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

Space Team Electra
The Intergalactic Torch Song
(Sonic Halo)
Myshel Prasad loves to go too far. The lead singer, primary lyricist and guiding light of Space Team Electra, Prasad specializes in poetic imagery that eschews politeness and openly courts catastrophe, and her taste in arrangements embraces the sort of melodramatic effects that faint-hearted performers shy away from in droves. Producer Sandy Pearlman, whose credits include albums by Blue Öyster Cult, the Clash and the Dream Syndicate, doesn't put any reins on these dangerous tendencies on The Intergalactic Torch Song. Instead he gives Prasad her head, allowing her and bandmates Kit Peltzel, Greg Fowkes and Bill Kunkel to turn "Mars," "Disolution of the Order of the Star" and "Utopia," among others, into public explications of an especially intimate sort. This Torch glows. -- Roberts

Otis Taylor
Respect the Dead
(NorthernBlues Music)
In the view of some observers, blues is a museum piece rather than a vital and viable form of expression. But Taylor, who as an ex-antiques dealer knows the value of what others have discarded, takes a deeply personal approach to the genre that allows the past, the present and the future to co-exist in an almost supernatural way. Consider "Black Witch," a sinister yarn rooted in the discriminatory practices of a previous era, and "Ten Million Slaves," an emotional juggernaut of a track that links tragedies hundreds of years apart. Aided by guitarist Eddie Turner and bassist/producer Kenny Passarelli, Turner has made four terrific discs in a row. And Respect the Dead may be the best of the batch. -- Roberts

Various Artists
Even Among Misfits They're Misfits: Warlock Pincher Imposters
(Braceface)
Years after disbanding, the Warlock Pinchers get the star treatment on Even Among Misfits, a nostalgic, shape-shifting and ridiculously fun 31-song tribute to one of Denver's most artistic and sorely missed alums. Ang, the band's unofficial archivist, invited musicians and fans to cement the Pinchers' quixotic legacy by submitting their own versions of songs both familiar and obscure. The result is a jarringly inconsistent but wholly original sampling of some of the area's more cracked creators: Mr. Pacman, Otion, the Scott Baio Army and Bill Pickett's Invitational Rodeo are among those who dive in and take a pinch. A satisfyingly weird compilation even without the historical context, Misfits is the finest possible sendoff for one of Colorado's finest bands. -- Bond

Various Artists
Noise Tent 2002 Spring Sampler
(D.U.)
What would springtime in Denver be without an annual roundup of the area's best alt-rock/hardcore offerings? Diddly-squat, bub, that's what. On Noise Tent 2002, local producer and Noise Tent operator Mike Jourgensen gets the most stun power out of aggressive acts such as Jet Black Joy, the Speeks and the Otter Popps while coaxing more pastel-colored nuances from an easygoing trio like the Breezy Porticos. Then there's the Geds, the Speedholes, DeNunzio and Iz! This Sampleris a 21-track salute! -- La Briola

VU
Electric Birds
(Action Driver)
Electric Birds is not only one of the best indie-rock discs to come out of Denver in 2002; it's one of the year's best, period. These six songs are tender collages of pop, electronic and experimental textures that swim in an atmosphere of cool melancholy and weightless transfixion. While bearing a passing similarity to the cerebral tones of Tristeza or the Sea and Cake, VU's music pulses with organic grace: Waves of guitar, bass, drums, voice and synthesizers coalesce on an almost cellular level, forming a membrane of sad, fragile melody. Recently signed to Ohio label Action Driver, the group will be recording a full-length in 2003 that promises to fulfill Electric Bird's promise. Until some egghead invents anti-gravity, VU will have to do. (See www.voicesunderwater.com.) -- Heller

Pete Wernick's Live Five
Up All Night
(Niwot Records)
Banjoist Pete Wernick established his reputation for quirkiness as part of Hot Rize, and a decade after forming the Live Five, he still prefers cutting his own paths over following established ones. The music here, made with vibist George Weber, clarinetist Bill Pontarelli, bassist Roger Johns and drummer Kris Ditson, is a merging of bluegrass and trad-jazz -- a pairing as seemingly inevitable as, say, peanut butter and salad dressing. But the Five's rendition of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," in which Weber's vibes enter at the moment most listeners will be expecting a fiddle, comes across as witty, not radical, and the presence of Wernick's plunking in "Sweet Georgia Brown" hardly prevents the combo from scoring. Here's to staying Up All Night. -- Roberts

Yellow Second
Still Small
(Urban Achiever Records)
Talk about a band with an interesting back story. Yellow Second was formed by Scott Kerr, a onetime member of the Christian-oriented ska outfit Five Iron Frenzy, for reasons that had as much to do with a loss of faith as with a desire for creative independence. But while these issues are weighty, Yellow Second's secular sounds aren't; even "Only Knows God" is more about rocking than philosophizing. Kerr's sense of melody is light and natural, providing a jolt of accessibility to snappy, tuneful offerings such as "Lesser Ones" and the ringing "North," which definitely heads in the right direction. So, too, does the entirety of Still Small, a disc listeners should find entertaining whether they know Kerr's history or not. -- Roberts

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