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Summer 2010 Coverage: Siren Festival announces its hourly lineup by 20watts

Matt and Kim

90-degree beach weather, Nathan’s hot dogs and free music all factor into a day that I’ve looked forward to for years. It’s not the 4th of July. This day comes two weeks later. The stage that’s previously hosted indie rock legends like Broken Social Scene in 2008 and Built to Spill in 2009 will be sporting sunny indie-poppers Matt and Kim and neo-punks Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

As always, the Siren lineup is neatly stacked — this year featuring a nice mix of up-and-coming blog-buzzers like Screaming Females and Wye Oak alongside last-summer favorites like Matt & Kim and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In an inspired bit of scheduling, the Pains, lo-fi surf-rockers Surfer Blood and Matt & Kim will play before both the aforementioned acts on the same main stage. All of their music and live shows are energetic and fun, which bodes well for a day in the Coney Island sun.

Meanwhile the Stillwell Stage will be hosting bands arguably just as cool. Holy Fuck, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Harlem, Ponytail and Apache Beat are set to rock Stillwell, making the ever-present choice of what stage to hit when that much more difficult. The full hourly breakdown was released yesterday in anticipation of the show this Saturday, July 17. 20 Watts will be on-scene for the day and will be covering the day’s shenanigans when we aren’t taking part in them ourselves. Check out some previous free concert coverage this summer and the last time we covered Siren!

Siren '10 Schedule

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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20 Watts’ Best Of 2009: #14 Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Why There Are Mountains by 20watts

Cymbals Eat Guitars' Why There Are Mountains is #14 on our Best of 2009 List

PREVIEW: VISIT Cymbals Eat Guitars’ MySpace
TOP TRACK: “And the Hazy Sea”

From the triumphant screaming that kicks off “And the Hazy Sea” to the subtle acoustic guitar line that closes “Like Blood Does,” Cymbals Eat Guitars channeled the best of ‘90s indie rock and infused it with a 21st century spin on their March 2009 full-length debut Why There Are Mountains.

Few straightforward ‘90s-influenced indie rockers today have the stamina to last more than a few songs without sounding like derivative pastiches of Modest Mouse, Built to Spill or Pavement. Cymbals Eat Guitars proved they could do more with songs like “Indiana,” which opens saturated with guitar reverb and transitions (in a way somewhat reminiscent of Merriweather Post Pavilion‘s song divisions) effortlessly into “cleaner” guitar sounds, synthesized electronic manipulation, and even a few fleeting horn segments.

Innovation in instrumentation isn’t the only thing they’ve got going for them though. Cymbals Eat Guitars have a knack for crafting both strident, solo-heavy marathons like “Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)” and “Cold Spring” as well as shorter, more accessible songs like “Indiana” or “Some Trees.”

Musically Why There Are Mountains covers all of the bases a great debut should cover, and then some, and thematically, it works in much the same way. The penetrating lyricism of “And the Hazy Sea” make it one of the most interpretably dense lead tracks since Modest Mouse’s “3rd Planet.” Ambiguous references to the George Washington Bridge and the year 1999 steep the song and the band in a mystery which only makes them even more appealing.

Cymbals Eat Guitars did good this year, so let’s hope they continue to do so.

— Eric Vilas-Boas



20 Watts Reviews Built to Spill’s There Is No Enemy by jluposello
Built to Spill's There Is No Enemy is set to hit stores on October 6th.

Built to Spill's There Is No Enemy is set to hit stores on October 6th.

PREVIEW: LISTEN to Built to Spill’s “Aisle 13” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Boise-based indie pioneers Built to Spill have been responsible for perhaps some of indie rock’s most ambitious and timeless sounds. After two decades of making music, some speculated that the aging group was losing their potential for growth. In the 2000s, the band’s releases were criticized as empty and largely unfocused. However, with the release of their tenth record to date, it sounds as though they’ve returned to their creative prime. There Is No Enemy is distinctly them, and we couldn’t be happier to hear it.

As Built to Spill’s first release in three years opens, there is no doubt that the wonderfully-aged alt-rockers are back in true form. The band’s signature, solid and undeniably-bottomless sound is splattered across opening track, “Aisle 13.” It’s a scenic and surreal sound that fans and new listeners alike will surely revel in. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews The Dodos’ Time to Die by Eric Vilas-Boas
Time to Die isn't as impressive as Visiter, but it'll do for now

Time to Die isn't as impressive as Visiter, but it'll do for now

PREVIEW: The Dodos: “Fables”
LISTEN: Time to Die Streaming

Last year, The Dodos released one of the best albums of 2008, Visiter. Pitchfork described the album as “one of the most welcoming (and welcome) records of 2008.” Sadly, the same can’t be said for their follow-up, Time to Die.

After expanding the duo to a trio and hiring veteran indie-rock/-folk producer Phil Ek, The Dodos convinced hipsters everywhere that their third release would be godly. Alas, even Ek’s impressive credentials (Fleet Foxes, Everything All the Time, most of Built to Spill’s discography) can’t save Time to Die from that all-powerful album-breaker: boredom.

Overall, the record employs the same technique we remember from Visiter, and actually has superior production values, but never reaches the same memorable height that the first album did. The same specific issues are present on more than a few of the album’s nine songs. Continue reading



Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 by Eric Vilas-Boas
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Frightened Rabbit rabble-rouses at Saturday's Siren Festival

READ: 20 Watts’ exclusive interview with Siren opener Tiny Masters of Today
VIEW: 20 Watts’ festival photo gallery, under the jump

Life doesn’t get much better than listening to free live music on a blazing hot summer’s day while chowing down on some cheap, sub-par hot dogs. To all those who don’t reside in the New York area or just couldn’t make it out to Coney Island on Saturday, let’s just say we’re very sorry you missed out.

Luckily for you, however, we’ve compiled a list of the best bands that graced the stages by the boardwalk this weekend. And when they play in your area, you better not miss them. Highlights of the day ran the gamut from fifteen-year-olds to the veteran ’90s indie-rockers that make up Built to Spill. Two types of shows permeated Siren this year: those driven by gimmicks and those driven by musicianship. The best acts melded the two strains together and struck a balance.

Tiny Masters of Today, made up of fifteen-year-old Ivan and his thirteen-year-old sister Ada (with an unnamed drummer), opened up the day for the audience at Siren.

There wasn’t much of a crowd yet when they started, but considering these kids are much younger than most readers of this blog and played at the same stage and on the same day as Built to Spill and Japandroids, they held their own remarkably well. Ada even went so far as to amicably explain that the “President” referenced in one of their songs was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. With short song lengths and smatterings of political lyrics, it’s ironic that they played some of the purest punk rock of the day despite being born twenty years after the genre first surfaced.

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Despite the heat, Japandroids rocked out like a coked-up White Stripes

Speaking of Japandroids, if there were any band at Siren with too much pent-up energy, it would be this duo. Playing garage rock like a coked-up, bastardized version of the White Stripes, Japandroids murdered their set, pulled it from the grave, and kicked it in the face like so many of the beach balls floating around the stage and crowd. Japandroids offered a warning before starting, with guitarist Brian King commenting on how much room he had to move around on the stage and how he felt like “the f**kin’ Stones” as a result.

Japandroids played one of the most dynamic, talented sets at Siren, and indeed, seemed to love doing it. When drummer David Prowse wiped his forehead with a towel after 20 minutes of nearly nonstop frenetic drumming, King chastised him for his weakness: “The f**kin’ towel? Really?”

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Editors Pick #140: Best Sets at Siren by caitlindewey
20 Watts picks our favorite sets at Siren

20 Watts picks/predicts the best sets at Coney Island's Siren Festival

As phenomenal as it is to see a bunch of awesome bands together, music festivals do have their drawbacks.  There are crowds, for starters — huge, unpredictable, often inebriated masses, which will crowd you out from the front of the stage, crowd surf at totally inappropriate times, and elbow you in the face when you’re trying to take a photograph (…not that I speak from experience, or anything).  There’s the food, which is always overpriced and almost always inedible, depending on how much you’ve had to drink.  Then there’s the sweltering heat, the sunburn, the tall dude who had to stand RIGHT in front of you, the gaggle of 16-year-olds giggling at the rear.

But the biggest problem of all, by far, is choosing which bands to see when several sets occur at the same, or almost the same, times.

Coney Island’s Siren Festival is kind enough to stagger their sets.  But in case you don’t want to sprint from stage to stage, or (God forbid) take a breather between the hours of 1:00 and 8:00, these are my personal Siren picks.

1:00 — Tiny Masters of Today [Main Stage]

Adolescent duo with serious industry cred splat out bratty punk anthems.  Are they awesome because they’re barely in high school, or because the chorus on “K.I.D.S.” is so fun to jam out to?  I’m not entirely sure, but David Bowie’s called their work “genius.”

2:00 — Micachu & The Shapes [Main Stage]

Unconventional and often inaccessible “pop,” played on customized or homemade instruments.  One part garage, one part glitch, and several parts awesome.

3:00 — Japandroids [Main Stage]

Simple, straightforward, no frills garage rock that could have come straight from the 1990s.  Something that sounds this fun on an album must be really incredible live.

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