The Home Team

Local artists put out a wealth of good music this year. Step right up and read all about it.

George & Caplin
The Nature of Leaving
The experimental and largely instrumental duo George & Caplin sort of came out of nowhere in 2002, and we're very glad they decided to surface in Denver: The band's dreamy, lo-tech forays into subtly grand instrumentation and computer-addled composition are a welcome addition to our town. Literate, understated and with an almost binary kind of chemistry, the two players pair a battery of toys and simple machines atop an undercurrent of swelling guitars and rhythmic variations that recall full-fledged art-rock and ambient combos as much as more easily comprehended space pop. Lovely. -- Bond

Heavyweight Dub Champion
Survival Guide for the End of Time
(Champion Nation)
On this ill-bent mix of industrial hip-hop dubtronica, Heavyweight Dub Champion's Resurrector and Patch enlisted like-minded soldiers -- rapper Apostle, Stereo Lion, Wailer B, Totter Todd, Elon, Vill and DJ Hot Daddi 36-0 -- to help craft a conceptual book of apocalyptic revelations. Along the way, they created Survival Guide for the End of Time, one of the most inspired hip-hop recordings to emerge from Colorado in 2002. The group's hypnotic, trance-inducing music is a soundtrack to a battle between the Last Champion (a spiritual warrior/freedom fighter) and the Moloch forces that threaten to imprison and destroy the planet. The round-by-round analysis of this fight is included in an accompanying text that serves as the collective's manifesto. The dense layering of sound on Survival Guide-- which was recorded and mastered in Los Angeles by Scott Wolfe and Brian "Big Bass" Gardner -- make this atmospheric artifact a must for those trying to weather the storm of global pestilence. -- James Mayo

Man Alive!
Heart, Hands and Mind
(Universal Warning)
Mixing ska with punk rock is, of course, an idea as old as the Clash. But now that ska has turned from novelty to anathema, the deluge of ska-punk bands from a few years ago has slowed to a trickle. So what possessed Man Alive! to keep flogging a dead upbeat? Apparently, this Denver trio is fueled by a true love for both tonsil-shredding hardcore and the occasional pseudo-Jamaican rhythm: Hearts, Hands and Minds mixes the two with a conviction and intelligence that make the whole thing sound almost fresh. By focusing less on pop and more on dark, intricate melodies and arrangements, the band forges a fitting shell for its almost poetic blasts of social outrage; lines such as "Your eyes look like shattered glass to me/Your cold hands feel just like surgery" are barked amid a barrage of lacerating guitar and under-the-radar hooks. If you've ever wondered where (besides MTV) Rancid might have gone after its raw, furious debut album, check this out. (See www.universalwarningrecords.com.) -- Heller

Mr. Pacman
Turbotron
(Mr. Pacman International)
The quick fix of Commodore 64-generated punk on Turbotron is best computed tongue in cheek. Frenetically synthesizing mental warp with a retro-futuristic arrangement (i.e., ultramodern as seen through an '80s lens), Mr. Pacman's debut EP works because it simultaneously sates the Atari generation's nostalgia and pushes the outer limits of 21st-century weird. Turbotron's angst isn't entirely artificial, but just about everything else is. -- Peterson

Munly
Jimmy Carter Syndrome
(Smooch)
Sandwiched between Nixon's five o'clock shadow and the trickle-down tease of Reaganomics was an unlikely historical period of Gothic romance -- or so a certain sunken-eyed troubadour named Munly would have you think. On Jimmy Carter Syndrome, the darker side of America's bicentennial comes alive as chamber-roots music, and funeral lilies adorn a dozen surly odes to the likes of Little Black Sambo and palooka Gerry Cooney. Cameos from 16 Horsepower's David Eugene Edwards and DeVotchKa's Nick Urata flesh out the sick pageantry of outcasts, hard luck and backwoods madness. -- John La Briola

Non
Children of the Black Sun
(Mute)
Many artists who set out to make disturbing music fall back on cliches: out-of-nowhere shrieks, haunted-house filigree, images that were creaky when Bram Stoker was still alive. But that's seldom the case with Boyd Rice, a controversial figure whose music, which frequently emerges from beneath the Non banner, is more interested in serious psychological frights than in the casual, superficial kind. "Arka," the opening track on Children of the Black Sun, suggests what the underworld might sound like if the gates of Hell were left ajar, while "The Fountain of Fortune" is built upon quasi-angelic tones that seem oddly disquieting, particularly when heard on a bonus disc recorded in the DVD 5.1 "surround sound" format. As Rice knows, there's something creepy under the Sun. -- Roberts

Open Road
Cold Wind
(Rounder)
The members of acts such as the String Cheese Incident profess to be fans of bluegrass, but they tend to use its rudiments in untraditional ways -- like as instrumental passages in forty-minute jams. The quintet of performers in Fort Collins's Open Road, on the other hand, prove their love of the genre by leaving well enough alone. The material on Cold Wind, the act's second full-length, is split between lovingly rendered covers like Hank Williams's "How Can You Refuse Him Now" and originals in which Bradford Lee Folk, Caleb Roberts and company capture the essence of bluegrass with purity, sincerity and genuine affection. The result is a gorgeous evocation of a musical style that tastes great even without the jam. -- Roberts

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