Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.

Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.

Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.

Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek

black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.

Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.

Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.

Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.

Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.

Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.

Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound

Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.

Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.

Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.

Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound

Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.

Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released

No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.

NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.

Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van

Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released

Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.

She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.

Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines

SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.

The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.

Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.

We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.

Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver 10/3/19 – 10/9/19

Curse_ShaneGardner
Curse performs Thursday, October 3 at Rhinoceropolis, photo by Shane Gardner

Thursday | October 3

DudeYork-2019-05-EleanorPetry-2248x1500-300
Dude York, photo by Eleanor Petry

What: Curse w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Gruesome Relics
When: Thursday, 10.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Baltimore’s Curse has been touring the US for the past eight years playing its alchemical mix of doom, darkwave analog synth pop, electro-acoustic industrial beats and hardcore. Its commanding and spirited performances and DIY ethos has earned the band a fanbase in the American underground where its gritty, emotionally charged and dream-like music needn’t appeal to a narrow spectrum of musical tastes. Also on the bill are like-minded Denver locals. Echo Beds and Church Fire both bridge the worlds of hardcore, industrial and darkwave with both groups incorporating live drums and physical sound generation with an electronic music aesthetic.

What: Bleached w/Dude York and Pout House
When: Thursday, 10.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Seattle’s Dude York recently released its new album Falling out on Hardly Art. The band’s been writing fun, thoughtful music since its inception but on the new record the songwriting seems somehow fuller and the tone nostalgic like the members of the band have reached a point in their life that everyone gets to where you can embrace the music of your youth that maybe in your late teens or twenties you rejected a bit because you outgrew it. Except that you can appreciate it on your terms as someone who has some life experience and has more insight as to why you you can either still love that music or aspects of it or appreciate how it made you feel even if that music doesn’t have that level of impact on you now. The problem with a lot of rock music is that it gets emotionally stuck in a rut of stunted adolescence. Falling sounds like a band that acknowledges the importance on a deeply personal level of not letting your heart fully harden to weather the blows of life with a shield of knowing jadedness when some sensitivity and openness would be a better way to navigate the world with curiosity and humanity intact. Bleached not so long ago went through its own transformation after some years of exploring what it wanted to sound like, even as the songwriting was always strong, to get into a groove of gritty, atmospheric pop that grew out of the Clavin sisters’ past in noise punk band Mika Miko and the garage surf sound of the early 2010s.

Friday | October 4

TheHaters_Apr23_2011_TomMurphy
The Haters circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal Fundraiser: The Haters 40th Anniversary performance, Dr. Noize, Sounding, Prison Glue, Jump Scare, Goblin King of the Popstars, Ilind, Diffuser and French Kettle Station
When: Friday, 10.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Noise festival Ultra Metal will take place the second weekend in November. But it’s a DIY fest and this show is both a fundraiser for Ultra Metal and the 40th anniversary performance of arch noise tricksters The Haters which may or may not include legendary, formerly Denver-based recording engineer Bob Ferbrache.

TimBaker_BritneyTownsend
Tim Baker, photo by Britney Townsend

What: Half Moon Run w/Tim Baker (former Hey Rosetta!)
When: Friday, 10.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Tim Baker the charismatic singer for Hey Rosetta! released his debut solo album Forever Overhead. When the band went on indefinite hiatus in October 2017 Baker went on tour as a solo artist playing the unconventional types of venues he had probably when he was coming with the songs that were the backbone of the early era of his Hey Rosetta!. The songs are the warm, introspective but yearning, anthemic pieces that garnered the band a wide audience from early on. The album seems to sketch a journey of personal rediscovery and reconnecting with the everyday experiences and epiphanies that make for vivid lyrics that resonate with feelings we’ve all had.

What: Ride w/The Spirit of the Beehive and One Flew West
When: Friday, 10.04, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Ride was one of the earliest of the UK shoegaze bands. Its sound was aswirl with elements of a colossal neo-psychedelia but rocked with a momentous drive. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album This is Not a Safe Place.

What: Tinariwen
When: Friday, 10.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

What: Amon Amarth w/Arch Enemy, At the Gates and Grand Magus
When: Friday, 10.04, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

Saturday | October 5

nervesandgel_Jan 23_2013_TomMurphy
nervesandgel circa 2013 (Johnny Wohlfahrt aka nervesandgel with Allison Young), photo by Tom Murphy

What: Pythian Whispers album release w/RAREBYRD$, SOMNILOQUIST and nervesandgel
When: Saturday, 10.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: SOMNILOQUIST is an ambient/drone artist from Albuquerque whose 2019 album Perpetual Fall is a collection of vivid sonic sketches of a scene, a sensation, a mood captured by the song titles including the humorously titled “How Long Are You Going to Leave Those Jack-o-Lanterns on Your Porch?” Majestic, enigmatic, impressionistic, introspective but always conveying the emotional experiences behind them eloquently. Nervesandgel hasn’t performed a show in over six years but the Denver-based experimental electronic artist has a vast back catalog that explores depths of experimenting with the form of ambient music and psychedelia beyond the tropes implied by the latter designation. He, Johnny Wohlfahrt, has releases on various imprints including a record out on indie pop label Best Friends Records but most of his work is self-released including the darkly moving Cometcrash and the more than three hour long epic 333. He may make ambient music but his performances are always richly emotional. R A R E B Y R D $ took the root of underground hip-hop and imbued it with personal mythology and a willingness to push the weird end of electronic beat-making to craft some of the most entrancing and evocative, sometimes inspirationally brash, sometimes cathartically heartbreaking happening in the world right now. Pythian Whispers is a Denver-based ambient band that Queen City Sounds and Art editor and writer Tom Murphy started as a solo project in 2009 but which became a band in 2011 when David Britton joined followed by various other long term and short term collaborators including renowned photographer/film-maker Charles DeGraaf, Titwrench MC Piper Rose, former Dangerous Nonsense bassist and current Umbras Animas member Harmony Fredere, Brad Schumacher of Night Grinder, Melissa Bell formerly of Rasputina and Howling Hex, Victoria Lundy of The Inactivists, Darren Kulback formerly of Hot White now Quits and The Lifers, former Action Friend drummer Paul Alexander, Misun Oh formerly of French Chemists, Tripp Wallin of The Lifers, comic artist Sara Century, photographer Joel Dallenbach and likely more. The band’s new album Lullabies For the Way of St. James is its first full length album since 2012’s The Dark Edge of Hippie Life. The band will have enamel band logo pins for sale for $12 that come with a download or a bundle with a forthcoming cassette with extra tracks for maybe $20.

What: Franksgiving: Church Fire, Little Fyodor, Ralph Gean and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Saturday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Franklin Bell is a local character and weird music afficionado who DJs many events featuring gloriously odd music. This is his yearly benefit for the Crohn’s Foundation of America. It features some of Denver’s best including tribal industrial dance phenoms Church Fire, punker than your average fashion victim punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, Denver’s OG rock and roll hero Ralph Gean and irreverent bass thrash post-punkers Gort Vs. Goom.

What: Nakatani Gong Orchestra
When: Saturday, 10.05, 7-10 p.m.
Where: The Savoy at Curtis Park

What: New Ben Franklins, I’m A Boy and The Gones
When: Saturday, 10.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Horse Feathers w/Chella and the Charm
When: Saturday, 10.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | October 6

SamFender_JackWhitefield
Sam Fender, photo by Jack Whitefield

What: Sam Fender w/Noel Wells
When: Sunday, 10.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: You may not know who Sam Fender is now but the singer/songwriter from the UK has had his musical star on the ascent for several years now and his new album Hypersonic Missiles hit the number one sport on the UK Albums Chart last month. His earnest songwriting and candid portraits of working class life, the struggles, the aspirations, the frustrations and the triumphs, elevate his upbeat and anthemic songwriting to something more ambitious and meaningful than much of what is passing for pop and rock music in the mainstream these days.

What: Dave Bixby w/Midwife and Scott Seskind — canceled
When: Sunday, 10.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: In 1969 Dave Bixby released his debut Ode to Quetzalcoatl, inspired by a spiritual revelation after wrecking his mind with drugs and transcending that experience. His second album, Second Coming, commissioned by a cult called The Movement, was released in 1970 and he subsequently disappeared from the world of music until 2011. This is a rare chance to catch this legend of psychedelic folk. [This show was canceled due to Dave’s gear being stolen. Possible reschedule at some point]

What: Mac Demarco w/Thundercat and Snail Mail
When: Sunday, 10.06, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

Monday | October 7

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset
Chiiild, photo courtesy the artist

What: Emotional Oranges w/Chiiild
When: Monday, 10.07, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Chiiild is the kind of R&B we need now that is identifiable as such but which has absorbed modern music and while maintaining an appreciation for the eccentric sound and musical ideas from yesteryear with no prejudice toward where it belongs in conventional notion of genre. The group’s songs sound like they were written without notions of musical tradition weighing it down, only the pressure of writing meaningful and transporting music the way its obvious influences weren’t aiming to borrow so heavily from an earlier era either.

TameImpala_KevinParker_PhotoBy_Matt-Sav
Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, photo by Matt Sav

What: Tame Impala w/Altin Gün
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Tame Impala could have done fine for itself basically soundtracking modern yacht rock for young people and had a commercially successful music career. But Kevin Parker’s songwriting reveals some more imaginative combinations of sounds and moods layered into the music so that even if sometimes a song will remind those in the know of a later era Supertramp track with more luxuriant synth work it’s an example of Parker’s penchant for weaving together modern sensibilities and pop songcraft from previous or current times with equal aplomb.

What: Stereolab w/Wand
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stereolab took French pop, Krautrock, avant-garde synth music, dub and psychedelia and infused it with the radical left politics to make some of the most compelling yet accessible music of the 1990s and 2000s. Reunited after a decade apart “The Groop” will not fail to dazzle.

BloodOrange_NickHarwood1
Blood Orange, photo by Nick Harwood

What: Tyler, The Creator w/Blood Orange and Goldlink
When: Monday, 10.07, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Tyler the Creator made a name for himself crafting experimental hip-hop as a member of Odd Future and under his own creative moniker. But in recent years, particularly with his 2019 album Igor, he’s been writing works that explore themes of identity and a deep examination of what drives our desires. While nothing new per se, for this record Tyler has dispensed with the aggressive character that was a manifestation of his anxieties and insecurities writ larger than life in favor of a compelling vulnerability with production that complements that unmasked sensitivity perfectly. Also on the tour is Blood Orange whose own experimental beat-crafting and creative approaches to cultural narratives reached a peak thus far with 2018’s Negro Swan with its lush jazz and downtempo sound and lyrics that took an honest yet nuanced look into the way society and conventional mores impact racial, gender and sexual identity. Heavy stuff for a show at Red Rocks and yet both artists make these subjects accessible and fun without downplaying their seriousness.

What: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performs Deep Red for movie screening
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Claudio Simonetti is a founding member of Italian progressive rock band Goblin and for this show he and his band will perform a live soundtrack to the 1975 Dario Argento splatter horror thrill Deep Red.

TheParanoyds_GinaCanavan
The Paranoyds, photo by Gina Canavan

What: White Reaper w/The Dirty Nil and The Paranoyds
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Boy Harsher w/Spelling
When: Monday, 10.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Tuesday | October 8

Bluebook_Nov2_2017_TomMurphy
Bluebook circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Tame Impala w/Altin Gün
When: Tuesday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

What: Deep Sea Diver w/Bluebook
When: Tuesday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Wednesday | October 9

jakob_ogawa-HeddaRysstad1
Jakob Ogawa, photo by Hedda Rysstad

What: Jakob Ogawa w/Niña
When: Wednesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Swedish singer-songwriter Jakob Ogawa’s songwriting seems steeped in jazz-inflected pop but there’s something unusual about the angle with which he approaches the music. Almost like it incorporates elements of childhood music and fairy tales into the mix. For instance the music video for his single “April” features a sasquatch type figure who wakes up one morning and has some adventures including trying out surfing and night driving. Some fishing, visiting the graves of pets. Hanging out in a hammock. It’s subtle but it really does tell you Ogawa’s gift for chill synth pop and his own idiosyncratic vocals is coming from a place of individual imagination that immediately sets him apart from the rest of the modern crop of indie pop artists.

GoldTrash_May31_2018_TomMurphy
Gold Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

What: RAREBYRDS, Gold Trash, Shocker Mom and Savage Bass Goat
When: Wednesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Charli-XCX-2099-lrg
Charli XCX, photo courtesy the artist

What: Charli XCX w/Dorian Electric
When: Wednesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: James Blake
When: Wednesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium

Best Shows in Denver 11/02/17 – 11/08/17

A$APMOB
A$APMOB performs at 1stBank Center on Friday, November 3. Photo by Alexander Bortz

 

Thursday: November 2, 2017

Bison Bone
Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Europa Coffeehouse
Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.

Who: Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix
When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.

Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Friday: November 3, 2017

Cocordion
Cocordion, photo by Cocordion

 

Who: A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.

 

Who: Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk 
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.

According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 1
When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.

Saturday: November 4, 2017

Novasak
Novasak circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.

Who: The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.

Sunday: November 5, 2017

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa, photo by Frank Ockenfels III

Who: Jay Z and Vic Mensa
When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.

Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.

 

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

Beach Slang
Beach Slang, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar 
When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence 
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.

Who: Tyler the Creator w/Taco
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.

Who: Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.