Music News

Denver's best music releases of 2011

It's that time again, when we reflect on all of our favorite local releases from the past twelve months — the ones that garnered the most time on our individual playlists. Once again, the Mile High City had absolutely no shortage of compelling releases from across a wide variety of genres. As a result, we had no trouble whatsoever coming up with a comprehensive list. Truth is, we had a far more difficult time figuring out who would get to write about what. After sorting through all our picks, here are our favorite albums from 2011 — at least the ones we had room to highlight (stop by for more).

A Shoreline Dream, Losing Them All to This Time (Latenight Weeknight Records). This album is the perfect balance of organic textures, melodic hooks and drifting, luminous atmospheres. The band branches into wider territories with Middle Eastern rhythms on songs like "Marrakech," and the alloy of electronic composition and expansive rock soundscaping is further solidified on tracks like "Fault 67" and "London." — Tom Murphy

A. Tom Collins, Oh No! (Pygmy Mountain Music). The stylistic scope of the tracks on Oh No! is the album's most impressive feature. Seamlessly incorporating New Orleans horn lines, grizzled vocals and dexterous stand-up bass melodies, the release benefits from a dizzying array of influences. Aaron Collins's lyrical musings may owe a lot to Tom Waits, but it's the band's supplementary shout-outs to styles ranging from ragtime to blues that make the album special. — A.H. Goldstein

Accordion Crimes, Songs to Drive Wives Away (Cash Cow Productions). With shouty vocals, lumbering bass lines and frenetic guitars, Accordion Crimes dials back the clock to the zenith of the post-hardcore era on Songs to Drive Wives Away (mastered by Bob Westin of Shellac) while still sounding completely relevant today. A bracing listen. — Dave Herrera

Achille Lauro, Low Cha-Cha (Hot Congress). Low Cha-Cha may be much briefer than 2010's Indiscretions, but the EP's tunes offer just as much energy and freshness as that watershed release from Achille Lauro. Both the title track and "Hands of Sand" hint at new directions for one of Denver's most compelling outfits, with the infusion of Latin rhythms and a new use of samples and contours from frontman Matthew Close. — Goldstein

Action Friend, For You the World (Pelvic Thrust). This album is what you might get if Brion Gysin were set loose in the studio after preliminary recordings were done, to cut and splice to his heart's content — and the resulting tracks were then re-learned and re-recorded by the band: a fully realized, jazzy art-rock album with stylistic nods to Naked City and Mr. Bungle. — Murphy

Air Dubai, Day Escape (Self-released). Day Escape, Air Dubai's six-song followup to last year's Wonder Age, produced by Sylvia Massy (Tool), contains the outfit's most polished songs to date. As they continue to progress as songwriters, Julian Thomas and Jon Shockness have forged a stronger chemistry with each other and their bandmates, who are in dependably fine form here. — Herrera

Alphabets, Pirate Life, Co Ed, Sunpowr3, Wet Dollar$, Spooky Sports Mixtape (Self-released). The entity known as Alphabets is a fluctuating collaboration between Colin Ward and Stephan Herrera, with the majority of the duo's glorious and prolific synthesized output coming from Ward. Like a never-ending flow of Ward's glittery thoughts transcribed by Korg, each primal track and mixtape varies in emotive speed and texture. An expert percussionist, Ward manipulates and tames his glitches and tones to suit all moods while sometimes giving his subtle voice a chance to shine. — Bree Davies

Bad Weather California, Demos and Live Takes for the Fans (St. Ives). How this band manages to be jammy while completely avoiding jam cliches is still a mystery. But the westward-facing punks noodle and slide and shout over a seamless and stable rhythm section that never lets the groove wander. Demos and Live Takes encapsulates the best part of BWC: the strength in bandleader Chris Adolph's call-and-response sing-alongs for the ages. — Davies

BLKHRTS, BLK S BTFL (Self-released). BLK S BTFL is one of best records of any genre this year. Driven by the progressive production of Yonnas Abraham, who flips samples of everything from pre-Joy Division Warsaw to Erasurehead, BLK is thoroughly engaging from beginning to end, thanks to the confident cadence of Abraham and the husky barks of his cohorts, Karma and FOE. A must-hear. — Herrera

Carmen Sandim Sextet, Brand New (Dazzle Recordings). Recorded live at Dazzle, Brand New showcases ten of pianist and composer Carmen Sandim's outstanding works, some sprawling and others complex, which all primarily draw from jazz but also incorporate influences from Western classical and her native Brazil. The songs also work as vehicles for some fine soloing from trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Matt Fuller and saxophonist Danny Meyer. — Jon Solomon