20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews MGMT’s Congratulations

20 Watts Reviews MGMT's Congratulations

PREVIEW: Visit MGMT’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20

It was a tense buildup.  There were the negative reports on new songs live, the pretentious trash-talk, the name itself, and then of course the leak.  Today, the long-anticipated, and much-debated, follow-up from MGMT finally sees a release.  So what happened?  They didn’t take the easy route  continuing their resume of unbalanced albums of psychic freakouts and potential chart-toppers, for starters.  Instead, what has emerged is an uncompromising album of pop references and a determination to keep the music firmly rooted in the “left-field” territory.

You get the feeling that they’re not going back to “Kids” when they lead the album off with a guitar riff worthy of Paul Westerberg.  The album continues down that path, making nods to Television and the rest of the New York art-punk scene, as well as Brian Eno (also the name of one of the album’s highlights, a zany romp of harpsichord, organ and guitar) and company.  Tracks like “Flash Delirium” channel the disparity, building unbalanced segments into a captivating, but often perplexing whole.  The fascination for me lies, however, in the band’s newfound minimalism.  Oracular Spectacular tried to cram as many polyrhythms, noises and effects into each song.  Now, it’s almost as if they’ve shelved their penchant for texture in favor of an expedition into variants on song-craft.  No idea lasts for too long, and often bridges into what occasionally is a dead end.  However, when it works, it really works, especially on the captivating “I Found A Whistle,” which shimmers in a way that recalls the track “Kids” shining off the floor of a linoleum hallway from a distance.

It’s a gamble making an album this obtuse in the face of commercial demands.  There are thousands out there who just wanted 10 more tracks of “Time to Pretend” and an excuse to wear facepaint and feathers at a rock show.  Now, those kids have to come to terms with the fact they’re dealing with a pair of artists who wear their influences on their sleeves, and aren’t going to stay within one box for long.  For that, I guess I’ll have to say kudos , and give MGMT dues on a title they might have half-knowingly deserved all-along.  There’s a lot of beauty and a lot of exploration going on here, as well as a fair share of mistakes, but there’s also enough to keep you listening, and more than enough to beat the sophomore slump.  Now it’s just a matter of channeling that energy into a concise focus, and MGMT might emerge the pop starlets they’ve already insisted on making themselves.

-Dan Creahan


20 Watts Reviews Andrew W.K.’s Close Calls With Brick Walls

Andrew W.K.'s latest brings the standard amount of destruction for fans

PREVIEW: VISIT Andrew W.K.’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20 Watts

Oh, jeez. Where to start with Andrew W.K.? Part of me knows his music is overwrought, cheesy and often totally awful, but all of the other parts don’t really care. He’s an absolute maniac live, and has no problem writing songs with titles like “Party Til You Puke” and “I Want Your Face,” the latter of which is about wanting to steal someone’s face because they look like him. Awesome. I was lucky enough to catch a lecture by him at NYU last fall, and regardless of what people think of him, the guy has some very interesting wiring upstairs, which apparently lends itself to creating twisted power metal.

Andrew W.K. doesn’t seem to care about what people think of his music either. After releasing an album of instrumental piano improvisations last fall (he’s classically trained), he’s finally releasing his long-awaited third album, Close Calls With Brick Walls to a U.S. audience this year. Suffice to say, it’s a total trip: Meatloaf-esque piano bangers and heavy thrashing abound, alongside some really intriguing studio work. Continue reading

20 Watts Reviews Shout Out Louds’ Work
February 23, 2010, 11:06 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: ,

Shout Out Louds work could cause speeding tickets

PREVIEW: VISIT Shout Out Louds’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

After finally getting a car up to Syracuse this semester, I find myself stuck behind the wheel more and more often.  Maybe it’s just the pull of moving quickly from point to point, or maybe it’s that American concept of freedom on the open road.  Either way, it’s led to me listening to way more music as of late, and at way louder volumes.  Thank god, or else I might never have blasted “1999,” the lead track off Work at full volume on the drive between Buffalo and home.  There’s something about Shout Out Louds that works with driving, and this album is no different, especially late at night chasing the shadows from headlights up ahead.
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20 Watts Reviews Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back

Peter Gabriel's collection of covers is extremely disappointing

PREVIEW: VISIT Peter Gabriel’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 7/20 Watts

Ah, the covers album.  It seems like once some artists hit a certain age, they become incapable of writing any more tunes, and instead just dive into something resembling  The Great American Songbook a la Rod Stewart.  I’m not quite sure, however, whether they do it for their own artistic fulfillment or just to seem relevant in the increasingly schizophrenic music culture.  From the looks of Scratch My Back, Peter Gabriel‘s entry into the canon of career-turning/stomach-turning albums (your pick), he’s aiming heavily at the latter.

One has to wonder what he was thinking.  The tracks here span the last thirty years of music, touching on indie, as well as more mainstream hits from all over the map.  Gabriel actually had the stones to follow up a low-key rendition of Sarah McLachlan‘s “Mirrorball” with an equally low-key  “Flume,” by Bon Iver. He even goes so far as to finish the album with another slow, piano driven track — his version of Radiohead‘s “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” Continue reading

20 Watts Reviews Hot Chip’s One Life Stand

Hot Chip's One Life Stand is a pleasant surprise for listeners

PREVIEW: VISIT Hot Chip’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

Hot Chip doesn’t seem to have much of a problem putting themselves out there.  Their first few albums, squiggly homages to dance, soul and synth-pop fell in quite nicely with the mid-decade boom of equally squiggly dance records out at the time, but as history beats on, they’ve been more and more at risk of becoming nothing more than a retread, a burst of nostalgia for a dead genre few are willing to touch. It comes as equal parts surprise and necessity then, that the band would release an album as incredibly diverse as One Life Stand at the dawn of the new decade.

Instead of letting their method fall by the wayside though, it seems that Hot Chip have instead focused their vision, refracting their synth-dance backgrounds into a broader spectrum of songcraft.  While tracks like opener “Thieves in the Night” and “One Life Stand” show a lot of the old tricks and trademarks of the band (maybe add in a few more mind-bending synthesizer sounds), other tracks stretch the band’s skills into new realms.  “Hand Me Down Your Love” calls to mind a mix of Spoon and classic 50’s soul, and “Alley Cats” unfolds into a captivating minimalism that begs for replay after replay. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Los Campesinos! Romance Is Boring

Listen to Los Campesinos! Romance is Boring

PREVIEW: VISIT Los Campesinos! MySpace

WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

High School sucked.  We spent so much time ping-ponging between awkward romantic anxiety, blowout house parties and venomous social gerrymandering that a pair of headphones was one of our few solaces.  Our computers were our record stores, Pitchfork and AbsolutePunk our ‘zines, nay, our best friends.  Few bands can bear witness to those introspective melodramas of adolescence better than Los Campesinos!, the hyper-prolific Wales septet whose first two albums Hold On Now, Youngster and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, set the bar for hyperactive orchestral indie pop and excruciatingly long song titles back in 2008. Continue reading

Scene Around Town: Ghostface Killah with Skyzoo at the Westcott
Ghostface5Ghostface Killah’s openers were more impressive than Ghostface at Westcott Theater last night

Exclusive photos and coverage below the cut!

Hip-hop shows always seem to be hit or miss.  Either the performer’s on point and the crowd’s loving it, or it’s a gaudy free-for-all onstage and the music just doesn’t live up to how it sounds on record.  Last night’s Ghostface Killah show at The Westcott was a little bit of both, with late appearances, brutal performances and a considerable amount of trash-talk.  But what would you expect from a Wu-Tang member anyway?

The show started with a string of local openers, beginning with Myles P, whose jagged flow and attempts at 808s and Heartbreak R&B vocals made me walk out on his set, regardless of his mystifyingly dedicated fanbase, who rocked with him for the whole show. A strangely captivating but ultimately questionable local group followed, whose name I couldn’t catch and who didn’t appear on any showbills.  They made a lot of noise about local hip-hop, but it was hard to buy. Continue reading