20 Minute Loop
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20 Minute Loop

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Some bands are lovable because they sound so dumb: Take the Pipettes or Metallica, for instance. Local jangle freak-pop band 20 Minute Loop is just the opposite, with a distinct sound that says, "These people are perfectly nice, but they are smarter than you and know it. Fear them slightly. They can do math." It's the sound of many other musical aggregations, like early REM, or the Pixies or Sonic Youth. Sudden tempo changes, a total lack of normal chord structure, and difficult vocal harmonies are typical 20 Minute Loop touches, but the overall effect is far from challenging. In fact, it's charming and pretty - it's pop, after all. Interestingly, the group's three full-length CDs hardly do justice to its live show, which is even better and smarter. 20 Minute Loop performs with Rykarda Parasol and the Dilettantes at 9:30 p.m. at Cafe du Nord... - SF Weekly


On the surface, 20 Minute Loop sound all catchy and good-natured, but there's a mischievous side to this San Francisco foursome (sic) that features boy-girl harmonies and distorted guitars. The resulting sound is sweet ear candy with serious bite to it, like a big ol' cherry-flavored Tootsie Pop with a shot of bourbon inside. Expect a site heavy with songs off the band's new LP, "Yawn + House = Explosion" (Fortune). Mike Alexis - Noise Pop Program


20 Minute Loop have made absolute leaps and bounds since their sophomore release back in 2001... heck, that album, Decline of Day, was already pretty damn good! For one thing they've polished their boy / girl vocals to an utter golden honeyed glow and lushed up the whole 20ML picture. Just check out the second song "Cora May"! A terrific pop tune! Indeed, this album does much to define their own sound from those who've influenced the band which in the past were much more apparent -- namely Throwing Muses and Breeders. Really, Yawn + House = Explosion should garner the band total 'college radio darling' status! Yay!" - Aquarius Records, SF


20 Minute Loop are so far ahead of most of their peers that even their press releases are entertaining. Yawn + House = Explosion, their third album, distances them even further from the derivative packs.

Greg Giles is a magnificently off-kilter songwriter, both musically and lyrically; he traffics in abrupt shifts, enigmatic abstractions and observational snapshots. Like Stephen Malkmus, he is a peculiar spokesman for an endlessly curious world, one who prods listeners to bust out of their tired indie-rock complacency. There is still room for surprises, after all. Giles is the primary songwriter, but guitarist Joe Ostrowski also remains a key architect of the band’s self-described “freak-pop” sound, sharing songwriting credit on four songs, including the album’s two finest (”Cora May” and ”Book of J”).

And then there’s Kelly Atkins. The specters of death and lost love skulk around in her songs and, fittingly, she can sing as though her life hangs in the balance. There’s a soothing sweetness to her harmonies, making it all the more powerful when she unleashes and wails. Clearly, the definitive piece of 20 Minute Loop’s sound is the interplay between Giles and Atkins. While sharing lead vocals across gender lines has become commonplace, it’s rare for the voices to be both so complementary and so idiosyncratic. Despite some weighty subject matter, these are never ponderous songs. In fact, the band has never sounded so accessible. The playfulness hits an apex at album’s end with an appropriately raucous, horn-enriched cover of Husker Du’s “I‘ll Never Forget You”. As soon as it ends, Yawn + House = Explosion begs -- and rewards -- repeat listens"~ Adam McKibbin" - Artist Direct


Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins are one of those "Were/are they dating or weren't/aren't they" couples who sing deceptively sweet pop songs with incredibly cryptic lyrics, directed as much to each other as to you. Is I don't wanna trick or treat dressed as you a pickup line or an epitaph? You can puzzle over that one for hours, but it's immediately evident that their band, 20 Minute Loop, has just unloaded the most absurdly addictive angst-pop record to emerge from the East Bay in, well, actually, ever. Yawn + House = Explosion is a ridiculously fantastic mash-up of pop hooks, slide guitar riffs, and dueling boy/girl vocals that either intertwine perfectly or clash magnificently. It's also quietly high-concept: All lyrics were written using the Dictionary Story (aka the Arbilexicon), wherein you pick ten random words from the dictionary that must be incorporated into the song somewhere. Without question, "Ambassadors" is the best song ever written that includes the words lore, grocery, Henry James, Dictaphone, pubic, abject, endorse, yawn, E.M. Forster, and mortal. And that's saying something. - East Bay Express


What kind of equation is "Yawn + House = Explosion?" Is it implying that listening causes boredom followed by a miraculous explosion all over your roommate's Nordic Track? Not likely - this Bay Area quintet makes morose, chaotic, bipolar pop reminiscent of the Pixies. Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles' unisex vocal stylings might sound a bit serious in tone, but if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you'll get tossed back on the playground with that creepy kid who showed you his red saliva after finishing his juicebox. A prime example of their endearing lyricism comes in "It's Time to Honor Ghouls": "My girlfriend has a bloodstained ax in one hand / while the other one grips the hair of a severed head that she stole one night from a mannequin." I don't know about you, but that song sure shakes my music-loving bones. Still, I am pretty certain it won't cause me to go up in flames. - Bust


When the chemistry kicks in and a humble indie rock band finds itself with that magical convergence of literate, lyrical inspiration, mad skills, and actual melodies, then watch out. Yawns, begone. Boom. Run for cover. The cover on San Francisco fivesome 20 Minute Loop's superfine Yawn + House = Explosion is the final cut, Hüsker Dü's stalker ode "I'll Never Forget You," here with a horn section that sounds like a fantasy '80s TV cop show theme, breaking with the stirring songcraft, Pixies-ish patterns, and intertwined boy-girl vocals, and undermining the epic "statement" expected at the close of a quasi-concept album.

Judging from the songs and the childlike scrawl of the album notes, Yawn seems to be a journey into the dream life of a middle-school girl, accompanied by loopy, evocative guitar work, high-drama dynamics, and Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles's plain yet emotional harmonies. Imagine Kim Deal duetting with John Doe and your hunker-down into adolescence and '90s alt-rock nostalgia is complete. All of which might be enough to keep you warm in most cases, but 20 (Minute) Loop go further with an infectious urgency redolent of childhood, as well as a will to tell stories and an urge to dip into vivid characters via tracks such as "Properties of Dirt" and "Ambassadors." The latter references collegiate Henry James, but dash it all if it isn't the most heart-in-your-throat reading of the quintessential American abroad's masterpiece ever committed to song. A star of The Heiress, the movie version of James's Washington Square, even gets the hard rock treatment on "Miriam Hopkins." And though the album slightly loses steam with "Book of J" ­ strung up on Harold Bloom's anxiety of influence? ­ 20 (Minute) Loop are forgiven. English majors haven't sounded this enticing in years." ~ Kim Chun - San Francisco Bay Guardian


Belonging to the post-Pixies generation of alternative bands, 20 Minute Loop brings on the guitars and male/female vocal interplay that was at the core of that influential group's sound, while putting its own futuristic and gentle spin on the blueprint for modern alterna music. Vocalist and keyboardist Kelly Atkins and guitarist and vocalist Greg Giles share the bulk of the songwriting, and together they've created their own world of song — simultaneously bleak and melancholic but nonetheless hopeful. The sadness comes in the form of spooky and downbeat melodies (as on "Jubilation"), but there's a lighter take on "Moses" and especially on "All Manner," with its lovely "la la la" choruses. Doubt, fear, and cynicism are covered over by shining, ascending melodies ("Force of Habit"). There's an undaunted quality to the strength and determination of 20 Minute Loop's sound and a soulfulness all too rare during the icy age of early-21st century rock. - All Music Guide


Rating 8.5

I know it, and you know it. Quirky, after many years of misuse and abuse, has become a dirty word, and an even dirtier songwriting approach. And that's simply because, to be quirky today is to try to be quirky-- to desperately seek to be off-kilter and innovative, and often, to toe some quasi-philosophical aesthetic line, with the ultimate goal of making a lasting impression on the listener's mind. Unfortunately, quirk usually comes gloved so thick in irony and contrivance as to render its core components devoid of sincerity.

Which is why I will abstain from using the word again in this review. 20 Minute Loop is one of the more refreshing musical experiences I've had in months and months. Decline of Day practically begs for stupid music review fantasy hybrid-type descriptions. So here goes: say you've got XTC. Now subtract the TC, and pair the remainder of John Doe and Exene Cervenka with J. Robbins in a six-by-six cell haunted by Frank Black's muse, with only a Radiohead CD, a Flannery O'Connor novel, and occasional visits from the members of Seely to break the psychosis.

This San Francisco quintet sounds like they should be from Georgia, not from the land of tech-sector meltdowns and hippie nostalgia shops. But then again, nothing much makes sense with 20 Minute Loop. And we don't have to travel far to prove the point. "Jubilation," the sinister carnival-pop opener, couples stomach-achy, saccharine sing-songiness with stomach-turning lyrical surrealism. It pays to quote at length: "Bracketed diamonds, billowing smoke/ A terrible heft, behind that pitchfork/ A torn up napkin, uneaten meat/ A bloody steak knife, bunions cut off the feet/ A crippled Arab, face in the street/ Searching the asphalt for her missing teeth." Yuck to the lyrics, but yum to the unbelievable melody and the slick harmonizing of Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles.

"Moses" follows, parting the Red Sea of wack, uninspired indie-pop songwriting with beautiful melodic interplay that recalls the more playful moments of Burning Airlines, only enriched with a feminine presence that was always so sorely wanting in that band's macho compositions. "All Manner" brings a solid pop hammer down on whatever reservations or resistance you might still be harboring. My favorite track, it uses mind-blowingly good harmonies and just plain pretty music to tell the creepy story of an unlucky couple's drive through the country. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and the ill-fated lovers find their car interred in a snowdrift. As their minds and heart-rates slow to a still, they contemplate their icy preservation and lament the eventuality of their bodies being discovered "later in the Spring thaw." Their dying wish: "Let us stay like this forever, once and for all." Don't roll your eyes, motherfucker.

"Daughter's Down" showcases Greg Giles' obvious affinity and talent for weird, chromatic vocal lines. Again, a melody that's damned near impossible to dislodge from your consciousness is wrapped around grotesque subject matter: this time, an incestuous father-daughter relationship. "Pilot Light" constitutes just another bomb-blast in the relentless melodic attack. The musical break in the oddly timed chorus features a mind-bending keyboard melody, and the second "chorus" (which in no way resembles the first) has Kelly Atkins sounding like the B-52's Kate Pierson.

When, you ask, does it stop? I mean, they have to foul things up eventually, right? Well, no, not quite yet. The album's title track, in a just universe, would be a pop-radio staple, and would buy these deserving characters financial security and mass adoration. But as W is wont to say, the world is full of iniquity, evil-doers and legions of poor dupes with shit taste. Nevertheless, this track is pure gold. The lyrics are all Kelly Atkins, and are arguably, in their straightforwardly way, the album's best: "I can lie here for hours while you breathe/ Indulging my doubts/ All the dreams that escape you come to me/ And burn themselves out/ I am hanging from threads that/ To the hands of the Fates/ They have dressed me in a pale jealousy/ And left me to wait/ And in the morning we won't remember/ Why we're finessing a way of keeping each other down/ We'll stay up all night/ It's force of habit/ And that's not how it ought to be."

"Mechanical Angels" is the album's last slice of perfection before sliding into merely "good" territory. It begins with lullaby-- soft-picked, guitar arpeggios that break into a chorus of inexplicable do-do-do's that out anything Frank Black has done in the past decade. The album's remaining five tracks range from memorable (the dreamy, but dirge-like "Elephant") to just okay-but-not-so-memorable (the Dumbek-adorned "Mompha Termina"). Still, even if you were to cut out the final five, the first magically good seven tracks are worth as much as the last ten releases you thought were good combined. It's been a while since I thought I could only do an album a disservice by trying to describe it. What else can I say? - Pitchfork


Unfortunately, this song by the 20 Minute Loop fell astray of our eligibility guidelines and wasn't able to compete for the grand prize, but it was so good we wanted to share it with you anyway. The track is called "Cora May" and it rises on a cloud of spacy slide guitars, airy keyboards and forceful boy/girl vocals. It should have the New Pornographers looking over their shoulders.

http://www.salon.com/ent/audiofile/2006/10/25/songsearch_selections3/index.html?source=newsletter - Salon.com


Discography

New Full Length LP to be released 2008 (see song sample "12 Year Old Stoner")

Yawn + House = Explosion (LP, Fortune Records, 2005) "20 Minute Loop, has just unloaded the most absurdly addictive angst-pop record to emerge from the East Bay in, well, actually, ever. Yawn + House = Explosion is a ridiculously fantastic mash-up of pop hooks, slide guitar riffs, and dueling boy/girl vocals that either intertwine perfectly or clash magnificently." East Bay Express

Fortune Cookies II (Comp, Fortune Records, 2006) Including The Monolith, Herman Jolly and others.

West of Eden (The California Collection) (Comp, Zip Records, 2004). Includes: The Chantigs, The Shambles, The Sleeves, Anna Waronker, Persephone's Bees, and many others.

Split 7” Vinyl Single (Fortune Records, 2004) The Monolith/20 Minute Loop

Azadi! (Comp, Fire Museum Records, 2003) RAWA benefit CD. Includes: Charming Hostess, Deerhoof, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Zmrzlina, and many others.

Decline of Day (LP, Fortune Records, 2001) “20 Minute Loop is one of the more refreshing musical experiences I've had in months and months. Decline of Day practically begs for stupid music review fantasy hybrid-type descriptions. So here goes: say you've got XTC. Now subtract the TC, and pair the remainder of John Doe and Exene Cervenka with J. Robbins in a six-by-six cell haunted by Frank Black's muse, with only a Radiohead CD, a Flannery O'Connor novel, and occasional visits from the members of Seely to break the psychosis…” PITCHFORK – Rating 8.5

Fortune Cookies (Comp, Fortune Records, 2000) Includes: John Vanderslice, Bart Davenport, Etienne De Rocher, Deadweight, 20 Minute Loop and many others.

Self-titled Debut (LP, Fortune Records, 2000) "As the fronting members of 20 Minute Loop, boy-girl lyrical tag-team Greg Giles & Kelly Atkins have taken the best of the Pixies/Deal dissonance and cut it with the thought completing counterpoint of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker & Carrie Brownstein. Hooky pop slides into new wave echoes as the two wax beautiful on life's ugliness - and stuff that makes far less sense: Russian airline disaster Aeroflot, parasitic worms, and an inhuman love affair between Bunnyman & Chickengirl. Atkins' crisp voice alternates between a sky-large wail and a throaty moan, set off by Giles' folk-singer restraint. The group's turn-of-the-millennium self-titled debut is one of the best local albums we've heard this year..." SF WEEKLY

Photos

Bio

"...a lyrically charged indie explosion you'll love so much you'll feel perverted." musicemission.com

Vocal tag-team Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins blend seamless co-ed harmonies and thought-completing counterpoint with catchy and unpredictable songwriting, and have released three albums to date, most recently 2005’s critically acclaimed “Yawn + House = Explosion”. 20ML has been featured at Noise Pop, the Mission Creek Music Festival, on NPR’s Open Mic, Salon.com’s Song Search and they’ve shared the stage with numerous national acts, such as Frank Black, The Walkmen, Viva Voce, Rilo Kiley, Mates of State, Persephone’s Bees and John Vanderslice. 20 Minute Loop is currently finishing up their fourth album, to be released in 2008.

For more songs, see http://www.myspace.com/20minuteloop