First 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. Today we pick apart tracks by Hot Chip, Florence + The Machine, Kendrick Lamar + more.
We've decided to take the chance in today's First Impressions to test whether a picture really does speak a thousand words. One reviewer is doing so through text while the other has chosen images to try and best represent the songs. Can things really be reviewed with zero words? Allow six .gifs below to answer that.
Hot Chip- Huarache Lights
Sam: I definitely was hoping that Hot Chip would go in the same sort of direction as Flutes on their next album and it seems like they are. As good as they are at pop songs, sometimes I prefer when they head straight for the dancefloor and ditch the vocal hooks. Huarache Lights sits in between those two. It still has the more organic sounding instrumentation but then sometimes like the sassy vocal sample pulls it right towards the dancefloor.
The tempo and the backbeat of the track is so mundane yet their subtle layering somehow keeps you hooked for the whole five minutes plus. At times I wish that they’d ditch the vocal and just keep with the vocal manipulation for something entirely different but that would probably ostracise a whole audience, so best they keep with what they’re known for. I feel like the bizarre, woozy soundscape of the track gives them so much room to do something a little more spectacular with the vocal though. It’s a great track but Hot Chip do great so effortlessly and maybe that’s the problem. 3.5
Dan Deacon- Learning To Relax
Sam: I’ve always really struggled to commit myself to Dan Deacon because in 2009 he released like three records and that’s a lot to handle. It’s kind of like never hearing The Smiths or Morrissey and then deciding you’re going to go through his whole back-catalogue with no knowledge of who is and then just deciding that it probably is more work than you’re prepared for.
Anyway that was obviously pure laziness because Learning To Relax is great. I’m always intrigued when elements of electronica combine with prog-rock. MGMT did it to a poppier spectrum with their debut and even Tame Impala did it to some extent on Londerism. Even though I can’t understand one word Deacon says, I’m thoroughly intrigued for the whole thing. That schizophrenic synth is anxious and at the same time mesmerizing while the vocal manipulation washes over you in a psychedelic haze. Maybe this is what I wanted from the Hot Chip song? Is it a coincidence that YouTube is recommending I listen to Ready For The Floor? Anyway, the final minute of this song is a hot mess and it’s utterly exhilarating. 4
Florence + The Machine- What Kind Of Man
Sam: The first time I listened to Florence’s second record Ceremonials I was impressed. It was grandiose and sophisticated and all the while had this reckless ambition but as I kept listening it revealed itself to be over-produced and too big. I had no thoughts on how she was going to tackle this third album but I’m really happy with the direction of What Kind Of Man. We haven’t heard her this aggressive since Girl With One Eye from her debut Lungs but we’ve never even heard her like this before.
The gentle beginning is beautiful but it’s the way she sings when the brass howls and the drums thrash that’s really impressive. Her accent is like nothing we’ve ever heard before, like an angsty PJ Harvey tightening the jaw. She’s lost the crystalline image of Ceremonials and roughed up to a part-primal state. She could’ve easily called up Calvin Harris and sold millions of copies but the fact she’s leading with this single shows she cares way more about her legacy than the amount of times she’s shazamed. I think this year she’ll make her upgrade to festival headliner and that will be an important talking point this year. Florence is a woman with the personality and ambition to tear up the main stage of any festival far better than a weary AC/DC or U2 can. 4
Kendrick Lamar- The Blacker The Berry
Sam: It’s obvious from the first few seconds of this song that it’s way better than i. Kendrick’s last album was so successful because it was so raw and passionate and had something to say. i felt a bit Lamar-lite which wasn’t the comeback track he needed (or maybe he did. He won two Grammys), this is the track he needed. He sounds angry and it actually feels like he has something to say. “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”, is a pretty powerful line to open with particular when it’s over a dark, raw instrumental that sounds like something Nas would’ve happily put on Illmatic.
The reggae samples are just as affective as they were on Kanye West’s I’m In It, giving some kind of melody to grab on to in an otherwise pretty instrumentally linear track. I wish I could give some greater insights into his comments on race in this but I really don’t feel I could do it any justice. His line are so pertinent and powerful that they need no elaboration. “I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society/ That’s what you’re telling me, penitentiary would only hire me.” That’s some powerful stuff right there. Potently powerful. 4.5 Sam's Pick Of The Week
Bianca: 4.5 Bianca's Pick Of The Week
Jesse Davidson- Laika
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jesse-davidson-9/laika[/soundcloud]
Sam: On the surface this is such a simple song but there are so many different amalgamations of genres in it. On first listen I got a strong Chet Faker vibe but there’s so much more to it than simply labeling it with a lazy comparison like that. Davidson’s voice sounds like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard if he spent his early years listening to R&B/soul and the instrumental oscillates between crisp electronica and expansive psychedelia with the chorus taking a turn towards Tame Impala.
What I’ve described it above makes it sound like a truncated, mess of a song but it isn’t. It’s actually quite a simple melody lifted by a melting pot of different genres that effortlessly blend into one another. Laika is definitely the strongest track from Davidson yet and the clubs are going to go crazy for this one. I’m actually keen to hear him on something even more expansive, borrowing more of those elements that he uses in the chorus of this. That’s when he sounds truly unique. 3.5
Sam: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is wayyyy polished for a mixtape. Energy is definitely the best track on the record and that’s because Drake just digs in and goes hard for three minutes. There’s no singing, there’s no pop hooks, there’s no features, it’s just him being wonderfully arrogant.
It’s such an interesting track because it essentially digs at the internet (“Fuck going online, that ain’t part of my day”) and the culture surrounding it yet his mixtape drop basically centred around the hysteria of the internet. Drake has kind of always been a walking contradiction and for some reason that works for him. Energy is really paranoid and that’s what makes it fascinating. It feels like he’s sleeping with one eye open even though he’s not quite sure who his enemies are. Sometimes we just need to stop making sense of Drake. That and his memes take up way too much of my brain capacity. 4