Being the home to the best outdoor venue in the world (Red Rocks — goes without saying doesn’t it?) and dozens of music and arts festivals, Denver is an obvious attraction for some of the biggest names in the music industry. From Lady Gaga to David Byrne to Childish Gambino, Denver has seen it all. Even with the influx of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, it’s important not to overlook the vast array of talent emerging in our own backyard. 2018 was an exciting year for these homegrown artists. Musicians we’ve been “watching out” for suddenly took off, meanwhile others only just began to take form and some are on the cusp of getting their big break. While there are hundreds of talented and deserving musicians in the Mile High City, here’s a list of 13 artists that caught our eye this year and are poised to have fire years in 2019.
Been craving some ’90s influenced dream-pop with strong female vocals lately? Oxeye Daisy will scratch that itch you never knew you had. Their self-titled debut album released in May was named one of the best local albums of the year by Colorado Public Radio. Singer and guitarist Lela Roy’s powerful vocals exude authenticity while she confidently expands her voice to guide the energy of each track. While Oxeye Daisy tends to wear their heart on their sleeve — they certainly aren’t afraid to show their edge. The band made their presence known at several local festivals this summer including the Undergound Music Festival, Temple Tantrum Experiential Arts & Music Festival and the Highland Street Fair. Oxeye Daisy has an exciting year ahead of them — they recently welcomed fifth member, Stephen Pamas of the band Hello, Mountain and have plans to record and release a new EP later this year. Easily one of the most exciting acts to emerge out of Denver this year, we’re eager to see this band evolve throughout 2019.
In the four short years since their formation, Boulder-based rock band The Velveteers have garnered a reputation that many bands only dream of achieving. This is especially impressive considering that they only just released their debut EP this past year — The Velveteers was met with wide critical acclaim and named one of “Colorado’s Top Albums of The Year” by The Marquee Magazine. Frequent touring has led the band to acquire solid fan bases throughout the midwest and even overseas — the band headlined their very own U.K. tour in October. The trio — Demi and John Demitro welcomed the addition of drummer Adrian Pottersmith in September — have hinted at new music and collaborations with other artists in the coming months. If 2018’s success is any indication of the future, the band that has made a name for themselves through their high energy performances and macabre tastes are well on their way to becoming a household name.
Since 2014, Trayce Chapman has been carving out his place in the Denver hip-hop scene. This past year, the rapper finally received some well-deserved acknowledgment and respect for his part in making the scene what it is today. His latest LP, Exotic Birds, dropped in May and was accompanied by a short documentary of the making of the album. The 13 tracks of addictively silky beats served as the perfect summer backdrop — providing the ultimate soundtrack for a Friday night with friends or a lazy day by the pool. The album featured other distinguished local artists like YaSi, Nathan Palmer and Kevin Cartoon — which seemed to cement the fact that Denver is home to some of the best-rising hip-hop and rap artists in the nation. After years of opening for Denver’s stars, Chapman landed his first headlining show at the Bluebird in August. Chapman is quickly becoming one of Denver’s most popular rappers — a trend we’re excited to see continue into the new year and beyond.
The Milk Blossoms
Introspective poetry fuses with delicate ukulele, piano, velvety smooth vocals and beatboxing to create a truly unique listening experience. Intrigued? You should be. Although The Milk Blossoms have been making music together for more than eight years — 2018 was especially good to the group. Red Rocks welcomed the group to play at Film on the Rocks in February. Shortly after that performance, their sophomore album Dry Heave the Heavenly was released to widespread praise and has been nominated for a spot on Colorado Public Radio’s “Top 100 Albums of 2018.” The band was also recognized as a premier pop group in Denver — though you’d be hard-pressed to categorize them into any one genre. If you haven’t yet been swept up by The Milk Blossom’s eerily beautiful sound — do yourself a favor and give them a listen. We have a feeling their success will continue to bloom well into 2019.
Elder Grown is the quintessential Colorado band — their improvisational music feels like it was made for driving through the mountains on a crisp winter day. The group that has been making music for over a decade was recently named in the top 3 best bands of 2018 by The Durango Herald. The Durango-based band grew their presence in Denver this past year— and we couldn’t be more thrilled. November saw the quintet perform their first Denver headlining show at Your Mom’s House followed by a set at the famed Red Rocks Ampitheatre for the local set dinner series in December. Seven years after the release of their debut full-length album, Elder Grown seamlessly blends funk, classic rock and even elements of reggae and hip-hop on their self-titled sophomore album released last spring. Each member of the band plays multiple instruments and contributes to the vocals — resulting in music that is complex and cohesive. Stay tuned for future tour dates and be sure to catch this genre-blending band next time they visit the front range. We have a feeling Denver will be seeing a lot more of Elder Grown in 2019.
Beginning in 2011, Boulder-based band Whiskey Autumn has evolved from acoustic-folk to folk-rock to the indie electro-pop trio we now know and love. Whatever their incarnation, the trio has a knack for creating vivid imagery sprinkled with nostalgia through their synth-injected beach-pop tracks. 2018 was a busy year for Whiskey Autumn — the band spent the better part of the year touring the midwest and pacific northwest as well as playing a slew of shows in Boulder and opening for popular acts such as Retrofette and One Flew West in Denver. Whiskey Autumn also released two singles last summer — “Let’s Go Sailing Instead” and “Birds That Flew.” The band has confirmed that the two singles are teasers for a larger project they’ve been working on throughout 2018. With the trio hinting at new music and other big news on the horizon, it seems like 2019 is shaping up to be a major year for Whiskey Autumn. Catch Whiskey Autumn at the Globe Hall at the end of January and look out for new music.
With influences like Elephant Revival and The Lumineers, Whitacre is just the type of indie folk-rock band that entrances Coloradans. Lyrics that focus on positive and inspiring messages like “find the light” make for an uplifting and energetic listening experience — something that their live shows thrive on. The band partnered with prolific Denver musician and producer Joe Richmond to record their debut EP — Within the Mountains’ Shadows — that was released in October. In the two short years since their formation, Whitacre seems to already be on a path to surefire success. This success was supported by a sold-out headlining show to celebrate the release of their debut EP at the Lost Lake Lounge last fall. Within a year, the band went from playing “empty coffee shops to a sold out 200 person room — it’s a dream come true” says frontman, Paul Whitacre. As for the new year, Whitacre has several Denver shows lined up in the coming months and plans on releasing new tunes in the spring.
When you kick off 2018 by making an appearance on the stage of one of the biggest acts in EDM — Bassnectar — you know it’s going to be a good year. Indigenous activist and hip-hop artist, Xiutezcatl (pronounced shoo-tez-cat), spoke to the massive audience about small steps they can take to combat climate change, saying that “this is not about politics, this is not about money — this is about our future and the planet that we will pass on to the next generation.” That appearance — coupled with his work for the nonprofit Earth Guardians, his involvement in two lawsuits against the federal government and state government of Colorado and the release of his debut album Break Free — added up to an impressive year for the young artist. Although he initially began making music with the intention to highlight climate and conservation issues, he now raps about any and all issues that are pertinent to his generation. In 2019, he’ll be playing festivals in both Arizona and California on the same bill as Rebelution, Nakho and Medicine for the People and Matisyahu. Given the powerhouse year he just had, we can’t wait to see what Xiutezcatl does next.
Dream Feed worked hard in 2018 to transform their dreams into a reality — and their efforts are paying off. In August, Dream Feed won the KTCL “Demo Derby” and was rewarded with a slot to premiere their single “Push and Pull” on the air. They also performed at Banded Oak Brewing for the Underground Music Showcase. Last fall, Dream Feed released their debut self-titled album at a sold-out show at the Syntax Physic Opera with local heavyweights Citra and Decatur. Dream Feed highlights the group’s ability to blend alternative rock with funk and blues influences that feels classic yet fresh and unique. Lead singer Miguel Dakota — of America’s Got Talent fame — delivers crisp and powerful vocals that round out the group’s soulful sound. The band has been teasing some new music lately that we hope to hear at their upcoming Denver performances. Mark your calendars for Dream Feed’s headlining show at the Larimer Lounge on January 11 as well as their appearance at Red Rocks for the local dinner set series in March — you won’t want to miss it.
Listening to Halleway’s earnest and heartfelt lyrics centered around love and heartbreak, it’s hard to believe that these gifted musicians are only just at the end of their high school career. The folk-rock band in its current lineup has been making music for just under two years — this past year being a catalyst to their success. Halleway’s single, “Found,” was released last summer and blew up seemingly overnight. It has now reached over 100,000 streams on Spotify. Soon after, the band headlined the Lost Lake Lounge in August and performed a string of sold-out shows in Denver supporting popular acts like The Ballroom Thieves and Houndmouth. November saw the release of their debut EP, Little Man’s World, at a sold-out co-headlining show at the Globe Hall. It’s looking like 2019 is going to be a busy year for the artists who are being propelled into the music world just in time for graduation. Halleway already has a couple Denver appearances lined up in the new year including a stop at the Larimer Lounge on January 6 and the Bluebird Theater in April.
Nobide began as the brainchild of producer Nick Vann in 2014. While Vann has consistently been releasing music and performing in the Denver area since then, 2018 brought major growth and momentum for the project. Last spring, Vann welcomed Matt McElwain on drums, Ted Kleist on Guitar and Tanner Fruit on Saxophone. Their self-described “organic electronic” tunes blend live instruments with electronic beats that will take you on a ride from dreamy introspection to infectious dancing and back again. Nobide spent the better part of 2018 touring around Colorado and the midwest and opened for local favorites Evanoff and Late Night Radio. In October, the group released their single “Wildin’ Out,” which has been streamed more than 20,000 times since it’s release. Nobide is kicking off the new year opening for Michael Menert and the Pretty Fantastics at the Belly Up in Aspen on January 19 followed by a set with Sunsquabi at the Fillmore on January 26. Starting this year off with a bang and promises of new music on the horizon, Nobide is sure to draw attention in 2019.
Devin Arnold — the rapper behind the alias DNA Picasso — is an artist through and through. His passion for photography and visual media is something that set him apart from his contemporaries in the Denver hip-hop scene in 2018. In addition to releasing his album #ForTheRecord in October, the artist released nine music videos in 2018 alone. The videos are well produced and eye-catching, making it apparent that the rapper cares deeply about how his music is visually portrayed. Along with the success of his album and music videos, Arnold had some impressive performances in 2018. He appeared alongside other popular hip-hop artists like A Meazy, Jay Triiiple and TheycallhimAP at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox for Mile High Live, a hip-hop showcase put on by KS 107.5 in August. He also performed at the Gothic Theatre and The Fox Theatre to packed crowds. Arnold is doing his part to put Denver hip-hop on the map and we hope this artist gets the recognition he deserves in the new year.
With a debut EP in the works and their first headlining show just around the corner, LVDY (pronounced “Lady”) is about to take Denver by storm. Singer-songwriter duo Kathleen Hooper and Aubrey Mable met six years ago while studying abroad in New Zealand. Music always seemed like a faraway ambition until 2017 when the duo realized it was time to start bringing that dream to life. With an acoustic guitar, the occasional tambourine and their harmonies, LVDY makes honest music enveloped in positive vibes to fill those sunny Colorado afternoons. Mable’s warm rasp complements Hooper’s bright and clear vocals on their first song released on all major music platforms — a cover of Cobi’s “Don’t You Cry for Me.” The track has been streamed nearly 30,000 times since it’s release in October. In a matter of months, the duo has gone from busking on street corners to gearing up for their upcoming headlining performance at Lost Lake Lounge on January 4. Don’t miss this dynamic duo as they break into the scene in the coming months.