20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Mouth’s Cradle’s The Next Big Thing by tjwell01

20 Watts Reviews Mouth's Cradle's The Next Big Thing and gives it 17 out of 20 Watts

PREVIEW: Mouth’s Cradle’s MySpace

WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts

DOWNLOAD: The Next Big Thing on iTunes

LISTEN: “Show Me Off” by Mouth’s Cradle

These days, greatness seems to come in pairs. Enter Mouth’s Cradle and the final product they’ve been sweating over for months, The Next Big Thing.

The album starts off with a song with a great story, “Ghosts.” Brandon Linn, Mouth’s Cradle’s DJ half, says he thought of the song the exact day before Michael Jackson died when he dreamed he saw a ghost in his room. You can’t make this stuff up. “Ghosts,” secretly Linn’s and Kevin Hegedus’ favorite track on the album, sets the tone with hard thumps and catchy ring tones. Linn’s a master of stringing odd noises and flipping them into head-banging beats, and “Ghosts” floats and rips catchy beats alongside Hegedus’s trademark high-pitch rhymes.

Very smoothly, Mouth’s Cradle takes it down a few notches with their famous “Princess of the Beatz,” which loops several vocal tracks all from Hegedus and a strumming acoustic guitar. The iconic sounds in this album don’t stop there though, as the single “Honey from a Stone” picks it up with fast-paced drum and piano keys.

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ISSUE 21 | Reviews: Usher’s Raymond v. Raymond by 20watts

20 Watts reviews Usher's Raymond v. Raymond and gives it a 13/20 watts.

Part of Issue 21 coverage!

PREVIEW: VISIT Usher’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20 Watts

Like Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Tom Petty’s Echo and Bruce Spring­steen’s Tunnel of Love, Usher’s Raymond v. Raymond is an album inspired by divorce. And just like those albums, Raymond v. Raymond does not offer one cohesive perspective on the complex situ­ation.  Instead, as the album title implies, Raymond v. Raymond presents two differ­ent sides of the R&B artist – the heartbro­ken-yet-resigned ex-husband, “ready to sign them papers” and the sweet-talking flirt, mackin‘ it on the rebound.

Jay-Z recently made a far-reaching prediction that Usher could be the next Michael Jackson.  Except Jackson would never have sung the words, “When you step up in my Porsche Carrera, better not touch anything.”  Yes, for three minutes and twenty seconds, Usher unfortunately sings about how “amazing,” “courageous,” “fantastic” and “awesome” (in that order) he is in the song “Radar.” Here, we are bombarded with the second Raymond – the cheesy creeper in the club, spinning one-liners out of his leather pants pocket. There’s no evidence of Jackson-esque pop music revolutionism to speak of on Ray­mond v. Raymond. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Meth, Ghost & Rae’s Wu-Massacre by JohnCassillo

For a modest "fan album," Wu-Massacre packs quite a punch

PREVIEW: VISIT Meth, Ghost & Rae’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Back together for the first time since 2007’s 8 Diagrams, Wu-Tang Clan‘s Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon haven’t lost a beat. Recording their self-proclaimed “fan album,” Meth, Ghost & Rae end up turning back the clock to gangsta rap’s 1990s heyday, as they sling smooth, yet violent rhymes over fresh backing tracks. Needless to say, the results could surprise the current rap game.

In today’s hip-hop scene, gangsta rap has mostly disappeared. There have been fleeting moments when its return seemed possible– mostly releases from Wu-Tang members (mainly these three) and various mixtapes (see either of Freddie Gibbs‘s 2009 efforts). But for the most part, that segment of the genre has given way to the more radio-oriented Kanye Wests and Lil’ Waynes of the world. As you may have guessed, Wu-Massacre meets none of these popular conceptions. Continue reading

20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #12 Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster by 20watts

Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster is #12 on our Best of 2009 List

PREVIEW: VISIT Lady Gaga’s Website
TOP TRACK: “Bad Romance”

Michael Jackson. David Bowie. Madonna. Kanye West. Critics and fans alike don’t typically utters the names of pop legends with moderation in mind. It’s a good thing that Lady Gaga doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word. Last year’s The Fame may have put Gaga on the map, but this year’s follow-up The Fame Monster gave us more new material and reminded the musically-inclined populace yet again that mass-consumed songwriting can indeed be a venue for true talent.

If you really want to know why The Fame Monster is one of the best albums of the year, you hardly need to look further than the video for lead single “Bad Romance” for proof. Lady Gaga literally sets potential suitors ablaze with the over-the-top display that colors the majority of her work — but on The Fame Monster the material is all darker, and all more vindictive. Each song is either a biting critique or a forlorn lament, and Gaga’s voice bounces beautifully over the eclectic production throughout, from DarkchildFernando Garibay,RedOneRon Fair, and others.

We see an angrier side of Gaga on The Fame Monster — and perhaps a more broken, vulnerable side of her as well. Gaga’s heartbreak-torn vocals on songs like “Alejandro” or “Telephone” (featuring Beyonce) would have been out of place alongside the hedonistic abandon of “Poker Face” or “Just Dance,” but adhere thematically to every other song on the record. This makes The Fame Monster as much a concept album as its predecessor was, in no way a bad thing. In eight songs Lady Gaga’s shown us yet another side of fame and kept herself more than fresh. Let’s just hope she can keep it up.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

Scene Around Town: Ghostface Killah with Skyzoo at the Westcott by crumblymuffin
Ghostface5Ghostface Killah’s openers were more impressive than Ghostface at Westcott Theater last night

Exclusive photos and coverage below the cut!

Hip-hop shows always seem to be hit or miss.  Either the performer’s on point and the crowd’s loving it, or it’s a gaudy free-for-all onstage and the music just doesn’t live up to how it sounds on record.  Last night’s Ghostface Killah show at The Westcott was a little bit of both, with late appearances, brutal performances and a considerable amount of trash-talk.  But what would you expect from a Wu-Tang member anyway?

The show started with a string of local openers, beginning with Myles P, whose jagged flow and attempts at 808s and Heartbreak R&B vocals made me walk out on his set, regardless of his mystifyingly dedicated fanbase, who rocked with him for the whole show. A strangely captivating but ultimately questionable local group followed, whose name I couldn’t catch and who didn’t appear on any showbills.  They made a lot of noise about local hip-hop, but it was hard to buy. Continue reading

News of Note: Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack, Lego Rock Band now featuring Blur, N.E.R.D. and Sanitgold collaborate, and so much more!!! by jluposello

PREVIEW: Watch the trailer for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are

On the eve of the premiere of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, Rolling Stone gives us a look at the production behind the film’s soundtrack. Both Jonze and co-composer Carter Burwell, who has worked on every Coen Brothers film plus Jonze’s own Being John Malcovich, have scored the cinematic adaptation of Maurice Sendek’s classic kid’s book. Burwell often urged musicians to approach the music in an unsophisticated manner, asking them to play like 5th graders instead of classically trained professional musicians. Check out RS’s behind-the-scenes look at the soundtrack production.

Sure, we all scoffed at the release of MTV Games’ Lego Rock Band. But now alt-rock legends Blur are on board for the game, allowing you to rock out to their classic library as a Lego version of the band, says Stereogum. The game’s soundtrack reportedly consists of kid-friendly selections from Blink 182, Elton John, Incubus, The Jackson 5, Korn, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Queen, just to name a few. Available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, and Nintendo DS, the game will now give “budding musicians” the chance to play alongside the guys from Blur. Woo-hoo.

N.E.R.D. has been hard at work with dub queen Santigold, reports Pitchfork. The product of the collaboration, a freshly released single entitled “Soldier”, sounds distinctly mid-80’s, combining N.E.R.D.’s distinctive funk-rock sound with a more upbeat, hardcore tempo. The synth horns sound specifically nerdy (pun intended), but sound strangely natural next to Santigold’s vocals. Check out the MP3 here.

Earlier this week, electropop legends Depeche Mode took a pretty embarrassing mis-step at one of the stops on their South American tour. As leader Dave Gahan finished “Never Let Me Down Again”, he exclaimed, “Thank you Chile!” to a crowd of adoring fans at the Explanada del Estadio Monumental. The only problem was that the venue was in Lima, Peru. Oops. Depeche will be playing in Chile later on in the tour, so the blunder isn’t completely unjustifiable. Rolling Stone has a video of the slip, and also gives us a look at some other celebrity stage faux pas, including Alanis Morisette’s mistaking of Peru with Brazil.

A&E has recently said that Michael Jackson’s children may be appearing in the new reality show entitled The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty, says Rolling Stone. While A&E had first affirmed that the children would not be included in the taping, they have now come out saying that, “Filming is taking place right now. As production moves forward, it is entirely possible that the brothers’ paths will intersect with other members of the Jackson family, who may or may not be included in the finished series. However, we cannot at this point definitively know who else may make an appearance in the series.” The statement upsets Michael’s older sister, who has said that Michael would have never approved of their involvement with the show. The show is set to air in December.

— John Luposello

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News of Note: Michael Jackson’s latest single, Basement Jaxx’s new video, Tom Waits’ new live album, and more! by jluposello

Michael Jackson from the cover of his 1984 classic Thriller

Michael Jackson from the cover of his 1982 classic Thriller

The King of Pop’s “This Is It”, the title track from a soon-to-be released documentary of the same name, was available for streaming last night beginning at midnight on the King’s official website, says Rolling Stone. Michael Jackson, who often spent time in the public spotlight for his infamous highs and spiraling lows, is featured in this posthumous release alongside piano and strings. Recorded in 1991 during his sessions for Dangerous, the ballad features backup vocals from Michael’s four brothers. The film and soundtrack are scheduled to drop October 27, you can see the film trailer here. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: New MJ Single To Be Released]

UK-based house duo Basement Jaxx have released a music video for the title track of their fifth studio based album, Scars. Stereogum gives us a look at the video, which is directed by Dutch digital animator and artist Jan van Nuenen. The video thrives off of the effect-laden vocals supplied by Kelis, Meika, and Chipmunk, and features a rather threatening plant that grows and develops as the song progresses. Trust me, you’ll never look at a rosebush the same way again. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: 20 Watts Reviews Basement Jaxx’s Scars]

Much to our delight. experimental pioneer Tom Waits has announced the release of a new live album.  According to Pitchfork, the two disc set will consist of all live recordings from Tom and has been titled Glitter and Doom. While Disc 1 will consist of a collection of songs sampled from ten separate shows, the second disc will be entirely made up of one track. That one track, entitled “Tom Tales,” will consist of onstage ramble and banter from our favorite songwriter. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until November 24 for Anti- Records to release it. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Tom Waits Appears in Kerouac’s Big Sur]

Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla and Jawbox’s J. Robbins recently appeared on NPR’s Project Song, a feature in which artists are challenged to collaborate and write a song in just two days. The pair had never worked together before, which made the entire process even more spontaneous. As Pitchfork shows us, the product, entitled “Mercury” possesses all of the qualities that we’d expect to come from this talented duo, which were joined by drummer Daren Zentek, who played alongside Robbins in Channels. You can check out video of the entire process, or video of the finished song. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editors Pick #130: New Death Cab EP- The Open Door (2009), Editor’s Pick #83: New Death Cab Music Vid]

-John Luposello

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