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First Impressions: Kendrick Lamar, Azealia Banks, Ryan Hemsworth + more

Written By Bianca Bosso on 09/30/2014

FI_30SeptFirst Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on their first (or second) listen. Each week we review six new songs from the past week, each giving them a score out of five and awarding our pick of the week. 

Jeremih- Nobody But U

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/europeangelique/jeremih-nobody-but-u[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: I am little bit flustered after this. I feel I have been seduced by some stranger, an artist I have never heard before – whispering sweet nothings in my ear. There is an effortless flow, and I can actually understand the words what he is singing unlike others of his kind! 4

Bianca: If a slow grind were to be translated into a song, this would be it. Even Jeremih on cruise control is so much smoother than your average Joe making a move in a club, as he flicks out lines with the ease and suaveness of a true pro. 

Sam: No other artists moves between the mainstream and alternative RnB than Jeremih. Here he’s back in mainstream mode preparing for the release of his next album, but it’s still an interesting, tongue-twister of a tune. When the music drops out and Jeremih spits effortlessly, it’s like there’s no better thing in the world. 3.5

Hudson Mohawke- Brainwave

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/hudsonmohawke/brainwave[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: The start is very cinematic – that Dolby surround sound feeling you get at the cinema. THEN, it just stops! This rather short track has definitely captured my attention, and struck a weirdly cool wavelength that I seem to be on today also. Any other day I may have hated it I feel, but today you’ve got my vote! 3.5

Bianca: I feel like I’ve literally stepped inside Hudson Mohawke’s brain, watching his neurons transmit electrical and chemical signals hack and forth. Judging by the wobbling synths and frantic melody, it would be a pretty intense, mysterious expedition but I’m happy enough to venture in to take a look. 3

Sam: I liked Chimes when I first heard it but to be honest it hasn’t really stuck with me. This one’s totally different- less bass, less anarchy and more atmospheric tinkles. It really doesn’t go anywhere rather sounding like a pleasant interlude. That said it’s a pretty stunning piece of synth work. 3

Ryan Hemsworth- Snow in Newark

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/ryanhemsworth/snow[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: “You are a million miles away.” This is a real departure from what I am used to hearing from the Canadian, which takes you to a pensive place far far away. The song is stripped-back, and delicate and the vocals by Dawn Golden really seals the deal for me. But why am surprised? Hemsworth always delivers! 4

Bianca: Snow in Newark transports me right to a bus window, pensively watching the snow falling gently on the ground after packing my bags and leaving my old life behind. A classic sadboy tune with a touch of emo, without all the pimples and angsty screaming. 3.5 

Sam: The same week Hemsworth drops a perky collection of bubblegum electronic he drops the moody first single from his next album. It couldn’t be more of a juxtaposition, but I’ve always admired Hemsworth’s ability to traverse genres. One of my favourite songs of last year was his track One For Me with Tinashe and this is in the same vein. He doesn’t overdo it, rather subtly laying down twinkles and organic percussion. Dawn Golden is the perfect addition for a track that proves less is more. So restrained and so brilliant. 4

18+- All The Time

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/houndstoothlbl/18-all-the-time[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: Her “talking” singing voice is utterly obnoxious but if it wasn’t for the chorus you would have lost me halfway through this track. The production is actually quite beautiful, but I just cannot get her out of my head, and not in a good way! 2

Bianca: The combination of her drawly talking voice in the verses and slightly creepy, floaty vocals in the chorus manages to make me a little bit unsettled. Both ominous and alluring at the same time, I’m kind of getting horror movie vibes from this. In saying that, it’s a nicely made track with the twinkling synths and steady RnB beat managing to pull everything together quite nicely.

Sam: The production on this is seamless- a wave of floating synths and metallic beats but the chorus lets it down. I actually like the talking verses. They’re seductive and interesting but the chorus is just a bit of a wet blanket. There’s not really any dynamic to it. Maybe It’ll grow with me in time and I hope it does because I think this duo has great promise. 3

Kendrick Lamar- I

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/topdawgent/i-1[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: This song is the healthy injection of narcissism we all need in our day! Kendrick has produced a jazzed up Santana vibe, which gives you the same uplifting vibes as Pharrell’s Happy – but way cooler. 4.5 Lizzie’s Pick

Bianca: Kendrick loves himself, and rightly so. His rapid fire roll of the tongue is hella admirable, while the megaphone vocal samples are a gritty juxtaposition to the almost too positive nature of the track. The grooving bass finale makes for a perfect ending. Hot tip: Don’t listen to while driving if you’re easily susceptible to believing that car beeping samples are happening in real life.

Sam: I can’t imagine any artist that is under more pressure for his next release to be brilliant than Kenrick Lamar. The most brilliant thing about i is that it shows no sign of desperation for another hit. The breezy, Isley Brothers sample is refreshingly self-assured and Kendrick sounds completely relaxed. While the rest of the world is dabbling in crisp, streamlined RnB, Kendrick goes for a completely different throwback vibe. It may just be the best hip-hop track of the year. 4.5

Azealia Banks- Chasing Time

[soundcloud width=”750″ heigh=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/yung-rapunxel/chasing-time[/soundcloud]

Lizzie: Just as I thought she was going to 212 herself out of the music industry, this song is undeniably brilliant. Yes, I know it’s Azealia singing, but she has done such a 180 degree turnaround that I could barely believe it was her. A soft, yet poppy tone is the perfect comeback, and it’s (for once) not in your face and annoying. Welcome back Miss Banks! 4.5

Bianca: This is such a fun comeback for Azealia. It’s a refreshing change of pace, with her more melodic mode of vocal transport and the Disclosure-esque syncopation bopping the track along nicely. I do, however, find the change of pace between verses, choruses & bridge slightly off-putting and unnecessary. It feels like she puts on the breaks right before launching into a too-short chorus. Despite this, she’s certainly got my attention, and all without using the ‘c’ word! 4 Bianca’s Pick  

Sam: Is it slightly ridiculous that Azealia Banks is making a comeback this early in her career. Her whole path since 212 has been pretty disastrous and has put her in this position where she pretty much has to start from the bottom. Luckily, this has completely restored my faith in Banks. It’s not a 212 copy- it’s a perfect pop tune that effortlessly blends together her New York raps and cool-as vocals. It may be a tune about someone wasting her time but for the first time she actually sounds at ease. I guess this means I’m back on the Azealia Banks train, let’s just hope for no more trackwork. 4.5 Sam’s Pick