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shamir

REVIEW: Shamir | The Echo, Los Angeles

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It’s hard to standout on the internet today. Every day Soundcloud is awash with new talent, many that could catch break with one single song. It’s easy to see why 20 year-old Las Vegas newcomer Shamir immediately caught the attention of many. Firstly it was his voice – high pitched and different to anything that we’ve heard, it commands attention. Secondly his songwriting is such that it’s shy and heartfelt while remaining sassy and in your face.

Sassy and shy are the best two words to describe the first show of Shamir’s album headline tour with the juxtaposition making you both relate to him and want to be him. Looming over the mic stand, Shamir looked awkward with a youthful charm when he first took to the stage. He seemed as if he had no idea what to do with his hands and was immediately overwhelmed by the strong turnout.

Those sound like the best way to preface a review of a train wreck show, but Shamir’s live show was quite the opposite. Once you watch for a while his awkwardness becomes part of his IDGAF charm.

Shamir’s songs, particularly the new ones he previewed, call for plenty of attitude. He mimicked the words with his hands and threw in plenty of eye rolls as he dealt with notions of being a hot mess and not being able to drink when you’re only 20. It may seem silly but the strength of the tracks that are set to make up his debut album Ratchet is that they are unashamedly party tracks. They’re groovy, bass-driven and elevated by euphoric chorus’. It’s not mainstream, cut and dry pop though, it’s the kind of pop that Nile Rodgers would trade in.

On The Regular was our first taste from the new album that we knew and it expectedly went off. For the first time Shamir pulled away from the mic stand and dropped the shy act to deliver lines like “Just so you know, yes, yes, I’m the guy.” Complete with cow bells, live, the song proved just how much energy that song can burst with.

He followed it up by bringing in the disco groove with early track I Know It’s A Good Thing. Unlike On The Regular, here, we really got to hear Shamir’s voice in all it’s crackling, high-pitched glory. It may be a voice that’s hard to make reason with at first but after a while you’re drawn in by its sincerity. At times it went slightly wayward and at times it was unbelievably on-point and that’s what made it so intriguing.

As for the new songs many of the them were driven by a deep vocal sample and there was more than a few that feature the cowbell (thank goodness). They oscillated between dance floor stunners and indie pop/rock venturing close to Bloc Party’s early, youthful aesthetic.

For second single Call It Off Shamir unleashed his long dreads, flipping the a round as he bounced from one end of the stage to the other. The song at first doesn’t seem as immediately appealing at On The Regular, but live it proved that it’s a slow-burner and more than capable of being a bigger hit than its predecessor.

You really get the feeling Shamir’s one step away from a radio hit that will blow his status up. In a world where kids are devouring half-arsed songs about living in the moment, Shamir sincerely captures youthful. It’s a little bratty, a little nonchalant and a lot of fun. Before he could even finish his final song he launched into the crowd giving out as many hugs as he possibly could before disappearing – here for a good time not a long time.

 

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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

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Content Director: Sam
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REVIEW: Jessie Ware | Terminal 5, New York

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Image: JessieWare Instagram

Jessie Ware is essentially a deconstructed pop star – one that has cut the crap, removed the glass facade and kept the impossible style that makes people want to idolise you. Through her honest songwriting, social media approach and onstage demeanour Ware makes you feel as if she’s your best-friend but then she opens her voice and makes you feel as if you should bow down in the presence of greatness.

Last night at a sold out show in New York we were in the presence of greatness. Not the Hyperbolic Beyonce as a higher-being type but the human type. One that lays all her flaws out on the table and yet still manages to deliver the most sophisticated, refined performance around while also making punters swoon, gasp and cry.

From the get go it’s clear that Ware’s show is going to be monochromatic. Dressed in all-black, the British songstress gives off a brooding presence while the white fabric draping from the ceiling creates some light without colour. Many performers can get lost in this kind of pared-back approach to their image. It’s one that can swallow you up and fade you into the background. Not Ware though. Her greatest strength live was her ability to standout and juxtapose her surrounding with a smack-full of personality.

Running introduced Ware to the music scene perfectly back in 2012 and last night it also introduced the show, creating a precursor for what was to come. Ware slid around the stage to slinky synths weaving her honey-silken vocals through elongated melodies. For the first part of the set it felt like she barely broke a sweat, moving from Champagne Kisses to Cruel to If You’re Never Gonna Move at a steady pace, choosing to slowly unleash her charm over the crowd. She barely spoke to the crowd during this beginning part, seemingly opting to let he music do the talking before opening her mouth and let out her brash English accent. When she did open her mouth it felt as if she’d made the room feel two people small. She gushed about how much she loved New York, called the American visa system a “pain in the arse” after she was left without a drummer last minute (Dornik stepped in to save the day) and swore at someone for ruining her segway into a song by yelling out the tracklist.

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It was this switch between her beautifully slow-dancing songs and her kick about banter that made people gaze at her starry eyed and then laugh with her as if she was their best mate. Of course, there was more than just banter to enjoy. Her setlist, mostly made-up of songs from her most recent album Tough Love, perfectly showcased her approach to writing a subtle pop song and her soaring voice. Title track Tough Love was understated and dignified while song like Sweet Talk and Sweetest Song laid-down a creeping groove.

Collaborator Dev Hynes was in the audience and she used the opportunity to perform his co-write on the album Want Your Feeling. With warm keys driven by a funky guitar riff, Ware delivered one of the nights highlights making people dance with a song that sounds so unsuspecting. She prefaced it by saying that she’s written “some” of her best songs in NYC like that and Nicki Minaj’s The Crying Game. She joked that she didn’t want the latter so she said “there love you can have it,” to Nicki Minaj. We imagine the conversation might of gone a little bit differently.

There was plenty of love in the crowd too with Ware’s You & I (Forever) introduced with a successful marriage proposal which Ware celebrated by jumping around the stage. The groom-to-be had picked a perfect setting to propose almost of the night celebrated all facets of love from the rose-coloured charm of Champagne Kisses to the stupid-in-love notions of Keep On Lying.

Got to love a proposal man A photo posted by Jessie Ware (@jessieware) on

Ware proves that you can do a lot with very little. Refinery was key last night with Ware climbing a steady trajectory towards her epic closer which saw her go all-out vocally, along with the crowd who acted as backup singers. That closer was Say You Love Me, a track that shares similar qualities with Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and should’ve been her key to mainstream chart success.

Ware is undoubtedly one of the classiest singers around. She commanded the stage bereft of tricks and without any preconceived notions of how she wanted to portray herself. She’s an honest songwriter and an equally honest performer and the crowd rewarded her for that in droves. As it should be she left the stage without giving an encore. Just another example of how little bullshit she trades in.

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REVIEW + PICS: Years & Years | (Le) Poisson Rouge, New York

There’s a few things that you tick off along the way when you’re a hyped band to validate that you’re on the right track. Infiltrating the blogs, winning over the critics and scoring a number one single are all good indicators but perhaps the biggest is playing a sold out show in New York City.

Brits Years & Years are yet to really crack the charts in the US but they have managed a number one single in the UK with King and last night at (Le) Poisson Rouge it seemed as if the hype had traveled the seas. A packed out room stood waiting for the band to take the stage for the last show of their US tour, many of them donning Years & Years crowns.

Taking to the stage with Take Shelter it was immediately clear how the band have kicked so many goals in such a short amount of time. They oscillate between soul, pop and house music, effortlessly borrowing the good elements of commercial music and blending the, together to make something delectable. Take Shelter also confirms that the band have already developed a small but dedicated following in the US – one that know all their released material inside out.

Though frontman Olly Alexander was clearly suffering from illness, coughing in between songs, he still managed to push through and deliver silky smooth vocals complete with dance moves. He’s shy, but there was a quiet confidence poking through as he hurled his arms around the air in the dance breaks of each of the tracks.

The band continued to fire out gold for the entirety of the night offering a short but impressive set that made it impossible to believe that they haven’t even released their debut LP. Memo offered a beautifully solemn moment, one where we got to truly hear Alexander’s vocal capabilities while early track Real brimmed with popping beats and a brilliant chorus that found a perfect balance between RnB and electronica.

The few new songs they played sat much in the same lane as what we’ve heard from them before, only extending the belief that the band have more than just one hit single up their sleeves from their forthcoming album Communion. Even Worship which is only a matter of weeks old found huge favour with the crowd as they elevated its gospel-flavoured chorus. Many of Years & Years’ songs are crafted around those types of hands-in-the-air moments that can only be properly realised when the whole crowd is on board.

Things really heated up for the final few songs of the set kicking off with the strobing bass of Desire. Desire sits in the dance lane more so than any of their other tracks and that works strongly to their favour in the live arena. It was the first true jumping moment if the night and the band lapped up the ramped-up energy.

After a short and perhaps unnecessary break the band returned for an encore of their massive hit King. The song with it’s howling synths and meteoric chorus rightfully provided the golden moment of the night. The crowd sang ever word back with mighty passion, giving the sense that it won’t be long before this infiltrates the charts in the US (it’s slowly doing so in Australia).

Years & Years’ best sets are yet to come as they’re set to join the European festival circuit armed with a debut album but their New York show provided a short showcase that one, proved we should believe the hype and two, built excitement for what will be one of the best selling debuts of the year. Rarely has pop music ever sounded this good and come so guilt-free.

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Read our interview with Years & Years here.

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First Impressions: Rihanna, Jamie xx, FKA twigs + 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 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

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Album Of The Week: Marina & The Diamonds – FROOT

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Enchanting, provocative, quick-witted and with a voice like no other, Marina & The Diamonds is one killer when it comes to indie-pop music. Even though for some reason Australian public hasn’t seem to pick up on the fabulous vocalist / song writer / producer that is Marina, her third album FROOT may be out to change us all on that front. Filled with lush vocals, cunning and witty lyrics and an overall punchy and upbeat feel, FROOT has came into bloom and now it’s time we all listened and fall in love (if you haven’t already).

Departing from the heavy commercial electro pop that came from her second LP Electra Heart (Greg Kurstin, Diplo, Dr. Luke), Marina has came full circle and is back embracing her indie pop roots. Whilst most pop females out there seems to be enlisting big name producers and writers to help them create hits, Marina has done the complete opposite. All twelves songs on the FROOT album were written and produced by Marina with David Kosten (Coldplay and The Flaming Lips) to create a cohesive grouping of tracks which can rival any other artist out there.

The tittle track Froot is a sequinned-clad disco throwback with Marina’s vocals showcasing levels from both ends of the scale, from the sweetest highs to the soulful lows. I’m A Ruin is a pensive yet poppy ballad telling of Marina’s decision to leave a relationship because “I’ll ruin you”. Two highlights of FROOT, the tracks Blue and Forget, appear back to back on the album, showcasing two different sides to a break up. The first is as pop as pop comes. Catchy danceable beats, an uplifting and fun-filled chorus; it’s all there. Where Blue, with its punch pop-loving hooks, would seem to be about wanting to go back to a partner after a break up for “just one night”, Forget is polar opposite to those feelings. The track is reflective and sombre to begin with but when it comes to the chorus it’s all about letting it go and forgetting the past: “ain’t no time for regret yeah it’s time to forget”.

Marina has always been a master at lacing her tracks with a critical social commentary which in the past has seemed to be directly pointed at the American culture. On FROOT, two tracks, Can’t Pin Me Down and Savages, take aim at society. In CPMD, Marina sings over a grooving bass and deep kicks about those that have tried to pigeonhole her in the past with the lyrics, “ I am never going to give you anything you expect // you think I”m like the others well you better get your eyes checked”. Savages has a serious tone to it, with Marina taking aim at rape culture and the class systems that society have in place: “I’m not afraid of god // I’m afraid of man”. It’s a poignant song where Marina is picking apart society and holding a mirror up to us, revealing us as the savages in the world.

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In short I suppose Marina has offered us up a platter of Froot and each and every piece on the platter is a treat. She’s showing off her artistry with this album, avoiding the big names and collaborations, FROOT feels like it’s more a real piece of her soul that she’s offering to us. It’s got soaring pop melodies and even some tender moments that’ll bring a tear to your eye (aka Happy). If this album doesn’t get Australia listening to her and some serious radio plays then I have some serious questions for the nation. Enjoy a slice of Froot and have some fun with the album, it’s well worth the listen.

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Album Of The Week: Alison Wonderland – Run

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Kicking ass in her oversized Ts and knee-highs, 2015 has been off to a stellar start for local Trap Lord Alison Wonderland. Celebrating the release, Wonderland has spent the week with a string of parties across the nation in the only venues acceptable to a Lord…strip clubs. It’s true with the release of Run there’s been a chorus of “bow down” echoed from even the most skeptical about Wonderland’s skills. If I had to sum up the album in a sentence I can only think of one that would really suit it:

“An eclectic, genre-bending album dripping in swag and rolling with the hottest hunnies out there.”

Yep, that’s what I’m going with and I’m going to stick by that statement from here on in. Run is an album that transcends the genre barriers that are often placed on an artist like Alison. There’s an eclectic taste of different genres and sounds that you hear, from contemporary trap music, to some EDM drops and, dare I saw it, some marching band toms in Carry On.

You’ve got to give a lot of respect to Alison Wonderland. In the past, people are often too quick to pigeon-hole artists like her as just a producer. With Run, Wonderland shows she’s a triple threat: DJ, Producer and vocalist with the Swag Lord’s own vocals featuring on the majority of the tracks. On the track Take Me To Reality, Wonderland’s own vocals are teamed up with the falsetto beauty of Ben Woolner (lead vocals for Canberra trio SAFIA), with the  contrast between the two making the track truly shine. One More Hit and Back It Up became instant favourites of mine with the über-effortlessly cool deep bass and heavy kicks turning them into tracks that don’t just ask you to move, they demand it.

There’s a fun and frivolous side to the debut from Wonderland, it’s something you can really get into and enjoy. Songs to play in the car on the way home, tracks to dance to like a lunatic when you’re home alone or in the club, and some that you can mellow out to and just enjoy. Alison Wonderland has proven a diversity and depth to her production and artistry proving she’s not a one trick pony, she’s a full blown super star.

You can catch Alison Wonderland during her Wonderland Warehouse Project tour. Tickets now available.  

alisonwonderland_run

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

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BV_Review

REVIEW: Black Vanilla At Civic Underground, Sydney

BV_Review
Australia has built itself a neat electronic music scene over the past few years. It’s seen a network of collaborations build and flourish with the likes of Chet Faker and Flume or Basenji, Cosmo’s Midnight and Wave Racer making music and playing club nights together. No collaboration, however, has come with more raw energy or aggression that the triple hit of Marcus Whale (Collarbones), Lavurn Lee (Guerre) and Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead) who operate as Black Vanilla.

Over the past few years Black Vanilla have churned out a smattering of excellent releases but as the group prove tonight they really prosper in the live setting. There’s something about the music and movement that Black Vanilla deliver on stage that translates to an almost violent dance-off. We’re talking the same kind of pent up release that you would see at a metal show only instead of the circle of death, it’s a mosh pit of excellent, angular dance moves.

Marcus Whale is, for the most part, the leader of these dance moves. He throws his body around from start to finish hitting every accent with an equally hard-hitting dance pose. It’s impossible not to feel like moving with every muscle in your body. In fact, the music commands it. Thudding bass and industrial, after-midnight synths induce sweat immediately. It’s beautifully melodic music but coated in a hard armour which ricochets off every wall at the intimate Civic Underground. One scan around the room and you’d be hard pressed to find one person not laying their life on the line in the name of dance with the pit looking like a combustion of energy exploding.

Lee’s solo work as Guerre is impressively lushes but here it’s his quasi-rapping that makes the biggest impression. Hovering over the crowd, Guerre stares down people as he delivers a dark, affecting vocal with the mic cord wrapped around his hand. On a day when Death Grips streamed their final album it was hard not to make the comparison between the two. While it’s easier to see the human side in Black Vanilla the two groups share the same raucous energy on stage.

Some songs soften the atmosphere with more immediate melody while others like Cloaks have a vibe that pulls you into the depths of the dance floor. The soft murmurings of Lee at times feel like the words of a higher being. For the entirety of the set the three of them bounce off each other. It seems their combined energy is what works in Black Vanilla. They optimise the benefits of collaboration and all give each other a bit of gusto to go harder.

Whale precedes the final song with a dedication to anybody who has ever struggled with the boundaries of gender by definition. Black Vanilla embody the freak within all of us and as the final song throbbed and strobed it seemed for a second as if nobody had a gender to go by. When you’re in an atmosphere where not one person is ashamed to be acting the way they are, it’s hard to feel one ounce of self-consciousness. Such is Black Vanilla’s triumph.

Whale asked us to film this song on our phones. So we did.

#blackvanilla murder on the dance floor @astral_people

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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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