20 Watts

ISSUE 21 | Reviews: Broken Bells’ Broken Bells by 20watts

20 Watts gives Broken Bells' self-titled a 15/20 watts.

Part of Issue 21 Coverage!

PREVIEW: VISIT Broken Bells’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

It’s hard to call Broken Bells just another “supergroup,” because the sound of their debut album is so authentic, soulful and melodically experimental. Broken Bells is made up of The Shins’ James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley’s Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, but they’re not a match made in heaven – they just sound great together.

Even though the album drops on March 9, the group teased the world with its groovy, smooth opening track, “The High Road” on Dec. 29. The cleanly coordinated lead single may flow with the innocence of a post-Beatles Paul McCartney song, but its electronic whirs and blips resound with the sultry edge of Danger Mouse’s Gnarls Barkley influences. Continue reading

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Editor’s Pick #284: Pantha du Prince by JohnCassillo
February 18, 2010, 10:24 am
Filed under: Editor Picks | Tags: , , , ,

Pantha du Prince's latest is pure, electronic art

PREVIEW: STREAM “Stick to My Sides (Walls Remix)” (Feat. Panda Bear)

Amidst all of 2010’s experimental electronic noise, and other harsh and different sounds, stands Pantha du Prince. The German DJ/producer (aka Hendrick Weber) recently released his third studio album Black Noise via Rough Trade, and it already stands as one of the year’s most diverse and intricate recordings. Of course, getting some help from Animal Collective‘s Panda Bear is always helpful.

Arguably, Black Noise‘s most notable selection is “Stick to My Side,” which features Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox. Using his well-recognized voice to cut through the wall of house-influenced electronica, Lennox gives the scattered beats and bells something to stand on, and a semblance of order. His talent for creating more in-depth meaning precedes him after works like Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, his own Person Pitch and other cameos on tracks like Atlas Sound‘s “Walkabout.” But it’s Pantha du Prince we’re focusing on here, and Lennox’s vocals draw plenty of attention to his superior range of ethereal sounds– which also appear throughout the remainder of the record, sans Lennox.

-John Cassillo, Reviews Editor

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20 Watts Reviews Cold War Kids’ Behave Yourself by 20watts

Cold War Kids should take their own advice with their latest EP Behave Yourself

PREVIEW: VISIT Cold War Kids MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 8/20 Watts

It starts with a simple drum beat and Nathan Willett’s wailing voice coupled with a repeated piano line. Cold War Kids latest “soul/punk” offering Behave Yourself, released digitally towards the end of 2009 and largely overlooked, presents little in the way of soul and naught in the way of punk. Nonetheless, Cold War Kids have managed to slap together a stunning fifteen minutes of drivel in preparation for their third album, out later this year supposedly.

Much of it leads back to Nathan Willett’s voice, always trying to infuse soul and pizazz into lyrics like, “You came out from the country / Wearing momma’s clothes / You were born in the city / Daddy’s dominoes,” and typically coming up short (or, as the case may be, flat). A source of critical contention since their full-length debut, his wannabe-Jack-White drawl still provides as little satisfaction today as it did four years ago.

Not all of Cold War Kids’ problems can be blamed on their frontman though. Among the many issues Behave Yourself tackles, conservative song structure is the most prominent. Lead track “Audience of One” is piano rock at its most gratingly repetitive, less Cat Stevens and more Billy Joel. “Sermons,” an R&B disaster, soaked to the bone with religious pleading and slow instrumentation that might evoke an ominous atmosphere were it not for Willett’s overbearing words and Jonnie Russell’s heavy-handed crooning. They even ape The Beatles’ “Her Majesty” with the abruptly-ending bonus track “Baby Boy.”

If there exists one bearable song on this short record it would likely be “Santa Ana Winds.” While not strong enough to salvage the EP, it relegates Willett’s voice to the background more than the others on the record, instead allowing for crescendoing swells of percussion and crisp guitar and bass lines. Moreover Cold War Kids know not to outstay their welcome on it, dropping out at a lean 2:32.

Why are EPs released? Are they outlets for musicians to grow artistically? Can they represent more than the throwaway B-sides from an album of material? Years from now, when the tastemakers of the future visit their vintage record stores to compile some of the aughts’ great indie rock EPs — Fall Be Kind, Lon Gisland, Sun Giant, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, Friend and others — a tattered compact disc copy of Behave Yourself will undoubtedly lie at the bottom of the bin, forgotten and sold at a tenth of its original price.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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20 Watts’ Best of 2009 by 20watts

20 Watts brings you the Best Albums of 2009!

So, the champagne’s out, the fireworks have stopped, the ball has dropped. The year 2009 may be long gone … But the music is still here — vibrant and waitng for masses who have yet to consume it! Naturally we want to help y’all out. Here’s 20 Watts’ list of the 20 best albums of 2009, from us to you! Enjoy!

Love and stereo,

20 Watts

20 Watts Best of 2009 #1: Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion by jluposello

Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is #1 on our Best of 2009 List

PREVIEW: VISIT Animal Collective’s MySpace
TOP TRACK: “Brother Sport

After eight studio releases, it’s safe to say that Baltimore’s Animal Collective have hit their pinnacle on 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Following 2007’s Strawberry Jam, guitarist Josh Gibb went on hiatus for “personal reasons,” pushing the rest of the band back into the studio to record a batch of songs to be performed without guitar.

The result is the unmistakably synth-heavy construction of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Upon dropping from Domino Records in January, the album met instant critical acclaim, hailing praise from the scene as one of the best of the year. We couldn’t agree more.

While the record feature’s a distinctly “poppy” sound from the Maryland natives, it also possesses an inherent appeal in it’s more visceral pleasures. Vocalists David Portner (a.k.a. Avey Tare) and Noah Lennox (a.k.a. Panda Bear) reach a dynamic untouched by their previous efforts.

The theme of the record is one based on basic human needs and desires, giving the album an undoubtedly cohesive feel. Each song builds on the exceptional qualities of the one that came before it, shattering the concept of “Oh, this is my favorite song on the album!” quite well.

It’s tough to deny the exceptional writing on the album, regardless of your musical tastes. The synth-heavy questions of life appeal to the rave junkie and neo-hippy alike, and summarize the album marvelously. It’s as though Animal Collective were telling us that sometimes, to get to where you’re supposed to be, you need to go back to square one. And yes, even if it takes you eight albums to do it.

— John Luposello


PREVIEW: LISTEN to Free People’s “Wintry Mix”

Well, we almost made it through an entire semester with no snow, but according to this week’s weather forecast, that dream will soon become a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but Syracuse’s constant gray skies and inches of snow blowing in my face sort of put a damper on my day. If you’re the same way, pop in your headphones and listen to Free People’s “Wintry Mix” playlist. The 15 winter-themed tracks will help you actually enjoy the mounds of snow, and make you feel as though you’re living in a winter wonderland– not a sub-zero ice box.

What’s best about the playlist is that it’s a truly eclectic mix of music. There’s classic rock, indie rock and even a bit of 90s and Bob Marley thrown in. And what’s even better than the array of artists? Free People made sure to put together songs that represented the winter season in general, as well as the holidays. So instead of going crazy listening to the same Christmas songs over and over again on the radio, listen to “Wintry Mix” on your way to class and enjoy the extreme weather that you’ll be experiencing until April.

–Dana Mikaelian, Communications Director


20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #19 Atlas Sound’s Logos by kabenn03

Atlas Sound's Logos is No. 19 on 20 Watts' Best of 2009 list

PREVIEW: VISIT Atlas Sound’s MySpace

TOP TRACK: “Walkabout”

Atlas Sound’s Logos is a brilliant album, made even more satisfying by the fact that we almost didn’t get to hear it upon completion.

After the unfinished album was unintentionally leaked onto the Internet last August, Bradford Cox threatened to throw out the whole thing. Thank the music gods he didn’t. Logos was released in October of this year.

Logos truly has something for everyone. With cheerful 60s tune “Walkabout” featuring Noah Lennox, a.k.a Panda Bear from Animal Collective, the romantically upbeat yet almost depressing “Shelia” and the serene, doo-wop sounding “My Halo” the album provides for a variety in a musically cohesive way.

The album starts slow with the soothing “The Light That Failed” filled with calming guitar and bells. The intensity slowly builds until “Walkabout” then falls again until “Shelia,” ending on a high note with “Logos.” The title track is a celebratory and percussion-heavy ending to a magnificent album.

With a more confident, yet less experimental sound than Cox’s previous album Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel, it is clear that Cox’s songwriting talents continue to change and progress as Cox perfects his art.

–Kelsey Bennett