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.

The year 2004 was a very good one for electronic composer Tyler Potts. Beginning in January, he set out to record a new song every week, and not only did he stick to his Sisyphean schedule all the way through December, but the music he made over this span was consistently fascinating: imagistic electro-ruminations on his world and what was happening in it at that particular moment. The entire opus can be experienced at his website, www.tylerpotts.com, which is outfitted with an audio player that randomly plunges listeners into Potts's ambitious undertaking. It's a beautiful place to hang out.

Last December, this very publication saluted the new self-titled full-length by the Denver Gentlemen for several very good reasons. The group, led by the enigmatic Jeffrey-Paul Norlander, helped establish the gothic-roots sound that distinguished the Denver scene during the '90s, with former members going on to found 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna's Auto Club and the Kalamath Brothers. Moreover, the new songs stood among the band's best work, and they could be downloaded for free at www.denvergentlemen.com. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case: The tunes are now on discs for sale at area stores, and are well worth the purchase price. As consolation, the first Denver Gentlemen long-player, the equally stirring Introducing...the Denver Gentlemen, is now available on the site at no charge. Gentlemen, start your search engines.

Best Compilation Dedicated to a Demonic Dachshund

Halloweiner Dog

Forget vampires, mummies and werewolves. Last Halloween's most frightening spectacle was an evil dachshund flying on oversized bat wings, shooting death rays from a pair of black, lifeless eyes, transforming the Front Range into a smoking crater. Amusing cover art aside, Sparky the Dog's spooktastic holiday compilation was a fun, apple-bobbing affair cobbled together by Soapy Argyle, Matt Shupe, Brett Duesing, Andy Gross, Jeff Cohen and others from the homespun collective. Boasting fourteen tracks that range from "Booty Pirate" to "Decomposing Beethoven," Halloweiner Dog has a bark worse than its bite -- but don't ever look it in the eye if you want to live to see another footlong.

When Robert Eldridge decided to commit his acoustic wizardry to disc, he didn't bother with pricey studios. No, Eldridge simply went to an Einstein Bros. Bagel outlet, plugged a pick-up into his six-string and let 'er rip. Recorded live and expertly mastered by Desert Airport's Eric Shiveley, Eclectic and Mental Guitar Music finds Zeut's lead electric-guitarsmith alternating between ragtime, classical, blues, calypso and something he calls "schizophrenic flamenco." There's even the background noise of a lunchtime crowd. The only thing missing is lox and a shmear.

Denver's underground rock scene is boiling over right now -- and one of the individuals who's been dutifully stoking the fires is Dan Rutherford of Morning After Records (www.morningafterrecords.com). He envisioned the label while attending South by Southwest last year, and found the perfect flagship band when he got back to Colorado: the indie-pop sensation Hot IQs. The group's debut, An Argument Between the Brain and the Feet, was released in October, peaking at number 75 on the CMJ charts and snagging year-end accolades from local media. And the disc itself? Quite simply, one of the best albums to ever come out of Denver and a sign of great things to come.

Champions of unstructured sound collage and homemade instruments, Backwards Records is home to an array of adventurous laptop jockeys and electronically minded noise artists: Page 27, Blackcell, Robot Mandala, Haunted Sound Lab, Sporadik, Kuxann-Sum and Paraclude, among others. Surviving on the distant fringes of normalcy, the unsung label creates sounds as willfully edgy as they are impossible to pigeonhole. No wonder their motto is "Forward thinking, backwards living."

Best North-of-the-Border Label for Colorado Blues

NorthernBlues Music

Yes, NorthernBlues Music is based in Toronto, but it's got a soft spot for Colorado blues talent. The imprint has put out a number of Otis Taylor's finest efforts, including White African and Respect the Dead, and recently reached out to two other area bluesman: Eddie Turner, who released Rise last year, and Dan Treanor, whose collaboration with vocalist Frankie Lee, African Wind, is extremely impressive as well. O, Canada!

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