When CEO Jonas Tempel brought Beatport into the world two years ago, no one knew how a DJ-oriented, online music vendor would fly. Over a million downloads later, it's clear that Beatport is more than a success story; it's a paradigm. And it just keeps getting better. With an ever-expanding catalogue of tracks from hundreds of labels, not to mention scores of exclusive cuts and mixes, Beatport also has package deals on current charts and celebrity playlists. Most important, the service just started offering downloads in uncompressed WAV files in addition to the standard MP3s -- a real boon for DJs who are feeding their hard drives through huge systems, where every bit counts. There are still improvements to be made, especially in light of recent price hikes. But Tempel and his team shouldn't have any problem keeping up with the electronic music download industry. After all, they put it on the map.
Regardless of how much time we all spend on the Internet, e-zines are fighting an uphill battle. Music fans have been conditioned by generations of hard-copy periodicals, both local and national, and the relative ease of throwing up an online zine ensures a crowded playing field. Stephen, Jonathan and Matthew Till are well aware of this -- which is why the siblings have poured so much sweat into making Japanimplosion! the most standout music website in town. Painstakingly designed, its vivid graphics and fun format (yup, you get to actually flip the pages) are a breath of fresh air. The writing is not what you'd call excessively pro, but that's its strength; there are enough wannabe Pitchfork blowhards in the world. Japanimplosion! is the sound of the Denver scene reporting intimately on itself -- and if we're lucky, it will inspire many more Denverites to pick up pen (or mouse) and carry on the Tills' tradition.
Tom Murphy is everywhere. You can't turn around without seeing him front and center at a local rock show, absorbing sounds and impressions -- data that he relays to All Need Is Music. Founded in 2003, the thick, photocopied zine is nearly encyclopedic in scope, with comprehensive interviews of Denver bands that sometimes run to dozens of pages. Underpinning his knack for pure information, though, is a consuming passion for Colorado music; in fact, he's currently working on a book that will document its history from 1976 to today. Where others skim the surface, Murphy digs deep -- and in doing so, renders All Need Is Music the bible (or at least the Big Takeover) of the Denver rock scene.
Dan Rutherford has been one frenzied individual during the past year. On the heels of his successful debut release, Hot IQs' An Argument Between the Brain and the Feet, he unleashed the Photo Atlas's No, Not Me, Never -- and proved that the excellence of his Morning After Records was no fluke. Both discs wound up charting on CMJ and led to national press and slots at South by Southwest for the bands this year. But Rutherford has more than marketing savvy. The young entrepreneur knows how to exhibit guts, passion and integrity in an industry prone to bring out the worst in businesspeople and artists alike. In essence, Morning After embodies many of the best qualities of the Denver indie scene today: hard work, honesty, and a down-to-earth yet infectious self-confidence. With new signee Born in the Flood joining the fold, Morning After might just wake up soon to find itself a national player.
Sure, it could be easily argued that all local indie labels are DIY. But the ethos of do-it-yourself are more than just an economic necessity for Still Soft Recordings -- they're its entire raison d'etre. Patterned after national imprints like K and States Rights, Still Soft is the brainchild of Nicholas Houde and Kara Jorge, whose respective bands, Transistor Radio Sound and teamAWESOME!, anchor the label's roster. Also on board are outfits like Mannequin Makeout, Hunter Dragon, Naked Sound and Tetris Art Project, which combine various shades of shaky folk and slipshod electronics for a joyous noise that needs neither widespread attention nor hipster cred to justify itself. With handmade packages and a preference for small, all-ages venues, Still Soft and its constituents aren't just keeping it real -- they're keeping it right.
Founded in the sweltering summer months of 2001, Ash From Sweat Records is a labor of love for brothers Dan and Dennis Phelps. The little label brought big-city DIY to Wheat Ridge, creating a post-hardcore insurrection hub in a most unlikely neighborhood. Since the first few releases were issued on vinyl and cassette, Ash From Sweat products have become punk-rock Martha Stewart masterpieces, characterized by elaborate handmade covers and inserts created by graphic designer/friend Ryan Nee. And although the label has moved to Denver, its growing roster of bands -- including Bailer, Humble Ary, To Be Eaten and My Calculus Beats Your Algebra -- is sure to keep things down-home and good.
Not Bad Records is getting old. Its logo of a fat guy chomping down on a vinyl record has been a stamp on the local scene for almost a decade. The label -- run by Chuck Coffey and Don Bersell -- has been home to some of the town's favorite (but now defunct) punk wonders like Qualm, Pinhead Circus and the Gamits. Also housing many of Coffey and Bersell's own musical projects, Not Bad is a family unit that treats its bands as more than just catalogue numbers. Coffey is the kind of guy who will not only press your record, but also pass out fliers for your show and help you book a tour; hell, he'd probably fill in for your drummer/guitarist if needed. In recent years, the label has branched out to include rock-and-roll cousins Red Cloud West and the recently broken-up Call Sign Cobra. With new releases from Machine Gun Blues and Big Timber already out this year, Not Bad is looking pretty not bad for its age.
Bryan Feuchtinger...Bryan Feuchtinger. Where have you heard that name before? Most likely in the same breath as Hot IQs, the band he plucks the bass guitar in. But there's an even better chance you've run across his moniker in the liner notes of a local CD. Over the past couple of years, Uneven Studio -- a cluster of equipment ensconced in Feuchtinger's modest City Park West house -- has exploded, resulting in stellar recordings from such varied Denver luminaries as the Photo Atlas, Signal to Noise, the Symptoms, d.biddle, Thank God for Astronauts, Ginkins and Hot IQs themselves. The secret? Uneven is inexpensive, hands-on and homey, and Feuchtinger has a natural way of steering bands toward that great sound they've got lurking inside of them. There are a million studios in town bigger and better-equipped -- but none with as much heart or as impressive a recent track record.
Like a time-release capsule of clinical-grade dopamine, Ten Cent Redemption's Worst Plan Ever gets infinitely better with each listen. Americana with tinges of Brit-pop texture, Ten Cent's songs ache and twang with equal abandon and make you forget about the bandmembers' past affiliations -- a remarkable feat when you consider the act's substantial collective DNA. Although "Somewhere in Between" -- on which frontman Rhett Lee thoughtfully pays homage to his previous band, Carolyn's Mother -- is the album's de facto centerpiece, there's no shortage of other stellar cuts, among them "Set Closer," "Bring Your Gun" and "Already Raining," which Lee wrote as his wife was lying in a hospital bed. Redemption has never sounded so good.
If there's a single document that nails the most striking highlights of Denver's burgeoning hip-hop scene, this is it. Despite its title, Low Budget Soul sounds like it cost a fortune to produce. It's all the more stunning, then, to discover that it was birthed in a cramped bedroom studio in east Denver. Produced and assembled by the RRAAHH Foundashun's Dent and Solpowa, the disc showcases some of the Front Range's most talented MCs -- Apostle, ManeRok, Brown Bombers, the Fly and Ground Zero Movement, among others -- in an assorted yet surprisingly integrated fashion. It's scary to think what this pair could produce with a larger budget.

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