Moovers and Shakers 2007

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Earlier this year, I marveled at how my entire iPod playlist was devoted exclusively to the music made here. That was back in February, and considering that we were only two months into the new year, that might've seemed like a moment of breathless hyperbole. At the time, the ink was still drying on our Moovers and Shakers 2006 list, but I was already utterly consumed by three new local albums.

This wasn't a new trend, either: There's been so much amazing music produced here over the past few years that I truly haven't been interested in listening to much of anything else.

And I'm still not. Suffice it to say, the local music released through the rest of 2007 was every bit as compelling as those releases in the first two months. It was all so compelling, in fact, that I didn't need to resort to a list to recall which albums moved me. Like many of my fellow Backbeat scribes, I knew them all by heart, for they'd been the de facto soundtrack of my life for the past twelve months.


Moovers and Shakers

As I compiled our faves for this year, it wasn't surprising that a number of releases — from artists such as Born in the Flood, Ian Cooke, Bela Karoli, 3OH!3, Nathan & Stephen, the Wheel and Kingdom of Magic, among others — appeared on multiple lists. Obviously, we couldn't all write about the same discs. Fortunately, we all had plenty of other favorites from 2007, which we've gleefully written about here. — Dave Herrera

Achille Lauro, You're Going to Live (and Other Nice Things to Hear) (Self-released). Taking the instrumental flair of acts like Tristezza, the Mercury Program and Pele and infusing it with smoky, jazz-filled interludes and expressive vocals, Achille Lauro is positively eargasmic. You're Going to Live's only discernable drawback is that it's too short, with just four songs and a running time of 22 minutes. — Herrera

all capitals, all capitals (Self-released). After restructuring and downsizing its ranks, all capitals resurfaced this year with an EP that marks a gigantic leap forward for the band. Paul Christus assumes frontman duties with confidence and conviction as the trio finds a new, more distinctive identity. Skip "Chamomile," and the EP stands as a stable three-legged stool. — Eryc Eyl

American Relay, Corn & Oil (Self-released). Nick Sullivan and Alex Hebert's two-man blues assault is thick as Quaker State and has the muscle of a '68 Pontiac GTO. This souped-up hot rod is screaming down the highway with some fuel-injected fuzzy Delta blues under the hood. Jump in and take a ride. — Jon Solomon

Astra Moveo, Omnigraph I (Self-released). Laylights frontman Tyler Hayden takes on a new identity as a world-weary, hip-swaying, techno-soul lothario. Hayden, Chris Eagleton and James Cromwell Holden simultaneously evoke Marilyn Manson, Prince and LCD Soundsystem with dark, dirty and danceable delights. Though all the tracks can be downloaded from the band's MySpace page, this one gets bonus points for creative packaging. — Eyl

A.V.I.U.S., Patience (House of Waxx Recordings). A.V.I.U.S. is the type of underdog MC who comes out of nowhere, rips on the mike and then quietly disappears. On his debut album, bolstered by Es-Nine's excellent production, he flows on an array of topics ranging from life's struggles to rockin' a show. Don't sleep on this up-and-comer. — Quibian Salazar-Moreno

Bela Karoli, Furnished Rooms (Helmet Room Recordings). Bluebook, Julie Davis's onetime solo endeavor, is now Bela Karoli, a trio consisting of Davis, violinist Carrie Beeder and vocalist/accordionist Brigid McAuliffe. Furnished Rooms, the ladies' debut, is as gorgeous as it is bleak. Davis's upright bass is supplemented by sparse percussion, creating a detached ambience that the ghostly vocals of Davis and McAuliffe hover above. The results are intoxicating. — Herrera

Blue Million Miles, Blue Million Miles (Self-released). Drenched in delay, the guitar sound on this EP is heady in both its ethereal expansiveness and its angular, frenetic drive. With a momentum and purpose that burns brightly from the inside, the music is smart and electrifying. An enviable dynamism lends the band a righteous stridency that's rare in atmospheric rock. — Tom Murphy

Born in the Flood, If This Thing Should Spill (Morning After Records). "Brilliant" is a term that gets thrown around far too casually and liberally, but when used to describe If This Thing Should Spill, it's indisputably applicable. Over the course of thirteen tracks, Born in the Flood presents an overwhelmingly convincing case for why it's one of Denver's most vital bands. — Herrera

Breezy Porticos, These Record Highs (Best Friends Records). Andy Falconetti is a master at writing buoyant, cheerful ditties full of penetratingly observant lyrics that expose the human heart with honesty and compassion. Most pop records include a few clunkers, but These Record Highs finds Falconetti and company hitting their stride. Each song here is a gem. — Murphy

The Brotherhood of Dae Han, For the Glory of Olde Virginia (Self-released). Hailing from Fort Collins, the Brotherhood of Dae Han gives a thoroughly modern update to a classic prog-metal template, augmenting precision guitar riffs with layered harmonies and tonsil-scalding screams, resulting in the year's most enjoyable hard-rock release. More impressive, the guys recorded this gem themselves. — Herrera

Calm., Anti-Smiles (Dirty Laboratory). With Anti-Smiles, Calm. has written the perfect prescription for a musical form whose exterior facade is often slick while being filled with insipid cultural detritus. His poetically brilliant words incisively point out the core issues plaguing our culture and the modern psyche over deeply evocative music that matches its dark subject matter. — Murphy

Cat-A-Tac, Past Lies and Former Lives (Needlepoint Records). After scrapping previous sessions a couple of times, the members of Cat-A-Tac finally followed up their excellent, self-titled debut EP with yet another fantastic collection of gauzy, feedback-drenched songs alternately guided by Andy Tennant's whispery delivery and Jim McTurnan's drony, melodious croon. Epic. — Herrera

Cephalic Carnage, Xenosapien (Relapse). Creatively speaking, Xenosapien takes Cephalic Carnage to the next level. Although the metal vets' latest is just as brutal as past offerings, the sounds they draw upon are more varied than ever. From highly technical (and occasionally even artsy) guitar playing to rhythms so heavy they could crush diamonds, Zac Joe and his fellow Cephalites wreak fascinating havoc. — Michael Roberts

Cique, Cique (Capri). First things first: The name is pronounced "sick," as in "That was sick," an oft-heard comment following the band's live shows. In laymen's terms, of course, that means "That was badass," and this disc is. Keyboardist Jeff Jenkins takes some cues from the late Joe Zawinul and late-'60s/early-'70s Miles, and gets help from guitarist John Abercrombie on a few cuts. — Solomon

John Common, Why Birds Fly (Free School Records). Far too many performers settle for predictability — but Common constantly pushes himself, his songs and his arrangements onto paths that few travelers have trod. While his work can seem inconsistent at times, even the misses are intriguing — and the high points (like "Moonlight" and the preternatural "Not So Bad") truly take wing. — Roberts

Ian Cooke, The Fall I Fell (Self-released). With dynamic vocals that are every bit as enchantingly unique as this disc's packaging, Ian Cooke delivers a riveting concept album that explores the exasperating nature of unrequited love, using a cello as primary focal point. Hands down, The Fall I Fell is the most awe-inspiring release of 2007. — Herrera

Deca, The Hedonist (Excess Entertainment). Deca's voice and flow sets him apart from most of the MCs in Colorado. That, coupled with fresh beats from Yonnas (of the Pirate Signal) and appearances from fellow luminaries Paas, Mane Rok and Ichiban, make The Hedonist one of the hottest hip-hop efforts of 2007. — Salazar-Moreno

Epileptinomicon, Nekrobukuro (Sleeping Giant). Nightmarish, primordial drones run through this experimental ambient masterpiece. Nekrobukuro sounds like what it might be like to explore the lost civilization at the Mountains of Madness. Tones collide, fuse, drift apart and get stuck in your head like a terrifying yet inexplicably beautiful vision of darkly infinite horizons. — Murphy

Flobots, Fight With Tools (Self-released). If hip-hop ever had a conscience, it's been safely transplanted into the soul of Flobots. Led by a pair of cerebral wordsmiths, this insurgent seven-piece ensemble subverts convention by using live instrumentation to power incisive, thought-provoking content. There's a war going on for your mind, they insist, and clearly, these guys are winning. — Herrera

Reed Foehl, Stoned Beautiful (Red Parlor/Never Foehl). It's no wonder that former Acoustic Junction frontman Reed Foehl has enjoyed so much success in getting his songs licensed. Each of the earthy vignettes on Stoned Beautiful is filled with the kind of contemplative musings that are easy to relate to, regardless of your lot in life. — Herrera

Forth Yeer Freshman, Rock Your Box (Self-released). Summoning equal parts grit and wit, Forth Yeer Freshman put together the year's most fun record. Rock Your Box is grin-inducing no matter how much song titles like "Hungry for Your Butt" and "Balls Deep" might make you squirm. It's like having someone squeeze an entire tube of Bengay into your shorts. — Herrera

Fucking Orange, Fucking Orange (Self-released). Boasting colossal, droning riffs that erupt like a Titan weary with outrage, Fucking Orange recalls the work of Neurosis, but with a good deal more Teutonic discipline. Here the men of Fucking Orange explore their dark and heavy psychedelic side, proof positive that heavy music can be both artistically sophisticated and unbelievably crushing. — Murphy

George&Caplin, He Really Got Through to Advertising (Beta-lactam Ring). Half of Advertising is flush with fuzzy 4AD shoegazey guitars set against dreamy Boards of Canada-esque electronic landscapes, while the other half finds Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens and Jason Fredrick Iselin venturing into warmer territory, bringing in acoustic guitars and flutes. It's an epic journey, albeit a short one, as the disc is just under thirty minutes. — Solomon

gOP@Riot, gOP@Riot (Self-released). Thundering out of Hell's basement, Nate Weaver, Sean Inman and Ben Williams coax more musical mayhem from two bass guitars and a drum kit than many other bands pull from a full stage of players. The trio combines punk, post-rock and math-rock influences with blunt and brutal force. Unsuitable for cardiac patients. — Eyl

Great American Taxi, Streets of Gold (GAT, LLC). If you thought Vince Herman's musical ride was over, try again. While absent some of the loony genre-mashing and noodle ethos that marks much of Leftover Salmon's output, the Taxi brings straight-up hooks while appealing to the throwback sensibility of bar-room hippies everywhere. — Nick Hutchinson

Greg Harris Vibe Quintet, Frames Live (Greg Harris Music). After eight years of playing together, vibe ace Harris, guitarist Matt Fuller and trumpeter Erinn Bone have mastered the art of the groove. The players are deep in the pocket on Frames; their brilliant interplay is on full display on the disc, which was recorded live at Dazzle last year. — Solomon

Hemi Cuda, Thick Riffs N' Tasty Licks (Self-released). You'd be hard-pressed to find a more aptly named record than this one. Taking time off from her Nashville Pussy duties to focus on her first love, Karen Cuda rejoined longtime cohort Anika Zappe to dole out a mouthwatering, sugar-coated, twelve-track ass-whupping. Thank you, may we have another? — Herrera

The Heyday, The Heyday (Self-released). The Heyday's self-titled debut — overseen by Andrew Berlin and lauded local producer Christopher Jak — is the epitome of radio­-friendly power pop. The act's straightahead, jangly guitar rock soars on the wings of sun-kissed melodies imbued with the fleeting pathos of youthful heartache. Multi-platinum status awaits — if there even is such a thing anymore. — Herrera

The Informants, Stiletto Angel (Wipe It Off! Records). It's easy to underrate music that operates within well-established genres instead of trying to rewrite the rules. Still, the Informants hardly paint by the numbers. Lead singer Kerry Pastine makes every note sting, and a muscular crew of bar-band boogie men light a fire under exuberant tracks like the title cut, which is capable of getting any joint jumping. — Roberts

Gregory Alan Isakov, That Sea, the Gambler (Self-released). Arguably the area's most compelling songwriter, Gregory Alan Isakov has a well-deserved reputation for winning over even the most disinterested audiences. And listening to the way he ambles through the pastoral airs that make up That Sea, the Gambler, it's easy to see why. His gentle delivery is instantly captivating. — Herrera

Kingdom of Magic, Demos EP (Self-released). For Kingdom of Magic's debut, Luke Fairchild and his White Dynamite cohort, Joe Ramirez, team up with drummer Devon Rogers for a relentlessly heavy bong-burner. Unlike their cannabis-cracked stoner-rock cronies, however, the trio keeps the riff tonnage at maximum and drops it hard. There are only two tracks, but they last a total of seventeen minutes. Dude. — Eyl

The Knew, Holladay (Self-released). On Holladay, the Knew delivers a slab of amped-up, bluesy garage rock fortified with a solid slug of Denver cowpunk. Live, these guys play like their lives depend on it, and these five rollicking tunes capture a good sense of that crazy energy, conveniently packaged for use at home or in the car. — Cory Casciato

Light Travels Faster, After the Black of Baca County (No Dance Records). Light Travels Faster is all about atmosphere. Numbers such as "A Broadcast of Natural Resonance," which is more of a soundscape than a song, and the shimmering "Preface to the Stars" use rudimentary instrumentation to eerily captivating effect, while "Everyday" juxtaposes crashing and bashing with guitar tones that evoke the hi-lo country. — Roberts

Love Me Destroyer, The Things Around Us Burn (Suburban Home). On The Things Around Us Burn, Love Me Destroyer has swapped out a smattering of its trademark menace for melody, resulting in the band's most accessible effort to date. Charging dual guitar lines form an anthemic backdrop for Scooter Wellensiek's tortured wail, making Burn an exceptional modern-rock record. — Herrera

ManeLine, Till Then... (Self-released). Till Then... is one of the tightest hip-hop records of the year. Trading verses throughout, Mane Rok and Inkline shine, particularly on tracks like "Voices," "From This Moment On" and "Young Bux," which features the equally skilled Ichiban. DJ Tense's production is on point, as are contributions from Yonnas and DJs Illanoiz and AWHAT. — Herrera

René Marie, Experiment in Truth (Self-released). Instead of going into the studio, jazz vocalist René Marie and the sidemen she's been playing with for the past four years went into a college auditorium, gathered in a circle on the stage and recorded enough material for two albums. As a result, Truth has the feel and energy of a live album, but without an audience. — Solomon

Married in Berdichev, Cold Feet, Warm Hearts! (Still Soft Recordings). Essentially a solo album from former Mannequin Makeout frontwoman Brittany Gould, Cold Feet improves upon the loop-station experimentation of her debut, Friends and Lovers. Its lovingly warm tenor gives the music, whose lyrics often seem melancholy, a rare depth. Possibly the perfect antidote to the blues and freeze of winter. — Murphy

Julie and Andy Monley, And You Could Be the Sun (Self-released). Locals who only know Andy Monley from Jux County will be pleasantly surprised by Sun, the focus of a Thursday, December 20, CD-release party at Dazzle. The album juxtaposes occasional nods to rootsiness with jazzy elements courtesy of guest stars like pianist Joe Bonner and the beguiling vocals of Monley's sister, Julie. Guess it runs in the family. — Roberts

Mustangs & Madras, La Lechuza (Self-released). Longtucky's hardcore heroes proudly wear their influences (Refused, old-school Fugazi) on their tattooed sleeves, but they undermine facile comparisons by integrating baritone sax, melodica, deafening feedback and one particularly spine-chilling sample. Though some of the band's passionate energy was sucked out by the studio, the pummeling is still plenty potent. — Eyl

Nathan & Stephen, The Everyone EP (Morning After Records). Initially conceived as a collaboration between Nathan McGarvey and Stephen Till, this act has grown into a full-on nine-piece extravaganza. A stunning debut, The Everyone EP showcases sturdy pop melodies driven by McGarvey's raspy croon and bolstered by terse, euphonic guitar lines, tasteful horn and key accents, gang vocals and dynamic, vivacious rhythms. The year's must-hear record. — Herrera

Andy Nevala, Alone Together (Capri). Andy Nevala, who's won nine Downbeat awards, reworks a few standards, adding Latin tinges to some, including the title track and "Autumn Leaves." The pianist's first-rate compositional chops are showcased on a pair of originals, while his insightful arrangement skills shine throughout the disc, especially during a pensive take on Sting's "Fragile." — Solomon

New Dialectic, Get in the Way (Self-released). "Like I Said," a highlight of this vibrant EP, asks a lot of listeners: Lyrics range from "Will I be too old for this excitement?" to "Will you wait around like I told you to?" If answers aren't always forthcoming, the effervescent pairing of vocalists Thomas DeLong and Joanna Pane gives the questions a life of their own. — Roberts

Ninth & Lincoln Orchestra, Ninth & Lincoln Orchestra (Dazzle). Bandleader Tyler Gilmore said that one of his goals for his seventeen-piece ensemble was to capture sounds that big bands don't usually get, and on the forward-thinking Orchestra, it does just that. Some of the state's finest jazz musicians push the big-band envelope, creating some striking textural elements that at times blur the lines between rock and jazz. — Solomon

Only Thunder, Only Thunder (Self-released). When the Blackout Pact folded at the end of 2006, the disappointment in Justin Hackl's voice was unmistakable. Rather than dwell on what could've been, though, Hackl moved forward with a new band and wrote a half-dozen songs of urgent, melodic, guitar-driven rock. From the sounds of Only Thunder, that was exactly the right move. — Herrera

Paper Bird, Anything Nameless and Joymaking (Self-released). While Sarah Anderson, Genny Patterson and Esmé Patterson each have lovely voices on their own, together they make some of the sweetest harmonies this side of the Mississippi. Backed by a banjo, acoustic guitar and trombone, their blend of folk and jazz is honey for the ears. — Solomon

Pictureplane, Turquoise Trail (Self-released). The frayed exuberance of this second Pictureplane album is palpable. Incorporating low-tech sounds with a fresh new take on house music and collage pop, Travis Egedy's visionary songwriting represents a bold new step for electronic music. Encompassing a wide range of moods and textures, Turquoise Trail is as uplifting as it is interesting. —Murphy

Tim Pourbaix, A Pony Craig, Not Greg (Self-released). Yes, he's another melancholy white guy with a guitar, but Tim Pourbaix sidesteps the usual singer-songwriter traps of either saccharine sappiness or self-absorbed solemnity, turning in a set of sincere, tuneful gems that gracefully balance lyrics, melody and rhythm. His Killfix compadres supply additional instrumentation and recording assistance that make for a memorable listen. — Eyl

Jen Pumo, All Over the Moon (Self-released). Pumo and her musical partner, Graham Pearce, do more with accomplished compositions such as "Space Girl" and "Sandstone" than simply perform them. The album's luxuriant production swaddles Moon's tunes in modern studio effects that enhance the material's emotionalism and lend Pumo's laconic vocals an enigmatic edge. The results are out of this world. — Roberts

Serafin Sanchez/Jeremy Jones Quintet, Live at Dazzle (SSJJ Music). Tenor saxophonist Serafin Sanchez, who also plays with funk bands 8traC and Bop Skizzum, shows off some superb jazz chops and a robust tone that at times recalls Wayne Shorter. On Live, Sanchez, drummer Jones and their crew come out swinging with an ode to Jackie McLean and get funky on the Eddie Harris-vibed "Peep." — Solomon

Signal to Noise, Kodiak (Self-released). Signal to Noise could be Denver's most promising yet unheralded outfit. Kodiak, the band's Eyeball Records debut, is a scathingly tuneful testament that conjures the glory days of emo, when bands like Jimmy Eat World and Hot Water Music ruled the roost with fist-pumping authority. — Herrera

The Skivies, Between Appliance and Apparel (Self-released). The Skivies have finally captured their hard-edged, contortionist, trippy soundscapes on record. Burroughs would applaud their edgy lyricism and surreally poetic song titles. This is creatively ambitious metal with punk's disregard for convention — a fine mating of dadaesque aesthetics and heavy music steeped in imagination and mathematically precise, but never tightly controlled, rhythms. — Murphy

Sol Powa, Da Ace of Clubs (Self-released). Rraahh Foundashun's Sol P is steadily becoming a hip-hop icon in Colorado. On his debut, Da Ace of Clubs, the celebrated producer handles most of the production himself and calls upon his buddies C1, Supernatural, Distrakt, Dent, SP Double, Mississippi and the Rraahh Foundashun crew to help celebrate his solo party. — Salazar-Moreno

SP Double, Change the Station (Self-released). SP is one of the top beatmakers in Colorado, and he's also not too shabby on the mike. Change the Station showcases his immense talent, his ear for hypnotic melodies and neck-snapping rhythms, and his swaggering lyrical dexterity. — Salazar-Moreno

Spoke in Wordz, Word Play (Illuminated Records). Spoke in Wordz is pretty much the dopest MC out of Colorado, and he basically proves as much on his debut album. Spoke shines through, even over mediocre beats, and when he's trading verses with his mentor, Playalitical, and established MCs Chino XL, 2Mex and Bizzy Bone, he absolutely slaughters them all. — Salazar-Moreno

Sweet Sunny South, Showtime (Two Dolla Reccas). This Paonia-based quartet puts the old-time back in bluegrass. From party-starters "Showtime" and "I'm Satisfied" to more pensive cuts like "Two Shot Glasses," Showtime invokes the simple joys of life in the high lonesome with nothing but a banjo, a fiddle and a six-string. — Hutchinson

Tarmints, Thirteen Dead Cats (Denver Coffee Achievers). In its tenth year, this square wheel rolling released its most gleefully dangerous record. Featuring a new level of atmospheric dynamism and co-lead vocals by bassist Sonya Decman on "Bring Me Down," Thirteen Dead Cats represents a band that's added a heavy dose of playfulness to its legendary ferocity. — Murphy

Otis Taylor, Definition of a Circle (Telarc). The pair of Taylor albums that preceded Circle were more interesting than the vast majority of contemporary blues releases, yet they suffered from the absence of Kenny Passarelli, Taylor's longtime bandmate and producer. This time around, however, Taylor's work behind the boards matches the quality of his captivating performances and haunting originals. A bracing return to form. — Roberts

3OH!3, 3OH!3 (Self-released). The long-awaited full-length debut from these Boulder goofballs flawlessly captures a dizzying mix of hip-hop, electro, freaky folkiness and, well, Joan Jett. While their nimble tongues spend plenty of time in their cheeks, Nathaniel Motte and Sean Foreman are deadly serious about their party plans. Next year: world domination. — Eyl

Tifah, Safe & Sound (Self-released). One of the brightest new talents to emerge this year, Tifah Al Attas — whose namesake band is now known as the Autumn Film — possesses an utterly beguiling voice that evokes Natalie Merchant channeling Joni Mitchell. Backed by a cast of crack players, her piano-driven pop is absolutely breathtaking. — Herrera

Tudaloos, Houses (Still Soft Recordings). Through an innovative use of analog and digital synths alongside acoustic instruments, Tudaloos reinvents lo-fi indie pop for a new generation. A youthful enthusiasm shines through even on the most contemplative songs, and on track after track, the band explores different facets of its core sound with an organic, homegrown warmth. — Murphy

Uncle Earl, Waterloo, Tennessee (Rounder). The odd pairing of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Uncle Earl, a bluegrassy combo co-starring Lyons's own K.C. Groves on vocals and mandolin, sounds like an idea bound to make fans of every description feel dazed and confused. Nevertheless, it works beautifully, with producer Jones subtly bringing out the best in this thoroughly modest, undeniably gifted quartet. — Roberts

The Wheel, Desire and Dissolving Men (Public Service Records). Recorded mostly in the Baker living room of Born in the Flood frontman Nathaniel Rateliff, this solo debut is an intimate document of raw honesty and subtle brilliance. The fractured beauty of these twelve tracks — performed almost entirely by the frighteningly talented songwriter and performer — quietly demands repeated listens and close examination. — Eyl

Yerkish, The Return of Douglas Jupitor (Self-released). Yerkish's second release is a trip into the smarter, weirder side of metal. Dynamic song structures, powerful vocals and excellent, effects-laden guitar work drive the strong material. Standouts include "Optiplex," which injects a lounge influence into the band's signature sound, and the epic "Megaman," maybe the best song ever written about a video game. — Casciato

Various Artists, Psychedelic States — Colorado in the 60s (Gear Fab Records). Audio archivist Roger Maglio has outdone himself with Colorado in the 60s. The two-CD collection sports curios associated with acts that made a mark beyond the state line (Lothar & the Hand People, the Poor, Boenzee Cryque), plus vintage cuts by lots of shoulda-beens or never-weres that drift through the speakers like smoke from a clove cigarette. — Roberts

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