BEST UP-AND-COMING BAND 2006 | (die) Pilot | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The band's members themselves might deny it with their dying breaths, but (die) Pilot's quirks are what make it so captivating. Unlike so many other bands trying to force vast Coldplay/Pink Floyd vistas through the tiny straw of indie rock, singer/guitarist Eugene Brown and crew allow just the right amount of creative tension and unfiltered soul to seep into their work. Radiation, Weather, Art, (die) Pilot's 2004 debut, showed overwhelming promise. The group's new lineup, which includes the odd yet otherworldly tones of full-time violinist Paul Jansen, is working on its sophomore disc. We'd bet on it being among the year's best when the dust settles on 2006.
How short Denver's collective memory can be. A mere decade ago, Painstake was the hardcore band in town to beat. But in 1998, the group (which counts Vaux guitarist Adam Tymn as an alum) went on hiatus -- a break that everyone, the group included, eventually assumed was permanent. Earlier this year, though, four of its five members found themselves in the same town and on the same page once more, and resurrected Painstake with singer Jaime Van Lanen. With a new sound that's even more progressive, complex and compelling, Painstake is set to strike fear -- and fire -- in the hearts of Denver's hardcore scene all over again.
Supergroups suck and should all die. Lucky for them, the members of Quadramess disown the "supergroup" tag, preferring the slightly more humble description "a bunch of has-beens." But really, they're being too hard on themselves. Featuring former players from Dressy Bessy, the Czars, Jux County and Hemi Cuda, among others (guitarist Devon Rogers alone has been in approximately 3,000 Denver bands), the band hasn't let its high-profile ancestry get in the way of making some huge, beautiful noise. In fact, as groups go, Quadramess is positively super.
Whatever you do, don't ask the members of your favorite group why they start side projects. The answer is always the same old cliche: "We have all these songs that don't fit with our main band, blah blah blah." The Wheel, however, means it. Nathaniel Rateliff, along with his Born in the Flood bandmate Joseph Pope, began the Wheel as an outlet for their slower and more somber material. Like a foot race against a fading pulse, the act's sketchy folk holds the power to both exhilarate and exhaust -- and within its rickety fencing, Rateliffe's voice is given ample acreage to roam, soar, sigh and sob. In fact, at its sleepiest and weepiest, the Wheel is better than Born in the Flood. Now all we need from the band is a CD. Now.
What happens when you scale a glacier? Let's see: You go blind from all the unfiltered sunlight glaring off the ice. Your patience and endurance are pushed to the precipice. Your muscles quiver and your blood runs cold. And then, as hypothermia sinks into your marrow, the eternal plane of whiteness all around you becomes disorienting, upending your sense of equilibrium until you wind up lost, prostrate and gushing crystal tears. All that's missing is an ideal soundtrack. Enter Across Tundras. The group's onslaught of Pleistocene pulverization is a polarizing experience. But love it or hate it, the trio sculpts one of the most singular and intense sounds Denver has ever heard. Recently picked up by the renowned avant-metal imprint Crucial Blast, Across Tundras is escalating its inexorable creep across the continent. Better retread those boots.
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.

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