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20 Watt’s Reviews DJ Khaled’s Victory by gjfitton


DJ Khaled's act is getting stale, and Victory doesn't help matters

PREVIEW: VISIT DJ Khaled’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 11/20 Watts

Who exactly is DJ Khaled? It’s a question that perceptive music fans have wrestled with since his mainstream debut back in 2006. Khaled is not a DJ in the traditional sense of the word, he is not a producer and he is definitely not a rapper. His role on his fourth effort, Victory, is essentially the same as it has been for his previous albums. He simply screams and shouts over the various tracks. For the casual listener not familiar with hip-hop, Victory will surely not rest nicely on the ears– with music made for car subwoofers, rather than cocktail parties.

Khaled sticks to the same formula he has since 2006, compiling a diverse group of rappers over a multitude of instrumentals. The Runners, who have been working with Khaled for quite some time, handle most of the tracks, including lead single “Fed Up.” Their production technique defines the sound of Victory with stuttering southern drums and sharp synthesizers. “Fed Up” features relatively weak verses from Young Jeezy and Rick Ross, and some lines from Drake that fail to really fit the style of the song. Usher’s street-preaching chorus is also a bit laughable considering the relative comfort level of his career. Continue reading

Editor’s Pick #275: Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement by timmyhan

Listen to Mayer Hawthorne's debut album A Strange Arrangement

PREVIEW: VISIT Mayer Hawthorne’s MySpace

If you already listen to Mayer Hawthorne, you obviously live a slightly better life, but if not, you owe it to yourself and your anger management coach to dip your big toe in the glorious pool that is…Mayer Hawthorne.

When i first heard Mayer Hawthorne’s single, Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out, I pictured this John Legend-esque suave mother trucker in a fly suit, but to my surprise, he resembled a younger & slimmer version of Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman, Benjamin Gibbard, in a fly suit. However, Mayer Hawthorne is nothing like Gibbard musically. Mayer Hawthorne sounds like Pharrell and The Funk Brothers got together for a more than glorious & harmonious union.

His debut album hit the streets September 8, 2009, and has already received much street cred, more notably from the “pimp of music” himself, Snoop Dogg. When Rolling Stone interviewed Snoop Dogg, they asked who he was listening to these days, and his response was Mayer Hawthorne! You can never go wrong with a recommendation from Snoop. So check out Mayer Hawthorne’s debut album, A Strange Arrangement, before he gets so cool that it becomes uncool to have him in your ipod.

— Timmy Han, Art Director

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Editor’s Pick #237: Common’s “Strange Fruit” by carlywolkoff



Discarded track from Common's Finding Forever leaks

PREVIEW: Listen to “Strange Fruit” on YouTube

Apparently “Strange Fruit” was spared from Common’s 2007 Grammy-winning album, Finding Forever.  But I don’t see why.  The discarded song which recently surfaced samples Nina Simone’s cover of Billie Holiday’s iconic “Strange Fruit” and her passionate cries as she sings, “Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze” will lure you instantly.

While the original “Strange Fruit” may have been a reaction to a lynching in the South, Common’s rhymes provide a more relevant spin as he insists that although as a society we’ve come a long way since Holiday’s time, we’ve still yet to scratch the surfact of what needs to be accomplished.  John Legend’s soulful choral accompaniment encourages listeners to persevere despite current inequalities and celebrate our progress.  Whether or not the rumors regarding Kanye’s involvement in the production of the song are true, “Strange Fruit” is a stellar track.

— Carly Wolkoff, Front of Book Editor

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20 Watts Ghostface Killah’s Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City by JohnCassillo
Ghostface Killah's soulful experiment is a success

Ghostface Killah's soulful experiment is a success

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Ghostface Killah’s “Paragraphs of Love” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts

Ghostface Killah’s new album Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City is a highly creative and uniquely conceptual work. Ghostface, one of the nine original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, strays far from the venomous battle raps he was dishing out in the early nineties. The love-themed Ghostdini is a marked departure from older themes, displaying his versatility even as a chart-topping artist.

As Ghostface said himself, the album is R&B-inspired, and all of the songs, both from a production and lyrical standpoint, have a soulful and loving feel. Ghostface also recruited a handful of singers to help him with the choruses and progressions on the songs. Appearances by Lloyd, Estelle, John Legend, Adrienne Bailon and Raheem Devaughn provide the album with a coherent feel that strengthens the fluidity between the track listing. Continue reading

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News of Note: Ellen Degeneres is Fourth American Idol Judge, Minus the Bear Play the Westcott, Ghostface Killah Track List and More by 20watts
Ellen Degeneres just might entice us to watch American Idol

Ellen Degeneres just might entice us to watch American Idol

Whoa — I might ACTUALLY have to watch American Idol now.  Ellen Degeneres, the oh-so-lovable, dance-crazy comic, was named the show’s fourth permanent judge just an hour ago, according to MTV.  Degeneres has no legitimate music credentials that we can name, but hey, neither did Paula Adbul!  And Degeneres is at least pretty funny. Katy Perry, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Mary J. Blige and Shania Twain will also serve as guest judges. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: The Bird and the Bee Play Ellen Degeneres]

Minus the Bear’s fall tour is old hat around here — the Westcott Theater has, after all, been shouting their November 17th date from the mountaintops — but the acclaimed prog-rockers officially announced the four-week tour late this afternoon.  According to a press release, they’re touring in support of an upcoming fourth album, produced by Joe Chiccarelli (of White Stripes/My Morning Jacket fame), to be released in early 2010.  Tickets will go on sale this Saturday, though no price is currently listen on the Westcott Theater’s site. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Jack White, Chill Out!, 20 Watts Reviews Yim Yames’ Tribute To EP]

Ghostface Killah announced the track list for his September 29 album Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City.  “Baby,” the first single, is an auto-tuned love ballad that was recently released via Myspace.  The album, which is primarily R&B, will have guest appearances by Estelle, Kanye West, John Legend, Lloyd and Fabolous.  Ghostface will be performing at The Westcott on November 12 at 8 p.m.  [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Music Video Spotlight: Raekwon’s “The New Wu“]

Pitchfork posted a three-minute clip from Sufjan Stevens‘ “The BQE” multimedia set, to be released October 20.  “The BQE” features a bizarre combination of footage of NY’s notoriously congested Brooklyn- Queens Expressway, with Sufjan’s music playing in the background.  Click here to watch the clip.  Sufjan will be performing at Castaways in Ithaca on September 23. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editor’s Pick #156: Sufjan Stevens Announces an Intimate Fall Tour]

SPIN reports that the new Micachu & the Shapes video for “Turn Me Well” premiered today, courtesy of the band’s surprisingly big fan, Bjork. The track, which juxtaposes a mechanical pop sound with more natural, organic visual layouts, is their second single off of Jewellery, which came out in March. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editor’s Pick #79: Weird New Band … Micachu and The Shapes, Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 (Micachu and The Shapes Live)]

Daytrotter has some fabulous new sessions up this week, including a sleazy synth dance party from electro-pop all-stars Junior Boys and a gloriously rustic folk affair from the Duke and the King.  Here at 20 Watts, however, we’re most excited for the upcoming Deer Tick session, which Daytrotter announced it will tape this week.  We all fell in love with the chain-smoking, raspy-voiced John McCauley at last Sunday’s Positive Jam festival — and by we, I mean all the girls on staff.  His Daytrotter session will surely show why.  In other news, Deer Tick also announced today that they’re extending their fall tour, which includes dates with Jonny Corndawg, Cotton Jones, Holy Sons and Dolorean.  [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Deer Tick Plays Ithaca, 20 Watts Reviews Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day]

Why is it that you never hear cool pop songs from Denmark?  Or Finland?  Norway, even?  Anyway, Fredrik — yet another sick electro act from Sweden, that mecca of Scandinavian pop — released a preview from their second album Trilogi on Stereogum today.  All layered synth films and moody introspection, “Locked in the Basement” takes some surprising Baroque pop and electro-glitch turns.  We can only hope that Trilogi does the same when it drops November 17 on The Kora Records.  [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Swedish Meatballs 1: Familijen, Swedish Meatballs 2: Kleerup]

The atmospheric electro jams of Quebec’s Michael Silver, alias CFCF, will soon have an album to call home.  Silver announced today that his debut full-length, Continent, will drop October 27 on Paper Bag Records, preceeded by an October 6 EP, The Explorers, with Swedish synth-pop darling Sally Shapiro.  You may recognize CFCF from his official remixes of dance greats like Crystal Castles, HEALTH and Hearts Revolution; the plaid-shirted party god will also be playing an October 1 show in Toronto, and DJing several sets at the CMJ Marathon in New York. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Crystal Castles Start Drama, HEALTH Play Myrtle Avenue]

Jack White and the Raconteurs have been nominated for a Country Music Award, according to Rolling Stone. The group was nominated for Best Musical Event after teaming up with country artists Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe on “Old Enough,” off the group’s second album, Consolers of the Lonely. White is currently gearing up for a tour with his other side project, The Dead Weather. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: 20 Watts Interviews Tiny Masters of Today, Editor’s Pick #134: Jack White, Chill Out!]

RS also reports that Sonic Youth has had to postpone its performance at the Austin City Limits festival after an injury to guitarist Lee Ranaldo. The alt-rock legends had to move several dates back to January 2010 after Ranaldo fractured his wrist while playing tennis. The band released its 16th studio album, The Eternal, in June. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: 20 Watts Review’s YACHT’s See Mystery Lights]

— 20 Watts Staff