Brandi Homan's novel in fragments, Burn Fortune, is proof that small presses are still putting out some of the best literature available in today's market. The piecemeal format isn't the only inventive move that Homan makes in this story of a sixteen-year-old girl trying to survive in the 1990s Midwest with a dysfunctional family, an abusive boyfriend and the cornfield world spinning around them all. The poetic voice, the first-person narrator, the vibrant world built in minimalist but thorough style — it all culminates in a focused and sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers breathless.

Like most cities, Denver has suffered from cutbacks in arts and culture writing. But a new generation of art critics is emerging and taking on the daunting task of launching publications and bringing a critical eye to the city's arts scene. Run by Genevieve Waller, DARIA, which stands for Denver Art Review Inquiry and Analysis, has recruited a diverse cast of emerging culture writers to pen smart criticism about Denver's gallery scene. Along with stalwarts like Mary Chandler, a longtime arts writer for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, this emerging pool of critics is filling a gap in the city's cultural coverage, regularly online and quarterly in print.

dariamag.com

Jennifer Wortman's collection is a jubilant celebration of both language and love in all their forms. The thirteen stories that make up This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. are bites of nourishing literary foodstuff that both impress and satisfy; the prose is at once smooth and strong, luxurious and striking. The characters will draw you in, make you laugh, make you cringe and make you think. And you'll thank them for the journey they take you on as a reader — every surefooted or stumbling step.

When Deer Pile, the empty room above City, O' City that hosted everyone from crusty folksingers to Dave Chappelle, closed in 2018, organizers threw their energy into Birdy, the stylish literary magazine they'd launched back in 2014. Continuing the tradition of celebrating all manner of Denver culture, fiction and art (and occasionally work from far beyond), Birdy has become a staple of the scene. When you're lucky enough to find one out in public, it's free. And Birdy is not just a great read filled with gorgeous art; it's also collectible. Jonesing for past issues? Buy them online at the mag's website.

birdymagazine.com

Normally, a Colorado-themed board game would fall under the categories of "tacky" and "touristy." But this year, while we're stuck inside dreaming of all the things vacationers dream of once they've come and gone from our great state, we finally understand the appeal of Colorado-Opoly. Visit Colorado Ski Country from the safety of our homes? Sure! Hoard green chili (spelled that way in the game) without going to the grocery store? You bet! Visit Rocky Mountain National Park in our pajamas? Absolutely! Order a copy and play with your friends, whether you're trapped in the same house or just a video chat away.

lateforthesky.com

Half Past Fate, made for Nintendo and PCs by Boulder's Serenity Forge Games, is a charming rom-com adventure rendered in 3-D pixel-art graphics. The story follows six people over the course of eight years through the twists and turns of fate as they all find love. Half Past Fate creates a heartwarming world where couples help a stranger change a flat tire or eat a perfect bowl of spicy ramen. This single-player game is social-distancing-approved, and is a much better alternative for digital romance than endlessly swiping on Tinder.

serenityforge.com

The sounds of a laughing crowd offer a reprieve from cabin fever. Lonesome listeners will find guffaws, groans and chortles in abundance on A Boatload of Jokes, the debut standup album from local comedian Zach Reinert. A one-liner wunderkind with a comedic fixation on DUIs, imaginary dead family members, and the cinematic oeuvre of M. Night Shyamalan, Reinert packs his filler-free hour with an onslaught of hilarious misdirects, grim surprises and unexpected wordplay, pausing only for quick comments or to allow peals of laughter to reverberate through the audience. Recorded late last year at the Denver Comedy Underground, a performance space in the basement of the Irish Snug, Reinert's debut is a testament to what the Denver comedy scene can achieve. A Boatload of Jokes is available on streaming services, including Apple, Amazon and Spotify; visit orcd.co/zach to start listening now.

orcd.co/zach

Discovering new music is one of the great joys of life. The DJs at Colorado Public Radio's Indie 102.3, formerly known as OpenAir, have mastered the art of recommending new music from around the world to Front Range listeners. Whether they're playing the new or the nostalgic, the DJs at Indie know how to put together a playlist. From cheeky new collections like "COVID Dance Break" and "Social Isolation With You," to tried-and-true compilations like the monthly "Waking Life" and "Especial Favoritas," Indie playlists are sure to introduce you to new tunes and remind you of old ones you've loved and forgotten. Follow Indie 102.3 on Spotify, or stream music online at cpr.org/indie.

cpr.org/indie

Denver has a reputation for being cheery, sporty, sunny and high. What's often forgotten is that the city also has one of the nation's fiercest metal scenes. Blood Incantation, one of the most nationally celebrated Colorado death-metal acts, has been ravaging speakers for half a decade, creating eardrum-splitting soundtracks for brutal times. The group's sprawling four-song EP, Hidden History of the Human Race, is one of the latest and angriest records — an epic, mythical origin story about how humans came from Mars after that planet's ecosystem collapsed. Celebrated by Pitchfork and landing on plenty of end-of-year best-album lists, Blood Incantation's latest is an urgent listen.

darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com

From Jeremiah Fraites’s first melancholy piano lines on “Donna” to the barn-burner sing-along chorus led by Wesley Schultz in “Gloria,” the songs on the Lumineers’ III paint a sprawling portrait of several generations of a family wrangling with addiction. Inspired by the musicians’ own relatives’ tragic struggles with drugs and alcohol, the project, accompanied by a series of music videos, is the Lumineers’ greatest, most cohesive artistic statement to date. While the band may still be best known for its breakout song “Ho Hey,” its past two albums, Cleopatra and III, have proven that the group is more than just a foot-stomping, feel-good Americana act that fills stadiums.

thelumineers.com

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