Best Home-Recorded Album 2017 | Darkmoonwhiteout, Pale Sun | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Jeff Suthers makes magic in his home recording studio. He recorded there as Bright Channel, which strongly influenced Denver's shoegaze and psychedelic scene, and has opened the space up to groups like Volplane, Orbiteer and Pteranodon. One of the most arresting albums to come from his studio — last year's Darkmoonwhiteout, from Suthers's new group, Pale Sun — taps into daydreams, deep emotions and a sense of wonder, proving that homemade is, indeed, better.

Travis Sturm has established himself as the go-to guy for live visuals in Denver's experimental music scene. An industrial- and experimental-electronic musician himself, Sturm creates visual representations of music where others might just hear a tune. Armed with a projection machine, he's worked in DIY spaces, warehouses, bars and movie theaters, easily adapting to each space. Sturm has focused mostly on experimental music, but we hope 2017 brings opportunities to expand his art beyond the niche scene and into a wider variety of musical events.

Barely a year old and already pushing boundaries,105.5 FM The Colorado Sound has embraced a refreshing music-for-many-tastes mentality. From just-released tracks to classic hits, local musicians to global artists, this nonprofit, KUNC-affiliated FM station isn't afraid to take chances with its programming; the Talking Heads, Lumineers, James Brown and the XX all find a home on 105.5. Familiar voices from the state's vast radio landscape can be found here, too, including Ron Bostwick and Keefer, who are just some of the bright personalities lighting up the station. In a time when major-player stations rely on monotonous, recycled playlists, The Colorado Sound is a welcomed entity that makes the FM dial a better place for discerning listeners.

From the moment he opens his show with the gleeful announcement that it is "lunchtime at the Oasis!" it's clear: Arturo Gómez is the best — and happiest — voice on Colorado's airwaves. Each weekday afternoon from 12 to 1 p.m., the disc jockey lays down classic-, modern- and Latin-jazz cuts, peppered with his own deep knowledge of musicians' backstories and the history behind each track. The award-winning music director's influence and experience can be heard all over KUVO's many genre-bending shows. But it's his genuine on-air enthusiasm for the music and his insightful, informative commentary between songs that captures what the nonprofit radio station is all about: jazz. This colorful state is home to one of the few remaining all-jazz stations in the country — with a unique emphasis on local jazz artists, too — and Gómez is an integral part of what keeps KUVO fresh, relevant and enjoyable to listen to.

Debajo del Agua's members hail from all over Latin America, and the dance-inspiring music the group makes is as diverse as it is fun. Mixing hip-hop with Andean folk music, salsa, reggae, samba and reggaetón, the outfit is known for its energetic live shows and its political messages, delivered in multiple languages. The band has plans to release an album this year; watch for the single "Mundo Al Revés" to drop soon.

Grande Orquesta Navarre — pianist Sara Parkinson, double-bassist Susan Cahill, bandoneon and cello player Evan Orman, and Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka on accordion and violin — mostly performs classical pieces. But the group manages to find fascinating selections that fit its lively and versatile performance style. When it played Baur's Listening Lounge last December, the Orquesta's unamplified performance enhanced the intimacy of the show. Grande Orquesta Navarre takes relatively obscure classical music, infuses it with tango and delivers it in a cabaret-style presentation, making it exciting again. In an era when everyone has seen and heard everything, this foursome feels fresh.

Led by avant-trumpet player extraordinaire Joshua Trinidad, GoStar explores the boundaries of jazz improvisation and soundscaping. Far from being purists, Trinidad and the rest of GoStar's extraordinary players turn out improvisations that take listeners on an imaginative ride. The music even dips into the visionary psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix at his best. The force and energy of a GoStar performance sustains levels of excitement you won't find at most avant-garde jazz shows.

Bobby Crane, Cory Helie, Kevin O'Brien and Sam Tallent are local comedy veterans who have toured together and helped build Denver's comedy scene into something respected beyond our city's limits. They are also big music fans who shared a love for unconventional punk and punk-influenced bands like Dead Boys, Gun Club and Reatards. Big City Drugs could have been yet another example of an ill-advised endeavor ventured upon by artists in a different realm of creativity. But the group was undeniably good from the beginning, and its 2016 debut EP, Human Cargo, proved that BCD has much to offer beyond its frantic, riveting live shows.

Nearly 25 years into its existence, Slim Cessna's Auto Club could have rested on its laurels while recording its latest album, The Commandments According to SCAC. Considered an institution of the local music scene and all but appointed a torchbearer of the so-called Denver sound, the group probably felt a lot of pressure to deliver the familiar — or something completely different. But rather than burst free from who it is entirely, SCAC wrote an album that capitalizes on what it does best while imbuing each song with a spirit and luminosity that sounds like a new chapter. If earlier albums established the Auto Club's reputation as an important Denver band, The Commandments will hopefully carry the group into much wider circles.

Product Lust started in 2016 and has already earned some national acclaim. The band revives the post-punk spirit and injects hardcore with unconventional rhythms and a disruptive energy. Product Lust's stage shows are impossible to ignore: The act manages to make its music seem dangerous — even scary — with the sheer disorienting intensity of its performances. It's a refreshing reminder that music still has the power to inspire — and alienate.

Readers' Choice: The Bucktones

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