The Denver music scene is seeing a lot of action lately in the underground press, and if you’re curious as to why, you really needn’t look much further than the incredibly original sounds of a new record titled One by singer/songwriter project Warbler BC.
One isn’t the gypsy folk of DeVotchKa, and it doesn’t follow a poppy Christian trajectory in the style of The Fray or even the environmentalist, proto-SJW balladry of John Denver – it looks eastward toward a greyer set of skies far from the Rocky Mountains of the Centennial State, embracing elements of goth, post-punk, alternative folk, and even dream pop that haven’t found their way into the Denver underground with any degree of success in the past forty years.
Warbler BC attacks the audience with sly poetry in “Starry Gown,” crushingly emotional string work in “Don’t Fall in Love,” neo-grunge as it was always supposed to be played in “Fair” and a suffocating noise rock in “Just What I Wanted.” He doesn’t feel the need to let us up for air in the smothering slow tune “Trouble,” nor does he sympathize with those who say psychedelia and punk rock can never know common ground in “Ulysses Song.” This is an artist truly unchained, and he’s making an album for the ages in One that has really got me thinking about how deep the Denver scene must actually be.
The guitar parts in this record are almost overpowering in a couple of spots – such as the previously mentioned “Fair” and its groove-laden counterpart in “Ulysses Songs” – but I feel like this was completely intentional and designed by Warbler BC. The cerebral qualities in the music are always elemental to the flow of the album in general, but they never induce a druggy effect over the meaning behind words in “Don’t Fall in Love” and “Trouble.” The insularity of the melodies in each of these tracks becomes a key factor as we get towards the conclusion of the record, when the vibe starts to echo the cabin fever of quarantine culture a little too intimately for some in the audience to handle. It’s powerful, definitely pointed, and as punk rock as this era of singer/songwriters can be this season.
Warbler BC has a long way to go if the goal here is to eventually hang his hat beside the likes of Billy Bragg and Nick Cave, but even if it takes a lifetime to achieve the perfect sound, I’m happy I stumbled across this artist’s nattering and the profound emotional presence it has in tracks like “Starry Grove,” “Ulysses Song” and “Just What I Wanted.” It would be interesting for me, as a critic, to hear the difference between this material as it’s played in the studio versus a live setting, and mostly because I think the contrast between the two wouldn’t be that extreme. One is already as raw as good sashimi, and for punks like me, that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.