your feeling toward modern indie rock. Its post-surf post-punk jangle rock, at least through the 2017 album The French Press, was reminiscent of The War On Drugs in that you could hear the influence of 80s power pop and maybe even Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. And there seemed to be so much more emotional depth to the songwriting than some you’d get out of some kind of half-baked party rock band. In that way Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has much more in common with Beach Slang than so many of the neo-pop-punk bands. And hey, sometimes the most interesting period in a band’s life is when it’s still trying to figure out its own voice. On its forthcoming Hope Downs the group strikes a New Romantics tone on the Talking Straight single and in moments has a vibe akin to that of Soft Boys or even solo Robyn Hitchcock.

Sunday | April 29, 2018

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Keldari Station circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Hymen, Keldari Station and Shawn Mlekush
When: Sunday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Shawn Mlekush will perform a set of ambient improv for this show. But he’s known around certain Denver circles as a non-conventional composer of electronic music and his not very active band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory fit in with the noise scene even if it was more in the realm of avant-garde electronic music. Keldari Station is an unlikely yet vital combination of dub, glam rock, synth pop and post-punk.

Who: Parquet Courts w/The Teeth of the Hydra
When: Sunday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: It would be facile to say Parquet Courts is like a new version of Pavement. Because the bands aren’t much alike except for a fearless and creatively musical use of atonality in guitar and vocals, a nearly reckless employment of imprecision in crafting interlocking guitar melodies and a nearly unpredictable high energy and tripping, hanging moments. Like machines on the brink of collapse trying desperately to cross a bridge on the verge of the same. In both cases the result has been some of the most interesting and eclectic rock music of their time. On May 18, 2018 Parquet Courts will release Wide Awake! So chances are you’ll get to see some of the new album live before it’s out.

Monday | April 30, 2018

IAMX ISTANBUL LIVE

Who: IAMX
When: Monday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: When Chris Corner went solo following the dissolution of his well-known trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps in 2004, he was able to not only push his music in a more experimental direction but he was able to fully incorporate the sonic and visual aesthetic of his art into a unified multi-media and theatrical presentation not limited by any preconception of musical genre in which he’d need to fit his music. The resulting musical output has been eclectic but consistent with Corner’s desire to create a theatrical and immersive musical experience. The latest IAMX album is 2018’s Alive In New Light, coming on the heels of the September 2017 album Unfall.

Who: God Save the Queens: Queer Punk Night at Hi-Dive hosted by Noveli and DJ Junkyard
When: Monday, 04.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The title of the event says it all. So you’ll probably hear a little Bikini Kill, Pansy Division, Green Day, Crass, Los Crudos, Big Boys and a whole lot more great queer punk on a sound system that is more robust than the one you have at home.

Who: Morbid Angel w/Dreaming Dead and Hate Storm Annihilation
When: Monday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Morbid Angel was one of the foundational bands of death metal. Based in Tampa, Florida and putting to tape most of its iconic recordings, including its influential 1989 debut full-length Altars of Madness, at Morrisound Recording? Founded the same year, 1983, as Death from Orlando, Possessed from San Francisco and Necrophagia from Wellsville, Ohio? Seems like some dark cosmic energy that Death metal’s early big hitters emerged so close together. Trey Azagthoth’s brutal yet psychedelic guitar sound has been the constant of the band from the beginning but this time around later-era singer Steve Tucker has returned and provided vocals on the 2017 album Kingdoms Disdained. Live there actually is a spooky quality to the music and both Tucker and former singer David Vincent provided a sepulchral vocal style that could be silly but never Cookie Monster enough to not find somewhat discomforting and perfectly suited to the music.

Tuesday | May 1, 2018

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Oko Tygra circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gus Dapperton w/Oko Tygra
When: Tuesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Gus Dapperton isn’t breaking and new ground with his pop songs. Post-surf rock jangle guitar? Jazz-lite rhythms? Bright, melodic synth flourishes? De rigueur with modern indie rock. But something about how he pulls it all together with his band has a simple charm that sets it apart as does Gus Dapperton’s off the cuff yet confident stage banter. Opening the show is Denver dream pop/post-punk band Oko Tygra. Joshua Novak’s command of mood and the warmth of his vocal delivery gives music that can sometimes be beautifully icy a human core that elevates the mood. Also, in the last two or three years the band has pared back and simplified its sonic signature making for more spacious and emotionally stirring songs.

Wednesday | May 2, 2018

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Who: Dessa w/Monakr
When: Wednesday, 05.02, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Though not a founder of influential hip-hop collective Doomtree Dessa has been an integral part of that crew for years. She is after all CEO of Doomtree these days. But as a solo artist she is able to demonstrate her gift for producing beats and a deft and creative use of words shifting between singing, rapping and spoken word. There is a confidence and fluidity to her delivery that bring to her evocative storytelling a vivid quality as though she’s conceived of her albums as a films she’s directing and in which she’s acting. Her new album, 2018’s Chime, her first in five years, has spare titles but inside each track her words are incisive and impactful and the beats cinematic.

Who: Open to the Hound, The Lacuna Brotherhood and Room 204
When: Wednesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Open to the Hound sounds like the band all got together and went off to a cabin in the mountains to write their songs and had plenty of time to be away from the haze of civilization and touched by starlight and moss. Sometimes the results are trippy, fuzzy grunge rock, other times, introspective and minimal freak folk/indie pop campfire compositions. They even have some ambient-rock-downtempo songs that some musically unsophisticated people might call “shoegaze.” The trio lists The Microphones as an influence and the part-rock-song-part-sound-collage aesthetic of some of the band’s music bears this out in a way that is refreshingly not so obvious.