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First Impressions: Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer + More

Written By the interns on 04/21/2015

firstimpressions_21April

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 Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer, BenZel + more.

Giorgio Moroder/Sia
Deja Vu

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/giorgiomoroder/giorgio-moroder-deja-vu-ft-sia[/soundcloud]

Sam: It really is hard to dislike this song. It’s probably the most out-and-out disco track to come out since Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers decided it was time disco was resurrected. Sia’s voice soars and really makes the track but I can’t help but feel that it sounds like a bit of an ABBA b-side. That orchestral melody is super daggy and the chorus really falls flat after a huge bridge. It is what it is I suppose. 2.5

Meshell: I saw Giorgio last year in a small Q&A he held as a part of Vivid Live, where he proceeded to win over the audience with his charm and brilliance. So please forgive my bias in advance…This song is would have gotten my tick of approval even without Sia, but with her- it goes from fun disco track to melodic wonderland. There’s a bit of a Never Ending Story vibe hiding in there behind the Nile Rogers-esque guitar and topped off with a sprinkling of Sia’s own brand of cool. 3

Bianca: This is all a bit of fun, isn’t it? It seems like something found on a wedding DJ’s playlist, somewhere in between the bouquet toss and the Chicken Dance. Which, after a substantial amount of glasses of free champagne, can make you perform a certain type of dancing you’d prefer to not remember the following day. 2.5

FOXTROTT
Driven

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/foxtrottfoxtrott/driven[/soundcloud]

 Sam: I actually stumbled upon this last week and was immediately drawn to it. It’s very rare that you hear a new artist for the first time and want to know who they are and if there’s more. The instrumental of this is so strong that it could’ve worked as a track on its own but the vocal also elevates it to another level. FOXTROTT is clearly quite a dark, brooding character but there’s an airiness to this (in the synths) that makes it much easier to listen to than your usual indie-artist-does-dark-thing. Throughout she builds on a simple drum loop, expanding it in the centre for an early climax. It’s well-thought out, smoothly-produced stuff. 4

 Meshell: I’ve never heard of FOXTROTT before and all I can think is, what a great drum line. The synths are a little pre-programmed for my liking but it’s easy enough to just focus on her smooth vocals and the underlying pulse. The song starts incredibly strong but I must admit it does die off a little towards the end. My overall thought is that FOXTROTT is on the cusp of great things. I’d be interested to hear what comes next. 3

Bianca: The moment the tribal-esque drums made an appearance, I was in. The sugar-sweet synths and strong vocals made Driven a strong contender in the Soundcloud-scape. By the time halfway arrived, however, I found myself becoming a bit bored. I was looking for an introduction of a bit more bass or instrumental work but, no dice. And just like when a relationship turns sour, the things I liked in the beginning started to turn into the things that annoyed me the most (that sounded much harsher than intended). 3

Hudson Mohawke
Ryderz

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

Sam: Very First Breath was good but this is just so much better. It moves right away from that heavy-bass, TNGHT aesthetic and sees HudMo take on something a little softer and more euphoric. The vintage vocal sample is a choice move but it’s the way that it expands into this crushing, percussion-driven climax that makes it so glorious. This is the kind of song he should end every set on for the rest of his life. It sounds like a victory lap. He knows that. We all know it. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: My co-worker just walked past and said, “Woah…can you send me this? This is fucking cool”. You’re right Joe, this IS fucking cool. I can’t even describe why I love this…I just do. I love everything about it. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Bianca: Flashback to Kanye West’s Graduation days. Vintage record-sounding tracks are a dime a dozen but Mohawke’s unique application gives a refreshing, grungy spin to what already sounds like a classic. All it needs is a bit of West to take these Ryderz into the sunset. 4 Bianca’s Pick 

Crystal Castles
Frail

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/crystal-castles/frail[/soundcloud]

Sam: For me Crystal Castles never managed to capture the energy they expelled on stage within a record – and even then the live show was all about Alice. This basically sounds like Ethan Kath is trying to make something beneath the rubble of Crystal Castle’s own collapse. I don’t know what to say about this really. I guess it’s sad that he’s been left to pick up the pieces but maybe it’s time to move on. 1.5

Meshell: I am just so happy to hear Crystal Castles are soldiering on after losing Alice Glass. I can’t imagine a live show without her though as Ethan Kath was always a little bit boring…Production wise however, he is killing it as usual. With this new offering he has just waltzed back into the dark electronica scene and shouted, “Listen up fives, a ten is speaking”.  4 

Bianca: If I wasn’t aware the Alice Glass had left Crystal Castles I would still be none the wiser after listening to this. This sounds like business as usual for CC…foreboding and glitchy, Frail cuts like Glass, despite the latter’s departure from the duo. I enjoy this track but perhaps Kath should’ve taken the opportunity to try something new and not try to resuscitate what he once had. 3

Major Lazer
Night Riders


Sam: I do genuinely like Diplo and what he’s trying to do and has done for dance music but I’ve never known a project to be more hit and miss than Major Lazer. Interestingly for a band that focusses mostly around bassy, brassy tunes, their finest moments have always been the more subtle ones (Get Free, Lean On). This is the first time I’ve heard Major Lazer take on a more traditional rap aesthetic and it really doesn’t feel like them. There’s a lot of Diplo in here but not a lot of Major Lazer. As a hip-hop track it’s good. The hook is strong but apart from that there’s really not a lot to get excited about here. 3

Meshell: Does Diplo sleep? Is he actually a robot? I’m trying to figure out how he is working on so much new music whilst touring AND keeping me occupied with selfies on instagram…What’s his secret?!In all seriousness though, this track is exactly my type of party jam. It’s got that dirty electronic sound going on, blended with Trap & Ragga and it’s all types of badass…I imagine Rihanna dropping low to this with a blunt in hand. 4.5

Bianca: As I’m sitting, staring outside at the most horrible, windy and rainy day, this song comes along and reminds me that it’s my least favourite day of the week (Tuesday) and that I’m not in the US anymore…which are depressing thoughts in their own rights. It’s a hot and heavy hip-hop track which, right now in my current state, is acting like a warm hug. The chorus is simplistic in melody but the medley of artists swapping lyrics on the verses give it some much-needed spice. 3.5

BenZel
Stuck On You ft. Tory Lanez

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/officialbenzel/stuck-on-you-ft-tory-lanez[/soundcloud]

Sam: This is super smooth. It’s probably the most successful thing BenZel have done since they produced Jessie Ware’s Tough Love. The vocals of Tory Lanez are perfectly complemented by this all-encompassing yet spacious backdrop that detours into trap-inspired territory. The rap shakes things up a bit too. 3.5

Meshell: It may be because I listened to this directly after the production genius of Major Lazer but I find the production and instrumentation to be a bit cheesy and lacking. The vocals however are absolutely stunning, what a beautiful honey-toned voice. Trap love songs are my new favourite type of love song so I’ll ignore the mix for now and say that this tune is worth a play…or five. 4 

Bianca: Stuck On You is a smooth as hell RnB track, modernised by elements of glitchy electronica and trap. BenZel and Tory manage to make this track smooth without being sleazy. 3.5 

Now time for your vote: 

Best First Impression of the Week?

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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