Best Music Blog 2012 | Slicing Up Eyeballs | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Now in its third year, Matt Sebastian's Slicing Up Eyeballs has established itself as one of the best sources around, maybe in the world, for news about '80s college, modern and indie rock. The blog's name borrows from the Pixies song "Debaser" (which was inspired by Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel's film Un Chien Andalou), and there's a good chance that if there's any new Pixies news, or anything involving the likes of the Smiths, the Cure, Peter Murphy or New Order, it will be covered — and sometimes even broken — on Slicing Up Eyeballs.

40th Day was one of Denver's most popular alternative-rock acts from the late '80s through the mid-'90s. The band's earliest work was atmospheric post-punk reminiscent of an early haunted U2. But by the time James Nasi joined on bass, 40th Day was changing musical directions. The 1991 album Lovely Like a Snake brought its more ethereal melodies together with a hard-edged, almost industrial sound for what is arguably the group's best record. The outfit went through various singers, including Shawn Strub and Tammy Ealom, and broke up around 1996. But on February 9, 2012, Nasi — now writing music as I'm a Boy — got guitar prodigy Neil Satterfield to join him at Rockbar for a few classic 40th Day numbers to remind those present of the power of that music. A more full-fledged reunion can't be far behind.

Brian Smith and the Space Creators are on a roll. They took a chance in 2010, when they opened the doors at Wazee Union, the first of their growing empire of warehouses transformed into artist communities with affordable studio space. When that gamble turned out to be even more successful than they could have imagined, they moved forward with Walnut Workshop, another project right across the tracks from Wazee Union. And this past year the third cog in their growing empire, the Laundry on Lawrence, didn't just open its doors; it also introduced an expanded concept. In addition to continuing the cheap, dorm-like studio/office model featured in the first two locations, the Laundry also includes a dedicated gallery space; a performance venue called Work | Space that's already home to the LIDA Project and Control Group Productions; and even an inexpensive photography studio, Bleach, which can be rented by the day. Smith and his Space Creators can also be commended for upping their commitment to the RiNo neighborhood by sponsoring a monthly Makers & Doers networking meet-up and participating in the RiNo Yacht Club neighborhood beautification organization. It all adds up to an impressive example of how the business and art worlds can collaborate to make our city a better place. And, hey, guys, there are plenty of other empty warehouses in this town just waiting for a new coat of paint!

It's hard to recall a band in recent memory that made as much of an impression as Spires, a quartet that appeared quietly but instantly engaged us with its auspicious four-song debut, which was far too short for our tastes. Somehow the group's lush, atmospheric dream-pop sound — which has plenty in common with acts like the 77's and Slowdive, as Spires itself acknowledges — manages to be familiar enough that you can identify the well it draws from without it seeming like some blatant, carbon copy. Of all the year's new acts, Spires is the most promising.

Readers' Choice: Codec

As the head of Lotus Concepts, Francois Safieddine has carved out a niche in the Denver club scene with Suite Two Hundred, 24K and the Oak Tavern. His newest venture, Chloe, is a lot more than just a chic discotheque; it's also a lounge, and a restaurant that serves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Named after a fictitious jet-setting fashionista, the space definitely has a worldly feel, and the disco has a European vibe from floor to ceiling, as well as a 22-foot LED wall. Attracting its share of local celebrities and trendsetters, Chloe might just be the most stylish spot in town.

Readers' Choice: Chloe Discoteque and Mezze Lounge

Tucked into the artist studios above City, O'City, the Deer Pile is the latest venture in the Dan Landes empire, which stretches from vegetarian restaurants to a resort in Mexico to an urban farm in Lakewood. The Deer Pile — named after an inexplicable mural of a giant pile of deer — is devoted to showcasing a wide variety of programs, everything from late-night comedy to (quieter) concerts, lectures and the like. The emphasis is often on countercultural topics, and admission is all donation-based. Not only are these programs a bargain, but they're open to all ages — which means the Deer Pile fills a definite void in Denver.

Though these days Boulder is mostly high-tech ventures and other moneyed interests mixed in with the university, remnants of the best part of its hippie past remain in place. Chrysalis Co-op is as its name implies: a communal living space where people not only live together, but grow food and share ideas and creative ventures. The co-op has also reached out to the community well beyond Boulder to host events, including avant-garde musical performances and poetry readings. By sharing food with everyone involved in the performances as well as the building's inhabitants, the good people of Chrysalis provide a unique and intimate experience, the spirit of which infuses every happening hosted. While not as active as a more traditional DIY venue, this place has been an oasis of underground art in Boulder.

Unit E got started when the guys from Rubedo and some friends rented out part of a building so that they could have a gallery and a place to hold shows and have complete control of the environment. It has since grown into the kind of place where underground bands of all stripes play alongside art shows, all reflecting the good and wide-ranging tastes of its curators. The clean, intimate venue bridges the gap between a warehouse space and smaller bars. You might not always know what you're in for when you go there, but it will always be worth your while.

The showpiece of Create Denver Week is the Create Denver Expo, a nuts-and-bolts day of workshops, business resources and networking hosted by Arts & Venues Denver (the city department that resulted from last year's merger of the Division of Theatres and Arenas and the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs) specifically for local creative types — but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't get involved, too. That's because Create Denver Week is also a vibrant urban showcase during which the creative community shares cultural experiences with the entire city, through a series of parties, art exhibits, video, concerts, markets and lectures given over the four-day event. Not only is it all about creativity and interactivity — from video screenings in the streets to fashion shows in alleys — but it's also an active window into what's happening in venues all over town. Don't miss this year's celebration, scheduled for May 10 through May 13, 2012.

Readers' Choice: The Big Eat

Though it appears to be on the front lawn of the new Clyfford Still Museum, "For Jennifer" is actually on land owned by the Denver Art Museum, which also owns the fabulous Joel Shapiro sculpture. A signature Shapiro, the 32-foot-tall, dazzling blue piece is a cross between minimalism and representation, with the rectilinear metal bars economically brought together in such a way as to suggest a woman dancing. And that woman is the late Jennifer Moulton, the planning director during Wellington Webb's administration who envisioned the Civic Center Cultural Complex. Moulton never saw her vision come to fruition; she died in 2003, before the DAM's Hamilton Building had been built and before the History Colorado museum and the Clyfford Still had even been conceived. But it's fitting to have an ad hoc memorial to her located in the middle of it all. And a stunning memorial it is.

Readers' Choice: "Cloudscape," Christopher Lavery

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