Agouti Music (Jughead)
"I won't take the easy road. Anyone reviewing a 20 Minute Loop album could mail it in and make jokes about how the album, Decline of Day, is actually more than 2.9 loops, or 58 minutes, long.
Aiding and Abetting
Almost impossibly catchy songs, richly arranged (there are tons of sounds in these pieces) and expertly played and sung. With abandon.
All Music Guide 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." ~ Denise Sullivan
AOL Local Guide: San Francisco (Benjamin McKay) 20 Minute Loop "Check your genre at the door..." Tragically insouciant and playfully sincere, 20 Minute Loop (20ML) revel in darkly comedy lyrics like those of the lush, noisy song "Jubilation" -- ""she took a beating and coughed into her hand and settled into some jubilation." The "he said, she said" harmonies of lead singers Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins play, at times, like a dreamy, nonplussed game of one-upmanship. However, at the very moment one might be tempted to categorize the band as self-conscious and clever, 20ML will extract a heartfelt ballad from their repertoire. Drawing from such disparate influences as Camper Van Beethoven and Kate Bush, 20ML's sonic affinity belies a more Pixies-esque lineage. Comparisons of Atkins' voice to that of Tanya Donnely's (Throwing Muses, Breeders and Belly) seem nearly inescapable, though Atkins' styling ventures alternately into landscapes more atmospheric and raucous. As musicians, the band members are accomplished to the point of having fun with their songs, freeing them to stage a captivating show.
Aquarius Records The second release from this San Francisco pop group unveils a looser, much more confident presence with an added dash of pop bombast. Brings to mind a hybrid of REM and - as with their previous release - the Throwing Muses with its well-executed, slightly twisted melodies, slinky guitars, and varied tempos... not to mention the very Stipe-esque male and Hersh-ish female vocals. Gentle, slow prettiness sits comfortably next to the considerably more upbeat and energetic. Quite a solid sophomore effort that'll surely win them a sizable batch of new supporters.
The Big Takeover A wall of sound bursts out Pixies Trompe Le Monde style and then bleeds down into some Breeders/B-52's collision. Exciting and invigorating pop rock sometimes turns dark corners, scraping off an imagery that hints at a medieval mood, like Rasputina, and then speeds straight ahead into dynamic dueting vocals and hook-filled shiny guitar riffs that brings to mind the upbeat pop of such bands as Sleeper or Elastica. The strong and mesmerizing voices of singers Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles holds the music together, keeping the tones tight between them. The high low harmonies mixed with the lyrics, "Black heart links the body with the mind, ties them up with metal wires" keeps hitting with a Pixies vibe, but the emotional interplay between singers and sounds is much more subtle and seductive. (www.fortunerecords.com)
EPITONIC "20 Minute Loop is a San Francisco five-piece whose songs roll and bounce all over the musical map. The constant in 20ML's eclectic musical stew is its overall, well, freakiness -- hence the name they've given their sound: "freakpop" Now, we're not talking Kool Keith-type freakiness here; it's of a decidedly more indie rock variety. Lyrically, 20ML are of the same smart idiosyncratic stuff as XTC, or perhaps Robyn Hitchcock, with offbeat songs about bunnymen and chickengirls, hookworms, and drowning. Musically, you'll hear the influence of the Pixies in the fuzzy guitars, unconventional but pop-friendly song structures, and male/female vocal baton passing (the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported that singers Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles sound like PJ Harvey and Michael Stipe jacked on Prozac, and if there were a better description in the world for their vocal style, you'd be reading it right here). 20ML showed off their capricious musical virtuosity on their self-titled 1999 debut album, which contains "Everybody Out" and "Face Like a Horse." In 2001, they returned with Decline of Day, on which they continued to develop their noisy and forceful twisted pop style. There's something a bit darker, denser, and more dangerous about the group's sophomore effort; the freakiness would seem to have grown a bit more schizophrenic and the album's manically tuneful songs seem on the verge grabbing you by the neck, shaking you violently, and screaming "Live! Feel! Be!" Which, upon reflection, is pretty damn fabulous. The album features "Jubilation," "Pilot Light," and "Elephant." ~ Jesse Ashlock
Flavorpill 2/11/03: "20 Minute Loop" may bring to mind a pale computer programmer with way too many Eno records in his collection, but fear not - it's really the name of a five-piece from Kentfield with a talent for writing complex, slightly countrified melodies and a knack for rocking out. We haven't had the pleasure of seeing the band's live set yet, but based on their 2001 disc Decline of Day, when the lights go down, the fireworks go off. Backing up their boy/girl lead vocals with gritty rock and sensitive harmonizations - plus the occasional Eastern European angularity and off-kilter arrangements that recall the Throwing Muses - 20 Minute Loop proves that Bay Area rock doesn't end at the three chord mark. (PS)
Geek America Grade: A. This band is good. A while back i got something from these guys and was pretty into it. Now they've gone a lot further and have really captured their own sound. I think i originally compared them to They Might Be Giants in the sense that they've got quirky variety. Their sound now however has progressed into a more passionate sound, reminding me at times of the Pixies. The male/female vocals are a nice touch, but don't go toward that oh-so-dangerous "gimmick" side of things. I don't know if they're already like this, but 20 minute loop is totally the type of band that would get a big fanbase, but without ever going mainstream MTV. More power to you guys! Listen to this while: talking with your friends, playing independent films on mute in the background.
(TOP PICKS: This review represents the "best of" music that was reviewed for this issue by IMPACT Press music reviewers.)
Billed by the press as a band similar in scope to X or The Pixies, and playing a style of music termed "freakpop," there is little in the sound of 20 Minute Loop to hearken back to those bands. Barring a superficial similarity in that both have male and female lead singers who alternate on vocals, the one band that most remind me of 20 Minute Loop is Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Both bands have an off kilter and skewed outlook, both create unique visions of the world, and both create melodies that do not fit nicely into a preconceived idea of a pop song. This is their strengths and in some cases their weaknesses.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST
"Decline of Day starts off with some fuzzy guitars, bass-heavy hard-pop-rock, with girl-boy vocal interplay keeping things semi-sweet, while the rock brings it all together. Following the opener is "Moses", another semi-sweet, semi-rocking tune.
Modern Fix San Francisco's 20 minute Loop offer up a charmingly eclectic batch of boy/girl indie pop tunes with a bit of a folky edge to 'em. Greg Giles guitar and vocal approach often recalls the more restrained end of Kurt Corbain's songwriting, but with none of the grit or angst. Cross this with aspects of Belly, Throwing Muses, the Breeders and other like-minded, female-fronted bands from the late 80's/early 90's college rock catalog and you've got a pretty good feel of the 20 Minute Loop vibe. The Pixies are an obvious reference point, but this isn't so schizophrenic and raw. Crystal clear production care of Chris Manning makes it sound a lot less "underground" than most indie kids would like, but this band sounds ready to go beyond the underground. Think a rootsier, less fragmented P.E.E. or Heavy Vegetable. Good, fairly light-hearted fun.
Noisepop 2002 Festival Guide blurb "20 Minute Loop: Alternately recalling X's first three records and the eclectic popsmithery of Pavement, 20 Minute Loop are a record geek's wet dream. Noisy, catchy, lurching into straight-forward hooks, then returning to crazed carnivalesque madness, this group offers eclecticism that rocks and then grabs you by the collar with sheer infectiousness."
"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.
Real Detroit So when I first plopped this disc in the ol'player, the first band that sprang into my head was The Pixies. This because of the quirky, jangly, and sometimes frustrated melodies & music that follow from song to song on this record. And that's a good thing. And I'm convinced it's not a contrived statement because upon further investigation into this band, others who have reviewed them have said the same (so OK, that makes it contrived). Aside from that, this record is amazingly simple and never trite. An offering of shear pop mayhem at it's finest, but in a REM sort of way. They describe themselves as 'freak pop'. I suppose that's true if in that proclamation they're assuming one's reaction to their record. 20ML members Kelly Atkins (keyboard) and Greg Giles (rhythm guitar) share lead vocals, perhaps giving them that added Pixies familiarity. An additional tidbit of trivia for this freshman release is that Chris Manning (of Jellyfish fame) produced the record, undoubtedly amplifying it's uniqueness as a whole. Best listening Experience: Jubilation, just for starters Reason to buy: Don't make me tell you to buy this man!?! ~ Mathew Hatch
San Francisco Reader (John Wells) 7/02: "...The band's second album, the recently released Decline of Day, is a massive elephant ride, charging from the pop perfection of "Jubilation" to the frenetic, guitar-driven "Mompha Termina." The quirky "Vaccine" and the spare, lilting atmosphere of "All Manner" round out this perfectly explored pop recording. On stage, 20 Minute Loop displays an exuberance that brings to mind the irascible spectacle of early Camper Van Beethoven and the explosive spontaneity of Milemarker. Erickson and Turner lay down a can't-miss groove. Giles and Ostrowski fashion a cloak of electric and acoustic guitars. And Atkins punctuates everything with her vocals and keyboards to form sounds of mesmerizing intensity. If you're distrustful of the next big thing and prefer to examine music concerned more with how it sounds than what it sounds like, check out 20 Minute Loop, a refreshing break from tired formulas."
Section M (Decline of Day) "After listening to the album a few more times , I finally determined that what separates 20 Minute Loop from the rest of Alterna-Rock mob is a tireless experimentation with each aspect of their music. From the vocals to the lyrics to the accompaniment, everything's familiar enough to be listen-able but skewed just a few inches off the map..."
SF Weekly Feature Article: "Thrown for a Loop" by Todd Dayton
Spectator (Raleigh NC ) "If you can get your brain around this, 20 Minute Loop is what might occur if The Mekons' Sally Timms were to join forces with Self. Their stylistic hopscotch (80s-style pop, rock, hardcore (un poco), country, even Zippo-waving ballads) renders each song a surprise, while always maintaining their essential 20 Minute Loop-ness. The songs are marked by dense, highly fluent, razor sharp lyrics, by complex, dynamic harmonies and melodies, and by an adamant prioritization of songcraft before elan. Any moments of dissonance are contrived through arcane phrasings rather than squalling guitars, meaning that 20 Minute Loop are a welcome diversion from the discord that informs so much current indie music. Highly recommended to fans of mid/late Pixies and the B-52s." ~ Brian Howe
"This is not the kind of record I would normally like, with its peppy boy/girl late ‘80s college rock harmonies. But damn, it’s just so good, catchy, lighthearted, well executed and fun to listen to that even my internal Leather Tuscadero is tapping her foot. This Bay Area five-piece is as poppy as poppy can be. Their sound is an updated blend of classic college rock heroes like They Might Be Giants, XTC, early REM and even the Pixies. While their overwhelming tendency is to be cute and playful, they are not entirely without sonic backbone.
"Ah, San Francisco...distant, northern neighbor to my Los Angeles. But while we share the same state lines, there are more differences between the cities than you’d find between some countries. Perhaps I embellish. But the California bloodline is a difficult one to trace; taken together, San Fran and L.A. seem not so much sisters as mismatched roommates, an urban Odd Couple.
Suite 101: The Divine Nine with 20 Minute Loop Interview with Greg and Kelly.
Tucson (Arizona) Citizen - CALENDAR 3/17/02
"Atkins' vocals set band apart".
As the lone woman who rounds out an otherwise male rock band, 20 Minute Loop
singer-keyboardist Kelly Atkins is used to the usual comparisons. The
Pixies, Sonic Youth, even references to the B-52s pop up in review after
review. "There's not a lot of boy-girl strong vocals in bands, so I
think people go for a lot of easy comparisons," said Atkins, reached
in Sausalito, Calif., last week. "We love the Pixies as a band, but
it's not our goal to sound like them. . . . I think people, journalists, search for comparisons. One
time we got compared to Barenaked Ladies and I almost threw up."
Tuscon Weekly GETTIN' LOOPY: San Francisco"s 20 Minute Loop, described by as a freak-pop act, is creepy in the best way. First there's the lyrics. Let's sample from "Jubilation", the opening track on the co-ed five-piece's latest LP, Decline of Day (2001, Fortune Records): "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." Like I said, creepy, huh? Then there's the sound, which is nearly indescribable. The creepiness manifests itself in the same way the Pixies can scare you, but the only real sonic consistency is the complexity of the arrangements (which utilize flute, xylophone, samples and a '70s-era toy synthesizer known as the Optigan, along with the standard guitar/drums/bass configuration), rather than a particular genre. Quirky, creepy, spooky, kooky: welcome to 20 Minute Loop"s world.
Zero Magazine (Featured Band) What exactly is "freak-pop" anyway? San Francisco's 20 Minute Loop defines it as catchy, quirky, hard pounding and dynamic, yet imaginatively harmonic indie rock. That's quite a mouthful for sure. Imagine what would happen if X crashed into the Pixies and XTC to get a sense of 20ML's multi-textured sound. In 1999 20ML formed after many open-mike appearances led guitarist Greg Giles to combine with vocalist and keyboardist Kelly Atkins. The result was a group that has co-ed harmonies on every song, combining innovative songwriting with pop arrangements. Chris Manning, who produced their self-titled debut in August 2000 and has previously worked with Third Eye Blind and Santana among others, produced 20ML's new album, Decline of Day. The band has evolved into a five-piece outfit, complete with xylophones, organs, and acoustic and electric guitars, but the vocal harmonies and songs still take center stage.