Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

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.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

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.

Best Shows in Denver 12/13/19 – 12/17/19

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Angel Olsen performs at Gothic Theatre December 14 and 15, photo by Cameron McCool

Friday | December 13

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Tourist, photo by David Ellis

What: Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.

What: Princess Dewclaw w/Demoncassettecult, Savage Bass Goat, Techno Allah and $addy
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Nova Fest 7: Fathers, Sorry No Sympathy, The Burial Plot, Cheap Perfume and Saving Verona 
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Landgrabbers, Octopus Tree, The Pollution and Electric Condor
When: Friday, 12.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

What: Moral Law, Disposal Notice, Thieves Guild, Pontius Pilate
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Black Dots, Surrender Signal, No Comma, Good Family
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Deep Club Presents: Ash Lauryn
When: Friday, 12.13, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Saturday | December 14

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Lot Lizard, photo by James Dean

What: Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.

What: Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.

What: Khemmis w/Wayfarer and UN
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: King Cardinal w/Corsicana and Bellhoss
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 15

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Plaid circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford
When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Sunday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Tuesday | December 17

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Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Empath w/American Culture and Reposer
When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.

Best Shows in Denver 12/27/18 – 1/2/18

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Church Fire drops Summer Camp Doom Diary @ Hi-Dive this Saturday, 12/29/18.                       Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | December 27, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.

Who: Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith
When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.

Friday | December 28, 2018

 

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Green Druid, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid
When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.

Who: Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad
When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife
When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.

Saturday | December 29, 2018

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Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.

Who: Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith
When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.

Who: Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.

Who: Itchy-O w/PPL MVR
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.

Sunday | December 30, 2018

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Cloudless Rain (left) with Sheet Metal Skin Graft (left) circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits
When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.

Who: Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.

Who: The Beach Boys
When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.

Who: Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.

Who: cindygod EP release
When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.

Monday | December 31, 2018

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Rubedo at We Labs with Ikey Owens (3rd from left), November 15, 2013. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.

Who: Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.

Who: Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman
When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Wayfarer and George Cessna (solo)
When: Monday, 12.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The third and final show of SCAC’s NYE residency featuring opening sets from Denver doom band Wayfarer and George Cessna performing a solo set.

Wednesday | January 2, 2019

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Adam Selene, photo by Spookie Darling of Darling House Media

Who: Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell
When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?

Best Shows in Denver 6/21/18 – 6/27/18

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Lithics perform at Tuesday 6/26/18 at Lost Lake with Super Bummer and Male Blonding. Photo by Christie Maclean.

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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Bios+a+ic circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Bios+a+ic and Acidbat
When: Thursday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: For this edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 you can see Wesley Davis doing a rare performance as Bios+a+ic, his long-running ambient/experimental electronic and acoustic instrument project. Davis curates the Textures Ambient showcase series now hosted the last Sunday of every month (including this Sunday, 6/24) at Mutiny Information Café. This event marks the twenty year anniversary of Davis’ label Symbolic Insight. Also on the bill is Acidbat, Seth Ogden’s noise-techno-downtempo-IDM project. Though not short on the experimental of electronic soundscaping, Acidbat pushes the use of rhythm and beats in interesting directions.

Who: Cindygod w/French Kettle Station and Whoopsi
When: Thursday, 06.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Probably a good reason to go to this show is to see New Wave Dance phenom French Kettle Station and his emotionally charged performance. But the main reason is to see the debut of Andy Rauworth’s and Craig Nice’s new band Cindygod. Rauworth and Nice were the indie rock duo Gauntlet Hair who made waves in the late 2000s/early 2010s with its energetic, noisy, sparkly rock songs. The group signed to Dead Oceans and did a short bit of touring before calling it quits in August 2013. For this band Rauworth is joined by Anton Krueger formerly of Bollywood Life (now H-Lite) and Eamonn Wilcox
who some may remember performing as Running Niwot a few years back.

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Pop Up: Music & Art with Calm., Adolfo Romero and poet Jesus Rodriguez, art by Goat Witch Goods
When: Friday, 06.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The benefits of this show will go to benefit the undocumented community. It will include performances from poets Jesus Rodriguez and Adolfo Romero as well as the great Denver-based hip-hop duo Calm. whose own music reflects growing up poor in Park Hill and North Denver and an organic intellectual tradition. Also, rapper Chris Steele might lay down some of his surreal humor between songs and drop some knowledge outside the context of Calm.’s music.

Who: Pearls & Perils, Vahco and Victoria Lundy
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Soulful downtempo and synths show from Glasss Records artists Pearls & Perils and Vahco. Olivia of Pearls & Perils creates a deep cloudscape of sound with her beats and her sultry voice and Vahco’s experimental R&B and powerfully emotive singing gives his songs a quality that transcends any specific genre of music to which it might be attached. Victoria Lundy is the godmother of experimental electronic music in Denver at this point from her time in Carbon Dioxide Orchestra two decades ago to her Theremin work for avant-pop outfit The Inactivists to the music under her own name that reflects the influence of Twentieth Century classical and avant-garde electronic music as well as her own imaginative use of synth and Theremin.

Who: Pink Hawks w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Polyphoni
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Pink Hawks are one of few legit Afrobeat outfits in Denver led by Yuzo Nieto. The latter helped start the project as more of a free jazz trio but followed his instincts into more out jazz and Latin music to whatever it is one might exactly describe Pink Hawks now. Also on the bill is the great, jazz-inflected Denver hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp whose playful yet deeply meaningful songs bridge the personal and the political with rapper/beatmaker Kaelyn Heffernan’s social activism. WSC doesn’t really sound like anyone else, reflective of its diverse roots.

Who: Sliver, Pout House, Yellnat, Hair Club and Galleries
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s a free show but that is no knock on its quality. Galleries is a heavy psychedelic band from Denver but one where the songwriting comes before simply rocking with a weirdo flourish. Sliver is a punk and grunge band influenced by, of course, Nirvana, but also hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and post-punk/proto-grunge band Wipers from Portland, Oregon. As good as any of those bands? Maybe. But, contrary to the band’s protestations otherwise, Sliver does not in fact suck.

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Trve Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Bacchanal Night 1: Krallice, Wayfarer, Fórn, Many Blessings
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Trve Brewing has been hosting a weekend of great extreme metal for several years now and this first night includes legendary black/technical death metal shredder Mick Barr with his band Krallice as well as Denver doom outfit Wayfarer and Many Blessings, the ambient/instrumental doom/noise project from Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man.

Who: Definitely, Maybe, Thistledown, Ancient Elk and Laura Goldhamer
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Definitely Maybe includes former members of the late, great, math rock band Scatter Gather. Ancient Elk shows us where avant-folk, psychedelia and soul meet. Laura Goldhamer has long been an influential figure in Denver’s later era indie pop and experimental folk world not just for her music but for her steering bookings at the now defunct DIY space Brooks Center Arts as well as her beautifully imaginative filmmaking.

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures 4 year anniversary at Mutiny w/Mingo, Bios+a+ic and The {Nothing} 
When: Sunday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This Textures anniversary show also celebrates 20 years of Wesley Davis’ Symbolic Insight imprint. For the occasion, Davis will perform as Bios+a+ic, his long running ambient project. Additionally, Mingo, whose work has also been featured on Hearts of Space Program, will put in one of his few performances and The {Nothing} is a newer ambient/experimental project that is Travis Sturm who will provide the usual, greatly evocative visuals under his orchidz3ro moniker.

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Horrors w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Even though The Horrors were basically a The Birthday Party tribute band early on, as evidenced by its promising debut album Strange House, it at least was one that seemed halfway credible. As the band evolved, and as the band aged out of their early 20s, The Horrors took on other flavors like late-era Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized with the 2009 Primary Colours album, motorik beats and all. With 2011’s Skying The Horrors made its inspirations in electronic music much more obvious but so well blended with the rock instrumentation that it was practically a new band whose gift for otherworldly and transporting compositions was fully formed. While not sounding the same at all one might say that The Horrors have become the British equivalent of Deerhunter. With 2014’s Luminous The Horrors went further into the realm of the electronic but with 2017’s V, the band has come to engaging in more straightforward pop songcraft while not shedding its experimental instincts and what it has learned during its impressive arc of development as a band. To say nothing of the group’s great visual style and theatrical performances which give the music its proper and impactful context.

Opening the show is Denver-based dream pop band Oko Tygra. Singer/guitarist Joshua Novak has been making emotionally stirring music since his days of performing as a what one might say singer-songwriter. Of course Novak’s songwriting seemed much more sonically ambitious from the beginning and with this band he’s able to create the kind of downtempo, lush music that has been in his imagination waiting for the right way to see expression for years.

Who: Men I Trust w/Pearl Sugar and Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Montreal’s Men I Trust operate independently of labels and PR folk pushing their music to press. And often that means the band is probably punk or some kind of rock. But no, the group’s music is minimalist, downtempo dream pop and its ethos reminiscent of bands that used to play the American DIY circuit in the late 2000s when you could never fully predict what kind of music would come through playing place in Denver like Rhinoceropolis, Mouth House and the like. Men I Trust has more in common with Cocteau Twins and Alvvays than modern synth pop or post-chillwave acts and its production sophisticated for a band existing largely outside the traditional channels of the music industry. But, really, isn’t that how many bands these days are doing it? From learning the skills to produce, mix and master their music and create music videos mainly to have control over one’s output but also because you can learn all those skills and not have to pay someone outside your immediate orbit to do the work. That part doesn’t really make the band unique in this day and age. However, Men I Trust seems like it’s put more than their fair share of time into releasing quality product from inception to setting it off for others to enjoy.

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Projectors w/Still Woozy
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Whatever one thinks of Dirty Projectors you can’t really down a band that seems to explore new territory or at least find different angles on ideas it already developed well on earlier releases. Its forthcoming album Lamp Lit Prose (due out July 13, 2018) finds David Longstreth and company doing as it has done for years in weaving together a wide spectrum of musical traditions and ideas to produce music that many may find quirky but which pushes forward what pop music can be. This time the spidery and labyrinthine guitar work and non-western rhythm schemes inside fairly mathy overall structures is a fascinating wrinkle for a band that has rejected certain comparisons to prog. Because it’s not prog. It is, however, using technical musical ideas as a framework to experiment with unconventional ideas in its own musical legacy.

Who: Lithics w/Super Bummer and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Inevitably Lithics get compared to No Wave early NYC and Bush Tetras. And that sort of wiry, writhing alienation is part of its sonic DNA. But the urgent atonal math rock-esque quality of some of its songs and the junk-jangle riffs remind one a bit of great 90s math rock weirdos like A Minor Forest, Polvo and Autoclave as well as art punk peers like Palm and US Weekly. Nevertheless, Lithics, from Portland, Oregon, has distinguished itself with stark melodies and jagged changes of pace as well as singer Aubrey Hornor’s intense stage presence and piercing gaze that channels perfectly songs brimming with nervous energy distilled into brilliant nuggets of postmodern poetic meditations on the neuroses plaguing anyone paying attention in the world in the past decade. Its new album, Mating Surfaces (out now on Kill Rock Stars), is exactly the kind of harum scarum post-punk disco we need as an salve to challenge and help cope with the conformist shittiness that has taken over our national politics. Bonus: you get to see two of Denver’s greatest post-punk acts with the more psych Super Bummer and Male Blonding’s deeply atmospheric sound grounded by one of the greatest rhythm sections in the Mile High City.

Who: The Sidekicks w/Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Sidekicks, from Cleveland, Ohio, spends most of their excellent 2018 album Happiness Hours proving that you can still be a pop-oriented punk band and not have to perpetually navigate life as an emotionally stunted teenager. It’s not a melancholy album. It’s not cynical. It’s not rife with the voice of someone who feels like they have it all figured out. What the band has figured out, though, is that their version of punk doesn’t have to fit the formula they grew up with in terms of instrumentation or the flavor of the sentiments expressed in the words—that punk, too, can evolve and grow with you if the people making it are willing to reimagine the music they love for a time in life they never really thought about reaching without feeling like they had to put anything fun behind. Denver bands Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive also didn’t get the memo on needing to keep on making punk like you never outgrew shitty street punk and problematic emo.

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thurston Moore
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café
Why: Thurston Moore wasn’t just a charismatic member of one of alternative rock’s most influential and iconic bands. He was an ambassador for the underground in music and art throughout the 80s and through to today. He is also a scholar of the Beat movement and an instructor on that subject at Naropa University. Tonight he will be doing readings from his book Stereo Sanctity – Lyrics & Poems.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Dorian, Chromadrift, Denizens of the Deep
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday will have a focus on some of Denver’s greatest ambient bands. Chromadrift just released his latest album Skyline. It’s organic/electronic/textural beats frame luminous compositions reminiscent of Dntel will be soothing enough to make one forget how busy the Baker District has become of late. Denizens of the Deep’s soundtrack-y ambient music is the aural equivalent of an A.E. Van Vogt story set in some detailed yet completely alien and haunted far future after civilization has fallen for the umpteenth time—haunted, suggestive of decaying urban landscapes and dark yet comforting.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 6/7/18 – 06/13/17

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Of Feather And Bone perform at 71 Grind on Friday, June 8, 2018. Photo by Pale With Decay

Thursday | June 7, 2018

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Ryanhood, photo by Taylor Noel Photography

Who: Ryanhood w/Matt Cox
When: Thursday, 06.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room
Why: Ever since Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, at a minimum, popularized folk pop to a massive audience more than a few musicians have tried their hands at that style of music. But Ryanhood predates that wave having started in 2003 in Boston (now based in Tucson, AZ where Green and Cameron Hood met in high school). And beyond that, Ryanhood has established itself as a popular live act on the college and small club circuit. Ryan Green’s proficiency with guitar got him a scholarship to Berklee but as a songwriter it gives some dimensionality to the songwriting that might not be there with a musician who came to playing more casually. Green’s songs with Hood, at this point, have the polish and tunefulness of anything you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio combined with the synergy that mostly comes from musicians who have known each other for a good deal of their lives growing together as artists. The duo’s 2017 album Yearbook is a record diverse in its emotional colorings and songwriting dynamics giving its positive sheen depth and listening longevity.

Who: Stella Luce 7” release for Gloria w/Señorita Sometimes and Seven Inches of Heaven
When: Thursday, 06.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Stella Luce is presenting its sixth release, the Gloria seven inch, tonight at Surfside 7. The Fort Collins-based experimental rock band combines an Eastern European musical sensibility with the kind of baroque pop that The Dresden Dolls and DeVotchKa perfected. Stella Luce, though a little weirder than both, and noisier, has created a body of work thus far with the same cinematic sweep and nuanced emotional colorings.

Friday | June 8, 2018

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Isenordal, photo courtesy Isenordal

What: 71 Grind IV Day 1 (see below)
When: Friday, 06.08, 2 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep and Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This is the major metal festival in Colorado. Independently run and promoted it features some of the most interesting acts in extreme and death metal, doom and grindcore. Things get kicked off at 2 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes in the late night hours at The Triple Nickel Tavern. For this first day you can catch Denver’s deathgrind stars Of Feather And Bone at the Black Sheep at 6:40 p.m.. The trio just started its tour in the wake of the release of its latest album, Beastial Hymns of Perversion. Immediately after at 7 p.m. on the main stage is Seattle’s black/folk metal act Isenordal will bring its layered, orchestral sound. For fans of Giant Squid and SubRosa. You can’t really miss with any of the bands but it would also be a good chance to see Wyoming’s great, grind-y, post-hardcore band Euth, Denver’s melodic doom giants, Wayfarer and Denver D-beat/thrash juggernauts Rotstrotter. Full schedule below.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
2-220 Weaken
2:40-3 Berrated
3:20-3:40 Anakusha
4:20-4:40 Euth
5-5:20 Portrayal Of Guilt
5:50-6:10 Falter
6:40-7 Of Feather And Bone
7:30-7:50 Void Omnia
8:20-8:40 Closet Witch
9:10-9:30 Gaff

Main Stage
2:20-2:40 Full Bore
3-3:20 Salems Bend
4-4:20 Rotstrotter
4:40-5 Bleubird
5:20-5:50 Zeta
6:10-6:40 Wayfarer
7-7:30 Isenordal
7:50-8:20 Brainoil
8:40-9:10 Transient w/Bastard Noise
9:30-10:40 Mizmor

Triple Nickel
11-11:20 Cursus
11:30-11:50 Ice Sword
12-12:20 Modok
12:30-12:50 Hexist
1-1:30 Tejon St. Corner Thieves

Who: Today’s Paramount, Samvega and Archipelaghost
When: Friday, 06.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: This is a bill where none of the bands really fit in any musical subscene. Nor are they trying and the show is the better for that. Today’s Paramount has bits of gypsy folk, Americana, psychedelia and metal but really it’s more like some kind of odd glam prog band that dresses up like they’re all lead gumshoes in a noir novel. Samvega similarly skirts the edges of sludge metal, psychedelic rock and prog without being tied down by the conventions of any of it. Its sonically powerful shows feel orchestrated but only in that they have played the music so much they’re comfortable executing it in a way that leaves plenty of room to change moods, tempos and emotional colorings to fit the environment. If Archipelaghost’s recent single “Spinach” is any indication, those guys listen to a lot of the better hip-hop utilizing trap tracks while crafting their own electronic beats and burned the memo on not using kinda crap autotune. Archipelaghost takes musical ideas that shouldn’t work and puts it together in a way that seems more like a beyond ironic to legit and inventive take on electronic indie pop. Meta in its musical touchstones to the point of avant-garde.

Who: The Descendents w/The Potato Pirates and In the Whale
When: Friday, 06.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: The Descendents’ story sounds like it couldn’t be true. Drummer Bill Stevenson met future Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris before the latter’s stint in Black Flag and worked for Morris’ father as a fisherman. Of course Stevenson would spend some years as Black Flag’s drummer while also playing in The Descendents, a band he started with some friends from school when most of them were still in high school. The band’s blend of pop, surf rock and punk made for one of the earliest pop punk bands and its sound and lyrics throughout the 80s articulated teen angst, insecurities and simple aspirations better than a lot of music in the mainstream ever could and thus the band’s enduring popularity and viability. Even as its music is framed in the teen experience there was an evolution in thought and complexity of emotion that happened during the course of the band’s career. These days, seeing The Descendents is a great reminder that punk, even pop punk, can be silly, kinda dumb, but also thoughtful and vibrantly energetic in ways that don’t seem tamed by the compromises mainstream commercial success has exacted on some of the bands The Descendents have influenced.

What: Intendence Film Fest Opening Party with Sympathy F
When: Friday, 06.08, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: When Sympathy F began in the early 90s Denver was in the prime of its period of urban decay. LoDo as we came to know it in the mid-90s didn’t exist. Squatters lived in buildings downtown and the Fifteenth Street and Twentieth Street viaducts led to areas of glorious industrial yesteryear. Denver felt dark, a little grimy and gritty while not as dangerous as larger cities. The band’s music, a moody, jazz-inflected post-punk, fit that milieu perfectly and it was one of the era’s classic alternative rock bands and one of the very few to have survived through the decades to now. Until a few years ago, the band had only released one record and soon it will release a third. Live, the band creates a lush but electrifying sound and for those that remember those older times in Denver, it’s like getting a taste of that vibe for the time the band drifts into its set.

Saturday | June 9, 2018

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The Corner Girls, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: 71 Grind IV Day 2 (see below for lineup)
When: Saturday, 06.09, 1 p.m.
Where: Black Sheep and The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This second day of 71 Grind IV includes performances from powerviolence pioneers Infest, longtime Albuquerque grind legends Noisear and Colorado Springs death grind band 908 which includes 71 Grind organizer Bryan Ostrow. Things get started at 1 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes once again in the late hours at Triple Nickel.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
1-1:20 Aerial Ruin
1:40-2 Nite Kidz
2:20-2:40 Blunt
3-3:20 Minimum Wage Assasins
3:40-4 Sentient Divide
4:20-4:40 Funeral Chic
5-5:20 Bandit
5:40-6 Pavel Chekov
6:30-6:50 Test
7:20-7:40 Noisear
8:10-8:30 Remission
9-9:30 Stapled Shut

Main Stage
12:40-1 Modern Color
1:20-1:40 Fortunes Fool
2-2:20 908
2:40-3 Addaura
3:20-3:40 Haunter
4-4:20 Badr Vogu
4:40-5 Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate
5:20-5:40 Cryptic Void
6-6:30 Dead In The Manger
6:50-7:20 Un
7:40-8:10 Scorched
8:30-9 Despise You
9:30-10 Infest

Triple Nickel
10:30-10:50 The Stalk
11-11:20 Pris
11:30-12 Anonymous Inc.
1210-12:30 Saus

Who: The Corner Girls (single release) w/Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kinky Fingers and Cocordion
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A year after excellent 2017 Popcorn EP, The Corner Girls release the “Boyfriend” single. Given the band’s gift for giving songs with incisive and irreverent lyrics titles that could come from a vapid pop song, “Boyfriend” probably isn’t just a song about someone’s boyfriend in that tired, classic vein. From the imagery of the band’s artwork to its surf-y punk sound, The Corner Girls aesthetic resonates with that of early K Records bands and 90s indie pop, which in its time was a rejection of the masculine rock world. It isn’t an attack on the latter as much as creating something not defined by it.

Who: Screwtape, Gutter Villain, The Uglys and No Chance
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Uglys somehow mixed screamy posthardcore with sludgy riffs for a sound that is like what would have happened had grunge developed a decade and a half later with The Deftones as an influence. That sort of desperation delivered with a manic intensity fits in well on a bill with Denver hardcore stars Screwtape whose songs blur the radical political with the personal in a way we need to see more of right now.

Sunday | June 10, 2018

StillValley_PhotoCourtesyNicholasPryor

Who: 71 Grind IV Day 3
When: Sunday, 06.10, 12 p.m.
Where: The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This third and last day of 71 Grind takes place at Triple Nickel and sort of a showcase of some of Colorado’s heavy bands. Still Valley is the kind of band that maybe got inspired by the stoner/sludge rock bands with that steady, slow cymbal work going like a hypnotic metronome but its sound is more uplifting, more melodic and ultimately more transporting. In that way Still Valley has a lot in common with Earth, taking the blues roots of the music and exploring its outer possibilities. Tricoma from Denver has similar influences but its sound is more like a fierce thrash/crossover and its heaviness more cutting. The Munsens’ 2016 album Abbey Rose sounds like a doom meditation on the darkened passages and cosmic terror merely hinted at by early Gothic literature, for example Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But whatever band or bands you catch, it’ll be a great slice of heavy music’s current underground scene.

12-12:20 Ultraviolet
12:30-12:50 Still Valley
1-1:20 Tricoma
1:30-1:50 The Munsens
2-2:20 Innoculated Life
2:30-2:50 Scepter
3-3:20 Kenaima
3:30-3:50 Gutpest
4-4:20 Commonear
4:30-4:50 Remain & Sustain
5-5:20 Bonus Surprise!
5:30-5:50 Druids
6-6:20 Tower
6:30-6:50 Article 15
7-7:20 The Mutations
7:30-7:50 Broken Dead
8-8:20 Demerit
8:30-9 SMD
9:10-9:40 Homewrecker
9:50-10:20 Sledge
10:30-11 Dead Set

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip and The Savage Blush
When: Sunday, 06.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock band that on the surface sounds like a band in that vein with some punk oomph behind it. But its shows are famously tribal affairs during which the band performs in kabuki masks, uses pyrotechnics in its sets and otherwise brings those who show up into a ritual of rock and roll chaos. Experimental jazz thrash prog band TripLip and surf rockers The Savage Blush will ably set the stage for the mayhem to follow with Daikaiju.

Monday | June 11, 2018

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Sleep circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sleep w/Primitive Man and Oryx
When: Monday, 06.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Nearly twenty years after the release of its most recent album, 1999’s until then posthumous release, Dopesmoker, the princes (naturally the kings being Black Sabbath) of stoner rock/doom Sleep released a new album in 2018 called The Sciences. Of course its laden with fanboy references to Sabbath (there’s a song called “Giva Butler”), science fiction and arcane knowledge. Oh, and cannabis. “Marijuananaut’s Theme” begins with someone taking a hit off a bong. But it seems as though Sleep has sculpted its sound ever so slightly giving it greater dynamism and fluidity. Don’t worry, the guitars still sound like the tone is in a constant state of splintering and the rhythms are off enough in the right places to be hypnotic and deftly launch the main melodies into spaces that Moebius might have drawn for one of his lost Jodorowsky collaborations—psychedelic, alien and raw. That deathgrind titans Primitive Man and doomdeath stars Oryx are on the bill just make the whole show twice as good.

Who: Violent Femmes
When: Monday, 06.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Four decades on, Violent Femmes went from jazz-inspired folk-punk-pop weirdos who were perfect for the college rock world of the 80s to a still surprisingly powerful live band whose sound has been influential but not widely imitated. On recordings and on stage the Femmes bring in more than the usual rock instruments and since its early days the band has brought on a group of people called The Horns of Dilemma to play raw, chaotic sounds on a couple of songs in the set. For the Denver dates of the past several years The Horns of Dilemma has included avant-garde improvisational band Animal / object, a group in which Femmes singer Gordon Gano has been known to play violin. Several of the Femmes’ songs have entered the lexicon of popular music through the college and alternative rock path and even if you weren’t around or old enough for the band’s music to impact you the first time it was coming around its music has held up well because it was never grounded in any trendy sound or style but rather an premium on creativity and imagination. Go and be surprised by how of the moment and so not rote the Femmes remain today.

Who: Yes (Howe, Downes and White iteration)
When: Monday, 06.10, 2 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Progressive rock has a reputation as an overly intellectual music made by snobs for other technically proficient musicians and fans capable of appreciating the intricacies and compositional sophistication of the music. But most of those bands were seeking to create something deeply imaginative and capable of expressing ideas and emotions beyond the bare bones rock and roll sonic vocabulary. Yes wrote music that aimed to explore and articulate the dreams and aspirations of humankind. Sure, some of it got pretty out there and abstract but largely its songs came from a personal place writing about love, anxiety, fear and a broad range of emotions and the very individual experience of our struggles and triumphs. Yes just didn’t dumb it down. For this show you’ll get to see master guitarist Steve Howe, Alan White’s drumming wizardry and Geoff Downes’ gift for weaving together various keyboard and synth elements to create one of the sounds that has established Yes as a legendary live act for the past few decades.

Tuesday | June 12, 2018

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Covenhoven in Ojai, CA, photo courtesy Joel Van Horne

Who: Covenhoven album release w/The Still Tide
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Joel Van Horne has been writing beautifully introspective songs under the moniker Covenhoven for several years and now, with A Kind of Revelation, three records. It was within a week of finishing the mixes for A Kind of Revelation that Van Horne’s brother Ben died from a pulmonary embolism following years of struggling with ulcerative colitis. As with his previous releases (the 2013 self-titled album and 2015’s The Wild and Free), Van Horne immersed himself in a natural environment, taking in the patterns, energies of the place and as much of its essence as possible to drive his creative inspiration. For A Kind of Revelation that place was Olympic National Park and Big Sur. Perhaps a kind of pastoral folk and pop is the form of Van Horne’s songs but the musical language feels like an emotional recreation of the places that influenced their writing. Since it’s at the Bluebird, chances are it’ll be a full band presentation of the music where Covenhoven will share the evening with dream pop/rock band The Still Tide.

Who: Calexico w/Julia Jacklin
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Calexico and Mojave 3 were doing psych-folk-inflected pop Americana before it became a massive feature of “indie” radio in the past ten to fifteen years. Calexico, though, also absorbed a good deal of Mexican folk stylistic flourishes giving its sound a more exotic edge. The group released its latest record, The Thread That Keeps Us, in January 2018. Employing keyboards and synths alongside more traditional instruments has been one of Calexico’s hallmarks from its early days but the new record feels even more expansive and open as though maybe somewhere the band aimed to simplify its sound without sacrificing its full and rich tones.

Wednesday | June 13, 2018

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Ancient Elk circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Of Feather and Bone tour kickoff w/Tomb Mold and Casket Huffer
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver deathgrind band Of Feather and Bone played 71 Grind in Colorado Springs this past weekend and it will kick of its tour in support of its new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion with this show at the Hi-Dive alongside like-minded bands Tomb Mold, from Toronto, Ontario and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Who: Sunmonks, Ancient Elk, Avifauna and GALLERIES
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Sacramento’s Sunmonks has been honing its blend of R&B, indie pop and world music since 2012. Entertainment Weekly said the band was a “Worthy successor to the Talking Heads.” That seems like hyperbole and lack of life experience and knowledge of recent and older music history. Nevertheless, the band’s willingness to experiment with the form of pop music across various cultures as well as the sound and rhyme schemes to great effect makes it one of the most interesting bands to have bypassed being a psychedelic rock band but effectively making psychedelic pop music. Also on the bill is experimental, psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk, psych hard rock band GALLERIES and the windswept electropop soundscapes of Avifauna.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 4/26/18 – 5/2/18

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

Thursday | April 26, 2018

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tUnE-yArDs circa March 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Friday | April 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | April 28, 2018

 

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Animal / object circa December 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | April 29, 2018

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Keldari Station circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Monday | April 30, 2018

IAMX ISTANBUL LIVE

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

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

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

Tuesday | May 1, 2018

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Oko Tygra circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Wednesday | May 2, 2018

Dessa-FullBand_ChadKamenshine

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

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