We spent most of December reflecting on the past year and the past decade; now it's time to start thinking about a new year and a new decade. And 2010 is already off to a great start, with a number of acts that have been percolating over the past twelve months now poised to break out, including these six that you should keep an eye on in the coming year. (Look for a few more picks later this week at Backbeatblog.com.)
Who: Air Dubai
Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: Air Dubai, which began life as a hip-hop duo, has made an absolutely stunning transformation. The act showed tons of potential right out of the gate with the release of its debut long player, 2008's The Early October. But from the sounds of the outfit's latest tune, recorded at Coupe Studios with studio time the group earned through a recent University of Colorado battle of the bands contest, Air Dubai, now a full-fledged seven-member band, has kicked things up a couple of notches. Recalling the classic soul flavor and musicality of cuts like "Break You Off," by the Roots, "I Know How" is instantly entrancing and offers a promising glimpse of what's to come from this band, which is far from a cookie-cutter rap-rock hybrid. Air Dubai is currently in the studio working on its next album, due out this spring.
When/Where: With Liquid Sun and Indigenous Peoples, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, January 14, Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut Street, $7, 303-295-1868; Saturday, January 30, Marquis Theater.
Who: John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light
Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: John Common is certainly no newcomer to the scene. Both on his own and fronting Rainville, he's been making compelling music for years. But with his new group, Blinding Flashes of Light, Common is at his most captivating, backed by an impressive revolving cast of his musician friends — including seemingly omnipresent bassist Jimmy Stofer of Dualistics and Hello Kavita, and the golden-throated Jess DeNicola, as well as cellist Wes Michaels, multi-instrumentalist Adam Revell and drummer Carl Sorensen. On the band's debut, Beautiful Empty, Common shows how he's sharpened his songwriting chops; with lines like "Mary loved Tony for seventy years/On the day that he died, no tears/He saw it coming; she saw it, too/When it hurts that bad, crying won't save you" and "Liars love leavers and losers leave lovers/We hurt one another without meaning to," the new songs are as heartbreaking as they are clever. And the music is tender, ornate and vibrant, sparkling with affecting melodies sung with elegance and grace.
When/Where: CD release, with Achille Lauro and Danielle Ate the Sandwich, 7 p.m. Saturday, January 16, Casselman's Bar and Venue, 2620 Walnut Street, $15-$20, 303-242-8923.
Who: Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: You could almost power a small, rural town with the buzz being generated by this all-star ensemble. Formed just last spring, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake — comprising Monofog's Hayley Helmericks and Doug Spencer, Andrew Warner of Bad Luck City and Red Cloud, Kit Peltzel of Space Team Electra and Mr. Pacman, James Yardley of Hawks of Paradise and Wilson Helmericks — seems to get better with each gig. Hayley Helmerick's vocals tantalize, caress and terrify, and her fellow Snake charmers cast an ominous pall with brooding bass lines, unrelenting rhythms and guitars that chime, slash and careen — when they're not copping tone from yesteryear's dirtiest-sounding surf-rock passages. The results are as unsettling as they are alluring.
When/Where: EP release, with Treeverb and Cannons, 8 p.m. Friday, January 22, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $6, 720-570-4500.
Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: If you haven't heard of Savoy, you just haven't been paying attention. Taking a cue from kindred breakthrough act Pretty Lights, Savoy is building a rabid following for its insistent, electro-based sound by giving its music away (download the group's debut full-length, Automatic, the Savoy EP and the Welcome to Jamrock Rmx for free on the act's website). Oh, and also by putting on knock-down, drag-out, high-energy shows, including a high-profile New Year's gig co-headlining City Hall with RJD2. Already drawing capacity crowds at places like the Aggie in Fort Collins and the Fox in Boulder, Savoy is steadily infiltrating the Denver scene, even as it focuses on making a name for itself outside of Colorado.
Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: Churchill turned quite a few heads when it arrived on the scene last year, seemingly fully formed. Actually, the six-piece grew out of a collaboration between Tim Bruns and Michael Morter, former classmates who came together when Bruns moved back to Denver from Nashville after trying his hand as a solo artist and after Morter graduated from Baptist Bible College. The songwriters soon added cellist Amy Moyer, pianist/vocalist Bethany Kelly, drummer Joe Richmond (which the group shares with Meese) and bassist Tyler Rima, and set about playing shows and recording. Although the sextet is still finding its legs in a live setting, its auspicious five-song debut captures its spirited folk rock, which is breezy, charming and uplifting at one turn and introspective, pensive and bittersweet at another. Churchill is sure to appeal to fans of acts with decidedly more complicated monikers like Margot & the Nuclear So and So's and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground.
When/Where: With Paper Bird and Tyler Ludwick, 7 p.m. Friday, January 8, D-Note, 7519 Grandview Avenue, $10, 303-463-6683.
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Why this act is worth keeping an eye on: A better question would be why wouldn't this act be worth keeping an eye on? Seriously: Made up of three of the hip-hop scene's most electrifying MCs — Yonnas Abraham of the Pirate Signal, F.O.E. and Karma — this incendiary crew has all of the ingredients to explode on contact. A closely guarded secret for the better part of 2009, Blackhearts finally made its recorded debut on Halloween with a track called "Bloodlines of That Gangsta Shhh," a menacing cut in which the rappers traded verses with unhinged ferocity. Live, the trio first appeared officially as Blackhearts at 3OH!3's holiday show, but it was hardly the first time the MCs had performed together. Last year, during the Pirate Signal's sets at places like the Marquis Theater and the hi-dive, Abraham routinely plucked F.O.E. and Karma out of the crowd, and the threesome proceeded to level the joint. No word yet on when or where the act will perform again, but when it does, you'll want to be there to witness the devastation.