Music News

Denver's best music releases of 2011

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Flashlights, Hidden Behind Trees (Self-released). Given the mechanized nature of synth-based music, there's often a sanitized resonance to it that, while tuneful, doesn't necessarily lend itself to soulfulness. On Hidden Behind Trees, Flashlights completely dismantles this notion with emotive vocals that levitate the swirling synth work. — Herrera

Foodchain, Brunch (Self-released). Brunch didn't come out until November, but it was well worth the wait. With impeccable beats crafted by in-house producer Mass Prod and Mo Heat, the group treated each track as an integral piece of the puzzle. On "Dear Industry," the guys make it clear to all within earshot that they've come to take the game over, a theme that carries over to the hook-friendly, tongue-in-cheek "Thirsty." Overall, the project is cohesive, creative and entertaining. — Johnson

Future Simple Project, Sacred Somethings (Self-released). On Sacred Somethings, Future Simple Project delivers an eerie clash of world music with a contemporary take on modern dubstep and bass. Just when you think one track might take you higher, the BPMs get taken down a notch, and you're back to weaving through dark tunnels of sound. — Britt Chester

Gauntlet Hair, Gauntlet Hair (Dead Oceans). The songs on this album are the audio equivalent of winter breaking and the hopeful rays of an early spring seeping in through the cloudy skies. Bringing together buoyant, ethereal melodies and hard-driving, dynamic percussion, this debut full-length is the culmination of the band's early sound, with hints of its future. — Murphy

Havok, Time Is Up (Candlelight). On Time Is Up, the followup to Burn, their excellent 2009 Candlelight Records debut, the men of Havok sound even more seasoned than before as they once again channel the best moments of the classic thrash era. These dudes play with such authority, precision and ferocity that you'd never know they were mere babies (or even born yet) when Reign in Blood was issued. — Herrera

Hearts in Space, Already Gone (Self-released). Sunny, wistful, whimsical and urgent in its emotional momentum, this first long-player from Hearts in Space is akin to fond reminiscences over old photographs by someone well into adulthood. These songs are essentially desert psych with emotionally vibrant vocals and an expansive spirit. — Murphy

Hindershot, It's Only Blood (Hot Congress). Hindershot's freshman EP draws from the collective memory and skill of longtime veterans of the Denver scene. Frontman Stuart Confer and fellow Hot Congress players bring their experiences to bear on It's Only Blood, a release that melds danceable rhythms with disturbing lyrical imagery and ominous guitar lines. There's accessibility here, but the disc also offers dark introspection and compositional depth that's revealed as a reward for many plays. — Goldstein

Hideous Men/Milton Melvin Croissant III, Laser Palace 13 split single (Laser Palace). In a perfect world, this sliver of a three-song split would be a full-on collaborative album, where Hideous Men and MMCIII's stars could align in a track-after-track realm of untouched earth, air and space pop. The former's uncanny ability to build out the traditionally hollow trance anthem into a modular emotional love ballad like "Sirens" is only complemented by the latter's straight-up ambience of "Starcraftz." — Davies

Houses, Winter (Self-released). Winter, the fourth and final installment of Houses' series of seasonally themed releases, is the darkest of the bunch. Although a pervasive chill permeates the album, the songs themselves come off as serene and uplifting rather than grim and dour. Listening to them is like marveling at freshly fallen snow from the safe confines of a rustic cabin, sitting in front of a roaring fire. — Herrera

Ideal Fathers, Retail Eyes (Self-released). Seething with a visceral outrage at the predations of the twin devils of corrupt corporate banking interests and international finance on the body politic of America and elsewhere, Retail Eyes is the first great political rock album out of Denver in the current decade. Unbridled post-punk fury burns with righteous inspiration. — Murphy

Il Cattivo, To Bring Low an Empire (126 Records). Bonding over a shared love of acts such as the Afghan Whigs, this murderers' row of musicians from Planes Mistaken for Stars, Black Lamb, TaunTaun, Machine Gun Blues and Ghost Buffalo plays a primal brand of rock that somehow manages to be more compelling than all of those acts combined. — Herrera

The Inactivists, The War on Jazz Hands (Self-released). On their fifth release, the Inactivists declare war on jazz hands by delving into a bunch of other genres. There's enough nerdy and comical art rock here to appease hard-core fans, and it's also quite obvious that if anyone's going to win the win the war on jazz hands, it'll be the Inactivists. — Solomon

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