First Impressions: Lady Gaga, Sia, Francis And The Lights And More

Written By the interns on 09/13/2016


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 Lady Gaga, Francis And The Lights, Sia, Yogi, ELOHIM and Running Touch.

Lady Gaga
Perfect Illusion

Matt Fiacchi: A basic, disappointing way to usher in the new era. Look, there’s nothing ~wrong~ with Perfect Illusion - it’s catchy, it’s different to her other material and it really shows off her voice  - but Gaga can do better. This is the woman who gave us The Fame Monster, after all. Lyrically it’s bland and repetitive, and that key change at the end is way overhyped. This album had better be killer. 2

Reece Hooker: I didn’t like Perfect Illusion upon first listen, but I think I’m warming to it every day. I’m a huge fan of Lady Gaga switching up her direction and whilst I don’t think she’s close to nailing it yet (at least not by her lofty standards), the psych-rock influence of Kevin Parker behind the boards is well felt here and is a promising indicator of what’s to come. Call it underwhelming, call it a taste of what’s to come, I’m going to be glued to whatever Gaga drops next. 3

Zanda Wilson: Based off the feedback of pretty much everyone I know this is a track that gets better the more you listen to it. Unfortunately for them, and perhaps future me - this is First Impressions, and I’m really really not digging this. Kudos to Gaga I guess for doing something different but the production is, though clearly influenced by KParker, boring me. Key change? Oh yeah that’s what that was, I just thought that Gaga was progressively getting more and more out of tune as the song went on.  1.5

Sam Murphy: I've gone back and forth with this one. One minute I'm completely sold and the next I'm confused. Right now, I think I get in. The verses are soaked in that classic Gaga melody and Ronson's production tinges really suit her voice. Where it falls off the rails a bit is in the chorus because it's not necessarily the pop behemoth that people were expecting. Once I rid my mind of what I was expecting though I really enjoy it. It's gutsy, rough and anthemic. That key change is like a smack in the face and her voice actually sounds good belting which it hasn't so much in the past. I can hear tinges of everyone involved and while it's not a pop hit, it's a Gaga hit for sure. 4

Francis And The Lights
See Her Out

Matt: This kinda sounds like Phil Collins if he were a little more indie. That’s a compliment, by the way. There’s an impressive list of collaborators on this one - Rostam, Rechtshaid, Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco to name just a few -, and you can hear the subtle touches they bring to the table throughout the track. There’s something to be said for a song which can have that many people working on it and still sound as though it has a singular vision.
PS: that bit after 2:50 deserves to be a whole song. 3

Reece: Sparse and stirring, Francis And The Lights cannot miss in 2016. See Her Out is beautifully paced, building to a brief sweeping peak before coming down as soon as it rose. Francis’ voice is enchanting and just like collaborator Bon Iver, he always knows how to leave us wanting more. So much was written about the historical influence the landmark Kanye West/Justin Vernon collaborations of 2010….well, here it is. 4

Zanda: This is everything that a good Francis and the Lights song does well - pure, majestic vocals (though probably a little too eq’d for my liking) with really warm melodic production. I think that the stark contrasts between the hard hitting synth and the much quieter bits would be off-putting if it weren’t brought together by those warm undertones and Francis’ amazing voice. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: Francis is trashing the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. From Cashmere Cat to Benny Blanco, literally every great producer right now is involved in this and yet it sounds spacious, emotional and intimate. The synths that flicker throughout the chorus and the minimal choruses really build you up to the twinkling explosion. While Justin Vernon worked on this one too, it really separates him from the Bon Iver comparisons which Friends drew. 4

The Greatest

Matt: Probably the least ‘tribute’-sounding tribute song ever. Without the video accompaniment, you’d think this was just another in a long list of excellent Sia songs. The reggae-tinged track (I’m refusing to use the words ‘Tropical House’ again until at least 2018, just FYI) follows the same sort of formula she’s perfected over the years and still, somehow, manages to sound fresh. As for the video: the more you watch, the more you find Orlando-related symbolism that smacks you in the face. Incredible, gut-wrenching stuff. 4

Reece: Post-Chandelier Sia has been a chameleon of sorts: her last album was a brilliant collection of rejected songs she’d written for other artists and she pulls off whirling synth pop like The Greatest just as well as she does a soaring ballad. If we’re trying to derive an identity from all we’ve heard from Sia, perhaps the label of ‘killer songwriter’ is one that sticks. The Greatest is crisp, perfectly measured and has a really nuanced little progression in it. Sia’s music sometimes sounds a little too vanilla, but she’s mastered the art of making pop songs for right now. Now let’s just get some distribution on that version with Kendrick. 3.5

Zanda: I was never a big Sia person back when Chandelier was big - but her talent and vocal range is undeniable. This song rises and falls like a perfect pop song - but Sia’s layered vocals inject a power and rawness that helps it to soar above the back as well, and they’re not something that I can get past easily. She creates this inimitable vocal texture that other vocalists often try to replicate, but her harmonies create some of the most memorable timbres in music today. 4

Sam: Sia got her first number one in the US with Cheap Thrills so she released a song that sounds similar to grab for a number one. Lucky Sia is a phenomenal pop writer because it doesn't sound like a cheap copy at all. Instead it's another bonafide smash with a chorus that would send chills down the spine of any pop enthusiast. She's taken bits of everything that's popular right now, including Lamar, and has served it up as her own fine pop track. Find a better commercial pop writer right now and I'll find you a Sia song that they never could've written. 4.5 Sam's Pick


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Matt: This is exciting! It’s fun, it’s colourful and it’s catchy. The production on this song is really something else. It sounds like it lives in the same universe as Lovefool by The Cardigans. There’s a MØ-meets-Charli XCX quality in her vocals that I’m really liking as well. There’s some real potential here, she’s one to watch! 4 Matt’s Pick

Reece: On every release thus far in her young career, ELOHIM has tried something entirely different. And remarkably, she excels every single time. Hallucinating is a hazy, stoned windy track that ticks and buzzes in and around a giddy instrumentation, complemented perfectly by a mariachi band? This track makes absolutely no sense and I love it. 4 Reece’s Pick

Zanda: I guess I can understand the appeal of this track, and yes, the horns at the back end definitely break it up a bit, but up until that point it just sounds boring and without much development. The up-beat rhythm is catchy for sure, but i’m not getting drawn into it. 3

Sam: Does anyone else feel drunk while listening to this? It's got this very woozy, off-kilter vibe to it that makes it feel like you've stumbled into a beach club with little idea of what country you're in. I say that in the best way possible because while I'm slightly discerned by my state at the start, the mariachi band at the end centres me and reminds me that while I don't know where I am, I'm exactly where I'm meant to be. That's another way of saying it's a bloody great pop song. 4

Blow You Up (Feat. AlunaGeorge)

Matt: Look I think we all need to recognise that the words ‘Feat. AlunaGeorge’ will almost always guarantee a good time at this point. Having said that, this is one of their weaker moments. This is pretty generic, really. It’s your standard EDM fare, with little to make it stand out from the pack. Even Aluna’s trademark quirky vocals sound heavily restrained here. It’s the sort of song that will make it into the clubs purely so the DJ doesn’t waste all his actual bangers too soon. 2

Reece: I have nothing to write about this song because there’s nothing here. Another OWSLA producer makes another standard jam, AlunaGeorge show up to do the same catchy thing they do every single bloody week. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just tiring trying to find something, anything new here. 2

Zanda: Egh, this sounds like discount DJ Snake, and that’s saying something because for me; current DJ Snake is only really discount old DJ Snake - so I guess that makes this Discount-Discount DJ Snake. I’d be better off going to Bunnings and getting them to match the same price on a DJ Snake stocked item by 10%, plus I’d get a snag as well. Yeah I stopped listening a while ago. 1

Sam: Well I'm living on a different planet this week because I love this song. For me it's not about production this, production that, it's a song with a killer melody and a chorus that cascades through words in the most effortless, simple way. Yeah, it's not going to win any awards for changing the face of music but I could listen to this 15 times on repeat and still want more. Maybe it's Aluna's vocals and it has nothing to do with Yogi but a song is a song is a song and this is a good song IMO. 4

Running Touch

Matt: Super slick production and a funky beat saves what would otherwise be a bit of a disjointed affair here. There’s a few different ideas and voices competing on this track, all of which work on their own but sound conflicting when brought together. Luckily, the song as a whole still sounds ace. 3

Reece: This is about ten different twenty second songs, which is cool but also exhausting. It makes for a fun listen because you never lull into boredom, but it’s not always the most fun trying to guess which direction a song is about to shoot off into. Running Touch is a talented artist and this track shows it, the full picture’s still just taking shape. I like it, but I’m waiting for that huge breakthrough we know is on its way soon. 3

Zanda: This is such an awesome mesh of glittery samples and a pulsing house beat. If you consider it as a pop or techno track it may not blow your world, but the way I see it is it’s a suped up house tune, and I can imagine it sitting deep within a house mix and waking people from the inevitable monotony that comes with such territory. Running Touch seems to be at the peak of his powers right now, and while this doesn’t quite match up with Courtesy Of, it shows a diversity to his production that we may not have known existed. 4

Sam: Everytime we hear Running Touch he's giving us something slightly different which is really refreshing. It's nice to hear a young Aussie artist who isn't playing into the hands of radio and is exploring every dimension of their sound. This song is exactly what ZHU's debut album should've sounded like AKA. it's exciting.