Queen City Sounds: April 2024 by Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 124, April 2024

Dust City Opera – Cold Hands EP

This latest release from the Albuquerque-based band has a cinematic resonance in the lushly orchestrated music throughout its six tracks. Paul Hunton’s warmly expressive vocals, reminiscent of John Grant circa his tenure in The Czars, syncs perfectly with the imaginative arrangements to sketch vividly observed portraits of people, places and situations. Whether the moods are reflective (for instance on “Evelyn”) or darkly bombastic (as with concluding track “No One Is Saved”) there is an intimate quality to every song that invites the listener into a vital and poetic emotional experience. Dust City Opera’s genre bends and blends with an elegant creativity so that its moments in a baroque pop, Americana mode seem to fit in well with its more fiery rock passages and modern classical flourishes. Even more so than on the group’s preceding two albums, the production and layers of sonic depth on this EP is as fascinating as the songwriting.

Fire Motel – The World an Opera

Ilya Litoshik has always had an uncommon personal insight into himself and the world around him. The latest Fire Motel album was largely written, recorded and performed by the songwriter himself, with some vocal contributions from Alli Walz. This proves that his move from Denver to New York City has given Litoshik ample perspective and time to develop his concepts into a set of songs that creatively express and address the anxieties of modern life and some of its sources. But Litoshik is fortunately too much of a poet to offer obvious, face value observations, and too much of an authentic artist to abstract genuine fears and concerns. Songs like “Dot Coma” and “Fear of Death” on the surface seem to be very on the nose, but the lyrics are more about the experience of living through the moment and not merely an opinion on a subject. It is that human touch that renders these songs so deeply resonant in the tender spirit of their performance. Even on the fairly faithful cover of Robyn Hitchcock’s classic “Madonna of the Wasps,” Litoshik transforms into a poignant examination of the human condition. And with each song the songwriter offers a glimmer of hope in the little details of everyday life that point to the interconnectedness of our shared existence.

A.M. Pleasure Assassins – Cloudy, Black, Red and All Over

This Fort Collins-based band has been a staple of the local scene for well over a decade and has been regularly offering up recordings of its music since 2011. There was a homespun and DIY lo-fi charm to its earliest albums and a style that was refreshingly out of step with prevailing sounds rooted in indiepop, emo and post-punk. And there is plenty of that scrappy spirit to these songs and a touch of sneer in Jared Meyer’s vocals. The production is at turns hazy, gritty and vivid, and sometimes all at once. The recordings and the songwriting also feed any hunger you might have for a time when bands were not aiming for a market. When they were writing noisy, fractured pop songs and mainly playing to friends at house shows and dive bars, knowing they were sharing in something unique and special not made to cater to mainstream acceptance. These songs are the refinement of that aesthetic as a fusion of lo-fi indie, dreamlike psychedelia and punk in that 2000s Siltbreeze Records mode.

Machu Linea – Invasion

Armando Garibay brought on a dazzling group of collaborators for this album including Michelle Rocqet formerly of The Milk Blossoms, KoKo LA of R A R E B Y R D $, Mezzzmer, Little Trips, FresaKill, Vedette, Briana JannYne, Machete Mouth, Shocker Mom and Spyderland. The songs would already be worth a listen for Garibay’s lushly entrancing production steeped in a downtempo R&B sound and deep house. But Garibay seems to have had in mind specific vocalists for the various tracks, letting each shine and direct the particular sonic flavors and moods of each song. The result is an album that feels like a string of great, late night dance club singles of vast stylistic variety with an undeniably sensuous quality that runs throughout the 12 tracks.   

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Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.

Check out Tom’s March Queen City Sounds install in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of his past reviews.