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Moovers and Shakers

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The Cinematic Underground, Annasthesia (Cut Narrative Records).

Annasthesia is the unparalleled masterwork of Nathan Johnson, a Denver expatriate who leads the artistic collective responsible for this headphone masterpiece. The best concept album this side of Lift to Experience's The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, Johnson's existential tale unfolds over thirteen expansive tracks that intermittently evoke Mark Kozelek, Sparklehorse and Radiohead. ( -- Dave Herrera

Corruption, Alone (Self-released). Corruption, one of Denver's longest-running metal acts, returned to prominence this year with the release of its first album in seven years. Impeccably recorded by Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage) in a nine-month span, Alone effectively mates mathletic precision with cantankerous savagery, and the results are staggering. Alone is Corruption's best album yet. -- Herrera

The Denver Gentlemen, The Denver Gentlemen (Self-released). Jeffrey-Paul Norlander's creation has had a big influence on Denver's sound during the past decade or two; Slim Cessna's Auto Club is among the notable acts featuring former Gentlemen. Norlander's latest offering can be downloaded for free at The site is slow, but music this wonderfully eloquent, evocative and spooky is worth the wait. -- Roberts

DeVotchKa, How It Ends (Cicero). Whether cross-pollinating neo-classical tango with Polish polka or creating some new hybrid of norteño-flavored gypsy opera, DeVotchKa shatters musical boundaries with every new release. This time around, studio vet Craig Schumacher (Calexico), helps Denver's most romantic and adventurous quartet do what they it does best: stir the blood, dazzle the senses and make the heart soar. -- La Briola

Drop the Fear, Drop the Fear (Helmetroom Recordings). An infallible release from one of the area's most promising new acts, Drop the Fear is brilliant. From the stellar artwork to the swirling interplay of Sarah Marcogliese's Harriet Wheeler-esque vocals and Ryan Policky's impassioned drones transcending the frigid austerity created by ambient squalls, fractured tones and mechanized beats, this is easily the best album of the year. -- Herrera

Robert Eldridge, Eclectic and Mental Guitar Music Solo Guitar -- Volumes 1 and 2 (Self-released). Next time you're at DIA, you may be fortunate enough to experience the engrossing six-string acoustic wizardry of Zeut sideman Robert Eldridge, who entertains in-transit folks on a monthly basis. But armchair travelers don't have to miss a beat: This exceptional long-player captures the spontaneity and spirit of a guy who clears the runway for blues, classical, ragtime, calypso and bop -- with or without a boarding pass. -- La Briola

Frontside Five, No Pegs (Self-released). Fuck subtlety. With its furious, sing-along full-length, Frontside Five grinds its decks on the '80s skate-thrash spew of the Faction and Jerry's Kids: a fast, pissed fusion of metal-spiked hardcore and sloshed misanthropy. Redeeming social value? No, thanks. -- Heller

The Gamits, Antidote (Suburban Home Records). How typical: Mere months after unleashing their best recording, Chris Fogal and company decided to call it quits. Fortunately, Antidote will live on, even if the band won't. The disc is loaded with songs that are as catchy as they are passionate -- a difficult trick that the Gamits turn with ease. The CD is arguably the finest Denver-spawned effort of 2004, as well as a stirring benediction from a group that died before its time. -- Roberts

The Ground Zero Movement, Writer's Square (Five Points Plan Recordings). Including Writer's Square among 2004's top recordings is a bit of a cheat, since it's not yet commercially available. But the CD's quality totally justifies this case of premature enthusiasm. Building on the momentum of last year's excellent Future I.D. , Dow Jones, Sid Fly, Aseone and D.O. Da Fabulous Drifta trade smart, exciting rhymes over backing tracks that are deeper and more complex than ever before. The area's best hip-hop act just got better. -- Roberts

Neil Haverstick/Barry Wedgle, Improvisations (Exit Records). When two highly technical guitar-noodlers decide to sit down with a laptop and a couple of mikes to improvise, the results might serve for posterity's sake and little else -- especially if they've never met. But when said noodlers are microtonalist Neil Haverstick and flamenco/jazz ace Barry Wedgle, it's a collision course of two distinctive and exciting styles well worth documenting. -- La Briola

Hot IQs, An Argument Between the Brain and Feet (Morning After Records). If you don't dance -- or at least tap your toes -- upon hearing Hot IQs' frolicsome debut, you might want to check to make sure you're still breathing. Eli Mishkin's throaty purr, the album's centerpiece, is perfectly augmented by frenetic, fuzz-laden guitar lines and a brawny yet economical rhythm section, making Argument an instant indie-pop classic. -- Herrera

Laymen Terms, Drive to Nowhere; Verity's Novel (Suburban Home). Unjustly, many recent local releases will get more attention than Laymen Terms' Drive to Nowhere; Verity's Novel. And yet, the disc's complex song arc simultaneously envelops and transcends genres, all the while staying anchored in melody, shivering atmospherics and sheer arena-rock gravity. The Colorado punk scene's answer to Dark Side of the Moon. -- Heller

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