First Impressions: RL Grime, Bruno Mars, PNAU And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 11/08/2016


First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on their first (or second) listen. Each week we listen to 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 RL Grime, Maggie Rogers, PNAU, Tinashe, Bruno Mars and Kevin Abstract.

RL Grime x Skrillex x What So Not

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Zanda: I was honestly surprised at how much I liked this collab, especially given I often find RL and What So Not’s production styles (both together and separately) quite monotonous and boring. Not so with this one, and i can’t even quite put my finger one why. I guess by process of elimination it must be the Skrillex element do it, which I think you can hear in the short melodic bits between the heavier drops. The a capella choral section also adds another dimension, as well as breaking up the track into two main sections. 4

Reece: Waiting has a ‘big fight main event’ feel to it from the gorgeous opening and the buzz that lingers all the way through the track. I don’t know these artists well enough to pick out what each contributed, but regardless of the ingredients this one came out of the oven in pristine form. I actually love that this song resisted the urge to descent into all-out chaos, as even the drop is a little bit fun and bouncier than I would have anticipated. The chant that permeates through the second half is also something else. 4

Alistair: FUCK ME DEAD RL, Skrillex and WSN all on the same track…. SHUT THE GATES!! I first heard a snippet of this collab during RL Grimes 2016 halloween mix n fell in love with it straight away. Right off the bat you can hear What So Not’s major influence on the track. It’s got his classic sound to it. Each artist distinctively has a part of their sound shine through on this track and that’s what I love about Waiting. 5 Alistair’s Pick

Average Score: 4.3

Maggie Rogers
Dog Years

Zanda: Loving this slow burner of a tune from Maggie Rogers. Silky smooth production during the verses is juxtaposed by a heavier vibe during the chrous sections. Maggie’s layered vocals in the back end are also just gorgeous. 3.5

Reece: This track reminds me of a Sunday morning sleep-in, meaning I’m already inclined to love it. Beyond that, Maggie Rogers does so many things well: the layering, the gentle build and the irresistible power and clarity in her vocals. If Alaska is one of the twenty best songs I’ve heard this year, Dog Years is a worthy follow-up. 4

Alistair: Maggie Rogers has a great voice to listen to. There are so many elements to this song with different types of instruments being hit creating layer upon layer building towards that hook. One of my favourite parts to this song is when that bird noise slowly creeps in and out of the song. 3.5

Average Score: 3.6

Ghetto Boy

Zanda: Tinashe delivers again, with a twinkling, softly spoken effort that’s sure to get your emotions in a twist. The way her vocals interact with the piano melody is simply breathtaking, and the texture of the song captivates the ear, as it slow adds more and more instruments throughout.  4

Reece: While listening to Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound, one of my favourite albums of the year, I never really wondered what it would sound like if Tinashe did her own version of the project but Ghetto Boy now has me desperate to hear it. Although she has all the tools to be all over the radio, it’s admirable Tinashe continues to take on creative, out-of-the-box ventures like this and pulls them off so well. Tinashe’s vocals intwine so well with Dev Hynes’ production on this slow-burning track that manages to both cause some ‘looking out the rainy window thinking about existentialism’ moments as well as get stuck in your head like a pesky earworm. 3.5

Alistair: I think I was first made aware of Tinashe last year sometime during this first impressions segment n liked her straight away. She’s the type of artists that just knows her sound and knows exactly what to do with it and can easily adapt to different tempos. Just has she has done with this slower paced number. Absolutely beautiful. 4

Average Score: 3.83


Zanda: Holy shit Nick Littlemore is everywhere at the moment. Not taking a second to rest after his most recent Empire Of The Sun album, he’s thrown himself back into his more club-friendly project PNAU - and haven’t they just been sorely missed. This is everything that PNAU do well; a catchy-as-fuck beat, plenty of fun melodies, tight vocals - really just the complete dance choon package. I can hear the top 50 of the Hottest 100 calling… 4.5 Zanda's Pick

Reece: This week is drab - it was raining in Melbourne yesterday, the U.S. election is happening (pls make it stop) and most universities are knee deep in exams. So thank heavens for PNAU, who have unleashed Chameleon on us to offer a burst of much-needed energy. In pairing some familiar club beats with some inventive and awesome vocals, PNAU are welcomed back into my heart and rotation not a moment too soon. 4

Alistair: As soon as I saw the name PNAU I was excited! I haven’t heard anything from PNAU in a very long time and it was always fun having a dance to them at Big Day Out. This is quite different from what we are used to hearing from PNAU but that’s a good thing. They have a fresh new sound. The song still holds true to PNAU’s classic quirkiness and fun nature that they always bring with their music. 4.3

Average Score: 4.26

Bruno Mars
Versace On The Floor

Zanda: Oh god he’s still alive. 1

Reece: “Your eyes are where I’m lost in.” “Let’s just kiss ‘til we’re naked, baby.” “It’s warming up, can you feel it baby?” Actual lyrics from this song or Tinder messages from your nightmare? Both! 1

Alistair: Yeahright… NO NO NO! Wanted to turn it off two bars in. 1

Average Score: 1

Kevin Abstract
Miserable America

Zanda: This is so cool, where do I even begin. It’s impossible to ignore the lyrics, which address both racism and homophobia - but not in a super in-your-face way. While Abstract himself shows an insane amount of talent, by rapping, singing and everything in between throughout the track. The up-beat melody betrays the content of the lyrics, but also kindof gives a sense of hope as well. 3.5

Reece: Fresh off quarterbacking his Brockhampton group’s debut mixtape, Kevin Abstract is gearing up for his first project in two years and bloody hell, what a way to start it. To say a track ‘blurs genre lines’ is to plagiarise literally any press release, but there’s probably no better way to talk about what distinguishes Kevin Abstract from the pack. This track opens with a punch and only gets more impactful from there. It’s loaded with emotion, honesty and bravery with some witty bars in there that can fly over your head if you’re caught up in the meaning of the track. Kevin Abstract is 20 and doing this. I’m 19 and today I put the cereal in the fridge after breakfast. 4.5 Reece’s Pick

Alistair: I think this might be the first time I’ve willingly listened to Kevin Abstract. I actually had to look him up and check what country he was from. You could easily mistake him as an aussie hip hop artist due to his quick talkative rap style. You simply can’t ignore the lyrics of this song and the powerful story he is telling. 3.5

Average Score: 3.83

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