First Impressions: Ariana Grande, ANOHNI, Tourist And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/15/2016

FirstImpressions15thMarchFirst 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 ANOHNI, Olympia, Rostam, Tourist, Ariana Grande and Lil Yachty

Drone Bomb Me

Sean: It sucks that the headline for most press on this one focussed on Naomi Campbell’s presence in the video. It takes away from the beauty of the track. Anohni’s written this one from somewhere deep, and it’s quite close to hauntingly perfect. 4

Sam: This is such a powerful track. I usually find that I appreciate politically-charged tracks but don’t often come back to them for repeat listens. I feel different about this one. I’ve listened numerous times over the past week and I think it’s because ANOHNI’s narrative is so strong. Her voice paired with the war-like instrumentation taps away at the heart while there’s also a hidden-strength in the lyrics. It’s quite difficult to fault actually. 4.5

Meshell: I’m glad this new electronic vibe for ANOHNI doesn’t in one bit distract from the beauty or pain of his voice. The lyrics are eloquent and obscure and all at once perfectly reflective of the kind of high calibre writing we’ve come to expect. Production is of course beautiful and I’m digging some of the unusual instrument choices. This track hits you like a ton of bricks but you’ll be back to listen again and again. 4.75 Meshell’s Pick

Average Score: 4.4


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Sean: This album comes out in six weeks and that’s too long. I imagine how I feel when I hear this is how I’ll feel when they introduce an avocado emoji. 4 Sean's Pick

Sam: Goddamn, all this new Tourist material is absolute gold. I loved To Have You Back but this one is his best to date for me. It combines the emotion that he’s managed to bundle up with every track with a certain nostalgia for the club which is just so good. The synth combined with the vocal sample is woozy but then when that beat kicks in it centres everything and takes me to heaven. 4.5

Meshell: To be the unpopular opinion...that intro was over a minute longer than it needed to be and kind of pissed me off. At 1:51 when we FINALLY get into the juicy stuff I’m bobbing my head. It’s slick production and has an odd airy feel to it which I can vibe off but nothing is grabbing me to want to come back for a second listen. I reckon if I was day drunk at a festival this would be my favourite kind of song but today is not that day. 3

Average Score: 3.8

Smoke Signals

Sean: *skip* 1.5

Sam: This track gives me serious Blondie vibes and I was completely won over from the first time I listened to it. I actually can’t even really put my finger on what I love so much about this, which is probably me not doing my job very well, but I think it has something to do with the way she lightly layers her vocals to elevate that beautiful melody. I also love the way she delivers this roughed-up pop song and then pulls out a guitar at the end and screeches through to the finish. 4

Meshell: Cute voice, cute arrangement, cute video but I’m bored. Nothing awful just nothing wow-worthy. 2.5

Average Score: 2.7

Ariana Grande
Dangerous Woman

Sean: Look, the only thing dangerous about Ariana Grande is her indifference to the health standards of baked goods. I get it, she’s a great vocalist, she won’t stop trying to prove it. But I’d much rather hear this track with Rihanna’s weird experimental vocals or Jessie J’s modern yodel. Get off the stage, Ariana. 1.5

Sam: I was so on board with the last Ariana Grande album but this isn’t doing anything for me. It’s got a Rihanna Love On The Brain vibe but Grande doesn’t really do anything to add some flavour to what is a pretty vanilla instrumental. It’s not a bad track and she sounds excellent as always but this should be buried at track 8 on the album not leading it out of the gates. 3

Meshell: Whoever wrote this song is a baller. It’s absolutely killer HOWEVER was Ariana the right singer for this? No fucking way. Can you imagine The Weeknd singing this or even Rih Rih? Would crush it. Mind you, those notes at the end are goddamn huge and you can’t deny this tiny human version of a My Little Pony has a serious set of pipes. 3

Average Score: 2.5

Gravity Don’t Pull Me

Sean: I’m on this vibe, but the over-processed vocal effects lose me. Ixnay on the reverb. I still want to hear Vampire Weekend with Batmanglij producing, but if this is the trade-off, I’ll learn to cope. Just give me a beat, Rostam. 3

Sam: Oh my God, that strobing synth alongside the really delicate vocal just pulls at my heart and pushed it right into my throat. In my opinion, Rostam is responsible for two of the most interesting pop tracks of the last year or so, Charli XCX’s Need Your Love and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Warm Blood, and this takes melodic cues from both of those while bringing a little more experimentation to the table. I love how lyrically he completely admits fault in this. It’s so raw but then instrumentally it’s glossy and twinkling. The only time the rawness creeps into the instrumental is when that aggressive synth is introduced in the track's dying seconds. It just makes it even more powerful. 5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: That arpeggiated synth is lazy and offends me. The vocal melody is captivating and his voice is lovely but it feels like he gave up after that. The instrumentation sounds like he assembled it in an Ableton 30 day trial. Boring, I feel cheated out of what could have been a beautiful song. Rostam needs to listen to ANOHNI’s new tracks to hear how it’s done. 2

Average Score: 3.3

Lil Yachty

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Sean: This is a great example of what happens when you can’t pick an idea and stick with it. There’s too much going on in the production, I can’t focus.
This song is annoying.
I’m annoyed.
Here’s a 0.5 and that’s mostly just points for effort.

Sam: Easily the weirdest hip-hop tune I’ve heard this year but it also kept me listening from start to finish and for reasons I can’t really explain I like it. It takes me back to playing Nintendo 65 as a kid but then it also sounds like the future. It has elements of Metro Boomin/Young Thug production in there but then there’s also some really kitsch sounds on there that wouldn’t sound out of place on a PC Music release. I think Lil Yachty is one to keep a close eye on this year. It’s obviously not going to appeal to everyone’s taste but that only makes it more exciting, I think. 4

Meshell: Oh look guys, another producer taking a cheap shot at appealing to millennials and 90’s babies by using VIDEO GAME SAMPLES instead of ACTUAL INSTRUMENTS….in the words of Miranda Preistly: giphy1.5

Average Score: 2

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