Aug 212012

This one falls under the category of I-don’t-know-why-more-people-don’t-know-this-band. (It also falls under the category of I-should-have-known-about-them-sooner.)

Anyhow, a few months ago, Alabama-based indie-folk band Fire Mountain shared their EP Of the Dust with me, and alas, amid tackling the learning curve of a huge new writing project, it didn’t get listened to before now. I’m so glad they didn’t fall through the cracks.

“Black Heart,” the opening track of the EP, captured me with the first few notes, and kept my attention throughout with its haunting melody and lyricism. The rest of the record is also worth a listen. Fire Mountain has a sound that is simple yet captivating, and frontman Perry Brown’s slightly raspy voice fills things in nicely. Brown is a gifted songwriter with something to say.

The video for “Black Heart” (also very well done) is embedded below. If you like what you see/hear, the band is currently offering the EP on their Bandcamp page on a “name your price” basis.

Fire Mountain – Black Heart from Fire Mountain on Vimeo.

Jun 142012

I first mentioned husband-and-wife duo Glowing House about a year and a half ago, when I reviewed a record that was two years old back then. After a long wait, this Denver folk act has released their new album Days Run Out–and I can tell you, it was worth the wait.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jess Parsons and Steve Varney recently for an article on During that interview, they shared that they were originally two solo singer/songwriters who began joining each other on gigs, and the forming of Glowing House (and the marriage) seemed a natural evolution. Even so, they told me, their first album The Annual Demise of Every Aspen was essentially put together as a hodgepodge of songs each solo artist had brought to the table without much thought as to a collective band dynamic.

With Days Run Out, however, the merger is complete, so to speak. Not only is the overall sound of the album much more uniform, but the record shows exponential growth for both artists. They have arrived on a combination that is greater than the sum of its parts. Most of the record was recorded in an old church building, which only adds to its ambience.

Don’t look for a lot of “toe-tappers” here; the songs of Glowing House are more about reflection and thought and feeling. But there’s a raw beauty in their music that captured me the first time I heard them play, and their songs grow a little bit more on me every time I hear them. I was already familiar with most of the tunes on Days because I’m a frequent visitor to their live sets around Denver, but when I heard those opening harmonies on the first track “All That Matters,” I got chills.

Glowing House is currently streaming the new album for free on Bandcamp. (I’ve embedded a couple of my favorite tunes below.) If you like what you hear, pay the moolah and download this record. This is definitely a band worth hearing, and worth adding to your collection.


Dec 242011

Playing catch-up? Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Okay, okay. I know I said the Top Picks would be announced yesterday…sorry about that. It’s the holidays, and I do have  a family. ‘Nuff said. :)

As I mentioned before, I’m listing some of my favorite Denver acts and songs for 2011. Up until now, pretty much all the songs on the list have been in random order, but to finish off the series, I’ve saved my three Top Picks for last–the songs that stood out even beyond the standouts.

I initially was going to do this series as a Top 10 from least to greatest, but decided to do it this way because I just had too many favorites to rank them in order. (On a Top 10 list, these three songs would have all tied for first place, leaving only a bottom seven…and that wouldn’t have worked.) 😀

So without further delay…here are my Top Picks among the Denver Locals for 2011.

Stephanie Mabey: “Zombie Song”

A love song about zombies? On the Top Picks? You betchee. You’d think this song would just be a fun fluke, but it just happens to be the wittiest, hookiest, funniest, most clever, most funnest zombie song I have ever heard. Never mind the mixed metaphors about vampires in love–this song is just too cool. I actually had the opportunity to hear this song played for a panel of industry pros at the Durango Songwriter’s Expo, and watching the reaction of the group was almost as fun as the song itself. Stephanie Mabey’s full-length record isn’t due out until early January, but the single was released just in time for Halloween–happily making it eligible for the list.


Churchill: “Change”

Yes, for those who are paying attention, Churchill already has a song on this list. Churchill has had a really good year–releasing a solid debut CD, opening for DeVotchKa at The Ogden, and recently winning the KTCL Hometown for the Holidays competition with their new single “Change,” released just this month. Current, catchy, and just plain cool, this song is a whole other direction for Churchill, and a huge leap forward, in my opinion. After hearing this tune, I simply had to make room for it on the Top Picks.



Rachel James:  “Not Giving Up”


From the moment I heard this song by pop/rock artist Rachel James, I knew it had to be at or near the top of my list. What can I say–I’m a sucker for a great hook, and this song has the strongest hook I’ve heard from Denver musicians all year. Anytime I hear it, I seriously find myself replaying it in my head for about 24 hours afterward–not in an irritating “Moves Like Jagger” kind of way, but in a really good way. It always makes me smile when I see musical artists move forward–and with this song, Rachel James has made me smile a lot.

Rachel James “Not Giving Up”


So there it is–my list of the Best of Denver Locals 2011. Kudos to the artists of the Denver music scene for all the great music, and for giving me so much to write about this year.

Happy Holidays to all.

Dec 222011

My Body Sings Electric. (Photo: Brandon Whalen)


Wait! Read part 1 here…

…aaand part 2

I’m continuing to share my personal faves of 2011 from bands and artists in the Denver scene. These are in no particular order, except for the Top Picks which I’ll reveal in the next post. Meanwhile, here are a couple of additional contenders.


My Body Sings Electric: “Step Into the Light”

This band impresses me with their complex rhythms and tight arrangements–My Body Sings Electric is a solid group of musicians, to say the least. The single from this year’s release Changing Color is “Step Into the Light.” Not only is it quite hooky, but the searing guitar solo near the end floors me every time, and was enough on its own to land this song on my list.


Places: “The Fire”

A latecomer to the list, pop/rock outfit Places just released a new record called No More Wasted Days. It’s so new, in fact, that it’s currently only available digitally, with a hard-copy release coming in January. “The Fire,” the first single from the record, really stood out to me, so I made room for it on the list. I’m looking forward to interviewing these guys after the holidays.

The only current streaming I could find for the single was their YouTube vid, so here it is:

NEXT UP: In the closing post tomorrow on Best of the Denver Locals, I’ll reveal my three Top Picks for the year–the standouts among the standouts.

Dec 212011

Take to the Oars. (Photo: Lucia de Giovanni)

Continuing our recap of some of the best music to come out of Denver this year…here are a couple more of my personal picks for this year’s standouts.

Take to the Oars: “Bar Talk”

After rocking Denver for several years under the moniker “Vonnegut,” indie-rockers Take to the Oars took a risk and lunged into uncharted waters in 2011 with a name change and a new album (reviewed here). I’ve seen these guys play a few times this year, and I’ve been particularly impressed with the passion behind their music, as well as their solid work ethic. After having their tunes in my shuffle for the better part of this year, this song is the one that stands out as the most memorable.

Take to the Oars: “Bar Talk”


Churchill: “Happy Sad”

I’ve made it no secret that I’ve had a serious blogger crush on Churchill since I first heard them play two years ago, and I’ve heard them do nothing but improve and grow since then. Their first full-length record Happy/Sad was released in February (read my review here), I’ve been enjoying tunes from it all year. I was all set to list their main single from the album, “Miles,” but at the last minute I went with the title track at the end of the record, because of the raw emotion in it. They definitely saved the best for last.

Churchill: “Happy Sad”

Still more great bands to come! Stay tuned…

Dec 202011

Denver act I'm With Her. (Photo: Lucia de Giovanni)

It’s no secret that while I spotlight music from all over the world on this blog, I’m a particular fan of the Denver music scene. I’ve covered the music scene here for for a couple of years, and I’ve become friends with a lot of the local talent–and we do have some great talent here, IMHO.

So…’tis the season for end-of-the-year lists, and I thought I’d jump onto the wagon this year by sharing a few of the Denver bands/songs I thought were standouts for 2011. I initially thought I’d just do a Top 10 list or something, but I found it a bit difficult to place certain songs above others–too many “ties”–so I thought the best way not to slight anyone was just to list them in no particular order (except for a couple of honorable mentions at the end of this series), and share them in a series of four parts. So if you’re part of a Denver band and you’re on this list, know that this means you’ve earned my respect, regardless of where you appear on the list. And if you’re not on the list–chances are you still have my respect. I just had room for 10. :)

That said, here are some basic criteria I set up to be eligible for this list. If a local band met these criteria, I considered them for the list:

1. It had to be a band/artist from the Front Range area (i.e., Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins, Co. Springs).

2. I had to be familiar with the band/artist. (Duh.)

3. The song had to be released (either as a single or part of a project) in 2011.

4. I had to be able to access the song for sharing/streaming.

Fair enough, right? So…here are the first three of my picks for the Best of Denver Locals 2011:

The Heyday: “Somebody to Someone”

Pop/rock outfit The Heyday has been a staple in Denver for several years, regularly placing at or near the top in local band competitions. This single was released a few weeks ago as an entry in KTCL’s annual Hometown for the Holidays competition, and in my opinion it is their best work to date–so it comes in as a last-minute favorite for the year.


Wire Faces: “Cloak and Dagger”

I haven’t had a chance to see Wire Faces live yet, but I was impressed with their record (which I reviewed here earlier this year)–and this song in particular has stayed in my head, and on my ipod, pretty much since.


I’m With Her: “Let Me In”

When Denver country-folk artist Angie Stevens teamed up with Haley E. Rydell (formerly of South Dakota, recently moved to Denver) to form I’m With Her earlier this year, I immediately liked the chemistry and the vibe. This tune has been my personal fave on their EP (reviewed here), and stayed on my playlist all year long.


More to come over the next few days! Stay tuned…

Nov 282011

I love these hidden gems.

St. Leonards is an alt-rock band from Sydney, Australia, whom I’d never heard of until a couple of days ago when I was catching up on my email. Listening to the title track from their recently released EP World Alone, I was instantly riveted. Literally with the first breath of the song, the music drips with emotion, and remains so throughout the track–and indeed, through the rest of the EP.

I can definitely hear influences from bands like The Fray and U2, especially in the voice of the lead singer. But even beyond that, I think the reason this music grips me is that even without catching all the lyrics, it feels honest without being overbearing. Perhaps the only critique I could offer about the song below is that the melody line seemed a bit narrow in its range, but I found myself being quite forgiving on that point because the rest of the music so captured me.

I don’t know how much name recognition St. Leonards carries in Australia, but I surely hope more of their music makes it around the world to these parts. This is an EP I’d certainly keep in my ipod.

St. Leonards “World Alone”

If you like their music, pick up the EP on iTunes:
World Alone - EP - St Leonards

Oct 112011

Okay, I’m gonna be honest: I wasn’t too big on reviewing Sleeper Agent‘s debut record Celebrasion. I first heard this indie-rock act when they came through town on tour last spring with Cage the Elephant. Their set was energetic, but really sloppy, like they had just came out of the garage. I remembered wondering how in the WORLD they got an opening tour slot with a hot band like Cage.  When I found out they were from Bowling Green, KY, I put two and two together: they prob’ly got the gig because the two bands are friends. But I heard nothing in their music to make me think this band actually deserved this kind of tour.

So a few weeks ago, Sleeper Agent came through town again, this time on their own, playing a much tinier venue. Against my better judgment, I went to see them play–and they had definitely improved. At the very least, it felt like this smaller venue fit them, rather than swallowing them up.

And THEN I spun their record Celebrasion, and that completely turned my opinion in their favor. I’m now a fan.

Except for recognizing some of the tunes, I’d never know this was the same band I heard a few months ago. The production value is excellent, their melodies are totally singable, and their sound is raw but well put together–high energy, catchy alt-rock with a touch of retro. The tracklist is consistent throughout, a great selection of tunes that defines the band’s sound but also shows off its range.

It’s also interesting to note that Sleeper Agent has only been around since 2010, and that puts things a little bit more in perspective. When I consider that a band less than two years old has made this much progress–and I can personally tell the difference within the past few months–this band is growing rapidly, and is well on their way. I’d say Sleeper Agent has plenty of cause to celebrate.

Sleeper Agent: “Get It Daddy”

Sleeper Agent: “Some White Blinds”

Buy Celebrasion on itunes:
Celabrasion - Sleeper Agent

Aug 152011

I know it’s probably stupid, but sometimes I feel a bit of apprehension in reviewing a solo artist posing as a band. I dunno, maybe I feel like it’s cheating if one guy played all the instruments on the record–because how the heck is he gonna play all of them LIVE?

And why can’t the guy get a band in the first place?

But the fact is, you can’t argue with talent. And besides, you shouldn’t judge. (After all, maybe someday I’ll be a solo artist with a pretend band name, and how would I like it?) Tongue out of cheek, the fact is, when I took a listen to The Sister Ruby Band (a.k.a., Johnny Ruby), I was honestly impressed. The debut CD In Cold Blood (which drops tomorrow) presents an interesting blend of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, resulting in a buzzy-retro kind of sound. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s got that sort of indescribable “oomph” that this blog is all about.  It’s more than the sum of its parts. Johnny done good.

I’m sorry. Sister Ruby. Sister Ruby done good.

That’s pretty much all I can say about it. The music sort of speaks for itself. Take a listen and see what you think.

The Sister Ruby Band “Straight Into Your Heart”

Jun 182011

Indie-rock band Achille Lauro has been a staple in the Denver music scene for several  years, probably better known for their tongue-and-cheekness and their willingness to explore musically than for a particular sound. I (sort of) got to hear them play live once, and the live audio was so terrible, unfortunately (not their fault), that it wouldn’t have been fair to form an opinion of them one way or the other. The only thing I could pick up was that they were solid musicians and showed some sense of promise.

These days, Achille Lauro is continuing to experiment, this time by releasing new songs for their fans a few at a time as opposed to putting out a full-length. Their latest single, “Low Cha Cha,” has put to rest any doubts I might have had about the band’s musicality. Over ninety percent of this five-minute song is a repetition of two chords, but everything over the top of those two chords is nothing short of compelling for me. The vocals by frontman Matt Close are passionate, expressive, almost cinematic, perhaps similar to Brandon Flowers of The Killers in style, if not in tone. Instrumentation, production value–all of it is top-notch.  If you haven’t heard Achille Lauro yet, they deserve a listen. So do it.

Achille Lauro: “Low Cha Cha”