Best Playlists 2020 | Indie 102.3 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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

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.

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.

Jay Triiiple has been a hardworking, steady presence in Denver's hip-hop scene for the past few years, and her latest album, Change Over Dollars, is a perfect introduction to her gritty voice. Triiiple delivers smart, often funny lyrics, taking swings at inauthenticity, embracing lust, dodging the cops and paying homage to the community and its possibilities. She brings in talented local rapper A Meazy for a few bars and hook on "Energy," and also features Keenan TreVon on "Tell the Money." With throwback skits between songs and club-worthy beats, Change Over Dollars is a fun journey through the imagination of one of the city's greatest lyricists.

In an industry dominated by cis white male musicians, TúLips stands out. The band describes itself as a "colectivo of feminista, genre non-conforming, BIQTPOC in Denver full of queer glory"; all of its members identify as queer and trans people of color or black indigenous queer and trans people of color. The group's sound falls somewhere between Mexican pop rock and South American alternative folk, and its politically minded lyrics often chronicle the immigrant experience. "I'm both confined and without borders/I'm a floating entity with no roots/I am adrift/I am halved, cortada a la mitad."

Even before the current crisis, the electronic-music scene in this city had been debating whether to embrace the mainstreaming of its music or try to hunker down in the underground and keep rave culture alive. Along the way, Denver-based site Beatport has been doing the heroic work of documenting, selling and promoting all styles of electronic music, keeping today's DJs up to speed on all the changes going on in the style. For those floundering in the endless genres and subgenres, the site is one of the best places to bone up on the differences between hypnotic techno, psy-trance or nu disco. Does any of that matter? Get to listening and decide for yourself.

Live concerts have been shut down, but many musicians still want to play for a crowd. National artists like the Indigo Girls, Willie Nelson and Blake Shelton have put on blockbuster live streams, and now Colorado music promoters and musicians are starting up online festivals. One of the most energetic is the Rocky Mountain Virtual Music Festival, a Friday night live-streaming performance by musicians that you can cheer in the privacy of your living room. Bands and musicians ranging from Andy Sydow to Elder Grown, Float Like a Buffalo and Future Joy have chipped in. There's an open call on the festival's Facebook page for future events.

For kids wanting to explore the fascinating world of classical music, Inside the Orchestra has provided educational concerts and opportunities, where kids see and hear firsthand what different instruments sound like. These days, without that as an option, the nonprofit has pivoted to offering online resources to kids and families with Outside the Orchestra. The programming includes plenty of activities, themed playlists, performance videos, STEAM experiments and more, which parents can use to keep their kids learning and occupied during turbulent times. These offerings have already reached more than 35,000 people in over 35 states, taking the group's work to a national audience.

Plenty of bands drop music videos. But few are as consistently quirky as Bolonium, which makes oddball songs and videos about meat. Now, vegans might not dig a musical group that seems endlessly obsessed with bologna — nor would anyone else who doesn't like looking at or thinking about sausage. But there is something special about a rock-and-roll band that refuses to be chained to earnestness, that breaks from every conventional subject matter, and that creates something heartily geeky to boot. So if you're looking to spend a little more than an hour bingeing on the weirdest of Denver, don't miss Bolonium's Snacktacular series.

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