With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.
Monday | August 2, 2021 What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors) Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.
Friday | August 6, 2021 What:NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit! When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors) Where: Globe Hall Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.
Saturday | August 7, 2021 What:Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors) Where: Lost Lake Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.
Tuesday | August 10, 2021 What:Small Black and Korine When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Marquis Theater Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.
Tuesday | August 10 What:Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ When: (6 p.m. doors) Where: Red Rocks Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.
What:Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire Where: HQ Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.
Thursday | August 12, 2021 What:Radkey When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Marquis Theater Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.
Thursday | August 19, 2021 What:Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.
Tuesday | August 24, 2021 — CANCELLED What:The Residents When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.
Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29 What:Glasss Records Stage at the UMS When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.
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.
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.
The glossy lips and gold grill that you see in the beginning of the music video for “Problem” by Alex Mali (directed by the artist and OMNI) is more than symbolic of someone finally having to listen after so not doing so for entirely too long. Mali sings with a bold but cool swagger outlining the ways in which she had been taken for granted with her needs dismissed as insignificant. But now that the offender is in a time of need the chorus of “Sound like a you problem, cuz it ain’t my problem” is delivered with a touch of amusement—the kind you get when someone who has been so neglectful, abusive and unmindful of you has the gall to approach you like you owe them a favor or anything at all. When Mali manages to make the rhyme and rhythm work on the line “All the time I gave you was unrecognized, now all you want do is reconcile” it’s a marvel of creative vocals and speaks directly to the remembered pain while giving nothing to the person undeserving of consideration. The beat is trap but Mali makes use of a deeply evocative palette of sounds that goes beyond the tropes of style. It feels dark, lush and fluid and fans of Kari Faux and R A R E B Y R D $ will appreciate the attitude and the chill yet intense vibe of the track. Watch the video for “Problem” on YouTube, connect with Alex Mali at the links provided and look out for her new EP Phenom due out late Spring 2020.
What:PUP w/Screaming Females, The Drew Thompson Foundation When: Thursday, 3.5, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: PUP started out as one of the new wave of pop punk bands but the inherent psychological insight of its early albums blossomed most fully on its unusually thought-provoking 2019 album Morbid Stuff.
What:Paul DeHaven album release Echoes and Overtones w/Lake Mary/Chaz Prymek When: Thursday, 3.5, 8 p.m. Where: Ubisubibi Room Why: Paul DeHaven (formerly of Paper Bird) is releasing his latest album Echoes and Overtones tonight at an intimate show at Ubisububi Room in the basement of The Thin Man. Time time out DeHaven assembled songs from a large batch of material and found a tonal and thematic resonance among his more mellow compositions and brought in old live favorites “Souvenir American Gun” and “I Love You Love Me” to round out an album of pastoral, vivid stories tied to specific times, seasons and places in DeHaven’s life.
Friday | March 6
What:Lower Dens w/:3LON When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Lower Dens once again gave us a vibrant, evocative electronic art pop album with 2019’s The Competition in which the band uses creativity as a vehicle for exploring the pain and confusion of the current era of history with human civilization at a perilous crossroads between environmental apocalypse and fascism and a path toward a more compassionate and sane future.
What:Day of Jubilee: Marcus Church and Sliver When: Friday, 3.6, 5 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Rescheduled from February – Marcus Church is a Denver-based power pop trio. Its gently jangle-y and fuzzy melodies sound like singer/guitarist Dustin Habel spent a whole lot of time obsessively listening to only records produced by Mitch Easter and the complete discographies of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. That also means there’s a tender earnestness to the songwriting imbued with an uncommon tenderness and humanity. Sliver bypassed the 90s grunge nostalgia wave of recent years by making no bones about its musical roots in its hard driving, explosively emotional guitar rock. Mudhoney influence aside, its aesthetic is most informed by both the self-effacing, sensitive, introspective side of Pacific Northwest noise punk and the wiry, politically conscious end of DC hardcore.
What:Best Coast w/Mannequin Pussy When: Saturday, 3.7, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Best Coast is touring in support of its 2020 album Always Tomorrow, its first in five years following a period in which singer Bethany Cosentino felt creatively tapped out and the record is about coming back from that space of feeling trapped inside your own anxieties and emotional exhaustion.
What:Freq Boutique 36 featuring Victoria Lundy When: Monday, 3.9, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: This is the three year anniversary of synthesizer showcase Freq Boutique that includes good food and drink as well as a synth open mic. This edition will include a performance from Theremin and synth artist Victoria Lundy whose own compositions are steeped in pop and the classical avant-garde. She has performed in various Denver bands including The Inactivists, The Goofus Device and Carbon Dioxide Orchestra.
Wednesday | March 11
What:Gene Loves Jezebel w/Red Wing Black Bird and Plague Garden When: Wednesday, 3.11, 7 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: This is the Michael Aston version of Gene Loves Jezebel, the influential 80s post-punk/new wave band whose eclectic aesthetic and lush melodies influenced a segment of what became alternative rock in the 1990s. Opening is darkwave/shoegaze one-man act Red Wing Black Bird whose 2019 album Too Klaus For Comfort was a unique fusion of synth pop and industrial post-punk and swirling guitar. Plague Garden’s flavor of modern death rock seemingly draws inspiration from the early Cure records and Valor Kand-era Christian Death. The duo recently released the haunting and harrowing LEFT IN THE GRAVE.
What:The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.
What:Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.
What:Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.
What:Chuck Prophet When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.
What:Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.
What:SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.
What:Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Wednesday | March 4
What:Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.
What:Serpentfoot, Plastic Daggers and Fern Roberts When: Thursday, 2.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Serpentfoot is a Fort Collins-based psychedelic garage rock band kind of in the realm of boogie blues and fuzzy surf rock. Plastic Daggers could be considered a punk band because it has that arch and brass energy and attitude. But with a bass and drums with dual vocals its sound is refreshingly spare yet maximalist. This is the debut show from Fern Roberts, the new band of former Emerald Siam, Overcasters and Light Travels Faster bass player Todd Spriggs.
Friday | February 14
What:Chella and the Charm w/Jen Korte & The Loss, White Rose Motor Oil, Jackie Zubrzycki, Erika Ryann When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is an event called Sweethearts of the Rodeo and features some of Denver’s greatest female-led bands. Chella and the Charm may perform some of its songs more about relationships and love but it’s never simplistic, rote pop Americana platitudes. Chella’s incisive mind poetically peels apart the zeitgeist and presents the strugges and joys with a rare poetic insight. Jen Korte is one of the most versatile and hard-working musicians in Denver whose dynamic songwriting expands the genres and styles in which she chooses to operate.
What:Bianca Mikahn, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and Shockermom When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: A showcase for some of the best and most imaginative hip-hop artists in Denver at the moment. Bianca Mikahn’s noise experiments and soundscapes paired with her poetry is always a surprisingly compelling combination. R A R E B Y R D $ breaks hearts and heals minds with their dense beats and passionate vocals and wordplay. Pears and Perils is like if Bjork went more lushly downtempo and did hip-hop. Shockermom fuses emotionally vibrant jazz vocals with ambient hip-hop and one of the best things you’ll see all month.
What:Cheap Perfume, Flora De La Luna and The Yellnats When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Colorado Springs-based political punk band Cheap Perfume puts the fun into caustic send-ups of the misogynist aspects of American culture.
Saturday | February 15
What:Lloyd Cole When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Why: Lloyd Cole came to prominence in the 80s as the lead singer of the great jangle pop band The Commotions. But by the turn of the decade he had gone solo but still writing thought-provoking songs though in a slightly different style suitable to his poetic imagination. In that way he followed a similar path to Robyn Hitchcock when he left The Soft Boys. One of the criminally underknown songwriting greats of our era. Currently touring following the 2019 release of his latest album Guesswork.
What:The New Pornographers w/Diane Coffee When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: There’s always been something orchestral to The New Pornographers’ spacious pop songs. Like something assembled in a studio in the late 60s with Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks but with a modern set of musical ideas and instincts. Its 2019 album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights also highlights how despite the grandeur of its creative vision its songs manage to seem like glimpses into intimate moments of vulnerable, existential contemplation.
What:Mattiel w/Calvin Love When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mattiel has a knack for taking surreal everyday situations and turn them into synth pop epics. Her 2019 album Satis Factory does some sonic time traveling between early 60s girl group and Connie Frances-esque melodies, late 70s New Wave pop wiry energy and a contemporary ironic tone. But her delivery doesn’t feel jaded or detached, just playing with the songwriting format to comment on culture and society in a way that uses nostalgic elements to speak of the present in the past tense.
What:Pictureplane w/ DEBR4H and Entrancer When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Former Denverite Pictureplane jokingly coined the term “witch house” around a decade ago. But his own music transcends such easy categorization as a mélange of hip-hop, glitch pop and noise.
What:Bernie Sanders Rally When: Sunday, 2.16, 4 p.m. Where: Colorado Convention Center Why: For anyone what wants to go and see the current frontrunner in the primaries for the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate for the office of President of the United States.
What:Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Lorelai K and Faces Under the Mirror When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party if keeping the torch alive for darkwave in Dallas at its base of operations Funeral Home before moving to Los Angeles this fall. The band’s 2019 album MARTYR is reminiscent of a melding of Clan of Xymox, Xmal Deutschland and the more glam end of of Concrete Blonde.
What:Pinegrove w/Whitney Ballen When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Pinegrove is currently touring in support of its latest album Marigold. The record is its most focused effort to date conveying a sense of space and simplicity with interlocking, textured tones lending the songs a complexity not immediately obvious. The record comes out in the wake of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall’s undergoing therapy and other work following a 2017 allegation of sexual coercion as outlined in a 2018 article on Pitchfork by Jenn Pelly. If turmoil produces better art, perhaps Hall’s efforts at becoming a better person have lead to a good deal of creative clarity as well.
Tuesday | February 18
What:The Jungle Giants w/Little Image When: Tuesday, 2.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Jungle Giants from Brisbane, Australia combine an R&B and soul sensibility into its jaunty pop songs. Its music videos suggest an aesthetic informed by independent film and Kurt Vonnegut. Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Quiet Ferocity, in 2019 and 2020 it released singles “Heavy Hearted” and “Sending Me Ur Loving” respectively so on this tour expect to hear new material before it appears on the band’s next record.
Who:Telefon Tel Aviv w/Steve Hauschildt When: Thursday, 1.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: On Dreams Are Not Enough, Telefon Tel Aviv delves into states of mind and existence as represented by the titles of the song: “I dream of it often,” “Standing at the bottom of the ocean,” “Mouth agape,” “Eyes Glaring” etc. The compositions combine texture and tone in a way processed to convey a sense of space and a journey into the imagination in a way to perhaps suggest that indeed merely having dreams is inadequate to having a life worth living even if we are often guided by them. Like a nod to Langston Hughes’ famous lines about a dream deferred. A dream does not, after all, occupy the same space in the psyche as conscious experiences. Songwriter Joshua Eustis invites on a journey to make these sonic spaces that might have sat in the backburner of his mind manifest. Steven Hauschildt has been crafting exquisite sonic experiences with software and analog synth for years including during his time with experimental electronic pop group Emeralds. As a solo artist his mastery of emotional colorings is impressive and his latest offering is 2019’s Nonlin.
What: Natural Violence Tape Release Show w/Many Blessings, DJ Pop CTRL and Dem Deya Sound System When: Thursday, 1.30, 8 p.m. Where: Meadowlark Bar
Friday | January 31
What:Whipporwill w/Natalie Tate When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive Why: Whipporwill’s 2019 album The Nature of Storms charts a perilous personal journey that could have ended the band as it endured a fraught tour that took it through extreme, inclement weather followed by a period of personal travails that would test anyone’s resolve to continue with something as dubiously rewarding a music often is. But the result is a dynamic set of songs that transcends expectations knowing the group has roots in folk and indie rock as its compositions are imaginative and evocative with an ear not just for melody but deep atmosphere and emotional tenor. Whipporwill doesn’t hit us with an album full of the same, tried and true dynamics, rather, a series of well developed concepts as set pieces and short stories connected by a larger narrative about life and the interconnected significance of our experiences. Natalie Tate is one of Denver’s most interesting and talented songwriters who hasn’t played around town much but her combination of musical chops and a spirit of experimentation and innovation in songcraft has branched in fascinating directions since she emerged in the local music scene several years back.
What:Goon (album release) w/Sunk Cost, Gack and Sweet Kiss When: Friday, 1.31, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Goon’s Natural Evil takes modern hardcore in a much more experimental direction with the use of noise and atmospheric sounds in a way that is both pointed, intense while warping those edges and taking the angular quality of the music and splaying the dynamic in unpredictable and ultimately wilder directions. The record frankly showcases how a merely excellent hardcore band can become one that can influence more than connoisseurs of that style of music as the appeal transcends subgenre.
What:Jacket of Spiders, Swami and Flat Earth When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Tarmints, Twice Wilted and Cynic’s Bane. The result is surging, swirling guitar rock that is both colossal and ethereal and frankly out of step with a lot of what’s happening in Denver at the moment. Fans of the members’ previous bands as well as Space Team Electra and Bowery Electric should check out what the band is doing.
What:Damn Selene album release w/R A R E B Y R D $, 3Two and Stoney Bertz When: Saturday, 2.01, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Damn Selene has been one of the most respected hip-hop artists of the Denver underground for a handful of years in the more experimental end of that scene. The artist’s beats are rooted in noise, darkwave and industrial soundscaping paired with emotionally charged vocals taking at aim at society with honesty and a gift for combining storytelling with mythmaking and self-examination. Those qualities manifest brilliantly on the new album Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore. Selene’s vibrant synth work and transporting melodies vibe well with those of R A R E B Y R D $ whose blend of radical vulnerability and swagger weaves well with its own entrancing beats informed by a rich palette of sounds drawing from dub, analog synth music, classic hip-hop, noise, ambient music and whatever has caught the trio’s ear at the moment.
What:The Heroine, Tokyo Rodeo and Stone Deaf When: Saturday, 2.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Just when the whole “Southern Rock” thing seems played out, rote and utterly performative, The Heroine from San Antonio is there to play up every trope with a sincerity and conviction that is impossible to mime and has to come from an honest place. The Heroine sounds a bit like a way better and non-wack version of Motley Crue circa Dr. Feelgood and performs its shows like they have something to prove to someone even if only to themselves. Tokyo Rodeo from Denver performs with a similar spirit with its own songs reflecting a fire to live an authentic and vibrant life creating the kind of music that sounds like the people making it really lived and felt deeply and aimed for the catharsis of creative expression that only comes from some form of rock and roll.
What:EarthGang w/Mick Jenkins, Wynne and Jurdan Bryant When: Monday, 2.03, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: EarthGang’s 2019 album Mirrorland was inspired by the 1978 film The Wiz and the band ran with the surreal quality of the film and infused it into a journey into the modern American cultural and political landscape with the attendant perils, struggles and triumphs. The Atlanta-based duo excels at using the formats of jazz, sampling, rap and soul to craft music that might be called psychedelic in another musical context except it isn’t disorienting, it’s focused on lived experience and creating the world you want to see rather than escapism.
Wednesday | February 5
What:Weird Wednesday: Ruche Mere, Claudzilla, Space Jail When: Wednesday, 2.05, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes performances from series host Claudzilla and her strange synth pop songs and unique covers, Ruche Mère a duo that uses electronic and organic instruments including bells and improvised percussive textural sounds to create what might be described post-industrial/post-civilization found object folk and Space Jail’s IDM-esque, ambient psychedelic folk soundscapes.
What:Portrayal of Guilt w/Street Sects, EUTH and Cau5er When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Portrayal of Guilt is a post-hardcore band from Austin that weaves together elements of grindcore and noise soundscaping to create an angular kind of screamo bristling with menace. Its rhythms are more widely dynamic than one might expect from the mix of sounds and influences with chords allowed to hang to establish a mood that crawls to catharsis. Street Sects, also from Austin, is an industrial noise outfit whose confrontational performances may feel hidden in the banks of fog in its performance zone but the band manages to turn that haze into a realm where the tension it builds to unpredictable moments of eruption. Cau5er is a Denver project that comes partly out of hardcore but is firmly in the worlds of noise and power electronics with an impassioned delivery that belies notions of noise artists all being knob twiddlers. Schedule for the evening below provided as this show is being conducted in cooperation with the show at Mutiny across the street from the Hi-Dive.
Street Sects 10pm
Portrayal of Guilt 11pm
What:Red Death (DC), Enforced (RVA), Chair of Torture and Wide Man When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Washington DC’s Red Death is a modern crossover band whose synthesis of thrash and hardcore is reminiscent of a more aggro version of what Megadeth was doing earlier in its career. If that sounds appealing, Enforced from Richmond, Virginia and Chair of Torture from Denver are mining similar territory with the latter with more than a leg in grindcore. See schedule for the evening below as it is being done in conjunction with the show mentioned above at the Hi-Dive.
7:30-7:50 Chair of Torture
8:05-8:25 Wide Man
8:40-9:10 Red Death
What:Use the Sun (Reunion), Old Sport and American Grandma When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Denver’s Use the Sun is reuniting for one night to bring forth its joyous mixture of melodic punk and surf rock. Also included is a lately relatively rare show from Old Sport who have been part of that resurgence of bands that were influenced by the better, mathier end of emo and post-hardcore. American Grandma is a slowcore band whose elegant and introspective guitar compositions blur the line between folk, ambient and dream pop.
What:Neil Haverstick When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Why: Neil Haverstick is Denver’s biggest proponent of microtonal guitar so much so that he wrote a book about it. His songs, though, come from an emotional place and his roots in blues and folk inform even though his style brings in a great deal of avant-garde thinking into the mix and makes it accessible.
What:Shibui Denver #9: The Vanilla Milkshakes, Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers When: Sunday, 1.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Cafe Why: This latest edition of Shibui Denver will feature outsider pop punk band The Vanilla Milkshakes, the earnest, existential, angular indie rock of Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers’ psychedelic ambient soundscapes with visuals by Mark Mosher, electro-ambient artist and founder of Rocky Mountain Synth Meetup.
Tuesday | January 28
What:GosT w/Church Fire and Elay Arson When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: GosT blurs the line between metal and synthwave and definitely for fans of Perturbator. Church Fire blurs that line a little too but more in the tribal, pagan vein without hitting you over the head with the aesthetic and its industrial/dance pop hybrid is one of the most compelling things going on in Denver or anywhere.
What:Poppy w/VOWWS When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Poppy’s genre-mashup is not for everyone. But the theatrical presentation of her mix and remix of extreme metal, kawaii pop and surreal psychedelic pop turns on a dime like something John Zorn might have thought of had Naked City come up in the 90s and 2000s and not in the realm of avant-garde jazz and grindcore. Currently touring in support of her new album I Disagree. VOWWS has managed to shed a lot of the previous associations in the last year with retro rockist tendencies. Its sound is more like a hard edged darkwave to post-punk what a band like True Widow is to metal and shoegaze.
What:Day of Jubilee: R A R E B Y R D $ When: Friday, 1.3, 6 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Day of Jubilee is a First Friday event at The People’s Building in Aurora, Colorado. Tonight’s proceedings include live music at 7 p.m. with R A R E B Y R D $. R A R E B Y R D $ is a hip-hop group from Denver. Its two MCs, Key~Lady and KoKoLa, combine swagger and soul, inspiration and heartbreak into an alchemical musical experience. Their beats bring together gangsta rap’s mastery of bass sculpting, exploratory synth experiments and hazy, hypnotic drones with organic, Afro-Cuban rhythms. R A R E B Y R D $ ranges widely in the subject matter of its lyrics from the playfully earthy to the emotionally deep and transcendent but always with the spirit of inviting you into that private world with a welcoming emotional intimacy rare in a live performance.
What:Eyebeams album release w/96 Ponies, Vampire Squids From Hell and Slugger When: Saturday, 1.4, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Eyebeams is releasing its second album It Means Trouble. The bright, languid psychedelia of the record ranges far from what we’ve come to expect from that loose genre of the past decade. It’s as though lead vocalist/guitarist Suzi Allegra absorbed all the influences that have manifested in recent music but long before when she was growing up and used it as a launching point into emotional outer space. The songs seem to explore issues of anxiety, fears, existential frustrations, feeling perpetually dreaming and wishing rather than doing and ending on a note of learning to calm the mind as a place from which to figure out what you really feel, what you really want and maybe how to actually get there.
What:Bands Against the Ban: Church Fire, Married a Dead Man, Hate Minor and Rebel Girl Productions When: Saturday, 1.4, 7:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Since members of the Senate are trying to have Roe Vs. Wade revisited with aims of overturning legal abortion in a country not actually founded by the Christian version of the Taliban, it will be necessary for people to voice their desire not to live in Medieval Europe again. And this show featuring some of Denver’s most interesting bands is a benefit in the struggle against the forces of reaction. This event is a benefit for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and was organized by Megan Kelley of darkwave band Married a Dead Man and David Pereira of noise rockers Hate Minor. Local experimental dance/darkwave band Church Fire will headline and embody a spirit of resistance with its own music and burlesque troupe Rebel Girl Productions will bring its own performance unique in that realm of expression as well.
What:Caustic Soda, Feeling Old (WA), Broken Lawn Chairs and Sliver When: Sunday, 1.5, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Sliver’s Chris Mercer wanted to revisit his folk punk roots “not shit like Andrew Jackson Jihad, Pat the Bunny or Camper Van Beethoven, the good shit like Days N’ Daze.” Fortunately his bandmates convinced him that playing with Boulder-based noise punk band Caustic Soda, folk-inflected indie rock punks Feeling Old from Seattle and Broken Lawn Chairs, an actual folk punk band, from Castle Rock. Sliver fortunately won’t torture us with Mercer’s idea of what “real” folk punk sounds like and might actually be enjoyable this time too.
Monday | January 6
What:lovelesslust w/Equine and Gila Teen When: Monday, 1.6, 7 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: loveless lust is a mix of synth pop and industrial and thus a good fit with two bands from Denver that don’t fit neatly into any musical milieu either. Gila Teen is the hybrid sad boy post-punk/emo band we all need in the world right now.
What:The King Khan & BBQ Show w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Tuesday, 1.7, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: King Khan has been making psychedelic garage rock and evolving the art form since before it became hip again and again in the 2000s from back when he was a member of The Spaceshits in Kukamongas in the late 90s. With The King Khan & BBQ Show he and fellow Spaceshit Mark Sultan blended doo wop and garage punk and were in the same circles of likeminded acts Black Lips. Khan has also been involved in King Khan & The Shrines, but the BBQ show is like some late 60s psychedelic soul revue updated for the modern era. Denver-based Colfax Speed Queen will be a great pairing with its own electrifying live show of noisy psychedelic punk.
What:Colorado Crew Denvoid Pt. 2 book release When: Friday, 12.20, 6-8:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This event will present the follow up to Bob Rob Medina’s 2015 book Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks which documented the Denver punk and underground music scene from 1982-1987. This volume, Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 covers the years 1988-1996 in which punk changed, the major current strands of music in Denver emerged into strong, coherent form and the early phase of artist run DIY spaces developed into the form we know now.
What:Emerald Siam w/Echo Beds and Clusterfux When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The musical accompaniment to Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 mentioned above with bands whose members were part of that late 80s through mid-90s scene.
What:Grimy (Bryan Wendzel) and Cabron (Bob Rob Medina) When: Saturday, 12.21, 1 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Early afternoon show connected to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 featuring death-grind band Grimy and author Bob Rob Medina’s San Diego-based punk outfit Cabron playing a rare show (as well as another later this night).
What:The Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup Presents: Synth Patrol When: Saturday, 12.21, 1-3 p.m. Where: Little Horse Books & Vintage Why: Early afternoon concert featuring live vinyl sampling from Aefonic (Brian Horsfield), Cold Future (Victor John), monoscene (Christoph Scholtes) and Newecho (Mark Mosher).
What:Jon Snodgrass and Jux County When: Saturday, 12.21, 5-8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Another show connected to the release of Bob Rob Medina’s book Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 including performances from longtime punk stalwart Jon Snodgrass and Jux County, one of the early cowpunk/alt-country bands from the mid-80s and who still occasionally play shows.
What:FOUR! (reunion), Cyclo-Sonic, Mind Rider (Sonny Kay), Cabron When: Saturday, 12.21, 9 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: The final event related to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 with performances from bands including people featured in the book with pop-punk legends FOUR!, garage punk band Cyclo-Sonic which includes members of The Fluid, Choosey Mothers and Rok Tots, Sonny Kay (Savalas, Angel Hair, The VSS) and Bob Rob Medina (Savalas, Cabron). Rumor has it Medina and Kay will perform a Savalas song.
What:Causer, Equine, Tears to Li6ht When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m. Where: Glitter City Why: Equine is an avant-garde guitar drone solo project of Kevin Richards. Causer is one of the most compelling and inventive newcomers to Denver’s noise scene with their mix of confrontational performance art and noise collage. Tears to Li6ht is a melodic ambient/experimental pop project.
What:Umbras Animas w/Lady of Sorrows, John Gross, Mismo and Pythian Whispers When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Umbras Animas is bringing its latest drone and shadow pupper theater performance to Rhinoceropolis along with one of the Godfathers of Denver noise John Gross, operatic darkwave synth pop project Lady of Sorrows and soundtrack/soundscape projects Mismo and Pythian Whispers (full disclosure, Queen City Sounds and Art writer Tom Murphy’s band).