First Impressions: Lorde, Ed Sheeran, Alt-J And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/07/2017

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 Lorde, Benson, Ed Sheeran, Feki, Lil Uzi Vert and Alt-J face the jury.

Lorde - Green Light

Zanda Wilson: I don’t  buy into the people who criticising Lorde because this song is a “departure from her sound” or because it “sounds too much like Sia.” She’s way too young to have a defined sound, which in itself is dumb because it’s so limiting, and also Sia is a fucking genius. Holy shit, just listen to it without any preconceptions of what you want it to sound like and you’ll hear how bloody good it is. It’s dark, it’s shimmering, it’s joyous and it’s intense all at the same time, and hearing this makes me think Lorde is still only just showing a glimpse of what she’s capable of as an artist. 4.5

Michelle He: We’ve been waiting far too long for Lorde to come back and boy, is she back. This starts off in vintage Lorde spoken-word style but kicks off with a new rage and proper pop riffs. It’s dark to begin with, and while I’m not a fan of the bright and chirpy interlude, it builds up into a hands up clapping climax which I love. I think Broods said Lorde always has these grand visions about her songs, and this is no exception. She’s crafted this landscape with valleys and peaks and it works incredibly well. 4

Sam Murphy: Christ almighty, I expected Lorde’s return to be big but not this big. This song is genius for so many reasons that it’s almost hard to list them all here. It doesn’t sound like anything that’s on the radio right now. It’s literally an out-of-nowhere sound that captures the unpredictability of Bowie, the theatricality of Gaga and the movability of a Jeppo song. Lorde doesn’t want to be great in 2017, she wants to be an all time great and this is a really convincing argument. The piano bridge is totally unexpected and brilliant, the chorus is big, bold and euphoric and the verses are so honest and intimate that they reveal more about Lorde than ever. I liked her debut but I wasn’t over the top about it. She was so young that most of the lyrics were steeped in metaphor. That’s the difference here. She’s grown up and she’s got real, honest experiences to share. I love that “green light” is not a Gatsby reference because it shows that she’s moving away from complicated references and just giving it to us straight. Bloody brilliant. 5 Sam’s Pick

Average Score: 4.5

Benson - Trying (Feat. Yeo)

Zanda: I’ve literally played this over 40 times since it came out on Friday, and I’m no less sick of it. Yeo is, for mine, one of the most talented musicians in Australia at the moment, and the more he sings the better he gets. I think this match is so perfect because Benson’s production has really given some more oomph, which is exactly what Yeo needs. The pairing works both ways with Yeo’s more understated influence dialing down Benson’s usually harder-hitting production too. What a banger. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Michelle: Enjoying the Bitmoji cover art…onto the actual song. Firstly I like Benson and I like Yeo, so this should theoretically be a slam dunk. This is less experimental than the rest of Yeo’s work, but this fits perfectly into what Benson’s known for - bouncy, synth-heavy d-floor soundtracks – and does it very well. Yeo’s vocals slots easily into the lyrics and the melody and it closes out a summer of quality local electronic music. 3.5

Sam: Look the beat is not the most creative thing I’ve ever heard but Yeo’s top line is so slippery and effortless that it takes this to another level. A little bit of radio play and this one will become an instant festival classic. 3

Average Score: 3.6

Lil Uzi Vert, Quavo, Travis Scott - Go Off

Zanda: The Fate of the Furious soundtrack looks choc full of gems, and Travis Scott absolutely unleashes with this one. The soundtracks for these films have always been outstanding and the new one is clearly going to have an another epic collection of songs. The bass-driven production is made even more interesting by three very different verses from  from Migos’ Quavo, Scott and and Lil Uzi Vert, although the latter only gets a short verse at the back end. 3.5

Michelle: Travis Scott has this ridiculously distinctive voice that I’m hearing everywhere at the moment. But it doesn’t make it any less brilliant especially considering how well Birds went down last year. I also can’t forget how he fell into a hole on stage after declaring “it’s lit”. “Imma go off” is probably the new “it’s lit” and it’s undeniably catchy and very, very well put together. It captures the essence of the new Fast and Furious album perfectly, but it also sticks to Scott’s style which is the fast moving beats and gritty rhymes he made his name on. 3

Sam: It’s not See You Again so I already am giving it extra points for that. Honestly, I’m really struggling to see why Fast & The Furious has to have a 27th sequel and that’s why I’m not sold all the way with this track. That said, Quavo’s hook is really, really strong and Uzi Vert’s closing verse is perfect. I could take or leave Travis Scott’s contribution but I guess it’s cool to see the three of them all together. 3.5

Average Score: 3.3

Ed Sheeran - Eraser

Zanda: Ed Sheeran spitting fire is a weird way to end my Monday, but I don’t actually mind it all that much. Apart from that, there isn’t anything here that’s particularly interesting for me. It’s a listen, but there’s nothing keeping me engaged, despite Ed’s attempts at being dark and personal with his lyrics and instrumentation. 3

Michelle: Still can’t get over the picture of Ed Sheeran decked out in his own merch at a record store. Anyway, Eraser is a long-awaited return to Sheeran’s weirdly wonderful mashup of folk guitar music and English accented rapping, which I’m not really a fan of. I’m somewhat relieved when the first verse is over (the second verse is better), when he breaks into a beautiful guitar melody and incorporates some of the dark pop from X. This is almost a return to classic Sheeran from +, except that he’s come a long way since then and this is built up with slicker production and more fully padded out with backing instrumentals. 3.5

Sam: I go into every Ed Sheeran record expecting it to be as safe as bubble wrap which is why I was pleasantly surprised when this track opened the record. It’s the most honest he’s been about his career ever and has an anxious energy about it that is far more interesting than Sheeran in love song mode. It makes me wonder what kind of music he’d make if his fan base wasn’t looking for their next wedding song. 3.5

Average Score: 3.3

Feki - Run Away

Zanda: I really think this year we’ll see Feki build his catalogue to really significant point, and he’s definitely ready to take the next step. This is another example of how he tailors his production to the vocalist he’s featuring, and in this case its probably the most manipulation he’s used on a vocal line so far. As long as he keeps trying new things and not resting on what he’s created before, he’ll keep breaking down barriers and his audience will continue to grow. 4

Michelle: I hear about Feki a lot but I’ve never knowingly listened to his music, so I had next to no exceptions about what it’d be like. Run Away starts off almost like an electronic ballad then builds into a classic banger, with drops and warbled chipmunk vocals that are more sound than word. I love how it starts off very low key, barely giving any hint that this is a dance track, then morphs into a banger and back. Absolute classic – look forward to hearing more of Feki soon. 4

Sam: This is totally haunting and beautiful. It’s the best top line Feki has ever had on a song and it’s also his meatiest drop ever. He really is growing with every release and that’s really exciting to see. 3.5

Average Score: 3.83 

Alt-J - 3WW

Zanda: I haven’t read a single reaction to this so far, but here goes mine. I’m not against the concept of a slow-burning, building ballad in theory, but I really don’t see this appealing to many outside of Alt-J’s inner fan base (ie. me.) My favourite songs by these guys over the years are more driving and have a really catchy pulse, and this is certainly a different direction for them. It kind of feels like a passion project for them, and it’s not hitting any of the right notes (so to speak) for me. 2.5

Michelle: I’ve always found it very, very hard to explain Alt-J. They’re billed as indie rock, but that never did them justice. After all, their most sparing, minimalist tracks are more folk than rock and this new one exemplifies their best wide open works. With a barely-there percussion track (is that an egg shaker?), a whisper of guitar and acoustic piano occasionally crashing through, this could have easily been a white noise disaster. What clinches this, however, is the soft duet that closes it out. 4.5 Michelle’s Pick

Sam: I don’t even think Alt-J’s fanbase could tell you what they like about the band. I feel like they’d like the idea of them but surely there aren’t fans who have been there since day one still sticking around. Nearly three albums in and they haven’t really managed to find their shtick. I think their first album established them nicely and the next album was terrible to be honest. 3WW is unnecessarily convoluted but it’s definitely better than the last record. I actually think the vocal part of the song is really beautiful and the inclusion of Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice is a genius move. As a whole, I actually quite like it, I just hope they find some consistency on this album. 3.5

Average Score: 3.5

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