The ten best shows in Denver this week
With prime slots at this year's Coachella and millions of YouTube views, Alt-J is one of the hottest emerging acts in the country right now on the strength of its latest effort, The Lateness of the Hour. Alt-J sold out the Bluebird last spring, and this week, the outfit returns to the Mile High City for a show at the considerably larger Fillmore Auditorium.
Back in 2008, at the peak of their Coachella-studded career, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser were living one dream (deliciously abstract pop art) and singing about another: one rooted in Paris, heroin, cocaine, "elegant cars" and "models for wives," to quote their festival-friendly earworm "Time To Pretend." And though those dreams went in a different zany direction on MGMT's ambitious, if alienating, sophomore album Congratulations in 2010, the guys are still nowhere near resorting to "jobs in offices" and "the morning commute." Later this month, MGMT will release its third and potentially most daring album to date. If early single "Alien Days" is any indication, the self-titled release promises to take yet another unexpected turn in Albuquerque, unspooling psychedelic melodies and oracular, spectacular verses as the guys seek to situate themselves somewhere between their influences and their appetites. But will the results be superb or strange -- or just somewhere in between?
When it comes to EDM production these days, it seems like it's all been done before. Just the same, Rhode Island's AraabMuzik (aka Abraham Orellana) is doing everything he can to shatter any preconceived notions you might have about dance music. Steering clear of the standard "press play"-type sets EDM fans have come to loathe, AraabMusik utilizes his MPC to trigger effects and samples live -- jumping from obscure funk vocal samples right into popular dubstep drops -- and he does so with an ease and flair that keeps his compositions moving. Dude's a force to be reckoned with. Even getting shot earlier this year during an attempted robbery hasn't seemed to slow him down a bit. In fact, if anything, it's propelled him to continue working hard to create, produce and present one of the most diverse and compelling EDM sets you'll see all year.
From his time in the groundbreaking mutant garage-punk band Pussy Galore in the late '80s to his long-running stint with outlaw experimentalists Royal Trux, Neil Michael Hagerty has long been a pioneering musician in the world of guitar rock. Ever since Trux split in the early part of the last decade, Hagerty has been prolifically recording and releasing music under both his own name and the moniker the Howling Hex. After a stint in southern New Mexico, Hagerty eventually made his way Denver, where he currently lives.
GRMLN mastermind Yoodoo Park may have a Korean last name, but he was born in Japan's former capital of Kyoto and raised in California. There's a fey tonality informing his lush yet simple compositions, which sound like Park spent more than his fair share of time absorbing both C86 bands and the Sarah Records catalogue. With a guitar jangle that recalls the Field Mice, GRMLN's songs exude a summer vibe with a melancholy twinge, as if they were trying to capture the season's wistful end, that sense in the mid-August air that the weather is shifting toward fall. Park has a gift for understated pop hooks akin to that of Black Tambourine, only without the gritty distortion and urgency.
Ever since his pancake-making, pop culture-spackled spoof of Chris Brown's 2011 club hit, "Look At Me Now," went viral, Mac Lethal, already a fierce, fast rapper, has had the attention of internet/rap crossover geeks everywhere. An obviously funny guy, Mac's lyrical prowess shouldn't be underestimated; he is lethal. After four albums and a boatload of mixtapes, he's amassed a considerable underground following, but little to no mainstream success. Attribute that to his refusal to water his music down.
Jason Isbell first caught the music world's attention in 2001, when he joined the Drive-By Truckers at the age of 22. In 2007, after having penned songs for three of the band's best albums, Isbell amicably parted ways with the group in favor of pursuing a solo career. Writing and recording under his given name and sometimes as the 400 Unit -- the name of his band, whose membership once included Centro-Matic's Matt Pence -- the singer-songwriter has displayed a keen ability to draw upon the spare melodies and homespun storytelling of classic country while imbuing his lyrics with an accessible literary quality. Isbell's latest record, 2013's Southeastern, has a hushed sparkle to it that perfectly suits his insightful sketches of everyday life and stories of devastating loss.
Inspired by the first wave of punk in the U.K., the Beat combined the social critique of punk with the broader emotional and sonic palette of reggae. Formed in 1978, the English Beat (so named when the band made its way across the Atlantic) released three classic albums before Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger moved on to form General Public, where they realized great commercial success. The two eventually parted ways to front their own versions of their original band. These days, there are two versions of the English Beat: one in this country, led by Dave Wakeling, and another in the U.K., featuring Ranking Roger, the band's classic toaster.
The Titwrench music festival was founded in 2009 by Sarah Slater, a longtime independent promoter, who received a Westword MasterMind Award in 2011 for her involvement in it. From the beginning, the festival has featured artists from Albuquerque's rich experimental-music scene, groups like Bigawatt and Milch de la Máquina, which are both returning this year alongside an array of notable local acts such as Dangerous Nonsense, Talk All Night and Rachael Pollard. But Titwrench (taking place this year on Friday, September 6, and Saturday, September 7, at Glob) isn't just music; there is a strong visual-art presence as well, including the work of local luminaries like Katrin Davis and filmmaker Kim Shively, who was involved in the making of Wesley Willis's Joyrides. As usual, there will also be workshops and good food on hand, making Titwrench more than just another music festival.
Opiuo, New Zealand's liaison to funk, has built quite a following in this country with his Down Under sound. Residing primarily in Australia nowadays, the DJ-turned-producer is healing up from a recent surgery on his ear canal and turning his attention to hitting the road before returning to the studio to continue churning out remixes and original scores.
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