First Impressions: Frank Ocean, Charli XCX, Lorde And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/14/2017

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 Charli XCX, Little Dragon, Frank Ocean, Matoma, Nicki Minaj and Lorde face the jury.

Charli XCX - 3am (Pull Up)

Ben: Every cut I’ve heard from this new Charli XCX has been very very strong. She is just as club ready as when she crashed onto the scene but I feel like she sounds so much more refined now. Charli and pairing is ideal- Charli with her angular “pull-up” hook and MO coming through with her usual croon. It left me wanting a bit more though. Maybe they should do an EP together or something. 3.5

Zanda: This whole mixtape is absolutely amazing. The more that Charli XCX works with the likes of A. G. Cook, Danny L Harle, Easy FX and the whole PC Music crew the more I’m so captivated by her music. She’s doing them a favour too, making their music just a tad more accessible. Pull Up is the one of the most accessible singles from Number 1 Angel, and conspiring with was a stroke of genius. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: The fact that this song is on a free mixtape blows my mind. If it was a single, which is should be, it would go down as one of the best Charli XCX singles because it perfectly combines her dark, emotional songwriting with those perky, PC Music aesthetics she’s been delving into. Nabbing MO for the end of the song was a genius move and changing the lyrics to, “go fuck yourself,” in the final chorus was also a genius move. Let’s get a video out and get this on radio stat. 4.5

Average Score: 4.16

Little Dragon - Sweet

Ben: I’m deeply confused by the clip here. There’s some kind of ceramic foam (?) art piece that is the objective leading the band on an escapade whilst some other seemingly unrelated things keep happening. Look I won’t pretend that I like that. What it distracts you from however, is that this new single is actually a really sweet accessible new single from Little Dragon. 3

Zanda: Damn this has got me super excited for the new album from Little Dragon, and the next month is gonna be an agonising wait. Sweet is glitchy and weird, but in a way that compliments the musicality of the track rather than taking away from it. Vibes for days. 3.5

Sam: I was sooooooo bored by High but this is grabbing my attention once again. It might be one of the most danceable lead-singles they’ve ever put out, channelling Prince funk and lo-fi, otherworldly vibes. The challenge now is for Little Dragon to release a really good album because I don’t think they’ve ever managed it. This is a really could start. 4

Average Score: 3.5

Frank Ocean - Chanel

Ben: ‘See both sides like Chanel’ echoes Frank on a very welcome surprise single. As he did on much of Blond he employs a whole array of vocal styles in a short space making it seem like a crowded room full of Frank Oceans all chiming in over each other. Each one sharing a different part of him- macho recounts of fights, some vulnerable in his masculinity. There is a real assuredness and a confidence that carries through this though. Breezy and brazen. 4.5 Ben's Pick

Zanda: Another gorgeously understated offering from Frank, and Chanel wouldn’t have been out of place in Blond for me. Which poses the interesting question of whether this was a leftover from the album, or whether he’s just genuinely been inspired to create a captivating new single. Love all the different ways he plays with the vocal melody through various, subtle manipulations, harmonies and the like. 4

Sam: I listened to this on repeat with everyone else listening to Blonded Radio on Saturday and I bloody loved it. Like most of what was on Blonde, there’s no form to the song and it’s so hard to get your head around but once you do, it clicks beautifully. Melodically there are so beautiful moments here but the lyrics are pretty hard to beat from, “my guy pretty like a girl,” to, “I see both side like Chanel.” Sometimes I feel like it’s unfair judging Frank’s music in a forum like this because he’s just on another level to everyone else. Literally no other artist around right now could make a song as intricate, weird and sincere as this. 5 Sam's Pick

Average Score: 4,5

Nicki Minaj - No Frauds (Feat. Drake & Lil Wayne)

Ben: This lineup looks like 2011 on paper. The result is as a high as anything this trio would have put out, but there’s no massive drop that they try to spit fire over, but lives very much in the present as a late night thang. Nicki flickers. Drake trips. It’s compelling. Really confused into Wayne’s contribution here, just an unconvincing rap over the outro of the beat and then the song just ends. 2017 needs some more Drake and Nicki though. 3.5

Zanda: I’ll confess I’m not the biggest Nicki Minaj fan, but she’s really outdone herself here - crafting bewitching verses and a satisfying chorus. Predictably Drake’s verse is silky smooth and simply spectacular, and I would’ve happily taken another verse from either of them over the final contribution from Lil Wayne. 4

Sam: Full disclosure, I worship the ground that Nicki Minaj walks on so I was always going to love Nicki coming back with three singles. Nicki could’ve come back with a full-on attack on Remy Ma, she’s capable of that, but I think this is the better route. She’s made a hit, taken a stab at Ma without mentioning her name and reunited with Drake and Lil Wayne all in one song. Your faves could never. 4

Average Score: 3.83

Matoma - Girl At Coachella (Feat. D.R.A.M. & RUDE)

Ben: Girl. At. Coachella. Really? Whoever wrote/ produced this should consider if the world needs more Chainsmokers types. I kind of get D.R.A.M, and sort of like him on this beat- but overall this is pretty lifeless. Seeya. 1

Zanda: Just imagining the process of creating this song, especially the lyrics. *We need something that rhymes with Coachella… Boatchella… Floatchella… nahh… For ever? Yes! That’s it! Now just put something vaguely electro-reggae sounding underneath it.* Fuck you. 1

Sam: The alarm bells really should’ve started ringing when they came up with the title. Matoma apparently had the time of his life at Coachella last year so in between he wrote this song which sounds like things ended pretty badly so that’s the first confusing thing. “We finished the song really quickly,” he further wrote on YouTube which is very easy to believe and then they obviously held it until closer to Coachella to draw-up hype for it. Well, it didn’t work because I’m yet to read one positive thing about the most watered-down reggae song since Santeria. I’ve been to Coachella for the last three years and this song could actually make me never want to go again. Thanks Matoma. 1

Average Score: 1

Lorde - Liability

Ben: This is crushingly beautiful. I had kind of expected Lorde to try face herself in the mirror in a vulnerable ballad, but I didn’t expect it to be as earth-shattering as this. The ideal accompaniment to Green Light, which has taken me a bit longer but I am also warming to.  If I’m honest after hearing of her growing pains- struggling to adjust to her new life, I wasn’t sure if the follow up could ever reach the heights of Pure Heroine, but it seems as though it has just fueled the fire. 4.5

Zanda: I think it’s a huge testament to the sheer presence of Lorde’s increasingly inimitable vocals that she’s crafted something that on the surface is so simple, yet contains a veritable storm of emotions. Whilst it is vastly different from Green Light, on a deeper level they make sense together, in a two sides of the same coin sort of situation. Melodrama is going to be more incredible and impactful than I think any can quite fathom at this point in time. 4.5

Sam: Lorde gives us this huge, exploding pop song and then the week after she gives us this intimate, piano ballad. They’re two extremes but both of them have shown such incredible growth in Lorde as a songwriter. Every lyric in this is so nuanced and vivid and they needed to be because this had the potential to be boring. It’s anything but boring and officially takes Lorde from zero to hero in my books. 4.5

 Average Score: 4.5

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