We've asked some notable members of the Colorado arts scene, whom we dub "VIPs," to share their favorite music of 2014.
Next up is Kevin O'Brien. He's a Denver-based comedian who has performed at Denver Comedy Works, The Fine Gentleman’s Club’s “Too Much Fun," Mile High Sci Fi and The Grawlix. He hosts the monthly comedy debate show Arguments and Grievances and co-hosts the pop culture podcast These Things Matter.
In no particular order:
- Against Me! - "Transgender Dysphoria Blues": They conquered new territory as a band, but made it feel so familiar.
- In the Whale - "Nate": This EP does more in 10 minutes than most records have all year. In the Whale seems to be having a breakout year and they’ve earned it, because they kick ass.
- Cloud Nothings - "Here and Nowhere Else": Like previous releases, this record feels like another leap for the band. "I'm Not Part of Me" picks up where [previous album] "Attack on Memory" left off, but the rest of the album is heavier and more unrelenting than anything they’ve ever done before.
- The Hotelier - "Home, Like No Place Is There": 2014 was a big year for pop-punk and emo revivals. The Hotelier brings a little sophistication to the emo-punk genre while still singing about broken hope and funerals. This album is what catharsis sounds like.
- Karen O - "Crush Songs": The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman continues to carve out a nice solo career. All of the songs sound like they were recorded on a tape player in a lonely basement. The Daniel Johnston-esque recording adds a melancholy that will make you feel like you’re in your own indie movie.
- Together Pangea - "Badillac": Within the first minute, Together Pangea let’s you know they’ve heard all of the rock n’ roll. "Alive" grabs you by the shirt collar and announces it’s arrival by screaming in your face. These guys are already rock heavyweights.
- Modern Baseball - "You’re Gonna Miss It All": Probably my favorite album of 2014. These guys have clearly been raised on a steady diet of '90s pop-punk and their sound has an infectious quality that isn’t easy to dismiss, even for the most ardent pop-punk haters. Lyrically, they are a band of their time singing about unrequited love and conversations over Twitter, but there is a self-awareness to the lyrics showing a maturity that belies songwriter Brendan Lukens’ 22 years. If there was ever a band to pick up the pop-punk torch and lead the genre in the 21st century, this is it.
- Burger Records Showcase (Together Pangea, Mozes & The Firstborn, The Memories, AJ Davilla) at Hi-Dive
This show was crazy. The venue was only about half full on a Tuesday night, but it’s not about numbers, it’s about loyalty. Together Pangea’s closing set had beer flying all around the room and brother-on-brother action as Seth and Spencer Stone of Dirty Few made out on the stage during "Offer" while the chorus rang: "If you have a kiss for me, and only me, I'll take it." After the show, I got to watch David Castillo of Pizza Time record a song with AJ Davilla at Rhinoceropolis until 3 a.m.
- High Plains Comedy Festival After Party
The second annual comedy fest had a lot of big shows with big names, but the real highlight of the weekend for me was the after party on Friday. Local techno-European-good-time-machine Total Ghost played a sweaty and stomping set that had frontman Chon needing oxygen like a not so young James Brown. Afterward, Taylor Gonda locked it down DJing '90s hip-hop, even though she has proclaimed: "I’m not your rap lady." Party goers could’ve stayed dancing and partying at Mutiny Information Cafe for hours if it wasn’t for that pesky sun coming up.
- The UMS
It’s often said festivals are the worst place to see your favorite band. The UMS, however, is the best place to run into your favorite member of a band. Few cities give their artists an event to catch up with old acquaintances and see old friends reunite onstage, like Sleeper Horse this past year at the Hi-Dive.
- SPELLS, every time I saw them
They’re not Denver’s best band, and they’ll let you know it. They might be Denver’s most enjoyable band, though, with their “vacation rock” riffs and Ben Roy’s shimmying hips. SPELLS shows always feel like a house party, whether playing in a bar, bookstore or on the street.
You love listening to new music and learning about Denver's music scene. We have a weekly newsletter for you -- Inside Track. Sign up here to stay in the know about Colorado musicians making new music and the new releases you should be streaming.