Monthly Archives: December 2016

How electro-soul found its home in Denver’s “middle of nowhere” music scene

“People are quick to look at how DJing is lacking in traditional music values, but it has something else,” Smith said, “a producer (who) is able to look at the set as a whole.”
Techinically, this is what separates the genre from just electronically-inflected jam. From Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli to Marvel Years, artists interviewed for this piece constantly credited the open mind of Denver’s music fans for their success here. For some, that home has become literal, inspiring rising musicians like 26-year-old Detroit native GRiZ, who sold out Chicago’s 12,000-person Navy Pier this year, to relocate to the area. Local venues like Cervantes and Red Rocks became legendary for artists and fans alike for their consistently rowdy turnouts. “Music fans are constantly passing along new music, talking about new artists, supporting new artists, and not just with independent music but for all genres.”
Jazz on Wednesday, hip-hop on Thursday, house music on Friday — why not all three on Saturday? The duo started off playing 50-person parties at a house near Boulder’s Left Hand Canyon. As with all fledgling genres, little about electro-soul is defined — even what to call it. “We were trying to present electronic music as something classy and tasteful and chic.”
Related: Pretty Lights says his new album is “almost ready”
In October 2006, Menert and Smith released “Taking Up Your Precious Time,” a free album, and played about a dozen shows together throughout the year. Across the country, artists making this live-electronic mash-up flocked to play shows for the city’s homegrown legion of electro-soul fans. STS9 performs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in September 2015. The brush with death saddled him with six months of physical therapy and 18 months of limited mobility. The biggest name in a strange new dance music beast was born in Colorado. In its latest iteration, Pretty Lights & the Analog Future Band, Smith is one of eight on stage, minding the direction of each song as well as directing the set as a whole like an electronic maestro. On the swelling buzz of “Taking Up Your Precious Time,” the only Pretty Lights album that featured Menert, Smith carried on without him. One reason for that, as Live for Live Music editor-in-chief Kunj Shah explained, is that your average music journalist isn’t interested in or equipped to delve into the “messy” world of live music. For the last two years, Smith brought the band to Telluride Town Park for what he calls “episodic festivals.” Menert sat in on his 2015 show. The band took its experiment live for the first time that year at its first show at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, playing 14 songs over a sequence off a computer. GRiZ’s real name is Grant Kwiecinski, a 26-year-old Detroit native who moved to Boulder in the summer of 2011 after an invitation from his manager, who lived in the area. But the duo didn’t envision themselves as a live project. (Dylan Langille, Special to The Denver Post)
Denver’s electronic maestro
With the foundation in place, two kids from Colorado took the genre to its logical extreme. It’s an art, but it becomes a game between fan base and musician.”
Roughly 15 years after it was created, the genre has swept across the country. It began to fold computer production into live instrumentation to get at the desired effect, an experiment Lerner said was seminally inspired by Pink Floyd and its early use of analog synthesizers in its music. Williams, who books for a variety of big artists in and out of electro-soul across the country, called Denver “one of the best markets for music in the country and one of the best supporters of independent music in the country.”
“The amount of shows in Denver and the amount of tickets sold in that market in comparison to the overall population is astonishing,” he said. The jammy electronic Santa Cruz, Calif., five-piece Sound Tribe Sector 9, or STS9, is a proto-, instrument-heavy version of that, and for good reason: Ask any other artist in the genre and they’ll tell you that STS9, for all intents and purposes, started electro-soul. It’s half-man, half-machine — the synthesized boom of a digital bass drum, a silkily fretted guitar and maybe a disembodied vocal sample — and outside of its devoted fan base, is largely ignored. Smith and Menert dressed in suits, serving wine, cheese and hors d’oeuvres, playing for about 20 people. Derek Vincent Smith and his friend Michal Menert started the Pretty Lights Band after disbanding a four-piece called Listen. (Jesse R. Especially back then, Colorado was musically equivalent to the middle of nowhere for someone like Deitch, who lived in New York City and had been working with rappers like Talib Kweli and 50 Cent. 23. Much like the jam-band scene or electronic dance music — two of the genre’s forebears, and what GRiZ referred to poignantly as “pop music’s black sheep” — electro-soul has been cast aside as somehow unworthy of discussion and, in many cases, respect. The exposure to all different kinds of music — hip-hop, electronic, rave, punk, jam bands — it’s all on an even playing ground.”
To take that a step further, Denver is an even playing ground for fans as well. “It felt like a no-brainer,” Kwiecinski said. But from that failing, a style was born. None of them is originally from Denver, and unlike Medellin and Undland, Wyath doesn’t even live here, despite having played his first concert (and many after) at Cervantes in 2013, a show he said “spoiled him.”
“I thought every show was going to be as rowdy and awesome as Cervantes,” Wyath said. It’s forced, and the sum of two different bands with different styles — Marvel Years veers toward guitar-bannered funk, Late Night Radio prefers hip-hop syncopation — but their sounds dovetail together fluidly, galloping to a pulse around Unland’s drums. The crowd was confused, having never heard any of the songs or style before, but eventually came around. “There’s room for all artists, and the impact each one of us has on each other and our music is tremendous,” Unland said. In a makeshift shed-turned-studio used by Late Night Radio (Alex Medellin, 30, and drummer Tyler Undland, 29) in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, the foundling community comes into focus. Pretty Lights, aka Derek Vincent Smith, performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August 2015. “It was one of the first things he asked me,” Smith said. Where is this happening? (Case in point: a Red Rocks event literally called “Rowdy Town,” which Boulder locals Big Gigantic sell out like clockwork and attracts crowds that dwarf their sets in other states.)
Few have pulled crowds like GRiZ, a saxophonist who pulls shimmering funk riffs over electronic-inspired breakbeats. “I wasn’t familiar with the music scene in Detroit, and the one in Boulder seemed so inviting and accepting.”
Kwiecinski granted that while many of the genre’s elder statesmen have since moved out of the area — Pretty Lights moved to New Orleans, and Paper Diamond is based in Los Angeles — artists like Smith and Menert created a “breeding ground” for the sound that’s still roiling today, tapping Late Night Radio as the most promising prospect. If it’s clear that Denver is an electro-soul mecca, how we got here isn’t. If the genre is news to you, it’s probably not your fault. The band wrote “We’ll Meet in Our Dreams” that day, a song they still play today. “I’ve never had a bad show out here.”
For the sake of our photographer, the three took up a drum set, acoustic guitar and synthesizer and started to jam. When people are coming up (in other major cities), they get locked in a singular sort of genre mindset. I don’t think it was done on purpose.”
Under the Pretty Lights name, Smith pressed on, bringing on Listen drummer Cory Eberhard and retooling his set to fuse the big-picture potential of a producer with the in-the-moment thrill of live instrumentation. This compatibility isn’t an accident so much as a circumstance of electro-soul’s tight-knit scene here, where collaboration in the studio and on stage outweighs competition. Deitch asked him straight up: Where are you from? But something was missing. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)
“This early Motown vibe”
In a post-Pretty Lights Denver, a new generation of musicians found the genre’s Emerald City. “The live (aspect) of just presenting music wasn’t giving me the full experience I want as a performer,” Smith said. If Denver can be known as the musical torchbearer of any genre, it’s electro-soul’s half-live, half-produced swirl of hip-hop, soul, funk and jazz. In December 2006, Menert was stabbed in the chest while selling marijuana in Loveland, lacerating his hand and nearly missing his heart. From venues like Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, electro-soul artists have found a home in the Denver area, playing shows to audiences here that dwarf sets just a state away. In 2006, Pretty Lights played its first official show in the basement of coffee shop Mug’s Cafe in Fort Collins. “I explained to him that I thought about it a lot growing up,” Smith said. “I was programming a part while our keyboardist, David Phipps, was programming the other, and something clicked,” STS9 guitarist Hunter Brown said in an e-mail. He soon fell in with Paper Diamond, a Colorado-born producer, and the Boulder studio he managed. But as with so many of the city’s post-Grateful Dead music memories, it started with a jam band. Thanks to the pre-produced pieces Smith played through his computer during his sets, Pretty Lights claimed a huge, complex sound that betrayed its small size. Borrell via Pretty Lights Music)
In studios, after-hours parties and rock clubs across Denver over the last decade, a sound has taken shape. CO EDM bands Late Night Radio, Sunsquabi and Marvel Years will be meeting up to discuss the scene on electronic music and all its players in Colorado. Where a jam-band  is prone to getting caught in the eddy of a musical moment, the live producer can keep a top-down perspective on what’s happening on stage. “He’s basically conducting with in-ear headphones instead of a baton.”
Pretty Lights changed Denver’s music profile. (Provided by Cait Falconer)
An even playing field
Pretty Lights met hip-hop producer and current Pretty Lights drummer Adam Deitch after opening for Sound Tribe Sector 9 in New York City. “In most cases with a certain sub-genre of music, it typically builds out of a specific region or city,” Hunter Williams, an agent with the Nashville-based Creative Artist Agency, explained in an e-mail. Including electronic music blowout Decadence, there are a dozen electro-soul affiliated shows set to light up Denver for New Year’s Eve weekend. “There’s something powerful about a singular coherent vision that’s able to direct it and sculpt it and paint the picture and curate the music,” Smith said. Artists and fans alike flooded in after him. They were on to something. “To put out one of the best albums I’ve ever worked on and watch it do really well and pass me by just because I was injured was weird,” Menert said. 30-31
Tickets: $119-$159 via
Michal Menert (The Aggie on the 31st)
Where: The Aggie Theatre (Fort Collins)
When: Dec. (Adam Good,
Pink Floyd meets drum ‘n’ bass
Elementally, electro-soul is live instrumentation quarterbacked by an on-stage producer. Related Articles

Pretty Lights says his new album is “almost ready”

“When you’re reviewing a live show of a band like Pretty Lights or a band in the jam-band world like Phish, it feels like you’re covering them from an ESPN angle of a sports team,” Shah said. “You’re judging how they transition, their song selection from show to show, crowd intensity — all these different aspects. That’s Denver: a genre melting pot for the chronically music-hungry. Pretty Lights would go on to achieve huge live success — according to Pollstar Pro, Pretty Lights grossed an average of about $525,000 per show in the last three years — but without Menert. Only a handful of blogs — like Brooklyn’s Live for Live Music and Boulder’s own This Song Is Sick — dutifully cover the scene. “It feels like something before it had a name, like we have this early Motown-type vibe.”
Michal Menert and members from Sunsquabi, Dynohunter, Break Science and Late Night Radio take a bow after a  show at the Ogden Theatre on Nov. 31
Tickets: $20-$25 via
Big Gigantic ( on the 29th)
Where: FirstBank Center (Broomfield)
When: Dec. “(Derek and I) were trying to figure out ways to reconnect while I was dealing with life and trying to figure out how to keep it going, but after awhile, I just wasn’t in the band anymore. Denver’s Derek Vincent Smith , AKA Pretty Lights, is credited as the godfather of the electro-soul movement. “I don’t know of a band that was doing it at that time,” Lerner said, “and even today, we feel like it’s day one.”
Some 15 years later, they’ll once again return to The Fillmore Auditorium, where it all started, for a three-night run of New Year’s Eve shows. Around 2001, STS9 was trying to find a way to play drum ‘n’ bass, a frantic style of dance music stemming from English rave music, with live instruments. He wanted to push the idea of what a producer could do on stage, reimagining the role as a sort of electronic music conductor. “It felt like we were improvising in slow motion. But Denver remains one of its earliest adapters and most fervent supporters. 29-31
Tickets: $79.50-$129.50 via
GRiZ (plays Decadence on the 30th)
Where: Colorado Convention Center
When: Dec. As it turns out, that’s not in their imaginations. “Colorado’s position in the country and right in the middle between the coasts made it so there wasn’t one kind of music or one scene that was really dominating. ” ‘How did you come up with this sound of hip-hop and electronic music fused together?’ He made such a big deal about it.”
When Smith told him it was in Colorado, Deitch couldn’t believe it. 29
Tickets: $49.95-$59.95 via
Late Night Radio
Where: The Aggie Theatre (Fort Collins)
When: Dec. “At the time, we were trying to do something down-tempo,” Menert said. “You also have to find the right musicians who can exist in that headspace.”
Smith has taken that idea further than any contemporary live producer. Alex Medellin, keyboard, Cory Wythe, guitar and Tyler Unland drums jam at their studio in Denver. 30
Tickets: $12-$15 via What they ended up with wasn’t drum ‘n’ bass — it sounded more like a thumping, extraterrestrial-sounding style of live dance. Undland and Medellin are sitting in with Marvel Years, aka 22-year-old Corey Wyath. In this weird musical amalgam, it might just have found its soul food. STS9 percussionist Jeffree Lerner doesn’t deny that, but he will defer to an influence the band shares with virtually every rock band formed after 1975: Pink Floyd. “In this case, Denver fully supported this movement from the beginning … (and while the genre’s most popular artists) are doing big numbers across the country, Denver and Red Rocks specifically are special to the artists and their fans.”
Looking around Denver’s marquees this weekend, it goes without saying. It’s a weird subject, because we’re great friends. Within a year, they’d opened for some of the electronic and jam scene’s biggest bands, including STS9. WHERE TO SEE THEM:
STS9 (plays Fillmore Thursday through Saturday)
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
When: Dec. “He’ll tell the band to go up an octave here or take the guitar out to space,” Menert said. (Of the eight artists interviewed for this article, none agreed on any one name.) But what does seem sure is its rise, especially locally. If electro-soul is on top right now, it’s because like any healthy music scene, Denver shows up in force for genres across the board.

These are the 6 most popular Lyft destinations in Denver in 2016

Richardson, The Denver Post)
Most Visited Restaurant
Most Visited Bar
Justin Bieber performs at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on April 4, 2016. The Local Lyfties are where it’s at. (Denver Post file)
Most Visited Transit Stop
Union Station
And remember that time Demi Lovato drove around Denver in an Undercover Lyft? (Seth McConnell, The Know)
Most Visited Event Venue
Pepsi Center
Only in Denver
Native Roots
Trending Destination
Cervantes’ Masterpiece
The Terminal Bar inside Denver’s Union Station. Lyft celebrated the most visited destinations of the year with the 2016 Lyftie Awards, awarding Acme Feed & Seed in Nashville as the most visited restaurant, The Abbey in Los Angeles as the most visited bar, MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas as the most visited hotel and Chicago’s Navy Pier as the top tourist destination among a few other national winners. A Denver Lyft driver picks up a customer. National, smational. (Helen H. These are the 6 most popular Lyft destinations in Denver in 2016:
Mandy Brown, left, and Marissa Vellone, right, enjoy a drink together on the patio that overlooks downtown Denver and Coors Field at Avanti Food + Beverage on August 4, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Oh 2016, it started with me trying to order a Lyft with thousands of other people leaving New Year’s Eve in downtown Denver (very unsuccessfully), so it’s fitting to wrap it with the Lyftie awards.

Maccabeats performance gives Denver-area Jewish community a novel way to ring in Hanukkah, spend Christmas

It can be rare to find such an exciting way to celebrate Hanukkah. “The community in Denver has about 50,000 Jews in it. 25, 2016. There are many events centered around Christmas, he said, but a dearth of novel ways to enjoy what’s known as the Festival of Lights. “Everything is closed on Christmas,” said Dana Stein, a long-time fan of the group who was at their concert while visiting family from New York. “You’ve (normally) got Chinese food or the movies,” said Avi Stein, who was sitting next to his wife, Dana. The Jews need something to connect them to Judaism.”
The Maccabeats repertoire did just that, mixing traditional Hebrew songs with modern pop hits, such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”
“Hanukkah is one of the most under-understood holidays,” said Rabbi Ahron Wasserman, who heads up The Jewish Experience. There ‘s a tremendous lack of involvement. “It’s the jackpot.”
The Maccabeats are a yarmulke-clad a cappella ensemble named after the Maccabees, the ancient Jewish warriors who fought the Greek army and who are central to the story of Hanukkah. The Maccabeats include a beat boxer that goes by the moniker “The Orthobox.”

The Maccabeats perform at George Washington HS. “This gives you another opportunity.” Related Articles

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“We really wanted to give the Jewish community something fun and exciting,” he said. The Maccabeats perform at George Washington High School on Sunday, Dec. A fun way for the Jewish community to spend Christmas/celebrate Hanukka
— Jesse Aaron Paul (@JesseAPaul) December 25, 2016
For those who came to watch the performance, many of whom had children in tow, they were hoping to feel that sense of community and celebrate the holiday together. (Courtesy Sara Shvartzman)
Movie theaters, Chinese food and now a cappella. The group was founded at Yeshiva University in New York City several years back and have since taken their act on the road — internationally — and onto the internet, where their YouTube videos have won viral status. Hundreds gathered on Sunday afternoon at George Washington High School to watch a performance by the viral Jewish singing group The Maccabeats, kicking off Hanukkah in the Denver area and providing the city’s Jewish community a fun, alternative option to their unwritten Christmas Day traditions. Rabbi Raphael Leban, managing director of The Jewish Experience in Denver, said the idea behind Sunday’s concert was to give Colorado Jews a new way to gather and appreciate Hanukkah. The holiday began Saturday night and runs eights days. The Jewish group gave the Denver-area Jewish community a fun way to spend Christmas and a novel way to celebrate Hanukka. “We really miss the whole point.”
Wasserman said the holiday, which remembers how a vessel of oil for a temple that was supposed to last one day ended up burning for eight, should be recognized for Judaism’s survival. It’s a theme The Maccabeats capture through their music. “It happens that Hanukkah is our bread and butter,” said Noey Jacobson, one of the group’s founding members.

What you should know before you buy Apple’s AirPods

Running with them at a nearby lake wasn’t a problem at all. The AirPods never dropped a connection, and they pair easily with the iPhone. But I’m a little less worried about losing them now. Still, I’d only really advise against them if you’re prone to losing things. (Not my favorite activity.) And while AirPods switch smoothly between Apple Watch and iPhone, they won’t pair simultaneously with your phone and your Mac or other Bluetooth-enabled device. Ear shape may vary results, but I had no problems. (And I’m not a particularly smooth or elegant runner, believe me.) Ditto while jump-roping. Overall, I’d say AirPods aren’t a must-have product because you lose some function by going wireless. For me, that’s a slight step down from headphones that let you connect to several devices at once. Many of my initial thoughts stand. AirPods lack many functions I expect from headphones, such as being able to control the volume from the cord. Siri picks up the slack — and you can ask her quietly to change the volume or skip a track — but it takes longer than a button-press and requires me to talk to myself in public. Take an AirPod out of your ear, and you have to hold it — tightly, in my case, for fear I’d drop one and lose $80 down a swan’s gullet. I didn’t notice a dip in audio quality. They do come with a one-year warranty, plus out-of-warranty service in case you lose or damage them — but replacing a lost one would cost you $69 each. I still had no problem with the five-hour battery life, though those on long flights may disagree. (Marcio Jose Sanchez, The Associated Press)
Those expecting some extra cash this holiday season may be eyeing Apple’s $160 AirPods as a present for themselves. I still have my gripes. I don’t often get tangled in my headphones, but it was nice not worrying about it while pulling on a sweatshirt or doing a jumping jack — a glimpse into a future world without wires. Ideally, AirPods would always be in your ears or in their charging case, but we do not always live in an ideal world. Losing AirPods would be much more frustrating than mislaying a $15 pair of headphones from the airport. Apple recently sent along a pair for me to test, replacing some pre-release AirPods I’d played with before and found a little too ahead of their time for most people. Related Articles

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Plus, I still missed the cord as a safety blanket. With my prime worry gone, I reveled in the freedom of not having a cord. But if you think you can keep track of them and are intrigued by their compact convenience, AirPods are an interesting step into the wireless future. They could easily slip into the wash in a pocket with my loose change. 7, 2016, in San Francisco. They actually held up better during exercise than when I had tried sleeping with them in my ears. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, talks about the features on the new iPhone 7 earphone options during an event to announce new products, Wednesday, Sept.

Fans mourn death of George Michael as charities reveal his work

26, 2016. Among the groups he supported were the Terrence Higgins Trust, which helps people with AIDS, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Childline, which offers confidential phone counseling for young people. Many paid tribute on Facebook and Twitter and others cited years of good works that received little publicity — largely because Michael insisted on keeping his charity work out of the limelight. The man with the reputation for self-indulgence had actually given millions of pounds (dollars) to charities involved with helping children, cancer victims and AIDS sufferers. This story was first published on The singer’s death was announced late Sunday. Tributes are left outside the home of British musician George Michael in London, Monday, Dec. George Michael, who rocketed to stardom with WHAM! “Having worked with him on a number of occasions his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humor made the experience even more pleasurable,” McCartney said, posting a picture of the two of them together. He was also remembered for small acts of kindness: helping his village in north London get a Christmas tree, and volunteering at a homeless shelter. and went on to enjoy a long and celebrated solo career lined with controversies, has died, his publicist said Sunday. Rights activist Peter Tatchell, who knew Michael before he achieved fame, said Michael had hidden his homosexuality in the early part of his career because gay public figures were subjected to vicious treatment by the British tabloid press. Childline founder Esther Rantzen said Michael gave royalties from his 1996 hit “Jesus To A Child” to the charity along with many other donations. (Tim Ireland, The Associated Press)
LONDON — Grieving fans on Monday mourned the death of George Michael as British charities revealed that the pop star had secretly been a major behind-the-scenes donor who gave his time and money to support cherished causes. She said Michael was determined that no one outside the charity should know “how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children.”
Jane Barron from the Terrence Higgins Trust said Michael made many donations and gifts, including the royalties of his “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” duet with Elton John in 1991. Michael had spoken publicly about the pain of losing a partner to AIDS early in the epidemic, but he kept his long history of donations to the Trust private. Tatchell said Michael’s response to his arrest amounted to “a defiant defense of the right to be gay” that had an impact throughout the gay community. Fans placed flowers and other tributes at his homes in north London and in Goring, England, where he died of apparent heart failure. Former Beatle Paul McCartney posted a statement on his website praising Michael’s “sweet soul music,” which he said will live on. Michael’s later years were marked by occasional brushes with the law and a series of driving incidents related to substance abuse, but this was overlooked Monday as directors of major charities and advocacy groups stepped forward to praise him. He praised the singer for making his sexual orientation known after he was arrested in 1998 for lewd behavior in a public toilet in Los Angeles. He was 53. “Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him — to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped,” she said.

Former Wham frontman George Michael dead at 53

He was 53. with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the early 1980’s. The singer has died, according his publicist said on Sunday. 9, 2012. Helped by MTV, the cheerful duo easily crossed the Atlantic to become popular in the United States. FILE- British singer George Michael in concert to raise money for AIDS charity Sidaction, in Paris, France, in this file photo dated Sunday, Sept. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, FILE)
By GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — George Michael, who rocketed to stardom with WHAM! and went on to enjoy a long and celebrated solo career lined with controversies, has died, his publicist said Sunday. Michael, with startling good looks and an easy stage manner, formed the boy band WHAM! Michael enjoyed immense popularity early in his career as a teenybopper idol, delivering a series of hits such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” ”Young Guns (Go For It)” and “Freedom.”
As a solo artist, he developed into a more serious singer and songwriter, lauded by critics for his tremendous vocal range.

Download “Warren City Christmas” by Kissing Party, only in Steal This Track

There’s also a video. If you’re a Colorado band or musician ready to expose your fresh sounds to the readers of Reverb, email your tracks — along with any interesting facts about them, as well as a photo or album art — to Steal This Track for consideration. It’s not all depressive, however. Kissing Party does a great job of blending the joy with the sadness, presenting Christmas in all its conflicting emotions. Then, there’s those who talk vaguely about “peace and good will.”
The truth must exist in a combination of all these things. Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. Have a safe, happy and depressive holiday, thieves. Finally, the band feels they have enough songs to finally release them as they originally intended, an album called “Winter in the Pub.”
The theme across this album is that there are a lot of things about Christmas to bum you out: Returning to your hometown and finding the same people doing the same things. We only feature tracks not available for free elsewhere. But one thing is certain; Christmas is about traditions. Below, we have we have “Warren City Christmas” for you to steal from under our tree. Here at Steal This Track, Christmas would not be Christmas without Kissing Party. This time of year, there are a lot of people concerned with the “meaning of Christmas.”
Some insist Christmas has only to do with the birth of a child messiah. But you can also download the album from Bandcamp. There are those we all share and those unique to individuals and families. Well, super sadly, this year will be the last. Or, as the band prefers to put it, “Winter in the Pub” is “Christmas carols for the crippled inside.”
This year, the band has released a trio of songs to wrap up (pun intended) the album. For many years now we have shared with you a melancholic Christmas track from the Denver band. Sleeping in your childhood bed and realizing where you once felt most at home now feels like a surreal AirBnB. Like everyone else, we want to guilt you into supporting local retailers, this time by purchasing the album, which has a super-limited run, at Twist & Shout. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live. But we implore you to check out the whole album if you haven’t. Others complain it’s a retail marketing scam designed to get us to spend money we don’t have on crap people don’t need.

Artists, officials clash over safety of underground venues around the country after Ghost Ship fire

The list of Oakland victims speaks to the diversity it attracts: a teacher, a computer engineer, a filmmaker, musicians and artists, a lawyer. “When you are charging five, six bucks and 50 people show up, it doesn’t work to have a permit,” said George Chen, who organized underground shows in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. At Purple 33, he remained underground, convinced the outcome would be the same if he tried to go legal. Similarly, the events can range widely: a couple of dozen people in a garment factory, an after-hours gathering in a coffee shop, 150 electronic music fans in a clearing in a forest. This Nov. The businessman-contractor-inventor who once sold skateboard parts claims he spent $70,000 on licensing and other fees to try to get the city to green-light an earlier club he ran nearby. But neighbors who feared wild parties blocked it. About a week after 36 people died in a fire at an underground music party in Oakland, inspectors acting on a complaint discovered a makeshift nightclub and unpermitted living quarters concealed in a warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport. Cassel acknowledges he ran Purple 33 without proper authorization but says it’s not because he didn’t try. “I wanted to do everything legal. 1, 2016 photo provided by David Coons shows a fire dance performance at Purple 33. A maze of rules and the high costs that come with meeting them leave few alternatives for running events on a skimpy budget, they say. Fans note that legal venues have risks, too, pointing to a Rhode Island nightclub fire in 2003 that killed 100. Cassel hopes to reclaim his warehouse space one day, and he’s partnering with underground organizers to change laws to make cities friendlier to what they do. 2 fire during an electronic music party at an illegally converted warehouse nicknamed “Ghost Ship.”
“We do not have the resources to track those types of functions,” she conceded. Finding them is another matter, when clandestine events can be announced with a fleeting Facebook post or text message and, in many cases, vanish after the music stops. “Lesser-known artists are happy to play nearly anywhere that will host them, because there are very few options,” said Amanda Brown, co-owner of the Los Angeles record label 100% Silk, which lost two of its artists in the Oakland fire. Despite Fire Department concerns, Cassel says the site was safe, with multiple exits, fire extinguishers and an emergency plan that could get everyone out in two minutes. The Los Angeles Fire Department dispatched 102 inspectors to check reports of overcrowding or illegal gatherings in 2016, but they do not document how many were in unpermitted locations. They’re just posting fliers 24 hours in advance, and they’re bringing hundreds of people in for different functions,” Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said at a news conference days after the Dec. The threat of a crackdown is unnerving musicians and artists who live in them and routinely accept risks that can come with performing on unlicensed stages. “These events are way more about community and shared experience than they are making money,” she said in an email. The scene is alternately inclusive, welcoming artists and fans of all demographics, and exclusive, since by definition it’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look. They don’t seem to want to guide you along. The closing of the space dubbed Purple 33 highlights growing friction between underground music venues that can be the only option for experimental or emerging performers and their fans, and authorities who see disasters-in-waiting. “You have a situation where folks are coming together and they are not applying for special permits. ___
This story has been corrected to show that Cassel spent $70,000 on an earlier club, not for the Purple 33 club. At the end of the day, they say no,” he said. Authorities searching the drab, two-story building found an illegally constructed dance floor, paired with a bar and DJ booth. Given the numerous underground shows around LA, there appear to be relatively few reported problems. It takes a lot of money,” said Cassel, 56, who calls his patrons “a family.”
“But the greatest issue isn’t the money. Regulations vary, but generally a gathering of 100 people with live music on a stage would require one or more permits. Haphazard wiring snaked through walls, and an outdoor staircase capped by a bamboo canopy was flagged as a fire threat. A gritty location can be part of the allure, and Cassel and others see it as an escape from mainstream clubs that they see as unwelcoming, even hostile, to free spirits and nonconformists. It’s like a jukebox, encompassing everything from punk to metal to electronic, a branch that itself is divided into dozens of splinters. Depending on its size, a fire marshal could make a spot check to ensure fire extinguishers are available and lighting is adequate, or officials might oversee the event. After the blaze, officials in LA, Baltimore and other cities announced plans to aggressively pursue illegally converted warehouses and other jerry-rigged living spaces. “It’s just going to go deeper underground.”
Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report. The Los Angeles case has similarities to Oakland, where a leased warehouse was converted into living space and an entertainment stage without proper permits or inspections. This story was first published on “Most artists are very flexible and willing to deal with strange venues as long as there is a sound system and some enthusiasm for the music.”
It’s difficult to generalize about underground music and the places it’s played, which sometimes hide in plain sight. The department said it had no records of injury or damage at underground events. But a big part of it is economics. The unlicensed club was shut down, and operator Donald Cassel, who also lives there, was ordered to clear out. In general, building inspectors in Los Angeles would reject applications for musical events in warehouses, since they are designed to hold goods, not parties. A crackdown will backfire, he predicted, and dangers could get worse. (Provided by David Coons via AP)
LOS ANGELES — The party is over at Purple 33. Purple 33 has a webpage.

New Year’s Eve 2016: The best parties, restaurants and shows to ring in 2017

Comedy Works on Larimer Square; 1226 15th St., Comedy Works South; 5345 Landmark Place, $25-$55. Parties
The White Rose Gala in 2008. Dec. But that won’t stop Denver’s Fox Street, YAMN and others from trying to fool you into thinking otherwise. The New Year’s Eve ball will drop at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus’ “Noon Year’s Eve” event. $25-$40. If hollering along with the best Americana rock band in Denver still isn’t enough action, Wesley Watkins’ funky jazz project The Other Black will join in. 9 p.m. shows — that last one ending just before the big New Year’s countdown/fireworks display. Comedy
Sam Gordon reacts as Jennalee Colby mimes removing his eyebrows with hot wax during the Yes Lab Happy Hour at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse on Oct. But it’s worth getting there early and taking a deep breath to deal with the crowds, because kids will love the holiday lights, face-painting, photo booth, magic show and “princess meet-and-greet.” Adults will love the early (9 p.m.) countdown that ultimately puts the kids in bed before midnight — and parents on track to celebrate in whatever ways they see fit. Hi-Dive; 7 S. Resolution 2017
That’s right: It’s a two-floor hotel takeover of The Curtis in downtown Denver for Resolution 2017. 49th Ave. 9 p.m. Dec. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

Guilty Pleasures Presents: Y2K 2.0
Forget about putting 2016 behind you. 4, 2013.(Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post)
Comedy Works / The Denver Improv
What better way to say goodbye to this wretched year than laughing in its face? 9 p.m. $20-$35. The Denver New Year’s Eve Black Tie Party inside the Sheraton Downtown’s plaza will span three rooms filled with lights and festive decorations while DJs spin the hits — and you spin the roulette wheel at the casino. 8:30 p.m. A giant confetti blast and champagne toast will greet the new year at midnight. and includes a champagne toast as well as access to the EDGE Bar when the ball drops. Dec. (family), 7 p.m. 30 and LCD Soundsystem on Dec. Comedy Works has three sets at each location including an early (5-6 p.m.) all-ages, family-friendly set, and two 21-and-up sets leading up to midnight. The Oriental Theater; 4335 W. 44th Ave. White Rose Gala
Ring in 2017 like it’s 1920 at Ellie Caulkin’s Opera House’s White Rose Gala. 5 p.m. Dec. Fox Street and friends cover Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem
If you just want to get as close to Daft Punk playing at your house on New Year’s Eve as possible, the Mile High City has you covered this year. $99-$149, and prices increase closer to the event, which tends to sell out. 31; $85-$160. The Curtis Hotel; 1405 Curtis St. or 303-993-3120. The band has signed to well-known indie record label Bloodshot Records. 31. $25 gets you general admission to the Dom Perignon- and Belvedere-sponsored masquerade party. 31; $80. or The late sets include party favors, a midnight champagne toast and countdown with the comics. or 720-420-0030. Bovine Metropolis Theater, just off the 16th Street Mall, brings back its “On the Spot” improv show for 4 p.m. You’re just The Yawpers type. Take it all in with cocktails, beer and wine as the ball drops. Broadway. Fancy galas, rowdy concerts, drop-perfect cocktail soirées — Denver has more New Year’s Eve debauchery (not to mention good, clean kid-friendly fun) cooked up this year than a houseboat full of unsupervised teenagers. Photo by Paresh Rana, Denver Post file. Ellie Caulkins Opera House; 1101 13th St. The Denver Improv also welcomes headliner Cocoa Brown for 7:30 p.m. Coohill’s late-night bash kicks off at 9 p.m. EDGE at Four Seasons; 1111 14th St. From denim suits to Aguilera highlights, ’90s-themed costumes are heartily encouraged. $12 for children 3-11 (2 and under free), $17 for adults and $14 for 65 and older. Dec. 31. Show up dressed in your best as cocktail attire is required, and a selfie station will be set up to make memories of the night. Dec. 31. Family Fun
Noon Year’s Eve
While adults are busy hydrating (and sleeping in) for the big night, the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus will once again hold its “Noon Year’s Eve” party. Colfax Ave. The Denver Improv, 8246 E. Catch the funk-centric bands as they cover the modern dance legends — Daft Punk on Dec. Denver NYE Black Tie Party
This open-bar party has a photo booth for you to document all your pre-resolution decisions that you can look back on the next morning. Bonus: There’s a party bus running to and from Illegal Pete’s on South Broadway for another $10. 31; $130. The Bluebird Theater; 3317 E. No jeans allowed; flapper dresses, suits and hats are highly encouraged. Dec. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oh yeah, and it’s for charity. Limited GA tickets $79. As is the case with any of Justin Cucci’s restaurants, they’re happy to accommodate dietary needs, so just call with any questions. 31; $10-30. Dec. Hot off their debut album for Bloodshot Records, the three-piece outfit is playing The Oriental Theater’s NYE Bash. or 303-377-1666. The Yawpers
Want to go out on New Year’s Eve but refuse to take off your cowboy hat and beer-can bandolier? Hi-Dive’s Guilty Pleasure DJ night invites you to set it in the blissfully distant future with a pre-millennium bacchanal. Cocktails will flow from the bar all night, peaking with a Tattinger Brut la Française toast at midnight. or 303-389-3343. 5:30-9 p.m. 30 and Dec. Zoo Year’s Eve
The Denver Zoo is never not-crowded these days, and the same will likely go for its family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration. 31. includes three courses where guests choose from dishes including ginger-carrot soup, wagyu short ribs with celery root and roasted carrots and charred Chilean seabass with black truffle broth. or 303-623-5700. For those who miss music’s not-too-distant yesteryear, the tiny South Broadway venue’s Y2K 2.0 dance party will stick to songs pulled from the ’70s through the aughts. $109, $99 with group discount minimum six tickets. Sheraton Denver Downtown; 1550 Court Pl. The Roaring ’20s-themed event will feature flappers, dance exhibitions and more than 40 performers to transport you back in time as you ring in the new year (minus the midnight blasts of confetti). with a raw oyster and shrimp bar, cheese fondue station, coq au vin sliders and truffled duck liver mousse on brioche from chef-owner Tom Coohill. Denver Zoo; 2300 Steele St. and midnight), but most will be bouncing between bars, restaurants and clubs. shows, with the later show doubling as a New Year’s Eve celebration with similar goodies. Dec. 30th Ave. Photo courtesy of Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. Entertainment includes a swing band and multiple DJs. 31; $15. Dress to impress, because everyone else will. and 10 p.m. Dec. Coohills
Ring in 2017 with a masquerade party and tasty bites at the five-year-old staple of Wewatta Street. Look for ball drops on the hour starting at 10 a.m., bubble-wrap “fireworks,” fountains of confetti, crafts, appearances by special characters and more. or 303-733-0230. The $80 dinner includes your choice of starters such as a steamed bun flight, escarole salad, grilled king oyster mushrooms and more followed up with butter-poached lobster ramen, roasted quail, crespelle two ways or New York strip bibimbap. Dec. Dining out

EDGE at Four Seasons Denver
You know you’re in for more than just dinner when you book reservations for EDGE at Four Seasons. Linger
Rooftop views of downtown Denver and a decadent internationally inspired dinner at Linger is all you need to finish off 2016. Looking to just catch the toast at midnight? No, Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem aren’t playing Denver themselves. The Sheraton is also at a prime location to catch the night’s fireworks. 31. Coohills; 1400 Wewatta St. $13 for people who are 1 or older than 60 year; $15 for ages 2 to 59; free for children under 1. 31; $10-$30. Why not take a load off between celebrations and catch some improvised comedy? Australian comic Monty Franklin headlines Larimer Square while Justin Willman performs at the south club. Linger; 2030 W. 31. and 10 p.m. 31 — over two nights at the Bluebird Theater. For the best in music, parties, comedy, kid-appropriate events and restaurants, check out our guide to Denver’s NYE below. Concerts
Denver based band The Yawpers record a video at Rockmount Ranch Wear on May 17. The recently expanded museum’s Sparkly Science program will also feature educators in glittery lab coats creating dry ice vapor bubbles and “elephant toothpaste.” Children’s Museum of Denver;2121 Children’s Museum Dr. The open bar event features multiple rooms with DJ dance parties, aerial dancers, balloons, laser light displays and a vantage point on the city’s fireworks displays. Bovine Metropolis; 527 Champa St. On the Spot
Plenty of people will descend upon downtown for the New Year’s Eve fireworks displays (free along the 16th Street Mall at 9 p.m. If you’re looking for a quick meal before heading to the next party, a dinner seating between 5 and 7 p.m. A four-course dinner kicks off at 8 p.m. Dec.

Best shows: Peanut Butter Wolf and Otis Taylor

Originally from Chicago, the bluesman’s musical career began when he happened on Denver’s Folklore Center, shortly after moving to the area. Otis Taylor Band performs at Telluride Blues & Brews on Sept. Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor is something of an unknown legend in Colorado. Photos by Evan Semon, Catch him at Ophelia’s Art & Soul series, which pairs musicians with live visual artists, on Dec. Taylor will play four shows in two nights — Dec. If you do, mind where you put your jacket.  
Peanut Butter Wolf and Otis Taylor are our picks for the best shows around Denver this week. 14, 2013. Peanut Butter Wolf

The warm gurgle of a needle drop, the snap of the breakbeat, dapper fedoras — these are a few of Peanut Butter Wolf’s favorite things. He’s credited with pioneering “trance blues,” a meditatively repetitious style of the genre that borders on drone, and has spawned its own festival in Boulder.   Tickets are $22-$25 and are available via 29. 28 and 29 — at Dazzle Jazz. Tickets: $15-$30 via He’s since founded Stones Throw Records, which serves as a home for other artists like Mayer Hawthorne, Dam-Funk and Madvillain who, as he does, sound like they’ve come unstuck in time. See you there, and if you don’t make it out, follow our music musings on Twitter and our selfies on Instagram. Real name Chris Manak, the DJ has been spinning records for nearly three decades, specializing in a hip-hop, funk and soul mix that’s mostly frozen in each of the genre’s respective golden ages.

Pretty Lights says his new album is “almost ready”

Pretty Lights has gone quiet. A: I’m really excited about what I’m working on. I’m like 6″ 9′, so I kind of stand out. The artist shares the first details of his new album in a rare interview. It already had my “P.L.” initials everywhere. When I was booking that tour, I wanted to call it “The Weekend’s Episodic Festivals.” I didn’t know why I wanted to call it that, but it’s all going together. A: I don’t even converse with the media anymore. Kids don’t have to look to the magazines or charts to find music. I was in my head about communicating with people. Photo by Dylan Langille, Special to the Denver Post. (The internet) leveled the playing field. A: My family is out in Colorado, so I’ve been patiently shopping around, waiting for the right property to come up so I can get a place there again. Pretty Lights, AKA Derek Vincent Smith, performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on August 7, 2015. People are really respectful. It will be an episodic thing that makes a full piece. Read the extended cut of our conversation with the producer below. Every song has an episode. They were asking me to headline. Despite his steady stream of live performances, it’s been more than three years since the prolific Colorado-bred electronic music composer released “Color Map of the Sun,” his last album — or, aside from one single to promote his second annual mini-festival in Telluride’s Town Park this summer, any new studio music at all. At that point in my life I felt … you know, I was a little intimidated by the fame. I feel pretty famous every time I come to Denver. It’s pretty (cool). A: I had a good experience working on “Color Map of the Sun” in New Orleans and put the feelers out and found a dude in New Orleans who was renovating old houses in the Garden District. Q: You moved from Colorado to New Orleans a couple of years ago. I do get recognized, but I like it. Telluride has been great — the fact that Tesla has a power station at the top of the valley around there speaks massively to its energy — but every year, they’re like, “This might be the last one!” 
Q: In ten years, you’ve gone from playing Mugs Coffee in Fort Collins to regularly selling out massive, 10,000-person venues like Red Rocks. I’m sure the media has some influence, but it seems like there’s so much more of an organic, cross-pollination of tastes online. I want to get a piece of land. Q: Do you think you’d ever move back to the area? But with a massive social media following — more than 850,000 on Facebook  — Pretty Lights (born Derek Vincent Smith) doesn’t need traditional media anymore. Q: You’ve haven’t made many appearances in the media this year. I’m really psyched about that Vertex location. I looked at Caribou Ranch, and came close to getting Phantom Lake Ranch in Red Feather Lakes. A: I hadn’t heard that. He’s been just as scarce in print. It’s not just a music record — I’m actually making a film with it, as well. What do you have in store for 2017? I wanted to do a festival out there, too, but water irrigation issues ended that. That’s a bummer. Now, I love to come back to Denver. Pretty Lights spoke at length about why he’s shied away from traditional media and shared the first details about his new album, which is set to come out in early 2017 — potentially, he mentioned, on April 20. Q: What will that look like? It connects to my episodic music festival. What led to that decision? He was from Colorado, and had a place he thought would be perfect. Before I moved, I would go up to a Starbucks and look in the windows and be like, “There’s nobody in there with fitted hats or hemp necklaces on, so I’m good to go.” But then older people and guys in suits started recognizing me. That’s trickled over to not just people making music, but people who love to listen to it. Every festival, we’d have a film shoot that became the building blocks of these episodic film pieces. It’s slated for an early 2017 release. I don’t know if you heard, but they pulled out of their planned second year after complaints from town residents. I’ve got an album that’s almost ready. I said I wanted to play at that place, but I didn’t want it to be at Vertex — I wanted to have my own festival there. A: I’m trying to make a film and a record that’s really about the connection of people — the amazing things that happen between people on the same frequency. On the cusp of a big year, Smith made a rare exception, agreeing to a phone interview as a part of a feature we’re running next week on Denver’s electronic music scene. Is there a reason for that? Q: Speaking of festivals, what do you think of Buena Vista’s Vertex music festival?

Metallica lead singer moved to Vail for more “hunting,” less “elitism”

Cool. Hetfield recently moved to Vail for its hunting. (via AP Images)
There comes a time in each of our lives when Marin County just doesn’t cut it anymore. To hear Metallica’s James Hetfield tell it, it’s not so easy. How’re you doing with that?’ And they’re less obsessed with stopping what you’re doing and more enjoying what they’re doing.”
Check out the full interview below. And the food is phenomenal. Metallica at the 44th Festival d’ete de Quebec on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City Saturday July 16, 2011. As first pointed out by, Hetfield found a naturalism in Colorado that he preferred over San Fransisco’s elitism:
There was just a… I don’t know… I felt that there was an elitist attitude there — that if you weren’t their way politically, their way environmentally, all of that, that you were looked down upon. They’re very into, ‘Oh, you like doing that? How’s that go? Sure, San Francisco is gorgeous. That, among other reasons, is why he moved from San Fransisco to Vail, according to the singer’s recent appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. (Case in point: Rice-A-Roni.)
But what if you want to track down your own dinner? Not on Yelp, but with binoculars, an orange vest and an Elmer Fudd hat? I think in Colorado, everyone is very natural; people are not playing some game, they’re not posturing.

Telluride Bluegrass 2017 shares initial lineup

Telluride Bluegrass has observed the winter solstice by letting fly the initial lineup for its upcoming 44th annual bluegrass festival. The 2017 edition of the lauded music festival, which takes place on June 15-18, will feature Brandi Carlile, Dierks Bentley with the Travelin’ McCourys, Dispatch, Chris Thile (who’s now the host of “A Prairie Home Companion”), Sam Bush (of course) and many more. Image courtesy of the festival. You can see the entire list of bands in the initial announcement below. Tickets to the festival are $82-$235 and are on sale now via The 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival has announced its initial lineup. Telluride Bluegrass 2017 initial lineup

Sam Bush Band
Brandi Carlile
Dierks Bentley with The Travelin’ McCourys
Telluride House Band featuring Sam, Bela, Jerry, Edgar, Bryan & Stuart
Yonder Mountain String Band
Greensky Bluegrass
Bela Fleck & Chris Thile
Elephant Revival
Punch Brothers
Hot Rize
Peter Rowan
Jerry Douglas Band
Tim O’Brien
Chris Thile
Sarah Jarosz
The East Pointers
Fireball Mail
Telluride Troubadour & Band Contests

Denver’s Redlands win 93.3’s Hometown for the Holidays

There’s always next year. It’s finally paid off with their win, which nets them a chance to play 93.3’s Not So Silent Night 2017, recording time at The Blasting Room and a spot on stage at the 2017 Westword Music Showcase. 17 at Summit Music Hall. Nah, just kidding. But cutthroat competition is far more beautiful and fun. Photo by Noemi Gonzalez via the band. But it would have been nice if 93.3 shook it up with an impromptu snowball fight among the musicians, giving third place artists one final chance at glory. Meanwhile, Fort Collins folk outfit Pandas & People received $1,000 and maybe a few hugs as the live performance winner. The losers were banished from ever playing in Colorado again. Tenacity, if not great tunes, propelled Denver’s Redlands to the top. This time around, Redlands was crowned the winner after riffing it out against finalists Iolite and Pandas & People on Dec. The band joins past winners like Churchill, My Body Sings Electric and 888. That’s why Channel 93.3 (KTCL-FM) graced us once again with its Hometown for the Holidays battle of the bands. Until then, watch 2016’s rewind right here. Ah, the holidays are here, breathing wholesome values like caring, sharing and love down our necks. Denver’s Redlands wins 93.3’s 2016 Hometown for the Holidays battle of the bands competition. After forming in Grand Junction, the little-known indie rock quartet has been hustling since 2013.

The 10 best overlooked albums of 2016

Cole’s hair, the better his music — or so the theory goes. For fans of “In Spite Of Ourselves,” his 1996 album in the same vein, this one’s a no brainer. With just his voice and a six-string, “While You Stand” buoys with simple resonant beauty, invoking his relation to the mountains, ocean and night sky as a precious few constants in an ever-evolving life. A night at the disco already brings people of far-flung backgrounds together in one room, Jaar figures. The album doesn’t reach for anything too far outside of its indie-pop wheelhouse, which is probably why it flew under the radar. “For Better, or Worse,” John Prine

Bob Dylan might have pulled down the Nobel Prize this year, but John Prine — who Dylan counts as an influence — will always be the people’s songwriting champ. Nineties nostalgia is on-trend right now, but as Erykah Badu and The Root’s Questlove could tell you — the living R&B legends gave the group their seal of approval early on — KING is sharper than just sentimental taste-making. “Cardinal,” its sophomore effort, is a near-perfect execution of that, and a heck of a lot smarter than any of this year’s other rock albums. “The Party,” Andy Shauf

Andy Shauf’s latest album sounds like it was written from the lonely corner of the last high school party of senior year. “Why Are You OK,” Band of Horses

Band of Horses is what happens when a band stays on course instead of trying out a wildly new direction — a decision that usually to alienates its fanbase. “We Are KING,” KING

KING’s debut album feeds ’90s R&B through a distorted lens. That makes sense: They’re in the same circle of Chicago musicians that swirl funk, gospel and hip-hop into hyper-aware rhythm poetry. Beyond DeMent, Prine gathers a smartly curated batch of female singers from yesterday and tomorrow. Pinegrove, “Cardinal”

For all those of us who harbor a secret love of emo — the angsty, verbose style of music favored by suburban middle/high schoolers country-wide circa the early aughts — New Jersey’s Pinegrove is an exciting prospect. “4 Your Eyez Only,” J. It’s far from an upper, in other words, but don’t let that dissuade you. Yeah, just like the life of Kanye, “The Life of Pablo” was weird and captivating. The album is effectively a modern meditation in an emergency, when end of days — be it a personal (“Diary”) or societal one (“Generation Why”) — comes in the fear of losing the person that defines you, or the bliss of knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Take single “The Greatest,” for example, which could fool anyone into thinking that they’d heard the song blasting through the speakers of their turquoise Eagle Talon way back when. The fact is, if you’re reading this, odds are you’ve already seen dozens of other best-album lists this year. One part sound collage and one part dance music curriculum — house, techno, South American cumbia and many other styles scrape against one another here — “Sirens” is Jaar’s most ambitious album, one as listenable as it is intriguing. Over chintzy lounge jams, Shauf writes songs for the generation weened on Wes Anderson’s precious aesthetic — songs that might as well be written about “Rushmore”‘s precocious Max Fischer, and could score every one of Anderson’s films thereafter. We shed enough tears to fill “A Moon Shaped Pool” of our own. It’s all-but proven on “4 Your Eyez Only,” the rapper’s best yet. Why not wring some conversation out of it? Live or through headphones, the album succeeds there, and thensome. “Telefone,” Noname

There’s a lot of Chance the Rapper in “Telefone,” MC Fatimah Warner’s debut as Noname. “When I remember memories don’t last forever / When I deny my empty with an open letter / Who gon’ remember me? / My satellite, my empathy,” she sings on “Yesterday.” With no use for a name, she sets her focus on her art, a worthwhile venture by any yardstick. We figured, in a season of giving, it’s better to share the wealth than pile on the popular kids. But if you’re looking for an album to keep you company on a lonely winter drive, look no further than this digestible-yet-distinct folk album. The octet has repackaged the genre’s hallmark squealing vocals, self-interrogation and crushing riffs for the quarter-life crowd. Frontman Evan Stephens Hall somehow manages to be conversational in an album about how hard it is to communicate: “I’d pace around the place so quiet in myself / I’d wake the next and see my silence went unfelt,” he sings on stand-out track “Aphasia.” For the sake of that: The album is really good. “Sirens,” Nicolas Jaar

With “Sirens,” experimental Chilean producer Nicolas Jaar has expanded on the chilly headspace he popularized with guitarist Dave Harrington in side-project Darkside. We know: That Beyonce album was incredible. More specifically, he sounds like Kendrick Lamar lite, rapping about the same great injustices but with more concern for pop value and less of a mind for wordplay. Weyes Blood (real name: Natalie Mering) is tellingly resigned in the face of horror, sounding like a depressed Shania Twain riding side saddle on a hydrogen bomb falling to Earth. Susan Tedeschi puts her searing vox to George Jones’ “Color of the Blues”; On “Mental Cruelty,” he wisely taps rising country singer Kacey Musgraves, who’ll join him on tour in 2017. On “For Better, or Worse,” his latest, he takes from the songbooks of his mentors, re-imagining them via duets with female singers that gussy up Prine’s crumbling voice. Photo by Katie Miller, provided by Pitch Perfect PR. Elsewhere, the Los Angeles trio’s faithful modern yet faithful reproduction of the genre furthers this sense of misremembering. “Mowing,” Michael Nau

Solo debuts can be tricky business, but fans of Michael Nau’s since-retired project Cotton Jones can take heart with “Mowing.” As on past projects, melody is the Marylander’s strong suit here. She lets her inner child take the pen — “unorthodox paradox in a pair of Doc’s,” she raps on “All I Need” — as often as the wise matriarch on her shoulder. “Change,” a highlight, has him on one of the album’s finest beats, bemoaning the horrors du jour in an attempt to materialize someone — anyone — who can catalyze evolution. But through familiar horn stabs and marching-band rhythms, Warner is her own artist, with a poetic sensibility that eclipses most rappers her age. The band has cut a niche for itself that few others can claim: The drunk punk with the heart of gold, up one day and down the next, but always worth your time. Iris DeMent sang that album’s stand-out titular song, and she returns to help Prine take on the country-western “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out,” a bickering duet between irascible lovers that was first popularized by Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb. Cole

The longer J. The genre’s simmering rhythms drag that much slower at points, its major keys pitched down almost imperceptibly. As serious as that sounds, the album is as fun as it is frank, like on the indelible “Foldin Clothes,” which cuts true romance down to its maturest essence: “I wanna fold clothes for you!” Marital duty never sounded so sexy. And that Radiohead LP? Weyes Blood’s “Front Row Seat to Earth” is one of 2016’s best overlooked albums. Enough said. Through failed come-ons and awkward conversations, the Saskatchewan native makes you feel for his wobbly attempts to navigate love, even after you realize he’s something of a social anti-hero. Wife Whitney McGraw joins in for songs like “Maralou,” a down-tempo tiki lounge foxtrot tacked up by shimmering synths. “Front Row Seat to Earth,” Weyes Blood

Was there an album released this year with a more loaded title than Weyes Blood’s “Front Row Seat to Earth”? “Why Are You OK” is merely a variation on the emotive stomp-a-longs that the alt-Americana rock outfit has been putting out for the last 12 years, and that’s more than all right. Here, that materializes in songs that weigh emotional damage control (“Hag”) and the value and harm of a critical voice always barking in your ear (“Solemn Oath”). Below, dig into 10 of 2016’s unjustly overlooked albums. Pigeonholed as he may be by his folk roots, “Mowing” explores more than just his Appalachian trappings. It sounds like a nightmare based on a memory. Infusing songs with disquieting tales of injustice (“Killing Time”) and a literal (if reductive) “History Lesson,” the producer has attempted to weaponized dance music for political engagement.