First Impressions: James Blake, Radiohead, Justin Timberlake And More

Written By the interns on 05/10/2016


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 James Blake, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Radiohead, Popcaan and Danny L Harle.

Justin Timberlake
Can’t Stop The Feeling

James: The inner angst (not that inner) in me hates that everyone in this video seems so stupidly happy. Stop dancing, your song is from the soundtrack of a children’s movie. Your song belongs on the soundtrack of a children’s movie. And not in a Happy by Pharrell kind of way. So nauseatingly poppy, bring back R&B JT! 1.5

Sam: FutureSex/LoveSounds basically set the climate of pop for years to come but this song does the complete opposite. It’s so flavourless and forced that it sounds like someone told him to get in the studio, put a smile on and shut up. He also hasn’t done anybody any favours by putting the painfully-relatable (read: intolerable) Anna Kendrick in the video. So many wrongs, not many rights. 1

Harrison: Look, first things first, it’s JT. It’s great to have him back, but, this is lackluster by his standards - It feels way too pop for a Timberlake track. 2

James Blake
Radio Silence

James: I think I said, quite comprehensively, all that I could possibly say about this track (and the album from which it has been taken) in my extensive review. I gave the album a 10, breaking my golden rule, so I’d be a hypocrite not to break another now and give this diamond of a track the perfect five. 5 James' Pick

Sam: I found the first two songs we heard off The Colour In Anything quite difficult to latch onto to be honest but now in the context of the album they make sense. This is Blake embracing his role as a songwriter and singer rather than a producer and it’s paid off in a huge way. While the whole album is excellent, it doesn’t get much better than this expanding, swelling opus. It’s so finely and beautifully textured that it’s hard not to constantly marvel at its soundscape. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Harrison: Can we just acknowledge how crazy this weekend was, even before knowing the release of ‘The Colour In Anything’ was coming. It’s hard to knock or bad mouth this record, with Radio Silence shining as one of the records best. 4 Harrison's Pick

Ariana Grande
Into You

James: Ariana Grande looks twelve years old. We’re not going to pretend that isn’t true right? With how youthful she looks, these lyrics have the slightest tinge of uncomfortable to them. But the beat is cool, the vibe is kind of cool. Ariana’s voice isn’t the worst thing in the world. 3.5

Sam: “I’m so into you, I can barely breathe,” might be my favourite pop line of the year so far. Great pop songs are built of hyperboles and this is just the hugest line to begin a song with. Ariana’s voice sounds better here than on any song from Dangerous Woman so far as she slinks her way around the already smooth beat. I’m not going as crazy for the chorus but the verse melts me. 4

Harrison: Funky bassline, i respect her for having a great voice (hitting those highs) but, i am not one to delve into the hype around Ariana Grande. 2.5


James: In case you were/are wondering, this is definitely the best song from Radiohead’s new album - it conjures profound imagery, and painfully familiar emotions, recalling loneliness particularly, for me. The video is so intriguing as well, vintage Paul Thomas Anderson. But, honestly, I feel as though the real talking point here should be Thom Yorke’s appearance in this video - basically, if Kanye West were to become Gollum’s stylist. It just looks wrong. Thom, you’re not young anymore and beige is not your colour. 4

Sam: I know it’s good and that’s not just because people are telling me it’s good. It’s sparse, haunting and expertly demure but personally it just does nothing for me. It makes me feel anxious and a little bit concerned about how weathered Thom Yorke looks in the video. As a film score it’s beautiful but as a standalone song without the video it just doesn’t capture my attention. I am fully aware that it’s a federal crime in many countries to express this opinion. 3

Harrison: One should appreciate an artist, group or band that has done this much for music as Radiohead has. An inspiration for so many artists out there, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a massive Radiohead fan. A great muso just appreciates why they are so respected. 3.5

Ova Deet

James: I love dancehall, I like Popcaan. I do not like this song, it grates me, personally. It’s especially frustrating with the understanding of what Popcaan can actually do, as shown on Where We Come From - his 2014 album. Go listen to that instead of this, that’s my two cents. Speaking of twos. 2

Sam: I actually feel like this song would’ve fit into Where We Come From pretty easily. The synths give it more of a crossover pop vibe but apart from that the dancehall backbone that it’s built on is the same in every Popcaan song and I like that. Ova Deet sounds like he’s forced nothing, like he’s freestyling with ease. Obviously, he’s trying but Popcaan’s biggest strength is that he never lets that show. Given the success of Work and One Dance, I think this could be a big radio hit. 4

Harrison: Please, take me back to the the Good Times collab with Jamie xx. 1.5

Danny L. Harle
Ashes Of Love (Feat. Caroline Polachek)

James: This wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a vaguely erotic (why, Japan?) anime TV series about a group of schoolgirls striving together to save the world from a mutant octopus, or something like that. Standard, right? Seriously, though, this is a pretty groovy track. It’s not so bad, not so bad at all. 3

Sam: Danny L. Harle is connecting the dots now. He’s bridging his PC Music stylings with the mainstream pop and pop world domination is edging closer for him. This is excellent. Caroline Polacheck is such a choice move as a vocalist for this song because there’s a certain texture to her voice that sounds like it’s been pitched-up even when it hasn’t. This is annoying enough to satisfy PC Music devotees and melodic enough to capture the attention of pop purists so in that way it’s very clever but best of all it’s just a glossy, glitterbomb of a tune. 4

Harrison: It is not the worst synth-pop, but it is not the greatest. Even then, it’s a stretch to pick anything remotely decent about this track. 1.5

[poll id="79"]