Moovers and Shakers: Our favorite Denver music releases of 2010

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Whatever your measure of success — whether you define it as adventurous artists making boundary-pushing music and then releasing it themselves, or as acts with commercially attractive songs that get a more mainstream push — you have to agree: A music scene is only as interesting as the music being made in it.

As you can see from our annual Moovers and Shakers list — our favorite feature of the year, when we compile a list of our favorite local releases of the past twelve months and tell you why we loved them — Denver continues to have a very interesting scene, one that's thriving regardless of national notoriety or record deals. There was no shortage of compelling musicians making noteworthy music in the Mile High City in 2010; stop by Backbeat for more picks.

Achille Lauro, Indiscretions (Hot Congress). Always a band that defied categorization and expectation, Achille Lauro figured it out this year: Indiscretions is a buoyant beauty of an album. It is also immaculately produced, which turned out to be out of fashion this year. We'll take quality over timeliness any day. — Kiernan Maletsky

Adai, Felo De Se (Self-released). Singer/guitarist Devin Mendoza and drummer Justin Trujillo do more than pack an orchestra's worth of atmospheric sludge into the four long, brutal tracks of Felo De Se. Like Converge trapped in a tar pit, the duo plays an inexorably heavy and unrelenting form of metalcore that struggles toward the sky while getting sucked straight into hell. — Jason Heller

Air Dubai, Wonder Age (Self-released). Recorded at the Blasting Room and produced by Flobots guitarist Andy Guerrero, Wonder Age is soulful and infectious, brimming with musicality and accessibility. The exceptional playing is bolstered by the ultra-smooth croon of Jon "Rhias" Shockness, whose indelible hooks sharply contrast with the confident cadence of rapper Julian Thomas. — Dave Herrera

Alphabets, Alphabox (Digitalis Industries). The product of a restless mind set loose with sequencers, synthesizers, a drum machine and who knows what else, this boxed set of cassettes showcases Colin Ward at his most concise and focused. An impressive work of collage-style composition, Alphabox seamlessly weaves together threads of dub, electronica, pop and noise. — Tom Murphy

Amazing Twin, New Wives' Tale (Hot Congress). Alternately measured and overwhelming, Amazing Twin plays a sort of folk/punk/emo/pop hybrid that defies simple explanation. What is easier to get across is what a wonderfully rewarding experience it is to listen to this EP. It is also one of the more sincere indie-rock albums of the year, for which we are grateful. — Maletsky

See even more of our favorite local releases in Backbeat

American Tomahawk, Contradictions Generalities Future Criminals (Self-released). Pound for pound, American Tomahawk made some of the Mile High City's most captivating music this year. Adam Halferty's spartan yet soaring songs burn brightly and marvelously, but once your eyes adjust to the shower of sparks, you notice they're illuminating some truly horrific and harrowing shit lurking in the crevices. — Herrera

The Autumn Film, The Ship and the Sea (Self-released). If there was a more go-for-broke beauty among Denver releases this year, we didn't hear it. A symphony's worth of ebb and flow and Tifah Al-Atta's enveloping voice made for a full-length of songs that could all work over the closing credits of Oscar-baiting dramas. — Maletsky

Bad Weather California, Live Jammers (Self-released). Aided by tourmates Akron/Family, Bad Weather California's Live Jammers EP shows the band at its best: cooped up in a living room, oozing soulful psychedelics and sweating all over each other. If ever there were an argument against gratuitous, overwrought studio fuckery, this is it. — Heller

Andrea Ball, Dial Tone (Self-released). Continuing to sidestep convention, Andrea Ball brings a distinct cinematic flair to Dial Tone, thanks to the production of Nathan Johnson, who scored both Brick and Brothers Bloom. An array of sounds — sighing strings, gently moaning saws and murmuring horns, clacking rhythms, staccato piano lines and snare hits — forms spectral backdrops for Ball's hushed vocals. — Herrera

Black Sleep of Kali, Our Slow Decay (Self-released). With guitars as meaty as a slaughterhouse's sewer pipes, Our Slow Decay by Black Sleep of Kali leaves little room in its sound for weakness or fucking around. What it does allow, though, is a massive dose of neck-snapping dynamics, brooding grooves and anthemic melody. — Heller

Bop Skizzum, Push (Angry Burro). Andy Guerrero brought Bop Skizzum back to life this year with the addition of vocalist Erin Jo Harris. Hard to say whether the time away or the infusion of new blood reinvigorated the Flobots guitarist; regardless, the funk unit sounds better than ever. — Herrera

Boulder Acoustic Society, Champion of Disaster (Self-released). Boulder Acoustic Society's sixth release, Champion of Disaster, blends elements of roots music to create a somewhat unusual and thoroughly enjoyable EP. The group moves from bluegrass-infused harmonies to Celtic-style melodies, and the sweeping sounds coming from multiple instruments are beautifully pared down to the basics when appropriate. It's a tight, gorgeous effort. — Amber Taufen

Broken Spirits, Ghostrock Spirituals (Self-released). Some supergroups are merely that: super. But when Reverend Deadeye, the Tarmints' Bobby Jamison and American Relay's Al Hebert came together to form Broken Spirits, the result wound up being Ghostrock Spirituals — a disc of transcendental garage-blues that stews in the swamp of the cosmos. — Heller

Brothers O'Hair, Brothers O'Hair (Self-released). A story about the perils of pursuing/attaining your creative goals, the band's first release since moving to Denver is a better ode to the struggling artist than he probably deserves. The journey is hard work, and on this EP, the acrobat is not the only one whose dignity is revealed. — Maletsky

Sara Century, Orchestra of Friction (Self-released). Like a Fractured Fairytales take on pop music, the music of Sara Century is partly demented, partly humorous and eerily timeless. These songs have a way of getting under your skin like a good Poe story: Instead of occupying your nightmares, you'll find yourself unexpectedly humming them in public. — Murphy

Candy Claws, Hidden Lands (twosyllable records). How has no one licensed this stuff for some high-production-value nature miniseries? You can practically work backward from the music: There's the sunrise over the untouched snow, there's the wolf pack taking down the elk. Yes, it's background music. No, that doesn't make it boring. As clever a band as exists in Colorado. — Maletsky

DJ Cavem Moetavation, The Teacher's Lounge (Self-released). Not only does Cavem offer up material that is designed to make you dance, but he also touches on subjects not seen in hip-hop since the height of Digable Planets. He raps about themes such as "greening the 'hood," food sustainability and the un-televised revolution, all over stellar, rhythmic beats. — Ru Johnson

The Centennial, Second Spring (Self-released). The Meese brothers' follow-up act to their eponymous band throws listeners a complete curve. The Centennial's debut EP, featuring the siblings plus Patrick's wife, Tiffany, strips away the radio-ready rhythms that made Meese almost famous and replaces them with blissed-out melodies and mid-tempo builds in the vein of the Postal Service and Dntel. — Andy Thomas

The Chain Gang of 1974, White Guts (Golden Gold Records). Remarkably more subdued and considerably more song-oriented than past efforts, this is the Chain Gang's most mature, vibrant and listenable album to date. Pulling from an array of influences, White Guts contains a heaping helping of DFA decadence flecked with '80s synth pop, Madchester and early-'90s Brit pop — an audacious step forward. — Herrera

Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, Songs of Ill Hope & Desperation (Prosthetic Records). A denser synthesis of outrage, despair and desperation would be difficult to name. Though laden with a sense of hopelessness and impending doom, there is a defiant core to the songwriting, suggesting that our only hope lies in an unrelentingly savage attitude toward the real evildoers of the world. — Murphy

John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light, Beautiful Empty (Self-released). While John Common has always been a noteworthy songwriter, Beautiful Empty is his finest effort to date. An elegant work of spaciousness, Empty is imbued with discernible pathos and benefits from Common's keen observations, poetic insight and smart arrangements, all of which are brought to life by the exceptional performances of his gifted counterparts and the vocals of Jess DeNicola, which perfectly complement Common's. — Herrera

Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Two Bedroom Apartment (Youngest Daughter Records). Danielle Anderson is every bit as clever and bewitching on Two Bedroom Apartment as she was on past albums. And while, thanks to the handiwork of John Macy, the fidelity has noticeably increased, the songs are still (thankfully) intimate, semi-awkward at times and notably self-aware, which has always been Anderson's primary selling point. — Herrera

Dödsfälla, Death Future (Bad People Records). Unremittingly bleak and ferocious, this record sounds like it must have been recorded on the eve of an accidentally triggered extinction-level event for the human race. With their raw aggression, these songs are a warning to the world to quit its technocratic death spiral or risk ultimate disaster. — Murphy

Dyalekt, Dreams, Caffeine & Nicotine (Self-released). One-third of the Diamond Boiz, Dyalekt crafted a mixtape for champions with this one. The young MC not only leads with his raspy voice and hard-hitting rhymes, but he also stands on his own, conveying ample attitude and posturing with his lyrics and offering up several more-than-good instrumentals of his own production. — Johnson

Fierce Bad Rabbit, Spools of Thread (Self-released). Spools of Thread? More like strands of the choicest indie rock woven together to make one vibrant, colorful fabric. If the members of Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire joined ranks to record an AM Gold tribute to Wilco, it might sound something like this. Nah, this sounds better. — Herrera

Emily Frembgen, Always With You (Self-released). Stark and fragile, hushed yet huge, Always With You was Emily Frembgen's adieu to Denver before she moved back to New York last spring. And it's a fond one: The young singer-songwriter infuses her songs with striking sonic surprises as well as gentle, old-soul wisdom. — Heller

The Gamits, Parts (Suburban Home/ Paper and Plastic). More than six years after they called it quits, the Gamits are back with Parts, an excellent album filled with the same lyrical fragility as Antidote; the buzz, explosiveness and playfulness of Come Get Some; and the scratchy new vocal delivery of Chris Fogal. — Thomas

Gauntlet Hair, Out, Don't/Heave (Self-released). A prime example of how a band can employ, then pull away sounds to great effect and use familiar elements in unfamiliar ways. The textured shimmering and echo heard on both tracks highlight how all of the sounds are percussive and how all carry the melody with equal importance. — Murphy

George & Caplin, Secluded Malls and Scenic Byways/Requiem for an Encyclopedia (Plastic Sound Supply). George & Caplin has always been a determined musical duo, but Secluded Malls is its first truly ambitious project. While the first disc features plenty of the Americana-infused electronic sound we've come to love from the act, the second one, Requiem, is awe-inspiring in a completely new and different way. — Thorin Klosowski

Git Some, Loose Control (Alternative Tentacles). Although Git Some's brand of Black Flag-on-acid noise rock may seem chaotic, Loose Control features excellent musicianship, cleverly crafted lyrics and controlled dexterity that surfaces above the confusion. Luke Fairchild screams maniacally above the increasing noise about subjects best not explained until you experience them for yourself. — Thomas

Glass Hits, Glass Hits (Self-released). A seven-inch single that might as well be pressed on plutonium instead of vinyl, Glass Hits' self-titled debut is radioactive enough to break down the cellular structure of post-hardcore while retaining its overall shape. Smuggled deep inside, though, is a warped and lethal mutation. — Heller

Greg Harris Vibe Quintet, Glass Gold (Dazzle Records). Having already shown they can master the art of the groove on their previous two efforts, Greg Harris and his quintet step outside the pocket and into more expansive territory on many of the cuts here. With vocalist Venus Cruz adding some supremely divine vocals to the mix, Glass Gold is certainly worth its weight. — Jon Solomon

Haven the Great, King Kong (Self-released). When Haven dropped King Kong, the local rap world went a little crazy, and so did Haven, evidently, with his rhymes. Spitting on the joint like there's no tomorrow, Haven turns in a dizzyingly grand performance on the single, "My Hood," effectively crushing all comers with complete disregard. King Kong, indeed. — Johnson

Head for the Hills, Head for the Hills (Self-released). One of the finest bluegrass acts around these parts, Fort Collins's Head for the Hills serves up a hell of collection of tunes on its sophomore release. As the quartet digs in and starts kicking up dust, the players show off some mighty fine harmony work and virtuosic playing, resulting in a thoroughly listenable and foot-stomping album. — Solomon

Hideous Men, Hideous Men (Laser Palace/Bocumast). There is a wealth of influence inside Hideous Men's work: The duo succeeds at blending the beats of DJ Screw and the screaming ethos of Kathleen Hanna into a danceable whole, and the tracks are audibly vivid. Part Biggie, part Yip Yip, Hideous Men's 2010 EP is a source for intelligent, positive bump-and-grind music. — Bree Davies

Hot White, Nitetrotter Sessions (Nail in the Coffin). Hot White doesn't give a shit — about anything. But the trio's philosophy of apathy only translates into raw, unadulterated energy, which is perfectly captured here. The dire meanness in Tiana Bernard's voice is countered by guitarist Kevin Wesley's sharp repetitions, while drummer Darren Kulback's haphazard hits only exacerbate the situation, pushing the record to the verge of collapse. — Davies

Hunter Dragon, Blood Bath (Self-released). Bearing the spaciousness of Lee "Scratch" Perry and the unspooled songcraft of Smog's Bill Callahan, Hunter Dragon unleashed his latest creation, Blood Bath. Six songs and a million years long, it's a timeless shimmer of acoustic/electronic polyamory that feasts lovingly on its own echoes. — Heller

I Am the Dot, Bridges (Fight the Future). Of Zach Tipton's many worthy releases this year, Bridges stands out as the most pleasurable listening experience. Half of the four-song EP is startlingly clear and brilliant pop, and the whole thing is sonically pleasing enough to subvert the dark lyrics. Horns and handclaps, anyone? — Maletsky

I Sank Molly Brown, Ishmael Asimov (Self-released). Showcasing a notable amount of technical prowess on this record, the members of I Sank Molly Brown have clearly found a way to write solid pop songs while continually challenging themselves as players and performers. The result: ambitious songwriting performed with a refreshing exuberance and a willingness to risk sounding unfashionably earnest. — Murphy

Innerstate Ike and Will Guice, Diamonds in the Dirt (Self-released). Innerstate Ike and Will Guice offer up their take on the well-worn "best of both worlds" theme here. Fusing R&B with rap, the pair turn away from tales of street love in favor of detailing their surroundings with authenticity, most notably on standout tracks like the soulful "My Hood," an ode to not only surviving the hood, but thriving in it. — Johnson

Jonathan and Bpro, Jonathan and Bpro (Self-released). Jonathan and BPro are pop-music purists, offering up an album full of the most straight-up dance music this year. Besides being perfect for dancing — in your car, on the dance floor, in front of the mirror in your underwear — "Turn It Up" tells the story of a man so bent on getting his beat-pounding, wall-rattling groove on, even his landlord won't stop him. Now, that's determination. — Davies

Julox, Da Gator Ghoul (Self-released). Southern-bred with a Colorado address, Julox delivers a remarkably soulful and gritty album. His distinctive voice and stylistic delivery make for a unique yet classic version of that everyday rap shit. — Nicole Cormier

Kinetix, Let Me In (Angry Burro). Up to this point, the biggest assets of this band have been its musicianship and stage presence. Kinetix essentially made its mark playing live; on Let Me In, however, these musicians prove their mettle as songwriters, showcasing tangible pop sensibility on cuts like "Big Screen" and depth on tracks like "To See You Go," which reflects on the death of a loved one. — Herrera

King FOE & Whygee, Dispensary Music (Self-released). Drugs. These two MCs rap about drugs, and it's not only good, but it's creative. From philosophy to the science behind addiction, the content is as compelling as it is provocative, and the production is among the best heard locally this year. Whygee, in particular, is in top form, especially on tracks like "Outside of My Mind." — Johnson

The Knew, Pulpería (Self-released). Although hip enough to fit into the indie-rock category, Pulpería displays enough of the band's classic-rock roots that it's hard to call the music here anything but rock and roll. With groove-heavy bass lines, lightly distorted guitars and Jacob Hansen's dominating falsetto, the Knew treads gingerly in the Modest Mouse realm, only with far more funk. — Thomas

Lion Sized, Cough Up Your Teeth (Self-released). With a punishing rhythm section, complex time signatures and a notably ominous feel overall, Lion Sized weaves political warnings and observations and biting rhetoric into a slashing and pulsing mathy-punk-rock juggernaut. — Thomas

Lust-Cats of the Gutters, Lust-Cats of the Gutters (Self-released). The charm of this raw and unpolished set of songs is that they could have been recorded on a boombox in a garage in the 1980s — or in a dilapidated practice space just yesterday. Filled with catchy anthems both playful and socially critical, the tunes are destined for teenage mixtapes across America and beyond. — Murphy

Makeout Point, Night Moves (Self-released). Amid plenty of lo-fi post-punk revivalism, this is a band that came by both elements organically and doesn't need the former. The guitars are blistering but the vocals aren't, which makes for truly mesmerizing moments. And it's only going to get better with production value. — Maletsky

Mike Marchant, Indulgent Space-Folk Vol. 3: Binary Beach (Self-released). Equally renowned for his songwriting genius and his penchant for endless tinkering, Mike Marchant actually relinquished a huge number of his songs to the public this year. This one was the least labored-over and, perhaps not coincidentally, his most striking work. All proceeds go to Denver arts-related charities. — Maletsky

See even more of our favorite local releases in Backbeat

Married in Berdichev, Readying (Self-released). Sounding like a walk in a fog-enshrouded otherworldly realm filled with light, these six songs are rich with warm tones and hypnotic minimalism. Without conventional song structures, Brittany Gould is able to unmoor the imagination of the listener from mundane reality for trips into places of dream fulfillment. — Murphy

Tommy Metz, The Blossom Frontier (Bocumast). Tommy Metz might be better known nowadays for his work with Iuengliss, but The Blossom Frontier, his first album under his own name, is completely different than anything he's done before. His vocals are more prominent and might initially make listeners weary, but he makes them work to an effect that evokes both Iuengliss and something fresh. — Klosowski

Munly & the Lupercalians, Petr & the Wulf (Alternative Tentacles). Munly's darkly skewed rendering of Prokofiev's famed fairy tale, Peter & the Wolf, is enthralling and equally as gripping as the group's live shows. There's a bit of the gothic country of Slim Cessna's Auto Club, which Munly co-fronts, but at times the twang is stripped away in favor of a completely different musical experience, one that can be as joyous as it is sinister. — Solomon

Musketeer Gripweed, Dyin' Day (Self-released). With Dyin' Day, Musketeer Gripweed has crafted one of the year's most enjoyable, straight-up rock records. You get a little bit of everything on this lean, seven-song release: soul-drenched vocals; chorale-worthy gospel harmonies from the Black Swan Singers; rumbling, funktastic bass lines; searing, deep-fried Southern-rock fretwork; and some excellent harp playing. — Herrera

Mustangs & Madras, Caution: Bang! (Self-released). Mustangs & Madras is a perfect example of a local band that gets it. No cocks are sucked or asses kissed on Caution: Bang!, a tangle of moody post-punk and mathy aggression that buckles and bleeds but never breaks. Sadly, it's also Mustangs' swan song: After eight years together, the band broke up this year. — Heller

Ace Miyamoto, Ronin (Self-released). An abstract concept built around deserting samurais, Ronin finds Ace Miyamoto somehow creating a sound that is more sophisticated and underground than that of even Wu-Tang Clan — an obvious influence of the work — if that's possible. Miyamoto rhymes in a deep and confident voice, adding flexibility to his complex topics and developed production. — Johnson

nervesandgel, If All You Have Left Is a Dream (Self-released). These five songs are a direct window into a dark dream in which a nearly crippling sense of isolation and loneliness has settled into your mind and you're forced to build a bridge out of the pit of your personal hell. At times hauntingly melodic, and always disturbingly evocative. — Murphy

Joshua Novak, Dead Letters (Self-released). Over the last few years, Joshua Novak has been trying to escape the singer-songwriter stigma. With Dead Letters, he steers clear of all that with a lush and sparkly pop album, dropping bits of glam and Brit pop into the mix as well. Five years in the making, Dead Letters is a testament to how strong Novak's vocals and songwriting chops have gotten. — Solomon

ManeRok, The Ugly Truth (Self-released). Brutally honest both on and off the mike, ManeRok didn't disappoint on his debut solo album. Filled with commentary on the community and the social climate of the world at large, as well as his own existence, the album gives us a firsthand look into the life and times of this often-closed MC. — Cormier

Oblio's Arrow, Plain Old American Mess (Self-released). If psychedelia is meant to tune the nervous system to some higher cosmic frequency, Plain Old American Mess ought to be distributed in blotter form. The latest release from the band formerly known as Oblio Duo + the Archers, Mess is a hallucinatory yet patriotic traipse through twangy Americana that taps into the rumbling, unreal undercurrent of our great continent. — Heller

Overcasters, The Whole Sea Is Raging (Self-released). Produced by Rick Parker (BRMC, Von Bondies), The Whole Sea Is Raging displays a stirring sense of vitality and boasts an immediacy of fidelity: The drums absolutely explode in tandem with Matt Regan's hulking bass lines, providing a brawny low end that sharply contrasts with Kurt Ottaway's careening guitar work without diluting the clarity of his vocals, which glide assuredly on top. — Herrera

The Pirate Signal, No Weak Heart Shall Prosper (Self-released). The throbbing electro passages, synth interludes and warped beats here stand in sharp contrast to the soul-sampling-dependent sounds of much of today's hip-hop. And when woven together, the dense backdrops effectively bolster Yonnas Abraham's forceful and always compelling flow, which manages to be more dynamic and multi-dimensional than on past efforts. No Weak Heart Shall Prosper is a giant leap forward artistically for The Pirate Signal. — Herrera

Nathaniel Rateliff, In Memory of Loss (Rounder). Nathaniel Rateliff has always had a striking tenor range, but on his own, away from Born in the Flood, he's able to stretch and showcase his robust, expressive baritone. In Memory of Loss, his Rounder Records debut, contains some of his most memorable and affecting material to date. — Herrera

The Raven and the Writing Desk, The Recidivist (Self-released). Literate and soulful, this ambitious debut is a bracing alloy of baroque pop and romantic sensibilities. Soaring melodies and interweaving layers of rhythm make this a sonically consistent yet eclectic affair. At turns dreamily introspective, jaunty and delicately poignant, these songs are like thematically linked short stories of passion and peril. — Murphy

Reverend Deadeye, The Trials and Tribulations of Reverend Deadeye (Hazelwood Vinyl Plastics). During his one-man band-live shows, Brent Burkhart, aka Reverend Deadeye, can seem like a man possessed. But the dude's actually drunk on Jesus, trying to chase ol' Satan away. On record, he captures a lot of his frenetic stage energy with sweaty backwoods revival blues. It's the ideal soundtrack for flicking devils off your shoulder. — Solomon

Roger, Roll, Polaroid in Reverse (Self-released). Eric Peterson's last recording for now is, fittingly, about how things fade — memories, conceptually, and this poignant music, literally, as the vinyl was lathe-cut rather than pressed and will therefore deteriorate with each listen. Entropy is not something Peterson sees as worth fighting. It is, after all, the natural direction. — Maletsky

David Rynhart, By the Hollow Tree (Self-released). Drawing on a diverse pool of influences, from classical and Eastern European to blues and folk, singer-songwriter David Rynhart's debut exhibits his incredibly sharp songwriting and storytelling skills. At times dark and melancholic, at others filled with hope, By the Hollow Tree is a truly fine effort. — Solomon

Safe Boating Is No Accident, Isn't it Fun? (Self-released). Genuinely clever, scathing wit is in short supply most of the time, but this album is full of it. The music is lovely, melancholic Americana, but the lyrics are an incisive commentary on the foibles of the human condition, wrapped in a disarmingly rustic vocal delivery. — Murphy

Selko, UltraMundane (Self-released). An all-beat debut from a mysterious artist who is in no way a novice, UltraMundane is the kind of album that will get repeat spins for years. With layered (but not overly so) production and interesting samples, Selko's recorded introduction to the scene is a momentous one. — Cormier

The Silver Cord, Hate (Self-released). Perfectly fusing its talents for the brutally dark and the ethereally beautiful, the Silver Cord has hit its stride on Hate. Unafraid to address harrowing topics in a deeply personal manner, the album aims to unveil the darkest depths of the human psyche with an unflinching honesty and accuracy. — Murphy

Solar Bear, Captains of Industry (Self-released). Time signatures switch suddenly and unexpectedly throughout this six-song EP, creating oceans of frenzied, finger-stretching chaos before melting into beautiful and sprawling half-tempo breakdowns. Coupled with the musical know-how is grit and backbone, making Captains not only musically impressive, but also inspiring on many other levels. — Thomas

Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Songs About the Landscape or Songs About the Wolf Army (Death To False Hope Records). A thinking man's drinking music from one of Fort Collins's most kick-ass bands, this album escaped the attention of lots of Denver music fans. Let's hope that changes, because this thing is really good: Pianos and acoustic guitars and wailing and shout-alongs abound. — Maletsky

Speedwolf, Denver 666/Hell and Back (Self-released). If you think the negative, pulverizing vibes of Venom and Motörhead are relics of a cruder metal age, Speedwolf isn't going to change your mind. What the band's Denver 666/Hell and Back single will do, however, is this: eat you alive, fuck your skull, and leave the rest for the vultures. — Heller

Still City, We Will Explain Everything (Self-released). Brian Knab tells the tale of a young man moving to the big city from a small town and immersing himself in a new culture. Knab interjects his own parallels with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Matt Pond and a yearning that helps the listener feel that they, too, have been there before. — Thomas

The Sunset Curse, Artificial Heart (Self-released). There are moments of brilliance here ("Too Close to the Sun" chief among them), but to get this band, you have to see it. This is music for the times you feel like trading in life's candle for a stick of dynamite, and theirs is a tomorrow-never-comes live show. — Maletsky

Swimming With Models, Hypnautix and Pork Produx (Self-released). Equal parts experimental electronic music and hip-hop, this sonically rich and diverse release is as inventive in its use of sounds as it is in its creative hybridizing of compositional elements. Using drones, samples, loops and sound collages, the songs are an imaginative reworking of a familiar formula. — Murphy

Tequila Mockingbird, Luck and Trouble (Self-released). While the folks in Tequila Mockingbird, who are equally adept in rock and country, had a few troubles and struggles during the two years it took to make their third, fittingly titled disc, it might have been a little more than luck that caused said album to turn out so well. — Solomon

Throwaway Sunshine, For Everything We're Not (Self-released). This album could represent the disappointment of the year, as the band dissolved shortly after its release. Regardless, the group pays homage to punkers of yesteryear, like Jawbreaker and Crimpshrine — drawing inspirations from the ghosts of their past while becoming one in the process. — Thomas

Time, 11 Headed Hydra: The Great Coffee Experiment (Dirty Laboratory). Branching out from his already potent brand of hip-hop, Time picks up where he left off with The Fantastic Reality. Tapping experimental pop musician Robin Walker for vocal duties, Chris Steele's already densely literary songs reach a sonic depth that points to a new direction for his multi-faceted creativity. — Murphy

Tjutjuna, Tjutjuna (Fire Talk). If Tjutjuna's earlier work could be described as space-rock jams, this album is the distillation of those previous experiments in songwriting. You can hear the influence of Neu!, Acid Mothers Temple and Silver Apples, but it's also obvious the band is now making beautifully mysterious music with its own voice. — Murphy

Veronica, Emerging From Troubled Days (Self-released). As big a thrill as there was in Denver music this year, Veronica's latest is a blinding twelve-song, thirty-minute joy ride of endless guitar and earworm melody. This is windows-down, flooring-it music, the sort of stuff that makes you want to stop wasting time. — Maletsky

Via, Via (Self-released). As Via, Daralee Fallin simply employs a drum machine and some gathered samples to create a soundscape both terrifying and gorgeous. There are very few layers to Fallin's tracks, but her echoing cries — especially on "Mona" — are so well hidden on this EP that at times she doesn't sound human. If the afterlife had a soundtrack, it would be orchestrated by Via. — Davies

Voices Of, Voices Of (Self-released) The stream-of-consciousness narrative that forms the lyrics behind these two tracks sounds like it was recorded while the vocalist was under hypnosis. Hashed together from a much longer recording, the drones and sequenced noises are the stuff of vivid nightmares filled with darkly mythological imagery and experiences. — Murphy

Wentworth Kersey, ((O)) (Plastic Sound Supply). Wentworth Kersey's combination of folk and electronic music is slightly jarring on paper, but the subdued nature of the electronic parts make their records sound older, more authentic and somehow more folk-like. With ((O)), the outfit has created a sound that feels equally at home on the ranch as it does in the city. — Klosowski

Whiskey Blanket, No Object (Self-released). An experimental, fresh and progressive work from a band that incorporates live instrumentation into its recordings, No Object finds Whiskey Blanket showcasing a surprising amount of vigor and execution, letting each track stand on its own without the usual cohesion necessary in hip-hop. Futuristic and mind bending, No Object is a standout effort. — Johnson

Wire Faces, Wire Faces (Bocumast). After the Jimi Austin broke up, Ian Haygood and Shane Zweygardt formed Wire Faces as a way to go in a more progressive direction. Super-tight, edgy and aggressive, their outstanding self-titled debut treads around post-punk that at times recalls older Gang of Four and Fugazi, as well as newer stuff like the Mars Volta and At the Drive-In. — Solomon

Jon Wirtz, Sea Level (Self-released). While he's spent a lot of time playing with local pop artists like Matt Morris, Angie Stevens and John Common, on his solo piano debut, Sea Level, Jon Wirtz shows he's an accomplished jazz player, as well. At times recalling Keith Jarrett's solo work, Wirtz's meditative originals and two covers are both stunning and expansive. — Solomon

Wovenhand, The Threshingfloor (Sounds Familyre). Drawing from Eastern European, Middle Eastern and American folk music, David Eugene Edwards and company have created a magnificent album on par with Wovenhand's visceral shows. While primal at times and haunting at others, The Threshingfloor, the band's sixth full-length, is an entirely hypnotic and dramatic trek through Edwards's enigmatic mind. — Solomon

See even more of our favorite local releases in Backbeat

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