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 Examiner.com 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…

Oct 092011
 

So before I tell you about singer/songwriter Stephanie Mabey, a bit of a disclaimer…

Just so you know, I’m a huge believer in crowdfunding projects and sites like Kickstarter, and I’m even down for throwing some money at them myself. But I’ve had some misgivings about promoting artists who are doing Kickstarter campaigns, simply because I am friends with some of these people, and I don’t want to create a conflict of interest or be accused of playing favorites with promising artists who are raising money for their projects–as in, “You promoted so-and-so’s project–why didn’t you support mine?” ¬†I just don’t want to go there.

And yet, this morning, I’m all like, “Well, if I am willing to promote someone’s record on this blog after it was made, how is it any different to promote it before it gets made?” So that made me think of it a little differently.

And then there’s the question: if we don’t do what we can for an artist whose music really ought to be released, perhaps it won’t be–and then where would we be?

The thing is, after hearing a couple of tracks from her upcoming record Waking Up Dreaming, I’m convinced that Stephanie Mabey’s music needs to get out there. She’s very current both in songwriting and in style, and her songs are engaging. The song below, “Zombie Song” (which Stephanie is currently giving away for free), currently has my vote for most entertaining song of the year. It’s inventive, funny, and extremely catchy–not to mention it’s a perfect song for October. :)

So don’t expect me to make a habit of this, but since I suppose it’s my prerogative to support a record “before the fact” or “after the fact”–I’m inviting my readers to participate in this particular campaign. At this moment, Stephanie needs to raise about $1400 in the next week to complete her record, or she basically has to start over with fundraising. So if you dig the track below, hop on over to her Kickstarter page and at least pre-order the record. If you want to do a little more, she’s offering plenty of cool incentives, as well. If we all do our part, “mabey” we can get it done.

Oh, come on. You knew that pun was coming, didn’t you?

ADDENDUM NOVEMBER 1: Not only has Stephanie surpassed her Kickstarter goal, but she’s released a YouTube vid of The Zombie Song which is getting lots of views. Thought I’d stick it here as well:

Jul 032011
 

Let’s begin at the beginning: Andy Palmer can’t sing.

I’m serious.

Think Bob Dylan. Think Tom Waits. Think Johnny Cash near the end of his life. That’s singer/songwriter Andy Palmer.¬†All through his record Sometime Around (released under the moniker “Palmer”), he growls, squeaks and strains through the lyrics with a voice that sounds at times twice his age, almost like he spent the last ten hours screaming at the top of his lungs, or like he’s been smoking three packs a day since he was four.

Having said that…his record is excellent. ¬†Sometime Around has high production value and a gritty, folk-rock vibe that stays with you after the songs end–and Palmer’s squeaky/gravelly vocals are just the icing on the cake.

You see, one does not have to achieve vocal perfection in order to be memorable. Solid musicianship, compelling songs and a passionate delivery can often grab and hold a listener’s attention even better than a perfectly executed vocal. Some of the world’s best performers and songwriters can utterly captivate their audience while barely carrying a tune in a bucket.

Think Bob Dylan. Think Tom Waits. Think Johnny Cash, even back when he could sing. That’s Andy Palmer.

Now, don’t misunderstand: I’m not equating Palmer with the stuff of legends–not yet, anyway. This guy is still near the beginning of what could be a long career, and has plenty of room to grow. But besides solid writing and great guitar work, the one thing he’s got going for him is that he’s memorable, and in a good way. Palmer can’t sing–but he also doesn’t sound like anyone else you’ve heard, which gives him an open field. Not legendary yet–but certainly there is enough musical substance here that gives Palmer the potential to connect with a larger audience.

Andy Palmer currently heads up a band in the Denver area called Grub Street Writer, and while his record doesn’t officially release until the fall, it’s actually available now on a name-your-own-price basis from his website. So if you like the sample track below, go pick up the rest of it.

Palmer: “Take It Down”

Jun 292011
 

I'm With Her (Photo: Lucia De Giovanni)

What do you get when you take an established country/roots singer from Denver and an established folk singer from Fargo, and put ‘em together? When Angie Stevens and Haley E. Rydell tried it, they came up with a new collaboration called I’m With Her.

Both artists have found success on their own–Stevens with her band Angie Stevens & the Beautiful Wreck, and Rydell with Haley E. & the Rydells–but this collaboration seems to combine the best of both artists in an expression that is much different than what either one has produced thus far. ¬†According to Stevens, with whom I had a chance to talk prior to the release of I’m With Her’s self-titled EP, this project provided a chance for them to share some heartfelt music that doesn’t quite fit the vibe of the artists’ respective bands.

Released earlier this month on Stevens’ label Boss Koala Records, the I’m With Her EP contains songs that are simple, reflective, passionate, beautiful…and deep.

Deep. ¬†That’s a good word for it. The girls ventured into deeper waters with this collaboration. If you’re a fan of Stevens, Rydell, or both, chances are you’ll love this collaboration a lot.

Take a listen to the track below, and if you like it, go buy the EP at I’m With Her’s Bandcamp site.

I’m With Her: “But I Do”