Our Town

From blues to kiddie core, the year 2001 was an odyssey in local music. Backbeat writers remember the best.

The Fifth Utility
Uncompromising and caustic, the Fifth Utility careens its way through a post-punk debut, brimming with an intelligence and a precision that border on diabolic. Misanthropolis uses strange time signatures, annoyed guitars and opaque words to make howling statements about urban isolation and artistic prefabrication. Roving and raging, the four members of the Fifth are our favorite new local misanthropes. -- Bond

Mary Flower
Lady Fingers
Denver's finest guitarist and blues singer kicks the concept of "playing like a man" right in the testicles. Mary Flower plays with a swagger found in few men or women, and Lady Fingers pops with my-way-or-no-way bravado. Supported by several local aces (including John Magnie and Steve Amedee), Flower picks across haunting Delta-blues moaners, stinging slide numbers and tasty jazz standards, packing a hefty but understated emotional wallop that cracks hearts. -- Jones

A Small Price to Pay
Anyone who hasn't seen the Gamits play any of the stages in their Mile High hometown for a while, take heed: The trio has grown up and is ready to rock. Finally unashamed to be pop, the band shows a new-found confidence that's unleashed the sharpest bunch of hooks and the most syrupy melodies to ever bear the Gamits name. Still a rank-and-file part of the punk underworld, the group embodies the genre's rough-around-the-edges charms, a fact that saves A Small Price to Pay, an EP, from getting too saccharine. -- Eric Peterson

Hamster Theatre
Carnival Detournement
Hamster Theatre's free-jazz-and-pony show captivates with Eastern Bloc wedding music, cafe musings and hard bop, sometimes in the space of a single song. As drunken tango collides with loose-limbed reggae, Bernard Herr-mann might be stealing John Phillip Sousa's dancing partner -- or buying Carl Perkins a shot of red-eye. Boasting six of the area's most skilled and adventurous musicians, the progressively playful Carnival Detournement deserves a bright spotlight on the international stage for uniting every conceivable genre of musical expression the world over. -- La Briola

Adventures on Planet Heartbreak

There might have been a more well-shaped batch of rock and roll songs crafted in a local guitar-and-beer-littered basement last year, but we haven't heard it. On Adventures on Planet Heartbreak, Hi-Fidelity -- a Denver four-piece led by dueling guitarist/vocalists Joaquin Liebert and Nathan Marcy -- waves a tattered Union Jack as well as a devotion to Detroit power chords and staccato drumming. Playful harmonies, lovelorn lyrics and habit-forming hooks transcend a slipshod production in this garage gospel. -- Bond

Willie Houston
Blues Man Willie Houston and His Guitar
With less emphasis on the woman who done him wrong than the woman who done him right, Denver bluesman Willie Houston is a curious workaday figure: Rooted in New Orleans, the 75-year-old serves up smoky helpings of electric Delta-seasoned blues. Somewhere between locals Tommy "The Workingman" Thomas and bleak Otis Taylor, Houston uses Blues Man Willie Houston and His Guitar to make gritty observations with a soft-spoken growl, junkman style. -- La Briola

Jux County
Junk County
Andrew Monley, Chris Pearson and Ron Smith finally vacated Jux County in September after more than a decade. As a goodbye offering, they released Junk County, their fifth, and best, full-length CD. Dark, far-reaching and almost primitive, the album again reveals Monley as one of the city's most from-the-guts frontmen. Though ultimately a rock-and-roller, he's also a multi-faceted songwriter, as evidenced by songs that range from angular ("Gasoline") to redemptive ("Prime Time"). -- Bond

Kalamath Brothers
Kalamath Brothers
Frank Hauser Jr. and some parched castaways take to the hills, holler their way through a few murder ballads and miss a train. Along the way, with loose-limbed charm and understated humor, the most surreal of the Queen City's feral families (16 Horsepower, Slim and the Denver Gents included) piece together a backwoods, skiffle-flavored alt-country jamboree. Kalamath Brothers is an exceptional debut. -- La Briola

Laymen Terms
An Introduction
(Soda Jerk Records)
When local music aficionados think of Colorado Springs's contribution to the stable of Colorado talent, they probably don't think about pop punk. Laymen Terms' first EP should help change that perception. The four-piece casts aside the hard-as-nails image of fellow townies like the Nobodys in favor of a slightly more upbeat spin on the style. Though bands like the Descendents and Social Distortion make impressions on the young act, An Introduction is ultimately a fresh and promising first effort. This is a band we're pleased to meet. -- Matt Schild

Longmont Potion Castle
Volume 4
Mike Jourgensen has simultaneously annoyed and amused the population of Colorado over the years with his series of recorded phone conversations. This latest batch of pranks (including several bizarre three-ways) targets everything from funeral homes and the Waffle House to Denver's own Twist & Shout. Dada theater reigns supreme when mallards invade Welby Road, when the Lamb Center of Lebanon misdirects a package of fleecy ungulates and when Bruschetti and Fruschetta make way for pumpkin brew. On Volume 4, even Sidney Poitier gets an unexpected jingle through an unlikely homage titled "To Sir With Millipedes." -- La Briola

Maraca Five-O
Headin' South at 110 Per
Despite being released on December 28, 2000, Maraca Five-O's Headin' South at 110 Per ushered in the new millennium three days later with a worldly, rip-snortin' yelp of surf-rabid road music. Had Duane Eddy or Dick Dale written odes to tumbleweeds instead of pipelines, the desert might have replaced Malibu as the mecca for goofy-footers. Credit Steve Gray, Theron Melchoir, Matt Stemwedel and Mike Behrenhausen for taking up the torch from Boulder's legendary Astronaughts -- and for pointing out a remote corner of Pakistan called Tube City on this gnarly wave. -- La Briola

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