New Standards Men make music that defies simple genre categorization. Its threading together and fusing of multiple streams of influence has produced a music that has the subversive spirit of punk, psychedelia and the avant-garde, the technical prowess of jazz and metal and all informed by a sense of humor and disregard for stylistic convention. All while creating a prolific and surprisingly coherent and strong body of work including its 2020 and 2021 companion albums I Was A Starship and Spain’s First Astronaut respectively. The group came together in late 2016 when current members Drew Bissell and Jeremy Brashaw started jamming with another friend to produce music that drew on a desire to make music through a sort of improvisational/spontaneous composition approach that continues in the writing process to this day. The aforementioned albums were written and recorded during the same session but with the music having a slightly different flavor, one more heavy, psychedelic doom jazz, the other more John Zorn-esque free jazz. Companions in mood but clearly different facets of the New Standards Men sound. With now shows happening for over a year the group couldn’t release I Was A Starship in the usual fashion with the album release show but the record managed to pretty much sell out of its first run. It was then the band approached Chuck Coffey of the Denver-based Snappy Little Numbers imprint with the thought of reissuing the album and a tape of Spain’s First Astronaut and give a second wave of energy behind promoting those recordings. We had a chance to sit down with Bradshaw and Bissell to discuss their long history in underground music in both southern Iowa, where both spent much if not all of their formative years, and Denver and their deep comprehension of the dynamics of scenes as well as the process of making and releasing their music.
On Thursday, December 9, New Standards Men will have an album release show at the Hi-Dive as a co-album release show with Alien Neighborhood, joined for the night on stage by SPELLS and Moon Pussy. Listen to the interview with the band on Bandcamp below and connect with New Standards Men and Snappy Little Numbers at the links provided.
Thursday | 12.03 What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie When: 10 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.
Friday | 12.03 What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer When: 7/8 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.
Saturday | 12.04 What:…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.
Monday | 12.06 What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.
Tuesday | 12.07 What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod When: 6/7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.
Tuesday | 12.07 What:Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.
Thursday | 12.09 What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.
Friday | 12.10 What:N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.
Friday | 12.10 What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.
Saturday | 12.11 What:Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 9:30/10 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.
Friday | 12.17 What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.
Friday | 12.17 What:Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.
Monday | December 20 What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.
Thursday | 12.23 What:Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.
Friday | 12.31 What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.
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.
What:Black Mountain w/Ryley Walker When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Black Mountain is one of a handful of bands that was associated with 2000s “stoner rock” that evolved past and beyond the tropes of that genre. Probably because from the beginning the psychedelic end of its sound was more developed than some other bands that were essentially making a form of what’s now called “drone metal.” But even at the beginning, with its 2005 self-titled debut, the band wrote heavy songs with an ethereal tonal architecture like “Heart of Snow.” The group’s 2019 album Destroyer is its first with former Sleepy Sun guitarist/vocalist Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem of Soft Kill. It sounds like it has more extensive use of synthesizer than previous albums and thus having more in common with obvious influences like Hawkwind and Can. Live the new direction for the band has been more immersive and hypnotic without sacrificing its rock and roll punch, a testament to its integration of its musical instincts and incorporation of even more of Jeremy Schmidt’s transporting synth work which he used to great effect on the soundtrack to dark science fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow under his moniker Sinoia Caves.
What:Cheap Perfume Burn It Down album release, SPELLS, Plasma Canvas and Wild Lives When: Saturday, 11.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Cheap Perfume is the Colorado Springs-based punk band who make no bones about their feminist political orientation but that really should be part of anyone’s agenda in the modern world and a centerpiece of any human who claims to have morality, ethics, basic human decency and concern for human rights as part of their perspective on the world. But Cheap Perfume makes it fun with pointed songs that while sometimes snarky are heartfelt and clever but with no fence sitting. Its new album, Burn It Down, is being released this night with some of the Mile High City’s best punk acts sharing the stage for the occasion.
Tuesday | December 3
What:Allah-Las w/Mapache & Tim Hill When: Tuesday, 12.3, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: In the rush to cop the 60s and early 70s southern California sound in the past half decade and more so many bands seem to have mimicked those Laurel Canyon artists outright. Allah-Las dipped into a similar pool of references but didn’t forget to write great songs or to inject that with modern sensibilities. Its soundscapes are paired well with entrancing melodies and not merely indie rock with some reverb and chorus and a laid back vibe. Its 2019 album LAHS is typically introspective and expansive with more than a dash of playfulness.
What:Turnover & Men I Trust w/Renata Zeiguer When: Wednesday, 12.4, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some. Currently touring in support of its lushly downtempo 2019 album Oncle Jazz.
What:Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.
What:Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 1 When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs
What:Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27
What:Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.
What:Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.
What:Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.
What:Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.
What:The Aquabats When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.
What:Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.
What:FKA Twigs When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.
What:Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.
What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Wednesday | November 13
What:The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.
What:Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.
What:The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.
What:Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m. Where: Tracks Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.
Saturday | August 10
What:This Will Destroy You w/Brin When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.
What:Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m. Where: Mile High Stadium Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.
What:GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.
What:Glasss Fest Day 1 When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.
12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat
Sunday | August 11
What:Glasss Fest Day 2 When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above for Glasss Fest.
1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set
Tuesday | August 13
What:Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.
What:Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.
What:Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.
Wednesday | August 14
What:Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.
Who:Creative Music Works Fundraiser: Special guest Eugene Chadbourne When: Thursday, 03.28, 7-9 p.m. Where: Mighty Fine Productions Why: Creative Music Works is, according to the event page, a “nonprofit organizartion providing educational and performance opportunities for musical innovators.” Meaning the organization furthers the endeavors of artists whose work often falls outside the traditional commercial and popular music environment—the people pushing the boundaries with form, method and conceptualization. CMW members Janet Feder, Mark Harris, Scott Kinnamon, Elena Carmerin Young and Isaac Linder will contribute to a performance as well as avant-garde music legend Eugene Chadbourne.
Who:Starjammer w/Bianca Mikahn When: Thursday, 03.28, 4-7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Starjammer’s “avant-garde dub reggae”/performance art/home made instrument rig glory is paired tonight with one of Denver’s poetry greats and forward thinking hip-hop experimentalists, Bianca Mikahn.
Who:Rob Sonic w/The Maybe So’s, Brett Gretzky and Hakeem Furious When: Thursday, 03.28, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Rob Sonic has had a fairly distinguished career for his innovative hip-hop projects Sonic Sum and Hail Mary Mallon (which included Aesop Rock and DJ Big Wiz). What has made his various efforts interesting is his use of a fairly different palette of sounds from many of his peers. His 2018 album Defriender lays out moods and textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-punk or deep house track or an industrial noise song. Denver’s The Maybe So’s is a duo that also weaves in unconventional electronic music and samples of organic percussion into its flow of beats and poetry.
Friday | March 29
Who:Dilly Dally w/Chastity and American Culture When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: On Dilly Dally’s 2015 album Sore the group sounded like a bit like a weird mixture of Bully and Courtney Barnett. But to be fair, it was probably something in the universe/confluence of influences across a broad swath of the collective musical consciousness. But with the 2018 album Heaven, Dilly Dally has expanded its range as a band and there is more brooding, atmospheric darkness flowing through its fuzz-laden riffs. It’s song “Doom” is more doom in tone and emotional resonance than a lot of what passes for such in the doom genre. But its inherently introspective yet expansive melodies keep the music from wallowing in stagnation. Along for this date is fellow Canadian band Chastity who are definitely more well within the realm of doomy noise rock. American Culture lately has straddled the line between indie pop, post-punk and psych country jam rock minus the wacktitude.
Who:Hand Habits w/Tomberlin and Porlolo When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Meg Duffy may be more well-known for being a touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. But with the release of her album placeholder under the moniker Hand Habits should garner her plenty of attention for her own creative efforts. Superficially its mid-tempo moody indie folk but her words go deep into thoughts and feelings we don’t want to entertain but must face honestly. Not necessarily obvious and brutal trauma but the subtler pains that can deeply haunt you every day and from which are more elusive in evading. Disappointment in self, reflecting on one’s suddenly seemingly damning mistakes and the cognitive dissonance of the complexity of conflicting feelings about people, situations, existential ponderings and life in general that are all valid. Her tonal choices are all interesting and the perfect companion to explicating and maybe untangling and processing the aforementioned.
Who:Robyn Hitchcock When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: One thing that isn’t so obvious about seeing Robyn Hitchcock playing solo or with collaborators is how his simple but richly detailed guitar work is creatively varied and incorporates percussive elements with an expressive delicacy that focuses the emotional impact of his songwriting. He seems to be an endless well of interesting and poetic stories that make even what some may consider his lesser records worth a listen. Pick a point in Hitchcock’s career and you’ll find some of the best songwriting of that period whether while he was a member of The Soft Boys, his work with The Egyptians or The Venus 3. Like a magical-realist (emphasis on realist) novelist, Hitchcock’s songs offer observational insight into the human psyche through an intensely personal window.
Who:Jeff Carey, Sigtrygur Sigmarsson, Diffuser, Flesh Buzzard, Joshua Westerman. Sunk Cost and Page 27 When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Noise shows are pretty infrequent in Denver these days but this one is a showcase for some of the best noise acts going and not in the vein of the cliché harsh noise/shakebox feedback sculpting mode. Much more craft, imagination and originality here with Denver noise legends Page 27, former Austin-based noise prankster Sunk Cost, Adam Rojo of Voight’s Diffuser noise-scaping pieces and raw noise punk Flesh Buzzard. Among others.
Who:Black Dots, SPELLS, Lawsuit Models, Girl Scout Heroine and Good Family When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A fairly traditional punk show with less of the fashion victim thing than usual. SPELLS wears costumes and get a solid B for the music but hey, that’s better than you get a lot of the time. Girl Scout Heroine includes former members of The Geds and The Blast-Off Heads.
Who:King Buffalo w/Pale Sun and The Lycan When: Saturday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: What King Buffalo is doing, to some extent, we’ve seen a lot of over the past decade—drone-y, blues-y, doom-y psychedelia. But to give the band its due, if 2018’s Longing To Be The Mountain is any indication, it didn’t just adopt some motorik beats, it takes that sonic vehicle to places of heightened emotional impact beyond just hypnotic drive with occasional flourishes. Also it’s songwriting is much more creative and not grinding away at the same vibe and pace for an entire record. King Buffalo often reaches moments of true sonic sublimity in a way that transcends any genre associations. Pale Sun will bring a different kind of atmospheric heavy as the trio’s finely honed space rock has similar roots as King Buffalo but whose music touches subconscious places in the mind with both tone, rhythm and emotional vibrancy. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers channels the visceral quality of the music well with his singing but he’s also tapping into something in the collective consciousness in the performance as well.
Monday | April 1
Who:Olivia O’Brien w/Kevin George When: Monday, 04.01, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Olivia O’Brien was about fifteen years old when she got a boost up as a singer and songwriter after garnering the attention of Australian pop artist gnash who discovered her through her posting of a cover of one of his songs on Soundcloud. Over the past four years, O’Brien has recorded with gnash and released a string of singles. “Trust Issues” from 2016 revealed a thoughtful sensibility and self-awareness that can be uncommon in general but definitely in a teenager. O’Brien’s R&B and soul inflected pop and commanding, emotionally nuanced, stage presence will probably find a wider audience after this current tour and the April 26 release of her debut full-length Was It Even Real? For now, you can see her at a small club like Larimer Lounge.
Tuesday | April 2
Who:Ten Fé w/Ten Miles South and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Been Moorhouse and Leo Duncan got their start busking in London before recording their 2017 debut album Hit the Light. Before taking the music on the road, the duo brought on board a band to fill out the sonic details. The group’s 2019 album Future Perfect, Present Tense sounds remarkably sophisticated for a relatively new band. Its particular incorporation of synth into songwriting might remind some listeners of The Call or later-era The Sound, but without the punk edge. That’s no knock on the music because its softness doesn’t quite wax into the 70s Laurel Canyon worship that’s been en vogue of late. Rather its the sound of a band exploring and refining where it will go next while perfecting an exquisitely lush minimalism without sacrificing the textural details that have made its songwriting noteworthy up to now.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes digital album release show When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Its been four years since Vanilla Milkshakes released Tall People Have No Feelings. Line up changes and a release of a cover of “Breed” by Nirvana in 2018 later, the grunge-y pop-punk band (singer/guitarist David McGhee makes no bones about being influenced by The Offspring) has released its best record with Punching Cows. Recorded with Jack Endino and guitars tracked through one of Kurt Cobain’s old amps, on the record McGhee’s vocals are clearer and stronger, the songwriting more focused. But the idiosyncratic quality of the lyrics and McGhee’s vocals, which is one reason none of this comes off like a band that would be playing that final Warped Tour. The sense of melody and tight rhythms give even the most melancholy of the songs (“Mommy Said to Get a Job” and “Green And Sober” for instance) a buoyant quality that doesn’t seem to downplay the real feelings and experiences that likely inspired the song. There are enough rough edges to keep the record interesting throughout. The band performs infrequently these days so this is a good opportunity to see the Vanilla Milkshakes in a small venue with the jokes from stage inserted between songs. Besides, drummer Frank Registrato is a wizard at helping keep things on track with no heavy hand and the sheer finesse and power of his playing.
Who:Hop Along w/Summer Cannibals When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Frances Quinlan performed in early versions of Hop Along as a solo acoustic act for the first four or five years until putting together a fledgling band around 2009. Even before signing to Saddle Creek Records in 2014, Quinlan’s songwriting was not short on imaginative storytelling like she was imagining the lives and situations she encountered in either her everyday life in Philadelphia or on the road and extrapolating it into colorful imagery and a keen sensitivity and insight into the subjects of her songs even when the inspiration is drawn directly from her own life. Any band that names its album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018) has a healthy sense of humor and the absurd without drifting into self-parody.
Wednesday | April 3
Who:Weird Wednesday: Gort Vs. Goom, The Far Stairs, The Pollution When: Wednesday, 04.03, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: None more weird for Weird Wednesday. Gort Vs. Goom are like the post-Devo, prog punk version of The Fugs. The Far Stairs is a deconstructionist pop project that sounds like more well-crafted pop than most bands trying to fool us into thinking they’re not utter frauds. Plus sometimes there’s a Robyn Hitchcock cover involved which bespeaks of an unspoken artistic ambition far beyond the usual. The Pollution got back to punk through burning through on hardcore, psychedelic rock, krautrock and Kiwi rock and taking bits and pieces of each to put together a Frankenstein’s Monster of music where you can’t find the sutures.
Who:Hockey Dad w/Hunny When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.
Who:A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.
Friday | February 8, 2019
Who:Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.
Who:Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.
Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.
Who:Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?
Saturday | February 9, 2019
Who:Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.
Who:An Evening With Nels Cline 4 When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.
Who:Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.
Sunday | February 10, 2019
Who:Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why:Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.
Monday | February 11, 2019
Who:Gang of Four w/Plume Varia When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.
Wednesday | February 13, 2019
Who:SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.
Who:Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.
Who:Hot Trash, Creature Keeper, Princess Dewclaw at Lost Lake When: Thursday, 01.04, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hot Trash from Sewell, NJ is a punk band that seems like its members grew up on a lot of 90s pop punk and emo but then discovered the roots of that music and absorbed a great deal of Rites of Spring and Fugazi. Its clipped, angular guitar riffs reveal the latter but its bratty yet melodic vocals are right out of 90s post-hardcore and pop punk. Denver’s Princess Dewclaw have some of that brattiness in their vocals but it comes off more like righteous outrage at being the “beneficiaries” of misogyny American style. With keyboards and guitar work that goes beyond any kind of standard punk, think more Milemarker than AFI.
Saturday | January 6, 2018
Who:iZCALLi (album release) w/Rubedo (album release), Wes Watkins and El Cro When: Saturday, 01.06, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Maybe the next iZCALLi album will be called Casas Del Santo. But seriously, the veteran rock and roll band based out of Denver is calling its new record iZCALLi IV. It is the group’s first bilingual record, it’s previous efforts with songs in Spanish, and with any luck will bring the band, which has been putting on highly energetic shows since its 2005 inception, and playing in various scenes and subscenes in Denver. Many bands garner attention from press and garner a following quickly but iZCALLi has had to grind and play Mexican restaurants and other restaurants that happened to have a P.A. for karaoke night or some other kind of music. But iZCALLi’s power as a live band was undeniable and before ever really releasing an English language song on an album, the group attracted fans for its strong songwriting and charismatic stage show.
Joining iZCALLi in releasing an album is Rubedo whose Vaca is its first album since 2014’s Ikey Owens produced Love is the Answer. Though not benefiting directly from Ikey’s magic, Vaca reflects his legacy of excellence and truth with eleven songs that to some extent documents the mourning process of a mentor and friend. But across the record the songs are a celebration of Ikey’s life and his influence on the people around him and how people can inspire each other to achieve their dreams with integrity. The previous Rubedo albums are worthwhile on their own, representing the era in which they were made, but Vaca may be the most emotionally nuanced and deep record the band has released to date. The exuberant bursts of emotion and wiry energy of Rubedo’s core sound is there but the gentler atmospheres and the evidence of a band pushed further into craft if individual members pushed further than they’d been before makes for rewarding repeated listening.
Who:Tennis w/Brent Cowles When: Saturday, 01.06, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why:Yours Conditionally, released on Tennis’ own label Mutually Detrimental, came out in 2017 and seems to have pushed the band’s cachet higher among a wider audience since it’s playing The Ogden this time around. The record isn’t envelope-pushing enough to garner a lot of kudos from music critics. It’s still the sort of Laurel Canyon circa 1973 pop sound with 2000s production updates on the mixing and mastering end. It was also written during a four-month sailing trip along the West coast of the US and Mexico. That might justifiably make one think the band is trying to recapture some past glory of its first album. But the songwriting is better and Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have clearly developed their craft to a fine degree. Beyond that, Tennis is never really given the credit it deserves for articulating many of the internal conflicts, aspirations, insecurities, anxieties and uncertainty in America without hitting you over the head with it and without having to dumb it down.
Brent Cowles long ago established himself as a songwriter of note separate from his old band You, Me and Apollo. His 2017 Cold Times EP puts him in good company with Tennis invoking another era of music. Except there’s somehow this sense that Cowles listened to or otherwise absorbed a lot of mid-90s Pulp while writing those songs. That is to say that there’s a decadent yet romantic undertone to the idealistic overtones of his songs. That mixed quality will probably give Cowles’ songwriting some durability that many of his peers may lack.
Who:SPELLS 7” release w/Hooper and Lawsuit Models When: Saturday, 01.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SPELLS shows are a punk rock party for people who are wise enough to remember that 80% is good enough. But their version of 80% is a bit higher than many punk bands who don’t look like they’re having fun even if they’re bashing out the tunes. The band will release one of its collectible 7”s this night and on the bill are other excellent bands that are technically punk but open up the format quite a bit in Hooper and Lawsuit Models.
Sunday | January 7, 2018
Who:R A R E B Y R D $ w/Bianca Mikahn, Abeasity Jones, A’Dula and MC Big House When: Sunday, 01.07, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This Glasss Records showcase highlights its excellent hip-hop roster. Bianca Mikahn has spent several years honing her poetry and production skills all while being heavily involved in Denver’s performing arts community and youth outreach. Her own work is passionately honest and while informed by hip-hop, incorporates elements of ambient and noise to create a mood and a texture, something tangible, in her beats. Abeasity Jones brings a playfulness and wit to his raps that are almost a detournement of the bravado that underlies entirely too much hip-hop. R A R E B Y R D $ is sometimes a duo, sometimes a group. But whatever the configuration, the project will draw you into their vision of a better, more nurturing, more loving world that also doesn’t pretend that the struggles and pains we’ve all experienced never happened. Even if you’re not wanting that, its beats are a transporting and intimate flow of sounds and rhythms that one might compare to more dreamy IDM acts and alternative/underground hip-hop legends cLOUDDEAD or imaginative modern artists like Kari Faux and Jonwayne.
Monday | January 8, 2018
Who:Stoic/Euth tour kickoff w/Echo Beds, Old Sport and faim When: Monday, 01.08, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Stoic and Euth are both hardcore bands from Laramie, Wyoming and both are kicking off their winter tour in Denver at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Helping to celebrate the occasion are three of Denver’s best bands with a connection to hardcore. Old Sport is a kind of a math rock/emo band in the vein of early 764-Hero or lo-fi Jawbreaker. Faim has such a feral, aggressive sound it’s difficult to know what to compare it to except for maybe the relentless pace of Converge minus the math-y instincts but with all the splintery dynamics and thrillingly abrasive melodies and punchier low end. Echo Beds is brings together the confrontational, organic catharsis of hardcore with classic industrial music in the vein of Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept. and Einstürzende Neubauten.
Wednesday | January 10, 2018
Who:Cowgirl Clue w/Surf Mom, Sweater Belly and Meeting House When: Wednesday, 01.10, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Ashley Clue appears to have tapped into a personal creative mythology akin to the otherworldly, surreal, bright and glittery world that is that of Akiko Higashimura’s manga series Princess Jellyfish, a place where the characters live in an apartment building in Tokyo populated by otaku women and where men are forbidden to enter. Her colorfully upbeat pop songs are strange but playful and accessible. Apparently, according to Jocelyn Rockhold of Medium, Clue has mainly been DJing queer dance parties around the world and performing select shows in larger cities so this is your opportunity to catch her live act in a place like Denver. Opening are Meeting House, Sweater Belly and Surf Mom. The latter with its gritty surf garage sound may be a bit out of step for some electronic pop stuff but both Cowgirl Clue and Surf Mom off an alternative to the patriarchal vision of art and music channeled to you daily. Gold Trash is a more obvious fit being an experimental electronic project that expands on the possibilities and palette of dance music while challenging societal norms and stereotypes in its lyrics.
Who:Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.
Who:To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.
Friday: December 1, 2017
Who:Maria Bamford When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.
The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.
Who:SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.
Who:Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.
What:Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street) Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.
Saturday: December 2, 2017
Who:Pink Hawks When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m. Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.
Who:Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.
Who:Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.
Who:Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Gary Lee’s Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.
Who:Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.
Who:The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.
Who:Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.
Sunday: December 3, 2017
Who:Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.
Who:Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Monday: December 4, 2017
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Who:Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.
Tuesday: December 5, 2017
Who:Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.
Who:Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.
Wednesday: December 6, 2017
Who:Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m. Where: 3 Kings Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.