The best concerts to see in Denver this week
With a name that translates roughly to "stranglehold" in Norwegian, this sextet has spent the last six years cultivating a sound that feels like a mixture of black metal and the Stooges, Cave In and Converge. Fittingly, the frontman of that last act, Kurt Ballou, produced Kvelertak's latest album, 2013's Meier, which bears artwork from a like-minded musician, Baroness's John Baizley. With an oddly and refreshingly balanced combination of rawness, melody and heaviness -- not to mention aggression and psychedelia -- Kvelertak also manages to invoke an American Southern-rock vibe without beating that retro aesthetic into the ground. With songs propelled by a momentum that's broken only by moments of lingering atmospherics, like the eye of a storm, this outfit sways as much as it rocks.
While Bill Frisell has no problem filling up large venues like the Boulder Theater, the former Denver resident has also performed at few times at more intimate spots like Dazzle over the last couple of years with Ron Miles and Brian Blade, as well as with his former instructor, Longmont-based guitarist Dale Bruning. This time around, Frisell is joined by drummer Rudy Royston, who was raised in Denver, and violist Eyvind Kang. Both players appeared on Frisell's 2010 release, Beautiful Dreamers. Frisell and Kang have collaborated a number of times since Frisell's 1996 Quartet album, so expect some forward thinking interplay between the two.
Finnish dance-music producer Ville Virtanen, better known as Darude, scored a giant hit with his first release "Sandstorm," a track that's sold close to two million units worldwide since its release. While he's never managed to replicate the success of that initial monster track, he's managed to carve out a respectable niche for himself among the world's top trance producers and DJs. His third artist album, Label This!, was released earlier this year.
In the '90s, Sean Tillman performed in both noise-rock band Calvin Krime and the more pop-oriented Sean Na Na while still a teenager in the Minneapolis area. Around the turn of this century, he created Har Mar Superstar, a bombastic hip-hop/R&B persona that delivers suitably single-entendre lyrics. The act is elevated by genuinely clever crafting and songs that result in a sort of high-concept-comedy performance art. While Tillman's shtick plays like the brilliant post-"film" career of a charismatic ex-porn star, he has undeniable singing ability and pop sensibilities; he's even purportedly penned songs for Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Osbourne. On his latest album, Bye Bye 17, Har Mar Superstar continues to turn what would otherwise be cheese into glittery pop perfection.
For many listeners, their first introduction to Alex Clare came courtesy of "Too Close," the catchy tune played during the Internet Explorer commercials. There's more to Clare's music than that, though. Melding intimate vocals with drum-heavy tracks, Clare showcases his range as an instrumentalist and vocalist on Lateness of the Hour, his debut release. While his peers continue to dance around in the realm of heavy bass drops, Clare conveys a spectrum of emotions through the sheer expressiveness of his voice and the overall dynamics of his instrumentation.
On paper, anthemic Springsteen-influenced pop strained through a twin filter of modern punk and '50s rock sounds horribly contrived -- and the Gaslight Anthem, which indulges in its share of the straightahead rhythms, dry production and gang-vocal hooks that make today's punk so frustrating, might not seem like the right band for the job. But the New Jersey punk outfit approaches the music with just enough perspective and balance to pull it off. The elements fall into place naturally, and the band's lack of pretense goes a long way. Many would fall flat with lines such as "Like Miles Davis, I been swayed by the cool/There's just something about the summertime," but the Gaslight Anthem admirably averts disaster.
Way back in 2006, patchy duo Crystal Castles began a rise to high-art infamy based mostly on the negative hype of its supposed 8-bit plagiarism. Along with getting slammed for stealing artist Trevor Brown's "Bruised Madonna" imagery for unauthorized merchandise (not to mention unsanctioned use of the Chanel logo), the Toronto natives were easy to dismiss as Internet copies of copies. But vocalist Alice Glass's terrifying yelp processed through Ethan Kath's instrumentation and production sounded too delightful to ignore. On 2010's second self-titled release, the act's low beats are a continuing blend of Glass Candy arrogance and the cultish darkness of the Knife/Fever Ray. The 8-bit community may not want to have anything to do with Glass and Kath, but proper credit is due for making the electronic subgenre accessible to the Girl Talk-loving masses.
If you're familiar with the name Sixto Rodriguez (aka Rodriguez), it's likely due to his story, which is told in the award-winning film Searching for Sugar Man. A singer-songwriter from Detroit of fleeting renown, Rodriguez was a mostly an unknown quantity in his home country. After releasing a pair of critically acclaimed albums in the early '70s, Rodriguez essentially drifted off into obscurity where he remained for the better part of two decades. Elsewhere, however, in places like South Africa and Australia, Rodriguez's music formed the soundtrack for a generation -- who wrongly assumed he was passed. Sugar Man shines the light on a talent that has been criminally and woefully overlooked for years.
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