First Impressions: Lana Del Rey, FKA twigs, JOY. + More

Written By the interns on 08/11/2015


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 Lana Del Rey, James Vincent McMorrow, FKA twigs, JOY., Jamie Woon and Koreless

Lana Del Rey
High By The Beach

Ben Kyi: The most redeeming quality of what would be an otherwise pedestrian offering, are the bridge and verses of High By The Beach. The music and vocal delivery are at their best in these sections. However, this is undone due to the repetitive nature of the chorus, and somewhat shallow and contrived lyrics throughout. I have never understood the appeal of Lana Del Rey and to this day, I still don’t. 2

Alistair Rhodes: To me Lana Del Rey has completely flopped on this track. The chorus is repetitive and boring and with the words "All I wanna do is get high by the beach" appearing three times in one chorus in which there are 2 chorus' to this song, as soon as the second chorus starts I was ready to turn off my speakers. Lana has a strong voice but during verse one and two and the bridge it is very weak and lacking that oomph that this song desperately needs. High By The Beach is the single off her fourth studio album, I only hope the rest of the album is a lot better. 2

Sam Murphy: After hearing Honeymoon I was not expecting LDR to go back to the pop/hip-hop stylings of Born To Die but nothing she does is really ever predictable. If you’re not already a Lana fan then this is a terrible entry-point - it’s annoying and a little grating but I am a fan and I think this is quite frankly f***king brilliant. She doesn’t even sound like she’s lifting a finger, vocally, but she manages to sound like a total badass - “the truth is I never bought into your bullshit.” The chorus is also a total jam with its woozy synths and nursery rhyme melody.

Here’s the thing about Lana Del Rey. Everybody made such a point of pointing out that she was fake after Video Games. And then she released Ultraviolence and proved she could release a great album. And now she can pretty much do what she likes because she’s got her fanbase. This will easily be her biggest hit and even though I still can’t quite figure her out, she’s utterly compelling. 4.5 Sam's Pick

James Vincent McMorrow
How To Waste A Moment

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Ben: Far from being a banger, How To Waste A Moment is one of James Vincent McMorrow’s more upbeat tracks. It also feels a bit more subtle than some of his past material, as the music isn’t entirely showing the emotional heft that McMorrow is often known for. Though, the lyrics are heavy and lush in content and detail as the title suggests, wasted moments. This great contrast aside, How To Waste A Moment is a good track, but doesn’t fully showcase McMorrow’s musical prowess or swoon inducing vocals that we all know he is capable of. 3

Alistair: On first listening to How To Waste A Moment I wasn't all that sure if I liked it or not. So I went back and listened to his previous songs such as We Don't Eat, Cavalier, Look Out and Higher Love in order to refamiliarize myself with James Vincent McMorrow's work. Just like all of those songs James is taking you on a journey and telling you a story that relates to certain aspects of not only his life but the listener's life as well. This is by far his most buoyant song to date. The more I listen to it the more and more I like it. 3

Sam: If anything, it’s really nice to hear James Vincent McMorrow expand his sound and put out something a little more immediate than Cavalier. This sounds optimistic, up-beat and perky which is a mode we haven’t heard from him yet. I can’t say it’s as intriguing as the last album but it’s a pleasant little track and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. 3.5

About Us

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Ben: Olivia McCarthy’s latest offering About Us is a pleasant low key jam of the electronic variety. The airy delivery of the vocals sit nicely in the scheme of things, while programmed beats, flourishes of keys and a few bars of great guitar work easily get the tick of approval. McCarthy is currently on the rise and her creative output far surpasses her 17 years. Definitely one to watch in the near future. 3.5

Alistair: Wow is my first impression of Olivia McCarthy’s latest tune and boy is it a TUNE! Her latest single About Us ticks all the right boxes. Her whispering vocals, the small amount of guitar meshed in with the electronically produced beat is outstanding. The only downfall to this song is that it seems to end quite abruptly. To think that this Brisbane producer/singer songwriter is only 17 years old and is about to drop her own self produced EP Ode later this month is unbelievable. Keep an eye out for this rising star. 4.5 Alistair's pick

Sam: JOY. set such a high standard from the first tracks he released but she just continues to get better and a lot of that is that she’s really elongating her voice and tapping into its smokey textures. About Us is her best track to date, I think. It’s so subtle and downplayed but it still manages to be captivating. Usually those gentle guitar strums would make something sound sleepy but here they’re atmospheric and warm. And I haven’t even spoken about the lyrics yet - they’re deep, heartfelt and honest. It’s hard to tick all those boxes and sound eloquent too but she manages. 4

FKA twigs
Figure 8

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Ben: Figure 8 is the second taster from forthcoming EP Melissa, and it boldly reaffirms why FKA Twigs is such a driving force in the wide field of electronica. The track’s production is off the charts, with so many dark, weird and wonderful nuances creeping into the mix. Twigs’ vocals are an absolute treat to process and display her trademark R&B sensibilities delivered with an experimental tilt. Figure 8 is an unpredictable and exciting new track from an artist that is at present, going from strength to strength. 4.5 Ben’s Pick

Alistair: Upon listening to Figure 8 it wasn't at all what I expected to be hearing. I love the darkness and left field vibe I get from this song. The second single to come out of the FKA twigs camp which will feature on her latest EP Melissa truly cements herself as a pioneer within the indietronica scene. This dark and beautiful song really showcases FKA's immense production talents. There is so much happening in this song and it all just works and flows into each other ever so well. Her vocals are absolutely sublime. Three years in the industry and it doesn't seem like FKA twigs can do any wrong. 4.5

Sam: I’m of the opinion that twigs is one of the best musicians of our generation so it’s pretty hard to give her a well-rounded critique. What I love about her is that she’s so focussed on every facet of her craft and that includes talking about her music. The interview with Zane Lowe below is so well-expressed and honest - it doesn’t feel like there’s a detachment at all between the artist speaking and singing.

Figure 8 was phenomenal when I heard it live and she effortlessly carries that energy across to the studio recording. One of her greatest production techniques is the way she plays with balance. It constantly feels like the weight of the beat is shifting - it’s very off-putting but also gives the track an intriguing sense of movement. Brilliant. Again. 4.5

Jamie Woon

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Ben: Four years since Woon’s debut Mirrorwriting dropped and we finally have some new material from the Brit. Sharpness moves along at a nice pace and makes great use of clean beats, a catchy bass line, and Woon’s smooth and soft vocals. This track is the epitome of low key R&B. It doesn’t break a whole lot of boundaries, but it is still a pleasure to listen to. 3

Alistair: The song's title Sharpness really sums up this song. It is sharp and tightly produced. Woon's beautiful voice coincides  with a very catchy beat really gets your head bobbing. It's the type of song you'd listen to whilst chilling around a fire with your mates and having a bit of a sing along to. You can really get lost in this song. 3.5

Sam: It’s quality not quantity for Jamie Woon and that’s a very rare thing. He’s really shaken off all the pressure around releasing a sophomore record and taken his time. It’s a good move because Sharpness is great. It’s really subtly funky and never shoves itself in your face. He just sits back in the beat and let’s his vocals flow effortlessly. He feels like a real, old-school soul singer and that’s really cool to hear in 2015. 4


Ben: Plenty of deep bass, interesting voice samples and a great build over the first half of electronic producer Koreless’ new cut TT isn’t enough to save it from a slightly underwhelming finish. Unfortunately, the aforementioned build doesn’t amount to much at all. The samples begin to grate after a while and TT ends up teetering away and eventually stagnating over the last minute and a half.  2.5

Alistair: Koreless has released this latest record TT via Young Turks, now Young Turks very rarely seems to disappoint but with this record I'm left wondering. I'm getting a progressive electronica vibe from TT and I had high hopes for this track but it just seemed to let me down. The constant building up for nothing left me forever waiting for something to happen. The track should have finished at the 4:45 minute mark as the last 45 seconds is an absolute waste of time that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. 1.5

Sam: Everything Young Turks touch turns to gold so the fact that they’ve release this already has me sold really. Putting that bias aside though it’s actually one of the stronger electronic tracks I’ve heard this year. That vocal sample is really frantic and off-putting yet you never feel as if it’s all too much. The synth that kicks in gradually settles everything and turns into something quite relaxing in the end. Koreless is an absolute master at beat-less music - he builds and builds and builds until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat. 4

Now time for your vote:
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