Wildermiss at the 2018 Westword Music Showcase.Danielle Lirette
When considering the best Denver pop acts of 2018, we had to consider what distinguishes “pop” from all the other music genres. The answer? Nothing, really, since these days, pop music — what you might hear on mainstream, general audience radio stations — isn’t one agreed-upon sound. The acts that populate this list contain elements of psychedelic rock, garage rock, R&B, hip-hop, avant-garde, disco, punk and much more. Yet none of them adhere to genre restrictions — say, the pedal steel and storytelling required of country music — and instead have fun churning influences into irrepressible melodic mixtures. Perhaps the only criteria of true pop is something all of these acts meet: They write songs that get stuck in your head.
In alphabetical order, here are ten of Denver’s best pop acts of 2018:
The alt-rock synth-pop band has been a favorite of Denver radio stations like 93.3 since it broke on the scene in 2014. The quartet has thrived both in Denver and beyond, landing an opener slot on tour with Saint Motel and delivering energetic performances across the country. This year, Brennan Johnson and crew expanded their audience with a set at the inaugural Grandoozy festival. The suit-clad group is planning to kick off 2019 on a different note: unplugged, in a rare acoustic set at Third & James Studio.
After a nearly eight-year break, Dressy Bessy returned in 2016 with Kingsized and has been ramping up energy ever since. The twenty-year power-pop veterans have wielded influence on fizzy garage-pop acts like Tacocat, Bleached and even local band the Corner Girls, but Tammy Ealom and company are as present and urgent as ever. Dressy Bessy’s seventh album is slated for release in 2019, and its candy-coated guitar pop encourages you to hum along as you rage.
Nineteen-year-old Elina Odnoralov began performing under the name Iolite in 2016, and within months was a finalist for 93.3’s Hometown for the Holidays competition. She then moved to Nashville to jump-start her career as a singer-songwriter, gaining success licensing her songs for use in commercials and penning songs for pop artists. In November 2018, Odnoralov was carjacked and then shot, the bullet passing through her torso but miraculously missing vital organs and bones. She’s been recuperating with family in Denver and continuing to make music; latest single “Lonely Bodies” is indicative of her exceptional, evolving dance pop with striking lyrics, a natural way with a hook, and dark sophistication that recalls Lorde.
Lifelong Denverite Kayla Marque weaves her personal experiences — with heartbreak, anxiety, sex, whatever — with sensual grooves, heartfelt vocals and musical cues from folk to soul, indie rock to hip-hop. Voted Denver’s favorite singer-songwriter at the 2018 Westword Music Awards, Marque has been juggling multiple jobs while performing in town.
The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms released their sophomore album Dry Heave the Heavenly this year, building on the eerie, genre-defying pop sound that first garnered them an attentive audience. Singer and ukulele player Harmony Rose, keyboardist Blair Larson and beatboxer and vocalist Michelle Rocqet all contribute to the band’s distinctive sound: innovative, eclectic, poetic, fragile yet fierce.
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