Music News

Denver's best music releases of 2011

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Catch Lungs, Awake in a Dream (LaGalerieDeMusique). As a member of Fresh Breath Committee, Catch Lungs has always shown promise, but here he shines brightly as a monster MC in his own right, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the album's bold-faced features, One Be Lo, Elzhi, Guilty Simpson and Blu. — Herrera

Churchill, Happy/Sad (Self-released). Happy/Sad is a gorgeously constructed, folk-based album that pivots on the measured melodies of Tim Bruns, Michael Morter and Bethany Kelly and their ruminations on the monumental fleeting moments of love and the romanticism attached. Mellifluous and melancholic in equal measure, Happy/Sad is aptly titled. — Herrera

Collapse, Collapse (Self-released). Given the prodigious pedigrees of this band's members on paper, it seemed there was no way this project could be anything less than mind-blowing. Sure enough, led by the stupifying fretwork of Zac Joe (Cephalic Carnage), the menacing growl of Ben Pitts (To Be Eaten) and the furious drumming of Eric Brown (Vale of Pnath), Collapse delivered the best metal album of the year. — Herrera

The Conjugal Visits, Pet Snakes (Self-released). While other bands can only aim to seem rough around the edges, the Conjugal Visits really are. Here the Colorado Springs quartet takes the squandered rawness of garage rock and makes it new again. "No Ghosts" is cartoonish and gnarly, cut with bloodcurdling screams and a ton of crash and ride. The only thing that makes this record better is that it was written and recorded at the band's home, Wiener Demon Castle. — Davies

Ian Cooke, Fortitude (Self-released). With Fortitude, the eagerly anticipated followup to The Fall I Fell, Ian Cooke has managed to craft an album that's even more impressive than his auspicious, universally lauded debut. The arrangements tend to be more adventurous, with pleasing prog-rock passages bolstered by Cooke's distinctive vocals, which are even more expressive here. — Herrera

CougarPants, CougarPants (Self-released). Though an "unofficial" release by this fairly new two-piece, CougarPants' 2011 tour-only EP was too awesome not to mention. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Robin Walker is a force: From underneath layers of watery effects pedals and the rough pickings of a ukulele, her voice comes through like the tattered echo from a tin can. The Pants' other half, Jessica Hughes, has an equally permeating presence on these home recordings, a combination of smiling vocal undertones and haphazardly perfect drumming, fitting like a puzzle piece to Walker's every breathy step. — Davies

D.Girl, Mascara Music Vol. 1 (Self-released). Strictly for the ladies (and the fellas who want to understand the ladies), Mascara Music Vol. 1 finds D.Girl representing hard as nails with themes of independence, sexually explicit lyrics and bad-girl attitude. She tells the boys exactly how she likes it on tracks like "From the Back," and her confidence grows with every lyric she spits, proving the young rapping mistress can't be stopped. — Ru Johnson

Deca, The Veil (Self-released). Propelled by some stellar production and Deca's wicked wordplay and compelling cadence — what he has to say is every bit as captivating as how he says it — The Veil was one of the most rewarding hip-hop listens of the year. Although the MC's travels have taken him to L.A. and NYC, he still has strong Denver ties. — Herrera

The Don'ts and Be Carefuls, Sun Hits (Hot Congress). Sun Hits finds the Don'ts and Be Carefuls playing an utterly exhilarating and vibrant brand of indie pop filled with fuzzed-out bass lines, billowing synths and crystalline vocals that pierce through the mix like beams of sunshine through a blanket of clouds. — Herrera

Dovekins, Alive (Self-released). Dovekins brings a gleeful and giddy energy to its live shows, a frenetic feel that was missing from its freshman release a few years ago. The band's first live album captures all of the chaos, humor and infectious abandon of a typical Dovekins show, and also spotlights the bandmembers' impressive musicianship. — Goldstein

En Stereo, En Stereo (Self-released). Mane Rok and Es-Nine's tribute to the DJ/MC collaboration is easily one of the year's hip-hop highlights. The joints have a strictly hip-hop vibe in both production and lyrics. Es-Nine does well as producer (he also did all the cuts and scratches for the project), and Mane Rok's verses are perfectly crafted around those beats. Be sure to check for Mane's verse on "Beast Mode," with Ichiban and Deca. — Johnson

Fierce Bad Rabbit, Live and Learn (Self-released). Fierce Bad Rabbit is one of the Front Range's most criminally underrated acts. And the quartet, led by Chris Anderson, just keeps getting better. Live and Learn, the three-song followup to Spools of Thread, contains some of the band's best material to date. — Herrera

Fingers of the Sun, Fingers of the Sun (Hot Congress). While many pop bands were stripping down their music and discovering the wonders of reverb, Fingers of the Sun focused on writing a richly varied psych-pop record. This album has surprisingly great musical depth, matched only by Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brasil's gift for vivid imagery and poetic turns of phrase. — Murphy

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