Moovers and Shakers 2005

Backbeat scribes weigh in on their favorite new releases from the past year.

Jett Black, To Hell and Back (Fist Music). Jett Black (aka Jeff Arnold) set off a flurry of Amber Alerts last winter after he and his namesake band abruptly dropped out of sight. This past August, however, the act re-emerged with a revamped lineup and an updated sound that owes a sizable debt to the Reverend Horton Heat and Velvet Revolver. Hellfire and Brylcreem, anyone? -- Herrera

Local 33, Hearts That Bend (Self-released). Eric Lowe denies being under the influence of John Mellencamp. But listening to Hearts That Bend, you have to wonder if he might be fibbing a bit. Sure, the Local 33 leader probably owes a bigger debt to Son Volt, but the wheat-whipped rusticity of Mellencamp's best work can be heard in Hearts' rugged, earthy country rock. -- Heller

The Maybellines, A La Carte (Best Friends). The Maybellines' formula hasn't changed much since their first release five years ago. But the band has gotten ever better at exploring the boundaries of its self-imposed playpen. A La Carte is as sugary and breezy as its predecessors, but within the confines of twee indie pop, the disc manages to plumb stunning depths and pathos. Now, that's a sweet trick. -- Heller

Meese, The Oh No EP (Self-released). Patrick Meese previously issued most of these songs on his solo debut, I Don't Buy It. Since then, however, he's assembled a band and rerecorded the primarily piano-driven tunes, arriving at a sound that's less precious than that of Sufjan Stevens but every bit as spectral. Keep your eye on this extraordinary talent. -- Herrera

John Nathan, Party of One (Self-released). Outlaw-country artist John Nathan might take satisfaction in seeing an old girlfriend who looks like hell. But he's more apt to buy a shot for the nerve-jangled war veteran one bar stool away. When he's seated alone, as he is here, he's at his storytelling best, spinning candid weepers capable of making Roy Orbison or Hank Williams laugh until they cry. -- La Briola

Nightingale, Nightingale (Self-released). Not for the hard of hearing or the faint of heart, Nightingale's stellar EP blends walls of deafening feedback, dissonance, buzz and hum into a swirling, psychedelic dream state. My Bloody Valentine? More like My Bloody Eardrums. But there's an odd, soothing quality to all of the melodic, tar-thick, two-chord drones, making the band (newly rechristened as Moccasin) well worth a listen. -- La Briola

Oakhurst, Dual Mono (Big Bender Records). A spirited acoustic hoedown in an overcrowded cabin near Walsenburg launched Dual Mono, Oakhurst's debut full-length. Clean and off the cuff, it's rowdy, warm and inviting. Essentially a roundup of live first takes, the rustic gem captures five veteran roots-rockers injecting bluegrass into an old-timey mountain sound. Put another log on the fire. -- La Briola

Oblio Duo, Oblio Duo (Self-released). Why hasn't Denver heard of Oblio Duo before? Because unlike legions of mediocre yet inexplicably egotistic songwriters, Steven Lee Lawson and Will Duncan don't seem to really grasp the enormity of their own genius. But they sure know how to put it into song. Pray that the first time you hear this disc, it's pouring rain outside. You'll never be the same. -- Heller

The Omens, Destroy the ESP (Hipsville). How do the Omens succeed where a half-million garage-rock pretenders over the past few years have laughably failed? Simple: by dropping the pose and clawing their fucking guts out. Trends come and (thankfully) go, but ESP's primal scream will have a half-life of forever. -- Heller

The Photo Atlas, No, Not Me, Never (Morning After Records). No, Not Me, Never, the second release from Morning After Records, is by far one of the year's finest discs. Resting on temperamental faultlines of rumbling bass runs and frenetic drumming, the act's joyously erratic rhythm section grinds together, creating fissures that vocalist/guitarist Alan Andrews soars over with his high-pitched shrills. The effect is seismic on the dance floor. -- Herrera

Rraahh Foundashun, Tha Revolushun (Shunpowa Recordings). On their third release, Keo, Shunfist, King Mississippi and the rest of the Foundashun dish out Native Tongues-like rhymes and tight production values that put the emphasis on drums and influences like Hubert Laws. Together they radiate a righteous, cosmically sophisticated vibe. -- Mayo

Strangers Die Everyday, They Have Already Defeated Us at What We Know Best (Self-released). Being moved to tears by music is the lamest of cliches. But it happens, and Strangers Die Everyday's debut full-length is proof. Stretched to the point of distortion by classical strings (cello, violin) on one side and a post-rock rhythm section (electric bass, drums) on the other, this instrumental group's tension and melody tap the deepest wellspring of emotion, all without saying a word. -- Heller

Jon Swift, Fresh Fitted (Self-released). Jon Swift, who also performs with the Chronophonic, is backed on Fresh Fitted by a stellar band consisting of keyboardist Matt Piazza (from Yo Flaco!), bassist Josh Fairman (of Kinetix) and percussionists Johnny Schmidt and Scott Mast. The result is a laid-back mix of introspective rap, smooth soul and nighttime keyboards. -- Mayo

Tarantella, Esquéletos (Alternative Tentacles). Recorded by Bob Ferbrache, Denver's most-sought-after recording engineer, Tarantella's astonishing debut not only features the studio whiz on guitar, but spotlights several other luminaries from his extended family of absinthe-swilling hicksters. A beguiling blend of ancient folk ballads and spaghetti Westerns fleshed out by the trilingual Kal Cahoone, Esquéletos intoxicates. -- La Briola

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