Aaron Axelsen, Program Director for Live 105 KITS
"Yawn+House=Explosion: It's been monopolizing my CD player in my car, I've been listening to this record; Good stuff."
ALL MUSIC GUIDE “The third album by Bay Area five-piece 20 Minute Loop is as willfully quirky as their first two, but while it retains the band's signature tendency to spin out into entirely new directions mid-song, the songwriting and the arrangements are overall considerably tighter than before. Singers Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles used to tend to sing at each other more than with, but the intertwining vocal lines on songs like "Parking Lot" are far superior to their earlier efforts; this time, when the harmonies clash (as on the ominously creepy "Our William Tell"), it's clear that they mean for them to. Similarly, an economy of ideas in the arrangements helps the songs sound full and varied rather than wildly overstuffed. The high-concept kicker comes at the end, with a cover of Hüsker Dü's "I'll Never Forget You" done in mock rock-epic style complete with grandiose horn section, but the ten literate, funny, and offhandedly brilliant songs that came before are what you'll come back to.”
"20 MINUTE LOOP "Yawn + House = Explosion" (Fortune) cd 13.98
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'
"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;
"This Bay Area quintet makes morose, chaotic, bipolar pop reminiscent of
the Pixies. Kelly Atkins and Greg Giles unisex vocal stylings may sound a bit
serious in tone, but if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you¹ll get tossed
back on the playground with that creepy kid who showed you his red saliva after
finishing his juice box it shakes my music loving bones."
Contra Costa Times - January 7, 2005
"I thought the theme of this column might be the return of art-rock, due to the experimental/operatic leanings of the bands covered here, but since I tried that old-wave-rock moniker on for size sometime last year and no one wanted to get on the bandwagon, I figured I'd be best to give it a rest. Then I realized the bands I'm featuring this week have another thing in common -- some of them have personnel involved in personal relationships of a sort. I decided musical couples would make a good theme, but it's too early for Valentine's Day. So I've settled on art-rock couples -- and until further notice, that will just have to do to describe the romantics who make challenging, beautiful music together (with the full support of their bandmates, of course).
Berkeley-based Fortune Records is proud to be releasing "Yawn + House = Explosion," the third album from Bay Area indie-rockers 20 Minute Loop featuring Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins (word is they were once an item, but are no more). I first encountered 20ML's guitarist/songwriter Giles on one of his old demo tapes, when he was just beginning his songwriting career, sometime in the early '90s. It was one of the tapes (and yes, it was a tape, in the days before every band had their own CDs) that rose to the top of the pile on its own merit and not because it was accompanied by any fancy packaging or press material (as I remember, it was quite startling in its, er, simplicity). Since then, Giles and his bandmates in 20ML -- Atkins, Joe Ostrowski, Nils Erickson and Mike Romano -- have fashioned heavy pop/art-rock delivered in the dueling male/female vocal style (pioneered in rock by Jefferson Airplane in the '60s, punked-up by John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X in the '80s and turned into the definitive sound of '90s alternative rock by the Pixies' Kim Deal and Black Francis) on songs like the disturbing "Our William Tell," the lighter "Parking Lot," and the unlikely Husker Du cover "I'll Never Forget You." 20 Minute Loop appear with the ethereal San Francisco band elephone (which is celebrating a CD release of its own that night) and Every Move a Picture (which has already attracted attention overseas, if not at home) at Bottom of the Hill on Saturday. Show is at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8. Contact 415-621-4455 or www.bottomofthehill.com.
~ Denise Sullivan"
East Bay Express - Critic's Choice - Week of 1/5/05
"ANGRY POP. Put simply, 20 Minute Loop's Yawn+House=Explosion sounds like a dreamy, literate Berkeley couple arguing, angrily and esoterically, over moody indie pop. Watch in awe and/or amusement as Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins should heavily coded, sugary-sweet insults at each other, until the whole thing goes to hell and ends with a cover of Husker Du's "I Will Never Forget You." Pretty rad. By all means crash Explosion's release party Saturday night at SF's Bottom of the Hill, with Elephone and Every Move a Picture. $8, 10 p.m., BottomoftheHill.com (R.H.)"
Bay Express, Best
of the East Bay, “Catchiest
(Ten adjectives to describe 20 Minute Loop: absurd, addictive, cryptic, dashing, fantastic, high-concept, intertwining, pop, puzzling, and sweet.)
"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."
For proof that heart-shaking, synapse-sparking rock 'n roll is alive and well in the Bay Area, look no further than 20 Minute Loop, whose perfect male/female vocal harmonies, wild off-time arrangements, and surreal lyrics are at once achingly familiar and freakishly unexpected. This show celebrates the release of their third and best record to date, Yawn + House = Explosion. Prepare for a joyous performance in which the band's infectious passion drenches every note they play...
"For it's third release, "Yawn + House = Explosion," the San Francisco band 20 Minute Loop wrote all of the album's lyrics according to the rules of the Arbilexicon, more commonly known as the Dictionary story. (Is that snickering I hear?! Stick with me. And stop rolling your eyes.) A dictionary story is basically a Mad-Lib in reverse; ten words are chosen at random from the dictionary, and are then used as the basis for a short story.
While the potential for pretentious drivel seemed poised to win the day, the end result is surprisingly effective. There is certainly an abstract element to the lyrics, yet they never approach a Dadaist level or fall into nonsense. Some are better than others of course, but mostly it works. Opening track "Parking Lot" perfectly recalls a familiar picture in a mere minute and forty-nine seconds:
"I'm not done, I have more to say before the chorus comes
Straight ahead, don't look back, back and forth is such a bore
Chorus, bridge, verse and solo, stringing hooks along the shoreline
Until you score
One more time let me hear the song that makes the hair rise on my arms
The radio's on, the supermarket parking lot
You wait for the song to turn around"
I don't know about you, but that's pretty awesome in my opinion. This suburban memory is married to some gorgeous power-pop chords and the result IS the song that makes the hair rise on my arms.
Singer Kelly Atkins sings her ass off, and the band is super-tight yet loose at the same time. 20 Minute Loop is usually compared to bands like X, The Pixies, and XTC, though for the life of me I can't hear any similarities to those groups. A better stylistic link would be The Posies, who also always exhibited perfect pop smarts while being daring at the same time. The Beatles' "White Album" also looms large over "Yawn + House = Explosion," with its mixture of classic pop and innovative song writing acting as a sort of unacknowledged blueprint. While the band itself has christened its sound as "freakpop," this is fairly accessible rock that's not as quirky as it wants you to believe it is.
"Yawn + House = Explosion" is a pretty great example of how it's possible for a band to exist in the somewhat confining genre of rock music and still be original and innovative. It doesn't have to leap out at you and grab you by the throat, although just as 20 Minute Loop can lull you into a mellow moment, they can just as quickly throw you around the room. It's unpredictable, and that's what makes it so appealing. This applies to the lyrics as well, with lines like "Tell me a story that ends with a gunshot / A smack to the side of the head / Please don't divulge all the details that bore us / just skip to the end" ("Miriam Hopkins"), it's apparent that this is not your run-of-the-mill pop band.
There's also a great cover of Husker Du's "I'll Never Forget You," done with a horn section. That's pretty much worth the price of admission right there. 20 Minute Loop has enough going for it to appeal to both indie and mainstream tastes, and with this level of song writing (principally by guitarist and vocalist Greg Giles) they could actually make a difference in your day. Plus you might learn a few new words.
LIVE REVIEWS “... As always, 20 Minute Loop were great and I can't believe you haven't bought their latest CD, Yawn + House = Explosion yet. What's wrong with you? Go buy it, damnit. Honestly, I feel like indiegeek (my music site) is a failure as long as 20 minute loop stays a relatively unknown band. They should be revered as one of the best indie bands of the 21st century.”
Mesh Magazine "20 Minute Loop's Yawn+House=Explosion is an upbeat treatise on modern living and its resultant anxieties-eccentric loveliness with that wonderful edge that lets you know there's a smirk of disgust seething beneath. The lyrics are poetry, steeped in imagery of surreal apathy, ghostly dreams of severed mannequin heads, souls traveling sparse landscapes with road-ravaged eyes, all calling to mind a curious picture of morbidity. The delicate voices of Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins caress and battle each other, backed by gorgeous melodic pop, touches of brass, and pure punk freak outs. An excellent effort from Kentfield's finest."
The Dictionary Story, originally called the arbilexicon, is a kind of reverse Mad Libs, in which a conventional number of words randomly selected from a dictionary -- usually ten -- serve as the springboard for a short story; that is to say, the words chosen at random must be used in the body of the story.
--20 Minute Loop
The title of 20 Minute Loop's third and most recent album, Yawn + House = Explosion (Fortune), is derived from a dictionary story. But everything in this band's world eventually evolves--or devolves--into a story. Stories are 20 Minute Loop's stock in trade.
The first adventure of 20 Minute Loop's Midwest tour (dubbed the Meriwether Lewis Trail of Madness, in which they--kind of--retrace Lewis' alleged 1806 journey to scare the natives) began before they even pulled out of the parking lot of their San Rafael rehearsal studio. Their rental van turned out to be a smaller model than the one they had reserved, presenting a new angle to the already formidable challenge of fitting five musicians' equipment, the musicians themselves and dozens of homemade cookies into one overly cozy vehicle. Over the next several weeks, they will go on to conquer exotic, uncharted locales such as Laramie, Wyoming, and Hiney's in El Paso, Texas, a venue the band have already mythologized as a sort of Hooter's featuring butts instead of boobs.
Though their collective sense of humor can at times run through such sophomoric shallows, the music of 20 Minute Loop is complex, literate pop that's often threaded with a dark undercurrent. The band's beginnings go back to 1997, when vocalist and songwriter Greg Giles began playing music under numerous less catchy monikers. Kelly Atkins joined up soon after, forming what would become the musical and lyrical core of the group. Guitarist Joe Ostrowski came onboard in 1998, and bassist Nils Erickson and drummer Mike Romano settled in after a small handful of other musicians had come and gone. Initially a North Bay band, 20 Minute Loop are now more accurately a Bay Area one, with members in Marin, San Francisco and the East Bay.
Critics have often trotted out XTC and Pixies comparisons when describing 20 Minute Loop. I'll happily do that as well: 20 Minute Loop sound as much like the Pixies as Donovan does Slayer (though I did once hear Kelly tear up an impromptu cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black"). The band's dense, twisting arrangements, Kelly's punctuating keyboards, and the vocal do-si-do of Kelly and Greg frame lyrics embedded with impressionistic inner monologues of characters at turning points, on the brink of arguments or just coming out of them. It's the kind of stuff that sounds absurd when read typed out as lyrics, but which the band pull off uncannily in song.
Taking a break from the puzzle of van loading, Kelly and Greg tell of the inspiration for Yawn + House = Explosion: 11-year-old Sophia, a friend of the band and the blonde lass who appears tenderly embracing chickens on the CD cover. It turns out that Sophia is quite the wordsmith, too. "Sophia likes to write dictionary stories--the title of our album came from one of her dictionary stories," says Greg. "I sort of commissioned her to do all of the artwork for our lyrics, to write them out. Paid her 100 bucks. We just wanted to make the whole thing look like it was the product of her mind."
"To an 11-year-old, 100 bucks is a lot of money," says Kelly. "When she's 20, she'll be like, 'What the hell? They paid me $100 for this?'"
There has been nearly a four-year gap between Yawn and the band's previous album, Decline of Day. Their former drummer left shortly before they had planned to start recording basic tracks in his studio, where they had recorded the first two records. "At the time, it felt like the most horrible thing in the world, but it's all worked out fine," Kelly explains. "We ended up having to find a drummer, teach him all of the songs and then get to a point where we felt we could record. It took six to eight months just to do that. Then we started recording basics."
"We didn't just go into a studio for a few weeks; we recorded the basics at a conventional studio, put that on a tape and we did everything else with ProTools in people's apartments--and Nils was the de facto producer," Greg clarifies.
"Which was great, because it gave us a lot of flexibility," Kelly adds. "[The album] got more flushed out."
Or, as Greg puts it, "We put in more bells and whistles." Not literally, of course, but Yawn + House = Explosion does include more synthesizers and, on several songs, horns, which Nils arranged. There's also their first recorded cover ever, an appropriately feverish version of Hüsker Dü's "I'll Never Forget You."
"I think we've just gotten more intuitive with each other," Kelly says. "Don't you think," she asks Greg, "we've kind of grown more as a unit?"
"No, I don't think so," he says, laughing. "We've become contrarian."
Undeterred, Kelly continues. "I think that we've had much more time to get comfortable with each other's strengths and weaknesses." Such growth undoubtedly continues on the tour. In a post to the band's message board from the road, Nils describes the seating arrangement in the van as "carving out Hobbit holes." Yet another great way to deepen a band's connectivity. The 20 Minute Loop that return to the Bay Area will be an even stronger 20 Minute Loop, with Hiney's of El Paso under their belt and even more stories to tell.
~ Word Pop 20 Minute Loop spin stories of interior life By Sara Bir.
Mindjack "For seven years now, Marin County's 20 Minute Loop has been working to give "quirky alt-rock" a good name again. To this end they employ mordantly witty lyrics, a synthesizer that looks pre-Cambrian, and more boy-girl contrapuntal harmony than you can shake a stick at. "Miriam Hopkins" is
probably the finest single track on their third LP Yawn + House = Explosion.
It's been out a while and is hardly underlinked - hello, Pitchfork - but
I, for one, could listen to it every day."
NOISEPOP 2005 Program Review
"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
"Think back to your youth, junior high, perhaps: a time when folding notes into otherworldly origami shapes and doodling in the margins of your algebra book filled up the majority of your school day. The adolescent tug of war between childhood innocence and adult desire is captured excellently by 20 Minute Loop's Yawn+House=Explosion. 20ML's third full-length contains songs that manage to be simultaneously frantic, nutty, penetrating and personal - self-proclaimed "freak-pop" at its finest. Perhaps 20ML didn't intend for it to be so, but every detail on this album reflects the often-maniacal mind of teenager in love (or in angst) - the cartoon-drawings and scrawled lyrics on the album inset are the icing on the cake. Kelly Atkins is all set to dethrone Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis as the new indie-rock princess - her crystal voice is hauntingly piercing on the album's opening track, "Parking Lot." Greg Giles holds his own by intricately layering harmonic call-and-response lyrics on top of flawless songwriting. Each track on the album is refreshingly different and distinct from the one before. But 20ML doesn't stop at just that - they retain a bipolar approach within each song, taking the listener through a range of emotions through smart shifts in tempo. This ingenuity sets 20ML apart from many other bands in the indie rock circuit. They successfully manage to be delicately moody and melodic ("5 AM to 9 AM"), upbeat and catchy ("Properties of Dirt," "It's Time To Honor Ghouls") and downright heavy (check the cover of HUSKER DU's "I'll Never Forget You"). While the album is primarily guitar-driven, all instruments are intelligently and unpredictably arranged, showcasing the expert skills of each band member. You'll feel smarter after listening to this album - and you might even feel the urge to cut class and scribble a love note. (Fortune Records)
" ~ Veronica Young
PopMatters ”Tearing Down the Hyphen Between Pop and Rock”
Yes, I know, I love short, succinct pop songs as much as anybody. Sometimes, I believe that the Ramones had the right idea by keeping all songs around the two-and-a-half minute mark. The longer songs go on, the more likely that the essential melodies -- the melodies that make pop songs worthwhile -- will either be buried or worn-out. On the other hand, the pop song structure can constrict songs that might deserve to sprawl out and take their own course. 20 Minute Loop, a band attempting to turn pop / rock back into a true genre rather than a dichotomy, point out the predictability of short pop songs in the lead-off track "Parking Lot", a minute-and-a-half deconstruction of the type of songs that 20 Minute Loop has no need for: "Chorus, bridge, verse, and solo, / Stringing hooks along the shoreline".
20 Minute Loop take most of their songs to the dangerous four-to-five minute mark, too long to be a simple pop song but not enough time to create a breathtaking epic. These songs have the freedom to roam into adventurous sonic territory. Most of the tracks end, not in mindless repetition of a catchy chorus, but in long instrumental stretches where the twin guitars of Greg Giles and Joe Ostrowshi break out of the structure of the song and go on freewheeling adventures. By focusing on the "rock" aspect of indie-rock, 20 Minute Loop are able to differentiate themselves from their peers. This is a band unafraid to display their classic rock leanings -- which, as Sleater-Kinney realized on their last album, may be the most punk rock thing possible in today's music climate. The highlight of Yawn + House = Explosion might be in the final two minutes of "Our William Tell", a dazzling, handclap-fueled call-and-response between the two guitars and Helly Atkins's keyboards that recalls the glory days of Television.
20 Minute Loop manages to incorporate this rock and roll indulgence while still retaining the kind of surefire pop smarts that other straightforward power-pop bands could envy. The singing combination of Giles and Atkins provides the melodic base for the band's assault. Giles's understated whining is aptly complemented by Atkins's booming voice, an interplay that has garnered comparisons to X, despite the fact that the two bands have nothing else in common. Atkins, in particular, has a voice that combines the breezy joy of the Sundays with the ferocious power of Neko Case. Even when the entire band works on creating a sonic wall of sounds, like on the roller coaster "Book of J", Atkins is able to break through the din with her piercing wails: "You're not so heavy or tortured or comfortable or totally distinct!"
Which brings us to the lyrics, which as the example above shows, are a cut above the standard power-pop musings. Giles and Atkins do not create stories, but rather hint at oblique situations in such a manner that the listener never gets a full understanding of the subject matter. "Book of J", which takes its title from controversial scholar Harold Bloom's study of the Hebrew Bible, jumps between a crying girl, the arrival of Jehovah himself, and a scene with children waiting for a basketball game. "Miriam Hopkins" starts with a plea for a story with the caveat "Please don't divulge all the details", an ironic commentary on the band's indistinct scene setting. Maybe this is the influence of Henry James, name-checked on the pure pop "Ambassadors", where the narrator abandons himself to James's difficult novel The Ambassadors in order to avoid dealing with a painful break-up. Although overshadowed by 20 Minute Loop's pop craftsmanship and stellar instrumental prowess, the lyrics contain enough nuance to keep this Lit. major intrigued.
On Yawn + House = Explosion, 20 Minute Loop establish themselves as something of a triple threat, a band that knows how to create memorable pop hooks, gripping instrumental breaks, and intriguing lyrics. They even know how to do a short, quirky pop song now and then, as "It's Time to Honor Ghouls" and their horn-drenched cover of Bob Mould's post-punk classic "I'll Never Forget You" prove. Although the album doesn't have any of those jaw-dropping songs that can elevate a really good album to a great album, Yawn + House = Explosion suggests that the band is on pace to create something truly memorable.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
"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 Examiner - January 6, 2005
Self-described "freakpop" outfit 20 Minute Loop just released its third full-length, "Yawn + House = Explosion," its second for Berkeley-based Fortune Records. Originally an acoustic duo that cut its performing chops on the Bay Area's open mic circuit, the local five-piece takes a catchy pop base and adds indie-style riffs, smart and charmingly eccentric lyrics, and beautiful, coed harmonies to create, as the NoisePop folks so eloquently put it, "a record geek's wet dream."
...Further proof that 20 Minute Loop is singularly focused on making powerful pop music is the band's newest record/labor of love, Yawn + House = Explosion. The band's third full-length album, which will officially be released January 8th in conjunction with a co-headlining show at Bottom of the Hill, is a monster of a record. It spent the better part of a year incubating in the band's bedrooms, garages and cars. It's rare to see a band at this level take its time with the recording process, rarer still to hear a record end up this congruous and fully realized...