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First Impressions: Taylor Swift, The Drums, Les Sins + more

Written By the interns on 08/25/2014

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First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on first (or second) listen. Each week we each review six new songs from the week passed, each giving them a score out of five and awarding one our pick of the week.

Taylor Swift- Shake It Off

Hannah: I was a little M.I.A when this song dropped last week and promptly broke the twittersphere. While I knew that  Earl Sweatshirt put his always relevant 2 cents in and called out a pancake-assed Tay Tay for being “inherently offensive” in her efforts to “exacerbate racial stereotypes,” and I caught glimpses of the video as it made its way around every morning show in this galaxy and the next, I’ve somehow managed to avoid listening to it until now. While I may be a little late to the party, this is a tongue-in-cheek “fuck you” like only Tay Tay could deliver and quite frankly, closet Swift fan I am, I love it. While the message is overt (shake it off was it?), her latest release heralds, in a much more subtle manner, a mature departure from her previous album. The beat is up, the brass is in and the octave a little less squeaky-girl-next-door and a little more I-might-surprise-you-yet. Yeah Taylor! 3.6

Sam: Unlike Hannah, I’m not a Tay Tay fan. Until now, I’ve found her to be alarmingly self-obsessed and overwhelmingly whiney. This, however, is a massive win. She’s not afraid to be dorky or 100% pop and the result of that is she comes off as a far more likeable artist. Max Martin’s inclusion of brass is perfect and the rap, as ridiculous as it is, is perfect. 4

Bianca: I have been in two minds about this little ditty all week. On one hand, this is a pop ballad that is catchy and purposefully kitschy in every single way; it stands as an expert transition from country to pop. However, it is for those same reasons that every fiber of my being is telling me to dislike it: the cheesy lyrics, Tay Tay’s attempts at acting ‘dorky’ in the video, the tired joke of impersonating other musicians, the spoken word/rap…I’m going to have to go ahead with the latter. In short, all aspects of why I object to it outlined here (in a blog aimed at promoting the exact opposite).

Lizzie: This is not the first time I have heard Shake it off, admittedly. Every single ounce of me wants to not like it, not dance to it and not have it stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Alas, this is exactly what happened and this will continue to happen. Well played Taylor, you got me this time! 4

[embed width=”750″ height=”415″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM[/embed]

Caribou- Our Love

Hannah: This is yet another example of Caribou’s flawless production. A bass heavy gurgle pulsing endlessly beneath a tapestry of vocal samples that expertly crescendo to a place of synth, snare, strings, rockets, 3am and deep house. I love a slow burn and Caribou’s restraint here delivers exactly that. 4 Hannah’s Pick

Sam: This is very much in the same vein as Can’t Do Without You in terms of song structure. Thankfully I was a huge fan of Can’t Do Without You and I am of this one too. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the latter parts of the song. The bassline melts my ears and the beat injects some much-needed energy into it. 3.5

Bianca: Caribou has once again perfected the art of delicacy. Gently placing subtle layer upon layer of heavenly vocals, defiant drum kicks, string synths and dat throbbing bassline, if completing a Buzzfeed ‘Which French dessert are you?’ quiz, Our Love would be a mille-feuille. 4 Bianca’s Pick 

Lizzie: It’s just so gloriously minimal. Caribou does not have to try hard to produce a track that you instantly fall in love with. The start goes against every EDM banging bone in my body and I’m happy to admit it. Then violins just sneak up on you and tickle your ears – and when you think it’s almost over, 3 mins 22 hits and you are up and at it again. 4

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/caribouband/our-love[/soundcloud]

Shannon Saunders- Sheets

Hannah: Sheets is a melting pot for everything good that’s happening at the collision of pop and electronic music right now. To that avail, it’s a good song but not a great song. It shows Saunders has a great ear for a great sound but hasn’t quite found her sound. When she does, I’m sure it’ll be killer but for now it’s just a little done. 3

Sam: I always love a healthy slice of understated electro-pop which probably explains my feelings towards this song. Saunders doesn’t need to exaggerate vocally in Sheets, rather letting the delectable melody hook you in. I feel like she’s a mini- Ellie Goulding in the making. 3

Bianca: Doughy, cooing female voices have never really sat well with me but in this case, Saunders’ has been diffused well into the synths and bassline which pleasantly prevent this track from verging into dangerous pop territory. 2.5

Lizzie: Right off the bat, you are drawn into her unique girly sound. Then the backbeat comes in as a beautiful compliment. It is exactly the pop song I feel like listening to right now. 4 Lizzie’s Pick

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/shannonsaunders/sheets[/soundcloud]

Run The Jewels- Blockbuster Night P.1

Hannah: Did he just rhyme oodles with noodles? I’m out. 2

Sam: Run The Jewels’ debut cut through in all the right places with aggressive raps and organic yet affecting beats and the same happens here. It feels removed from the current hip-hop climate ditching pop hooks and electronic stylings for something that just goes hard. It’s only a short one but it’s long enough to know that RTJ2 is going to be fierce. 4

Bianca: The grungey guitar, heavy lyrics, and general bloated sound of this track are of a nature that usually would not gel with me. But I’m feeling a bit badass tonight so I’mma just go ahead and leave a 3.5 right here while I go do some badass shit like not wait for my English Breakfast tea bag to infuse for the recommended 3-5 minutes.

Lizzie: I just feel angry after this song. My muscles are tightening and my face is getting wrinkled. Where’s my punching bag!? 2.5

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/massappealrecs/rtj-blockbuster-night-part-1[/soundcloud]

The Drums- I Can’t Pretend

Hannah: This is light and dreamy and some serious road trip music, but I’m over the whole wasted youth sound and the latest offering from The Drums falls irrevocably into that category. Cheer up. 2

Sam: I liked Magic Mountain when I first heard it but it’s since escaped my mind. Of course, this is once again a First Impression of the song but I have a feeling its fate might be different. I do agree with Hannah regarding the wasted youth sound but I’ve always felt The Drums pushed the envelope a little further. They are a band who have always been very aware of the aesthetic they want to give off and as such never sound lazy. I Can’t Pretend revels in woozy vocals and reverb-soaked instruments and is hopefully a good sign of what is to come on Encyclopedia. 3.5

Bianca: The Drums have personally always treaded on that fine line between being pleasantly whimsical and being tediously whiney; there’s only so much reflection and melancholy I can handle. In I Can’t Pretend, while still staying true to their signature nostalgia, they’ve also experimented into more assertive territory with electric glitches and jangly guitars. Let’s hope their Encyclopedia continues along this focus. 3.5

Lizzie: This just screams youth and summertime nostalgia. I feel like packing my bags and heading down the coast for a mid-week escape. That, or just locking myself away and watching the entire OC box set again. 3

[embed width=”750″ height=”415″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzuobjUuxAQ[/embed]

Les Sins- Bother

Hannah: If Taylor’s appearance in this weeks First Impressions’ is a ‘fuck you,’ then this is Budnick’s ‘fuck off.’ With an album out on November 4th under Les Sins and Toro y Moi continuing to pump out tracks, “don’t bother me, I’m working” is right! This is a house beat with just the right about of hip-hop influence running alongside an infectious vocal sample. While I’m not entirely sold on the detour via the frilly electronic explosion featured on the second half of the track, I’m excited for the rest of the album to drop 3

Sam: This is the track I’ve come back to time and time again this week. It’s a tune for those pumping it through the work day and sweating it out on the dancefloor and perfectly caters to day and nighttime crowds. I’d place myself in the latter category and can happily say this one would make me work for my next drink. The beat pumps the blood, the vocal-sample creates the groove and the final minute is a hands-in-the-air triumph. Damn, damn, damn, I love this. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: Don’t bother me, I’m twerkin’. 3.5 
twerking

Lizzie: This is a snazzy little jam isn’t it? It really has that I don’t give a fuck vibe, the samples in the background however, are terribly distracting. The close is a psychedelic surprise, an interesting end to an even more interesting song – nothing makes sense, but together it all kinda works. It’s weird how it all comes together nicely. 3.5

[embed width=”750″ height=”415″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyScqu7jEMc[/embed]