20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Kaki King’s Junior by ambiguitron
April 13, 2010, 11:25 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

20 Watts Reviews Kaki King's Junior

PREVIEW: Visit Kaki King’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 12/20 Watts

I specifically remember my first encounter with Kaki King.  She was a young female guitarist and I was an impressionable young boy.  Kaki King’s guitar techniques were out of this world, unlike anything I’d heard at that point.  The music – exciting, new, and technically impressive – made me melt like butter on warm bread.  Blending beautiful folk acoustic guitar passages, jazz harmonies, and distinct percussive sounds from the body of her acoustic guitar, she created her own style and sound.  Sadly, I am no longer as aroused by her music.

It all started back when she began mixing in tracks of electric guitar and singing, creeping in new foreign sounds that stray from her original sound palette.  I am by no means against progression and change but in this case I am only hearing musical regression with her change in style. Kaki King is no longer creating something new but rather bringing back what seems to be old and predictable.  The tracks are structured according to pop formulas, covered with fuzz, and backed by simplistic drumming and accompaniment.  It is clear that Katharine King is sacrificing her once celebrated instrumentally virtuosic style for more lyric-driven music.

King’s voice is smooth and angelic yet in a way that compromises her music’s expressiveness. Her band sounds more and more like other competent but unspectacular indie pop bands  Popular music and especially new indie music lacks original musicians, so to see such talent used for mere formulaic pop seems almost criminal.  “Sloan Shore,” one of the only tunes reminiscent of her old style, leaves the listener hungry for more of the same bold sonic innovation.  However, her application of old in new styles works wonderfully in slower tunes such as “The Hoopers of Hudspurth,” “Hallucinations From My Poisonous German Streets,” and “Spit it Back in Your Mouth.”  Such instances show how her beautifully layered vocal lines work well with her new rhythm section.  In the second half of the album all her old and new styles of writing are employed and combined successfully.

Junior is half wonderful and half mediocre.  While it’s clear King is still an incredibly talented player and arranger, she has not yet successfully balanced her method of writing.  She jumps from post-rock, to punk pop, to folk, mashing together her original techniques with borrowed music from other similar sounding indie pop bands.  Artists should be able to create freely and experiment with new styles and I believe Kaki King is just doing what she wants to do with her music, which is singing more and playing less. I just wish she were as unique of a songwriter and singer as she is a musician and guitarist.

-Andrew Nerviano

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Words of the Week: An Interview with The Breakfast by 20watts

Each week, 20 Watts is poised to feature a new exclusive artist interview! Here we present our WORDS OF THE WEEK!

PREVIEW: The Breakfast’s MySpace and Web site.
READ: OUR REVIEW of The Breakfast at the Westcott last week!

20 Watts: Tim, this one is for you. Who are your main jazz influences?

Tim: Miles Davis is probably up there. As far as jazz guitar players go, John McLaughlin, John Scofield. For more traditional jazz I like Wes Montgomery definitely. Has he been a huge influence? Probably not, but I respect his music.  Miles has definitely affected me musically. Jeff Beck has influenced me for fusion, but he’s more of a rock player. He’s not a jazz guitar player per se.

20W: You guys are pretty technical musicians. You have a lot of fast runs in your music. What you all do or what did you do originally to work on your technique? Any exercises that you found helpful to get on the level that you guys are on now?

Tim: Faster!  Fasterrr!

Jordan: Just gigging all the time. I mean fifteen years ago I started studying a little jazz, playing some fake book stuff.  But just playing with all the different bands made me a better player. Continue reading

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Flying Home – local jazz masters pack Syracuse’s Jazz Central by wagx3
February 10, 2010, 12:48 am
Filed under: Scene Around Town | Tags: , , , ,

Local jazz masters pack Syracuse's Jazz Central

February 5, 2010 at Jazz Central on E. Washington Street.

It may not seem like it, but jazz is still alive in Syracuse.  Local all-star band Flying Home are putting their own contemporary spin on the traditional art.  Last Friday, Syracuse’s Jazz Central was filled beyond its 63-seat capacity with friends and jazz fans eager to see the debut gig of this elite line-up of young twenty-somethings.  What they got was two sets of music: one mostly consisting of upper-tier jazz improvisation and the other a complete run-through of Flying Home’s debut CD First Contact.

This group is as much fun as they are professional.  Virtuosic guitarist Tom Bronzetti explores his remarkably wide vocabulary of melodies.  He’ll play a fast-flying riff reminiscent of Wes Montgomery, then foll low it up with a snippet of your favorite nursery rhyme..  He effortlessly communicates with his band mates during a tune, all while smiling and nodding along.  Keyboardist Dino Losito, a Central New York jazz master, filled in for Andrew Carroll.  Many seemed surprised when Tom announced he is not an official band member, as his unquestionable technical and melodic ability allowed him to blend perfectly. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews OK Go’s Of the Blue Colour of the Sky by 20watts

OK Go's latest album is full of pleasant surprises

WE GIVE IT: 14/20 Watts

Between Surfer Rosa references, Rock Band, New Moon, treadmills and a five-year wait, I (and probably everyone else) was more than willing to write off OK Go’s latest album. Too bad it’s too good.

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky succeeds for not just its consistency as an album, but for how OK Go have pulled away from the generic power pop of their self-titled debut and sophomore effort Oh No in favor of a more dance-y, inscrutably diverse sound. The band derided for aping ’00s Weezer have crafted a diverse, synth- and hook-laden third effort — shockingly easygoing, and more fascinating than any other mainstream release so far this year. Continue reading