The ten best concerts in Denver this week
10. CLUTCH @ BLACK SHEEP | MON, 3/18/13 Clutch has dodged being saddled with a label, primarily because of the illusion of reinvention it's projected with each album. But the truth is that it's just an illusion. Clutch is set in its ways, yet all of its music sounds like bold experimentation -- even on albums like 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion, in which the act shed the metal leanings that colored earlier efforts in favor of a more refined bluesy swagger, which was really a continuation of 2005's Robot Hive/Exodus. (Orange Goblin is also on this bill.)
9. K. FLAY @ HI-DIVE | WED, 3/20 A Stanford graduate, K. Flay is smart and self-aware, which explains the name of her debut album, Suburban Rap Queen. To be certain, she has insecurities, but she is secure enough to rap about humdrum everyday real life, taking Flintstones vitamins and talking politics while boys kiss her neck, rather than project some falsified ultra-glamorous persona. She is a proud nerd, referencing X-Men and Lex Luthor while sporting a certifiably fresh flow, to which she says simply, "no duh," as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
8. NILE @ GOTHIC THEATER | TUES, 3/19/13 Karl Sanders became a bit of a known figure in the early days of death metal when he played shows with his old thrash band Morriah. But it was his band Nile, formed in 1993, that he decided to take his music in a more extreme direction into the realm of technical death metal. Chances are that the lyrics with references to Egyptian religion and mysticism are part tongue-in-cheek in tone but serious in the interest in the subject. Nile recently made its sense of humor clear in naming a song "Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms" from its latest album, At the Gates of Sethu. Playing in drop A, Nile truly isn't kidding around with sounding heavy.
7. FRENCH MONTANA @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | TUE, 3/19 Montana hasn't released his debut album yet (Excuse My French, expected this May), but he is already well known in hip-hop circles, having earned a place in XXL's 2012 Freshman Class, along with the likes of Danny Brown, Macklemore and Hopsin. Last year, he made one of the singles of the year, "Pop That," with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil' Wayne, and he's done a boatload of collaborations since then. French Montana is a name you'll be hearing about in 2013. (French Montana is also at the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, March 20.)
6. THE HUSH SOUND @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | MON, 3/8/13 Formed in February 2005, the Hush Sound recorded its aptly titled debut, So Sudden, just three months after getting together. The self-produced album combined piano-driven melodies with healthy doses of classic rock, swing and classical music. Enamored of the band's lyrical story craft, Panic! At the Disco guitarist Ryan Ross -- whose own band was discovered by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz via the Internet -- came across some of the Hush Sound's tracks on purevolume.com and turned Wentz on to the outfit. A burgeoning entrepreneur/tastemaker, Wentz reacted to Hush just as favorably as he had a few months earlier when he'd first heard Panic! At the Disco, and signed the band to Decaydance Records, his joint venture with the Fueled by Ramen imprint. The Hush Sound went on to release two more albums before going on hiatus in 2009. This year, the act has reconvened and is hitting the road in addition to working on a new album, slated for release sometime later this year.
5. TECH N9NE @ FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | FRI, 3/22 Tech N9Ne is here so often, you'd be excused for thinking he does live here. He's doesn't of course. His mail is delivered to Kansas City. But that's just where he hails from, really. He lives on the road. And that's precisely how he's risen up through the ranks to command the same level of attention as his much higher profile counterparts. You can be sure that any acclaim he has garnered, he's earned the old fashion way.
4. FRIGHTENED RABBIT @ GOTHIC THEATRE | MON, 3/18/13 Boldly seizing a moniker his mother hung on him when social anxiety held him back a year in nursery school, Scott Hutchison leads a Northern Scotland quintet called Frightened Rabbit that plays earnest, self-searching paeans ringing with the sonorous indie-pop echoes of the Vaselines, Orange Juice and the Delgados. Signed to English indie FatCat, Frightened Rabbit released Sing the Greys in 2006. Though filled with dulcet jangle pop, Greys lacked the bite and emotional resonance of 2008's followup, The Midnight Organ Fight. As the wry title suggests, Organ is a breakup album fueled by the clever anguish of tracks like "The Modern Leper" and "Keep Yourself Warm." These days, Frightened Rabbit is supporting its third album, 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which was written in Crail, on the Scottish coast, while Hutchinson spent two months decompressing from a year and half of touring. The song "Swim Until You Can't See Land" serves as a fine touchstone for the album's spirit of self-discovery after so much time away from home. (The Twilight Sad is also on this bill).
3. THE SOFT MOON @ LARIMER LOUNGE | WEDS, 3/20/13 The Soft Moon started out in 2009 as the solo project of Luis Vasquez. The band developed over the next few years from a stark, Suicide-eque, minimalist post-punk band into something with a dark urgency and expansive song dynamics that recalled Chrome and Cabaret Voltaire. The Soft Moon's 2011 EP Total Decay exposed the band to wider audiences with an even more refined combination of organic and electronic drums giving the music a gritty, industrial sensibility. Having expanded to a four piece live band last year, the Soft Moon released a new album titled Zeros.
2. VERONICA FALLS @ HI-DIVE | MON, 3/18/13 Veronica Falls formed in 2009, when Roxanne Clifford and Patrick Doyle moved to London from Glasgow and hooked up with the like-minded James Hoare and mutual friend Marion Herbain. The urgent melodies of the band's breezy twee sound drew immediate comparisons to C86 acts like the Vaselines and the Pastels, and with good reason: Veronica Falls has a pronounced gift for crafting upbeat moody pop songs, which was evident early on when it first caught the attention of the Captured Tracks label. In 2011, the group released its debut full-length on Slumberland in the U.S. and Bella Union in the U.K. Recently, the players have woven even more atmospheric elements into their sound, and the music for their latest release, Waiting for Something to Happen, has the same kind of paradoxically soothing spirited quality possessed by bands like Lush in its heyday.
1. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA @ LARIMER LOUNGE | MON, 3/18/13 With his old band, the Mint Chicks, Ruban Nielson experienced some degree of success in the underground in Auckland, New Zealand; the group had releases on the respected Flying Nun imprint by the time it moved to Portland. But when the Chicks split up in 2010, Nielson wasted no time putting together his next band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Fat Possum issued the trio's self-titled debut in 2011 to great critical acclaim. With the Orchestra, Nielson managed to combine a lo-fi sound with imaginative recordings that gave the songs an unexpected sonic depth. This year's follow-up album, II, delves further into the band's signature alchemy of prog psych, garage rock and outsider pop. Think Can, Hawkwind, Skip Spence and Sebadoh filtered through the lens of indie pop. (Foxygen is also on this bill. Read our full Q&A with Jonathan Rado.)
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