20 Watts

ISSUE 22 | Soundalike: Owl City by 20watts

Owl City

Part of our Issue 22 coverage!

PREVIEW: CLICK here to check out Owl City‘s website.

Adam Young likes being cute. Really cute. Consider this lyric from his chart-topping smash-hit “Fireflies”: “I get a thousand hugs / from ten thousand lightning bugs.” However, if you do the math on that saccharine gem of Owl City lyricism, it comes out to 1/10th of a hug per lightning bug. Given the size of said insect, I think most of us would prefer something a little more substantial. All math aside, the Minnesota native Young has stormed the globe with a blend of major label buzz and controversial compositions. Check out these bands and get back to us: you might get an idea of why everyone’s so fired up about Owl City. Continue reading


ISSUE 22 | PLAYLIST by 20watts

Part of our Issue 22 coverage!


ISSUE 21 | Reviews: Broken Bells’ Broken Bells by 20watts

20 Watts gives Broken Bells' self-titled a 15/20 watts.

Part of Issue 21 Coverage!

PREVIEW: VISIT Broken Bells’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

It’s hard to call Broken Bells just another “supergroup,” because the sound of their debut album is so authentic, soulful and melodically experimental. Broken Bells is made up of The Shins’ James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley’s Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, but they’re not a match made in heaven – they just sound great together.

Even though the album drops on March 9, the group teased the world with its groovy, smooth opening track, “The High Road” on Dec. 29. The cleanly coordinated lead single may flow with the innocence of a post-Beatles Paul McCartney song, but its electronic whirs and blips resound with the sultry edge of Danger Mouse’s Gnarls Barkley influences. Continue reading

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20 Watts Reviews Dan Black’s Un by Marc Sollinger
February 16, 2010, 10:25 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dan Black creates enjoyable, poppy fun on Un

PREVIEW: VISIT Dan Black’s MySpace
: 14/20

Dan Black makes pop music.  With that in mind, Un is an album of pure, sugary, exuberant, pop music.  Yet it is intelligent at the same time. Un is pop you don’t have to feel guilty listening to.  And it just so happens that it’s really, really good.  No, Un is not a perfect album. It’s not even a great album. But it is one of 2010’s most fun and enjoyable recordings thus far.

The music on Un is fairly simple.  Black re-imagines contemporary hip-hop and R&B, and gives them an epic, electronic sheen. In essence it sounds as if The Postal Service listened to a lot of Jay-Z, with a little bit of jj thrown in.  There’s also a funk/dance-floor influence, especially on songs like “Yours” and “Pump My Pumps”.  But although Black does wear his influences on his sleeve, Un’s sweeping electronic arrangements, and his wonderful, perfectly pitched voice make it a breath of fresh air. Continue reading

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Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar Soundtrack Kerouac’s Big Sur by Irina Dvalidze
Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar Soundtrack Documentary One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur.

Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar Soundtrack Documentary One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur.

PREVIEW: Download Death Cab for Cutie’s “Summer Skin” MP3
WATCH: Video below the jump

We all know that Ben Gibbard has incomparable musical talent. Be it his work with Death Cab for Cutie, or side projects like Postal Service that get us permanently addicted, it appears he can do no wrong. Gibbard has cited Jack Kerouac as a major influence on his work before and has now found a perfect outlet to pay his dues.

What started out as a small collaboration with Jay Farrar of Son Volt — in 2007 for upcoming Jack Kerouac documentary One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur — has escalated into a full-length soundtrack of the same title. The album will accompany the DVD release in a special edition, aside from individual release.

With this project, Farrar and Gibbard directly tap into the heart of Kerouac’s work — taking the eerie, lingering lyrics straight off the pages of Big Sur (1962) — and merging them with folky acoustic melodies. Aside from creating the music, the duo also appear in the film. The film includes quite an assortment of artists (film and music), who have been influenced by Kerouac. Tom Waits, Sam Shepard, Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead, Patti Smith and even Amber Tamblyn (yes, even the girl from the Traveling Pants movie), just to name a few. Continue reading

Emerging Artists: Run Toto Run by kayzimbo

rtrThis British band is only about a year old, yet they have made headlines around the United Kingdom and were on BBC’s “Artists to Watch in 2009” list. With a soft-spoken female lead singer, Run Toto Run‘s music is both calming and creatively stimulating at the same time. Chimes, violin and electronic loops are often the main instruments and attractions in the songs. Whether it’s the chorus of recorders in “Your Face” that bring me back to fourth grade or the voice that is sweeter than a sugary Vermont maple syrup, this music is constantly playing on my computer.

Run Toto Run bring together a variety of noises, using experimental techniques to make sounds reminiscent of “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service accompanied by vocals similar to Laura Marling. Laura Marling and Rachael, the lead singer of Run Toto Run, are female vocalists and musicians who are following in the footsteps of fellow British artists Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. These new-age female artists are taking over the airwaves at an incredible rate. Continue reading

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Editors Pick #130: New Death Cab EP – The Open Door (2009) by caitlindewey

Can we talk about how epic Ben Gibbard’s been lately?  First he got engaged to Zoey Deschanel.  Then Death Cab released a really cool Claymation-esque music vid.  This summer they’re touring with Syracuse’s own Ra Ra Riot.

And NOW a five-track EP?!

All Ben has to do is revive the Postal Service, and we’ll be set.

You can buy the new EP on iTunes or Death Cab’s Web site.

– Caitlin Dewey, front of book editor