FI_26May

First Impressions: Florence + The Machine, Hudson Mohawke, Jarryd James And More

FI_26May
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 Florence + The Machine, Jamie xx, Hudson Mohawke and more.

Hudson Mohawke
Scud Books

Meshell: Scud Books is badass. The gradual buildup hits anthemic heights about a minute in and then drops back again for another step by step build-and again. It's all very simple theme and variation stuff but somehow it’s still captivating. There is a real art in something that sounds this simple because it never is…there is always the exact amount of instrumentation to keep the dynamics on the steady up. I’m really feelin’ this and I am super excited for the album. 3.5

Caitlin: One word – brilliant. Genius, perhaps if two words were needed to describe this track. The build up by Hudson keeps the listener anticipating the next beat drop for just the right amount of time before bringing them into the wonderful sound that is Scud Books. Listen to the music with eyes closed, embrace the festival feel the sound brings to the ear drums and picture the crowd throwing their hands up in unison recording the moment on their smart phones. I don’t know, man, this song makes me really happy. 5  Caitlin’s Pick

Sam: This HudMo record just keeps getting better and better. I have no idea why he led with Very First Breath because everything since then has been miles stronger. The brassy-synths are back on this one with that HudMo-defined bass. Like Ryderz it’s wrapped in this sense of euphoria and just takes flight around the three minute mark. Meanwhile those Nintendo-like synths sweeten the deal with a bit of melody. 4.5

Jamie xx
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)

Meshell: As a prematurely old lady it makes me super happy to hear this sample by The Persuasions having new life breathed into it. Shame original member Jimmy Haze had to be such a wet rag and have a tantrum about an unsolicited sample (don’t worry guys, Jamie did get it cleared and the silly old coot “forgot about it”). Irrespective of the surrounding controversy, this song does make me believe there are going to be good times. First DJ who I hear dropping this in their set will get a free whiskey from me. 4

Caitlin: Collabs these days, am I right? As foreseen as Beyoncé or Drake’s surprise album releases – this collab is pretty left of field. The mix of Jamie xx 's ability to reincarnate a '70s hit, Young Thugs' rap (kind of) and Popcaan's Jamaican charm makes for a pretty decent track. For the younger audience, the lyrics maybe a little M15+ rated (but then again what song isn’t these days) but lets look past the sexual innuendos for just a moment.  For me, Popcaan’s smooth vocal chords make this song as good as it is.  3.5

Sam: Loud Places, Gosh and now this - Jamie xx has really run into the album with his best foot forward. First up that Persuasions sample gets you and then Young Thug rolls on with one of his funnest verses. The song is more up Popcaan’s ally than anyone else and he doesn’t disappoint with his slurred rap over the sample. I wish we were going into summer right now and not winter because this track is readymade for sunshine. Unexpected but excellent and the more and more you listen to it the closer it sounds to Jamie’s previous tracks. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Read: Jamie xx's In Colour Reviewed Via The Colours Of A Mood Ring 

CL, Diplo, Riff Raff and OG Maco
Doctor Pepper

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/maddecent/diplo-x-cl-x-riff-raff-x-og-maco-doctor-pepper[/soundcloud]

Meshell: Sound design in this is so grimy and wonderful and I love that Diplo paired with CL who is the baddest bitch in K-pop…like some wonderful Rihanna/Yolandi Vi$$er/Missy Elliot hybrid child (and if you don’t listen to K-pop the internet thinks you’re irrelevant). TBH I could totally do without RiFF RAFF on this but maybe I’m being bias because I think he is an absolute tool. Not the best thing I’ve heard from Diplo but whaddya gonna do when he just keeps setting the bar so high for himself? 3.75

Caitlin: I read the title of this tune thinking it was a metaphor for something but after listening to it for quite some time the song is literally about the American soft drink Dr Pepper. Now delve a little deeper into the names accompanying the track. Riff Raff is still hanging around the music community backed by music producer and Mad Decent (the label responsible for this) record company founder Diplo, Atlanta rapper OG Marco and wait for it…. K Pop superstar turned English speaking rapper CL. Blame CL for the catchy hook guaranteed to burrow into the brain and never leave, try to look past the fact Riff Raff is still “rapping” and keep your eyeballs peeled for all the internet parodies waiting to be unearthed from this tune. 2.5

Sam: I wondered how long it would take Diplo to get his head around the whole K Pop thing. Given how energetic and over-the-top Diplo’s production usually is it makes sense that he was drawn towards the genre. This, however, sounds nothing like K Pop. Instead CL sounds like Rihanna on a song that sounds strong but brings nothing new to the table. In terms of introducing CL to the Western market as something a little bit different I think it misses the mark. 2.5

Sinead Harnett
Anywhere But Here

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/sineadharnettmusic/anywhere-but-here[/soundcloud]

Meshell: Sinead has a voice like sad honey. Which I have decided is a thing. Her tone is astoundingly inviting, there’s a warmth to it that immediately draws me in but there is a distinct sadness in her delivery and I absolutely adore it. I am such a sucker for bittersweet RnB-electronica (just ask my ex, totally used to piss him off).This girl has serious soul and is an unexpected home run for me. 4.5

Caitlin: How much do I have to pay Sinead Harnett to teach me how to sing? But seriously, the vocals on this are killer. The soft electronic beat in the background of this track highlight her velvet tongue perfectly as she sings some pretty deep lyrics. How have I not heard this song blasted from a 17-year-old girl’s car as I sit in traffic? After listening to this track, I can’t wait to hear her next single coming out in early June. 3

Sam: Sinead’s voice is where it’s at. There was something about the melody of She Ain’t Me that didn’t really stick with me but this one does. Immediately. We get to hear the powerful depths as well as the flighty heights of her voice over a ‘90s throwback, RnB instrumental. I’ll be keeping a firm eye on her solo material now. Consider me won over. 3.5

Jarryd James
Give Me Something

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jarrydjamesk/give-me-something[/soundcloud]

Meshell- The first time I heard Jarryd James’ voice I was probably about 14 and Myspace was still cool (If anybody wants to hear him and his buddy Matt Corby covering Ne-Yo…hit me up). From these humble beginnings anybody who heard him sing knew he was going to make it big one day. It’s taken a little longer than expected but his new partnership with should-be-household-name Joel Little is taking him from strength to strength. The cool thing about this new single is that it feels like a teaser-like Jarryd is only giving the audience a tiny glimpse of how good his voice really is. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Caitlin - Correct me if I’m wrong but I do believe Jarryd James is the Australian Ed Sheeran. Jarryd’s music is not something I would race to put on my iPod and crank in house on a Sunday morning but his voice is so soft and mesmerising it is hard to un-listen once you have heard it. From the comments on the song, I have seen some people call the track 'art'. And that is exactly what it is! The catchy tune sits like a blank canvas, the lyrics almost everyone can relate to acts as the paint brush and the smooth groovy deliverance of the said lyrics are the paint creating this masterpiece. A very close second favourite for me. 4.5

Sam: His voice is very obviously good and it was what immediately drew me to Don’t You Remember but is it enough? To me it feels a little bit Guy Sebastian repackaged for triple j. Joel Little does his best to put a few intricacies into the production but ultimately it doesn’t really help brighten a song that’s a little beige. That said, props where props are due. His voice is great and he’s obviously going to be a huge riser on the Australian scene this year. But it would just be good to hear something different on triple j, rather than giving off a vibe that says Vance Joy discovered RnB. 2

Florence + The Machine
Delilah

Meshell: I am one of the few people in the music blogging world who just doesn’t get Florence Welch. I appreciate how talented she is and I have really REALLY tried to see the appeal but anybody who’s been in the car with me when Florence comes on shuffle knows I always skip to the next song. Maybe there’s something wrong with me? Maybe I’m just slow? Maybe in ten years time this song will come on and I’ll be hit smack bang in the face by a sonic “ah ha!” moment where  I’ll finally get it…for now I’m just kind of waiting patiently for it to finish and thinking about what I should have for dinner. 2.5

Caitlin: There are two types of people in this world – people who know every song from Florence + The Machine and people who only know You Got The Love. And yes, I am the latter. Nothing against Florence, her vocals are definitely one of a kind but this 4:54 song just seems too long for me. It begins with catchy lyrics… the beat shortly follows… Florence then belts out a one of a kind Florence high note… the middle of the song reminds me of a church choir singing the backing vocals… then the song continues and continues then keeps continuing to continue. A three-minute song, possibly good but for me the song is a bit of a miss. Maybe next time. 3

Sam: It’s taken me a little while to realise the true strength of all the tracks we’ve heard off How Big How Blue How Beautiful so far. They don’t smack you in the face like the Florence of old. Instead, they’re far more subtle. On first listen Ship To Wreck sounded limp but a month later, it’s now looking to be one of her finer releases. Despite Delilah having a little more oomph behind it, it does take a while to get on board with. It’s gospel and motown peppered with indie-rock and while it doesn’t fit anywhere in the music spectrum right now, it’s distinctively Florence. She’s always written a killer bridge and here it’s no different. After the three minute mark the song grows wings and takes off. 4

 Now it's time for your vote: 

[poll id="41"]

FI_27Apr_Small

First Impressions: Britney Spears, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lido + More

FI_27Apr_Small

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 Britney Spears, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lido + More. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jagjaguwar/unknown-mortal-orchestra-cant-keep-checking-my-phone?in=the-in-terns/sets/10-songs-you-need-to-hear-10[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love that UMO have really expanded their sound. I loved II but at times it felt a little insular and restricted. Both this and Multi-Love have been a huge step forward and the album will most likely also continue this way. Can’t Keep Checking My Phone sounds like it would be right at home on a Blood Orange record - It’s got that minimal percussion loop with the funky guitars on top. As always though it’s the textured falsetto of Ruban Nielson that wins me over. 4

Bianca: The beginning transports me to a ‘70s crime detective TV show, which usually isn’t a good place to be, but in this circumstance sets the scene for a funky, hip-shaking, joyous tune. UMO keep offering multi-layered, instantaneously-enjoyable experiences and judging by Multi-Love and now Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, no detective work is required to realise that their upcoming album is going to deliver the goods. 4.5 Bianca's Pick 

Zanda: So much to unpack here that it’s hard to know where to start. The catchy vocal melodies are complimented superbly by that bass riff which sounds it has its origins in some seriously old school funk, and the sparing use of synth throughout is tasteful. The best aspect for me though, has to be that crazy percussion line; some sort of weird and wonderful mixture of clapping, sound effects, tambourine, and so much more. An absolute cracker. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Ta-Ku
Love Again

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/takugotbeats/love-again-feat-jmsn-sango?in=the-in-terns/sets/10-songs-you-need-to-hear-10[/soundcloud]

Sam: Ta-Ku has always had a few gospel flavours in his tracks but on this one he’s really gone all out and it works. JMSN’s vocal is an absolute killer throughout and Ta-Ku’s minimal production creates plenty of space for JMSN to work his magic. Personally, I would’ve enjoyed if Ta-Ku built the climax a little more, perhaps worked in some chords on an organ, Lido-style but there’s also a certain subtlety in not doing that which feels dignified. With or without, it’s a beautiful, flourishing production. 3

Bianca: *prayer hands emoji* The choir, combined with the piano and strings appearances, gives Love Again a gospel quality without being garish and over-the-top. The instrumental outro really makes it for me; the thumping kicks giving a taste of what was possibly missing from the rest of the song. Reading through Soundcloud, I found the comment: “This is cool just sent it to my ex who I miss alot (sic)”. Usually I wouldn’t recommend that but maybe this track might just give him a shot at redemption. 3

Zanda: I find myself pondering how Ta-Ku hasn’t really skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. I guess part of the charm of his music it’s exactly what he wants to make and doesn’t cater to the masses. This is an incredibly soulful tune featuring some incredible acapella-esque vocals. Tasteful production underpins it, and it’s the sort of minimal but necessary style of production that Ta-Ku is known for. 3.5

Major Lazer
Powerful (Feat. Ellie Goulding/Tarrus Riley)

Sam: I have to preface this with I am going to be bias because I love Ellie Goulding’s voice so much that I would bathe in even her weakest songs. It goes without saying that the my favourite parts of this track is Goulding’s verses. It’s nice to hear her over a reggae-styled beat rather than Calvin Harris’ usual onslaught of synths. For me, this sounds like Major Lazer really trying to slip into the mainstream. First there was the politeness of Lean On and now this and good on them for trying to get on radio while still maintaining their signature aesthetic. Powerful is their strongest to date and the star-power of Goulding along with Riley’s catchy chorus will serve them well. 3.5

Bianca: Gamble on Major Lazer and you’re sure to win. They always manage to make the featured artist shine (hell, they even made me like a song that features Ariana Grande) and this time round is no exception; Ellie’s voice is delightfully chirrupy as usual and Tarrus’ contribution balances it with a bit of grunt. It’s not the most complex of tracks but it is Powerful enough to make you sit up and listen. 3.5

Zanda: Diplo has come out recently and said that he is planning on doing less work as ‘Diplo’, and with a host of other projects under his direction including Major Lazer it’s not too hard to see why. With the recent release of Lean On, and now with this new track, it’s clear that the master producer and collaborator is taking this venture outside the realms of banging dance anthems exclusively and venturing into new areas. Ellie Goulding is typically and undoubtedly brilliant as usual. 3.5

Gosh Pith
Child

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/gosh-pith/child[/soundcloud]

Sam: After hearing so much clean electronic, RnB music in recent years I’m very into the idea of reverb-soaked melodies slipping back into fashion. Gosh Pith are just the start of what I think will be a very big movement of music that sounds like this. As always the original purveyor is the best and Child is excellent. It kind of doesn’t go anywhere but it has this subtle appeal which revolves around the soulful vocal. It’s a vocal that you wouldn’t expect to slot into an instrumental like this. At first I was expecting something more skewed towards Sleigh Bells but was pleasantly surprised. I’m charmed by this. 4

Bianca: Totally read their name as ‘Goth Pit’ at first glance so was expecting a very different song to come out of my headphones. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to be serenaded by this lullaby-eque, ambling track. It’s subdued though still holds an unfinished grittiness that prevents it from being tedious. The vocal-run, “I said I got out of there sooner now” also shakes things up, almost tripping over itself and waking the track up from its cozy slumber. 4

Zanda: A very relaxed and guitar-riff happy tune from the Detroit-based group. I actually really enjoy the refreshing use of triple time in kind of a shuffle feel, as a nice break from all other music at the moment being in 4/4. Echoey vocals add to this relaxed feel… a great track for a chiller weekend. 3

Jeremih
Planes (Lido and The Social Experiment Remix)

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/chancetherapper/jeremih-planes-remix-lido-the-social-experiment[/soundcloud]

Sam: Another week, another Chance The Rapper feature or remix that isn’t actually a Chance The Rapper song 🙁 Based off this I would love to see Lido and The Social Experiment working together more often.

Lido’s instrumentals always oscillate between the minimal and the dense and Chance’s vocal always sounds best when it’s given plenty of space to exist in. Together it’s an interesting combination. Anyway, I’m not ignoring the fact that this is actually a Jeremih remix.

The original of Planes was good but this is just so much more interesting. In fact I actually completely forgot Planes existed until now. I have a feeling I won’t be forgetting this one though. 4

Bianca: This version makes for a much more exciting event in comparison to the original. You can immediately hear Lido's contribution to the track, in all of its flickering, blossoming goodness. Chance's appearance, with all his Willy Wonka references, is almost humorous and kinda strange, but after listening to it a couple of times I understand its necessity. 3.75 

Zanda: Jeremih and Chance The Rapper are typically smooth in this, but the real star for me is Lido and his unique style of production. He brings his own brand of melodic synths to everything he does, and this track has that typical Lido polish to it. He uses space and sparse textures to captivate his audience and leave you wondering what’s coming next after moments of almost complete silence. 4

Giorgio Moroder 
Tom’s Diner (Feat. Britney Spears)

Sam: I actually think Britney Spears can be really brilliant when she strays away from regular pop. There was a song on her Circus record called Unusual You which I still listen to know because it was so irregular for her but also had some really interesting production on her voice. Tom’s Diner sounds nothing like that but it does go with something more interesting than your regular Britney. The production here brings out the best in her usually paper-thin voice.

The whole idea of Giorgio Moroder and Britney Spears doing a Suzanne Vega cover is utterly ridiculous but for some equally ridiculous reason it works. The Sia song was just way too cheesy. This one is cheesy but it’s also got a sleek quality in the way it carefully treads between disco and the club. Who would have thought that a 70-something year-old could bring out the best in Brit. I can’t get enough of this. Ditch Iggy Azalea and create a whole album with Moroder please Britney. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: This track oscillates delightfully between 'lol' and head bopping acceptance. At first listen, the 'doo doo' intro was almost laughable, but soon Giorgio's brilliant production shined through and Britney-fuelled nostalgia took over, making me kinda...like it. The lyrics are so damn literal, by no fault of Britney or Giorgio, but I suppose that adds to its charm. It's all very odd that this was the song of choice for their collaboration but I'm glad they did it. 

Zanda: It’s weird how Giorgio Moroder’s work as part of Daft Punk’s latest LP seems to have thrust him back into the spotlight, or at least reclaimed the attention of popular music’s biggest stars. This track doesn’t do much for me to be honest, although the production value is undoubtedly high. I can’t quite pinpoint what aspects of it I don’t particularly like, maybe if Britney attempted less pronounced humming and there was more actual lyrical material. 1.5

Now time for your vote: 

[poll id="38"]

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam
Managing Director: Bianca
Contributor: Zanda

firstimpressions_21April

First Impressions: Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer + More

firstimpressions_21April

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 Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer, BenZel + more.

Giorgio Moroder/Sia
Deja Vu

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/giorgiomoroder/giorgio-moroder-deja-vu-ft-sia[/soundcloud]

Sam: It really is hard to dislike this song. It’s probably the most out-and-out disco track to come out since Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers decided it was time disco was resurrected. Sia’s voice soars and really makes the track but I can’t help but feel that it sounds like a bit of an ABBA b-side. That orchestral melody is super daggy and the chorus really falls flat after a huge bridge. It is what it is I suppose. 2.5

Meshell: I saw Giorgio last year in a small Q&A he held as a part of Vivid Live, where he proceeded to win over the audience with his charm and brilliance. So please forgive my bias in advance…This song is would have gotten my tick of approval even without Sia, but with her- it goes from fun disco track to melodic wonderland. There’s a bit of a Never Ending Story vibe hiding in there behind the Nile Rogers-esque guitar and topped off with a sprinkling of Sia’s own brand of cool. 3

Bianca: This is all a bit of fun, isn’t it? It seems like something found on a wedding DJ’s playlist, somewhere in between the bouquet toss and the Chicken Dance. Which, after a substantial amount of glasses of free champagne, can make you perform a certain type of dancing you’d prefer to not remember the following day. 2.5

FOXTROTT
Driven

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/foxtrottfoxtrott/driven[/soundcloud]

 Sam: I actually stumbled upon this last week and was immediately drawn to it. It’s very rare that you hear a new artist for the first time and want to know who they are and if there’s more. The instrumental of this is so strong that it could’ve worked as a track on its own but the vocal also elevates it to another level. FOXTROTT is clearly quite a dark, brooding character but there’s an airiness to this (in the synths) that makes it much easier to listen to than your usual indie-artist-does-dark-thing. Throughout she builds on a simple drum loop, expanding it in the centre for an early climax. It’s well-thought out, smoothly-produced stuff. 4

 Meshell: I’ve never heard of FOXTROTT before and all I can think is, what a great drum line. The synths are a little pre-programmed for my liking but it’s easy enough to just focus on her smooth vocals and the underlying pulse. The song starts incredibly strong but I must admit it does die off a little towards the end. My overall thought is that FOXTROTT is on the cusp of great things. I’d be interested to hear what comes next. 3

Bianca: The moment the tribal-esque drums made an appearance, I was in. The sugar-sweet synths and strong vocals made Driven a strong contender in the Soundcloud-scape. By the time halfway arrived, however, I found myself becoming a bit bored. I was looking for an introduction of a bit more bass or instrumental work but, no dice. And just like when a relationship turns sour, the things I liked in the beginning started to turn into the things that annoyed me the most (that sounded much harsher than intended). 3

Hudson Mohawke
Ryderz

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/hudsonmohawke/ryderz-rinse[/soundcloud]

Sam: Very First Breath was good but this is just so much better. It moves right away from that heavy-bass, TNGHT aesthetic and sees HudMo take on something a little softer and more euphoric. The vintage vocal sample is a choice move but it’s the way that it expands into this crushing, percussion-driven climax that makes it so glorious. This is the kind of song he should end every set on for the rest of his life. It sounds like a victory lap. He knows that. We all know it. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: My co-worker just walked past and said, “Woah…can you send me this? This is fucking cool”. You’re right Joe, this IS fucking cool. I can’t even describe why I love this…I just do. I love everything about it. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Bianca: Flashback to Kanye West’s Graduation days. Vintage record-sounding tracks are a dime a dozen but Mohawke’s unique application gives a refreshing, grungy spin to what already sounds like a classic. All it needs is a bit of West to take these Ryderz into the sunset. 4 Bianca's Pick 

Crystal Castles
Frail

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/crystal-castles/frail[/soundcloud]

Sam: For me Crystal Castles never managed to capture the energy they expelled on stage within a record - and even then the live show was all about Alice. This basically sounds like Ethan Kath is trying to make something beneath the rubble of Crystal Castle’s own collapse. I don’t know what to say about this really. I guess it’s sad that he’s been left to pick up the pieces but maybe it’s time to move on. 1.5

Meshell: I am just so happy to hear Crystal Castles are soldiering on after losing Alice Glass. I can’t imagine a live show without her though as Ethan Kath was always a little bit boring…Production wise however, he is killing it as usual. With this new offering he has just waltzed back into the dark electronica scene and shouted, “Listen up fives, a ten is speaking”.  4 

Bianca: If I wasn’t aware the Alice Glass had left Crystal Castles I would still be none the wiser after listening to this. This sounds like business as usual for CC...foreboding and glitchy, Frail cuts like Glass, despite the latter’s departure from the duo. I enjoy this track but perhaps Kath should’ve taken the opportunity to try something new and not try to resuscitate what he once had. 3

Major Lazer
Night Riders


Sam: I do genuinely like Diplo and what he’s trying to do and has done for dance music but I’ve never known a project to be more hit and miss than Major Lazer. Interestingly for a band that focusses mostly around bassy, brassy tunes, their finest moments have always been the more subtle ones (Get Free, Lean On). This is the first time I’ve heard Major Lazer take on a more traditional rap aesthetic and it really doesn’t feel like them. There’s a lot of Diplo in here but not a lot of Major Lazer. As a hip-hop track it’s good. The hook is strong but apart from that there’s really not a lot to get excited about here. 3

Meshell: Does Diplo sleep? Is he actually a robot? I’m trying to figure out how he is working on so much new music whilst touring AND keeping me occupied with selfies on instagram…What’s his secret?!In all seriousness though, this track is exactly my type of party jam. It’s got that dirty electronic sound going on, blended with Trap & Ragga and it’s all types of badass…I imagine Rihanna dropping low to this with a blunt in hand. 4.5

Bianca: As I’m sitting, staring outside at the most horrible, windy and rainy day, this song comes along and reminds me that it’s my least favourite day of the week (Tuesday) and that I’m not in the US anymore...which are depressing thoughts in their own rights. It’s a hot and heavy hip-hop track which, right now in my current state, is acting like a warm hug. The chorus is simplistic in melody but the medley of artists swapping lyrics on the verses give it some much-needed spice. 3.5

BenZel
Stuck On You ft. Tory Lanez

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/officialbenzel/stuck-on-you-ft-tory-lanez[/soundcloud]

Sam: This is super smooth. It’s probably the most successful thing BenZel have done since they produced Jessie Ware’s Tough Love. The vocals of Tory Lanez are perfectly complemented by this all-encompassing yet spacious backdrop that detours into trap-inspired territory. The rap shakes things up a bit too. 3.5

Meshell: It may be because I listened to this directly after the production genius of Major Lazer but I find the production and instrumentation to be a bit cheesy and lacking. The vocals however are absolutely stunning, what a beautiful honey-toned voice. Trap love songs are my new favourite type of love song so I’ll ignore the mix for now and say that this tune is worth a play…or five. 4 

Bianca: Stuck On You is a smooth as hell RnB track, modernised by elements of glitchy electronica and trap. BenZel and Tory manage to make this track smooth without being sleazy. 3.5 

Now time for your vote: 

[poll id="37"]

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam
Managing Director: Bianca

FI_7apr

First Impressions: Tame Impala, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hot Chip + More

FI_7aprFirst 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 Tame Impala, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hot Chip and more. 

Tame Impala
Cause I'm A Man

Sam: I was worried that Lonerism would end of being Tame Impala's greatest achievement but now we've heard two tracks from Currents and it seems that won't be the case. They just continue to explore every pocket of the psychedelic realms moving from rock n' roll stompers to RnB mind-benders. This one reminds me of Feels Like We Only Go Backwards in the way that it plods along slowly and then flowers in the chorus. The bridge of this is sublime and makes way for one of the most quietly epic chorus' of the year. It may not sound it on the first listen but give it time, it's an absolute stunner. Also, Kevin Parker - what a songwriter. 5 Sam's Pick

Zanda: I didn’t think that it was possible to be more excited for Tame Impala’s new album, but now they’ve gone and released this absolute gem. Groovy doesn’t even begin to describe the bass riff that forms the bottom layer for this one. It’s incredibly catchy, full of gloriously rich guitar licks, and gets even more delicious when Cam Avery starts playing on the gorgeous harmonics of his bass guitar. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

 

Carly Rae Jepsen
All That

Sam: This is basically the same treatment that Dev Hynes gave to Solange, with a slow RnB groove and smouldering vocal. There's something about this that makes it feel like the poor man's bonus track to Solange's True but given that this is the same girl who just had Tom Hanks dance in her cringeworthy video, it's rather impressive. There's not a chance in hell that this will make it onto radio but maybe that's not what Jepsen wants. Ignoring all context this song is actually great and passes Jepsen as someone who's voice is worth listening to outside the realms of a bubblegum pop song. Mr. Hynes I tip my hat to you once again. 3.5

Zanda: There’s no denying that Carly Rae Jepsen is a talented vocalist, and she sings some pleasing melodies throughout this. It’s been efficiently produced as well, but unfortunately beyond that I find myself losing interest. It feels like it doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a ballad or a pop song, and that twinkling synth effect is incredibly overused and often just sounds out of place. 2

 

Hot Chip
Need You Now

Sam: Hot Chips' Huaraches Lights hasn't really stayed with me long enough to be overly excited about the new album, but I have a feeling this one will. This is the closest thing too a deep-house dance floor pleaser that Hot Chip have ever done and it's both current and coated in the Hot Chip aesthetic. That aesthetic is Alexis Taylor's oddball vocals coupled with Joe Goddard's organic, almost primal instrumentation. That "I need you now" sample adds so much heat to the track and creates the songs true climax. Let's hope for more stuff like this on the album. 4

Zanda: The first thing I notice about this track is how beautifully layered the production is. The vocals are smooth and pleasing to the ear, but it’s all about the use of texture and instrumental layering. Hot Chip really showcase their mastery of hiding instrumental complexity within the simplicity of enveloping individual rhythms. Definitely getting keen for their new album, out in May. 4

 

Janelle Monáe
Yoga

Sam: Given the circles that Janelle Monáe operates in, it's quite amazing that it's taken this long to hear an all-out urban radio hit from the singer. It's actually quite odd at first to hear her voice mould itself around harder hip-hop beats but after a while she sounds as charasmatic and lovely as usual. I'm not so sure about rhyming yoga with areole but maybe that's the clumsy charm if the song. It doesn't take itself too seriously and yet it still manages to smoulder. I'll take or leave Jidenna's verse, but this random drop from Monáe has me very happy. 4

Zanda: This song is probably a little bit too up-tempo to actually do any meaningful yoga whilst listening to it, so I guess on that level the title is a bit deceiving. However, that is literally the only thing I don’t like about it. Janelle’s vocals are super soulful and really suit the echoey style of bass used throughout. The build-up is sufficient enough that you’ll get excited every time it comes it’s time to ‘let your booty do that yoga’. 4

 

Bwana
Drop Mechanism
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/ausmusic/bwana-drop-mechanism/[/soundcloud]

Sam: I'd really love to understand and get into industrial techno but it always just leaves me cold and a little bored. The repetition often has me skipping so fast through that I can be done with a seven minute song in seven seconds. However, there's something about this track from Bwana that has me so intrigued from start to finish. He carefully layers and adds texture to the track over the course of its six minutes transforming an abrasive, pulsating number into a euphoric, victory lap. When he drops everything out in the middle and the pulls it all back, it's truly the mark of a producer who understands how to make a club goers heart beat. 4.5

Zanda: This track is all about being patient, and I can immediately see that it’s the sort of track that many may skip or switch off as soon as they don’t hear the introduction go through immediate progression. You will be rewarded for your patience people; the second half of the song is a gorgeous build-up that plays with dissonant tonalities as well as resolving melodic aspects. Lovers of proper house music will be pleased with this one. 3.5

 

What So Not
Gemini
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/whatsonot/what-so-not-gemini-ft-george-maple[/soundcloud]

Sam: I'm just so enamoured with George Maple's voice that it's impossible for me not to like anything she's involved in. Her voice is beautifully complemented by the thumping, ricocheting beat of What So Not. It's also probably the most nuanced thing to come from What So Not yet too. That synth-line in the break is just a s good as anything by similar international producers by RL Grime and proves their potential on the world stage. I personally would've hoped for a bit more belting from Maple but I'll hold out for that on her solo work. 3

Zanda: Another track from these guys that you could have easily never heard before and your first thought would be ‘Flume has definitely been near this’. It’s a certain note on the synth, a certain mannerism in which the bass pulls out just before the drop, and just the way the vocals and backing vocals are seamlessly inserted into the track that all typify Flume’s production style. Although being part of What So Not has definitely allowed him to explore a different side of his production, tracks like Gemini really make you wonder what on earth What So Not will sound like once he’s gone. 4.5

Now time for your vote:

[poll id="36"]
If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam
Contributor: Zanda

fi_1april

First Impressions: Rihanna, Jamie xx, FKA twigs + More

firstimpressions_31march
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 Rihanna, Jamie xx, FKA twigs + more. 

Rihanna
Bitch Better Have My Money

Meshell: PRAISE ALMIGHTY QUEEN RIH! The bitch is back, and this piece of juicy trap goodness is getting put on REPEAT. After the sickly sweetness of her new animated film Home and the heart on her sleeve of Fourfiveseconds, we can all finally breathe a collective sigh of relief that our blunt-smokin-titty-showin-not-givin-a-f**k-Rihanna is back stronger than ever. 4.5

Sam: Last week I read that Rihanna was making an album that was "timeless" and then we get this. I ain't mad though. RiRi has always used trends to her benefit and this one sees her at her best bat shit craziest. From the first bet she digs in and goes hard. What she's doing is not singing and it's not rapping, it's simply doing Rihanna. God bless her for putting the word bitch back into the charts. 4.5

Zanda: Definitely a dark side to Rihanna that we’ve seen glimpses of before. Grimey synths and bass suit her slightly altered vocals to a tee, and it’s really quite a captivating track in its simplicity. I don’t really think the outro with the male vocals adds a whole lot and I’m not quite sure why it’s there. Other than that, a cool tune. 3

Jamie xx
Loud Places (Feat. Romy)

Meshell: The opening of this song has an effortless grace and sadness that we have come to know and love from Romy and Jamie. The song almost sounds like it was written for The xx, until we reach an unexpected build-up right before the chorus. As the bubble pops I am both joyous and confused. It’s an interesting arrangement in the choruses, Jamie has used an old Idris Muhammad sample that both lifts the song to a nostalgic place and also draws the song away from being a melancholic xx number. It was not what I was expecting and I think that’s why I love it so much. 4

Sam: "I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with," is such a beautiful beginning to a song and it's made even more heartbreaking by Romy's heartbreaking voice. This is the warmest thing we've ever heard from Jamie xx and it's also his most accessible. The gospel-influences in the chorus elevate the song while Romy brings it back down to earth. This rise and fall makes it such a subtle journey of emotions which is something I feel xx hasn't achieved before in his solo career. Stop saying we can pretend this is a new xx track because it's so much more than that. The xx have never been this uplifting. 5 Sam's Pick

Zanda: There is just so much to love about this track, from the haunting lyrics from Romy to the chilling harmonies when the group vocals are introduced. A master of musical texture, Jamie xx again showcases his ability to build a very specific mood in his music, and to then explore the complexities of that mood through subtle variations in timbre and repetition. It’s hauntingly intense and almost could be interpreted as a teaser for his album, which unfortunately isn’t due to be released til June. 5

FKA twigs
Glass & Patron

Meshell: There’s just not much left to say about this new offering from FKA twigs as it’s already flooded every corner of the internet and I’ve already sung its praises in my coverage of the YTMAs. To re-iterate though, this is the song that has given me my FKA twigs appreciation breakthrough as nothing else she has done had really stuck with me. I think I just love the raw energy at the start of the song and the unusual transition into something that’s…kind of sassy. 4

Sam: I've tried to listen to this without watching the visuals because I didn't want to get caught up in the whole image of it. Luckily the song is just as intriguing on its own. The start is mystifying. I really didn't know where she was going with the whole minimalist almost acapella part but I'm completely digging where she went. Speeding it up makes her sound almost sub-human and sounds like it could've been produced by SOPHIE in parts. It's distinctly FKA twigs but at the same time it offers up something different from her LP. It's exciting that she's clearly got plenty of creativity left in the tank. 4.5

Zanda: There’s no denying FKA twigs is an incredible and unique vocal talent, but personally I find her music a little bit hit and miss. There are sections of this track that are super engaging and pleasing aurally, but other parts that I struggle to make sense of musically. A track that isn’t for everyone, but I can at least appreciate that’s her aim, to polarise an audience. I’m not even going to start on the video because I can’t even. 3

MAS YSA
Look Up
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/masysa/look-up[/soundcloud]
Meshell: This song kind of makes me want to tear at my shirt and run screaming through a rainy street in a London. Y’all feel the same…right? In seriousness though this vocal delivery is devastating…it’s beautiful but it’s so damn sad which is in completely juxtaposition with the very preppy drum-beat and washy synths. I like it…I’m just a bit unsure what I like. 3.5

Sam: You've got to listen to this in headphones. It's so beautifully and intricately textured with crisp, glassy beats and popping vocal samples. I think it could've done with a more defined chorus but it's enthralling nonetheless. I just can't get over the production value of this, it's so rich and measured and that really makes the song for me. I find myself listening for nothing else but those little ear prickers. 3.5

Zanda: Gorgeous production by MAS YSA here. He is part of a growing number of artists bridging the gap between indie instrumental and electronic music. The texture builds nicely throughout, but unfortunately there’s nothing here that really makes it stand out musically. Not a huge fan of whatever the effect is that makes the vocals sound increasingly shaky throughout. 3

Brandon Flowers
Can’t Deny My Love

Meshell: Brandon Flowers has so much to live up to every time he releases a track…a lot of his earlier work with The Killers essentially defines my teenage years. So do I think this lives up to the excellence I expect off him? I think it does, it's got a lovely unique melody that jumps around quite a bit, the percussion drives the song and there is fantastic layering, especially in the chorus. It’s not the best I’ve heard from him but there is a subtle excellence in this song. I feel like Brandon Flowers is akin to a great bottle of scotch, he is getting smoother and easier to sip with age. 4.5

Sam: I feel like Brandon Flowers' opinion of what he's bringing to the music world is much larger than what he is. Nonetheless it's a smart move on his behalf getting Ariel Rechstaid on board. It sounds just as good as any of the alt-pop music going around at the moment. It probably won't be remembered by the end of the year but that euphoric chorus is something to behold for the moment. 3

Zanda: An emotional track that showcases Brandon Flowers’ immense vocal talent. The chorus is incredibly catchy and is built up really well through each verse, and I really enjoy the guitar-synth effect that echoes the vocal chorus line. Not hard to see why his popularity is booming with songs like this. 3.5 

Japanese Wallpaper
Forces (Feat. Airling)
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/japanesewallpaper/forces[/soundcloud]
Meshell: When I saw that Airling had paired with the unfairly talented wonder-child Japanese Wallpaper I knew it was going to be epic before I even listened. Then I saw Andrei Eremin mixed and mastered the track because OF COURSE HE DID HE IS A GENIUS. This song is so easy, everything about it just works together perfectly. I’d be really happy to see this partnership do a few more tracks as they’ve really created some magic here. (Side note, wrote the word “magic” as Airling sung it…totally freaking out). 5 Meshell’s Pick

Sam: I've been pretty nonchalant about Japanese Wallpaper's previous offerings but how good is this? Airling's voice is so crisp and pure and this is the perfect atmosphere for her to show off in. The verses are stronger than the choruses melodically but for a song that sticks on the same waveform for the most part it keeps my attention. It's mindblowing to think about how young these two are but that shouldn't matter. This track would be great whatever age they were. 3.5 

Zanda: I was a massive fan of Between Friends, and although this follow-up has taken a while to be released it’s been well worth the wait. Japanese Wallpaper has an almost unbelievable maturity and polish to his production for someone so young. The production itself is deceptively complex (despite sounding quite simple), with various aspects of melody and effects slowly added and removed throughout, to complement Airling’s ethereal vocals. Airling has been killing it recently by herself, and it’s truly a testament to Japanese Wallpaper’s talent to really feature her in a way that shows off such a huge amount of her ability. 5 Zanda’s Pick

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam
Contributor: Zanda

[poll id="35"]

FI_23March

First Impressions: Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + More

FI_23March

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 Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + more. 

Earl Sweatshirt
Grief

Zanda: A bit less melodic than a lot of Sweatshirt’s other stuff, but the droning style of synth that accompanies his smooth rapping is captivating enough for the most part. If I’m being completely honest my favourite part is the conclusion of the track. Not only does it provide some needed sectional variation, but the symbol-dominated drumming and various drum-licks reference a gorgeous style of lounge jazz. 3.5

Sam: Just when poor Earl couldn’t be any more disillusioned with the world his record company go and fuck up his album release. This is some of the darkest hip-hop we are bound to hear this year. It circles around your head with minimal beats and washy undertones which ultimately blend in with his deep, affecting rap. I’m not sure I’m interested in this as much as I am intrigued by it. The video is dark as hell and it’s pretty distressing to watch. This is probably the tightest we’ve ever heard Sweatshirt rap but it’s going to take play after play to make this devilish tune completely sink in. 4

Meshell: Ah, the first taste of new Earl. After the success that was Doris the bar has been set incredibly high for the young rapper. Grief takes the angst felt throughout his debut and twists it up tighter and tighter into psychosis. The low-fi production and undulating synth are the perfect backdrop for Earl’s smooth, lagging rap style. As he tells us all how much he hates going outside, I’ve decided that although the track is angry… it’s not aggressive and by the time we hit the sweet little outro I absolutely love it. 4

Bianca: I'm all about dat outro; a dramatic turnaround from the deep, dark depths of Sweatshirt's thoughts, giving us a chance to reflect on the outpouring of grief in the form of his threadbare rapping style. Hot tip for iPhone users: Invert the colours to the clip via Settings > General > Accessibility > Invert Colors for an even trippier viewing experience. 3.5 

M.O.
Preach

Zanda: Undeniably catchy, and really just a fun tune to jam out to. The chorus is definitely on point, but I’m a little disappointed with how same-same the chorus is compared with the bridge and the verse. A fun track nonetheless. 3

Sam: I think we can agree that we’re due for another naturally cool girl group and I’ve been saying for a long time that these girls are the group to do it. This is a breezy, effortless RnB anthem that showcases the group’s biggest strength - their harmonies. I’m really not sure why the UK charts haven’t given M.O. any love yet, but hopefully this will be the tune to change their luck. They’re so tight. 3.5

Meshell:I feel it’s my responsibility as a reviewer to be completely honest with you dear reader. What we’re hearing with this latest offering from M.O is a poor woman’s Destiny’s Child ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s totally fine, but therein lies my problem…fine is the only word I can muster for this track. Its kind of catchy but not enough that I’m going to be singing it whilst making my lunch. The classic pop stylings of it make me feel like it was just written with the intent of cracking the charts and music for the sake of a rating lacks sincerity. I don’t know the origins of M.O but to fresh eyes they look like the major label machine is now manufacturing hip-stars instead of pop-stars. These girls look fresh as f**k and I think that might be the only thing I really like about them. Brilliant marketing…average music. 2.5

Bianca: It’s funky, it’s kinda catchy and good on them for championing the return of girl groups with matching outfits and dance moves...though I really can’t shake the feeling that I’m listening to a Jessica Mauboy song that I’ve already heard 1,500 times. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not my thing. 2.5  

Years & Years
Worship

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/yearsandyears/worship[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Years and Years seem to have just about perfected a crossover between boy-band and stand-alone electro production. Proved by the fact that the track would work perfectly well as an instrumental, but at the same time the vocals compliment the track rather than detract from the excellent production. This is the sort of track that gets stuck in your head, especially that chorus. 4

Sam: So these guys aren’t a hype act anymore, it’s already confirmed that they’re huge (a number one single will do that to you). Worship doesn’t have the same immediacy as King but it’s a crisp, funk tune nonetheless. It’s nice to hear this mid-tempo verse flourish into an almost gospel chorus. Like any good pop tune, its chorus is its heart and soul built around layered vocals and well-placed words (any religious word in pop always goes down well). Olly’s voice is just so impossible not to be wooed by. 4

Meshell: God dammit, I listen to Years & Years every day at the moment and I cannot get over how wonderfully unique this dude’s voice is. Having an excellent range is one thing, but having a voice that is so incomparable is just next level awesome. Excellent instrumentation again from these boys, sometimes I get too excited by their singer but of course credit needs to be given where credit is due, the whole band pulls their weight when it comes to excellent songwriting and musicianship. Worship  might not take out a number one spot like King did, it has however given their loyal fan base (points at self) a little sneak peak at how epic their album is going to be. 4.5 Meshell’s Pick

Bianca: How have these guys not completely blown up on Australian airwaves yet? Their sound is so refreshing and immediately affecting with each of their tracks hooking me in  at first listen. Worship, with its lush, tropical-inspired synths and just enough pop, is no exception. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the album. 4 Bianca's Pick

Swick
Crystal Palace

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/swickswick/swick-crystal-palace[/soundcloud]

Tropical vibes for days. Swick has delivered a polished, up-beat, catchy tune here that will have you wishing it was still summer. The echoey, steel-drum sound melodic lines give off the aforementioned tropical feels, and I would describe a lot of the production as almost Kilter-esque. That is, if you like Kilter, you’ll love this. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick 

Sam: The thing I really like about Swick is that he’s operating in that kitsch, PC Music-esque world but there’s more weight to it. That thumping bassline really drives it home and sets it apart from some of the lighter rave-tunes that are floating around. That build-up in the middle is one of the more exciting things I’ve heard in electronic music this year and as far as synth-lines go it’s one of Swick’s more approachable ones. At the moment the Nice Age label is really being defined by hearty bass and it’s something that defines being in a club after midnight. Really exciting stuff once again from Swick. 4 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: While I can imagine myself loving this in the middle of a DJ set, it’s not doing anything for me at the moment. It’s punchy and up-beat and all a bit fun but it’s nothing new. With so much stupidly impressive electronic music being made in Australia alone, you really have to pull some magic out of your arse to get noticed around here. Swick has put together a track that will surely get your head bopping but you won’t be sharing it on your wall with all your mates saying, “TUUUUUUNE”. 2.5

Bianca: Crystal Palace isn't super multi-instrumental or three-dimensional but, like PC Music, that's not its point. What it does do for me in terms of dimensions is take me to another one: right now I'm riding along the rainbow road and there are no banana peels or red shells on the horizon. It's smooth sailing alllll the way while I leave all the other players in my dust. Suck it, Princess Peach. 

Of Monsters And Men
Crystals

Zanda: Of Monsters and Men seem to just constantly deliver captivating, emotion-filled music. It’s the simple things that are always done so well, with the use of guitars and other melodic instruments never encroaching on the amazing use of texture and aural space that creates so much room for variation and interest. The vocals are always given so much space, and are so powerful that they could stand alone, but are complimented by a complex yet minimal use of drums and other instruments throughout the track. 4.5 

Sam: This is sure to delight many but it makes me feel slightly ill. That whole epic, inoffensive pop-rock genre helmed by Coldplay is driven by its desire to be as beige as possible and in that sense this song succeeds. There’s plenty of metaphors in this but none that really show any sense of genuity. The voices are actually quite affecting and I feel like if they weren’t trying so hard to craft a song that will light up a stadium with smartphones it would hit at the heart a little better than it does. 2

Meshell: I actually really like the drums in this song. I’m kind of not listening to anything else first time round and now that I’m on second listen I’m going to try and pay a little more attention. Vocally this song is nowhere near as annoying as Little Talks so that’s a step in the right direction. Subtle horns are a nice added touch too. My imaginary hat (I look terrible in real ones) goes off for great mixing of this song, does it reach me on an emotional level? No, it’s not actually that good, but I guess there’s plenty to appreciate. 3

Bianca: Ughhhhh. Not even the elimination of the banjos made this palatable. I also take away half a point for Youtube's autoplay feature leading to Little Talks. 

Nero

The Thrill

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/nero/the-thrill-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Nero. Appropriately placed vocals accompanying bass-heavy production and dark riffs, with sections of build up that will satisfy most fans of the genre. Nothing special, but a well-produced track nonetheless. 3

Sam: To me this is an Imagine Dragons song disguised as an electronic track. Ok, that may be a little bit far, this is much better than Imagine Dragons but it does have a soft-rock heart. I just find this quite confusing. It’s like a slowed-down hardstyle track that you can neither dance nor head-thrash to. When the instrumental drops out and you just hear the vocals it’s easy to enjoy but apart from that it’s just a bit assaulting. They’re better off when they’ve ramped the tempo up and are going OTT. Promises still remains their greatest triumph. 2.5

Meshell: This is all very loud, genre-confusing and wildly disappointing. I’m talking super basic lyrical content, loud overdone synth and drops that I cannot figure out if they’re meant shove the song into the EDM pile or the shit stadium-rock pile. I felt really uncomfortable playing such a terrible song out loud…what happened to the Nero who won a grammy? 1

Bianca:  The ear-thrashing that follows the drop was definitely not worth the headache. 1.5 

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam

Managing Director: Bianca

Contributor: Zanda

[poll id="34"]

FI_16March

First Impressions: Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, T-Pain + More

FI_16March

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 Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, T-Pain, Tame Impala + more. 

Samo Sound Boy
You Come For Me

Sam: For me this is a cut above the first track Samo Sound Boy dropped from the album, Baby Don’t Stop. This is a soulful slice of electronica which operates in slow motion. It’s only a short cut and I can imagine it’s going to bridge two tracks together beautifully on the album. On its own, there’s still plenty to get excited about, particularly the fireworks that seemingly go off in the latter part of the song. The dancefloor lives off euphoric moments and this is one of them. 4

Bianca: This is such a hands-in-the air, anthemic club track, but not in the classic, obvious sense. Driven by a constant drumbeat that whirls its way around your eardrums, glittering synths gently crescendo, before gently teetering out into nothingness. The track doesn't reach a full-on climax but that's the true beauty of it. 

Zanda: Another polished track from the American House producer, but for me, not his best. It’s the sort of track that will fit fine into a generic House music playlist, but lacks the bite, bass, and melodic interest of some of his previous work like the 2013 banger Your Love. I find myself ready for the introduction of a few more layers of sound and before I’ve even realised it’s not coming, it’s over all too soon. 3

Tame Impala
Let It Happen

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/stereogum/let-it-happen[/soundcloud]

Sam: As far as the psych-rock thing goes Tame Impala have kind of already nailed it. Operating within its realms again for the third record could have been very tedious. Luckily Parker and co have adopted a few extra sounds on Let It Happen, dabbling very subtly in electronica to help this song sound even more expansive and wonderful. Parker has always been great at writing pop melodies and it’s no different here, the chorus is a triumph. Also, the fact that he can extend this into a 7 minute epic complete with lush synth-riffs is an extraordinary feat. This is probably my favourite lead-single from the band out of all three records. 4.5

Bianca: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, My Chemical Romance's Welcome To The Black Parade, Tame Impala's Let It Happen. They may be from varying genres but they all hold one thing in common: extended song lengths that expertly keep the viewer's attention through the transcending of diverse styles, tempos, highs, lows, crescendos and decrescendos. This experimentation gets me going like nothing else. Like a gripping novel, a flurry of emotions are felt through its course from beginning to end. And, to use the same book simile again, you can read listen to it over and over again. I'm so (prematurely) excited for their upcoming album and even more excited to see them perform at Coachella. Fingers crossed for an epic, live, seven minute outro. 4.75 

Zanda: There are barely words to describe how excited has made me for Tame Impala’s forthcoming third studio album. It’s a perfect balance of the funky, psych-fusion sound that made their second album Lonerism so popular, but Let It Happen is also upbeat and compact in a way that suggests that we might be soon be hearing a slightly different overall sound on the new album. At seven minutes in length it’s also far from Tame Impala’s shortest, yet at its conclusion I found my earbuds longing for a live, never-ending jam version. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

 

Kendrick Lamar
King Kunta

Sam: Lamar’s album dropped in full today but I am writing this without fully hearing King Kunta within the context of the record. First impression was it’s far lighter than the powerful The Blacker The Berry, erring more on the side of i. To me though, it’s far more effective than i. Lamar is genuinely funky, reminding me a little of Outkast’s Aquemini. I never thought I’d hear “we want the funk!” in a Kendrick Lamar song, but here you have it and it actually works. It’s an egotistical, chest-puff of a song but that’s one of the greatest things about hip-hop - its unabashed confidence. I’m loving everything from To Pimp A Butterfly so far because it feels like Lamar is taking his newfound reach really seriously and trying to make something that will resonate with people for years to come. Nothing feels throwaway. 5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: This track wasn't even out for a minute before the entire album, To Pimp A Butterfly subsequently dropped into our laps a week early (literally an hour ago). But before I go into that, let me take you back to Saturday when King Kunta jived its way into the airwaves. Upon first listen, it forced a smile onto my face from its unabashed tribute to funk. Unexpectedly groovy but not in a Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars tacky kinda way, it still holds some of the grunt and heavy undertones found in The Blacker The Berry. The backing melody increases and decreases in semitones (or is it tones? It's been a while since I've studied music theory so please forgive me) which alters the tension oh so subtly. The track doesn't allow you to take your attention away for even a second, with pops and brief instrumentals interrupting the groove every so often, particularly when it's stated "By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you." Lamar's given me the funk and I'm gonna take it. Phwoar. 4.75 Bianca's Pick  

Zanda: The driving bass definitely delivers a level of funk to this track that you wouldn’t normally associate with Kendrick Lamar. I can’t say I love it though, and don’t think that the use of female back-up vocals necessarily adds much. Lamar’s rapping itself is typically proficient, but I definitely prefer his slower stuff. 2.5

 

Young Fathers
Shame

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/youngfathers/shame-yf[/soundcloud]

Sam: That synth that runs behind this song is really becoming a Young Fathers signature. As is the fast-paced almost tribal feeling. There’s something very communal to Young Fathers that feels like they are all in a room together jamming and feeding off eachothers energy and that’s their biggest quality. What this song lacks is a release. The beat that runs beneath it sounds quite anxious and it could’ve done with a climactic moment, percussion-wise. That’s a small complaint of an otherwise brilliant group. 3.5

Bianca: There are so many great tracks in this week's First Impressions so it's kinda unfair to pit this one against the others. A Shame, really (not sorry). Despite its mish-mash of sounds, it's surprisingly well-structured in an organised mess kinda way. 

Zanda: The abrasive and often dissonant sounds that Young Fathers have become known for frequently foster debate in various comment sections on YouTube. Shame is another track that is sure to divide opinion, with its intentionally out-of-sync rhythms and coarse melodies that honestly make it difficult to listen to at times. It’s not the sort of track that will make any easy-listening list, but I have to give them props for continuing to strive boldly away from musical conventions. 3

 

Grimes
REALiTi

Sam: I actually can’t believe that Grimes wrote this off as just an offcut from “a lost album.” The stuff that is going on her next album must be real-good if this didn’t even get a look in. REALiTi is Grimes’ most human song yet. Her voice sits atop the instrumental in a way we haven’t heard before and the chorus is unashamedly melodic, uncluttered with sound - a space that Grimes often fills with electronic murmurs. “Every morning there are mountains to climb,” shows the artist with a clarity that we haven’t heard from her yet and it’s refreshing to hear. 4.5

Bianca: REALiTi to me is exactly opposite to that. Through the dreamy synths and celestial vocals, Grimes takes us to another world, her own world; one of fantasy, mystery and intrigue. All I can say is thank God this was rescued out of the trash can. 4.5 

Zanda: This is definitely the side of Grimes that I prefer. Its soft, echoey timbres are kind on the ear, and its uber-chiller, but not to the point that you couldn’t dance to it. It’s hard to believe that she rated this track so low that she decided not to include it as part of any of her albums, but I guess that shows that the gap between artist intention and fan reception is a difficult one to reconcile, especially for someone like Grimes who recently has recently been exploring a new direction with her music. 4

 

T-Pain
Disa My Thing

[soundcloud width="750" height="500"]https://soundcloud.com/nappyboymail/t-pain-disa-my-thing[/soundcloud]

Sam: T-Pain’s had this weird resurgence of late where he seems out to prove his worth as an artist. I find it so bizarre that he’s such good friends with FKA twigs but it’s kind of all starting to make sense as he explores more obscure pockets of hip-hop. Disa My Thing has T-Pain rapping without auto-tune, going hard over a dancehall inspired beat. The chorus is on-point with everything Drake and Kanye are doing at the moment and it’s genuinely entertaining. T-Pain’s Soundcloud has his oldest song as four months old. It’s clear he’s trying to turn a new leaf and based on the strength of this, it’s probably going to work. Good luck to him. 3.5

Bianca: Huh. At first I thought T-Pain was in here for a lol but after listening I was surprised at how much I could actually digest this. Refreshing to see TP has lost his sea legs/obnoxious glasses and hat and is finally off the boat. 

Zanda: I’m not normally a big listener of T-Pain or melody-lacking, sound effect-filled hip hop. However I found myself strangely captivated by the incredibly smooth, rapid style of vocals used in Disa My Thing. Something about it gives me weird aural flashbacks to Busta Rhymes in Look At Me Now…3.5

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach this week’s writers below:

Content Director: @sam_interns

Managing Director: @bianca_interns

Contributor: @wilso_92z

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First Impressions: Kanye West, Chromatics, M.I.A & More

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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 part tracks by Kelela, Kanye West, Chromatics, M.I.A + more. 

Kelela
A Message

Sam: “If I was your ex...girlfriend” - that line is everything to this song. At first it’s mystifying and haunting but that line grabs you and brings you closer. It’s the most subtle of hooks but Kelela and Arca have done a masterful job of creating an intriguing track that rarely wavers if we’re talking waveforms.

This song trades in silence, with the quick breaks in noise building the intensity and making Kelela’s voice even more powerful. It’s as if Bjork and Janet Jackson reproduced and it’s unbelievably good. 5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: Take one glance at the Youtube comments surrounding this track and you’ll notice constant comparisons of Kelela to FKA twigs. Whilst she does bear some similarities to the London songstress (produced by Arca, synonymous R&B stylings and their unique explorations of love and sexuality), Kelela is an artist in her own right. While treading a bit slow for my liking, it’s a hauntingly beautiful song with a truly sensational video clip to boot. 3.5

Alex: There’s a quiet intensity to this track which demonstrates a haunting vocal. A Message shows a raw and vulnerable side to Kelela there’s a true sadness and hurt behind the lyrics which really evokes something within me. The video for the track is equally beautiful in comparison to the song with her twitching sharp movements which exaggerate the breaks in the song. 3.5

Cashmere Cat
Adore

Sam: To me, this song is like Be My Baby part 2 but the thing that makes it ever so slightly better is Grande loosens up a bit. The hook of this song is absolutely ridiculous. She seems to be just singing anything that comes to mind, but it shows that she’s having a little fun with Cashmere Cat in the studio. We’ve kind of lost the appreciation for vocal runs over the past decade. When Mariah was the queen of RnB you got the sense that she was doing anything she could to shock with her voice. Grande is doing the same thing here and she sounds brilliant. 4.5

Bianca: Meh. Ariana Grande never really strikes a chord with me so it’s no shock that she hasn’t in this circumstance either. Cashmere Cat’s production is crisp and catchy but not enough to detract away from Grande’s voice. 2.5

Alex: I’ve never really been a fan of Ariana Grande and this track isn’t doing anything to help that opinion. I mean if you loved Ariana’s last album then this track will be right up your alley. Stylistically it sounds just like something that many of ended up as a bonus track on the album. That being said if we isolated Ariana’s vocals and just focused on Cashmere Cat’s production on the track it’s clear that there was some potential to the track. I would have just liked to see a bit more oomf. 3

Kanye West
All Day

Sam: What more is there left to say about Kanye? He’s spent the last few weeks owning Paris, New York and London with fashion, music and speech with his most impressive promotional campaign of his career. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was such a success because it was a communal effort where Kanye brought out the best in every artist that featured on that record. Then Yeezus was Kanye’s solo chest-puff. On All Day it feels as if he’s adopted that communal atmosphere again, blending together hip-hop, grime, organic whistles and trap in what could be his largest sounding track yet. 4.5

Bianca: Has it only been a week since All Day has been released? I feel like this track has already been amongst West’s repertoire for an age. It manages to mix old Kanye with new Kanye in a beautiful way; it’s a punchy, genre-smorgasbordin’ smackdown that traverses between a manifold of stylings without sounding messy. McCartney’s jovial whistle is a pleasant addition. With its credits expanding to 17 individual artists, it seems that too many cooks doesn’t spoil the broth. 4.5 Bianca’s Pick

Alex: Well, well, well Mr West it seems there is something I like of yours. I’ve always been a hard line no when it comes to Kanye’s music in the past, but I’ve got to admit this track is absolutely killing it.. The pumping bass that runs as the heartbeat to the track cuts straight to your bones and could make even the stiffest person break into a little groove. 4

Deutsch Duke
Battleground

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/deutschduke/battleground-1[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love when new Aussie talent release tracks early on in their career that stack up to what’s going on internationally. That’s exactly what Battleground does. The production is crisp yet interesting and the vocals melt around the track. They are buried under so much production and yet they still manage to tug at the heart strings, aided by dense, rushing synths and the beat that falls in and out. Pretty special stuff. 4

Bianca: This is truly mesmerising. Soulful vocals enveloped in a delicious combo of house and funk have me hooked from start to finish. There’s not really more I can say about this except that I love it. 4.5  

Alex: Yess now this is more my style. Soul-Funk to the core. Effortlessly cool and electrifying. 4

Chromatics
I Can Never Be Myself When I’m Around You

[soundcloud width="750" height="500"]https://soundcloud.com/johnnyjewel/chromatics-i-can-never-be-myself-when-youre-around[/soundcloud]

Sam: So far Chromatics’ forthcoming record is turning out to be a pretty melancholic affair. I suppose that’s always the case but on their previous record they were yearning for love and on this one it seems like they’ve found it but they’re not completely satisfied. On I Can Never Be Myself When I’m Around You, it feels as if the lyrics are given more breathing space than the band have ever offered and it’s because they’re some of the best they’ve ever offered up. The central lyric of “I can never be myself when I’m around you” really cuts to the core as the dense, atmospheric production is halted in the verses to drive home the central message of the song. 4

Bianca: I'm getting nostalgic vibes for the washed-out electro-pop of the late 00's with this one. The shimmering synths wash over you as Ruth Radelet’s pensive vocals lull you into a dreamstate. It’s a beautifully bittersweet ode to love. 4

Alex: It’s an uptempo affair into indietronic which will wash over you like a wave in the sea. Punching beats, soaring synth work and muted echo-y vocal that has massive potential. I wouldnt be surprised if some DJ out there at the moment is currently remixing this with a deep house or banger feel and getting ready to play this in a club. 4

M.I.A.
CanSeeCanDo

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/miauk/canseecando[/soundcloud]

Sam: I thought M.I.A.’s last record Matangi was brilliant because it seemed like she’d finally found a way to meld together her pop sensibilities and her penchant for experimentalism. CanSeeCanDo almost does that but it’s let down by a chorus that doesn’t really go anywhere. Bad Girls had a similar vibe but it was bolstered by the various instrumentals behind the track that reinforced its melody. As much attitude as she brings to this one it really feels a little forgettable by the end. Maybe if she’d incorporated the “na, na, na” part at the end as the main hook of the song it may have added something more to it. 3

Bianca: I feel this track had so much potential. I’m really into “CanSeeCanDo” part of the track but unfortunately all parts surrounding that fall flat. Literally. Is she sounding flat to anyone else? 3

Alex: Can anybody say Bad Girls  2.0? It’s M.I.A people. As if you need any more reasons to give this track a listen and then subsequently slut drop it low to the floor. 4.5 Alex’s Pick

 

If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach this week's writers below:

Content Director: @sam_interns

Managing Director: @bianca_interns

Contributor: @alexMYCS

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