First Impressions: Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + More

Written By the interns on 03/23/2015

FI_23March

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. This week we pick apart tracks by Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + more. 

Earl Sweatshirt
Grief

Zanda: A bit less melodic than a lot of Sweatshirt’s other stuff, but the droning style of synth that accompanies his smooth rapping is captivating enough for the most part. If I’m being completely honest my favourite part is the conclusion of the track. Not only does it provide some needed sectional variation, but the symbol-dominated drumming and various drum-licks reference a gorgeous style of lounge jazz. 3.5

Sam: Just when poor Earl couldn’t be any more disillusioned with the world his record company go and fuck up his album release. This is some of the darkest hip-hop we are bound to hear this year. It circles around your head with minimal beats and washy undertones which ultimately blend in with his deep, affecting rap. I’m not sure I’m interested in this as much as I am intrigued by it. The video is dark as hell and it’s pretty distressing to watch. This is probably the tightest we’ve ever heard Sweatshirt rap but it’s going to take play after play to make this devilish tune completely sink in. 4

Meshell: Ah, the first taste of new Earl. After the success that was Doris the bar has been set incredibly high for the young rapper. Grief takes the angst felt throughout his debut and twists it up tighter and tighter into psychosis. The low-fi production and undulating synth are the perfect backdrop for Earl’s smooth, lagging rap style. As he tells us all how much he hates going outside, I’ve decided that although the track is angry… it’s not aggressive and by the time we hit the sweet little outro I absolutely love it. 4

Bianca: I'm all about dat outro; a dramatic turnaround from the deep, dark depths of Sweatshirt's thoughts, giving us a chance to reflect on the outpouring of grief in the form of his threadbare rapping style. Hot tip for iPhone users: Invert the colours to the clip via Settings > General > Accessibility > Invert Colors for an even trippier viewing experience. 3.5 

M.O.
Preach

Zanda: Undeniably catchy, and really just a fun tune to jam out to. The chorus is definitely on point, but I’m a little disappointed with how same-same the chorus is compared with the bridge and the verse. A fun track nonetheless. 3

Sam: I think we can agree that we’re due for another naturally cool girl group and I’ve been saying for a long time that these girls are the group to do it. This is a breezy, effortless RnB anthem that showcases the group’s biggest strength - their harmonies. I’m really not sure why the UK charts haven’t given M.O. any love yet, but hopefully this will be the tune to change their luck. They’re so tight. 3.5

Meshell:I feel it’s my responsibility as a reviewer to be completely honest with you dear reader. What we’re hearing with this latest offering from M.O is a poor woman’s Destiny’s Child ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s totally fine, but therein lies my problem…fine is the only word I can muster for this track. Its kind of catchy but not enough that I’m going to be singing it whilst making my lunch. The classic pop stylings of it make me feel like it was just written with the intent of cracking the charts and music for the sake of a rating lacks sincerity. I don’t know the origins of M.O but to fresh eyes they look like the major label machine is now manufacturing hip-stars instead of pop-stars. These girls look fresh as f**k and I think that might be the only thing I really like about them. Brilliant marketing…average music. 2.5

Bianca: It’s funky, it’s kinda catchy and good on them for championing the return of girl groups with matching outfits and dance moves...though I really can’t shake the feeling that I’m listening to a Jessica Mauboy song that I’ve already heard 1,500 times. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not my thing. 2.5  

Years & Years
Worship

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/yearsandyears/worship[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Years and Years seem to have just about perfected a crossover between boy-band and stand-alone electro production. Proved by the fact that the track would work perfectly well as an instrumental, but at the same time the vocals compliment the track rather than detract from the excellent production. This is the sort of track that gets stuck in your head, especially that chorus. 4

Sam: So these guys aren’t a hype act anymore, it’s already confirmed that they’re huge (a number one single will do that to you). Worship doesn’t have the same immediacy as King but it’s a crisp, funk tune nonetheless. It’s nice to hear this mid-tempo verse flourish into an almost gospel chorus. Like any good pop tune, its chorus is its heart and soul built around layered vocals and well-placed words (any religious word in pop always goes down well). Olly’s voice is just so impossible not to be wooed by. 4

Meshell: God dammit, I listen to Years & Years every day at the moment and I cannot get over how wonderfully unique this dude’s voice is. Having an excellent range is one thing, but having a voice that is so incomparable is just next level awesome. Excellent instrumentation again from these boys, sometimes I get too excited by their singer but of course credit needs to be given where credit is due, the whole band pulls their weight when it comes to excellent songwriting and musicianship. Worship  might not take out a number one spot like King did, it has however given their loyal fan base (points at self) a little sneak peak at how epic their album is going to be. 4.5 Meshell’s Pick

Bianca: How have these guys not completely blown up on Australian airwaves yet? Their sound is so refreshing and immediately affecting with each of their tracks hooking me in  at first listen. Worship, with its lush, tropical-inspired synths and just enough pop, is no exception. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the album. 4 Bianca's Pick

Swick
Crystal Palace

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/swickswick/swick-crystal-palace[/soundcloud]

Tropical vibes for days. Swick has delivered a polished, up-beat, catchy tune here that will have you wishing it was still summer. The echoey, steel-drum sound melodic lines give off the aforementioned tropical feels, and I would describe a lot of the production as almost Kilter-esque. That is, if you like Kilter, you’ll love this. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick 

Sam: The thing I really like about Swick is that he’s operating in that kitsch, PC Music-esque world but there’s more weight to it. That thumping bassline really drives it home and sets it apart from some of the lighter rave-tunes that are floating around. That build-up in the middle is one of the more exciting things I’ve heard in electronic music this year and as far as synth-lines go it’s one of Swick’s more approachable ones. At the moment the Nice Age label is really being defined by hearty bass and it’s something that defines being in a club after midnight. Really exciting stuff once again from Swick. 4 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: While I can imagine myself loving this in the middle of a DJ set, it’s not doing anything for me at the moment. It’s punchy and up-beat and all a bit fun but it’s nothing new. With so much stupidly impressive electronic music being made in Australia alone, you really have to pull some magic out of your arse to get noticed around here. Swick has put together a track that will surely get your head bopping but you won’t be sharing it on your wall with all your mates saying, “TUUUUUUNE”. 2.5

Bianca: Crystal Palace isn't super multi-instrumental or three-dimensional but, like PC Music, that's not its point. What it does do for me in terms of dimensions is take me to another one: right now I'm riding along the rainbow road and there are no banana peels or red shells on the horizon. It's smooth sailing alllll the way while I leave all the other players in my dust. Suck it, Princess Peach. 

Of Monsters And Men
Crystals

Zanda: Of Monsters and Men seem to just constantly deliver captivating, emotion-filled music. It’s the simple things that are always done so well, with the use of guitars and other melodic instruments never encroaching on the amazing use of texture and aural space that creates so much room for variation and interest. The vocals are always given so much space, and are so powerful that they could stand alone, but are complimented by a complex yet minimal use of drums and other instruments throughout the track. 4.5 

Sam: This is sure to delight many but it makes me feel slightly ill. That whole epic, inoffensive pop-rock genre helmed by Coldplay is driven by its desire to be as beige as possible and in that sense this song succeeds. There’s plenty of metaphors in this but none that really show any sense of genuity. The voices are actually quite affecting and I feel like if they weren’t trying so hard to craft a song that will light up a stadium with smartphones it would hit at the heart a little better than it does. 2

Meshell: I actually really like the drums in this song. I’m kind of not listening to anything else first time round and now that I’m on second listen I’m going to try and pay a little more attention. Vocally this song is nowhere near as annoying as Little Talks so that’s a step in the right direction. Subtle horns are a nice added touch too. My imaginary hat (I look terrible in real ones) goes off for great mixing of this song, does it reach me on an emotional level? No, it’s not actually that good, but I guess there’s plenty to appreciate. 3

Bianca: Ughhhhh. Not even the elimination of the banjos made this palatable. I also take away half a point for Youtube's autoplay feature leading to Little Talks. 

Nero

The Thrill

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/nero/the-thrill-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Nero. Appropriately placed vocals accompanying bass-heavy production and dark riffs, with sections of build up that will satisfy most fans of the genre. Nothing special, but a well-produced track nonetheless. 3

Sam: To me this is an Imagine Dragons song disguised as an electronic track. Ok, that may be a little bit far, this is much better than Imagine Dragons but it does have a soft-rock heart. I just find this quite confusing. It’s like a slowed-down hardstyle track that you can neither dance nor head-thrash to. When the instrumental drops out and you just hear the vocals it’s easy to enjoy but apart from that it’s just a bit assaulting. They’re better off when they’ve ramped the tempo up and are going OTT. Promises still remains their greatest triumph. 2.5

Meshell: This is all very loud, genre-confusing and wildly disappointing. I’m talking super basic lyrical content, loud overdone synth and drops that I cannot figure out if they’re meant shove the song into the EDM pile or the shit stadium-rock pile. I felt really uncomfortable playing such a terrible song out loud…what happened to the Nero who won a grammy? 1

Bianca:  The ear-thrashing that follows the drop was definitely not worth the headache. 1.5 

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam

Managing Director: Bianca

Contributor: Zanda

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