Denver Cellist & Soundscape Artist Lief Sjostrom Releases New EP 'Counting Breaths'

By: Norman Hittle

Lief Sjostrom, a cellist and guitarist living in Denver, has released his latest cinematic neo-classical full-length album Counting Breaths. Take a listen below!

Lief performs and records his own original, cinematic, and neo-classical/post-rock compositions; he also performs and records with live bands. His first solo EP, Her Prayers Sound Like Warnings, was released in 2017, and according to him, this latest album is a continuation of that EP with a darker edge.

Counting Breaths is a 14-track journey that takes the listener through cinematic soundscapes that alter in movement from track to track. One moment the listener may feel like they’re at the top of a verdant mountain range in Middle Earth, and the next they’ll be guided into the high tension of the misty woods of M. Night Shamylan’s The Village. Next they’ll find themselves gliding through a beautiful glade on sparkling waters along with some Game of Thrones-like heroes all before being taken to the doors of a sepulcher in a Lovecraftian-inspired horror tale. Both beautiful and emotionally captivating, these compositions could easily be on some epic gaming playlists and I know I’ll be adding them to my own.

Lief Sjostrom. 

Lief Sjostrom. 

On the side, Lief has been teaching cello and guitar lessons for four years, and has been a central component of the band PrettyMouth the last six years. He’s also performed or recorded with Edison, Sawmill Joe, King Cardinal, The Patient Zeros, Florea, Chad Price, Tyto Alba, Brianna Straut, Adam Hooks, Poor Me, and The Dead Orchids, to name a few. He’s also crafted music for the score of a documentary by Adam Reynolds.

Keep up with Lief Sjostrom on his social media and make sure to catch his set at Denver’s UMS this week Sunday at 1PM at Baere Brewing Company!

-Norman

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Westword Music Showcase 2017 Had Denver's Golden Triangle Dancing In The Streets

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Last Saturday, Westword Music Showcase returned to Denver’s Golden Triangle for its 23rd year of festing. From local bands to the evening’s headliners, the entire day brought together the Denver community for great performances and enough Coors Light to quench the thirst of musicians and audience members alike.

The Revivalists at Westword Music Showcase.

The Revivalists at Westword Music Showcase.

The festival took place both on the designated event grounds where attendees flocked to the Coors Light & Mike’s Hard stages, and in surrounding bars and venues, where a majority of the local bands played. Headliners this year included Shakey Graves, The Revivalists, and Cut Copy. The main festival area hosted lounge seating by VIE Vaporizers, booze tents sponsored by Coors, Mike’s Hard, Milagro Tequila, and Reyka Vodka, and even a Mary Jane-friendly bus advertising Denver pot-stop tours.  

Edison.

Edison.

We started the day bouncing between some of the festival’s venue spots after catching Denver darlings Edison on the main stage. The usual trio played as a four-piece for the day, and put on a great set with Sarah Slaton’s strong storytelling and plenty of good Americana vibes. We caught Bison Bone getting everyone grooving over at #VYBE, and later caught Kissing Party there handing out tambourines to the crowd and getting everyone to tap along to their catchy pop tunes.

Television Generation rocked out over at Stoney’s Main, with quite a crowd for an earlier-in-the-day set. They’re definitely an indie rock band to catch live and keep your eye (and ears) on. The Lollygags were playing simultaneously at Stoney’s South, where their classic rock sounds had the audience dancing.

YaSi, who played with both a DJ and drummer behind her over at City Hall Amphitheatre, was one of our favorite sets of the day. She commanded attention with her strong vocals, and kept it by getting fans to groove right along with her. Big J. Beats later took the stage, looping guitars in with his beats after announcing, “This is actually the first time I’m doing all of this live.” Well done Big J. 

We rolled back to the main festival area during COIN, who brought an indie-pop flare to what was a pretty perfect 70-degree summer day. Shortly after, we jumped over to Bob Moses at Mike’s Hard Stage. The New York electronica duo actually played as a trio with a drummer for this show. They were fresh off their Electric Forest performance, and kept a crowd who was clearly there for them jumping around. 

The Revivalists. 

The Revivalists. 

The Revivalists, a New Orleans bred rock’n’roll seven-piece, packed the Coors Light stage next, and did just as their name implies, reviving and revamping the entire spirit of the day with what was an incredibly high-energy set. There wasn’t a soul in sight who wasn’t singing along with them on their recent radio hit “Wish I Knew You.” Frontman David Shaw jumped between the stage and the crowd throughout the band’s show, engaging everyone around him in the group’s stellar performance.  

Cut Copy.

Cut Copy.

Australia’s Cut Copy were next, and played their psych electric tunes just as the sun set, cruising festival-goers into the early evening over tasty electro vibes.  

Shakey Graves.

Shakey Graves.

Which brings us to the last set of what was ultimately a great day of shows: Shakey Graves. Though originally from Austin, TX, Shakey Graves has spent a fair part of his life in Colorado, even remarking during his performance how the band’s recent hit “Dearly Departed” (which features Esmé Patterson) was actually written in Boulder, CO prior to a Fox Theatre performance. He delivered a boot-stomping Americana set to close out the night for what was by far the largest crowd of the day, and his smiling and dancing soon caught on with the crowd, who were swaying and forming dance circles as he played.  

What magic will next year’s Westword Music Showcase hold? It’s safe to say we already can’t wait to find out after their successful 2017 festival. Check out our full photo gallery of the event here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Edison Opens String of Hometown Shows with Boulder Fox Theatre Performance

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Last Friday, Denver’s own Edison made their way back to Colorado after almost a year on the road.

Sarah Slaton.

Sarah Slaton.

“We drove through the night to be here!” frontwoman Sarah Slaton remarked to cheers from the crowd.

The folk trio, who had a solid following for their opening set at Boulder’s Fox Theatre, are dropping their newest album, Familiar Spirit, this Friday. Released on Rhyme & Reason Records, Familiar Spirit is the band’s first LP (their four-song EP Ghosts came out last year).

Dustin Morris.

Dustin Morris.

Friday’s show was a freak folk dream. The band played crowd favorites like “San Jose” (from Ghosts) and a few new tracks from Familiar Spirit, including their already released single, “Civil War”. With multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dustin Morris and guitarist/vocalist Maxwell Hughes (formerly of The Lumineers) behind her, Sarah Slaton showcased her strong and sweeping vocals throughout the trio’s set. She commanded the stage, stomping to the edge and jetting her hair into the crowd as she twisted the mic cord from one side of the stage to the other like an electric snake. The audience sang along with Slaton on several tunes, including their new track, “Water”, which seemed to particularly captivate the crowd’s attention. Morris, who at one point played a trumpet with one hand and a drum with the other, was an impressive stage presence. Whether he was playing delicate percussion or booming beats, he threw his body into every note. Hughes was also an impactful folkie force, strumming out the band’s melody lines with grace.

Edison.

Edison.

Edison played a seven-song set, and were followed by glam folk/desert disco duo Kolars. New York City’s Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds then closed out the night, with a foot-stomping, swampy, blues-dancin’ good time.

Lauren Brown of Kolars.

Lauren Brown of Kolars.

If you missed Edison at the Fox, Colorado, you’re still in luck. The band has a Larimer Lounge show tomorrow evening opening for Jared & The Mill. Tickets are only $12.50 in advance; get ‘em here and catch Edison before they roll out of town for the rest of the year on their West Coast tour leg. And stay tuned for Familiar Spirit’s release this Friday! Keep up Edison on their Facebook.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Colorado's Edison Announce New Album, 'Familiar Spirit', & String of Hometown Shows

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Most bands dream of touring the nation and hitting the pavement on the reg, and Denver’s Edison have spent the last year doing just that, playing shows from coast to coast, and everywhere in between. The Colorado folk rock trio, consisting of Sarah Slaton (vocals/guitar), Dustin Morris (drums/vocals), and Grammy-nominated guitarist Maxwell Hughes (formerly of The Lumineers), made the joint decision in 2015 to quit their day jobs and pursue music full time. And that choice has sure paid off: Edison was recently signed to Rhyme & Reason Records, are coming out of a busy festival season with another full tour planned for the fall, and their album, ‘Familiar Spirit’, drops next Friday, 09/16/16. In anticipation for its release, Edison are actually headed back to the CO for a bit, with hometown shows planned at Boulder’s Fox Theatre this Friday, 09/09/16 and Denver’s Larimer Lounge next Tuesday, 09/13/16. Make sure to snag your tickets now, and in the meantime, check out our interview with Edison below:

How did the three of you come to be a part of the Colorado music scene?

Dustin and Sarah were initially involved in the Denver music scene, and Max had strong roots in his hometown music scene up in Fort Collins. In 2014, Sarah opened for Dustin and his former project on a tour to SXSW. By the end of the tour, they were collaborating on stage, and continued working together after returning home. Fast forward a year later, and Maxwell joined the Edison duo project on a co-headlining tour to SXSW 2015. [Edison’s] missing piece came together on that trip, and we've been a band ever since. 

Edison. Photo Credit:    Kristen Wrzesniewski

Edison. Photo Credit: Kristen Wrzesniewski

We know that you made the decision to hit the road and foster relationships with people on tour before releasing much music as a band. How did you have the courage to take this approach? And how has this route defined this project for you?

The courage to commit to such aggressive touring came after years of each of us touring solo with our own music. Within the last decade, each of us had traveled alone across the country with just our instruments and clothes in our car. When we finally made it into a car together, the chemistry clicked and we immediately agreed to give this project 110%. The road feels like home to all of us already, and [this project] has been defined by our joint love of traveling, and trying to carve out our future. [We will continue to tour this fall] with Jared & The Mill after Familiar Spirit is released next week, and we're so excited to take this record to the West Coast.

Denver is quickly becoming a massive launch pad for national acts, two of which you’ve had the chance to share a stage with (ie: Hughes as formerly of The Lumineers and Edison’s performance with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats). In your experience, why do you think Denver is a growing music hub? And what do you dig most about the Denver scene?

The scene in Denver stands out from other markets because there is a culture of collaboration. Musicians build community with one another instead of opting to view it as a competition. There are more systems in place to support the scene [in Denver] than most cities too. Things like CPR’s OpenAir, Illegal Pete’s, Levitt Foundation, SpokesBUZZ (R.I.P.), The UMS, and Youth on Record all make supporting local musicians part of their core mission. Artists in Denver have access to music business education, philanthropic opportunities, and media exposure all at their fingertips. It's something special.

Photo Credit:    Kristen Wrzesniewski

Photo Credit: Kristen Wrzesniewski

Sarah- As an out female fronting a successful indie folk project, you’re in a position of power to bring your background to your audience. How do you harness that power in your artistry to empower women, and LGBTQ individuals?

I'm proud to be an out woman and to stand on stage beside two men who support me and the LGBTQ community. It's been really rewarding to get feedback after a set from girls who are wanting to pursue music, or who have questions about my experience being an out musician. I hope that they take away something from the set that adds to their confidence in wanting to go for it themselves. 

When it comes to releasing ‘Familiar Spirit’ this month, what are you most excited about? Sharing the new tunes? Getting back on the road? All of the above?

All of the above. This record is something we've been sitting on since recording [it] last spring, and we have been anxiously awaiting the release date. We're so proud of the album, and to finally see people take the music home at shows will feel like Christmas.  

Photo Credit:    Kristen Wrzesniewski

Photo Credit: Kristen Wrzesniewski

What can your audiences expect from your sets while you’re in Colorado for these hometown shows?

Our hometown shows will be the perfect cap to the first leg of our 2016 tour. We have been working hard on the set for each show, and can't wait to get in a room with our hometown audience. They're family. We may have a few tricks up our sleeves for them, but folks will have to come see for themselves!

Well played, Edison. Stoked for the shows.

Make sure to catch Edison at Boulder’s Fox Theatre this Friday, 09/09/16 and Denver’s Larimer Lounge next Tuesday, 09/13/16. And keep up with this Colorado folk rock trio on their Facebook.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.