First Impressions: Maroon 5, Kendrick Lamar, Skepta And More

Written By the interns on 10/18/2016

first-kendrick

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 Billy Davis, Maroon 5, GLADES, Kehlani, Konshens and Riff Raff.

Billy Davis
No Longer Lovers

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/iambillydavis/no-longer-lovers-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Ohhh now this is something I can get around. A silky vocal line and some super sweet syncopated instrumentation and production. I’m especially digging that cheeky little horn line, and also through the majority of it, that bass line (and later keys) that’s just a little bit dissonant from the melody. You’re definitely expecting a resolving major cadence, and the fact that It’s just the back end of the bass riff that doesn’t quite resolve is a bold, but not an overpowering statement. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Matt: This sounds like the Kaytranada and Disclosure collab of my dreams, to be honest. It’s sonically complex, with lots to unpack if that’s your thing, but it’s smooth and chill and really easy to listen to as well. It’s the sort of track you hear during the first couple of hours at a house party and instantly Shazam for later. The drums, bass, horns and twinkling keys all play very nicely together, and the vocals are just the right amount of smooth. Really, really good stuff. 4.5 Matt’s Pick

Sam: This is very good, very good indeed. I’m feeling strong Kaytranada vibes and can also hear a little bit of Disclosure’s Caracal, like Matt, although it’s better than the latter. It’s got this really organic, effortless vibe and, unlike the song above, it still finds the space for light and shade between the velvety vocals and the rap. Definitely a jam, timed perfectly to coincide with summer. 4

Average Score: 4.3

Maroon 5
Don’t Wanna Know (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Zanda:

>Listens to first 30 seconds

>Falls asleep

>Fast-forwards to Kendrick Verse

>Back to sleep

1

Matt: I essentially just have one reaction to this:

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-3-41-45-pm

Like honestly, I’m all for artists reinventing and trying new sounds but this is just tired and generic and generally Not Very Good. The Kendrick verse adds next to nothing, either. 1

Sam: I mean, there’s technically nothing wrong with this song. It’s a pretty inoffensive ear worm that’s going to serve its purpose and then disappear. We’ve come to expect that sort of stuff from Maroon 5 but I think we really have to question what Kendrick is doing on this song. It’s totally phoned in and it seems really unnecessary for him to be there at all. 2

Average Score: 1.3

GLADES
Drive

Zanda: There are so many people making music that sounds pretty much exactly like this at the moment that you’ve really got to be doing something special to stand out. The production is super tight here, the vocals are smooth and layered nicely and there’s a nice contrast between sections of lighter and denser textures - but nothing particularly jumps out at me as especially amazing. 3

Matt: I totally second that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this track, it’s actually quite nice and very well put together, it just… doesn’t really do much to make me excited. The lyrics are probably my favourite part about this track, actually. Overall, though, it’s extremely just okay. 3

Sam: I think the general sentiment here is that it’s nice. I think if you’re making this kind of pop music that is very mellow by nature it’s important to have a sound or a vocal that stabs a little bit harder. Thomston did it really well on his debut album Topograph and, of course, Lorde added a real edginess to it a couple of years back. This is really lovely and it definitely piques my interest but I just wanted something to break the smoothness of it at one point. Something to destroy the straight line that it runs along for its full duration. 3

Average Score: 3

Kehlani & Little Simz
Table

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/kehlanimusic/table[/soundcloud]

Zanda: What a groove. I don’t think i can sum it up much better than Soundcloud user Daymien Sun who says ‘beylani x queen simz = masterpiece’. I could just play that Little Simz verse over and over again, it’s really the standout part of the whole track for me. Take nothing away from Kehlani’s own vocals either, they’re understated and soft, but emotion-driven and gritty. The production on tracks like this tend to lose my attention or play it too safe but the production on this is genuinely interesting on its own. 4

Matt: This is awesome! It sounds like the sort of thing TLC would be doing today. The instrumentation is really interesting, and I LOVE the ‘I know what I bring to the table’ line. Little Simz delivers a tight, punchy verse which fits in really nicely amongst Kehlani’s more soulful brand of rap-singing. A real standout effort from everyone involved.

Sam: This is super tight, particularly after the three songs above that were anything but hard-hitting. Kehlani runs away with these verses like a car without breaks and then she passes the baton to Little Simz who does the exact same. The beat isn’t anything out of the ordinary but the personality and texture of these two combined takes it to another level. Could listen to these two swap verses for hours. Sam's Pick

Konshens
Don’t Worry (Prod. Dre Skull)

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/mixpak/konshens-dont-worry-prod-dre-skull[/soundcloud]

Zanda: I’m sure young Samuel will put a great counter-arguement as to why this isn’t incredibly boring but egh this has my interest levels at almost zero. I don’t really understand the purpose of the use of auto-tune on this either. It literally just grinds my gears. 1.5

Matt: For a minute there I thought this was Vennu Mallesh. The bio under this song makes me wonder if I’m just missing something, but I’m not feeling this at all. All the pieces are there to make this listenable, but they’re just not coming through for me. 1

Sam: Wow, did not expect this one to cop such a beating. For me, Mixpak is one of my favourite labels of the year. They’ve really run with the fact that dancehall is in vogue again but added a different flavour that shows the genre can be forward-thinking. Don’t Worry is an example of that. It takes the dancehall formula and plays with it subtly, refining it around the edges and incorporating elements of electronica. I love how it stays on the same level but never really loses its stronghold because the melody is so captivating. 4

Average Score: 2.2

RiFF RAFF & Skepta
Back From The Dead

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/djafterthought/riff-raff-ft-skepta-back-from-the-dead[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Dark and brooding prod, the rhymes are the key here - but I can’t help but wish Skepta went a little hard and faster on this. It feels a bit like hiring a ferrari and only driving it through school zones. The first verse from Riff Raff feels like it just needs to be followed by something with at least more intensity by Skepta in the second half. 3

Matt: Okay, like, I get it. It’s a Halloween thing. But this could have gone to so many cooler places, or even to a place. Maybe that’s asking too much of Riff Raff? Ahem, sorry: RiFF RAFF? Skepta can definitely do better than this, too. It sounds like these rhymes were really an ‘Afterthought’. Get it? Nobody...? I’ll show myself out. 2

Sam: *Listens to seconds of Riff Raff, skips straight to Skepta*. Yeah there’s really nothing here to get me excited. Even Sketpa’s ok verse is pretty forgettable. 2

Average Score: 2.3

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