20 Watts

ISSUE 22 | Q&A: An Interview with Portugal. The Man by 20watts

John Baldwin Gourley of Portugal. The Man sat down with 20 Watts for a nice long chat. Here's what he had to say!

Part of our Issue 22 coverage!
PREVIEW: Click to access music and more info on Portugal. The Man!

Experimental indie rockers Portugal. The Man started out in Alaska in 2004 and have since released five studio albums and played countless shows, including one at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater last year. Coming off the release of their latest album American Ghetto, Portugal. The Man frontman John Baldwin Gourley agreed to talk with 20 Watts for a nice, long Q&A session.

20 Watts: In a short amount of time, you guys have amassed a pretty impressive catalogue. Some might even make the comparison to The Beatles… What’s been your favorite album that you guys have recorded so far?

John Gourley: Well, I know this is going to sound silly but every time we go into the studio I say that I’m Continue reading

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Mix Fix: “Two Weeks of Hip-Hop” by The Hood Internet by tjwell01
March 9, 2010, 1:26 pm
Filed under: The Mix Fix | Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Hood Internet is the fastest-growing DJ sensation

PREVIEW THE DJ: The Hood Internet’s MySpace

LISTEN: “Two Weeks of Hip-Hop” (Dead Prez v. Grizzly Bear) by The Hood Internet

This isn’t so much about the song, but about the DJ–The Hood Internet. These guys are all over the place, and they back up the hype with fun and clever mash-ups like this one that mixes Grizzly Bear with Dead Prez. Who else is so stoked that someone made a gangster remix of “Two Weeks”?! [Raises his hand]. Top that with mixes like Jay-Z and M83–these guys challenge the range of great music. They’re a must-hear now act at this year’s SXSW as well. They have great taste and people are spreading the word, and maybe you should do the same.

–Jett Wells

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20 Watts Reviews Beach House’s Teen Dream by JohnCassillo

Beach House's Teen Dream is a beautiful account of young love and heartbreak

PREVIEW: STREAM Beach House’s “Norway”
WE GIVE IT: 18/20 Watts

Beach House‘s third full-length, Teen Dream, is a spectacle the likes of which will be hard to surpass in 2010. From the soaring, haunting chamber pop choruses, reminiscent of Grizzly Bear‘s Veckatimest, to the dreamy, pop landscapes it creates, the album is a testament to all that indie accomplished in 2009. And all it’s sure to accomplish in the coming year and beyond.

A deeply personal account of teenage emotions, Teen Dream plays to its title impeccably. The shuffling, nonchalant “Silver Soul” prods the issues at hand, while overall leaving them a mystery. Honest and heartfelt numbers like the 2008 single “Used to Be” and “Lover of Mine” take a more straightforward approach. The problems — mostly lost love and the subsequently forlorn existence — take form in their most crucial, vulnerable states. We see them for what the author sees them as, the crux of their young world. Continue reading

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Editor’s Pick #263: “Two Weeks” Fan Video by elizabethvogt
January 19, 2010, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Editor Picks | Tags: , , , , , ,

In a time of Pixar and Avatar, the use of computer graphics has become a staple in almost every epic film released in the past decade. Sometimes, however, even the most low-key, homemade videos can produce incredible CG effects. For example, Gabe Askew decided to break the mold and show that creativity still exists in the architectural visualization field (don’t worry, I had to wikipedia it too). The result? One of the most beautiful animated videos I personally have ever seen set to the lovely Grizzly Bear‘s “Two Weeks”. Gabe, I think you proved your point.

–Elizabeth Vogt, Assistant Front-of-Book 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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Editor’s Pick #254: Cool Shirts and Clear Consciences by Isabel Alcantara

The Yellow Bird Project

Was your New Year’s resolution to be more involved in charities and community service? Yeah, mine wasn’t either. But, on a quest to find new and awesome tees to wear for this new decade, I came across The Yellow Bird Project. The YBP is a non-profit operating from Montreal, with a three-fold mission: 1) to raise money for various charities through the sales of their totally kick-ass t-shirts, 2) to raise the public’s awareness of certain charities through the endorsement of indie rock artists, and 3) to raise the profile of artists they like. Now, before you yawn so wide that you pass out, keep in mind that these t-shirts (which you can buy to support whichever charity the tee happens to represent) are designed by the indie artists which they endorse. Cool, right?

The YBP was started in 2006 and its first contributing artists was the one and only Devendra Banhart. Now, four years later, the organization has grown and has the support of artists like, Metric, Grizzly Bear, Bloc Party, Ra Ra Riot, Of Montreal and Rilo Kiley, among others. Plus, if you (like me) are awaiting the arrival of your t-shirt designed by The National, which also happens to support Safe Space, you can play the local YBP game: Color Me Indie, for a chance to win an Indie Rock Coloring Book. What’s cooler than that? My new t-shirt. That’s what.

— Isabel Alcantara, Photo Editor

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