goP@Riot, goP@Riot (Self-released). The trio of drummer Nate Weaver, bassist Ben Williams and second bassist Sean Inman twitches, twists and turns more than a condemned man swinging below the gallows. While "fast-loud-ugly" seems to be the guiding esthetic, the trio's instrumental virtuosity and occasional concessions to melody and structure make for a surprisingly accessible experimental rock record. — Eyl

Hearts of Palm, The Bridge EP (Morning After/Illegal Petes). As Nathan & Stephen, this outfit set the bar high with an audacious debut that it seemed unlikely to match. With this limited-edition four-song EP, though, the rechristened band captured lightning in a bottle once again, with even greater exuberance and catchier songs. — Herrera

Hello Kavita, And Then We Turned Sideways (Self-released). This debut from Corey Teruya and company melds '70s California rock with Neil Young and a heaping helping of delicious melancholy to create the ideal soundtrack for sad sacks and intellectuals. Teruya's subtle, enigmatic and economical songwriting doesn't waste a word or a note in delivering its powerful punch. — Eyl

Fred Hess, Single Moment (Self-released). With an impressive mix of original flights and covers of jazz standards, this album is a testament to Hess's unique ability to reconcile jazz's traditional and avant-garde components in a single package. Takes on classics such as Rodgers and Hart's "Spring Is Here" side by side with original Hess compositions like "Norman's Gold" make for a seamless blend. — Goldstein

The Hollyfelds, Saratoga (Self-released). Vocalists Eryn Hoerig and Kate Grigsby, with help from the other Hollyfelds, make music that splits the difference between alt-country and the genre's mainstream — a difficult balancing act, but one they manage to strike more often than not. Tracks like "Empress of Wyoming" and "It's a Good Thing" are emotional yet accessible, with just the right touch of twang. — Roberts

Hungry Giant, [Under] Mining Skies (Self-released). Capturing the essence of being a creative person in a world seemingly hostile to such instincts, these songs document the urban experience in the high plains west with a ferocious intelligence and insight. This is atmospheric hip-hop with musicality at its core and creativity guiding its experimental twists and turns. — Murphy

Ichiban, Psycle Analysis (Self-released). This has been a benchmark year for Ichiban, from being crowned best MC at the Westword Music Showcase Awards to seeing this release crack CMJ's Top 20. The accolades are well deserved: Psycle Analysis is a hip-hop masterstroke, thanks to Ichiban's intelligent rhymes, smooth cadence and hook-infested production. — Herrera

Infinite Mindz, Monkey Rebellion Music (Self-released). Infinite Mindz pretty much took the local hip-hop scene by storm with its debut album. The album showcases tight beats, fresh lyrics, and a sound and vibe all its own. Although the group changed its lineup with the departure of Frankie Figz and the addition of Spoke In Wordz, it's still a group to watch out for. — Salazar-Moreno

Joe Thunder Presents Contact and Six O' Clock, Go for Broke (Self-released). While Contact and Six O' Clock are supposed to be the stars of this release, we're sorry to say they were outshone by the production and guests who were so freaking incredible. With some of Colorado's best MCs, like F.O.E., Deca and Distrakt, sprinkled throughout the project, and hot production from Kevin Pistol, Rude Boy and Status, it's a solid showpiece for local talent.

Salazar-Moreno

The Knew, Boom Bust (Self-released). The Knew's collaboration with producer and Hot IQs member Bryan Feuchtinger (who also oversaw last year's Holladay) has yielded another gem. "By Yourself," which is capable of taking control of hips whether their owner likes it or not, and the stop-start, rat-a-tatting charm of "Hey, Let's Live Together" make this EP a boom, not a bust. — Roberts

Laylights, Auricle (Self-released). Laylights builds upon and refines its atmospheric Brit-pop sound with unforgettable songs, impossible-to-ignore sonic complexity and powerful vocal risks. Drummer Martin Baker and bassist Chris Martucci have never sounded more confident and cohesive, driving Ian McCumber and Tyler Hayden's dense, atmospheric guitars straight into the rocks. — Eyl

Machine Gun Blues, I Hate the Machine Gun Blues (Self-released). Though the compressed recording and restrained performances fail to capture the cartoonish chaos of the Machine Gun Blues' live show, this EP adequately documents the glorious proto-garage-punk mess that the group was. There will be no more MGB live shows, so this is one for the vaults. And the bonus track is the ultimate middle finger. — Eyl

ManeLine, ...& Sew Its Seams (Self-released). Mane Rok, InkLine and DeeJay Tense share a knowledge of, and reverence for, hip-hop history that informs every syllable and groove on their latest platter. Rather than jump on the trend du jour, they move forward into the past in a manner that leaves tunes such as "All Alone" seeming fresher than anyone has a right to expect. — Roberts

Aakash Mittal, Possible Beginnings (Self-released). Throughout nearly every one of the original songs on Aakash Mittal's debut album, the young saxophonist and flutist draws as much from his Eastern Indian roots (a lot of tunes were inspired by family members) as he does from jazz history.Solomon

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