FI_18Aug

First Impressions: FKA twigs, Disclosure, CHVRCHES & More

FI_18AugFirst 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 FKA twigs, Slum Sociable, CHVRCHES, Vic Mensa, Deer and Disclosure.

FKA twigs
in time

Zanda: More sparkly goodness from FKA Twigs here. This is actually one of the simpler tracks that I’ve heard from her, and it benefits from not trying to do too much. The modest melodic aspect of it ensures that her incredible vocals remain the centrepiece of the whole track, with strong bass lines also giving it another dimension and some depth. 3.5

Sam: All the most recent tracks we’ve heard from FKA twigs have all been pretty sparse and electronic but this one feels the most accessible. It’s bound by this early 2000s R&B aesthetic but then peppered with heavy, affecting electronic sounds. twigs sounds gentle and sensual bringing a real direct honesty to the song - the lyrics help that too. When twigs sings over a sparse beat she has this knack of making it feel startlingly intimate and that’s what in time achieves. This could actually be her best track since Two Weeks. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Slum Sociable
Anyway

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/slumsociable/all-night[/soundcloud]

Zanda: I’m immediately taken by the gorgeous, twinkly piano line that sits in behind the vocals. It’s an accompanying line but it sits above the vocals in pitch which makes it stand out. and that’s just one aspect of the superb layering that makes this track so impressive. With various piano, bass, guitar and synth/effect lines coming in and out of prominence, Slum Sociable explore a massive range of textures and timbres within a relatively limited melodic space. Oh and its funky as hell. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: Wow. First single Anyway was good, but this one really makes you sit up and take notice. It sounds like an old-soul brought forward to the future with smokey, crackling vocals accompanied by a jazz-infused instrumental. Australia has really found it’s sound in terms of electronic music recently but it’s beginning to sound a little tired. No one else is really doing this in the country and it’s so damn refreshing to hear. 4

CHVRCHES
Never Ending Circles

Zanda: So far CHVRCHES new album sounds like it’s going to be exactly what you’d expect, an exploration in synth pop. They stick to a relatively simple formula, but it works incredibly well and happy melodies make people happy. Gorgeous contrasting sections of Lauren’s pure vocals vs affected vocals give this track another catchy dimension to it as well. 4

Sam: Totally with Zanda - CHVRCHES have delivered up a few solid tracks now and it’s exactly what you expected it to sound like. That’s a good and a bad thing. On one hand, Leave A Trace and this one are really excellent, which they are, but on the other hand it sounds like the album may be a bit of a sequel to The Bones Of What You Believe and it may get a little boring. In saying that, we’ve only heard two tracks so they could have some really interesting stuff lined-up for the album. In the meantime I’m just going to take Never Ending Circles for what it is which is a big, bold, sparkling electronic track that features Lauren Mayberry killing it once again. 4

Vic Mensa
I Been

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/vicsavemoney/i-been[/soundcloud]

Zanda: I remember listening to an interview Vic Mensa did on triple j about the huge success of Down On My Luck and he was honestly quite surprised as it was very different to most of his stuff. I Been is probably a bit more reflective of his true style; its grimier and definitely not as easy to listen to as DOML so if that’s what you’re expecting you’ll be disappointed. Having said that this is a dank track and his flow is excellent. 3

Sam: The first 15 seconds of this is so good. It sounds really dark and also builds you up for a tempo-raising, fire-spitting rap but we don’t really get that in the end. It’s a solid track that’s right up the alley of his most recent stuff particularly U Mad but in many ways it’s predictable and a little forgettable. It would be good to hear Mensa rapping over some more interesting beats - something a little faster and even a bit glitchier. I Been is demonic and abrasive but it needs a moment that really punches you in the gut - we never get that. 3.5

Deer 
Cry For Help

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/deermelb/deer-cry-for-help[/soundcloud]

Zanda: There’s a lot to like in this track. The effects and synths all work nicely to create some positive vibes and an overall pleasing aural aesthetic. However I feel like the EQ’ing sounds unfinished and overall the tune is lacking depth. There is also very little melodic development, it just seems like two very recognisable sections alternating back and forth. Lots of potential though, as this is in fact Deer’s first single release! 3

Sam: This one’s a really interesting one. It takes a few cues from that tropical, cartoon-like sound that producers like Paces and Sable have nailed but it darkens it a bit with darker, rumbling beats. Those beats really dig it into the ground and give the track a bit of strength. It’s kind of like TNGHT have been stripped-back to their bare-bones and recreated in paradise. As such, we’re left with ear-candy aplenty but alongside a hip-hop influenced weightiness that makes it feel less fleeting. Really promising stuff from the new producer. 4

Disclosure
Willing & Able (Feat. Kwabs)

Zanda: This track really showcases Disclosure’s ability to tailor their production to the style of any vocalist that they are featuring. Willing & Able has so much soul, and that is just as much to do with the tempered version of house music that lives underneath the awesome and catchy, soulful vocals by Kwabs. The typical bass used is held back in tempo, really allowing Kwabs to shine, whereas when featuring guys like Gregory Porter they’ll really up the anti and produce a track with much more intensity (ie. Holding On). It may not sound like it on first listen, but Disclosure are genuinely becoming one of the more versatile acts going around. 4.5

Sam: Kwabs is one of my favourite new vocalists and him teaming-up with Disclosure is an absolute no-brainer. Willing & Able is smooth as hell, soulful and built around a swelling chorus - but so are all Disclosure tracks really. At this point I’m starting to get a little nervous about the Disclosure album based on the fact that so far all the tracks have been solid but nothing has been different enough from Settle to really capture attention. I thought Bang That was a really positive step for the duo, delivering something with a little more gusto but since then it’s been a little predictable. That’s not to take away from the song as a standalone product - if I was hearing it with no context I’d say it was a banging song. The unfortunate fact is, I’m not and I’m just craving something that really catches me off-guard. 3

Now it's time for your vote: 

[poll id="51"]

FI_11Aug

First Impressions: Lana Del Rey, FKA twigs, JOY. + More

FI_11Aug

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 Lana Del Rey, James Vincent McMorrow, FKA twigs, JOY., Jamie Woon and Koreless

Lana Del Rey
High By The Beach

Ben Kyi: The most redeeming quality of what would be an otherwise pedestrian offering, are the bridge and verses of High By The Beach. The music and vocal delivery are at their best in these sections. However, this is undone due to the repetitive nature of the chorus, and somewhat shallow and contrived lyrics throughout. I have never understood the appeal of Lana Del Rey and to this day, I still don’t. 2

Alistair Rhodes: To me Lana Del Rey has completely flopped on this track. The chorus is repetitive and boring and with the words "All I wanna do is get high by the beach" appearing three times in one chorus in which there are 2 chorus' to this song, as soon as the second chorus starts I was ready to turn off my speakers. Lana has a strong voice but during verse one and two and the bridge it is very weak and lacking that oomph that this song desperately needs. High By The Beach is the single off her fourth studio album, I only hope the rest of the album is a lot better. 2

Sam Murphy: After hearing Honeymoon I was not expecting LDR to go back to the pop/hip-hop stylings of Born To Die but nothing she does is really ever predictable. If you’re not already a Lana fan then this is a terrible entry-point - it’s annoying and a little grating but I am a fan and I think this is quite frankly f***king brilliant. She doesn’t even sound like she’s lifting a finger, vocally, but she manages to sound like a total badass - “the truth is I never bought into your bullshit.” The chorus is also a total jam with its woozy synths and nursery rhyme melody.

Here’s the thing about Lana Del Rey. Everybody made such a point of pointing out that she was fake after Video Games. And then she released Ultraviolence and proved she could release a great album. And now she can pretty much do what she likes because she’s got her fanbase. This will easily be her biggest hit and even though I still can’t quite figure her out, she’s utterly compelling. 4.5 Sam's Pick

James Vincent McMorrow
How To Waste A Moment

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jvmcmorrow/how-to-waste-a-moment[/soundcloud]

Ben: Far from being a banger, How To Waste A Moment is one of James Vincent McMorrow’s more upbeat tracks. It also feels a bit more subtle than some of his past material, as the music isn’t entirely showing the emotional heft that McMorrow is often known for. Though, the lyrics are heavy and lush in content and detail as the title suggests, wasted moments. This great contrast aside, How To Waste A Moment is a good track, but doesn’t fully showcase McMorrow’s musical prowess or swoon inducing vocals that we all know he is capable of. 3

Alistair: On first listening to How To Waste A Moment I wasn't all that sure if I liked it or not. So I went back and listened to his previous songs such as We Don't Eat, Cavalier, Look Out and Higher Love in order to refamiliarize myself with James Vincent McMorrow's work. Just like all of those songs James is taking you on a journey and telling you a story that relates to certain aspects of not only his life but the listener's life as well. This is by far his most buoyant song to date. The more I listen to it the more and more I like it. 3

Sam: If anything, it’s really nice to hear James Vincent McMorrow expand his sound and put out something a little more immediate than Cavalier. This sounds optimistic, up-beat and perky which is a mode we haven’t heard from him yet. I can’t say it’s as intriguing as the last album but it’s a pleasant little track and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. 3.5

JOY.
About Us

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/joy-aus/about-us-1[/soundcloud]

Ben: Olivia McCarthy’s latest offering About Us is a pleasant low key jam of the electronic variety. The airy delivery of the vocals sit nicely in the scheme of things, while programmed beats, flourishes of keys and a few bars of great guitar work easily get the tick of approval. McCarthy is currently on the rise and her creative output far surpasses her 17 years. Definitely one to watch in the near future. 3.5

Alistair: Wow is my first impression of Olivia McCarthy’s latest tune and boy is it a TUNE! Her latest single About Us ticks all the right boxes. Her whispering vocals, the small amount of guitar meshed in with the electronically produced beat is outstanding. The only downfall to this song is that it seems to end quite abruptly. To think that this Brisbane producer/singer songwriter is only 17 years old and is about to drop her own self produced EP Ode later this month is unbelievable. Keep an eye out for this rising star. 4.5 Alistair's pick

Sam: JOY. set such a high standard from the first tracks he released but she just continues to get better and a lot of that is that she’s really elongating her voice and tapping into its smokey textures. About Us is her best track to date, I think. It’s so subtle and downplayed but it still manages to be captivating. Usually those gentle guitar strums would make something sound sleepy but here they’re atmospheric and warm. And I haven’t even spoken about the lyrics yet - they’re deep, heartfelt and honest. It’s hard to tick all those boxes and sound eloquent too but she manages. 4

FKA twigs
Figure 8

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/alex-ia-5/fka-twigs-figure-8-zane-lowe-beats1-premiere-interview[/soundcloud]

Ben: Figure 8 is the second taster from forthcoming EP Melissa, and it boldly reaffirms why FKA Twigs is such a driving force in the wide field of electronica. The track’s production is off the charts, with so many dark, weird and wonderful nuances creeping into the mix. Twigs’ vocals are an absolute treat to process and display her trademark R&B sensibilities delivered with an experimental tilt. Figure 8 is an unpredictable and exciting new track from an artist that is at present, going from strength to strength. 4.5 Ben’s Pick

Alistair: Upon listening to Figure 8 it wasn't at all what I expected to be hearing. I love the darkness and left field vibe I get from this song. The second single to come out of the FKA twigs camp which will feature on her latest EP Melissa truly cements herself as a pioneer within the indietronica scene. This dark and beautiful song really showcases FKA's immense production talents. There is so much happening in this song and it all just works and flows into each other ever so well. Her vocals are absolutely sublime. Three years in the industry and it doesn't seem like FKA twigs can do any wrong. 4.5

Sam: I’m of the opinion that twigs is one of the best musicians of our generation so it’s pretty hard to give her a well-rounded critique. What I love about her is that she’s so focussed on every facet of her craft and that includes talking about her music. The interview with Zane Lowe below is so well-expressed and honest - it doesn’t feel like there’s a detachment at all between the artist speaking and singing.

Figure 8 was phenomenal when I heard it live and she effortlessly carries that energy across to the studio recording. One of her greatest production techniques is the way she plays with balance. It constantly feels like the weight of the beat is shifting - it’s very off-putting but also gives the track an intriguing sense of movement. Brilliant. Again. 4.5

Jamie Woon
Sharpness

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/woon/sharpness[/soundcloud]

Ben: Four years since Woon’s debut Mirrorwriting dropped and we finally have some new material from the Brit. Sharpness moves along at a nice pace and makes great use of clean beats, a catchy bass line, and Woon’s smooth and soft vocals. This track is the epitome of low key R&B. It doesn’t break a whole lot of boundaries, but it is still a pleasure to listen to. 3

Alistair: The song's title Sharpness really sums up this song. It is sharp and tightly produced. Woon's beautiful voice coincides  with a very catchy beat really gets your head bobbing. It's the type of song you'd listen to whilst chilling around a fire with your mates and having a bit of a sing along to. You can really get lost in this song. 3.5

Sam: It’s quality not quantity for Jamie Woon and that’s a very rare thing. He’s really shaken off all the pressure around releasing a sophomore record and taken his time. It’s a good move because Sharpness is great. It’s really subtly funky and never shoves itself in your face. He just sits back in the beat and let’s his vocals flow effortlessly. He feels like a real, old-school soul singer and that’s really cool to hear in 2015. 4

Koreless
TT

Ben: Plenty of deep bass, interesting voice samples and a great build over the first half of electronic producer Koreless’ new cut TT isn’t enough to save it from a slightly underwhelming finish. Unfortunately, the aforementioned build doesn’t amount to much at all. The samples begin to grate after a while and TT ends up teetering away and eventually stagnating over the last minute and a half.  2.5

Alistair: Koreless has released this latest record TT via Young Turks, now Young Turks very rarely seems to disappoint but with this record I'm left wondering. I'm getting a progressive electronica vibe from TT and I had high hopes for this track but it just seemed to let me down. The constant building up for nothing left me forever waiting for something to happen. The track should have finished at the 4:45 minute mark as the last 45 seconds is an absolute waste of time that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. 1.5

Sam: Everything Young Turks touch turns to gold so the fact that they’ve release this already has me sold really. Putting that bias aside though it’s actually one of the stronger electronic tracks I’ve heard this year. That vocal sample is really frantic and off-putting yet you never feel as if it’s all too much. The synth that kicks in gradually settles everything and turns into something quite relaxing in the end. Koreless is an absolute master at beat-less music - he builds and builds and builds until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat. 4

Now time for your vote:
[poll id="50"]

FirstImpressions1

First Impressions: Wave Racer, Disclosure, Carly Rae Jepsen + More

FirstImpressions1
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 Wave Racer, Disclosure, Tory Lanez, Meg Mac, Kid Cudi and Carly Rae Jepsen

Wave Racer
Flash Drive (Feat. Baby)

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/wave-racer/wave-racer-flash-drive-feat-bby-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda Wilson: Well I should disclose that I’ve been waiting for something new from Wave Racer for a while, and boy has he delivered. Wavey gamer vibes are what has made a name for the Sydney producer, and Flash Drive has all of it in spades. Nothing unexpected, just some great feel-good effects, and dayum that slap bass solo interlude in the middle. Just fantastic. Zanda’s Pick

Alistair Rhodes: Wave Racer's distinct and unique sound definitely shines through with this new song, as soon as you hear it you know it's Wave Racer. The addition of Baby on vocals is just wow! I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more producers use her vocals over the next year or so. That bass guitar in the middle screams 'Seinfeld intro' to me and who doesn't like Seinfeld! 4

Ben Kyi: Over a year since the release of his single Streamers, Wave Racer has returned with the jovial Flash Drive. The track utilises to full extent the sugary, high spirited electronica and video game vibes that we have come to expect from Wave Racer, but with the added bonus of killer vocals from Baby and a fantastically sporadic cut and paste bass solo. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait another year for his next release. 4

Sam Murphy: Yes, I love wavey adding vocals to his tracks. There are definite rays of PC Music in this one but it still has his signature aqua-soaked beats. It’s colourful and playful, exactly how it should be and surprisingly never gets overwhelming. I also like that it’s attached to an EP, which means we’re getting more music from the beat maestro. 3.5

Disclosure
Omen (Feat. Sam Smith)

Zanda: There’s something about Sam Smith’s voice that just suits Disclosure’s style of production. Anyone that loved Latch will dig this one. The British duo are able to feature Smith’s spectacular range whilst still imparting their signature bass vibe on the track. If I had to pick on something I would suggest that Smith’s vocals in the chorus are a bit over-worked and altered, but there’s no doubting the huge value of this tune. 4.5

Alistair: Disclosure really love working with Sam Smith and who wouldn't, he has an amazing voice, but in saying that I'm really not digging this one from the British lads. Omen doesn't seem to go anywhere and stays stagnant throughout the full four minutes of the song. It definitely doesn't get me moving the way that Latch did. 2

Ben: Following on from Latch, there was a lot of understandable hype surrounding the release of the second collaboration between Disclosure and Sam Smith. The pulsating bass, shimmering beats and great production that the two piece are known for, are all present on Omen, and Sam Smith’s vocals are once again impeccable. However, the track doesn’t really build to anything. This isn’t to say it is a bad track. Though instead of accelerating, Omen seems to be content with merely drifting along. 3

Sam: This one’s a tough one because the first time I heard it I thought it was a little lacklustre. It just felt like the chorus was flat. But it’s grown on me since it’s release and I actually remember thinking the chorus to Latch was a bit of a letdown when I first heard it too. Now I’ve gotten used to that fact that Omen isn’t a 120BPM banger I’m starting to enjoy it’s subtle textures. The layered vocals in the chorus suit Sam Smith to a tee and the beats are bouncy and malleable. It’s probably not the earth-shattering hit it could’ve been but it’s good. Ask me in a month I might say it’s great. 3.5

Tory Lanez
Say It

Zanda: With vocals as smooth as Tory Lanez, its hard to go wrong. However good production should always be recognised, and although there some sparse, underworked backings throughout some of the verse sections the overall use of synthetic melody and effects is good. The chorus redeems any other flaws, with free-flowing vocals sitting on top of some gorgeous bass. 3.5

Alistair: Boy oh boy Tory Lanez what a voice. I wonder if he was ever in the church choir as a little boy because those harmonies that he breaks into are truly gospel like. Tory can not only rap but he can sing and I wouldn't be surprised if this catchy R&B number races up the charts. 3

Ben: There is very warm feeling throughout Tory Lanez’s latest cut Say It. Whether it is the low key production, the gospel style backing vocals or the honesty in Lanez’s words, Say It is a mostly solid R&B number. The only drawback is the unnecessary use of auto-tune on Lanez’s vocals. This somewhat kills what would have been a pretty amazing track. 2.5

Sam: Torey Lanez is really holding us down while we wait for Jeremih to get his shit together and release Late Nites. Lanez is a smooth vocalist but it’s the sample of Brownstone’s If You Love Me that really takes this track to the next level. Lanez’s work with WeDidIt earlier this year was brilliant but this seems to tread a really careful line between alternative R&B and the mainstream. I reckon over the course of this year this one’s going to be a real sleeper hit. 4

Meg Mac
Never Be

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/megmacmusic/meg-mac-never-be-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Its awesome hearing Meg Mac exploring a darker side to her style here, with dominant and dark piano dominating some gorgeous phrase-ending cadences. ‘Never Be’ also shows another side of her vocal range, really delving into the lower levels of pitch, and putting Mac’s amazing versatility on display. She just keeps going from strength to strength. 4

Alistair: This song kicks off with a BANG as soon as Meg Mac starts singing. She has such a powerful voice which is perfectly accompanied by an equally powerful piano and kick drum. If you close your eyes and listen to Never Be, automatically your foot will start tapping and your fingers will begin clicking. You just want to start screaming out the lyrics with Meg Mac on this one. 5 Alistair's pick

Ben: Arguably one of the most talented musicians kicking around the country at present, Meg Mac is back with Never Be. Mac has a flair for smart and engaging composition full of heart and emotion, and this track is no different. Both the striking piano chords and sharp drum hits are anchored by the superb vocals belted out by Mac. This gal can do no wrong at the moment. Eagerly awaiting the release of her debut album. 4.5 Ben’s Pick

Sam: Meg Mac’s voice is always undeniable but it’s really good to hear her hitting it a bit harder with this one and that’s thanks to M-Phazes formidable production. There are hip-hop, gospel and singer/songwriter vibes in her and it all comes together perfectly tied together by Mac’s smokey, textured vocals. The repetition of “I will never be thank the lord” is also a really choice move. That’s the thing that takes it from being good and makes it really memorable. This is her best to date IMO. 4

Kid Cudi
Confusion

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/cudderland/confused[/soundcloud]

Zanda: An interesting track here by Kid Kudi, with that initial guitar riff dominating the entire song showing off a heavier instrumental emphasis than we are used to. Truthfully it gets a little repetitive, and the guitar itself sounds too synthetic for the role it’s playing in establishing the track as almost a rock tune. It doesn’t sound like the equalisation is quite finished either, with layers of sound all competing in the same register. 2.5

Alistair: Is Kid Cudi trying to channel Nirvana here? This song has taken a very different style to what we are used to hearing from Kid Cudi. Rather than being an upbeat dance number which Cudi is renowned for, this has tried to go grunge and it fails miserably. The guitar riff is just as repetitive as the whiny singing and after a minute 30 I'd already had enough. 1

Ben: I understand that Kid Cudi is trying something vastly different with Confused, but to be brutally honest, it really hasn’t worked at all. His vocals are off, the main guitar riff is flat and uninteresting and the mix is all over the place. This track recalls a bad ‘90s cover band, comprised of a group of angsty teenagers, recording a demo on an old cassette player which requires cleaning. Confused left me confused, and slightly infuriated. 1

Sam: I know Kid Cudi has a real cult following and they’re probably up with why he’s trying to be Creed but I really, really don’t get this. Melding hip-hop with rock is very rarely a good idea and that point is proven here. It’s off-tune, unfinished and really self-serving. Raury’s Devil’s Whisperer pulled off a similar aesthetic this year and that was by adding in a fire rap verse at the end. Cudi seems to ditch all his identity here and for what? A real stinker of a single and to quote a user on Soundcloud “wtf is this shit.” 1

Carly Rae Jepsen
Warm Blood

Zanda: Carly Rae has jumped on the bandwagon of using song titles to describe types of blood. This is a weird one, I can’t quite get my head around what she’s trying to do with it. With some of the spacing of the bass where the entire sound almost drops out at certain points I feel like Jepsen is trying to show that she’s not just a sweet and cute pop star. If that’s the goal here she unfortunately misses the mark, and it just sounds confused. 2

Alistair: It's clear that Carly Rae Jepsen is trying to break free from the pop star mould that she created for herself with Call Me Maybe. At times throughout this track you can get a sense that she is capable of achieving that, but not with this song. Warm Blood is all over the place, the bass line backing track keeps fading in and out at odd intervals and when at it's loudest Carly Rae's voice isn't powerful nor loud enough to compete with it. The secondary vocals are completely unnecessary. Nine out of 10 for effort for trying not to be a pop star anymore. 1

Ben: In an attempt to stray away from her pop image, Carly Rae Jepsen has concocted Warm Blood; a lacklustre and jumbled foray into electropop which comes across as a watered down version of a CHVRCHES B-side. It makes sense that Jepsen would want to shed her previous image, but this shift doesn’t feel natural in the slightest. 1.5

Sam: I’m really starting to sound like I’m one of whatever Carly Rae Jepsen calls her fans...Jeppers or something like that. Her last album Kiss was really weak but this latest one is probably the best pop album of the year. Warm Blood is a highlight from that. It’s a twisted, liquid banger, produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmangli who like Dev Hynes has been really successful at making interesting pop music. Here he plays with her vocals and adds some really lovely pitched-down samples that make me wanna squeeze this song, it’s that good. Actually, now I think of it, it's the same kind of vocal manipulation they used on Ezra Koenig's voice in California English - just a lightbulb moment, may or may not be relevant. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

[poll id= "49"]

 

FI_21July

First Impressions: Skrillex, Cosmo's Midnight, Lana Del Rey + More

FI_21July

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 Vic Mensa, Skrillex, CHVRCHES, Lana Del Rey and more. 

Vic Mensa And Skrillex
No Chill


Annie: Oh how far Skrillex has come since the dark days of Bangarang. The dubstep king teams up with Chicago newcomer Vic Mensa here, producing a huge track that most definitely has no chill (sorry, I had to). This song gives strength to my inclination that Skrillex is at his best when paired with rappers (such as A$AP), what’s better than heavy beats teamed up with Mensa’s heavy-hitting vocals? 3

Sam: There’s definitely more Mensa in this one than Skrillex which is good to hear. With this and U Mad, it’s clear to see that Mensa is forming a good identity built upon big-sounding horns and dark beats. He’s really channeling post-Yeezus vibes and it’s working for him. By getting Skrillex on board though he’s now in an awkward position where the track's not commercial enough for FM radio and Skrill will probably deter underground fans. It’s not easy this music stuff, I tell ya. 3.5

Cosmo’s Midnight (Feat. KUCKA)
Walk With Me

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/cosmosmidnight/cosmos-midnight-walk-with-me-feat-kucka[/soundcloud]

Annie: Everything ties together so beautifully here. The keyboards, uplifting synth and bright keyboard melody sound perfect in conjunction with KUCKAs smooth vocals. There’s an AlunaGeorge-esque kind of vibe here, so it came as no surprise to me that they have collaborated before. The song in essence is incredibly sweet, in a substantial kind of way. Cosmo’s Midnight are definitely an act to look out for in the future. 4

Sam: Most people who take an interest in Australian dance music will be very well-acquainted with Cosmo’s Midnight but they’re still yet to reach the status of, say, Golden Features. That’s because they haven’t had their big-break song yet. Until now. Walk With Me is just so effortless in the way KUCKA delivers the melody and the instrumental plods along. It’s breezy and yet it leaves such a lasting impression on you. Basically, a match made in heaven. 4

CHVRCHES
Leave A Trace

Annie: I can’t get into CHVRCHES, despite the mass amounts of hype. It’s not that I find them hard to listen to in any way; their songs just never leave any impression on me, negative or positive. This song is mildly enjoyable, it gives me a slight understanding as to why other people sing their praises so highly at least. But as a whole, I probably won’t listen again. 2.5

Sam: Lauren Mayberry is the queen of icy lyrics. “Anything you ever did was strictly by design,” she sings with the sweetest, most delectable tone making you crumble inside but also develop a stern snarl. CHVRCHES are great at juxtaposing the lyrics and the instrumental. They haven’t really changed anything much from their debut but that’s completely okay because that record was basically flawless. This one kicks off round two in stunning form with what is probably their strongest single to date. Also, will that Irish accent ever grow tiring? I think not. 4.5 Sam's Pick 

Lana Del Rey
Honeymoon

Annie: With Lana’s last release, she was criticised endlessly for her reinvention from New York singer Lizzie Grant to the curated, femme fatale Lana Del Rey. She has been accused by many of inauthenticity, with the kind of vigour that one would expect an exposed cam artist to endure. At this point, however, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Lana is clearly great at what she does, and Honeymoon is a perfect example of this. Soulful doesn’t feel potent enough a word to describe her vocals in this track. Honeymoon sounds like it was ripped directly from an old-time cinema soundtrack, it is truly something lovely. 3.5 Annie's Pick 

Sam: Just as it was almost getting tiring to defend LDR, everyone changed their tune when Ultraviolence turned out to be pretty damn good. The great thing is, going into album number three, she really shouldn’t have any concerns. And it shows. Dropping a sparse ballad like this as the first taste is a bold move and also says that LDR doesn’t really give two shits if you like it or not. On Honeymoon she curls her smokey vocals around an instrumental inspired by Hollywood grandeur. It’s elegant, decadent but also a little dark and hollow. It’s probably not the most enthralling thing she’s done, but her vocal is flawless. 3.5

Liz

When I Rule The World

Annie: ‘If Aqua was formed in 2015’, is an accurate way to describe this song. The track, which you may recognise from the new Samsung Galaxy commercial, is a fun homage to early 2000’s pop. It’s quality pop music, with the vocals channeling Britney Spears in a way that isn’t grating. It’s wholly enjoyable, but admittedly the track is probably best suited for your guilty pleasures playlist. 3

Sam: Apart from that Madonna track, Sophie has been pretty quiet on the release front. Thank goodness he’s back and he’s chosen the perfect partner in crime. Liz is a nostalgia-sucking, millennium-influenced popstar who has always suited the PC Music aesthetic. This is her first foray into this world and it’s without a doubt her most successful output to date. When I Rule The World pairs together a bubblegum-popping verse with a sickly sweet chorus that’s successful in being powerfully addictive. Sophie is yet to really have a commercial hit given that Bitch, I’m Madonna sunk but this really has a chance if anyone’s brave enough to start spinning it for the masses. 4

YG
Twist My Fingaz

Annie: I’m definitely way, way out of my element with this song, but it reminds me of ‘My Neck, My Back’ by Khia, which I like, although I’m not sure whether that’s entirely a good thing…
There’s something that pushed me to replay it three times however, so I suppose this track may be just as ‘fYAAA’ as the Youtube comments suggest. 2

Sam: One really good thing that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly left behind is the re-introduction of organic instrumentation in commercial hip-hop. YG is definitely sitting in that lane rapping over a beat that sounds influenced by Thundercat. The beat is the best part about it, funky and personality-filled, but YG doesn’t really bring anything memorable to it unfortunately. The thing that separates it from anything on To Pimp A Butterfly is that it’s pleasant. Nothing on Lamar’s record was pleasant - it all stood in your face and demanded attention. “Do your dance YG,” doesn’t really do that. 3

[poll id="48"]

FI_14July

First Impressions: Peking Duk, MS MR, Sable And More

FI_14July

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 Peking Duk, MS MR, Sable, Majid Jordan, Joni and The Magician.

Peking Duk
Say My Name

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/pekingduk/saymyname[/soundcloud]

Michelle: Peking Duk know how to craft a dance track - Say My Name is the kind of song that will lift the dancefloor with its vaulting, anthemic vocals. This song will soundtrack late nights out and inevitably feature on DJ set lists around the continent but the intermittent interludes take away from its high octane rhythms. 3.5

Ben: Say My Name sees Peking Duk doing what they do best. Concocting fun and catchy electronica to get your feet moving. SAFIA’s Benjamin Joseph lends his excellent vocals on this track, alternating between falsetto and some of his trademark crooning. Not as instantly memorable as High or Take Me Over, this one will still have you dancing up a storm. 3.5

Sam: I really don’t know what they’re doing here. It’s like a giant foot came and stomped on the electro-sheen of High. Props for doing something different but I don’t think channeling The Dead Weather is a particularly good idea for two dudes who have their feet firmly planted on the dancefloor. For me this is a bit of an ear-assault but I’ll wait to hear it in a big festival environment before I make my final judgement. 2

Claudia: Since their bootleg remix of Passion Pit’s Take A Walk, Peking Duk have come pretty far in popularity, and once again they’ve taken an original hit (this time it’s Arctic Monkey’s Do I Wanna Know?) and made it something it shouldn’t be. It’s repetitive and formulaic with a heavy bass and is lyrically pretty stupid, so kudos to Peking Duk for making a fantastic, chart-topping house hit, that I would love to hear at 1am when I’m drunk and sweaty enough to dance to an (awkwardly slow) ‘banger’ with some people I don’t know. 3

Majid Jordan
My Love (Feat. Drake)

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/majidjordan/mylove[/soundcloud]

Michelle: This gentle electro rhythm is more upbeat than Majid Jordan’s older tracks but it’s slower than their last collaboration with Drake “Hold On, We’re Going Home” which featured a stronger beat.  The theme is powerful, though, and Drake knows what he’s doing with the lyrics, even if Majid Jordan could have produced a fuller sound. 3

Ben: Majid Jordan’s latest collaboration with Drake comes across as a fairly middle of the road affair. The electronic backdrop meanders as Drake’s repetitive and auto-tuned vocals wear increasingly thin over the course of four minutes. My Love is lacking in every sense of the word. This is a real shame as previous material would suggest Majid Jordan is capable of so much more. 2

Sam: I was a massive fan of Majid Jordan’s A Place Like This EP and I do like this aswell but It doesn’t feel like it has as much life as the EP. It’s a little light - the vocals don’t really pack a punch and the beat throbs but it could dig in a bit harder. The instrumental suits Drake’s voice much better but it’s not even his finest moment. It’s good and doesn’t detract from the fact that Majid Jordan are great but with an Apple Music launch, I would’ve thought they’d come out of the gates with something that has a bit more oomph.

Claudia: Majid Jordan has given us another seductive, ambient and bass-heavy tune that gradually snowballs, but into absolutely nothing. Most things about this song lack substance and mould into the recent trooped culture of male auto-tuned ‘songs to have sex to’. And Majid and Drake could have redeemed themselves with lyrical intellect or purpose, but unfortunately that also lacks, big time. 2

The Magician
Together

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/potionrecords/the-magician-together[/soundcloud]

Michelle: The Magician’s latest track is a solid dance tune and it’ll keep the hordes of TomorrowWorld worshippers on their feet but like most EDM, it’s a song that merely hinges on its ability to keep people dancing. 2

Ben: As far as EDM goes, this track doesn’t cover anything we haven’t heard a). before or b). executed in a more engaging manner. While energetic and full of feel good summery vibes, Together relies heavily on style over substance and falls agonisingly flat as a result. 2

Sam: At the moment in Europe and America it’s all about providing the soundtrack for the summer. The Magician has nabbed it once before with his remix of Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers and while this probably won’t be as successful it has all the elements for a summer smash. The synth-line is breezy and tropical, the chorus is euphoric and the beat is tailor-made for mediterranean parties. It’s not overly exciting but if his goal was to craft a summer song, he’s done that with ease. 3

Claudia: The synth-lines and rhythm in The Magician’s new song are clean and fall into the death pit of YouTube trap-step-trip-hop tunes that typically come with a summery image of a half naked girl, or a sunset, or a beer, with a white template overlay that will read ‘Majestic Casual’ and ‘TheSoundYouNeed’. Though there’s nothing totally engaging or fulfilling about this song, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it on a 35-degree day boat trip, I guess. 2

Sable
One And Only

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/sablemusic/one-and-only[/soundcloud]

Michelle: In one word? Strange. The high-pitched vocals, featuring the slight edge of an Australian accent, take a while to get used to, but, for Sable, the strange mixture of bubbly synth beats and the helium voice, it’s turned out rather well. 3.5

Ben: Initially thrown by the off kilter vocals layered with distortion, everything really clicked into place at around the 1 minute mark of the track. Far from being terrible, but still not amazing, One And Only is cute and inoffensive electro that I would gladly keep the radio on for. 3

Sam: It may seem like a cop-out to use chipmunk-style vocals but it’s really not easy to use them in the right way. Here Sable actually manages to put some heart into the song with the high-pitched vocal. It genuinely feels like a love song for the generation of the future. There are definite PC Music-nods but there are also plenty of Sable-staples in their aswell in terms of the video-game aesthetic. This has been getting plenty of attention this week and rightfully so. It’s a superhuman lovesong bound for the clubs and that’s no easy to pull-off. Sam's Pick

Claudia: The vocals in this song sounds like my dad after he inhaled helium on my 7th birthday, it’s risky and too musically outspoken in comparison to other dimensions of the song, but it’s kinda cool and has a mellow, dream-like and club-ready musical language. It’s hard to say whether Sable has pulled off the Crazy Frog like vocal but it’s certainly not bad. 2.5

MS MR
Criminals

Michelle: MS MR have an uncanny ability to combine rock beats with Florence Welch-style soaring lyrics and electronic vibes. Plapinger’s voice is the centrepiece of most tracks, but this fast-paced song belongs with the MS MR name as much it belongs under the flickering lights of a disco ball. It borrows from retro trends (see the video) but Plapinger’s airy vocals are distinctly modern. MS MR’s new direction is a winner. 4.5 Michelle's Pick 

Ben: MS MR have always been an act to intrigue, and this track has really ramped up the anticipation for their forthcoming sophomore album. Criminals could have easily been plucked out of the heyday of 80’s synth pop. From the commanding drums and subtle guitar work to the layers of synths (which never feel overpowering) and Lizzy Plapinger’s exquisite vocal delivery, Criminals hits all the right spots, and then some. A fantastic listen. 4.5 Ben's Pick

Sam: If any song is going to be a hit of MS MR’s second record, it’s going to be this one. It’s the most melodic thing they’ve churned out yet and while it doesn’t have the huge chorus that Hurricane did, it’s got a far more danceable beat that’s bound to go down well with festival crowds. When the beat drops out at the end and it’s just Lizzy’s vocals with strings, it’s beautiful. However, I still think MS MR haven’t really had their moment as all their songs reach about a 7 or an 8. They’re still looking for their 10. 3.5 

Claudia: MS MR are artists with a myriad of potential and they definitely know what they’re doing, but yet again their song lies somewhere between two genres, two motives and being fantastic and entirely dull and uninventive. The song is incredibly well written and curated, however there’s something about the sound and the vocal that’s half-hearted and tired. MS MR may not have hit their musical mark, but Criminals tells me that at some point in the near future, they definitely will. 3

Joni
Running

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jonistring/running[/soundcloud]

Michelle: There’s a minimalist theme running through the few tracks Joni has released but this one is excessively bare. Joni isn’t immediately captivating - her songs grow on you after a few listens but this track could have been fuller. 2

Ben: Sparse beats, dark atmospherics and great production are the shining light on Joni’s latest track Running. Though despite Joni’s vocal ability, the vocal line itself feels surprisingly empty. There were points where the track should have soared, but unfortunately failed to leave the ground. 2.5

Sam: Just a quick look at Joni’s Soundcloud likes and you can spot her modern influences - Bok Bok, Nao, GoldLink, Tink. That’s a good lane to be operating in at the moment. It’s one of the pockets of future RnB that feels really exciting. The beat on Running really does sound like a Bok Bok production. It’s jolting and demonic yet Joni manages to tie it together and soften it with her interesting but accessible vocal. Based off this song alone Joni is worth keeping an eye on. 4

Claudia: In its rhythm and production Joni’s song Running is quite awkward, it feels a little like a studio test. But there’s greatness in it, and it sounds something like the lovechild-grandchild of early 90s RnB rapper Charizma and the Golden Age hip-hopper MC Shan. However Joni brings in eclectic, creative, Flume-like production and an unruffled female vocal that sits in really well with the tone of the song. What this song lacks in musical substance, it makes up for with a really prepossessing ambience and originality. 3

[poll id="47"]

FI_24June

First Impressions: Robyn, Selena Gomez, Thundercat And More

FI_24June

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 Robyn, Selena Gomez, Thundercat and more.

Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique
Love Is Free

Zanda: This is just dripping funkiness. The bass oozes out over a bunch of fun and funky samples and sound effects in a way that will make you want to boogie. Again, another track from Robyn that has a typical rawness about it, not that there’s anything missing from the production. The rhythms, bass and beat are just raw in such an organic way, it feels natural from start to finish. 4

Sam: Well this is one way to make people dance their sweaty arses off. Robyn has always made killer bangers. She had Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do and We Dance To The Beat and this is in the same kind of vein as that. It’s so dirty and commanding yet the production is so pure and clean. Robyn has literally not made one bad thing for a decade and this is no exception. 4.5 Sam's Pick 

Raury
Devil’s Whisper

Zanda: This feels like it should be part of a Hollywood blockbuster in that mandatory scene where they go and do peyote or shrooms in the desert and one of them has a bad trip. My main gripe with this track lies in that it’s more than half over before that dope bassline kicks in. Up until this point there’s nothing that really makes it stand out for me, but in saying that the rap verse in the second half is, as they say; straight fire. 3

Sam: I don’t know if I’m fully on board with what Raury is doing yet. It’s kind of like Mumford & Sons cross Vic Mensa and that’s not really my thing. I do appreciate that he’s a passionate musician and he’s trying to do something different so props for that. In saying that, the latter half of this track is killer. His raps have this really organic darkness to them and he injects so much rhythm into the song in just those final seconds. More of that please. 3

Miguel
face the sun (Feat. Lenny Kravitz)

Zanda: Miguel is about to be a much bigger name in the near future if he keeps writing stuff like this. Everything he does is just the definition of smooth, and this track really compliments his uber-smooth vocals with its up-beat, almost pop/rock style instrumentation. The intensity builds nicely throughout the track, however I get a bit of a murky vibe towards the end where if anything there are a few too many elements crammed on top of each other. 3

Sam: Cliche alert- Miguel could sing the phonebook and I’d be entertained. His voice is just a cut-above the rest and this kind of song allows it to shine unobtrusively. The Lenny Kravitz feature is pretty unnecessary but other than that it’s a blazer. It’s sensual and yet rough and raw. Miguel slowly builds and builds it until its soaring at the end. It’s not as modern or innovative as Kaleidoscope Dream but it’s the mark of an artist who’s discovered his voice's best pockets and is using them. 4

Selena Gomez
Good For You (Feat. A$AP Rocky)

Zanda: Selena Gomez’s voice is clearly heavily edited on this track, but I actually don’t mind it too much. The production is decent without being anything special, and A$AP Rocky is undeniable in his delivery as always. Definitely listenable. 2.5

Sam: Shit. I hadn’t heard this before now and I thought it would be a bit of a laugh to listen to but goddammit, I think I actually really like it. Gomez hasn’t done anything of significance in her career to this point, but this one actually makes a stamp on her artistry. Everything from her slightly twisted accent to her reluctance to explicitly create a climax shows that she’s actually trying to forge a career as an artist who’s capable of making interesting music. I’m so entranced by Gomez’s verses that by the time Rocky comes in, I’m unphased. Look, if liking a Selena Gomez track is the worst thing that happens to me this week it’s going to be an excellent week. 3.5

Japanese Wallpaper
Arrival

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/japanesewallpaper/arrival[/soundcloud]

Zanda: The first thing that comes to mind when listening to this is, ‘holy crap Dustin Tebbutt’s voice is epic on this’. The Aussie producer/singer is really killing it right now, and suits Japanese Wallpaper’s style of delicate melodic production perfectly. This track contains some glassy smooth melodies and the interplay between layers brings joy to my eargasm. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: Japanese Wallpaper is absolutely creaming it at the moment. He’s reached that point where triple j worships the ground he stands on and tickets fly out the door like free candy. I’m not sure this really sets me alight with excitement but it’s definitely a sweet, nuanced listen. I had to go back and listen to where this sits on the EP to really understand it and in that context it shines. As a standalone though it wafts in and wafts out for me barely even leaving dust in its tracks. 3

Thundercat
Them Changes

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/brainfeeder/thundercat-them-changes[/soundcloud]

Zanda: There’s so much to like in this it’s hard to separate some of it. The interplay between synthetic sounds and organic instrumentation gives it a really real and raw feel, and I love the use of both piano and sax sporadically underneath the dominant guitars and bass. The vocals are complimentary to all of the above as well, allowing each aspect of the complex instrumentation to have its own space and shine on its own. 4

Sam: Thundercat is the go-to guy for funk right now. He was a winning inclusion on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and seems to have a new shot of career-momentum. Teaming up with Flying Lotus is a choice-move as the two operate in the same musical spectrum. It shows on Them Changes as it all seems so damn right. There’s so much of this funk stuff floating around at the moment and so much of it is imitation. The effortless vocal and floating bassline on this show that it’s the real deal - no imitation here. 4

[poll id="45"]

FI_16June

First Impressions: The Weeknd, Basenji, Pitbull And More

FI_16JuneFirst 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 The Weeknd, Prince Royce, Basenji and more.

The Weeknd
Can’t Feel My Face

Sam: It was only a matter of time before The Weeknd traded in pussy and drugs for a more radio-friendly sound. Well, the moment is here and it’s come in the form of a Max Martin-produced pop masterpiece. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t lost any of The Weeknd’s identity. His vocals are still as soulful as they always are and it’s made denser by a dirty bassline which acts as the replacement for the sex-orientated lyrics that usually feature. It would be good if he could find a way to make both this style and his much more explicit style work on his forthcoming album because on the last one he failed. 4 Sam’s Pick

Zanda: This is kind of unexpectedly up-beat and bass-heavy for The Weeknd. He doesn’t sacrifice any of his typical smoothness though, and the heavy bass really compliments some of those acapella-esque harmonies midway through the track. Definitely a radio-friendly track that, at the same time keeps the core elements of his style. 3.5

Annie: I can usually take or leave The Weeknd, I haven’t been able to understand the hype surrounding him. However, this song has left a vastly good impression on me. Radio-friendly is a good descriptor of this track, but I don’t feel as though that’s an altogether bad thing. Undoubtedly, this will be stuck in my head for the next week, but it’s sweet sounding enough that I probably won’t even care. 4 Annie's Pick 

Basenji
Petals (Feat. Scenic)

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/officialbasenji/basenji-petals-featuring-scenic[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love this wave of glassy, angelic electronic music and Basenji just gets it oh-so-right with first track for 2015. Petals is quite literally a daydream where you’re walking through a park full of majestic basenji’s, where the flowers are baby pink and the sun has the glassiest tint you’ve ever seen. It’s just do damn beautiful and captures the very essence of escapism. Of course, it’s kitsch but that’s purposeful and it works in this context. 4

Zanda: Basenji is one of a group of young Sydney producers whose production worth and skills seem to be on an exponential bend upwards. Finally we’ve got a new track from him and euphoric doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s a bit more chiller than some of his early stuff but its smooth as silk, and Scenic’s vocals compliment the washy vibe synths happily. Worth the wait for this bad boy. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Annie: This was such a lovely song to wake up to this morning. The track floats by leaving you with immense feelings of exultation and joy, I’m romanticising again, but it honestly sounds gorgeous. This is the first time I’ve listened to Basenji, and what a good introduction it was. 3

Prince Royce
Back It Up (Feat. Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull)

Sam: You see Pitbull and J.Lo on the same song and you run for the hills - that’s the general rule isn’t it? Unfortunately in this scenario we’re forced to listen to the song and as such I’ve heard “Mr. Worldwide” for the first and last time this year. I’m not quite sure who Prince Royce is but it’s not the smartest move to put these two on his track and basically take all the attention away. And he should be ashamed of himself for bringing J.Lo and Pitbull back together when J.Lo was doing so well without him. If I have any advice it’s that this song is best consumed on mute where you can truly appreciate that she is 45 years of age and the finest looking woman on the planet. Meanwhile, Pitbull is in his early thirties and looks like an aged scrotum. 1.5

Zanda: I’m not sure whether we are supposed to take the lyrics seriously, being that they suggest some sort of sexual tension or romance between Prince Royce and J-Lo even though he is literally 19 years younger than her and could realistically be her kid. Pitbull isn’t even worth analysing. There isn’t even really enough musical worth here for this to be successful on commercial radio. 1

Annie: The song finished only a few minutes ago and I can’t remember what it sounded like. My only real impression is that Pitbull looks so much like a mole rat in this video it’s unsettling, his dancing is truly something to look out for also. 0

Health
Stonefist

Sam: Now that Crystal Castles are in tatters we need someone to fill the void between electronic music and death metal. Health have returned just in time to fill that spot effortlessly. To be honest I wasn’t really aware of all the work they did for Max Payne 3 until I did a little bit of research but the context really means shit, because this song stands-up by itself. It’s so haunting and yet so present and hard-hitting. The base thuds like a heavy shoe hitting the pavement and the vocals just breathe right down your neck. 3.5 

Zanda: A super intense track with some pretty heavy synths among other sounds. It’s almost like metal rock had a baby with hardcore electronic music. I’m a sucker for melody and melodic development, and unfortunately I don’t get a lot here. I understand that’s not the goal but to be honest it’s a little abrasive to consider a second listen. 2.5

Annie: I feel like I’m missing something here. The track is fine, to say the most. I’ve heard many good things about this band, but I just am not capable of understanding it. The most suiting word I could use to describe my feelings towards this song would be lacklustre, but still, something about the track makes me feel like I’m the problem. Maybe it’s just not my genre. 2

Loren Kramer
My Life

Sam: So this is the unsigned guy that Apple plugged in their Apple Music conference last week that actually turned out to be signed. Whatever. With the internet these days it doesn’t really matter what you are as long as you have the heavy-hitter of a debut single to get people’s attention. Kramer’s voice is definitely the biggest drawcard here. It’s kind of like an old soul twisted up in influences of the modern world. For some reason I keep comparing to Lana Del Rey because their in the same kind of indie singer/songwriter realm. My Life is good but it doesn’t have the same immediate beauty of Video Games. Maybe it’s just skimming the service of what Kramer can do, but we’re going to need to hear a little more from him before he really impresses. 3

Zanda: Loren Kramer’s voice really doesn’t sound like anyone else going around now. It kind of seems like a bridge between modern vocals and some very particular elements of something intensely old school. Unfortunately here, for me at least, the production doesn’t stack up. It just feels clunky and the choice of sounds and effects just doesn’t really add much to Kramer’s already amazing efforts. 3

Annie: Kramer’s voice is so unusual, in a really good way. The track as a whole is a little underwhelming; it feels like something bigger and better could be done with that voice. But Kramer is a new artist, and this is in no way a bad place to start from. I look forward to hearing more from him, hopefully something that will beg its audience to listen again. 3

GoldLink
Dance On Me

[soundcloud width="750" height="415"]https://soundcloud.com/goldlink/dance-on-me[/soundcloud]

Sam: It’s great to see a rapper that is treading a careful line between hip-hop and electronica appear on a list like XXL’s Freshman Class. Dance On Me is the perfect example of how well the two genres can go together. His flow is so good that it effortlessly weaves through rushing beats that wouldn’t sound unfulfilled as purely an instrumental track. GoldLink’s rap just takes it to another level though, colouring it with a certain bounce provided by his outgoing verses. Let’s stay with this type of production. It’s right on the money. 4

Zanda: This is just awesome stuff here from GoldLink. This track strikes an appetising balance between vocals and production, with some lovely smooth melodic synths used to really add some poise to a rising and falling intensity. So many elements; rap, vocals, effects and some fantastic transitions between sections, really come together here in a very cool way. Also, some clever use of melodic space when it comes to building to the key climaxes of the track. 4

Annie: The more crosses between hip hop and electronic the better. I really, really enjoy this.
The production minus Goldlink’s verse would feel lacking, and vice versa. The two genres compliment each other so smoothly, it’s unsurprising that more and more artists are delving into this cross between. 3.5 

Now it's your time for your vote: 

[poll id="44"]

FI_2Jun

First Impressions: Flume, Disclosure, The Weeknd & More

FI_2Jun

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 Disclosure, Flume, The Weeknd, Baio & more. 

Disclosure
Holding On (Feat. Gregory Porter)

Sam: This is sold, really solid. And that’s my biggest problem. This could’ve slot right into Settle and been one of the better tracks on the album. The extended vocal at the beginning running right into the beat is excellent and the melody is catchy and soulful. But when it’s been two years since your debut and you’ve toured the world and worked with some extraordinary musicians surely there’s gotta be something extra or different that you can add to your sound. If I have to sit through 13 songs of this I’m going to get a little bored. It remains to be seen whether the album will bring anything new but this is same-same. 3

Meshell: I’m with Sam on this...an act as huge as Disclosure kind of have the bar set pretty high. The track is cool, it’s catchy and there’s nothing not to like about it. For me to listen to it however and not want to chuck it on repeat for the rest of the day is maybe not the best sign though. I’m not disappointed...I’m just not blown away. Fingers crossed we get some killer remixes of it soon. 3

Zanda: Anyone that heard Bang That and said ‘shit, where’s the melody’ will find that this will put their mind at ease. This is a return to the tried and tested Disclosure sound, with Gregory Porter’s vocals simply irresistible, backed by some gorgeous synth. House music that uses texture and depth in a way that is both minimal and perfectly balanced, simply awesome. 5 Zanda’s Pick

Dawn
James Dean

Sam: Dawn is so underrated and it’s probably because she came from Diddy’s major girlband Danity Kane and now has entirely different following to the one her solo sound desires. She effortlessly melds together experimental electronica with RnB and consistently kills it with her videos even though the budget, I imagine, is relatively small. James Dean is no different. Her vocals are run through a vocoder but they sound no less sultry and sexy while the beat is icy cold. This is what’s missing from modern RnB at the moment (bar the Jeremih and Shlohmo collabs). It just doesn’t take risks. This track has the melody and beat to make it big on urban radio in the US but it probably won’t because it’s just that bit too experimental. 4

Meshell: The textures in this song are SO interesting. It’s RnB but there's something else going on here-the choices of synth and soundscape don’t really fit the current mold and that is a brave move in a scene that is very, very picky. Dawn’s bold track is all tied together with her alluring vocals. There is subtle power in the sensual delivery and all up it’s a kickass track. 3.5

Zanda: Wow to those vocals. Dawn starts off with some nice R&B style vibes but really takes it up a notch, hitting some incredibly eargasmic pitches. I have no idea what happens half-way through but I’m digging it. 3.5

The Weeknd
The Hills

Sam: I’ve tried so so hard to just block out The Weeknd’s lyrics because they make my skin crawl and I think I’ve finally managed to do it. The Hills is his first track since he delivered radio-gold with Earned It and it’s probably better than anything on his disappointing debut album Kiss Land. The Hills has the same dark, understated feel as his early mixtapes. He sounds tortured and raw once again with The Hills acting as the audible equivalent of a horror movie. He’s really poised himself for major success with this one and it will be interesting to see his status rise throughout this year without Drake by his side. 4 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: Ugh, sorry guys but everything The Weeknd does is hot. Even thinking about listening to The Weeknd gets me flustered. This track is no exception, there is no comparative for Abel’s voice and the production on this song is second to none too but I think we’ve all come to expect nothing less.It’s got the signature bass that throbs through your chest while Abel serenades you over the top. I don’t know whether I’m brainwashed or just thinking with my lady parts but I’m fairly certain if anybody else confessed to “fuck two bitches ‘fore I saw you” I would slap him into next week but when The Weeknd does it I just want to yell “OH STOP FLIRTING WITH ME!”. Help guys. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Zanda: Dank and grimy, topped off by The Weeknd’s shimmering vocals. And who can say no to that hairdo. But in all seriousness, this track has a lot of depth. Layers of midly dissonant synths sit beautifully on top of that super heavy bass, and the sectional play between short melodic interludes and the re-dropping of the bass kept me excited the whole way through. 4

Baio
Brainwash yrrr Face

Sam: At the start I kind of expected Pitbull to come in with something about being worldwide thanks to the instrumentation but luckily it detours into something much more palatable. I like how the instrumental experimentalism is out in full force but then it retracts to allow space for what is quite an accessible vocal verse. The chopped and screwed vocals are also a nice treat for the ears and the way it builds into the odd but satisfying climax is cool. On first listen I’m a fan but it’s very polite and nothing really grabs me and tells me to come back over and over again but we’ll see. It probably hasn’t brainwashed me but my face looks curious at least. 3.5

Meshell: This has a little bit of house music going on and a little bit of Ratatat so I’m confused...but a good confused. The tonality of the vocals doesn’t overly appeal to me, even the sampling hook feels a little bit forced. I could have done without it and perhaps enjoyed this track as an instrumental with minimal vocal sampling intermittently. The change at the 3 minute mark is welcoming and breathes a bit more life and spunk into the song. I’ll be back for a second listen a bit later but as far as first impressions go I’m not blown out of the water with this one. 3

Zanda: Catchy and upbeat without ever really demanding my full attention. The diverse use of samples and effects is apt at times, but in other places I find myself thinking ‘why are you using that here..’ Like it but don’t love it. 2.5

Hannah Lucia
Lights Out (Feat. Giggs) 

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/hannahlu/lights-out-feat-giggs/[/soundcloud]

Sam: The original of this without Giggs didn’t really grab my attention when it came out so it’s a good choice to add the grime artist into the mix to add a bit of personality. Giggs and Lucia compliment each other well. Giggs is outgoing and playful while Lucia is refined and airy. Together it’s the perfect mix that actually makes it so much easier to make it through the full song without losing interest. It also has made me really appreciate Lucia a lot more. The way she weaves her vocals around those industrial but windy beats is expert and the vocoder in the chorus is choice. I’ve really got her on my radar now. 4

Meshell: I am really fussy when it comes to Grime artists, Giggs is kind of throwing me off a little which is a shame because the actual track is stunning. The chorus is a washy vocoder dream and totally up my alley. There is a gradual crescendo of layering and all over attitude in the song which keeps me completely entranced. It’s got this cool kind of badass beat that takes the lyrical content from being cheesy to sensual. Literally loving this song more and more as it progresses I just feel that the introduction by Giggs was really ill placed and actually weakened the song as a whole. 4

Zanda: Another track this week with a huge amount of textual and melodic depth. There is a simply gorgeous use of interplay between effect-altered vocals and more natural vocals by Hannah Lucia. The build-up of tension throughout via the introduction and retraction of various synths and bass is really quite captivating, and only halfway through did I really get the feeling that I could dance to this. 4.5

Flume
Some Minds (Feat. Andrew Wyatt)

Sam: This track actually shows a lot of progression for Flume as a producer. It’s nice to see him confident enough to deliver this glitchy but silken instrumental that doesn’t really take off until the final minute. It sounds unmistakably Flume but it also is far more mature than anything that appeared on his debut. Andrew Wyatt’s vocals are a perfect match for the track and this chorus is begging for an all-in singalong. I really hadn’t pegged Flume as being very good working with vocals in a traditional verse-chorus sense but he’s really proved himself here. There’s probably a lot less bass here than the general would’ve wanted and that’s kind of a lol given that Flume has become a god to the festival pinger-head over the past few years. I’m glad he hasn’t let the EDM fandom influence him and he’s tried to give us something a little different. It’s not blowing my mind but it’s made me at least willingly believe the hype once again. 3.5

Meshell: Is it un-Australian to not weep with joy when Flume releases a new track? There’s no denying the talent of the young producer and how much he has single handedly put Australia’s bedroom producers on the map but my reaction to the news of a new single was literally “huh...cool”, then I went back to eating my lunch and forgot to listen to the song for two days. The song itself is lovely, there is finesse in the arrangement and the sound production is undeniably a cleaner, more mature Flume. Andrew Wyatt’s vocal is complementary to the movement of the piece but is perhaps a little too unique a choice (the song is evoking serious Miike Snow nostalgia right now). For me, the absolute best thing about this is the music video. Props to the VFX team behind this because it’s absolutely epic. 3

Zanda: In all honesty I think I miss the raw sound of his older stuff. Sure we get a glimpse after three minutes but the rest of it could realistically be another producer and if you didn’t know it was Flume you wouldn’t necessarily be like, ‘oh yeah that’s definitely him’. I know I’m playing a hugely risky devil’s advocate here but I can’t quite process the amount of hype that has surrounded this track since its release. The first three minutes is pretty much just an Andrew Wyatt feature, who is fantastic by the way (but it could have been a Miike Who track). For me? Overhyped, and also doesn’t work nearly as well if you listen to it without the video. 3.5

Now time for your vote: 

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