First Impressions: Sampha, The Chainsmokers, Cosmo's Midnight And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 01/17/2017

First Impressions are our weekly roundtable reviews sifting through all the fresh new music. Our writers take a listen, slap a score on it and then justify said score. This week SZA, Sampha, Cosmo's Midnight, Syd, Kingdom and The Chainsmokers face the jury.

Drew Barrymore

Zanda: Loving how SZA is infusing some country vibes into her inimitable style of pop, and that distorted guitar riff is killer. The instrumental on its own is unpredictable and woozy, but SZA crafts her amazing vocals in and around the wooziness like the hand woven basket that provided an equally gentle head for the baby Moses when he was sent down the river. Well that was a pretty fucking weird metaphor. 3.5

Sam: I lost it when I saw the very, very low quality version of SZA singing this last week before it was released so naturally I was over the moon when it dropped. This is more confident than anything on her debut and should help her convert even more followers which can only be a good thing. It gives me the same kind of soulful vibes as Love On The Brain but instead of love it channels low self-esteem in the most poignant way. For me, it’s an instant classic. I think she knocks it out of the park. 4.5

Average Score: 4

(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

Zanda: I actually like this a hell of a lot more than ‘Blood On Me’, and that makes me a bunch more excited for the release of Sampha’s forthcoming album Process. I think a track like this gives his vocals so much more room to breathe, because Sampha seems to be the sort of artist to match the instrumental in his tracks with his lyrics. With a pure and simple piano as accompaniment though, and such a light, fluffy texture, it allows him to hold so much more of the melody on his own, showing off a whole new dimension to his obviously awesome vocal range. 4

Sam: How can you even critique something like this? It’s an honest display of raw emotion by a guy who has more talent that most of us on this planet combined. The simple combination of his voice and a piano is so heart wrenching and given the lyrics, he really couldn’t have done it any other way. The first time I listened to it I had my heart in my throat and then I read the backstory and it took it to a different place. There’s so much you can do these days in terms of tricky production but when you’re a lyricist as good as Sampha, it’s unnecessary. Just sit at the piano and pour your heart out. The first perfect song of the year. 5 Sam's Pick

Average Score: 4.5

Cosmo’s Midnight

Zanda: Another super clean, catchy, summery track from Cosmo’s Midnight. It seems like this is the perfect time of year for their style of release, and although this latest one won’t blow your mind it fits snugly in their discography to date. The boys show again here how adept they are at transforming an instrumental to feature varying different styles of vocals, this time sitting gorgeously underneath a clean-cut female vocal. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: When Cosmo’s Midnight first started gaining popularity I was worried that they were going to be an internet thing that didn’t translate IRL. But, they just keep delivering groovy, intricate pop songs that translate so well in the live arena. Take a little Kaytranada, a touch of Sia with a sprinkle of J-Pop and you’ve got this bloody great tune. 4

Average Score: 4.25

All About Me

Zanda: There’s just something hugely intoxicating about Syd’s vocals. They seem soft and understated but there’s such an exciting, raw quality to them - and the production on this new one supports this weirdly dizzying vibe that this tune on the whole projects. The simplicity the discordant production allows each and every syllable to exhale on its own. 3.5

Sam: This one totally took me by surprise. I knew she wasn’t going to go with the soulful grooves of The Internet on her first solo outing but I wasn’t expecting her to hit us with such a badass tune. Calling a solo tune All About Me is a genius move and to come out of the gates this fierce is also a great idea. This solo record just went from not being on my radar at all to being one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Hypnotising. 4

Average Score: 3.75

Tears In The Club

Zanda: I’m usually one to love a weird, glitchy track like this latest one from Kingdom, and Tears In The Club certainly has its moments. The transitions for instance are absolutely captivating, but there’s something about this track that I find a little too hard to listen to. I absolutely appreciate what’s being done here, but I won’t be saving this to any playlists. 3

Sam: Kingdom is one of my favourite producers in the world and his work with DAWN last year was flawless. This one’s a little more low-key compared to his other offerings but it’s still intoxicating. I love how he takes these really icy, industrial soundscapes and wraps them with emotion through his synth work. The keys in this are hypnotising and I really need this album now. 4

Average Score: 3.5

The Chainsmokers

Zanda: Egh how the fuck does this have 15+ Million views it’s so fucking boring and that snare makes me feel nauseous? 1

Sam: It seems appropriate that The Chainsmokers are the most popular new act at a time when Donald Trump is taking the presidency. Everything from their attitude to their lazy production is a backwards step for music. This is honestly the most basic song I’ve heard in a very long time. It sounds like a very early demo that needs a proper vocalist and some intriguing lyrics. It may seem good fun for everyone to pay out The Chainsmokers but it’s not even fun anymore. This is so boring, I just want to forget it and move on with my day. Thanks. 1

Average Score: 1

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