First Impressions: Bon Iver, Porter Robinson, What So Not And More

Written By the interns on 08/16/2016


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 Alicia Keys, Bon Iver, Porter Robinson & Madeon, GTA and What So Not and RAYE.

Alicia Keys
In Common (Feat. Kanye and Travis Scott)

Reece Hooker: Alicia Keys is a living treasure but much like the original, I’m not feeling this one. The track has a dated musk to it - it’s like Views lite meets a Jack U demo. Kanye’s guest spots on pop remixes have always been hit and miss and this one is a lazy miss. It’s a verse cooked up in twenty minutes and adds nothing. BUT! But! Travis Scott brings the hottest 30 seconds of this track in his sparse feature. It’d be so nice to see what he could do with more time. 2.5

Joe Earp: I miss the old Kanye. But, like, seriously: I miss the old Kanye. Seems like the guy just rolls over in bed and farts out a guest spot these days. Travis Scott is always fun, but not fun enough to justify Alicia Keys picking through the trash heap of recent pop and delivering the world’s least interesting chorus while wrapped up in twenty layers of producer polish. No thank you. 1

Jack Cain: Kanye West's fall from grace has not been pleasant to watch, he barely does a good feature anymore, and his last album is still only ⅕ as good as MBDTF is. He seems lost, in the world perhaps. Alicia keys was cool. Was. 1

Harrison Kefford: Is Alicia Keys trying to channel some low key dance hall vibes or this just me? This sits in the middle of the road for me but I’m steering to not really liking it. Probably due to it not really having much replay-ability for me. 2

Sam Murphy: This is the best Alicia Keys single in a very, very long time. I’ve gradually fallen more and more in love with the low-key vibes of it over the past few months and now this remix has reignited my love for it. I love how Kanye comes in immediately over the original beat and then Travis Scott flips it up for the finale. Kanye’s second verse is good but not great. Personally, I’m happy for them to do anything to this song to make it a hit. 4

Joe Eldridge: On paper, this song should’ve been a masterpiece. You have Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Travis Scott all collaborating on the same track. Which is why I’m genuinely confused at how, and why, these legends managed to create something so unlegendary. It’s not a bad song, it’s just not what I expected to hear from the A-Team. For starters, Alicia Keys sounded like she really held back on the vocals. We all know that she can comfortably hit any note with that angelic voice, but for some reason she only played with about 3 or 4. It was like hearing Beethoven play “Fur Elise” using only his right hand. Then we have Kanye. Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t his worst verses, but any true Kanye fan couldn’t consider his performance as anything other than average. In my opinion, Travis Scott killed it but even he couldn’t save this song from the grips of mediocrity. It was just a little too late at that point. Plus, they threw him in a little abruptly. I would’ve liked to hear a longer, more epic transition into his verse. All in all, this made-for-radio collab wasn’t anything special. 2

Zanda Wilson: Alicia’s voice on this is typically awesome - and i don’t mind the general vibe of it, but the EQ’ing is super weird. It sounds way over-produced; like it was recorded in a swimming pool room or something. 3

Bon Iver
22 (Over Soon)

Reece: There’s no doubt reception to this track will be inflated because THERE IS NEW BON IVER IN THE WORLD, but really this track is excellent anyway. I’m not sold on the buzz that introduces this track, but Justin Vernon’s dreamy voice covers over a multitude of sins (not that this song has many). 4

Joe Earp: I read a tweet recently that went something like, “Bon Iver has gone back to the cabin in the woods - and this time he’s brought ketamine.” I really don’t think anything written about Bon Iver over the next few weeks is going to top that, cause aside from being really funny, it also seems shockingly accurate. 22 (Over Soon) is what you’d get if you listened to Skinny Love while blisteringly, uncontrollably high. I mean that in a good way - kinda. It’s alright, but it’s just got this kind of weird, jacked-surreal feel that is perhaps less impressive than good ole Justin thought it might be. Bit meh. 3

Jack: I find it hard to talk about just a track when it comes to an artist like Bon Iver, this isn't a single, it's a piece of a bigger puzzle, the opening lines of a book, the first page. It's purely brilliant, and for anyone who misses that, they need just go here and understand what 22, A Million is about. It makes what is seemingly some of the most beautiful sounding music even more appealing. The B side to this, 10 d E A T h b R E a s T reminds me of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it's Bon Iver who's made it. That's huge. Justin Vernon has a big arsenal of talented friends around him and supporting him, it's not for no reason either. And yes this is better than new Frank Ocean, and will stay that way. I think this will be album of the year, but it's so much more than music, and that’s why its amazing. 5 Jack's Pick

Harrison: Having new Bon Iver is equal to, if not better than new Frank Ocean. From the comments I have read on the two new tracks, the reception has been interesting. People have either really really liked it or they have felt extremely let down. I think the biggest thing to take or expect from this release on Sept 30th is that in no way will Bon Iver let anyone or anything influence how they go about producing music. I think a lot of people are expecting to hear similar material as to what was given on the self titled release in 2011, and rightfully so because the record was incredible. But, if we are going on the material that Vernon has released or appeared on as late, we may get a mixture of both some new and old things. Of the two new tracks, 22 (Over Soon) is the better of the two. For me, I semi bandwagonned Bon Iver. Only jumping on when I heard and fell in love with Heavenly Father (which will forever be one of my favourite songs of all time). Looking at the self titled release in 2011, I also still cannot go past Beth/Rest. New Bon Iver is exciting, and like I said, it’s probably better than new Frank Ocean. 5 Harrison's Pick

Sam: I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about new Bon Iver because I feel like my musical taste has moved away from what it was when they released the self-titled effort. But, my God, this is beautiful. It sounds like a storm hit after that second album smashing everything and this is what arose from the wreckage. It’s glitchy, imperfect and distorted and yet out of it comes this clarity by way of Justin Vernon’s voice. There’s something really spiritual to the vocal samples that beam out of it, making it feel like some sort of rebirth for Bon Iver. If you’re going to go away for four years, return like this. 4.5 Sam's Pick

Joe Eldridge: I’ve never been a huge Bon Iver fan but listening to this track instantaneously convinced me to pay more attention. Seriously, I can’t believe that I’ve been sleeping on this guy! This undeniable work of art was both complex and simple at the same time. The underlying melody was repetitive, but he managed to gracefully introduced new elements to keep things interesting. This isn’t the easiest song to digest but trust me, this is good stuff. He definitely kept my interest, even after the song was over. 4

Zanda: I never kindof ‘got’ the whole Bon Iver hype thing. But since hearing him debut his new record this week at Eaux Claire’s festival - i’m finally coming around. No one else is making music like this at the moment - and there’s an intangible emotion within it that, as with most of Justin Vernon’s music; sounds like all of his body and soul have been put into the track. The layered vocals are epic, and the melodies are magnificent. I don’t really buy into the benefits of the glitchy bits where it sounds like your headphones are starting to break… it actually really started to annoy be by the end. 3.5

Average Score: 4.25

Porter Robinson/Madeon

Reece: I don’t know whether this is beautiful music or generic pop trash, but I’m in love either way. Madeon’s sugary rush of danceable pop has always been a guilty pleasure and Porter Robinson is consistently a joy to listen to. ‘Shelters’ is a perfect intersection of each artist’s styles and a very easy to listen. 4

Joe Earp: This song feels designed to score an advert full of young teens floating around pools in those abjectly evil pink flamingo inflatables. Basically, I feel like it’s trying to sell me something: and badly. It just fills me with a kind of awkward embarrassment, and I’m not even sure why. I suppose if you were playing it in the background of some raucous party it might be more tolerable, but that’s not exactly high praise, I spose. 2

Jack: l remember the last time I heard a Porter Robinson song, it was a while ago, and well not much has changed, but I honestly just can't stand most dance music now. This shit isn't hard to do, everyone's lazy, they just put their formulas together and turn out the same old crap. Porter Robinson was good at first, ya know like everyone making electronica, but I think electronic artists should almost not be allowed to make ‘music’ if they keep doing the same crap over and over. It's exhausting. This just sounds like a shit version of M83. 2

Harrison: I feel like amongst all those let down by this collaboration, you still cannot be disappointed. I think people are expecting way too much, due to the success and experience that Worlds showed. Porter and Madeon have been friends for a while now and it will be interesting to see/hear what else they have amongst this release. I’m neither disappointed nor raving crazy about Shelters, and you can thank Worlds for this. A part of me really wishes Porter would channel back into the days of The Seconds and Language...... BECAUSE GOD THOSE TRACKS STILL GO HARD! 3.5

Sam: I loved Porter’s Worlds and hated Madeon’s Adventure so I found myself in an odd place of excitement and dread before listening to this. Thankfully, it takes more cues from Worlds and is a bit of brain melter, as I would’ve hoped. It’s got an other-worldly feel and once again sounds like Porter’s been inspired by the video game world. Props to Madeon to who sings on this because it sounds perfect. 3.5

Joe Eldridge: This song was undeniably formulaic in nature. It was unoriginal, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good. I honestly enjoyed it and I’m sure that Porter Robinson’s target market will too. It was extremely predictable but sometimes predictable is good. Especially when you’re raving your face off at a music festival. I knew when the song was going to drop, and wasn’t surprised when the dreamy female vocals came into the mix. This is dance music’s version of comfort food and I can truly say that it left me feeling satisfied. 3.5

Zanda: Holy shit, this is a collab that was years in the hoping and several months in the making. Madeon and Porter opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for electronic artists in America in terms of breaking down barriers for touring and performing in licensed venues without being 18; mostly because they are both musical prodigies. There’s a bit of Madeon coming through here in the pulsing energy of the track - but the melody, thankfully, is taken care of by our man Porter. It definitely plays on vibes continuing over from Worlds - and although this one sounds simple in terms of production; it’s not as simple as you might think. You could criticise Porter for being formulaic, but he’s found a nice that takes Japanese anime music, chillstep, pop, and EDM - puts them together and comes out with an awesomely emotive track like this one. Shelters is certainly nothing groundbreaking, given the bar Porter has set for himself; but if you can’t get some organic enjoyment out of listening to this one then that’s your own fault. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Average Score: 3

They Don’t Know Us

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Reece: Okay, so Kilter’s just going to become an international megastar, right? That’s how this works, yeah? They Don’t Know Us is the festival anthem we knew the lad always had in him. 4

Joe Earp: This is surprisingly impressive, to be totally honest with you. I mean, it’s clunky, and it’s stripped back, and it’s derivative, but it’s all of those things in a way that feels really unashamed. It’s like a well-oiled hinge: it’s designed to do something, and it does it. At least it doesn’t have grand delusions about itself. 4

Jack: I like Kilter, both musically and personally, it's surprising how meeting someone even briefly makes you never really want to say bad things about their art and good thing I am not forced into a position to do so here. Anyway, this is pretty damn big, I'd say kilter will be our next What So Not. Only a matter of time. 3.5

Harrison: That wavey synth though, damn! It’s nice to see and finally hear progression in Kilter’s sound and production. I feel like for a considerable amount of time he has been a name just waiting to break into the mainstream and this track could finally, hopefully, just maybe be it. Solid production and I can definitely get down to this (especially come festival season). 4

Sam: There’s no doubt this is going to be a festival anthem over the summer and it’s a good one at that but I just can’t get that excited about it. The verses don’t do a lot for me but I’m definitely feeling that rumbling bass in the drop. I’d like to see it do well, it’s just not to my taste. 3

Joe Eldridge: I’m not gonna sugar coat it. I didn’t like this song at all. Kilter obviously went with the easy-to-use, radio hit formula but the final product just sounded off. Some of elements sounded OK, but too much of it was simply difficult to listen to. For example, right when the song dropped there was this super annoying shrieking that stayed on loop until Kilter’s hook came to relieve my pain. Seriously, it sounded like he violently shook a chihuahua and used the recording as part of the song. I’m just hoping that PETA doesn’t get a hold of this one. 2

Zanda: It’s a really good sign that Kilter’s production is becoming smoother, yet he’s still retaining that organic crunchy goodness and groove in his music that we all loved him for from the beginning. The drop is simply awesome, and I can already see Kilter smashing out the steel-drum sounding bridge during his sets; but i’m not sold on the vocals. They’re a little too generic for my taste, but having said that this will form an amazing part of his live shows and wow i’m pretty much frothing at the prospect of an album hopefully later this year. 4

Average Score: 3.4

GTA x What So Not
Feel It

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Reece: Tunji Ige has felt on the cusp of something big for a while: between The Ex Song, Day 2 Day and his ‘Missed Calls’ project, Tunji’s had the potent mix of pop charm and hip-hop lustre. Jumping on his second collaboration with What So Not and enlisting GTA to the mix is a fascinating progression, and this track absolutely bangs. This is bass done right and we’re all better for having this song exist. 4

Joe Earp: ‘Dirty’ is so in vogue these days - not that anyone seems to be complaining. At least the electro pop formula is being played around with a little bit. This one has that rough, slightly sick edge - as though the person behind the music can’t be trusted. It’s a banger with its barrel pointed straight at you; an anthem designed to do harm. 4

Jack: This is massive, and I really like it, and I don't really like this stuff much anymore, but it seems to be What So Not who always deliver that song that makes me miss clubbing or djing. WSM has found a really good formula. It's called the formula of not putting out the same shit constantly, it's truly impressive. You go through all of What So Not's song, and you'll be able to identify a few as the same artist sure, but not all of them. I think a big part is his need for uncovering artists, and using fresh talent all the time. 4

Harrison: This is definitely a grower. Yet, this is coming from someone who is still stuck in the days when Flume was around. It’s nothing flashy, but I can definitely see why everyone is vibing it. Again, another selection that sits middle of the road for me. 3

Sam: I feel like What So Not has come leaps and bounds as a producer in the past 12 months. It’s great to see him collaborating with really interesting people like Tunji Ige and Rome Fortune and giving us some different sounds. I can’t help but think the drop to this sounds a little Flume-inspired but I’m willing to look past that Tunji’s verses are pure fire. And that’s not just because his flow is on-point, it’s because the production moves through so many styles and manages to stay coherent and exciting. 3.5

Joe Eldridge: Whenever a rapper hops on an EDM track, he/she runs the risk of sounding out of place. That didn’t happen this time because Tunji Ige simply killed it. GTA’s production was excellent and Tunji’s verses didn’t disappoint. Powerful instrumentals coupled with powerful lyrics resulted in something that both rap and EDM fans can appreciate. The only problem I had with the song was that it ended too soon. Which is an easy fix because I’m just gonna put it on repeat for the foreseeable future. 4 Joe’s pick

Zanda: Tunji is the star here. Sure the production is put together well but without Tunji this would just get lost in the pools and pools of bass-heavy EDM going around at the moment. It’s weird; I still can’t decide how I feel about What So Not. One might i’ll love him and the next his production kind of annoys me. I think the main reason is because I can’t really ever see him putting together a cohesive body of work in an LP format - and that’s almost a product of how much effort he puts into each single he releases. He still plays a lot of other people’s music live, I think because to play his own tracks back to back would just be exhausting for himself and everyone else. 3

Average Score: 3.75

I - U - Us

Reece: RAYE strikes me as an artist with a bucket of potential. Unfortunately, I - U - Us comes off more as Charli XCX’s pet project rather than the coming out party of a fresh new artist. Co-written by Charli, who produced the accompanying video, everything from the melodies to the punchy lyrics sound like a B-Side from ‘SUCKER”. This isn’t a total disaster - I really, really like Charli so I can see this track getting quite a spin with me, but I feel like it’s a step back from what we’ve heard thus far from Raye. 3

Joe Earp: Yeah. Nah. 1

Jack: I like the beat, the verses in the melody, the flow of it all is good, but if the verses are the titanic then the chorus is a huge iceberg that sinks this song. It's cool, not a complete failure. I'm surprised, I like it. 3.5

Harrison: I really really like this. It’s that selection of the week that makes it’s way into my Spotify, so thanks Sam. Reading what everyone else scored it, I wasn’t expecting anything close to what I heard. Super cool selection, and this feels like that divisive pick that you will either really like or really hate. 3.5

Sam: Apart from Dua Lipa, I think we’ve been starved of really great new popstars this year which is why I’m so excited to hear a big, bold pop track by a new artists out in the world. Charli XCX’s hands are all over this one with the production reminiscent of her electro-tinged debut album but you need a big, powering personality to take on an anthem like this and RAYE has that. She’s uber cool, a natural star and delivers attitude on this that make you pray you don’t come across her in a dark lane. One of my favourite pop tracks by a new artist this year. 4

Joe Eldridge: At first, I really liked this one but it started to get a little annoying halfway through. I couldn’t understand why the magic faded so fast but then it me. The hook was terrible. Plus, Raye didn’t bring it with the vocals. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t bad but her delivery wasn’t worthy of Charli XCX’s production. Needless to say, I won’t be relistening to this one. 2

Zanda: This is smooth, and the production is fairly grand and big scale. Not knowing much about RAYE gives me little to work with - but on first listen she’s definitely got that intangible thing that you need to take your music to the next level. A killer voice can only take you so far; so the fact that she’s much more than that holds her in good stead. 3.5

Average Score: 2.8

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