First Impressions: James Vincent McMorrow, John Newman, Francis And The Lights And More

Written By the interns on 07/13/2016

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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 Vincent McMorrow, Dena Amy, Francis And The Lights, Goss, The Naked And Famous and John Newman

This week in addition to our usual written opinions, we’re also kicking on with the second episode of the interns’ First Impressions podcast. Bianca Bosso and Harrison Kefford 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. 

James Vincent McMorrow
Rising Water

Jack Cain: Just looking at this list this week I know I'm going to be giving some decent scores. I really like this song, and I've heard thirty seconds so far. The start reminds me of The Whitest Boy Alive, and it's nice to be reminded of them. James has a voice like no other and the funk synth thing going on is adding a pretty fun element to a folky vocal - I like that mismatch. This song just makes me feel nice. 4

Sam Murphy: It’s so nice to hear McMorrow switch it up a bit and do something a little different. All the elements that made up his last record are there but it’s just got some more pizzazz. Nineteen85 has done a stellar job injecting light R&B-tinged into it while not taking McMorrow completely into dvsn or even Drake’s world. It’s really nice but I hope there’s some even more daring stuff on the record. 3.5

Harrison: I am a super huge fan of James Vincent McMorrow, there is just something his voice that you have to love and appreciate. I think it’s very difficult to ignore Rising Water as a certified groove and it’s really just a great piece of music. That little funky guitar patch is something I really dig about this track and it also echoes with the classic tones associated with a McMorrow track. Also, i still vibe Higher Love. 4

Average Score: 3.83

Dena Amy
Wait For You

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/denaamy/wait-for-you[/soundcloud]

Jack: I do like this song, even if it is a hybrid of Supermode’s ‘Tell me why’ and ‘Chris isaak’ mixed with Golden Features. I feel like it wouldn't be a stretch to speculate this had a hand in production from benson. It's a solid banger, can see this being a real hit, it incorporates plenty of pop elements and people love that shit. The ATC (round the world la la la) style glockenspiel is gonna get stuck in some heads. 3.5

Sam: First things first the cover art is not doing her any favours because it looks like every second song on Soundcloud but that’s not what we’re here to judge. She’s got a real soft, deep house sound and I think that’s going to work really well in her favour in terms of appeasing RUFUS fans which is surely the market she’s going to. Jack, you’re actually correct about Benson producing this. It’s got his vibes all over it and while it’s a super smooth track and Dena’s vocals are pretty flawless, it just does nothing for me personally. It’s definitely a personal thing but I feel as if it needs a bit more oomph. But that’s also an issue I have with RUFUS that no one else seems to have. 2.5

Harrison: I had to listen to Supermode’s Tell Me Why to pick up on exactly what Jack was talking about, but it’s totally there. I am also picking up on some major Golden Features vibes, which is both bad and good. You could almost argue that this whole sound the masked man has somewhat made his own is now being butchered and overplayed. But, at the same time, this co-produced Benson track by Dena Amy isn’t the worst piece of music associated with this genre of dance music. In saying this, it’s not something I'm not really WOW’d by, because again this genre is fast becoming another carriage on a long train of bandwagoning (cc: Tropical House, Big Room, Deep House, Tech House). 3

Average Score: 3

Francis And The Lights
Friends (Feat. Bon Iver and Kanye West)

Jack: Easily, one of the best songs of the year. This song sees two kings of falsetto come together with one of the best beatmakers in the world and the result is amazing. The pairing of Francis and Justin Vernon is the best thing since peanut butter and jam or vegemite and lettuce (which I’d never eat) but heard it’s good. I can't even talk about the song because I think I'm bias to whatever Bon Iver do, but it's great. It's probably my favourite song of the year. 5 Jack’s Pick

Sam: Just by looking at the people involved in this song you could already tell it was going to be flawless. It blows my mind that Cashmere Cat, Benny Blanco, Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij all had a hand in this let alone Justin Vernon and thank goodness it wasn’t a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. From the song to the minimal video, this is absolute perfection. It’s one of those songs that’s really difficult to pick apart singular parts because it washes over you so effortlessly. 4.5 Sam's Pick

Harrison: I think Sam has summed this up perfectly. Thank goodness this isn’t a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. More often than not when a lot great producers get into the one project the material turns into something overhyped and really, just boring and crap. But what’s happening on Friends can only be described as music at its utmost finest. I don’t think you can fault anything about this track. Its video is incredibly simple and minimalistic, and I think this is possibly the best thing we have heard from Bon Iver in terms of the past releases/collaborations. Sorry, but I Need A Forest Fire wasn’t the best track on the James Blake release, but it also wasn’t the worst. I think it was over hyped due to the fact Bon Iver/ Justin Vernon are freakishly talented and loved artists. Everything about Friends though works, and maybe this can put to bed the “oh, Francis is just trying to replicate Bon Iver” remarks. One of the things I love most about the video is imagining Justin Vernon being taught the dance routine towards the end of the video. I just think it’s super corny, but in a really cool way. 5 Harrison’s Pick

Average Score: 4.83

Goss
I Want To Know????

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/gossgossgossgossgoss/i-want-to-know[/soundcloud]

Jack: This is okay. It would be good if the dude singing would shut up. And the beat had a bit more oomph. But as it keeps going I'm hearing things I like. It's like a project that was started with good intentions but fucked up heaps, like a school volcano but lava is pouring out of holes in the side and paper mache is going everywhere. In musical terms, too many sounds not enough cohesion for me. 2

Sam: This song is so crisp and fragile it feels like you could drop it and smash it into a million pieces. We all had a good laugh at Bieber calling the sounds in Where Are U Now expensive, but I kind of get it because this song feels the same. The beats sound like delicate glass china with the only thing giving the song some weight being the vocals. It’s a really beautiful first offering and more than enough to put them on my radar. 4

Harrison: This is that pick of the week, where you either love it or hate it. But for me, I neither love it or hate it. Reason is, I am finding it oddly difficult to compare this to anything I have heard and I'm really having to rack my brain. I feel like it has a lot to offer, but it’s also something I am not, again, WOW’d by. 3

Average Score: 3

The Naked And Famous
Higher

Jack: It is nice to hear The Naked And Famous again and they have even chucked in their signature bells just so you know it's them. And to be honest I really like it. That chainsaw of a synth is quite nice in a dance floor appropriate way and they sure do make a lot of noise for a little band from NZ. And make a hit out of it too. The vocal is safe, but it's good. This song seems to just work like really great pop music should. It makes me want to play fifa or go back to Big Day Out and hope they include it in their set. 4.5

Sam: And we’re back in 2010. The only thing that this song is really good for is nostalgia. Music has moved past that big, festival-ready chorus and that’s because it started to sound fake and forced. Their second album didn’t do as well as they would’ve liked, I’m sure, and now they’re attempting to return to the youthful spirit of Young Blood. It’s not a bad attempt but it just doesn’t sounds relevant in 2016. 2

Harrison: You know, good on Jack for defending this track because I feel like in some respects it needs a champion. The Naked And Famous are not an act I am knowledgeable on, but I do remember they had a massive hit in the Cider commercial a few years back. Unfortunately I feel like Higher is very much trying to do that same, in a sense that it was made purely for a the thought of commercial value. I also know that comparing The Naked And Famous to CHVRCHES is silly because if my timeline is correct CHVRCHES started around 3 years after The Naked And Famous so it’s sort of preempt to draw such a comparison. Having said that, sorry, CHVRCHES do the whole electronic synth-pop so much better. This genre/style of music is a genre in which you can ill-afford to not stay fresh and try new things and unfortunately, Higher lacks this real sense of cool. 2

Average Score: 2.83

John Newman
Olé

Jack: It blows my mind in the worst possible way that the same bloke who sang Not Giving In is singing this rubbish. What the fuck is this? The whitest dude ever singing some weird blend of reggae and bad pop. That chorus makes me want to run into a car that is actually the sun dressed as a car so I'm not only tricked into my burning death, but that I also actually burn to death. Oh, and the hook “I can't control myself around you, I’m singing ole.” Wtf, seriously. Who’s idea was this? 1

Sam: Since I Will Never Let You Down I’ve always wanted Calvin Harris to try his hand in more straight-up pop production and now I’ve heard this I’m glad he hasn’t. I feel as if I’ve been drugged on a Caribbean Island after listening to this. It’s just so slow and goes absolutely nowhere - no key-changes, no melodic detours nothing. Newman genuinely has quite a good voice but this is so kitsch he may as well be a paper umbrella in a cocktail. He’d probably get more attention that way too. 1.5

Harrison: Before we get onto Calvin Harris, where the actual f*ck are those belting vocals we know that John Newman has? Everything about this track reeks of bad pop music. The only thing I remotely like about this is the groovy little guitar piece, but even then, listening to this in its entirety proves we may have yet another stinker to add to the list of worst tracks of 2016. Calvin Harris, you have taken so much heat from us here at The Interns, you’d think it'd be a wake up call in just how much (perhaps) you are lacking in efforts as a producer today. But, I feel this apparent Taylor Swift diss track just may be another entry in weeks to come, that will once again draw some scathing reviews. As harsh as it's going to sound, it's almost like Calvin Harris needs something really tragic to happen (and god forbid something does), but something to reassess his skills/finesse as producer. Because he does have this ability. Everything we have heard this year, has in my eyes, devalued his ability to produce great dance music. 1

Average Score: 1.16