Secret Shame formed in Asheville, North Carolina in 2018. Its members came from the local punk scene and the music they made together was, summed up by a quote found on one or more of its online accounts, “too punk for Goth and too Goth for punk.” But however its sound might be best described its style of dark post-punk struck an immediate chord with people that got to see the fledgling band and even the debut basement demo from 2016 revealed a band that was tapping into emotional spaces resonant with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Xmal Deutschland. Its songwriting quickly developed into the songs that would comprise its energetic self-titled 2017 EP and the 2019 full-length debut album Dark Synthetics. In that vital mix of death rock and synth-infused post-punk one could hear an emotional vulnerability that told stories of struggle and abuse sometimes couched in terms of cosmic horror. And yet there was a core of honest feeling that bled through the metaphors and abstraction. For the 2022 album Autonomy, singer Lena had been working from a place of wanting to not obscure her lived experience and emotional truth and one hears that reflected directly in the music too. It’s still beautifully moody and moving but less haze and more direct tonal expression. Also in the new set of music are more conventionally accessible melodies without sacrificing the grit and darkness that has made the group’s songwriting so compelling since its inception. Autonomy is an album by a band that has come into its own while also a demonstration of an evolution from where it’s been and hinting at further exploration of where the music can go when you feel like you can craft your art from a deeply personal place without needing to couch it in the stylistic terms of anyone else or their narrow expectations.
Listen to our interview with Lena on Bandcamp and follow Secret Shame at the links provided. The group is currently on tour including a date in Denver on Friday, November 25, 2022 at The Crypt with Voight, ilind and Verhoffst at 9 p.m.
Tuesday | 11.01 What: Jeffrey Lewis w/Gila Teen and Emily Frembgen When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Jeffrey Lewis is a cartoonest best known for his long running Fuff series (formerly Guff) and one of the leading lights of what some music commentators have dubbed the “antifolk” movement of the 1990s and 2000s. What that means in practice is very lo-fi sometimes folk-punk songs that are stories from everyday life of an unvarnished honesty that fans of artists like Daniel Johnston, Wolf Colonel and Moldy Peaches will appreciate for how it makes few concessions to commercial music convention in the songwriting, the raw performances and in the released recordings. But there’s something real and emotionally resonant that feels like something that isn’t mass produced the way a lot of commercial pop and non-pop music lending the music a quality that isn’t just vital but life-giving. Similarly-minded formerly Colorado-based, experimental folk pop artist Emily Frembgen is on the bill as is the post-punk/avant-emo/heart-on-sleeve weirdo pop duo Gila Teen.
Tuesday | 11.01 What:Mercyful Fate w/Kreator and Midnight When: 6 Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Mercyful Fate was a band that was part of the first wave of black metal during its initial run from 1981-1985. Fronted by King Diamond, a theatrical vocalist whose operatic vocals meshed well with the progressive, melodic guitar work and with its sinister stage presence the group exerted a massive influence on thrash and death metal on the musical level and in terms of aesthetics and the subject matter of its lyrics. Its first two albums Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath are rightfully considered genre standouts. It might be said that the outfit sounded like an evil version of Judas Priest but its songwriting was markedly different with progressive rock roots more obvious. After Mercyful Fate split in 1985 King Diamond went on to a respectable and arguably equally influential career with a band under his name. But from 1993 and onward the band has spent periods reunited, releasing new material along the way. It’s just fortunate that this show is happening on the Day of the Dead with thrash legends Kreator also sharing the stage.
Tuesday | 11.01 What:Sloppy Jane w/Niis and Polly Urethane When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sloppy Jane is a post-punk band from Los Angeles whose 2021 album Madison is an orchestral and baroque pop affair more akin to something in the realm of a 2000s chamber pop band than its earlier sound, a raw, dark punk sound. Founded by Haley Dahl at age fifteen the group’s 2015 debut EP Sure-Tuff sounds like hours of absorbing Hole, Lydia Lunch and early death rock and moving onto the realm of underrated art punk bands like Mika Miko. In the early years of the band a bassist named Phoebe Bridgers added to the mix before moving on to an acclaimed singer-songwriter career of her own and establishing Saddest Factory, the label that is home to Madison. Niis, also from Los Angeles, sounds founded on similar roots as Sloppy Jane but with a more cutting and fuzzy sound yet the same kind of emotionally stirring and ragged exuberance. Its cover of Elastica’s “Connection” from its 2020 Not Niis EP captures the unhinged spirit of the original in a more punk mode. Opening act Polly Urethane combines an elemental kind of performance art with eruptive emotional energy with the elegance of classical music sensibilities and distills it into an unforgettable live show that feels like anything could happen.
Wednesday | 11.02 What: Magdalena Bay w/BAYLI When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Magdalena Bay is a synth pop duo based out of Los Angeles. Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin met while in high school as part of a music program but formed their own progressive rock band before forming the current project in 2016. With some early releases under its belt, Magalena Bay dropped its debut full length Mercurial World in October 2021 but haven’t been able to properly tour in support of the album until now. The album like the group’s website taps into some retro aesthetics and uses them in a self-aware but creative new ways. The website mercurialworld.com looks like an old Geo Cities website and all across the record one hears sampling of 8-bit sounds that give it a touch of grit while perhaps invoking the sounds of artists like Charli XCX and the original Crystal Castles. Opening act BAYLI recently released her Stories 2 EP and lead single “act up” and the attendant music video presents a complex and nuanced take on relationships and identity and the ways we interact with the world around us. Its sultry vibes and synth infused R&B sound isn’t so easily defined by narrow genre designations as its themes utilize a strong but gentle pop hook that renders it possible to accomplish in under three minutes what an entire movie can often fail to accomplish with nearly as much grace and poetry.
Thursday and Friday | 11.03 and 11.04 What: Illuminati Hotties w/Enumclaw and GUPPY When: 7 (11.03) and 8 (11.04) Where: Globe Hall Why: Enumclaw’s new album Save the Baby is an update on its raw and vulnerable sound somewhere on the outer fringes of an unlikely alchemy of post-punk and emo. The band has always been adept at building an inspired imperfection into its songwriting in a manner similar to what Dinosaur Jr has done since its own inception. The emotional core is what hits the hardest and the vocals are a little rough around the edges but seem to somehow fit the moment perfectly. For the new record Enumclaw has refined the raw power of Jimbo Demo and tightening the dynamics without sacrificing the unvarnished feel of the music that made it so appealing from the beginning. It’s fairly rare that someone more or less begins their music career as a recording engineer but that’s what Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties did before she got her musical project off the ground in 2017. In 2021 Illuminati Hotties released its second album Let Me Do One More and reaffirmed the project’s status as expert purveyors of punk infused pop hooks and imaginative song titles and subjects like “Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism” and “Joni LA’s No. 1 Health Goth.” Fortunately, the songwriting is fully capable of embodying the implied social critique with the meta humor one would hope to hear. GUPPY from Los Angeles somehow makes delicate guitar work and twee sensibilities come off as punk and its 2022 album Big Man Says Slappydoo has enough pop culturally aware irreverent humor to seal its punk bonafides.
Friday | 11.04 What: Cuffed Up w/Shadow Work and Wiff When: 6/6:30 Where: HQ Why: Cuffed Up from Los Angeles came together in 2018 inspired in part by the post-punk coming out of Ireland and the UK in the 2010s. Acts like Fontaines DC, IDLES and Shame set a template of politically conscious rock music with a personal immediacy set to a headlong pace and imaginative, atmospheric guitar work and impassioned vocals. With two EPs under its belt including the 2020 self-titled and 2021’s Asymmetry, Cuffed Up is proving itself to coming to be worthy of its influences. This is a bit of a one-off show in Denver hinting that maybe Cuffed Up is working with a local producer or album mixer but whatever the reason for this jaunt from California it’s a rare opportunity to catch the band before it becomes the subject of much buzz.
Friday | 11.04 What: Os Mutantes w/Claude Fontaine https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/435716 When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Fitting that legendary and influential Brazilian psychedelic rock and Tropicália band Os Mutantes are touring in the wake of its home country’s recent election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva aka Lula to the presidency over his fascistic opponent former president Jair Bolsonaro. The band was associated with the dissident movement in the late 1960s during the then Brazilian dictatorship so it’s playful and otherworldly music had a subversive element and a soundtrack to a countercultural moment. Its 1968 self-titled album is a bonafide classic of world psychedelic music and Os Mutantes had a bit of an international following before splitting in 1978. The band reunited in 2006 and has been touring on and off since and having released three new albums following that reconvening operations.
Friday | 11.04 What: Hi-Dive Anniversary Night 1: The Spits, Zebroids, Colfax Speed Queen, Townies When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Hi-Dive has been operating since early November 2003 and will celebrate the occasion with two nights of shows including this oe with the garage punk legends The Spits, punk rock tricksters Zebroids, psychedelic garage phenoms Colfax Speed Queen and Townies, a band of Denver expatriates to Trinidad who have an element of humor at the core of its identity of the band despite having serious rock songwriting chops and musicianship.
Saturday | 11.05 What: Hi-Dive Anniversary: Warthog, Of Feather and Bone, Candy Apple and Spiritual Poison https://hi-dive.com/event/warthog-of-feather-and-bone-candy-apple-tba When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Hi-Dive Anniversary festivities continue for a second night with veteran, NYC thrash crossover quintet Warthog, psychedelic death metal legends Of Feather and Bone, noise rock/hardcore trip Candy Apple and Ethan McCarthy’s other noise project, the more ambient and orchestrated sound environment Spiritual Poison.
Saturday | 11.05 What: Kevin Morby w/Coco https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/?event_id=427528 When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Kevin Morby came to prominence in experimental folk group Woods when he was living in NYC in the mid-2000s and then with his band The Babies with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls. But once he moved to Los Angeles he firmly established his solo career with the 2013 debut album under his own name, Harlem River, a record paying homage to his former home city. Morby’s creative arrangements transcend specific music styles so that when you hear his music its the songwriting that catches your attention more so than trying to frame it into a stylistic context. Maybe its his attention to rhythm and structure with texture in the flow of melody like he listened to a lot of mid-70s Sly & The Family Stone, Devendra Banhart and the breadth of Bob Dylan’s output. His latest album This Is a Photograph is his most thematically and emotionally direct album to date and its pastoral introspection doesn’t feel like a pose or pretense but rather a vehicle at illuminating honest and deeply observant personal insights. Opening act Coco released its self-titled debut album in 2021 and the project includes Maia Friedman (of Dirty Projectors, Uni-Ika Ai), Dan Moland (Lucius, Chimney) and Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo, Dustrider). There is a great use of space in which the group casts sultry moods and soulful soundscapes to accompany gorgeously melodic and warm yet lonely vocal harmonies. It’s the kind of slowcore pop one might expect more out of Low when that band isn’t going fully into gloriously avant-garde mode. The elegant bass lines and and a willingness to let the physicality of the performance of the music to leak into the recording gives it an immediacy and grounding that matches the tenor of the way the musicians sync so perfectly with their voices.
Sunday | 11.06 What:Cloakroom w/Seer Believer and Cherished When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Cloakroom’s 2022 album Dissolution Wave might be seen as a Utopian concept space rock album about creating a parallel new world to process and replace the world as we know it with all its environmental degradation, political and social decay, oligarchic domination and the commodification of all levels of our lived experience. It’s like a western doom record with the core idea being a technology, the generator of the titular energy, that obliterates all existing creative work and abstract thought including all ideologies, philosophy and much of what we take for granted as the foundations of our civilization. Except there is “the Spire and Ward of Song” that filter human imaginative accomplishments so that only the best ideas and creations can get through and fuel the continuation of the world. The album also finds the band branching even further into melodic accessibility with broad vistas of dream-like pop hooks drifting in distorted haze and sheets of discordant tones. The effect is mutually complementary. It’s also among the best shoegaze albums out of the past decade and the perfect blend of dense atmospherics and transporting tonal drifts. Opening are Denver shoegaze bands Seer Believer and Cherished, the latter being a group that seems to fit in well in this realm of music as well as post-punk for its vibrantly vulnerable moods.
Monday | 11.07 What:Patriarchy w/Street Fever and Sell Farm, Kill You Club DJs When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Patriarchy is currently touring in support of its 2022 album The Unself and proving itself purveyors of a sound that perhaps has some roots in Gothic industrial sounds and saturated synth tones and a darker form of dance music. Fronted by Actually Huizenga, the group’s aesthetic perfectly blends the hyper real, stark visual style of 80s slasher films, Giorgio Moroder’s cinematic compositions, David Lynchian noir and both ancient and modern mythology for its performance style and the content of the music. It’s a band that embraces the theater of camp and its exploration of themes about sex and power in society and personal relationships is provocative and thought-provoking while delivering a bombastic and challenging music that is also danceable and joyous in its catharsis.
Tuesday | 11.08 What:Echosmith w/lostboycrow and Band Of Silver When: 7 Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Echosmith is a pop band that formed in 2009 in Chico, California. The former and current quartet are siblings Sydney, Noah, Graham and Jamie Sierota (Jamie having taken a break from the band from 2016-2022). Adopting the moniker when the group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2012 (previously having performed under the name Ready Set Go!), Echosmith released its debut album Talking Dreams in 2013 which yielded the hit single “Cool Kids” about not really fitting in with the popular crowd but being comfortable with being different. Following the performance and touring cycle behind the debut album on a major label, Echosmith found itself saying yes to every opportunity to advance the band and listening to industry people in helping to further their career and that meant long term that there wasn’t enough time to write and develop new material aside from an occasional EP until the group took steps to do so in time to issue the sophomore album Lonely Generation in January 2020. With the onset of the pandemic and the enduring and continuing impacts on tour and thus supporting a new record Echosmith had time to reassess its priorities and reconnect with the ideas and inspirations that initially got the group off the ground into a serious project and during that process went with a more open approach to its songwriting as heard on new singles “Hang Around” and “Gelato” hinting at the new chapter of Echosmith’s creative development. Recently “Cool Kids” garnered some renewed interest when it was used in TikTok videos by the likes of Demi Lovato, Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan, Addison Rae and Hayley Kiyoko who felt the song expressed their own feelings about looking back and seeing how far they’ve come as people. The trend of utilizing the song has garnered more than six million views to date. Echosmith in response to that did a new version of the song with a new music video with “Cool Kids (our version).”
Tuesday | 11.08 What: Charles Lloyd Ocean Trio feat. Gerald Clayton and Anthony Wilson When: 6/7 Where: MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater 2644 W. 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211 Why: Charles Lloyd is a tenor saxophone and flute player and one of the few remaining legends of the age of jazz in which he performed with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy and other leading talents of west coast jazz. He also formed his classic quintet in 1966 with Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Cecil McBee. Their 1966 live album Forest Flower is said to have built an audience among fans of rock, fans of jazz and the hippie counterculture that was on the ascent. Lloyd was also an early adopter of incorporating the music of various cultures beyond his own American context into his compositions. Lloyd is also one of the most prolific artists of his generation who has continued releasing albums through ECM and Blue Note including the 2022 twin albums Trio: Chapel and Trio: Ocean. His imaginative arrangements and creative performance style both elegant and forceful has kept his work vital and consistently worth a listen.
Tuesday | 11.08 What: Tegan and Sara w/Tomberlin When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Tegan and Sara Quin are twin sisters who formed their pop project Tegan and Sara in 1998 in Calgary. Multi-instrumentalists, the Quin sisters first started getting a name for themselves in underground music circles more widely with the release of the 2000 album The Business of Art. Warm vocal melodies, gentle yet exuberant energy and tender, declarative, observational song have been part of the Tegan and Sara sound since early on and even though they have refined their songwriting and performances and collaborated with numerous other musicians there is a comforting consistency in knowing that a new Tegan and Sara record will have some words of condolence, of emotional clarity and an articulation of struggle and finding the right tone of humor in unexpected situations. This is also true of their new album Crybaby which released a week after the October 14, 2022 premier of their TV series High School (based on their 2019 memoir of the same name) on Amazon Freevee. Of course the live show will feature the duo’s signature, highly engaging stage banter and commentary on the state of the world and sharing the bill for this night is experimental folk pop singer-songwriter Tomberlin whose 2022 album i don’t know who needs to hear this captured a relatable impulse to restlessness and personal set of songs the speak to a yearning for connection and tranquility in a particularly troubled time in human history.
Wednesday | 11.09 What:Meat Wave w/Moon Pussy and SPELLS When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Chicago’s Meat Wave in true tradition of that city’s underground music is difficult to define precisely. Fans of noise rock in the Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go vein will find much to like. There is a touch of the angular intensity of Shellac there and a melancholic desperation channeled into cathartic bursts of noise that dissolve and reform in raging passages. Its 2022 album Malign Hex not only has one of the best album titles of the year but imbued with a seething urgency balanced with a touch of near meditative atmospherics that break and dive off into unexpected directions. It sounds both conflicted and resigned and isn’t that one of the prevailing spirits of recent years with thwarted and then blunted frustrations waiting for release but let to hang and rot and transform into a mutant form of lingering neuroses that is still playing out in the culture. Meat Wave gives that decay and psychic poison a thrilling outlet. Denver pop punk band SPELLS may seem like the party group of every season but its own lyrics give form to an adult will to do something of significance only to find that the machine has you locked in for a mediocre fate so you decide to mock the situation and make the kind of music that rebels against being so unceremoniously shuffled off into the extra person column of modern civilization. Moon Pussy and its wiry and explosive dynamics takes the surreal absurdity of the life and world we have to contend with every day and transmutes it into an irresistible sonic release that every time makes you think maybe rock music isn’t dead after all.
Wednesday | 11.09 What:Slander: Thrive on the Rocks w/Virtual Riot, Moore Kismet, Leotrix and Saka When: 6 Where: Red Rocks Amphitheater Why: Slander’s Thrive on the Rocks show will of course feature the well-known dubstep band. But get there early because Moore Kismet will have a set. Their 2022 album UNIVERSE is a deep dive into exploring the possibilities of modern electronic dance music production and songwriting. Where another artist might embrace a trope of the style of music, Kismet takes it somewhere else with an imaginative playfulness that draws you in with every track with its attention to every sonic detail culminating in tracks that are flowing with energy but soothing to the mind at once. Its a riveting mix that is innovative and arresting in unpredictable ways even if you’re a veteran of electronic music or don’t even really get it. With its supreme sound design and creativity UNIVERSE is worth a listen and Moore Kismet is a young artist who seems set on helping to change the world of electronic dance music for the better.
Thursday | 11.10 What: Militarie Gun w/MSPaint, Public Opinion and Dirt Sucker When: 7 Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Militarie Gun is set to release the deluxe edition of its 2021 album All Roads Lead To The Gun on November 18. The Los Angeles-based hardcore band has those confrontational vocals but there’s something more arty about its guitar work and rhythms more like an old DC post-hardcore band of the 80s but more rooted in modern hardcore. Regardless of its actual roots it has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting bands out of the current wave of punk and hardcore. MSPaint from Hattiesburg, Mississippi sure seems to play some hardcore shows and the intensity of its performances are in that vein in terms of energy but its own music is a fusion of that spirit and bass and synth driven post-punk with songs that capture perfectly the fractured spirit of the American culture and consciousness. Its 2020 self-titled demo is truly one of the most original sounds coming out of the milieu of hardcore and the live show is a barn burner of inspiration and enthusiasm.
Thursday | 11.10 What: Hermanos Gutiérrez When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Hermanos Gutiérrez is a two piece band comprised of brothers Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez. It’s an instrumental project that fuses the traditions and influences of their Ecuadorian mother and Swiss father and the 2022 album El Bueno Y El Malo sounds like a hybrid of Santo & Johnny, Neil Young’s soundtrack work for Dead Man (1995) and a more modern form of pasillo. The introspective pastoral quality of the music is gorgeously tranquil but suggests long journeys and a searching spirit as each song explores nuances of mood and emotion while capturing a sense of place both physically and in the mind.
Friday | 11.11 What: Specter Poetics (Omaha goth pop), Jeff In Leather (Omaha techno pop), Hex Cassette, Pattern Screamers (angular new wave) When: 7:30 Where: Jester’s Palace Why: Denver Blood Cult presents a night of darkwave from Nebraska but also includes a performance from Denver confrontational industrial dance legend in the making Hex Cassette. His friendly cajoling of the audience from stage paired with music that is aimed at evoking a spirit of excitement in the face of a bevy of overwhelming challenges internal and external. Pattern Screamers might be described as an art punk band based purely on its 24-Hour Write-A-Record Challenge EP and the song “Grocery Store” and “Internet.” Specter Poetics bridges the worlds of synth-infused post-punk and dark New Wave revival. Jeff In Leather is more techno dream pop dance music style.
Saturday | 11.12 What: Mister Water Wet, M. Sage, snowfloer and Aspen Colorado When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Mister Water Wet is a Kansas City-based artist whose prepared environments and ambient drones found an especially evocative form on the 2022 album Significant Soil. M. Sage spent many years helping to keep Fort Collins weird with his experimental pop bands and his own tape collage style experiments in creating unique soundtracks to spaces of his own imagining. Aspen Colorado is a side project of performance artist/experimental modern classical/industrial darkwave artist Polly Urethane. Might be the only performance of Aspen Colorado and this is your chance to catch what will likely be an interesting showing of that. Snowfloer is Derrick Bozich’s solo project and you may know him as a guitarist in Sound of Ceres and formerly of Ancient Elk and Grease Pony among other projects more in the realm of indie rock.
Sunday | 11.13 What:Holy Fawn w/SOM and Grivo When: 6:30 Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Holy Fawn from Phoenix, Arizona is a four-piece that has been exploring and evolving a sound that brings together an introspective ethereal soundscape with a heaviness of mood that reflects a depth of feeling found on all of its recorded output. From its 2015 debut EP Realms to its 2022 album Dimensional Bleed one hears in the music of Holy Fawn expansive melodies and tonal brightness paired with a textural grittiness that feels like a cathartic and transcendent journey into deep emotional spaces. In that sound one hears echoes of obvious influences in realms of shoegaze, post-rock, black metal and the more atmospheric post-hardcore and emo with lush swarms of intricate guitar and intertwining rhythms. But there is also an element of musique concrète to the songwriting bringing in field recordings and tape collages to augment a sense of layered meaning and lending Dimensional Bleed in particular a cinematic quality that can create a rippling shift of sonic focus in every moment of a song. Without attachment to a specific style of music, Holy Fawn is able to deftly navigate and even embody multiple genres at once as suggested by the title of its new record. Also on the bill are two of the other current master practitioners of heavy atmospherics. SOM whose own 2022 album The Shape of Everything is brimming with uplifting and illuminating sonics and Grivo from Austin, Texas whose album Omit (also 2022) reveals a gift for shaping transporting drifts of luminously dense melodies.
Monday | 11.14 What:Exhumed w/Escuela Grind, Vitriol, Molder When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Deathgrind legends Exhumed bring the tour in support of its new album To The Dead to Denver. Formed in 1990 when vocalist and guitarist Matt Harvey was fifteen years old, Exhumed has gone on to carve out its place in the canon of extreme metal. Its gory lyrics have always been a metaphor for consumerism and political issues and like a good horror movie provides an outlet to explore the horrible things humans do to each other in the name of a religion, a political affiliation, out of greed or any other unsavory motivation. To The Dead is another fine visceral litany of raging dismay in Exhume’s prolific catalog.
Monday | 11.14 What: Beth Orton w/Heather Woods Broderick When: 7 Where: Oriental Theater Why: Some people may know Beth Orton for her unforgettable collaborations with legendary producer and electronic music artist William Orbit in particular “She Cries Your Name” and her contributions to Orbit’s song “Water From a Vine Leaf.” But Orton’s album under her own name have been eclectic and sonically rich including her 2022 album Weather Alive. Orton’s hushed, soulful vocals and ear for deeply evocative melodies and unconventional production has garnered her a bit of a cult following over the past three decades. But Weather Alive is a bit of an unexpected entry in her catalog as its attention to detail and the crafting of atmosphere and mood in the context of masterfully crafted songs makes it perhaps her finest offering to date.
Tuesday | 11.15 What: DUMA w/Masma Dream World, Knife Band and Watching People Drown When: 7 Where: The Coast Why: Masma Dream World is the solo project of multi-disciplinary artist Devi Mambouka that incorporates elements of Butoh, drone, theta frequency and ambient music. In 2020 the debut Masma Dream World album Play at Night but likely didn’t get a proper airing to a wide public because November 2020 was in one of the depths of the ongoing pandemic. The record is a mesmerizing listen that taps into parts of your brain that feel like a direct connection to the subconscious and one’s ancient ancestors. The use of percussion and unconventional tonalities and shamanic vocals creates a real moment throughout the recording as Mambouka makes sacred psychological space with the music opening a path to a mindset that exists outside the usual and unrelenting considerations of narrow materialism and demands on time at every moment from multiple sources. The music is a journey into a headspace that is always there for you to access but which can seem blocked from your conscious mind by habits of living that prioritize the needs of a corrosive economic system rather than what fortifies your life for real and that of everyone else and the rest of the world generally. It’s a therapeutic listen that exists outside the bounds of musical convention. DUMA (“Darkness” in Kikuyu) is a band that has emerged out of the underground metal scene in Nairobi, Kenya. Martin Khanja and Sam Karugu released their2020 self-titled debut during the height of the current pandemic and thus international touring has been all but impossible now. So fans had to give its harrowing and stark and frenetic soundscapes online or through purchasing a record from Nyege Nyege Tapes. The haunting and riveting soundscapes crafted by the two musicians is unlike most anything you’re likely to hear anywhere that is undeniably rooted in grindcore but also lo-fi industrial and imbued with a political awareness and existential angst that gives it a rare and very real edge.
Tuesday | 11.15 What:Brothertiger w/Neo Tokyo Philharmonic When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Oh the 2022 self-titled Brothertiger album John Jagos demonstrates what sounds like a great deal of growth as a songwriter. Certainly he has emerged from being one of the leading lights of chillwave in the late 2000s and 2010s having grown beyond the confines of that microgenre. During the early months of the pandemic Jagos acquired vintage samplers and synths manufactured by Ensoniq employed by sophisti-pop artists of the 80s influenced by the lush and dusky sounds of Roxy Music’s 1982 album Avalon. Think ABC, Level 42, Prefab Sprout and Spandau Ballet and Everything but the Girl. There’s a soulful quality to the collection of songs that hearkens back to a time when people were coping with dire international tensions and the looming threat of authoritarian domination but needing an escape into something that released some of that tension. There is a soothing quality to the album whose lyrics also seem to look to a near future where people are able to build a life and forge one without as much of the persistent oligarchic boot to the neck where anyone can take the time out to contemplate what to do with your ample leisure time. It’s not an album that ignores the current state of things but one that recognizes that sometimes we all need an interlude out of that pressure for a bit and the ability of music to provide that emotional space.
Wednesday | 11.16 What:No Age w/John Wiese and New Standards Men When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: No Age is a noise rock/art punk duo based in Los Angeles, California. Drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt and guitarist/vocalist Randy Randall had been in a band called Wives from 2001-2005 that had been a staple of the underground/DIY music world at the time. But Spunt and Randall scrapped the name and took their then musical ideas and recast their efforts as No Age with their first shows under the new moniker in early 2006 with their second show at the legendary DIY space The Smell in April of that year. From the beginning there was a refreshing lack of pretension and exuberance in the sound of No Age. Like a fusion of The Ramones at its most raw and the lo-fi experimentation and tape collage aesthetic of The Microphones. Within the often grainy and charmingly unvarnished early recordings one could hear a joyfulness and embrace of lived experiences that could contain and express a broad range of emotions and ideas in a manner often spirited and tender. There was always an element of vulnerability to No Age’s version of punk that transformed the music into something immediately accessible, like an unspoken invitation into a shared experience of thoughts and feelings it’s easy to think of going through alone and in isolation. No Age as artists and as a band have always approached its music and its operation as a band with a community spirit and that underlying ethos is something one an hear and feel in all of its albums and at its live performances. The group’s 2007 debut full length compilation of its early EPs and singles Weirdo Rippers (FatCat) is a fantastic introduction to the core No Age sound with a title that captures what you’re in for hearing, that is to say exciting music for people who embrace being different from mainstream expectation. From 2008-2013 No Age was signed to SubPop which helped to push the band to wider audiences. The most recent No Age album People Helping People (Drag City, 2022) is one of its most daring to date and bringing into the mix more fully the musique concrète element heard from its beginnings with gorgeously dream-like tape collages set alongside its signature vital rock songs. It may be the most fully realized No Age album to date and sonically among its most arresting. Opening the show are instrumental noise rock mutants New Standards Men who answer the question of what one might get if weirdos who were into Ruins, Talk Talk, Patrick Shiroishi, John Zorn and Tangerine Dream might do. Also noise legend John Wiese who has long been a part of the Southern California DIY underground.
Thursday | 11.17 What: Till The Teeth w/Pythian Whispers, Laudanum Quilt and Doc Box When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Till The Teeth is a Seattle based duo of Sandesh Nagaraj and Jonathan Rodriguez. Its releases thus far suggest a compositional style that employs techniques of soundscaping one most often associates with musique concrète, ambient, noise, prepared environment and ritual drone inspired in part by non-musical experiences, ideas and concepts whether cinematic, explorations of pure imagination or simply being struck by everyday occurrences and encounters. And the local openers come from a similar approach to making sound art. Laudanum Quilt whose prolific output for the last more than half a decade has put soundtracks to imagery, stories, quasi-mythologized personal experiences and the union of urban and rural environments. This author’s own project Pythian Whispers properly became a band when friends with a mutual interest in cinema, non-conventional music and other visual arts made music together and continued evolving beyond harsh ambient noise, experimental electronic music, drone and psychedelic abstract prog into whatever realms of sound came together through spontaneous improvisation.
Thursday | 11.17 What: Dead Boys w/The Briefs, Suzi Moon and Fast Eddy When: 7 Where: Oriental Theater Why: Dead Boys are an influential early punk band from Cleveland, Ohio whose only constant member Cheetah Chrome was also in proto-punk band Rocket From the Tombs with Peter Laughner who also contributed to the early music of post-punk legends Pere Ubu. The band’s 1977 debut Young, Loud and Snotty with its ramshackle sound and raw and abrasive style proved influential on punk and glam metal going forward. The group’s volatile energy yielded one more album We Have Come For Your Children (1978) before the band broke up for what would have been good in 1980 with lead singer Stiv Bators going on to pioneer a kind of glam death rock with Lords of the New Church. With some brief reunions since then lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome put together a line up of Dead Boys in 2017 that has been touring the classic material on a semi-regular basis.
Friday | 11.18 What:AFI w/Drab Majesty When: 7 Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: AFI is one of the longest running bands out of the first wave of emo and one of the genre’s most inventive and stylistically versatile. Bridging the worlds of the kind of “horror punk” one associates with the sound of the Misfits, post-hardcore and gothic rock, AFI reintroduced an unabashed visual style for its live performances early on as opposed to the usual punk street clothes style favored by many if not most bands out of punk and emo. Altogether the musical and performance ideas have long helped AFI to stand out from the music scenes with which it has been most often associated. And certainly the choice of post-punk/dream pop duo Drab Majesty as an opener for this tour is an inspired one since the group’s fans seem open to AFI’s proclivity for making music with a similar appeal and presentation. Those unfamiliar with Drab Majesty, its darkly dream pop post-punk is like a more haunting take on the kind of experimental guitar rock of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a darker and more gritty flavor of the similarly gossamer toned and emotionally charged sound one hears in Cocteau Twins.
Friday | 11.18 What: Turnover w/Yumi Zouma and Horse Jumper of Love When: 7 Where: The Summit Music Hall Why: Turnover has come a long way since its more pop punk roots as heard on its 2013 debut album Magnolia. Its 2022 release Myself in the Way comes across as a hybrid of dream pop and indie R&B with some synth pop style. Yumi Zouma is the indie pop band from Christchurch, New Zealand whose 2022 album Present Tense has a paradoxically hushed enthusiasm with delicate songs buoyed by an energetic spirit. Horsejumper of Love is a post-punk band from Boston whose albums have been lumped under the designation of slowcore. But anyone that has seen the band knows there is an understated intensity and darkness to its live performances like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the kind of brooding and visceral quality to be heard there.
Saturday | 11.19 What:Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service and The Drood When: 5 Where: Mercury Café Why: The Legendary Pink Dots have left an indelible imprint on the worlds of psychedelic rock, post-punk, Gothic rock, the avant-garde, noise, ambient, industrial, synth pop and electronic music since its inception in1980. Fronted by Edward Ka-Spel, the Pink Dots have evolved through various lineups and shifting musical styles exploring musical and non-directly musical ideas for over four decades now leaving in the wake of that path of experimentation and rich a prolific body of work all worth a listen. From the late 80s through the early 90s there was a sea change in the band’s music as its membership expanded and its songwriting style shifted toward the kinds of lush atmospherics and dreamlike melodies and textures of 1990’s Crushed Velvet Apocalypse and even more fully on the 1991 album The Maria Dimension. That era of the band reached wider audiences and established The Legendary Pink Dots as a cult band with a wide international following from the alternative rock era to this day. Its enigmatic yet colorful and highly emotionally charged story songs provide a kind of parallel narrative to established cultural paradigms, sagely commenting on the prevailing culture in which we all live and which we all navigate and offering insight into civilizational themes and expressing deeply personal reactions to and thoughts on he lived human experience. The group’s highly imaginative and creative music never abstracts feelings but finds a way to make the complicated and difficult explicable. The live shows are a cathartic celebration of life and dreaming and seeking and finding deeper meaning set to sonically rich and transporting soundscapes. In 2022 the Pink Dots released its latest album The Museum of Human Happiness on Metropolis Records and following that, welcomed long time booster, publicist, tour manager and friend Randall Frazier of Denver space rock/ambient band Orbit Service into the current lineup alongside Ka-Spel, long time multi-instrumentalist Erik Drost and live engineer/producer Joep Hendrikx. Opening this show will be Frazier’s psychedelic ambient group Orbit Service and psychedelic, art rock, post-punk mystics The Drood.
Saturday | 11.19 What:Riot Grrrl Party feat. Cheap Perfume, Tammy Shine When: 6 Where: Mercury Café Why: This is an event hosted by Gogo Germaine whose book Glory Guitars recently released to critical acclaim as the highly entertaining and touching memoir of a teenage punk. This event in addition to performances by the powerful, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume and the solo project of Dressy Bessy frontwoman Tammy Ealom as Tammy Shine there will be live burlesque with Becky Taha’Blu, Paloma Nectar, Siouxsie Cupcakes and Siren Sixxkiller, then readings by Gogo Germaine and Hillary Leftwich with Molina Speaks perhaps MCing the evening.
Sunday | 11.20 What: Primo Premier Wrestling’s Emergence w/Wrestling Fiend: Arlo White and musical guest An Hobbes When: 5:45/6 Where: The Roxy Theatre Why: Arlo White has been involved in various ends of Denver music and art for decades with punk and art rock/concept bands like Dead Bubbles, Sparkle Jetts, The Buckingham Squares and others. He has also curated unique shows in a house space hosting the likes of Mercury Rev and Ken Stringfellow. Now White has assembled a performance as Wrestling Fiend. A lifelong fan of the gloriously absurd and dramatic art of professional wrestling and its stories and bombastic events, White reconnected with professional wrestling during the pandemic and found in it a path out of the stasis and despair of the current era. With his production company/media outlet Hypnotic Turtle he has teamed up with Colorado’s longest running independent wrestling promotion company Primos Premier Pro Wrestling. The show will feature pro wrestling, live painting and a musical performance from philosophical nerdcore rapper An Hobbes.
Sunday | 11.20 What: Arrows In Action w/TITUS and Lady Denim When: 6:30 Where: Marquis Theater Why: TITUS has found a way to combine hip-hop and pop punk in a way that draws upon the virtues of both forms of music to make something that might not work with another person’s songwriting. His infectious guitar hooks and emotionally raw and vulnerable lyrics that resonate with the heart on sleeve style of the best pop punk and emo bands of the turn of the century while also informed by the instinct for authenticity that is the backbone of any hip-hop worth your time. The result is a refreshingly sincere body of work thus far including his singles “Love Myself” and “SiCK ABOuT U” that seem to eschew bravado and embrace a sensitive spirit. Opening on this tour with Gainesville, Florida-based Arrows in Action and its likeminded fusion of pop rock and even more tender than usual emo seems like a solid pairing.
Monday | 11.21 What: Black Flag, TSOL, The Dickies, Total Chaos. https://theorientaltheater.com/event/396181/So-Cal-Punk-Invasion-Tour When: 6 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: This tour includes some of the most influential bands out of the Southern California punk underground of the late 70s and early 80s with godfathers of hardcore, Black Flag whose current shows manage to remind one of the brilliantly creative guitar work and rhythms that long time band leader Greg Ginn helped to usher in to a punk world that was increasingly becoming more conformist. TSOL too switched up its own sounds across decades rather than stay stuck in a musical rut and at times embracing a dark, moody post-punk sound alongside its searing hardcore style. The Dickies are one of the longest continually running punk bands in existence starting in the banner year for punk of 1977 and with songs informed by a healthy and irreverent sense of humor while early on helping to establish a style of music that would become pop punk.
Monday | 11.21 What:The Garden w/Machine Girl When: 7 Where: The Summit Music Hall Why: The Garden is a band formed by twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears and true to its name suggesting growth and evolution the group defies easy categorization. Sure you can see one of their exuberant live shows and hear the influence of pop punk, Green Day in particular, but its visual style is reminiscent of somehow both Suicidal Tendencies and that band’s own embrace of graffiti aesthetics and the kind of theatrical glam of Slipknot or more unlikely but possible Malfunktion, particularly on the singles for its 2022 album Horseshit on Route 66. But the music seems to dip into the realm of electronic music and art rock but thread that into its punk sensibilities completely for a sound that fits in with a modern disregard for narrow genre in songwriting. Which makes opener Machine Girl and its own industrial dance/glitchcore music and borderline unhinged performances seem like a natural choice and one for which its fans have been prepared with The Garden’s own evolution in daring new directions.
Tuesday | 11.22 What:Oruã, Laminate, Horse Bitch and Totem Pocket When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Oruã is a band from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that has for more than half a decade been crafting a particularly sonically dense blend of Krautrock, free jazz and Tropicalía. Its 2021 album Íngreme made more clear an incorporation of ideas from library music and indiepop. Also on the bill are Irish noise rock group Laminate, quirky, Denver-based pop punk indie folk mutants Horse Bitch and hazily atmospheric shoegaze group Totem Pocket.
Wednesday | 11.23 What: Reverb and the Verse When: 6-10 Where: Bonacquisti Wine Company Why: Reverb and the Verse has been a staple of the more experimental edge of Denver hip-hop since the late 90s with its vital mix of socially and politically astute lyrics and masterful electronic soundscapes. Its 2022 album BLACKWALL is its final intended album and a barn burner of a record that fuses industrial beats with passionate vocals and expert production that gives the record the feel of something from the future commenting poignantly about the deeply conflicted and imperiled time in which we find ourselves. Think Moby and Nine Inch Nails collaborating with Chuck D for an album to be released on Warp Records.
Friday | 11.25 What:Secret Shame w/Verhoffst, Voight and ilind When: 9 Where: The Crypt ($10) Why: Secret Shame formed in Asheville, North Carolina in 2018. Its members came from the local punk scene and the music they made together was, summed up by a quote found on one or more of its online accounts, “too punk for Goth and too Goth for punk.” But however its sound might be best described its style of dark post-punk struck an immediate chord with people that got to see the fledgling band and even the debut basement demo from 2016 revealed a band that was tapping into emotional spaces resonant with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Xmal Deutschland. Its songwriting quickly developed into the songs that would comprise its energetic self-titled 2017 EP and the 2019 full-length debut album Dark Synthetics. In that vital mix of death rock and synth-infused post-punk one could hear an emotional vulnerability that told stories of struggle and abuse sometimes couched in terms of cosmic horror. And yet there was a core of honest feeling that bled through the metaphors and abstraction. For the 2022 album Autonomy, singer Lena had been working from a place of wanting to not obscure her lived experience and emotional truth and one hears that reflected directly in the music too. It’s still beautifully moody and moving but less haze and more direct tonal expression. Also in the new set of music are more conventionally accessible melodies without sacrificing the grit and darkness that has made the group’s songwriting so compelling since its inception. Autonomy is an album by a band that has come into its own while also a demonstration of an evolution from where it’s been and hinting at further exploration of where the music can go when you feel like you can craft your art from a deeply personal place without needing to couch it in the stylistic terms of anyone else or their narrow expectations. Opening is noise sculptor Verhoffs, techno DJ and avant-garde electronic music composer ilind and industrial post-punk shoegaze techno aspirers Voight. Listen to our interview with Secret Shame here.
Friday | 11.25 What:Emerald Siam, Jacket of Spiders, Juliet Mission and Shadows Tranquil When: 7 Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: Four of Denver’s best live rock bands on one bill doesn’t often happen but the day after Thanksgiving if you choose to show up to Enigma Bazaar you can witness the dark yet triumphant and emotionally expansive music of Emerald Siam, the blues edged, gritty art rock of Jacket of Spiders, Julie Mission’s perfection of transforming brooding shoegaze sounds into expressions of pure joy and Shadows Tranquil’s synthesis of math-y emo, shoegaze inflected metal and psyche cleansing, atmospheric post-punk. Sometimes for an all local bill you have to think maybe one or two of the bands are merely okay or there’s a clear headliner. But not for this show.
Saturday | 11.26 What:beabadoobee w/Lowertown When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Lowertown is an avant-pop duo based out of Atlanta. Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg met in math class in high school and bonded over a mutual and deep appreciation for jazz. Weinberg was a classical pianist with aims of going to the conservatory and Osby was a fledgling yet prolific poet. Before graduating in 2021 the two released the Honeycomb, Bedbug EP (2020) and the critically acclaimed The Gaping Mouth EP after high school in September 2021 having been picked up by the Dirty Hit imprint. Those EPs revealed a great deal of creative sophistication and development with songs that tapped into electronic music aesthetics, pop, angular post-punk, jazz and folk for a sound that feels intuitive in a way that speaks directly to the lived emotional experience in a way vulnerable and knowing and comfortable in not being so certain. The 2022 debut album I Love To Lie retains all the insightful introspection but the songwriting seems more straightforward and accessible and its content is the most clearly political and incisively observant. “Bucktooth” in particular addresses gun violence, political extremism and the seemingly everyday crisis mode that pervades not just American culture but the state of much of the world. It’s an album written from the perspective of youth and informed by an underlying hopefulness in the face of the dire possibilities and likelihoods and its catharsis of that anxiety is heartfelt and immediately striking. Filipino-British artist Beatrice Kristi Laus performs as beabdoobee and though only 22 has garnered a solid cult following for her early EPs released in 2018. Her breathy, expressive vocals are a compelling contrast with her expert crafting of lively, fuzzy guitar work and a seeming gift for delivering music with a raw spirit and a keen ear for creative melodies. Initially maybe her music seems completely beholden to 90s rock, especially on 2022 album Beatopia, but the sensibility has a touch of meta quality like Laus is soundtracking a 90s coming of age movie she has in her head infused with nosalgia, which fits in with the songwriter’s citing movie soundtracks as an influence on her own work and a desire to make music for films.
Saturday | 11.26 What:Seraphim Shock 25th Anniversary w/Dead on a Sunday, Whorticulture and DJ Celebrytie and hosted by Sid Pink When: 7 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Seraphim Shock has been spinning its tales of the dark side of American society informed by themes of the occult, Satanism, hedonism and resistance to a puritanical culture that often causes the trauma and neuroses that drive dysfunction. Seraphim Shock’s music is an expression of solidarity with living with that legacy and purging it. It’s debut full length album Red Silk Vow released in 1997 to great local fanfare in the local Goth scene with shows in which lead singer Charles Edward garbed as a Victorian Vampire, top hat and all, orchestrated a stage show with bandmates in corpse paint style. Whether one was fully into the music or not the spectacle was undeniably compelling to the point where it helped to elevate the music in its Goth-industrial style. As the years went on the band’s style adopted a more glam metal sound and Edward more like a sinister yet benevolent professional wrestler look but more sculpted and more like a Goth super hero. This show celebrates the release of that first album and ushers in the next chapter of the band with its impending release of the second volume of The Fairmount Chronicles which launched in 2020. These days the stage show is back to being as theatrical as the early days with Edward exuding the undeniable charisma and commanding presence that has been a feature of the live show for decades. Also here for the proceedings is the classic Seraphim Shock MC, the sarcastic and sardonic MC Sid Pink so maybe we’ll also see a return of his irreverent game show, Think Pink.
Monday | 11.28 What:SRSQ w/Causer and Polly Urethane When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: SRSQ (pronounced “seer-skew”) is the solo project of former Them Are Us Too singer Kennedy Ashlyn. Her operatic vocals brought a good deal of emotional weight to the gorgeously ethereal guitar work of the late Cash Askew for a powerfully evocative combination. Her 2018 album Unreality was a tender and engulfing meditation on loss and grief cast in lush and hazy synths and soaring vocals. Her new album Ever Crashing is a statement of rediscovery of a firm sense of self with the usual elegantly evocative synth but including an expanded sound palette of guitar, string arrangements, live drums and other percussion alongside Ashlyn’s singularly expressive voice. People that got to see SRSQ during her time touring in the wake of the release of Unreality know that Ashlyn’s native charisma and emotional vibrance as a performer is undeniable.
Tuesday | 11.29 What: Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Vio\ator and Faces Under the Mirror When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party from Dallas, Texas has been blurring the line between shoegaze and post-punk since its inception. Frontperson/guitarist Leah Lane strikes a commanding figure while delivering impassioned vocals and atmospheric guitar wizardry while drummer Dylan Stamas triggers samples and orchestrates the sweeping rhythms with bassist Michael Doty, synthesist Michael Ortega layering the music with vividly cinematic melody. Lane helped to write and produce and perform on (as well as doing the artwork for) Vio\ator’s 2021 album Solitude and the broodily icy tones and gritty synth and bass driven music is the sound of an autumn spent in isolation. Faces Under The Mirror from Denver has been crafting some of the better EBM around since 1994 without much recognition beyond the Mile High City but whose moody yet energetic music is imbued with a sense of joy in the live setting.
Secret Shame’s new album Autonomy releases on October 28, 2022 and the single “Color Drain” reveals new dimensions to the group’s songwriting. It’s material for the 2019 album Dark Synthetics were well within the realm of the death rock wing of post-punk with songs that shed great insight into the nature of trauma, addiction and mental illness and the struggles in coping with aspects of human behavior that are often fairly normal reactions to the pressures of living in a dysfunctional society. “Color Drain” finds the group in a more warmly melodic phase of its songwriting but one whose tenderness is not used to cover over the raw emotions expressed. It is a vivid portrait of living with the instincts of having suffered prolonged abuse, emotional and likely physical, and how those ways of surviving the experience can cause you to shy away from things that might be good for you suspicious of the motivations of everyone around you because you’ve had to live with the possibility that any act of kindness or tenderness might be the prelude to getting in deeper into your mind to elicit responses long lost to the emotional calluses built up from becoming accustomed to abuse. But the song dares to ask after the ways in which one might come to see this level of toughness, of learning to survive as romantic and how that pain becomes the way in which you know you can still feel in recalling it as a source of dignity when real dignity can be found beyond that dynamic. And that clinging to that dynamic even after you’ve somehow left the abusive situation can be a way to reinforce the pattern in anticipation of its recurrence. When your mind is focused on that pain to the near exclusion of experiences that can better define your life can be a difficult prospect to face and maybe that method of coping served its purpose. This song questions the boundaries of that way of being and living and in the end suggests the possibility of being open to help from those who don’t have a selfish agenda in a path of disrupting this circle of self-oppression. Listen to “Color Drain” on YouTube and connect with Secret Shame at the links below.
“Hide,” the lead track from Secret Shame’s forthcoming sophomore follow-up to its fantastic 2019 debut album Dark Synthetics is a statement on embracing one’s vulnerability and the dangers of always feeling like you need to hide part of yourself as an act of self-protection. In the choruses, guitar riffs hit in a measured yet expressive procession and then bloom forth in wide circles of melody as the rhythm section carries a lot of the weight of the track with an irresistible momentum and energy. In the verses the instrumentation gives the room that is so yearned for in the lyrics that Lena Machina delivers with a focused introspection. The song speaks to anyone that has had to turn a personal asset into a mark of shame because of the bad faith behavior of others and of a culture that consistently treats normal and not inherently destructive human behaviors as an aberration even if it’s something as simple as wanting to have your existence matter despite where the focus of society’s unspoken system of rewards is placed. Not to mention how one can internalize this mindset when it’s the bulk of what’s presented to you in life. It’s a song of no small amount of nuance in its sentiments and musically it’s a step further in the post-punk darkwave direction more than hinted at on the first record and its superb blend of punk and its darker cousin. Listen to “Hide” on YouTube, connect with Secret Shame at the links below and look out for the group’s new album likely announced later in 2022.
This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.
All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.
Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic
Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released
Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD
Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian
Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.
Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl
Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records
Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love
Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.
Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin
Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.
Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.
Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.
Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD
Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released
Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek
black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.
Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar
Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones
Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent
Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-
Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG
Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop
Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.
Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released
Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records
Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art
Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers
Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released
Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House
Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released
Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better
clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop
Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser
Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records
Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.
Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.
Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.
Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.
Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music
Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.
Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.
Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released
Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.
Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser
Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art
Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida
Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.
Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records
Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records
Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.
Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind
FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop
FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released
Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes
Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop
French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.
Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital
Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released
Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records
Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.
Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records
Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.
Secret Shame’s September 2019 release of Dark Synthetics introduced the world to a promising new post-punk band whose lushly moody tones, delicately evocative guitar work and duskily ethereal vocals was informed by a haunted grittiness. This remix by Skinquarter of “Haunter” emphasizes the way the band has crafted an emotional experience that can fit into a more electronic dance side of darkwave as much as it does the more rock aspect of its music. The synths are already part of the band’s music, Skinquarter (a side project of Ricky Olson with whom Secret Shame recorded Dark Synthetics) emphasized that and extrapolated that potential into different shapes so that the track’s dynamics bottom out and swell as if rippling through time in and out of phase. What was a beautifully introspective post-punk song thus had its potential tweaked for becoming a darkwave EBM and Goth club dance track. Listen to the Skinquarter remix of “Haunter” on Soundcloud and follow Secret Shame at the links below. Look for new music by Secret Shame in early 2020.
“Calm” by Secret Shame is probably the state of mind this song is a kind of an emotional exorcism to attain given its narrative of chaos and anxiety among a circle of friends and associates. Comparisons to Siouxsie & The Banshees is inevitable as Lena’s vocals have a similar power and versatility. The rhythms are steady and appropriately brooding and the guitar minimal yet melodic and spidery after the manner of early Sisters of Mercy. But when the guitars, bass and drums sync up with the vocals, including the backup vocals, for the choruses the band alchemically attains an electrifying frisson that pushes the sound beyond what one might expect with the intentionally lo-fi recording. The latter actually contributes to a sense that this song could have come out in 1983 or today except that, while also reminiscent at times of Denver’s Your Funeral or a death rock version of The Vanishing, there is nothing museum piece about what the band is doing. It’s moods are introspective and its words unsparing yet poetic and compassionate in their examination of self and socio-political issues—aspects of the music that often seem underappreciated in a lot of dark post-punk. And it is that side of the songwriting that gives the music its powerful emotional resonance. Look for the group’s debut full-length Dark Synthetics out on Portrayal of Guilt Records (yes, run by the great weirdo hardcore band) on September 6, 2019. Listen to “Calm” on Soundcloud and follow Asheville, North Carolina’s Secret Shame at the links below.
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