Sure, 2016 was a rough year all around. But one thing is certain: Great music came out of the Mile High City. And on the music-video front, Colorado's creative scene delivered, too. From Rob3Real's trek through the unkempt alleys of downtown to Fed Rez's green-screen journey down Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue, the importance of place in Colorado music videos could not be understated. Here we've collected just fifteen of the many great music videos that came to the small screen in 2016.
1. "Danver" — Fed Rez
From Westwood and Athmar Park to Park Hill and Green Valley Ranch, the members of Fed Rez put on for their city. In 2016, the three MCs and their beat-maker, DJ Who? Tony, released "Danver," an ode to cruising Federal Boulevard and enjoying the bounty of Colorado-infused Mexican grub from hot spots like Tacos Rapidos. This unofficial anthem of the Queen City features visual cameos from some of our longstanding pop-culture landmarks and foundational monuments like Lakeside Amusement Park, Casa Bonita, Emanuel Martinez's "Confluent People" mural, Waterworld and La Raza Park. Fed Rez's low-key crazy style is a reminder that the more the Mile High City changes, the more it stays the same. Welcome to Danver, bud.
2. "Gossip" — Trev Rich
This was a huge year for Trev Rich, who signed with Cash Money Records and released his most recent mixtape, To Make a Long Story Short. Shining the spotlight on Denver's underappreciated hip-hop scene, the MC takes viewers to the city's east side, walking Colfax while spitting his rhymes. From the looks of it, 2017 can only get bigger and better with Trev Rich at the hip-hop helm, and Denver couldn't be more proud.
3. "No Convenience" — Safe Boating Is No Accident
Capitalizing on the popularity of true-crime shows, Safe Boating Is No Accident's video for "No Convenience" traces the disappearance of a fictional character, played by vocalist and guitarist Leighton Peterson, at the hands of otherworldly forces. This satirical visual companion to Safe Boating's beautiful jangle pop was the kind of welcome laugh needed coming off of what felt like a surreal year in politics and popular culture.
4. "Staying In Is the New Going Out" - SPELLS
Denver's favorite punkers in matching outfits take on the myth that staying home on a Friday night is a bummer in this paranoia-laced homebody party anthem. In collaboration with local video production company Geek Mythology Productions, Ben Roy and the rest of the SPELLS crew bounce around a boarded-up house that eventually gets invaded by friends who bring the shindig indoors.
5. "Hard Out Here For a Gimp" — Wheelchair Sports Camp
In this oddly lit look at inaccessibility, MC Kalyn Heffernan takes viewers into her world, a place where she is constantly questioned for being who she is. Behind the camera is Chris Bagley, a filmmaker who co-created the iconic DIY icon-focused documentary Wesley Willis's Joy Rides, and who has also been working on a doc about Heffernan for several years now. In an ADA non-compliant world, Heffernan asks, "There's a stairway to heaven, so tell me: How the hell we gonna get in?"
6. "Dig the Beach" — Slow Caves
The crackling, glitchy flaw that defines the VHS aesthetic is reframed as glorious in Slow Caves' goofy beach romp, "Desert Minded." The Mueller and Lamperes brothers give a seaside vision of sunshine the Colorado treatment, interjecting scenes of the dudes in summer attire with images of the band playing in parkas. The quartet's sparkling garage pop fits the throwback video treatment like a puzzle piece.
7. "Seek Safe Haven" — Echo Beds
Echo Beds had a rough year (see Westword's cover story on the band's fight against plagiarism and harassment), but it didn't stop the duo from triumphing artistically. In a perfect pairing, the neo-industrial harsh-noise outfit teamed up with filmmaker Kim Shively, the other filmmaker behind the above-mentioned Wesley Willis's Joyrides, in this creepy, tense collection of vintage horror and sci-fi footage spliced with images of Echo Beds performing. Resilient as ever, the Denver act continues its quest to push boundaries with art.
8. "Modern Outlaw Country" — Ryan Chrys & the Rough Cuts
Colorado loves country, and Ryan Chrys & the Rough Cuts give the genre a local twist in this danger-driven anthem. As the "King of Colfax," Ryan Chrys finds his place in the Wild West of music history, shouting down everyone from Waylon Jennings to Strugill Simpson, as the band brings outlaw archetypes from Denver's barrooms and back alleys to life on the small-screen.
9. "Ronin" — Entrancer (formerly Thug Entrancer)
As staples of Denver's DIY community, longtime friends and collaborators Ryan McRyhew and Milton Melvin Croissant III prove yet again to be a great match. The artists also collaborated for the video for Entrancer's 2014 track, "Death After Life." McRyhew's minimalist, trance-like take on the footwork genre is brought to dimly lit life with MMCIII's stunning sci-fi animation. Brutal but hardly bleak, Entrancer's wordless, futuristic anthems put Denver's music scene at the forefront of the next generation of club bangers.
Read on for the rest of the best Colorado music videos from 2016.
10. "Before It Runs Down" — Kid Astronaut
Jon Shockness's work as Kid Astronaut is a kind reminder that a little goes a long way. In "Before It Runs Down," Shockness performs alone in a church with just a guitar, a simple visual that allows for the veteran singer's soulful voice to take center stage. Constantly evolving as an artist, Shockness has been a player in many musical projects over the past decade. Check out Westword's recent interview with the singer about his latest musical project, HVN.
11. " Psychic Spirit" — The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms are a trio of kindred artists, both on screen and on record, who strike a balance between melancholy and hope with a mystical flare. "Psychic Spirit" perfectly captures the act's otherworldly connection. The track showcases Harmony Rose's signature ukulele strumming, which matches the glistening prism of light and color that defines the video.
12. "What More?" — Scatter Gather
The pleasant unease and experimentation in Scatter Gather's sound comes to life on screen in the act's 2016 video for "What More?" Bassist Zach Antonio's floating head experiences an array of emotion expressed through animation. Be sure to watch Scatter Gather's follow-up video for the song "Don't Wait Up!" starring guitarist/singer Carmine Gabbianelli's floating head in a similar, heavy-on-the-color-red experience.
13. "Capitol Hill" — Rob4Real
In a city constantly reinvented, several artists took this year to give a visual shoutout to Denver's true gritty roots. Rob4Real walks bleak downtown D-town streets in "Capitol Hill," captured by Welcome to the D.O.P.E Game video visionary Jeremy Pape. The video also pays tribute to fallen D.O.P.E. Game co-founder Derek Reinhardt, whose 2015 death rocked the Mile High City's music and arts community. "I'm a product of where I come from: Denver, Colorado," Rob4Real proclaims from the empty parking lots and dark alleyways many newcomers never see.
14. "OG Headquarters" — DJ Cavem & Alkemia Earth
"Organic Gangster" DJ Cavem has put Denver on the map as a home for music that positively impacts the health of its communities. In this spot for Natural Grocers, DJ Cavem and Alkemia Earth — partners in music and life — spread the word that "food is the medicine." Featuring local kids and adults dancing and smiling to the delicious beat, this duo shows how cool it is to be a health-conscious consumer.
15. "Enter Sandman" — SHEL
Fort Collins quartet SHEL takes on Metallic's heavy classic "Enter Sandman," and the Holbrook sisters turn the track on its head. This stark version does exactly what a cover should do: It gives the song a terrifyingly beautiful reworking that sounds nothing like the original. The video accompaniment is equally jarring, featuring vocalist Eva Holbrook alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.