First Impressions: Kanye, James Blake, Dua Lipa And More

Written By the interns on 02/16/2016

FirstImpressions16FebFirst 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 Maribelle, Ribongia, James Blake, Dua Lipa, Vic Mensa and Kanye West.

Maribelle x Penthouse
About You

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Sean Singh: I’m so into everything about Maribelle. About You catches the 90s R&B aesthetic owned by the likes of Brandy and Mariah, and updates it with Penthouse Penthouse’s production assist. I won’t lie, I gave this more than a few spins on my lonely Solo-tine’s Day. 4

Meshell Webb: Maribelle is our homegrown answer to Jhené Aiko and if more people don’t get on the bandwagon after this track then imma throw a chair out the window. Playful production + 90’s R&B inspired vocals=favourite new shower karaoke song. Also get a load of those insanely high notes toward the end. That’s some Mariah Carey shit right there. 4

Sam Murphy: I can’t rave enough about Maribelle right now. Shout was a huge tune and while this slows things down a bit it’s no less impressive. She’s not someone who is just going with the R&B-electronica thing because it’s trendy right now, she understands runs and melodies better than most doing it right now and this is so smooth. Penthouse’s production is understated but textured and delicious. It’s exactly what the song needs. 4

My World (Feat. Hancoq)

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Sean: Where did Hancoq come from? I’m spewing I haven’t heard of him sooner. I always thought Ribongia was more about alt-bass vibes but this one’s both radio and club friendly. A match made in heaven, plus that Diwali sample… 3.5

Meshell: I’m feelin’ the jungle sounds on this. It’s a little trap, a little dancehall and a whole lot of fresh. I was a little worried the track was about to flat-line but the hook at 1:10 brought me right back in. I absolutely cannot fault the production job on this, all the unique little sound tidbits we’re getting keep it interesting all the way through, and the addition of Hancoq absolutely makes this track. Well done to both parties. 3.5

Sam: Often I can write about songs I’m really excited about when I first hear and then within 20 minutes I’ve forgotten about them. The first time I heard this last week I was excited and thankfully that excitement has only continued to grow. It’s just got so many delectable sounds from the Missy Elliot-esque hand claps to the jungle beats. Hancoq delivers one of the most charismatic hip-hop verse we’ve heard come out of this country for a little while too. It’s just a perfect pairing. 4.5

James Blake
Modern Soul

Sean: Yeah, I mean, it’s ok. Sounds like a John Legend b-side that someone remixed poorly. Maybe I just don’t get James Blake. 2

Meshell: *Insert Meshell crying tears of joy here*
Can I fault dear sweet perfect James Blake on anything? Ever? No…No I cannot. I want to ask this song to be my Valentine date and take it out to Icebergs to wine and dine it before getting down on one knee and proposing with the biggest most obnoxious engagement ring the Southern Hemisphere has ever seen. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Sam: I love James Blake and given this isn’t much of a departure from what we’ve heard from his in the past I’m a big fan. This is the perfect mixture of soul, weirdness and experimental electronica with Blake once again paying no attention to conventional melody. At the end I wanted him to pile on the bass a little bit more like on Voyeur or Digital Lion but that’s a small complaint. Oh and I’ve also got a gripe with calling it Modern Soul. Every English teacher I ever had told me “show don’t tell.” 3.5

Dua Lipa
Last Dance

Sean: Remember when Charli XCX first came out and branded herself as weird pop? Dua Lipa is doing the same thing but utterly forgettably. She’s still a spring chicken, but I just stopped listening and I’ve already forgotten how the song goes. 1.5

Meshell: To me this song sounds like the lovechild of Lorde, Halsey & Clean Bandit but it’s kind of the underachieving love child. It’s not terrible but it’s not that good either. It has so many elements that make me want to love it but I probably won’t be back for a second listen. It’s really hard to define but sometimes you just ain’t got it. 2

Sam: I get that this song could sound a little limp on first listen but I think that it’s a real grower. Her vocals in the verses are unmistakably good, raspy, full-bodied and warm, plus the instrumental leaves enough space for them to sink in properly. The chorus is a little of-the-moment but it’s still pretty damn delectable and if that’s what it takes to jump onto the radio then so be it. I’d far prefer this popping up during my FM channel skim than an ancient-sounding Meghan Trainor bop. 3.5

Vic Mensa

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Sean: As far as I’m concerned, Vic Mensa has yet to step a foot wrong. This is raw, like what would happen if MGK collided with G.O.O.D. Music. I feel like I lost a tooth in a street fight after a full listen. 3.5

Meshell: Vic Mensa doesn’t have a voice that suits such an aggressive rap style in my opinion. It’s like watching the cute nerdy dude at the party get a turn at the aux chord and he’s trying super hard to impress the popular kids by playing the heaviest trap tune on his iPod. It’s like “awww cute but maybe don’t?” 2.5

Sam: Dammit, I was really into this until Meshell said that he doesn’t really suit an aggressive rap style. Now I think I have to agree. Mensa is best when he’s a little bit more tender - still dark, but tender. When he sings on Kanye’s Wolves or gets personal on Codeine Crazy or gets funky on Drive Me Crazy, that’s when he really sounds different to what’s going around right now. This is fire and it’s utterly captivating but I fear it will get lost with what Future and Travi$ Scott are doing right now. 3.5

Kanye West
Famous (Feat. Rihanna)

Sean: I have a lot of feelings about this. After listening to the whole album, it’s clear that Kanye is no longer honest or real enough to produce something that takes the genre-defining risk of College Dropout or even MBDTF. Taking that into consideration, it’s not a bad album and this is my favourite cut from TLOP. It takes a moment for Yeezy to catch the beat but when he does, he brings his A-game. Didn’t really get the fuss over that Taylor lyric though. 4 Sean's Pick 

Meshell: Look, say what you want about Kanye’s personal life, his twitter account, his clothing, his wife but the crux of the matter is he writes fucking EXCELLENT music and has this uber self aware lyrical style that I envy. In 100 years we’ll be teaching his music in universities and continuously using his life and career as examples in cultural history lessons. His influence is undeniable and at the end of the day it’s because he writes songs like Famous, slightly risqué but ultimately addictive. 4

Sam: My first thoughts when I heard this track was “goddam Rihanna has found her lane.” Her ANTI-era voice is just so damn good because she’s found her pocket and is exploring all the imperfections of her voice. She doesn’t have much airtime here but she really steals the show. For the most part Kanye is impressive but that Taylor Swift line is just so unnecessary. It’s a grab for attention when he already had everyone’s attention - he sold out Madison Square Gardens for an album listening party. Luckily the melody and production on this is so tight that it’s pretty easy to forget his opening lines. Also, that tropical turn towards the end is so delicious. 4.5 Sam's Pick 

Now time for your vote: 

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