20 Watts

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


20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #3 Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 by 20watts
December 30, 2009, 10:08 am
Filed under: Best of 2009 Albums | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 is number 3 on our Best of 2009 list

TOP TRACK: “Empire State of Mind”

In 2009, Jay-Z proved once again why he’s still one of the hottest rappers in the game today. With a string of three hit singles already, including arguably the fall’s biggest song, “Empire State of Mind,” Jay proved that he still has what it takes to be one of the strongest forces in music.

The buzz around The Blueprint 3 started in June with the release of “D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune).” Built largely on a slick guitar riff and Jay’s singing of Steam‘s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” the return-to-form track was just the tip of the iceberg.

Alicia Keys’ stunning vocals on “Empire State of Mind” provide a perfect backdrop for Jay’s love letter to the city that raised him. Other shining moments of the album include the attention-grabbing beat that lays the foundation for “On to the Next One.” Along with “Off That,” which features Drake, either song could easily be considered the album’s most party-centric. Another highlight could be the laid back “Already Home,” which features Kid Cudi, and perhaps helped set the stage for Cudi’s own release later in September.

Eight years after releasing The Blueprint, Jay-Z hasn’t faded a bit, as exemplified by this, his latest in a string of successes.  As one of the most accomplished artists of the decade, we wouldn’t expect anything less from him– the man who helped open the doors to hip-hop’s strongest decade yet.

— Eric Hoffman

20 Watts Reviews Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day by JohnCassillo

Kid Cudi's debut album lays claim to hip-hop record of the year status

Kid Cudi's debut album lays claim to hip-hop record of the year status

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts

For those searching for some of the most original and self-sustaining music of 2009, perhaps Kid Cudi‘s Man on the Moon: The End of Day is your perfect match.

As much as Jay-Z has purported to further blur the lines between hip-hop and rock over the years, perhaps no one has hit the point so eloquently as Cudi has with this record. Astoundingly, he’s already passed up one of his mentors (Jay-Z) in terms of successfully merging different genres. The other (Kanye West), when he’s not making himself look like an ass at award shows, is putting out “experimental” hip-hop already dwarfed by this release.

So how has Cudi succeeded where his predecessors failed, and vaulted himself from mixtape hype-product to industry innovator? The key is in his supporting cast, and fearless experimentation. Continue reading

Comments Off on 20 Watts Reviews Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day

Editor’s Pick #173: Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” (Alicia Keys, Blueprint 3) by carlywolkoff
September 10, 2009, 6:17 pm
Filed under: Editor Picks, Releases of the Week | Tags: , , ,
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys pay homage to their favorite city in "Empire State of Mind"

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys pay homage to their favorite city in "Empire State of Mind."

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys) “Empire State of Mind” MP3
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 20 Watts Reviews Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3

“BK Anthem,” “Hello Brooklyn,” “Where I’m From,” “Brooklyn Go Hard” — if there’s one thing Jay can do, it’s shout out his favorite city.  In fact, Jay’s NYC-related repertoire is so extensive, they should replace those tacky “I NY” shirts with “Jay ’s NY.”

I was close to completely disregarding The Blueprint 3, that is, until I heard “Empire State of Mind.”  Unlike the Brooklyn odes of Hova’s past, “Empire State of Mind” is slightly less discriminating, including more sections of NYC other than Bed-Stuy, such as Harlem, TriBeCa, and Broadway.

Although Jay’s rhymes are often smug to say the least, he justifies his “confidence” with the line, “You can tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely from New York.”  Alicia Keys’ vocal chords transform the repetitive chorus’s lyrics into a passionate, classy dedication.  The hometown pride inherent in these two NYC natives seeps through every aspect of “Empire State of Mind,” from the name-dropping lyrics, to the jazz-tinged beat — this classy masterpiece easily overshadows the rest of The Blueprint 3.

— Carly Wolkoff, Managing Editor

News of Note: Kid Cudi with MGMT and Ratatat, Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails, and The Beatles by 20watts
Kid Cudi just released new track "Pursuit of Happiness" featuring MGMT and Ratatat

Kid Cudi releases new track "Pursuit of Happiness" featuring MGMT and Ratatat

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” MP3

Pitchfork posts new Kid Cudi song “Pursuit of Happiness” featuring indie gods MGMT and Ratatat.  The single will be the third off his upcoming album Man on the Moon: The End of Day, to be released September 15, 2009.  The single alludes to his search for weed (Cudi’s drug of choice) as the pursuit of happiness — a theme highlighted nicely by MGMT and Ratatat’s synthpop beat.  Catch a live performance of “Pursuit of Happiness on tonight’s “The Late Night Show With David Letterman.”  [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editor’s Pick #71: Cudi Gets Psychedelic]

Rolling Stone reported the change of release dates for Jay-Z’s new album The Blueprint 3 from its planned Friday drop date to today, a more conventional Tuesday release. While the move means the album no longer drops on the eighth anniversary of the first Blueprint, it should assure Jay the top spot on Billboard’s albums chart. The album is his first release since 2007’s American Gangster. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: 20 Watts Reviews Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, Editor’s Pick #168: Jay-Z Endorses Indie Rock]

RS also reported that Nine Inch Nails has changed the date of its final show to September 10. The band was due to end its performing career on Sunday, September 6, at Los Angeles’ Echoplex, but after frontman Trent Reznor‘s short illness, the final concert will now be Thursday at L.A.’s Wiltern. Over the last few weeks, the band has also performed shows in New York and Chicago on its “Wave Goodbye” tour. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editor’s Pick #147: Alice in Chains’ “A Looking in View”, Trent Reznor Announces Final Nine Inch Nails Tour Dates]

Paul McCartney told NME.com that he would like The Beatles’ catalogue available for download. According to McCartney, record label EMI is to blame for the band’s inaccessibility on the Internet. “We were having problems with iTunes — well not iTunes, EMI was the problem — with downloading which we’d like to do because that’s how a lot of people get their music,” McCartney said. The Beatles: Rock Band drops tomorrow, so this problem will be partially solved for players who can download songs from the Rock Band website. Rock Band developers Harmonix have plans to offer more Beatles albums and tracks for download in the future. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: McCartney and MGMTBeatles and iTunes Fail to Reach Agreement]

In other Beatles news, web radio heavyweight AccuRadio announced today that it will begin broadcasting a series of Beatles-themed channels tomorrow to celebrate the release of the Beatles’ remastered collection.  The channels will include “Beatles Plus” — more or less all Beatles’, all the time — as well as the obviously named “Just Covers” and the intriguing “Beatles and Friends,” which claims to contexualize the remastered catalog with other bands and songs from the time.  AccuRadio’s apparently endless roster of free niche radio stations also includes such appetizing options as “Sea and Sand,” “Canadian Pop” and “Hiptronica” — whatever that means, we’re into it.  [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Beatles Rooftop PerformanceBeatles Rock Band Trailer]

Neon Indian, whose debut LP drops October 13, has announced the dates for his upcoming world tour.  Unfortunately, he will not be stopping in Syracuse, but you can catch him in NYC at the Music Hall of Williamsburgon October 24. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: 20 Watts Interviews Neon Indian]

Kurt Vile, after losing his job as a forklift operator, didn’t have much recourse but to pursue music full-time. Former lead guitarist of The War on Drugs, Vile released the albums Constant Hitmaker and God Is Saying This to You in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Now he’s hard at work on his Matador Records debut and has just released the album’s lead track “Hunchback.” Supposedly more of a rocker than the rest of the album, “Hunchback” follows a Youngian thread. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Yo La Tengo’s Popular Songs (Matador Records)]

British trip-hoppers, Massive Attack sat down with the magazine for a little Q&A about their career, the upcoming Splitting the Atom EP and their next full-length effort, set for February. Also included with the interview was the scenic, Thom Yorke-esque number “Bullet Proof Love,” which will be featured on Splitting the Atom, out next month. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Radiohead’s “These Are My Twisted Words”]

No AgeConverge and Torche tore up Saturday’s FYF Fest in Los Angeles. Mixing genres from metal to hardcore to punk, the festival, formerly known as Fuck Yeah Fest, aims to raise awareness for the California state parks system. SPIN has pictures of the mayhem as it unfolded this weekend. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Free NYC Dirty Projectors Show on July 19th]

— 20 Watts Staff

20 Watts’ Review Roundup, Week of September 7th by JohnCassillo
Polvo's In Prism drops this week

Polvo's In Prism drops this week

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Polvo’s “Dream Residue/Work” MP3

Every week, 20 Watts rounds up the new releases on our radar; click the link for our full review.

Have suggestions? Leave a comment or e-mail them to 20wattsblog@gmail.com.

PolvoIn Prism [16/20 Watts]

After a decade of inactivity, Polvo reunited permanently in 2008. The results, predictably, were explosive. As edgy and loud as the band may have been in the past, In Prism could possibly surpass anything they’ve ever done in both categories. The noisy, electrifying collection is a testament to the band’s accomplished career, of which the best offering may be this one.

Circulatory SystemSignal Morning [16/20 Watts]

Another band returning to the music fold after an extended absence, Circulatory System picks up where they last left us in 2001. Their trippy, experimental folk, hallmark of the Elephant Six Recording Company, is back in full force, but with a few more elements thrown into the ring. Electronic noise, and big, loud brass litter the release, as it makes a statement that the band, and their Elephant 6 brethren may in fact be back.

Yo La TengoPopular Songs [17/20 Watts]

Rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel with their latest album, Popular Songs, Yo La Tengo attempts to perfect what they’ve already proven to be so good at. Their psychadelic, dreamy pop, mixed with layers of noise has had hipsters swooning for a quarter of a century, and this is no exception. It’s the summation of a glowing career sure to bring us more spacious and soaring soundscapes for years to come.

Sondre LercheHeartbeat Radio [16/20 Watts]

Trying to shed his contemporary jazz persona, or maybe trying to merge it with his pop-rock alter ego, Sondre Lerche has succeeded on Heartbeat Radio. After years of flitting between two separate music personalities, the album finally finds him in a new comfort zone. It’s an organic mix of jazz and rock which he seems all too suited for, and who knows what it might lead to, save another deal to write a popular movie soundtrack.

Jay-ZThe Blueprint 3 [15/20 Watts]

Bent on redefining the music scene as we know it, Jay-Z embarked on The Blueprint 3. Though the mission may not be fully accomplished, he at least went a long way to redefining his sound. In a refreshing turn of events, the album harps on pop sensibilities, rather than your typical club hip-hop. The results are, with some exception, surprisingly positive. Jay sounds incredibly comfortable in his new element, and it can only be a foreshadowing for what he attempts to do next.

Wild BeastsTwo Dancers [17/20 Watts]

Embracing their experimental pop sound, Wild Beasts attempt to make you sit up and listen while changing very little about themselves. Consider it done. Distinctively impressive vocals, catchy hooks and expert guitar work take Two Dancers from being just another release in the band’s catalogue to an all-encompassing monster. The aggregation of influences, superior range and even surprising moments go a long way to making it a standout.

The CleanMister Pop [18/20 Watts]

The kiwi punk veterans return for the first time in eight years with a release sure to keep them churning out albums at a lot quicker a pace than recently. Mister Pop is a collection of addicting melodies, repetitive in all the right spots, and as straightforward as it is existential. For the time off, the band had very little rust to shake themselves of, and it’s almost as if they’d never left.

Vivian GirlsEverything Goes Wrong [16/20 Watts]

Back for more, the buzz-worthy band tries to live up to the expectations that come with their sophomore album, Everything Goes Wrong. For the most part, they succeed, testing themselves where possible, and exploring the outer reaches of their sound. The album is quick, yet creative enough to hold your attention, maybe even more so than their self-titled debut.

— John Cassillo, Reviews Editor

20 Watts Reviews Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 by JohnCassillo
Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 surprisingly delivers a creative pop sound

Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 surprisingly delivers a creative pop sound

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Jay-Z’s “Already Home” (Feat. Kid Cudi) MP3
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

You’ve been hearing about The Blueprint 3 all summer long. From “D.O.A. (Death to Auto-Tune)” to “Run This Town,” and everything in between, it feels as if we’ve had Jay-Z on the mind for months now. Well, the wait is officially over.

In a last-minute turn of events, Jay scrapped his plans to release the highly-anticipated album on Friday, September 11th. It turns out people usually expect releases to happen on Tuesdays, plus the switch has only created more of an Internet frenzy. Continue reading