Album Reviews: Yawn + House = Explosion by 20 Minute Loop20 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,” “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 Hüsker Dü’s “I’ll Never Forget You.” As soon as it ends, Yawn + House = Explosion begs -- and rewards -- repeat listens. - Adam McKibbin
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