The best concerts to see in Denver this week
With the recent release of the latest Toro Y Moi album, Anything in Return, Chaz Bundick should be able to transcend the chillwave label that's been assigned to him by countless critics. Like his friend and mutual mentor Ernest Greene of Washed Out, Bundick started his project as an entirely solo endeavor undertaken by someone who had learned to make electronic music but was also no stranger to conventional instrumentation. By the time of 2011's Underneath the Pine, Toro Y Moi had grown into a full live band, even though Bundick continued to write all the songs. In a group context, there's a noticeable depth of compositional development present that's only hinted at in solo performances. But from the beginning, Toro Y Moi's music has been a soulful, funk-inflected dream pop that soothes as much as it sparks the imagination.
Gov't Mule formed in 1994 as a side project of Warren Haynes and Allen Woody, who were then members of the Allman Brothers Band. While both men continued to play with the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule became quite a viable entity on its own, rooted in a similar blend of blues, jazz and rock, with a penchant for improvisational elaborations on a theme. The Mule has long had a rotating cast of guest musicians with an exhaustive list that reads like a who's who of the improvisational rock, blues and jazz world. With the untimely death of Woody in August of 2000, Gov't Mule has since written music and been involved in collaborations that would have made the late bassist proud.
Sam Beam has long lingered in the current folk landscape as an example of an artist who is doing it right, drawing on the rich legacy of the genre's past while using softly sung poetics to explore his own subconscious and fight his own demons. On his past two albums, Beam has expanded his influences to include a mish-mash of jazzy electric funk, something that offsets his early acoustic sound with elegance, and his growth as a songwriter and a musician continues with each record. Expect heavy-lidded love ballads that snuggle right up to groove-heavy lamentations, both riddled with existential questions.
Whatever size room he's playing, there's something about Gregory Alan Isakov's voice and his engaging songs that demand attention. He creates an unmistakable intimacy with both. Recorded on analog gear and mixed to tape, The Weatherman, his latest effort, captures the familiarity and rawness of his live shows. Jamie Mefford's lush, reverb-laden production makes some of the cuts feel more expansive than those on Isakov's previous two full-lengths. Bob Dylan once sang, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," and you don't need to be a singer-songwriter to realize that Isakov has created something truly stunning here. Here, Isakov teams up with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for should be a sublime night of music.
Looking to make a more professionally produced album that might be more radio-friendly, Elephant Revival teamed up with producer Ryan Hadlock, who's worked with the Lumineers and Brandi Carlile, to make These Changing Skies. While the thirteen-track album certainly sounds better than previous efforts, the songs are better as well; the act's ability to pen captivating tunes has grown during its seven-year existence. With a core based on folk, the group excels at vocal harmonies. While the act's following has grown considerably since 2006, the exquisite These Changing Skies clearly has the potential to push Elephant Revival to the next level.
From its humble beginnings circa the '60s, dub has become one of the most influential subgenres in modern music, inspiring innovations in dance sounds, punk rock and countless other categories -- and among contemporary practitioners of the art, no one's been better for longer than Mad Professor. Born Neal Fraser in the West Indies, the Prof began his recording career in the early '80s, and since then, he's steadily built upon the foundation laid by precursors such as Lee "Scratch" Perry with his Black Liberation Dub series and remixes that blend the organic, elemental feel of the earliest versions with electronic accoutrements.
As part of his fall acoustic tour, Ben Harper will perform songs that span the singer-songwriter's two-decade career, from 1994 debut, Welcome to the Cruel World, to his latest effort, Get Up!, which debuted at the number one spot on Billboard's Blues chart earlier this year.
Coming from the same A$AP mob as fellow Harlemite A$AP Rocky, Ferg is the next member to emerge from the group as a potential solo star with his debut album, Trap Lord. While Rocky and Ferg certainly deserve credit for their individual success, it has become clear that the group's executive producer, A&R and mastermind A$AP Yams has been pulling just the right strings from behind the scenes for some time. But even apart from the clout that the A$AP mob has built, Trap Lord stands out as a highly-stylized work that is both relevant and adventurous in trap's musical resurgence.
Lamb of God began as an instrumental band called Burn the Priest in 1990, when its founding members were in college in Richmond, Virginia. In the mid-'90s, after releasing a series of demos, Burn the Priest recruited singer Randy Blythe, changing the band's name in time for its first full-length album, New American Gospel, in 2000. From then on, Lamb of God became one of the most popular metal bands in the scene. Blythe and company embraced their collective interests in hardcore, death metal and thrash, cultivating a sound that doesn't fit neatly into one genre. While touring in support of its latest record, 2012's Resolution, the band was briefly sidelined by the incarceration of Blythe, who faced charges stemming from an unfortunate incident in the Czech Republic involving the death of a fan. Blythe was eventually exonerated, and Lamb of God is back on the road.
Though the music of Little Boots easily sits alongside the likes of Kylie Minogue and Katy Perry, her '80s jams are also delivered both a bit more earnestly and with a bit more complexity. In other words, she's the dancefloor version of the girl-next-door, hashing out her heartbreaks and obsessions within a gem-like framework of shiny synths, her glittering soprano and plenty of edgy beats. Her initial single, "Stuck on Repeat," was a collaboration with Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, and like any good bubblegum it's still sticking five years later.
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