First Impressions: Usher, Broods, ZHU And More

Written By the interns on 06/14/2016

FirstImpressionsJune14First 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 Broods, , ABRA, Usher, oshi x DAWN and ZHU

This week in addition to our usual written opinions, we’re also kicking on with the second episode of the interns’ First Impressions podcast. Meshell Webb, James Schofield and Jack Cain spoke in a roundtable conversation with editor Sam Murphy about this week’s choices butting heads and occasionally agreeing on some divisive tunes. Dig into the podcast below and also read some of our other contributors’ opinions below that. 

BROODS
Heartlines

Michelle He:  At time of writing, this audio track had <600 views on Youtube. This won’t last long, because this is an amazing, sonically cohesive and slick track. The lyrics have Lorde’s fingerprints all over them, but the production and instrumentals (especially the killer drums) are pure Broods. We’ve been waiting for the Broods album for a while and if this is anything to go by, it’s going to be amazing. 4.5 Michelle’s Pick

James Schofield: I see the name BROODS and I’m fully expecting absolutely nothing about this track to actually be brooding. Then, it is. There’s something very Lorde like about her vocals and, as Michelle mentioned, about her lyrics. Yet, Lorde has a more rigid and inaccessible sound, in my opinion. BROODS isn't necessarily unique in terms of the vocalist’s sound, but I'll be damned if she isn't impactful with it. 3.5

Meshell Webb: No shade on BROODS but this is a boring track. Lorde’s influence may have been just a little too much and the result is a very inoffensive copycat version of one of her bigger tracks. 3

Jack Cain: Broods more like boringroods. 1

Sam Murphy: Broods are really consistent and points shouldn't be taken away for being consistent but things are beginning to sound a little too familiar. I'm waiting for a track off this album that really shocks me but so far it's been three mid-tempo pop tracks. This has a strong hook and Lorde's influence comes through strong but it doesn't feel like it's giving enough. 3

Harrison Kefford: All the material for their next record keeps adding the hype around it. I feel like it's slowly building and warranting my attention. When Free dropped myself and the world went WOAH, the goods have gone bad in a major good way. This isn’t the greatest piece of Broods, but it certainly isn’t the worst. 3

Average Score: 3

Clams Casino
All Nite (Feat. Vince Staples)

Michelle: Where hasn’t Vince Staples been, lately? I’m not a rap fan and I’m not even sure what cloud-rap is, but even I can appreciate Vince Staples’ prolific output and slick beats.  While it’s backed by Clams Casino’s signature woozy bass and synth, this track, however, feels smaller and more confined than Clams’ other spaced-out, galactic cuts. 3.5

James: I remember hearing Clams Casino for the first time way back in 2011 through his early work on A$AP Rocky’s first tape. I fell in love immediately, proclaiming him my producer to watch. Nothing much has changed since then, Clams is still churning out dreamy, atmospheric beats, with turns to the dark balancing with flashes of light. I can't even describe how excited I am for 32 Levels to be released, and it's refreshing to see that Clams and Vince Staples haven't lost a single step in terms of their chemistry together. Having said that, this isn't Clams or Vince’s best track. It's damn good, but it could also have been a lot better. 4

Meshell: It’s a pretty good sign for me if I put on a track and literally yell “God damn” into the empty abyss of my apartment. I turned this up loud and had a good head bob. Would dance to this in the club. Would add to all current mixes. Would recommend. 4 Meshell’s Pick

Jack: This beat is good. The song makes me want to go for one little quick dance but then sit back down afterwards. 3

Sam: This is a banging track, there's no mistaking that. It's minimal and industrial but also tailor-made for the clubs and Vince Staples bleeds charisma all over the track. The only issue is, is that Clams isn't sounding as innovative as he once did because he's been copied by so many. That's not his fault, it just takes a little of the shine off. 4

Harrison: Twice I have been caught jamming out this, and on both occasions no f*cks were given. Vince brings it big time on All Nite, and just so we are clear I jumped on the bandwagon after watching his set on the Coachella Live stream. It may also be worth noting that up until recently I had no idea who Clams Casino was. Here’s to being caught jamming out to this great collaboration again. 4.5 Harrison’s Pick

Average Score: 3.83

ABRA
CRYBABY

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/darkwaveduchess/abracrybaby[/soundcloud]

Michelle: I think Crybaby is in an awkward place between a soul ballad and a dance track. I know I’d like it if it was remixed to be a electronic banger or stripped back, but at the moment, it feels far weaker than the cohesive buzz tracks ABRA’s released in the past. 2.5

James: It’s astounding how poorly these vocals are matched with the beat. Did they splice two entirely different songs together? Sure as hell seems like it. This attempt at an 80s disco jam is so far off the mark that it makes me feel genuinely uncomfortable, the beat is wasted on the vocals and likewise the vocals are wasted on the beat. Elsewhere, better matched, they could both be fantastic. But this? I feel like I'm listening to a YouTube cover by a pop star wannabe. That's probably a pretty nasty criticism, but #sorrynotsorry ! 2

Meshell: I can appreciate what ABRA is trying to do here but she definitely has fallen short. The sad reality is that trying to give the vocals a similar production to the backing is a harder task than you’d assume and it can actually totally f**ck up the end product. That and the fact that this song went for about 4 minutes longer than it should have mean it doesn’t get my full tick of approval. 2.5

Jack: Sounds like madonna did a shit and then her shit did a shit and then that shit made a song. 1

Sam: It's going to take people a little while to get ABRA. There's something about her singing that is slightly off-kilter, sitting just off the beat but give it repeat listens and it will begin to all align. This is a deconstructed throwback Janet tune, reconstructed for 2016 and it's nearly perfect. It oozes rhythm and melody over a lo-fi beat that's both introspective and danceable. 4.5 Sam's Pick

Harrison: I know absolutely nothing about ABRA, but this feels and sounds all over the place. There are way too many things going on, none of which I feel work or flow. 1

Average Score: 2.25

Usher
Crash

Michelle: While Usher’s recovering from LeBron’s burn, we’ve been vibing out to Crash. It’s slower and softer than his past work and exudes a Drake vibe more than anything, but it’s still a solid R&B dance track. I haven’t listened to Usher in a while, but it looks like Usher’s experimenting with more electronic influences, if this and his Young Thug collab, No Limit, are any indication. 3.5

James: I so wish this had been the other new Usher track, No Limit featuring Young Thug, so I could big up Usher and show off my nostalgic boner in reflecting on the days of Usher’s Confessions era. But this particular track is much more reflective of the poor direction Usher has taken in the last few years with his career. Generic, bland and forgettable R&B, this is as lazy as it gets so far as making a track goes. Even Usher sounds bored by himself. What does that say about this song? N/A

Meshell: After grooving to 8701 yesterday in peak nostalgic mode, this was such a deflated listen for me. It’s not awful but it’s also not that good, it’s almost like he just hit “R&B” as a preset in his DAW and just went from there. TBH Usher became super lame in my eyes when he became a judge on The Voice. 2

Usher: *holds up tune rag* Look I even called myself Usher. That's how much I love this. 4.5 Jack's Pick

Sam: It's good in the way that wins for Usher in his post-Confessions career have been few and far between. It's probably the best song he's had since Climax and it does sound like he's not trying but that contributes to the songs smoothness. It's effortless and there's something really nice about that coming from a popstar who has spent the last decade trying too hard. 3.5

Harrison: I like having massive pop tracks/artists feature in First Impressions, it keeps the banter and commentary going. I’m a little on the see-saw with this from User though. It’s a little slower from his previous work, but still holds that smooth Usher vibe. It's good after one or two listens. 2.5

Average Score: 3.2

Oshi x DAWN
Lemonade Lakes

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/oshi/lemonade-lakes-2[/soundcloud]

Michelle: In a word, smooth. While it’s not especially exciting, it’s a solid effort buoyed by DAWN’s lush vocals. Not only am I enjoying the reverb, the cover art is a killer visual for this slick dark electronica. 3

James: I like this. The dark and ominous elements to this track aren’t too thick so as to drown Dawn out, and she lets her vocals build alongside the beat to compliment it perfectly. R&B is a genre which, despite my sincere love for it, can be so hit or miss. One misstep can mean the worst, but when it's done right, it’s extraordinary. This is R&B done right. James' Pick

Meshell: I definitely had higher hopes as a big fan of Oshi and also after hearing a few things from Dawn that I was totally digging. This didn’t quite get there for me and I was so devasted by that because it’s probably the first miss for me as far as Oshi goes. Still, when comparing to the other tracks this week it’s still up the top. 3.5

Jack: Yeah yeah nah yeah, not bad yeah dno aye. 3

Sam: DAWN continues to hook up with the freshest producers and churn out gold. This is a dark, driving force of pulsating, jangly beats ridden by DAWN's swirling vocal. It's a slightly hard-to-follow, hookless song but the vibes are all there. 4

Harrison: I remember coming across Oshi when I went on one of my massive SoundCloud ventures a year ago. He is proof SoundCloud and the internet lay many many hidden gems. This collab with DAWN is of top notch quality. 4

Average Score: 3.58

ZHU
Generationwhy

James: Hmm… This is pretty disappointing to be honest. It doesn't quite match my disappointment of having to bow out of Dark MOFO on the weekend and miss ZHU performing there live, but it's disappointing nonetheless. This is further example of something I experience frequently with ZHU as an artist - I'm not really sure if I’m actually a fan or not. The production is solid, and I like that, but the vocals? I can't fuck with the vocals. They're boring at this point, having been fantastic on one of ZHU’s earliest efforts ‘SUPERFRIENDS’ but not having sounded any different since then. Slowly, but surely, I'm starting to doubt ZHU as an artist. This song is a snooze. I feel like I'd rather hear Stone Cold Steve Austin orgasm over the instrumental for Achy Breaky Heart than listen to this new ZHU track again. There, I said it. N/A

Michelle: I’m definitely feeling the FOMO from missing Curve Ball this weekend. Given ZHU’s rep for dance club bangers, this is a solid effort but nothing outstanding. While it doesn’t have any unexpected drops or twists and turns, ZHU has cut a reliable EDM track that doesn’t disappoint. I’m still hoping his debut album will take some more risks and have a little more edge than Generationwhy, however. 3

Meshell: The lyrics in this make me want to bang my head against a wall they’re so bad. There’s like...one cool guitar riff in this and apart from that I’m pretty down on this, down on it as in...it’s bad and I didn’t even make it to the end. 1.5

Jack: This is what it sounds like when doves shit inwards and then explode everywhere. 0.5

Sam: So generic it's hard to believe that this slipped through the cracks to become not only a single but the title track to his forthcoming album. 1

Harrison: Ok, so i wrote the little writeup for Generationwhy this morning and said it has me excited for his album. Let me clarify, as a combination, In The Morning and Generationwhy both have me excited for the release. Generationwhy certainly is by no stretch his best work, but it certainly isn’t his worst. It feels, in a dance music sense, his most pop sounding track, but I think what is most disappointing is that, it has completely lost sense of the sexy and smooth sound we have grown accustomed to hearing from ZHU’s music. I have so much love for ZHU, and yes I am still excited for his debut, but this is not that sexy, smooth or mysteriously dark dance music we have grown to froth on from the mystery man. 2.75

Average Score: 1.75

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