20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma

20 Watts Reviews Flying Lotus's Cosmogramma

PREVIEW: VISIT Flying Lotus’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Experimental electro-producer and musician Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, has made quite a name for himself as an innovator of a genre often left untouched by modern electronic artists. With two stellar releases prior to this most recent effort, Ellison has lain the foundation for yet another groundbreaking release. This manifests in the form of the highly rewarding Cosmogramma.

Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, Ellison’s star-studded record is overwhelming in a delightfully peculiar way. In the brief yet wildly dense tracks, Ellison warps sound waves into forms that will intrigue and please any fan of his own inimitable brand of electronica.

On Yorke’s track, “…And the World Laughs With You”, listeners encounter a coarsely distorted synth line accented by a swirling, industrial-sounding beat, an abrasive yet effective motif that is consistent throughout the record. Yorke’s distinctive vocals enhance the track’s emotional signature.. The way that the track manages to chart such a varying course of emotions and dynamic ranges parallels the album perfectly, giving first-time listeners a good idea of what FlyLo is all about.

On tracks such as “Do the Astral Plane”, FlyLo steers away from his penchant for the uber-distorted and instead creates something unexpected yet fittingly subtle that demonstrates his versatility as an artist. Its arrangements are bound to tickle the fancy of any Toro Y Moi fans, myself included.

An unfortunate side of FlyLo’s style is that it thrives on brevity. Most of the tracks run their course in well under 2 minutes. This may prove unappealing to fans who are keen on duration. Demanding listeners may misinterpret it as a lack of maturity in the tracks,  potentially painting the cuts as simple pieces of studio experimentation.

FlyLo brings an impressively mature sound to the table and continues to break ground in the genre of today’s electronica with Cosmogramma. The album’s potential to overwhelm in terms of both aesthetics and guest appearances make it a notable release, albeit a brief one.

-John Luposello

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20 Watts Reviews The Radio Dept.’s Clinging To A Scheme
April 20, 2010, 10:00 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

20 Watts Reviews The Radio Dept.'s Clinging To A Scheme

PREVIEW: VISIT The Radio Dept.’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20 Watts

Since their beginnings in 1995, The Radio Dept. have been known for being slow to produce new albums. With their fifteen-year-old discography consisting of a mere three full length releases, the Swedish shoegazers could be described as patient, if nothing else

Clinging to a Scheme is a model example of over-perfection and its consequences. The album exists largely as an effort both over-thought and over-ambitious. This impacts the record negatively, giving it a sound that is neither inventive nor genre-challenging.

That’s not to say all listeners will be alienated by the album’s aspect. The tracks on aren’t necessarily bad, but there aren’t any truly outstanding moments on the record that come to mind when thinking of the work as a collective whole. Tracks such as the opener, “Domestic Scene”, come and go quietly, following a dynamic-shy formula that seems to be all too tried-and-tested in today’s indie scene.

Shorter efforts such as “Four Months in the Shade”  are passable as musical interludes, but The Radio Dept. comes up noticeably short even in that sense. Its lack of consistency and musical maturation causes it to feel more like a half-hearted pit-stop than a thoughtfully-placed interlude.

Tracks like “David” allude to a faint possibility of original sonic direction. The issue is that The Radio Dept. approaches these detours through the unexpected only to shy away on them, preferring the main road of conventionality –  densely textured but blandly orchestrated in form.

As the album draws to a close on “You Stopped Making Sense”, the record feels to have gone almost nowhere in its 35-minute duration. While the album may be enough for glazy-eyed, shoegazing audiences, it’s hardly enough to satiate the appetite of  even a casually demanding listener – especially one conscious of the extensive wait it took to produce the album. Sadly, “Clinging to a Scheme,” fulfills its title in the most disappointingly literal way possible, fixated on the same sonic tropes without considering that some newer scheme might be better worth clinging to.

-John Luposello

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20 Watts Reviews Lali Puna’s Our Inventions

20 Watts reviews Lali Puna's Our Inventions and gives it a 15/20 watts.

PREVIEW: VISIT Lali Puna’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

The German indietronica quartet of Lali Puna have been turning out genre-defining work via their ancestral label Morr Records for over 10 years, and have rarely disappointed with their synth heavy, introspective tracks. The group’s latest effort Our Inventions holds true to form, delivering a sonic landscape of crackling blip beats beside frontwoman Valerie Trebeljahr’s deceptively poised vocals.

Lali Puna were hardly the ones to invent the ever-expanding genre of indietronica, but since their first release, 1999’s Tridecoder, they’ve commanded a presence in the genre that’s hard to ignore. Thriving on a sound that can be described as hauntingly tranquil at the very least, their latest effort draws listeners for an intensely intimate listening experience. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Annuals’ Sweet Sister EP
March 30, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: ,

20 Watts reviews Annuals' Sweet Sister EP and gives it a 13/20 watts.

PREVIEW: VISIT Annuals’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 12/20 Watts

North Carolina’s Annuals have earned the well-deserved title of indie music’s first “blog band,” a term that’s gained quite a bit of relevance, especially in today’s scene. After gaining their notoriety via a host of rave reviews of their original sound and potential, Annuals have turned out two full lengths and a host of EPs, including their latest effort, Sweet Sister.

Sweet Sister features a much more electro-curious sound than any of Annuals’ past efforts. It’s no secret that the members all put equal effort into their host of electronic side projects, and their penchant for studio experimentation is obvious. The result is an obviously forward thinking, but hardly engaging EP. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Crookers’s Tons of Friends

Crookers's Tons of Friends.

PREVIEW: VISIT Crookers’s MySpace

WE GIVE IT: 12/20 Watts

If nothing else, the latest release from Italy’s fastest growing electro-duo Crookers win this year’s award for the most appropriately titled album. Their most recent effort, Tons of Friends, features a staggering 20-track lineup of collaborations with the likes of will.I.am, Spank Rock, Miike Snow, Kelis, Pitbull and Crookers’s old friend, Kid Cudi, among others. While the features list that comes along with the eclectic (that’s an understatement) sound on the record is enough to make listeners drool all over their iPods, the sound presents a mostly unfocused sound punctuated by just a few gems.

Crookers have never been shy about their aversion to becoming tied to one specific genre. Sure, they’ve gained most of their popularity via their recent domination of the Italian club scene, but beneath layers of house beats and broad synth textures lay an unmistakable hip-hop influence. The duo’s remix of Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Nite” is arguably what gained the duo their notoriety, and they pay homage to their hip-hop roots in several of the collaborations on the record. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Ludacris’s Battle of the Sexes

Ludacris's Battle of the Sexes.

PREVIEW: VISIT Ludacris’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 14/20 Watts

Ludacris isn’t exactly known for respect towards women in his raps. But with his latest release, Battle of the Sexes, Luda tries to offer a woman’s point-of-view on partying, sex and relationships. While these topics are not new to Ludacris’s repertoire, the juxtaposition he creates in his seventh studio album shows that the rapper still has something fresh to offer the hip-hop scene. Battle of the Sexes boasts a good mix of party anthems and sex-driven songs featuring some of today’s most well-known female rappers.

The intro to BOTS makes it clear that ‘Cris still loves to party hard, making numerous references to smoking weed within the first two minutes. “Everybody Drunk” and “Party No ‘Mo” encourage picking up women at the club and drinking till you pass out. Lil’ Scrappy is featured on the final cut of the more laid-back “Everybody Drunk,” while the original, which was released in April 2009, featured Shawnna. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor
March 9, 2010, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , ,

Titus Andronicus's The Airing of Grievances.

PREVIEW: VISIT Titus Andronicus’s MySpace

WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

Titus Andronicus’s first album, The Airing of Grievances, was received with great praise for its riotous and rebellious lyrics and energizing guitar riffs. Thus the band’s second album is surrounded with nothing less than hopeful anticipation, and they don’t disappoint. The shoegaze-influenced band delivers in a big way with their sophomore album The Monitor.

It appears that Titus Andronicus are not lacking inspirational muses, if anything it seems that the young band is constantly stimulated by almost everything: The band’s name is the title of a Shakespeare tragedy, and The Monitor, which revolves around the conflicts of the American Civil War, refers to the U.S.’ first ironclad warship. Confused? Dubious? Don’t be. The album is not only smart and energetic, but it also shows a real maturation of this band whose first album might have left you unsure of where they could be headed next. Continue reading

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