Our Town

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

Planes Mistaken for Stars
Fuck With Fire
(No Idea)
It's everything a raging kid could have wanted in 2001: Planes Mistaken for Stars' metal/post-hardcore hybrid is loud enough to make 95 percent of all punks look like wussie choirboys. On Fuck With Fire, hot-poker guitar work borders on thrash while math-rock dynamics dominate the rhythm section. Planes music is loud and punishing, the perfect antidote to the fluff that's passed off as punk these days. Plus, the players scream a lot. -- Schild

Neil Satterfield
Classical and Brazilian Guitar
On Classical and Brazilian Guitar, intermittent Denverite and former 40th Day guitarist Neil Satterfield dives right into the worldly influences that informed his previous solo effort, Wanderlust. In Satterfield's hands, traditional and modern compositions take on a spindly, effervescent quality; he's such a skilled player, it truly sounds as though the guitar is doing the work. A gorgeous album for a book-flipping day, a romantic evening or a vision quest. -- Bond

Charles Sawtelle
Music From Rancho deVille
(Acoustic Disc)
When he died of leukemia in 1999 at the age of 52, Charles Sawtelle left behind a legion of friends and fans -- and an album's worth of songs recorded at his Boulder home studio. Lovingly completed by singer Laurie Lewis, Rancho deVille features Sawtelle, longtime guitarist for Colorado-based bluegrass band Hot Rize, playing and singing with a veritable who's who of bluegrass and American roots musicians, including Hot Rize bandmates Nick Forster, Peter Wernick and Tim O'Brien, among many others. It's a generous gift from a man whose life and music touched deeply. -- David Hill

16 Horsepower
Defining the word "earnest," the only fear that these bold horsemen possess is of the Lord and, perhaps, of cracking a smile. With a mixture of brilliant live material recorded at an energetic 1998 show at the Bluebird Theater and some surprising cover songs, 16 HP even manages to have some fun on Hoarse -- assuming you find Joy Division's "Day of the Lords" a good time. -- Casey

'81 Comeback
Denver power quartet the Superbees believe in music's therapeutic qualities. "The Healing Power of Rock" is one of many mellow-metal nuggets contained on '81 Comeback. After a couple of listens, it's clear the band is on to something. With guitars that grind like teenagers in heat and drums that threaten to leap through the speakers, this album is a sexy, smoke-filled orgy of sounds, all of which are lovingly caressed by vocalist/guitarist Fletcher Neeley. Hit the black light, grab your stash and let the healing begin. -- Bond

Otis Taylor
White African
(NorthernBlues Music)
Many Denverites suffer from hometown insecurity when it comes to music, believing that artists from the Mile High City must be inferior by definition. But Otis Taylor puts the lie to this theory in a big way. He's made a handful of excellent recordings over the past several years, including 1997's When Negroes Walked the Earth, and his latest effort, the austere and deeply moving White African, is quite simply the best blues album of 2001 made by anyone, anywhere. Hope that makes you feel better. -- Michael Roberts

Various Artists
Amateur Rocket Club
(Brick House/Noise Tent/Uneven Studios)
Three of the four bands who appear on the seven-inch Amateur Rocket Club hail from the Queen City, giving this modest entry into science-fair boosterism a distinctive hometown charm. Breezy Porticos, Kudzu Towers and the Maybellines unite with Utah's Jenni Jensens to give the journal-keepers and do-it-yourselfers a labor of analog love. The results? A cool cloud-gazing, ivy-munching, mahvalous makeover in clear red and blue vinyl. -- La Briola

Various Artists
Upland Breakdown
A pickers' clinic under a full moon (elevation: 8,100 ft.), Upland Breakdown finds legendary punk engineer Spot warming up for some of the region's best contemporary roots bands: Drag the River, the Stop and Listen Boys, Grandpa's Ghost, and I.W. Harper and the Blue Caballeros. Recorded live at a nondescript roadhouse in Centennial, Wyoming, the intimate, stripped-down compilation celebrates blues, C&W, Celtic, psychedelia, jazz, rock and roll and glazed doughnuts. -- La Briola

Dick Weissman and Gary Keiski
Pioneer Nights
(Wind River)
Dick Weissman is an academic (he spent years as a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver before recently relocating to Oregon) and author (among his tomes is The Music Business: Career Opportunities and Self-Defense). But he's also a banjo player and guitarist of considerable talent, and on Pioneer Nights, he and violinist Gary Keiski make folk-derived music that's smart, skilled and heartfelt. -- Roberts

Cindy Wonderful
24 of Her Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Cindy Wonderful busts out the cheap tape recorder, the effects pedal, the sampler and the acoustic guitar for this mental menagerie of widely varied -- and variously successful -- songs. A collection that veers far from the territory Wonderful covered most recently with the dadaesque hip-hop construct Rainbow Sugar, Greatest Hits is a confounding, chaotic and occasionally just plain pretty glimpse into the mind of a sometimes-local believer. -- Bond

Yonder Mountain String Band
Town by Town
(Frog Pad)
Boulder's kings of the sixty-minute bluegrass medley shatter perceptions with this pleasing, to-the-point recording. Town by Town's bare-bones tunes are largely short songs built on vintage structures, played with soul- and knee-slapping skill by Yonder's unplugged pickers. Sure, the band's mountain music includes textures more native to Colorado than Kentucky. But YMSB plays jam-grass that can tickle even the most patchouli-loathing Americana fan. -- Jones

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