The best band on Act So Big Forest is ... well, all of them.

We don't spend much time up north in Fort Collins. But based on what makes its way to Denver, we assume it is the sort of place where a sandwich can be purchased for a song and microbrewed beer flows from every fountain.

Maybe that's not quite it -- we hear there are some shady practices going on related to fudging crime statistics. But if the output of Act So Big Forest, a label based in Fort Fun, is any indication of the city's overall artistic vision and general goodwill, sign us the hell up.

The Act So Big Forest band you're most likely to be familiar with is Candy Claws, who got some international attention for last year's In The Dream of the Sea Life. That title is exactly how the album sounds. And it's not like every band on Act So Big Forest is working on semi-ambient visions of nature. But a lot of them are.

The nautical theme continues with Ocean Bump!, who are even more lush and gorgeous than Candy Claws. Think a more subtle Sigur Ros without the fake language. They appear to be offering their three albums for free download from their myspace, although the links are broken.

Mehko & Ocean Birds aren't from Fort Collins so much as they are from Denver, but they do have ocean in their name, which we suppose makes them kindred spirits. Don't let the current demos fool you -- what sounds sort of like chaos on Myspace is actually most of the technical insanity of Dirty Projectors mashed into the euphoria of Broken Social Scene. Still working on a proper debut, these guys are only getting better.

Act So Big Forest are like many small local labels in that joining their ranks is not about signing contracts and organizing distribution deals. It's about the fact that more voices make louder noise.

Meaning their members are free to remain on the label while working with other outlets -- Candy Claws work with Indiecater Records in Dublin, and Sour Boy, Bitter Girl are apparently signed to a label in North Carolina (although there isn't much noise about it online).

Other acts on the Act So Big Forest bandwagon are Paean (who are playing the Meadowlark on Saturday), Thrifty Astronaut, Great Room Victorian, Emily Fehler, Brett Brady and Ambassador Engine. The roster doesn't seem limited to those bands, based on the release schedule. Regardless, you can't really go wrong.

The best way to find Act So Big Forest releases is here.

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky