Every year, Denver delivers up worthy new bands in various genres, or non-genres, and this past year has been especially rich in that regard. In a future list, perhaps we can include artists like Born Dumb, Herse, Jimmy V, Julien, Bag, Total Goth, Silver Face, eHpH, Never Kenezzard and PterrorFractyl, among others, but for now, here is a list, in alphabetical order, of twelve of the best bands to have emerged onto the Denver underground scene in this past year.
Zach Bahn is still in high school, but is somehow making sophisticated and creative EDM. Although he uses the usual production methods, he also incorporates his interest in percussion through the live use of xylophones, setting him apart from merely headphone-wearing, space-bar-pressing DJs.
Singer Bobby Crane, bassist Cory Helie, guitarist Kevin O'Brien and drummer Sam Tallent are all comedians by trade. But Big City Drugs is the kind of band that reminds you that there's more to punk than just worshipping some past sound. This band has the kind of attitude, energy and creativity worthy of its influences.
Someone is calling this group a “death rock” band, and that's probably the closest, all-encompassing way to give you some idea of what Cloak of Organs sounds like. The pedigree of the band alone will garner some attention: Chuck French and Neil Keener of Planes Mistaken for Stars and Woven Hand, Andrew Warner of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Red Cloud, former Red Cloud guitarist and Hugo Award-winning author Jason Heller, and Jennie Mather of the Nervous. But to the group's credit, it's not resting on those laurels, and its moody, commanding, dynamic music will make a name for itself.
9. False Cathedrals
The metallically tinged post-hardcore of False Cathedrals finds former members of Humble Ary and To Be Eaten breaking down the barriers between grind and melodic hardcore in glorious fashion.
Trey Tafoya can often be found playing drums in déCollage, but his guitar-and-drums duo Ghoulfriend truly takes the guitar beyond its conventional uses — not just with processed sound, but in the way Tafoya deconstructs methods of playing the instrument and infuses it with a theatrical live performance.
Jane Doe makes the kind of post-punk that was more or less started by the Birthday Party — dark, harrowing and emotionally explosive. Vocalist Becca Mhalek last fronted a band nearly ten years ago — the noise-rock outfit MVP — but mostly she's known as a kind of prodigy as a free-jazz, hard-bop saxophonist. Drummer Sara Miller and bassist Harmony Fredere last played together in experimental punk band Dangerous Nonsense. But with this project, all three — along with their guitarist Jesse — may have formed their best project to date.
Read on for six more of Denver's best new bands.
Jon Mulville doesn't live in Denver full-time, but his ambient, modular synth project Paperbark has found a home in the experimental music world here. The new Paperbark record, Forgotten Narratives, came out on Black Box Tapes, Sole's imprint, in February 2016.
Vocalist/guitarist Reed Bruemmer and singer/bassist Mike Howard are longtime veterans of the Denver punk and metal scenes, and when they decided to start a new band with their friends guitarist Nick Santa Maria and drummer Darren Kulback, it was just supposed to be an excuse for them to get together and do something fun. Musically, it's right out of that Midwest punk and garage rock delivered by New Bomb Turks and the Stooges.
This noisy post-punk band has an uncommon level of wild energy. No surprise, as Ian Ancelin plays guitar in this band, and his Iwakura bandmate Kat Plank plays bass. Fronting the band is Kat Salvaggio, whose raw energy and confrontational delivery of distilled rage at society's various ills is downright electrifying.
No shocker that Luke Fairchild, Joe Ramirez and Arj Narayan would start a heavy noise-rock band. And no surprise that the music pretty much lives up to a name that suggests crushing experiences in grimy locales. And if that doesn't sound appealing for some reason, Pueblo Escobar is also a great, high-energy rock-and-roll band.
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We've seen the two-piece rock-and-roll outfit plenty of times in and out of Denver. But you can't help but be impressed by the raw enthusiasm and energy of this band on stage. Demi Demitro may be only nineteen, but if the band's showing at UMS 2016 is any indication, she plays with the confidence of a veteran and has the charisma to go along with it — not to mention some uncommonly inventive guitar work in what might otherwise be considered traditional rock music. Think the Kills without the electronics.
Experimental folk, ambient, dreamy soundscaping — it's all there with this band and its otherworldly presence. You see a guitar, you see electronic devices, and, yes, there is singing, but it all flows together like layers of filmy sound. More organic than a lot of ambient music, Yarrow feels like the kind of music that peaceful animist cultists might make.