First Impressions: Beach House, Crystal Castles, Santigold And More

Written By the interns on 07/08/2015


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 Beach House, Crystal Castles, Santigold And More.

Little Boots
Get Things Done

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Zanda: Pop music with some real substance behind it, that’s how I’d describe this track. There’s a nice balance between instruments and relatively natural sounding percussion, and synthetic elements. The use of harmony in the multi-layering of vocal tracks by Little Boots is also apt and gives the track a bit more authority and depth. 3.5

Meshell: Little Boots has yet to do something that really wows me. Every time she is SO CLOSE but it never really resonates. The bass in this song is absolutely catchy and may be stuck in my head all day. Her vocal delivery is all at once sweet and sassy and just a tad reminiscent of a Robyn track but I’m afraid it doesn’t quite have the star power I expect. Overall sound production is great too…I guess there’s no name for what’s missing but there is some sort of secret ingredient that has been left out. 3

Sam: I have a special place in my ears for Little Boots so excuse me while I be unashamedly bias. She’s always struggled to find the line between weird techno and outright pop, but the last few tracks from her feel like she’s really nailed the balance. Get Things Done is a ‘we can do it type’ anthem that somehow also plants itslef in the club. That may sound like it’s Whitney Houston’s Every Woman but it’s far more subtle than that and doesn’t induce a sugar comedown. Pure class.

READ Album Of The Week: Little Boots - Working Girl 

Beach House

Zanda: It’s not even a dominant aspect of the track but all I can hear is that Casio Keyboard drum pack in the background. In any other situation I’d immediately switch off, but somehow it works for this tune, sitting subtly underneath some smooth vocals and elegantly layered synths. Not a whole lot of development in the track, but well put together regardless. 3.5 

Meshell: Sparks is immediately captivating. The contrast between the sparsity of the opening synth and that distorted guitar in theory shouldn’t work and yet it may be the defining factor of the track. Rhythm is kind of lacking but I think that the downplay of that element just lends to the overall whimsical feel of the piece. Vocal delivery is faultless and all of the beautiful scratchy and warm synths have completely won me over. 4.5 Meshell’s Pick

Sam: I love that a band that has just continued to head further and further towards a crisper, wider-reaching sound has decided that it’s not really what they like and headed back to what they love. What they love are reverb soaked guitars, programmed drums and washy-vocals. Unlike so many lo-fi artists though Beach House have an effortless feel for twilight melodies and it’s that aspect that makes Sparks a warm hug rather than a detached and insular tune. As it should, Sparks sparkles - yet another masterpiece from a duo that have slowly crept up on anyone to become one of the greatest alternative bands of this generation. 4.5 Sam's Pick 

These Days 

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Zanda: Super chiller vibes from Samuel on this one, with some tropical sounds and melodic aspects shining through in a great accompanying track. I’m a little unsure about the manipulation on Samuel’s voice itself though. It seems a little random, some vocals are delayed, others aren’t manipulated at all, and the EQ’ing of the dynamics of his voice seems to have no real consistency. It almost sounds like a draft version and not a final version of EQ’ing on the track, which is unfortunate because his voice is undeniably fantastic. 3

Meshell: Definitely feeling the tropical vibe which is a welcome change from the arctic air we’re all currently experiencing. Very clever and unusual percussive choices, the production remains interesting throughout. Samuel’s vocal is as warm as butter and lends to the overall summer vibes that the track is emanating however it’s sticking out of the mix more than I would expect for this genre…feels like it’s had more of a pop treatment during the mix and I think with some tweaking to that there would be some real magic here. 3

Sam: Tropical feels crossed with RnB vocals should make me feel a bit ill after all the crap that has come from that combination over the past year or so but this is so much better. These Days is just so easy on the ears yet Samuel’s vocals have enough grit and personality to remain interesting. It sounds as if the cracks are starting to show in paradise and funnily enough it’s pretty damn rewarding. 4

Crystal Castles

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Zanda: What is Ethan Kath truly capable of as an artist? This is the sort of question that I feel may truly be realised now that he and Alice Glass are no longer fighting for creative control of Crystal Castles. Although this track and Frail definitely put the new female vocalist in a slightly reduced role in comparison to how prominent Glass’s vocals were on much of CC’s first three albums, it really allows Kath to explore more sides of his own production. Ironically this track also reminds me of some very early CC, whether that’s an indication that Kath was really the creative mind behind the group from the beginning or not is something we will find out as they release more and more new music. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick 

Meshell: The first 30 seconds of this track had my eyes watering in glee at the Ethereal approach Kath was taking. Sadly the beat and introduction of vocals by (not Alice) Edith actually left me wanting. The track itself is strong, there is phenomenal and somewhat classic CC production which I cannot help but love but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t missing Alice in this track. At 2:32 we’re introduced to some glitchier and forward hitting percussion that are definitely a saving grace at this point as Kath kind of needs to steer the focus as far away from the lack of Alice as possible. While tiny, she really has left big shoes to fill. 3.5

Sam: Mindless electronica that sounds like it’s been recorded inside a PVC pipe. I’ve never really been a Crystal Castles enthusiast but I always appreciated the way that Alice Glass punched a fist of personality through every song. You could feel her intensity and energy every time and that’s completely lost here. 1


Zanda: It’s awesome to hear some new Santigold, it feels like it’s been forever. Her vocals are on point as ever, unique and rhythmic with plenty of gusto. I’m not blown away by the production on this track though. I kind of get what she’s trying to do with the echoey percussive elements but it just seems like its lacking the intangibles that made tracks like Creator and L.E.S Artistes on her debut album so incredible. 3.5

Meshell: I absolutely love the crunchy rhythm in this. The vocals are sharp at her punch is as strong as ever, by the time you reach the chorus you’re fairly aware that you’re listening to the Santigold equivalent of a banger. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion this is going to be sneaking into plenty of festival sets in one form or another. Santigold brings in a new point of tension around the 2 minute mark and cleverly re-engages the listener for the outro. This is some damn well thought out arrangement and it gets my nod of approval. 4

Totally with Zanda. I think this song has a lot of positives - it’s bouncing, melodic and bursting with indie qualities that would have made triple j listeners go gaga in 2008. The problem is L.E.S Artistes, in particular, sounded like Santigold was bleeding glitter. It was unique but it also managed to hit at the heartstrings. I could hear this on the radio (no pun intended), listen and then forget it immediately. 3

Demi Lovato
Cool For The Summer

Zanda: Yep, it would appear that Demi Lovato is indeed still going around. The grungy backing track in this one actually really pisses me off. It doesn’t really suit Lovato’s style of vocals in any way at all. I also literally laughed out loud when I heard that whisper of ‘shush, don’t tell your mother’. Don’t worry Demi, I have no intention of bothering my mum with this latest effort of yours. 1.5

Meshell: “Got my mind on your body and your body on my mind”…Okay look, whoever wrote this needs a slap on the cheek and a stern warning to LEAVE IT ALONE. Positives? Well...Loving the sound design of the bass and the guitar…Do I think it belongs behind a corny melody like this? No. I do not. Don’t get me wrong…I love pop, but I like my pop to be well written and clever pop. This is neither. Not wanting to finish on a sour note however it’s worth mentioning that Demi has a big busty range that is obviously impressive so maybe she should be focusing more on showcasing that rather than releasing absolute dribble. 2

Sam: My goodness I’m glad it’s winter here and we won’t have to endure this. It actually sounds like someone made a plastic Katy Perry doll and then programmed it to sing. Unsurprisingly the results aren’t great. Things get particularly bad when the abrasive beat kicks in during the chorus. To be fair the verses are pleasant but not pleasant enough to outweigh the rest of this shit storm. I will admit one thing - If I was selling air conditioners I’d be getting this on my ads stat.  2

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