The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes has a powerful and mesmerizing voice and she sings with an impassioned believability that sounds like she has experienced a fuller life than her young years could hope to contain. Her earthy vocals and the band's solid, vibrant musicianship are both remarkable for their emotional depth. The band's 2012 album, Boys & Girls, captures a taste of its soul-driven rock, but it's best experienced live. Catch Alabama Shakes this Sunday with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
Sure, Fleetwood Mac recently reissued its 1977 mega-hit album Rumours in hundred-dollar deluxe configurations with T-shirts and posters and a couple droplets of whatever juju Stevie Nicks used to withstand the rise of punk. And sure, the Big Mac has served up over 100 million in sales worldwide. But all this still doesn't really explain why the classic lineup (sans Christine McVie) is touring for the second time in a decade with no new album, despite having songs written. Rumor is, though, that they'll play two new ones. The rest will just have to be hits, apparently.
In a sea of pop starlets, Taylor Swift shines like a modest diamond: The 23-year-old singer-songwriter has been making records about innocent teenage love and heartbreak since her freshman year in high school. Stylistically, Swift has the rare gift of being a country-to-pop crossover, combining the literal storytelling template of the former with the hooky catchiness of the latter. Her sweetened voice and lyrics about not always fitting in and from-the-bleachers adoration of boys make the vocalist an easy icon for a young and devoted fan base.
These days, many young bands are eager to play their first shows as soon as possible, and then they break up if those early efforts don't translate to early success. In contrast, Atlas Genius spent three years writing music and playing cover sets at local bars in Adelaide, Australia, before playing its first show, and in the fall of 2011, the act's song "Trojans" was discovered by Neon Gold records and became a hit single the following year. Atlas Genius released its debut full-length, When It Was Now, on Warner Bros. just over a year later. The band's sound, a well-oiled atmospheric brand of rock with R&B-inflected vocals, will immediately appeal to fans of Cut Copy.
Michael Dean Damron, the frontman of I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, pens the sort of rough-hewn roots rock that was made to be heard live in clubs like 3 Kings, the type of place where it sounds like the seeds of his brutally honest blend of country rock and folk, which takes a few cues from guys like Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, were sewn.
Narrowly built, spindly legged, and quietly spoken, the loftiest thing about the Tallest Man on Earth is actually his haircut, a swept-way-up look which evokes early Dylan just as helplessly as his songs. Like Dylan, Kristian Matsson is a walking contradiction: a thirty-year-old Swede whose music takes its signifiers from Harry Smith, its fine-spun guitar-work from Leadbelly and Nick Drake, and who sings in a bent growl that can go sweet or slack, pierced through with a back-porch American twang. Paradoxically, he also may be one of our strangest young lyricists -- an idiom-twisting blues scholar whose faltering command of the English language partially accounts for the weird, refracted beauty of his lyrics.
At this stage of his career, particularly in Denver, Nathaniel Rateliff is a man who requires absolutely no preamble -- his reputation precedes him. Nonetheless, this limited-edition two-song seven-inch (produced in honor of Record Store Day) feels like a fresh and glorious reintroduction to a songwriter we all thought we knew. Although Rateliff has one of the most silken voices around, on these vintage-flavored, horn-bolstered soul songs, he sings with a fervent abandon that adds an unexpected but completely gratifying layer of depth and expressiveness. It's a good thing he's made these songs available digitally; otherwise, the grooves of this vinyl would be so worn from repeated listens that the already lo-fi-sounding recording would seem even more roughed up. Can hardly wait to hear what Rateliff does next with this gem of a project.
Selina Albright tried the saxophone once. She got dizzy, though, and that's pretty much all it took for her to realize that the sax wasn't for her. "I'm just going to use my lungs for my vocal cords, and that's it," says Albright, whose father, Gerald, is renowned in contemporary jazz and R&B circles for his sax playing. "It's really hard to play the saxophone. It sounded horrible. It sounded like an elephant when I tried it. I don't think I have that calling." With that realization, Albright, who moved with her parents to Colorado from California eight years ago, decided to stick with singing, something she's been doing since she was two years old, when her mother sang her church hymns. Even then, Selena was singing on key. "So they knew I was going to be able to sing," she says. "Even if I didn't make a career out of it, it would still be a talent of mine." (Continue reading full profile)
During the 1980s, Denver and Boulder both had thriving experimental-music scenes, with acts like Architect's Office, Walls of Genius, Human Head Transplant and the Bruce Odland Big Band, which included Ron Miles and Mark McCoin. But the longest-lasting and most prolific of these is Thinking Plague. Rather than being grounded in noise or jazz, Thinking Plague was inspired by art rock like that of early Genesis, as well as such influential but underappreciated artists as Henry Cow. Co-founded in 1982 by guitarist Mike Johnson, the act's sole continuous member, and Bob Drake (also of Crank Call Love Affair), Thinking Plague became known internationally for its masterful musicianship, imaginative arrangements and use of sound.
Wes Kirkpatrick and his brother Ryan played together as the Kirkpatrick Brothers for a number of years. It wasn't until Wes struck out on his own and relocated to Chicago that his gift for songwriting became clear. Wes recently released the self-titled follow-up to Naps and Nightmares, his debut solo album from 2011. With these new songs, Wes has shed some of his obvious influences and more fully integrated his penchant for mixing blues and folk with rock. Kirkpatrick has toured with the likes of Stephen Kellogg and Blues Traveler, but he hasn't gotten so big yet that he can't come back home and have his album release party at an intimate club in Denver.
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