The best concerts to see in Denver this week
As if torn out of the pages of a graphic novel, Flatbush Zombies are intense and ultra-stylized to an extent that is at once cartoonish and darkly gritty. Sometimes, in the case of very exciting music such as theirs, substance takes a back seat to style, but both of their mixtapes, D.R.U.G.S. and BetterOffDEAD, get exponentially better with multiple listens. Thanks to the wild individuality of Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice and the remarkably advanced production of the multi-talented Erick Arc Elliott, Flatbush Zombies are already one of the best rap groups around, and they'll only get better.
After releasing his prodigious self-titled debut at only sixteen, Earl was sent into exile by his mom to a Samoan disciplinary program during the most exciting years of Odd Future's meteoric rise, depriving the act's rabid fans of his music. As a result, Earl Sweatshirt's Doris was easily one of the most hyped rap albums this year. Because of his incredibly deep voice, occasionally repetitive flow and moodiness, Earl can come across as monotonous, but he is an incredibly gifted poet who has the ability to infuse his words with darkness and mystique while baring his soul with a refreshing honesty.
Growing up in Surrey, England, Guy and Howard Lawrence, known collectively as Disclosure, got an early education in the making of electronic music: Their debut single, "Offline Dexterity," came out in August 2010, when Howard was just sixteen years old. But it wasn't until January of last year, with the release of "Tenderly/Flow" that the brothers received significant airplay. Difficult to quantify, the music this pair makes combines the smooth flow and strong beats of house with the sort of lounge-y R&B flavor that wouldn't have been out of place in English clubs in the late '80s and early '90s alongside tracks by 808 State. Disclosure's debut album, Settle, went to number one on the U.K. charts and featured numerous guest vocalists, who lend the already diverse album of glistening dance songs warmth and humanity.
J. Cole's a funny artist, because even though he's a Gold-selling rapper, he still hasn't released an album as good as either of his Roc Nation mixtapes -- The Warm Up and, especially, Friday Night Lights. On the latter, with tracks like "Too Deep for the Intro," Cole proved that he had a raw, emotional honesty not often seen in hip-hop. The mixtape format also allowed him to go hard over already popular beats like Kanye's "Devil in a New Dress" on "Villematic."
Combining the former guitar player from hardcore band Poison the Well with a former Nickelodeon star, Sleigh Bells is the most aggressive, poptastic, ear-drum-splitting glamour-thrash band around. If you've somehow managed to miss out on the wonder that is Sleigh Bells, take a moment out of your lunch break to view the video for that song. We guarantee that when it ends, you'll be asking yourself if you have time to watch it again.
Menomena's mixture of reverb-laden piano, woodwinds, crashing drums and pretty much every keyboard voice and stringed instrument in existence has always cohered into a solemn, ornate sound that projects a distinct air of seriousness. The Portland art-rock trio turned into a duo after multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf quit, and the remaining pair responded by making their most personal, weightiest album yet in Moms. The long-player focuses on drummer Danny Seim's relationship with his mother, who passed away when he was seventeen, and bassist/saxophonist/guitarist Justin Harris' reaction to his father's abandonment of his family. Menomena's energetic concerts, silly videos and self-deprecating Twitter feed, however, quickly dispel any dour image of the band you might have.
Founded in 2003 in Paris by sisters Bianca "Coco" Casady and Sierra "Rosie" Casady, CocoRosie has been responsible for making music that combines otherwordly electronic pop with organic sounds, hip-hop and conceptual art. As a whole, it's the musical equivalent of a magical-realism novel featuring mythological creatures and situations -- think: John Crowley and Charles De Lint instead of Lord Dunsany or Tolkien.
Pete Rock is one of the best samplers of all time, not only in his excellent taste and choice in samples, but in his creativity in recontextualizing those samples and reintroducing them with a hip-hop flair. He had an especially captivating ability to take horn samples, tweak them with effects and layer them over each other or themselves for classy, nostalgic effect. Rock's best musical years were had alongside rapper CL Smooth -- with whom he created hip-hop's greatest elegy, "They Reminisce Over You" -- across the first half of the '90s, but his impact on the musical landscape, even today, is immeasurable.
KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid) started as a performance-art one-off in 1984 that evolved into an ongoing endeavor. Founding member Sascha Konietzko was joined by drummer and vocalist En Esch, who formed the core of the band until its temporary split in 1999. With various collaborators, KMFDM developed its signature melding of electronic industrial music and hard rock, which has often been imitated but seldom equaled. The peak of the band's commercial popularity came following the release of Nihil in 1995, which spawned the soundtrack-friendly hit single "Juke Joint Jezebel." What has kept the group interesting is its visceral live shows and its songs, which feature tongue-in-cheek, genuinely clever lyrics that take aim at sociopolitical ills in the world -- that and KMFDM's willingness to poke fun at itself.
Tokyo's Melt Banana began in 1992, and it blossomed into the sort of band that is to punk rock what Japanese horror movies in the last two decades have been to horror cinema -- an inventive and powerful shot in the arm. Anyone who has seen Melt Banana knows they're in for a thrilling jolt with frenetic and visceral performances with the a sharp, relentless physical impact. The group's music is unlike much of anything out there; the trio has been involved in making music with the likes of legendary avant-garde/noise artist Merzbow, death metal/jazz genius John Zorn and the multi-faceted vocal talent Mike Patton. Yasuko Onuki is a fiery presence as the singer, and Ichirou Agata's brilliantly diverse use of unexpected guitar sounds within the context of a grindcore-esque rhythmic attack is nothing less than inspiring.
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