For anyone who cuts the rug like Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis or Elaine from Seinfeld, the Colorado Prog Music Fest offered the perfect excuse to boogaloo like you just didn't care. Area musical acts committed to precision and unusual time signatures held court for an entire day of free-form anarchy. The all-ages event featured sets from the Colorado Guitar Circle, the Music Retaliation Ensemble, Patch, Pindral, Singularity and Zed. For event organizer Phillip Satterly, who also runs the Colorado Art Rock Society, it was an opportunity to celebrate an often misunderstood art form that always looks forward, strives to be new, and dissents vigorously from the current musical establishment.

In a year of exceptional local releases, DeVotchKa's How It Ends stood out like a peacock at sunrise. A dizzying feast of neo-classical strings, south-of the-border tango flirtations and punk-informed polka, the fourteen-song cycle finds Denver's most sumptuous quartet at the pinnacle of its craft. Recorded and mixed by Craig Schumacher (who has worked with Calexico, Giant Sand and Beth Orton), Ends features an overabundance of exotic tempos, textures and stylistic flourishes. Frontman Nick Urata, who augments his incurably aching vocals with smatterings of Italian, Spanish and French, leads his fellow DeVotchKans through the ultimate immigrant experience -- one where doomed romantics arrive wide-eyed in a new world, only to escape heartache through wine and song, longing for one last kiss before the curtains fall. Ay, mi corazón!

Woody Allen once said, "Don't knock masturbation -- it's sex with someone I love." In the cocksure hands of Wanker however, love means never having to say you're anything but horny and alone. Then again, damn near every song by these nostalgic, faux-Anglican glam-bangers revolves around frigid white girls, full-metal teddies, or sisters with blisters. Get a grip.

Metal bands usually get straight to the point when it comes to naming their albums: Morbid Angel had Domination; Kreator issued Endless Pain; Venom put out Welcome to Hell. Then there's Throcult's second full-length, Stormbringer: Conjuration of the Nighthorde. Even without umlauts, it's a real mouthful, sporting two compound words, eleven syllables and one pesky colon. Saying it out loud seems to take forever -- and only makes you wish you could speak in a really deep voice like Lurch. Then again, Throcult could get even wordier before it steals the crown from English symphonic metal band Bal-Sagoth's reigning long-winded 1996 title: Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-veiled Throne of Ultima Thule.

Denver Gentlemen alum David Eugene Edwards hasn't left 16 Horsepower behind, but as an extremely prolific songwriter, he needed another venue for his efforts. Wovenhand fills this particular bill very well, and on Consider the Birds, Edwards's third disc under the moniker, he takes advantage of it. Like all of his compositions, the Wovenhand offerings are striking expressions of the themes and topics that obsess him -- love, faith and retribution among them. He's a unique talent, no matter what guise he's toiling under. Denver's lucky to have him.

Area artists always try to make their discs sound as professional and high-quality as those put out by major record labels, but very few succeed. With Antidote, pressed by Suburban Home Records, the Gamits joined this rarefied company, exciting fans who hoped the disc would propel the band into the bigtime. Instead, Chris Fogal's creation splintered mere months later -- but if the Gamits had to perish, at least they left behind something great to remember them by. What a way to go.

With the occasional exception of standup comics, most people who use common speech as their main form of creative expression don't fare well when it comes to compact discs. So give veteran wordsmith SETH credit for combining poetry and music in a singularly bold way. The sounds whipped together by Bob Peek, Scott Seeber and Edward Marshall are simultaneously accessible and adventurous -- the ideal match for SETH's sometimes highfalutin but frequently arresting turns of phrase.

CU's sex-and-booze scandals make Animal House look like Romper Room. Still, the 1978 John Belushi film popularized a relatively raucous time in American pop culture: the era of frat rock, that surf-drenched bastardization of R&B that blared across university campuses in the early '60s. The Orangu-tones have frat rock down to a science, from the buzz cuts to the bleating saxes, and they've captured the whole thing on Pledge Kappa Epsilon Gamma. "Monkey Boy," a savage reworking of the Premiers' "Farmer John," is just one of the disc's cuts that would have fit seamlessly on the Animal House soundtrack. Toga! Toga! Toga!

It's hard enough finding bandmates who are in the same musical headspace as you. But when Ryan Policky formed the shoegazing Drop the Fear, he discovered that not only were his cohorts -- Gabriel Ratliffe and Sarah Marcogliese -- sympathetic sonic collaborators, they were also fellow filmmakers. Fittingly, the trio's eponymous debut comes with a DVD featuring a self-produced documentary called Questioning Fear. Shot during a road trip across the West, it captures the responses of random passersby when asked what they fear the most -- with profound, occasionally chilling results. More than just the album's wallpaper, the DVD is an arresting experience all by itself.

Blues aficionados from Colorado and beyond know Eddie Turner best for his contributions to many of Otis Taylor's recordings. Yet as Rise demonstrates, he's also a fine frontman, with an expressive voice and guitar skills that blast through genre boundaries as if they were nonexistent -- which, in his mind, they are. The disc was produced by Kenny Passarelli, another longtime Taylor ally, and the sound on cuts such as "Resurrection" and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" is stunning: deep, eerie and evocative.

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