Jul 152012

Next weekend, the Baker district of Denver will be flooded with thousands of music fans who have come to see over 350 indie acts perform on over a dozen stages over a 4-day period. The event? The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase, which happens July 19-22.

Hailed by many as Denver’s answer to SXSW, the UMS is the region’s largest summer indie music festival, a healthy blend of touring acts and plenty of great local talent. Among the out-of-town acts on this year’s lineup are Atlas Sound, The Melismatics, A Place To Bury Strangers, Desert Noises, Maudlin, Mrs. Magician and many others. As for the local acts, I’ve covered many of them on this here blog, and will be previewing several of them over the next several days.

If you’re an indie music fan, it’s worth the trip to Denver to come check out some of the best indie acts in the country. Perhaps the best part about the UMS is the price: four-day wristbands are only $40 ($50 on opening day). For all the info, check out the UMS website.

Feb 202012

One of the things I love about music blogging is when I come across “hidden treasures”–bands with a unique vibe and memorable sound that not many people know about–but should. In my view, Brooklyn-based Palomino is one of those bands.

Citing influences from late 70’s/early 80’s post-punk, this 3-piece band has a raw, sparse sound that will actually appeal to a variety of listeners. In the video below (the song “Ponte Vecchio”), I definitely hear the punk elements, but also a bit of alt-country, early alternative, and just plain rock. But most of all (and this is the main reason why I like ’em)–I hear a great song. Catchy, stick-in-your-head music. Lead vocalist/guitarist Elijah Campbell’s unpolished voice reminds me quite a bit of Michael Roe of the 77’s (extra credit if you know who I’m talking about).

I get plenty of submissions from bands who don’t have a huge following, and to be completely honest, when I listen to their music, I understand why. In this case, I’m baffled. Listening to this stuff, I do not understand why more people don’t know about Palomino yet–and I definitely hope a lot more people will.

Palomino just released an EP (simply called The Palomino EP), which can be streamed at their Bandcamp site. If you dig “Ponte Vecchio,” as I do, they’re currently offering that tune as a free download.


Jan 212012

When the Fairfax, VA-based band Escape the Armada hit me up to listen to their recent release Monsters, I have to tell you that I didn’t know what to expect–but I didn’t expect this. It’s a great blend of powerpop, rock, electro, dance and even rap–pretty much everything that makes pop music “popular” these days.

From the opening notes of the opening track, the immediate impression I had was the fantastic production value. This band is currently unsigned, but you’d never know it from the record. The blend, the mix, and the overall sound easily matches anything you’d hear on Top-40 radio–plus solid rhythms and great hooks that make you want to dance and sing. Everything the way it should be.


Here’s the only critique I have about the record: it’s great, but it’s not new. The music and the songs are catchy, but I didn’t hear anything on the record that I haven’t heard in some version elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, Monsters is not “mediocre,” not by any stretch; it’s really good, it’s worth a listen, and it’s lots of fun. It’s just that this band has done an excellent job doing what pretty much everybody else in their field is doing–and in an already over-saturated market, it’s not enough just to make really good pop music. Without some extra “oomph” to make them stand out from the throng, I think it’s really a crap shoot as to whether their vibe is going to take them very far in this market.

If I were coaching this band, I’d say Escape the Armada has laid a really good foundation thus far; now it’s just time to take the next steps. The question in front of them isn’t what makes them good, but what makes them different.

But heck, that’s just my opinion. Here’s my personal favorite track off the record, “Without You.” Listen for yourself and see what you think.

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.

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

Jul 282011

Picking music to write about is not an exact science for any music blogger. Music is just too subjective for that. For me, out of the many music submissions I get, I choose not just to write about those artists who have all their ducks in a row, but also artists with potential. Also, contrary to common belief, I don’t just write about bands from Denver, although I keep a running joke about that. :) Generally what prompts me to write about a band or act is when something in their music captures my attention, and makes me want to hear more.

Days of Rae falls into that category.

When Cherie Rae Cobbs, part of the wife/husband team that heads up Days of Rae, contacted me to let me know their Minnesota-based act was relocating to Denver, and asked me for my thoughts about their record Naked Maché, I understandably had no idea who they were. But the first few seconds of the first song got my attention, and definitely made me want to hear more. The record contains moments of brilliance with interesting arrangements, catchy melodic hooks (which anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a sucker for), and a unique overall sound.

That isn’t to say the record isn’t without its flaws, or that the band doesn’t have some growing to do. In between those moments of brilliance I spoke of earlier, there are also places where the music feels kind of washed out. As I listened, I found myself sometimes losing interest by a mixture of bland melody lines, pitch/tuning issues and occasional rhythmic sloppiness…and then another moment of brilliance would come and wake me up again.

So, yes, Days of Rae makes me want to hear more–I want to hear more of those moments of brilliance that made me take notice. If I take this record as a snapshot of the band, I’d say Days of Rae definitely has what it takes to make it–they just need to evolve and grow a bit. The elements of greatness are present; now it’s time for those elements to be worked throughout the music like spices in a stew, so they appear throughout the songs, and not just in a few brilliant places.

Geesh, I sound like a chef or something.

So…more, please. I look forward to hearing more from Days of Rae, and since they’re going to be local, I look forward to watching their evolution from here.  Meanwhile, take a listen to “Paperdolls,” the opening track from Naked Maché. IMHO, it’s the catchiest tune on the record–and it’s the song that initially made me want to hear more. And if it makes you want to hear more, you can download the whole record here, and name your price for it.

Days of Rae: “Paperdolls”

Jun 022011

After a bit of waiting, I finally got my hands on Changing Color, the debut full-length from Denver alt-rockers My Body Sings Electric. This is a band that has been playing a lot around town and gaining a lot of momentum and attention with their high-energy, indie-punk sound.

I had the chance to talk with these guys a few months ago (you can see the article I wrote here), and the impression I got from talking to them was that they are very purposeful, passionate, hard-working and focused. They want to get their music to a wider audience, and they are working a plan to get there.

Listening to their record, I’d say My Body Sings Electric is ready for the larger audience they are seeking. Recorded at Interlace Audio in Portland, Oregon, the record’s production value is outstanding, with quality audio and near-flawless execution. Tight, complex rhythms and riffs played with searing accuracy, overlaid with hooky, singable vocals, make this a great listen all around. The hard work is showing–these guys play extremely well together.

My Body Sings Electric

Take a listen to the record’s single (and my personal favorite), “Step Into the Light,” and if you like their vibe, the whole record is available pretty cheap from their website. Listen for the wailing guitar solo near the end of the track–gives me chills.

My Body Sings Electric: “Step Into The Light”

May 242011

When you hear of a rock band called Afterlife Parade releasing an EP called Death, it might be easy to get the wrong idea–like something dark, macabre, gothic.  But that’s not the case at all with this band. It actually started as a project by Nashville singer/songwriter Quinn Erwin who was trying to process a series of losses that hit close to home. The result is a themed EP that actually takes the listener on a journey processing that sense of loss that death can bring…and musically and thematically, I have to say, I find it brilliant.

Dealing with death in any capacity musically can be a huge risk. Lean too far one way, and you’ll be dark and depressing–and lean too far the other, and you’ll come off as trite.  This record, in my opinion, falls right into the perfect groove between those two extremes, being engaging both lyrically and musically.

I’ve shared the first full track, “Death,” but really this is an EP that should be listened to all the way through. Thankfully, at the present time the full EP is available for free download from the band’s Bandcamp page.

Apparently, Death is just part one of the journey of Afterlife Parade.  A followup EP, Rebirth, is due out soon. After hearing this one…I can’t wait.

Afterlife Parade: “Death”

Download the Death EP from Afterlife Parade here:

May 012011

So I just got a listen to Diamonds & Gold, the new EP from Ft. Collins-based post-punk band Wire Faces released in March. I must say I’m surprised that they haven’t shown up on my radar before now. (Not that I’m omniscient or anything…)

Let’s just say it takes a little innovation for a three-piece band to fill the sonic space the way these guys do–they make drums, bass and guitar go a long way, both in musicianship and energy, giving off the pleasant illusion that you’re listening to a bigger band, when actually you’re hearing three guys playing the heck out of three instruments.

As to musical style–to me, Wire Faces has a neo-retro vibe vaguely reminiscent of The Killers, except more guitar driven (i.e., no synth), and a lot less tame. Vocalist/drummer Shane Zweygart, who handles most of the vocal work, frequently lets his voice fly passionately into pitchy territory, but does so in such a way that is actually quite satisfying.

Take a listen to the track “Tame You” from the new EP, and watch the video below from Wire Faces’ first record. See what you think.

Wire Faces: “Tame You”

Download Diamonds & Gold:

Diamonds & Gold - EP - Wire Faces

Apr 242011

Brand new on the radar…to the sound of (not so) much fanfare…comes Denver acoustic indie-folk band the whicker and pine.

(Doesn’t ANYONE use upper case anymore?)

Anyhow, just getting started, these guys already show some musical maturity on their debut self-titled EP (which you can download for free from here).  They have a laid-back sound that’s just perfect for a cloudy Sunday morning while enjoying a cup of coffee (which is precisely why–and when–I’m writing this blog post now).

In a recent post on the band’s blog, one of the band mates half-jokingly described their sound as “Indie Folk Melancholipop.”  But that really fits the vibe of the record. It’s just enough “indie” and “alt” to get your attention, but just enough “pop” to make it accessible. Plus, anyone who can come up with a genre name that rhymes with “lollipop” has to have something on the ball.

New bands always have room to grow, and that’s certainly the case here. But the whicker and pine has is already quite easy on the ears, and it will be interesting to see how their sound develops.  Meanwhile, take a listen to the opening track of their EP below, and if you like what you hear–go here to get the rest of it.

the whicker and pine: “stay awake”