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FI_11march

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

FI_11march

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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fi_24feb2

First Impressions: Scarlett Johansson, Sufjan Stevens, Demo Taped + More

fi_24feb

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. Today we pick part tracks by A.G. Cook, The Singles, The ex-Sugababes + more.

This week, we gave one of our writers the option to utilise their poetic licence and evaluate the tracks via acrostic poem. Results found below:

A.G. Cook & Hannah Diamond – Drop FM

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/drop-fm[/soundcloud]

Sam: Maybe I’ve been off PC Music-induced sugar for a little too long because it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get into this one. Hannah Diamond’s Every Night was the closest she’s got to guilty-pleasure pop yet and this one feels like the least accessible yet.

As it is an A.G. Cook song it makes sense that it’s a little more unconventional. It stops and starts and has this jolting motion to it almost like you’re riding in a car with a nervous driver. When Diamond is allowed to really hit the melody it sounds effortlessly brilliant. I think for full effect it really needs to be turnt up loud so that bass can hit hard with those flurry of dense synths. 3

Bianca:

Dulcet

Repetitive

Obscure

Pretty

Frantic

Messy

3.5 

PURPLE – Extinction

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/purplepurplepurple/01-extinction[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love most things WeDidIt puts out and I feel no differently about this one. That’s not to say that this is exactly the same as everything the label has released in the past. The dark, brooding tones are there but you also get a real sense of the artist’s presence on this one which is something that is often clouded in mystery with WeDidIt.

Extinction has a mournful, late-night reminiscing vibe. The vocals float while the beats way the song back down leaving it caught somewhere between being real and a dream (I borrowed that line from the song, btw). The prospect of more stuff from PURPLE this year is really exciting. 4

Bianca:

Pulsating

Undulating

Rippling

Pensive

Lamenting

Electric

4.5

Sufjan Stevens – No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross

Sam: This is light years away from anything on Age Of Adz. It’s Sufjan Stevens as the singer/songwriter and not the multi-instrumentalist producer which is nice in a ‘back to basics’ type way. I’m feeling like we’re back to the raw beauty of For The Windows In Paradise.

These stylings usually don’t appeal to me in any way but Stevens’ voice is so fragile with every word seemingly dangling in front of you until he utters the next. All it takes is a little vocal layering for him to create slight crescendoes. “Fuck me, I’m falling apart” is just such a perfect moment in time within the song. I am really feeling like we’re getting back to a point in music when artists can afford to be simple again and rely purely on the strength of their songwriting. CC: FourFiveSeconds, Tobias Jesso Jr, Father John Misty. 4.5

Bianca:

Sombre

Unflawed

Fragility

Journey

Aching

Nostrum

4

Mutya/Keisha/Siobhan – Back In The Day

Sam: Dev Hynes working with the original Sugababes has the potential to be so brilliant and I feel like with this and Flatlines they’re just scratching the surface. The being said it’s a crime against humanity that Flatlines didn’t reach the heights on the charts it deserved last year, in the UK particularly.

In Back In The Day we really get to hear their pitch-perfect harmonising which is really what MKS should be all about. Structurally it’s pretty simplistic but Hynes does enough with the melody and backing track to make sure it doesn’t float into boring mid-tempo territory. In fact, everytime I’ve listened to the chorus of this it’s grown on me. No mainstream pop music today is this stylish and crisp. I think it’s something we really need to hear on the charts and Hynes deserves a mainstream break, as do these girls (again). 3.5

Bianca:

Mellifluous

Kaching

SUGA

BABES

Idyllic

Tedious

Dainty

3

Demo Taped – I Luv U

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/demo-taped/i-luv-u[/soundcloud]

Sam: Bedroom RnB at its absolute best. This is definitely taking me right back to Jai Paul’s Jasmine but the vocals are a little more up-front making it more easily digested. It’s got this woozy, off-kilter feel to it created by its ocean-like synths. Demo Tapes says on his Soundcloud that he wanted to emulate “the feeling of love” and it really feels like he’s successfully done that. It sounds like that moment when you know everything is good but you can’t really tell why and everything surrounding you is blurred. In this case Demo Taped’s voice is in focus and everything surrounding is a blur. Super, super smooth. 3.5

Bianca:

Inky

Luuuurve

Unstable

VIP

Urbane

3

The Singles – Candy

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/federalprismrecs/candy/[/soundcloud]

Sam: I’ve always actually had a bit of a soft-spot for Scarlett Johansson’s musical projects. While her Tom Waits’ covers album was a little bit drawly, I thought the way she re-did Falling Down was actually warming. Her stuff with Pete Yorn also showed that she had a melodic side and a voice good enough to make her sound like an actual musician.

I feel like the news surrounding her release as The Singles is surrounded by less negativity. Before I say anything, I’ll say this – this is good, by any standards, whether she is a somebody or nobody. The problem I have with is is it sounds like circa 2010 when alternative girl groups were really in vogue and yet none of them did anything particularly spectacular. This is enjoyable but it’s enjoyable in the way a zooper-dooper tastes good. It’s always going to taste good but it’s never going to blow your mind. Candy. 3

Bianca:

Cute

Agreeable

Non-event

Dulcet

Youthful

2.75

_MG_9199

REVIEW: Hayden James at Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

_MG_9199

Hayden James brought his Something About You tour to his hometown of Sydney on Friday night, playing to a sold-out crowd in the sweaty confines of the Oxford Art Factory.

James took to the stage after a solid opener by Mickey Kojak, a neon sign lighting up his name below the decks (it changed colour, though the show kicked off in baby pink) in front of a kaleidoscopic screen of slow-moving graphics. Over a 1-and-a-half hour set, James exercised fun and originality intertwining his signature mellow synths and slow, deep-house beats with everything from Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pool to his sensual, soothing version of Dillon Francis’ Without You.

The crowd seemed to be made up of fans that have followed James from the get-go, dating back to initial hit Permission To Love released in 2013, judging by the crazy cheer when he announced it. Fellow Future Classic artist Flume made a cameo with a densely layered version of breakout single You and Me. James tended to favor fellow Aussie tunes throughout the set, including a nod to Rufus who he supported on their sell-out Australian tour in 2014, as well as Alison Wonderland. James also opened for Odesza on their 2014 North American tour, prefacing his most recent single and final song of the night, Something About You with a remix of Say My Name.

At this point, in a sweet yet possibly not overly thought-through move, James invited the crowd to jump on stage with him and obviously, they obliged. His decks were on a wheeled table, so he may have regretted the invitation once the stage became a jumping orgy of over-excited fans threatening to send his equipment flying. Guy must really love them to prioritize their fun over a little old insurance/OH&S hazard.
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Photos by Bianca Bosso

TinasheReview

REVIEW + PICS: Tinashe At Metro Theatre, Sydney | Aquarius Tour

TinasheReview

Australia doesn’t seem like the most likely place for a DIY RnB singer to make a splash but it seems US singer Tinashe has struck a chord here. 2 On, the first single from her debut album Aquarius is burning up radio here now almost a full year after its initial release and last night she played to a sold out Metro Theatre. It’s one thing to be sold out but it’s another thing to induce hysteria when you enter the stage. As she strutted on behind a puff of smoke the crowd erupted as a sea of iPhones revealed themselves as if Beyonce had suddenly appeared in a busy Westfield.

Tinashe is an interesting case. She’s been compared to Aaliyah, Ashanti and Janet Jackson yet she differs to them. While Aquarius was undoubtedly an RnB album she’s worked with everybody from Calvin Harris to Ryan Hemsworth and Dev Hynes proving just how expansive the genre in which she operates has become. On stage she has the same slinky stage presence as FKA twigs with the hard hitting dance moves of Ciara and the vocal prowess of Jessie Ware. With just a drum to the side of the stage and four back-up dances, the petite Tinashe fills the stage effortlessly.

She began with Vulnerable from her mixtape Black Water immediately hitting with her caramel vocals and sultry walk. “Don’t stop looking at me”, she sings as her voice hits full flight, slicing the air and creating gasps in the process. Her dance moves are immediately impressive but they’re never feel over-rehearsed. There’s a certain rawness to Tinashe that makes her far more endearing. Even when the back-up dancers joined her it always felt as if they were five friends improvising rather than counting every single beat.

The Dev Hynes-produced Bet was the first song of the set where we really got to hear her vocals in full force. Bet is extraordinarily atmospheric thanks to Hynes’ expert layering and it complements the bursts of smoke covering Tinashe. All of the songs from her debut album are binded by a sense that there’s a wave washing over and this was the first time that we really get to feel that texture.

The set bounced between mixtape and album tracks and even threw in a few popular RnB tracks to hype a crowd which was already at fever point. The hard hitting Watch Me Work was complemented beautifully by the tender How Many Times. She moves between the energetic and the slow effortlessly never sucking the energy out of the crowd, even in the dimmest moments of the night. A portion of Kid Ink’s Body Language was served while Tinashe composed herself for her Calvin Harris-feature, Dollar Signs. A thumping bass-line and glassy percussion sent the crowd wild while Tinashe fist-pumped like she was owning the stage at Tomorrowland. It’s far from her best song but live it was a chance to let loose some pent up energy.

She followed that by sitting on a stool to give us the only ballad of the night, Bated Breath. It was pretty special to see her sitting still and just showing off her crystalline voice. She belted it out with reckless abandon as she slowly stood on the stool and looked over the crowd. No doubt her view was awash with the glow of smartphones. It seemed everything she did was worthy as being captured as not one punter kept their phones away for the entirety of the set. Instead of letting it annoy her Tinashe accepted it, at one point grabbing a phone from someone and filming herself. She’s 22 and she gets that this is what people do now. For the first time it felt like the mass of smartphones didn’t take away from the show. Instead it felt like a sign of appreciation.

As we got to the final moments of the set Tinashe churned out hit after hit. The drummer thrashed away at Turn Down For What while she and her dancers went hard to a recording of Rae Sremmund’s No Type. The biggest revelation of the night was just how perfect All Hands On Deck. The track is set to be the third single from Aquarius and last night it revealed itself as the most effortlessly delectable of the set.

Pretend and 2 On were always going to be the champions of the night and they were. A beefed-up Pretend saw Tinashe offer one of the more tender moments of the night with the dim-lit vibe of the song suiting the smokey atmosphere. As she directed the crowd to put two fingers in the air, the screams could’ve been heard from far down George St. Despite the tracks minimalistic instrumental, the melody is just so smooth with enough pop to direct the crowd to get down low. Tinashe spent the later part of the song hanging over the crowd lapping up all the love that was there for her in abundance.

As she left the stage she smiled and offered some words of advice about following your dreams. She’s a self-made star in every sense and she seemed to be taken aback by her transformation from making mixtapes in her bedroom to playing to a sold out room on the other side of the world.

Tinashe at The Metro Theatre: Gallery 
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FI_17Feb

First Impressions: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Hot Chip & More

FI_17Feb

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. Today we pick apart tracks by Hot Chip, Florence + The Machine, Kendrick Lamar + more.

We’ve decided to take the chance in today’s First Impressions to test whether a picture really does speak a thousand words. One reviewer is doing so through text while the other has chosen images to try and best represent the songs. Can things really be reviewed with zero words? Allow six .gifs below to answer that.

Hot Chip- Huarache Lights

Sam: I definitely was hoping that Hot Chip would go in the same sort of direction as Flutes on their next album and it seems like they are. As good as they are at pop songs, sometimes I prefer when they head straight for the dancefloor and ditch the vocal hooks. Huarache Lights sits in between those two. It still has the more organic sounding instrumentation but then sometimes like the sassy vocal sample pulls it right towards the dancefloor.

The tempo and the backbeat of the track is so mundane yet their subtle layering somehow keeps you hooked for the whole five minutes plus. At times I wish that they’d ditch the vocal and just keep with the vocal manipulation for something entirely different but that would probably ostracise a whole audience, so best they keep with what they’re known for. I feel like the bizarre, woozy soundscape of the track gives them so much room to do something a little more spectacular with the vocal though. It’s a great track but Hot Chip do great so effortlessly and maybe that’s the problem. 3.5

Bianca: hotchipgif 3

Dan Deacon- Learning To Relax

Sam: I’ve always really struggled to commit myself to Dan Deacon because in 2009 he released like three records and that’s a lot to handle. It’s kind of like never hearing The Smiths or Morrissey and then deciding you’re going to go through his whole back-catalogue with no knowledge of who is and then just deciding that it probably is more work than you’re prepared for.

Anyway that was obviously pure laziness because Learning To Relax is great. I’m always intrigued when elements of electronica combine with prog-rock. MGMT did it to a poppier spectrum with their debut and even Tame Impala did it to some extent on Londerism. Even though I can’t understand one word Deacon says, I’m thoroughly intrigued for the whole thing. That schizophrenic synth is anxious and at the same time mesmerizing while the vocal manipulation washes over you in a psychedelic haze. Maybe this is what I wanted from the Hot Chip song? Is it a coincidence that YouTube is recommending I listen to Ready For The Floor? Anyway, the final minute of this song is a hot mess and it’s utterly exhilarating. 4

Bianca: tumblr_l5iagg1MF51qa4w2fo1_400  4

Florence + The Machine- What Kind Of Man

Sam: The first time I listened to Florence’s second record Ceremonials I was impressed. It was grandiose and sophisticated and all the while had this reckless ambition but as I kept listening it revealed itself to be over-produced and too big. I had no thoughts on how she was going to tackle this third album but I’m really happy with the direction of What Kind Of Man. We haven’t heard her this aggressive since Girl With One Eye from her debut Lungs but we’ve never even heard her like this before.

The gentle beginning is beautiful but it’s the way she sings when the brass howls and the drums thrash that’s really impressive. Her accent is like nothing we’ve ever heard before, like an angsty PJ Harvey tightening the jaw. She’s lost the crystalline image of Ceremonials and roughed up to a part-primal state. She could’ve easily called up Calvin Harris and sold millions of copies but the fact she’s leading with this single shows she cares way more about her legacy than the amount of times she’s shazamed. I think this year she’ll make her upgrade to festival headliner and that will be an important talking point this year. Florence is a woman with the personality and ambition to tear up the main stage of any festival far better than a weary AC/DC or U2 can. 4

 Bianca: i-am-a-strong-woman-o3.75

Kendrick Lamar- The Blacker The Berry

Sam: It’s obvious from the first few seconds of this song that it’s way better than i. Kendrick’s last album was so successful because it was so raw and passionate and had something to say. i felt a bit Lamar-lite which wasn’t the comeback track he needed (or maybe he did. He won two Grammys), this is the track he needed. He sounds angry and it actually feels like he has something to say. “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”, is a pretty powerful line to open with particular when it’s over a dark, raw instrumental that sounds like something Nas would’ve happily put on Illmatic.

The reggae samples are just as affective as they were on Kanye West’s I’m In It, giving some kind of melody to grab on to in an otherwise pretty instrumentally linear track. I wish I could give some greater insights into his comments on race in this but I really don’t feel I could do it any justice. His line are so pertinent and powerful that they need no elaboration. “I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society/ That’s what you’re telling me, penitentiary would only hire me.” That’s some powerful stuff right there. Potently powerful. 4.5 Sam’s Pick Of The Week


Bianca: rockos
4.5 Bianca‘s Pick Of The Week

Jesse Davidson- Laika

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/jesse-davidson-9/laika[/soundcloud]

Sam: On the surface this is such a simple song but there are so many different amalgamations of genres in it. On first listen I got a strong Chet Faker vibe but there’s so much more to it than simply labeling it with a lazy comparison like that. Davidson’s voice sounds like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard if he spent his early years listening to R&B/soul and the instrumental oscillates between crisp electronica and expansive psychedelia with the chorus taking a turn towards Tame Impala.

What I’ve described it above makes it sound like a truncated, mess of a song but it isn’t. It’s actually quite a simple melody lifted by a melting pot of different genres that effortlessly blend into one another. Laika is definitely the strongest track from Davidson yet and the clubs are going to go crazy for this one. I’m actually keen to hear him on something even more expansive, borrowing more of those elements that he uses in the chorus of this. That’s when he sounds truly unique. 3.5

Bianca: clouds 4

Drake- Energy

Sam: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is wayyyy polished for a mixtape. Energy is definitely the best track on the record and that’s because Drake just digs in and goes hard for three minutes. There’s no singing, there’s no pop hooks, there’s no features, it’s just him being wonderfully arrogant.

It’s such an interesting track because it essentially digs at the internet (“Fuck going online, that ain’t part of my day”) and the culture surrounding it yet his mixtape drop basically centred around the hysteria of the internet. Drake has kind of always been a walking contradiction and for some reason that works for him. Energy is really paranoid and that’s what makes it fascinating. It feels like he’s sleeping with one eye open even though he’s not quite sure who his enemies are. Sometimes we just need to stop making sense of Drake. That and his memes take up way too much of my brain capacity. 4

Bianca: giphy (1) 3

collarbones

REVIEW: Collarbones at Newtown Social Club | Return Album Launch

collarbones

“Collarbones are like the Beatles of my generation.” – Travis Cook’s t-shirt, 2015

Fresh from festival appearances at Beyond The Valley and Field Day and the release of their third album, Return, Collarbones hit the road and we were lucky enough to catch them on the first leg of their tour. Managing to make the first gig of the tour their first ever sell out- it was bound to be an electric and memorable night.

Sydney synth-pop trio, Yoke, kicked off the night sending the entire audience into a hypnotic trance. Frontman Kyle’s super smooth vocals could only be described as the perfect combination of Fergie and Jesus. Paired with perfectly woven harmonies and elevating synth and keys by Jules and Corin, Yoke are definitely one to watch this year.

The stage was more than warmed up after performing crowd favourites such as Pink Crystal Heart and Burden off their latest EP, Jabiluka.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/yokemusic/burden[/soundcloud]

HTMLflowers is honestly my favourite person in the world right now. As he walked onto stage sporting a Mac, thick plastic-rimmed glasses, white tennis shorts, a black zip-up jumper and mad scientist hair – I had no idea of what I was in for. Flowers yelled “TWENTY FIFTEEN!” numerous times before breaking into his first track of the set, B4 THE INTERNET WAS BORN.

The energy that this dude brought to the room was incredible – everyone was reeled in by his experimental beats and hard-hitting lyrics. Flowers’ quirky antics and rhymes won the hearts and full attention of the entire audience.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/felicity-yang/b4-the-internet-was-born-ft-htmlflowers-1[/soundcloud]

The reception of Collarbones as they walked on stage was intense. It was a sold-out show and Travis and Marcus were noticeably excited to deliver a collection of tracks including old favourites like Teenage Dream, Burnout and Hypothermia whilst introducing newbies from Return.

The boys began their set with the atmospheric and echoic Flush which sent a captivating wave over the crowd that settled everyone for a few minutes. The tranquil quickly vanished as they dropped Only Water, which was laced with heavy synth and a hook that will stay in your mind for weeks- it was clear this was a definite crowd favourite.

It’s clear that Travis has a knack of holding the audience in his palm as he layers element upon element, keeping everyone in suspense and waiting for the drop. In I Would I Will, I felt as if Marcus’ vocals were at times subdued by the power of the synth and Travis’ decks. 

One of their earlier releases, Die Young, lacked emotion from the pair and I felt as if this was the least gripping track of the night. Emoticon brought life (and a little RnB vibe) back into the duo and the crowd, with Marcus jumping around the stage and Travis head banging behind his decks. This was their latest single released off the album and caused the crowd to lose all inhibitions and control of their bodies. Following this banger was another, Turning. The electricity that flowed throughout the whole audience was evident as members of the crowd sang along with Marcus, “I’m not giving it up!”

No, Collarbones are not giving it up. They’ve embarked on a national tour, experienced selling out for the first time (the good type) and are on their way to conquer the world. This was a gig that Collarbones should definitely be proud of.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/collarbones/turning[/soundcloud]

FI_10feb

First Impressions: Feat. Obey City, Paces, Unknown Mortal Orchestra + More

FI_10feb

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. Today we pick apart tracks by Obey City, Say Lou Lou, Paces, Unknown Mortal Orchestra + more.

Obey City- Waterbad

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/obey-city/waterbed/[/soundcloud]

Bianca: It’s slow-burning, sexy R&B without being overly soulful or smutty (choosing to ignore the use of the term ‘panties’. Ugh, I hate that word.). The electric guitar/piano breakdown is an interesting lead-up to the outro which gives us roughly 1.5 minutes of quiet reflection. 3

Sam: I haven’t heard a slow jam like this for a long time. It’s got the sort of soul that D’Angelo’s Untitled had and yet it replaces organic instrumentation with a punchier, electronic sound. I’m actually quite surprised that this sound hasn’t made more of a resurgence in the RnB resurrection but the up-side is that this sounds so much fresher and in a league of its own. I’m always up for a guitar solo to finish proceedings. 4

Meshell: I’m trying very hard to love this song because I love Obey City but it feels SO unfinished production wise and lyrics like “got your face down, ass up” can really only be sung by real bad-asses and this song makes me feel like being I’ve been slapped with a wet towel. My favourite bit is the outro, when our feature singer has left us and I can just enjoy some sweet Never Ending Story-esque synths. 1.5

Say Lou Lou- Nothing But A Heartbeat

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/sayloulou/nothing-but-a-heartbeat[/soundcloud]

Bianca: This is an instantly catchy pop tune; simple and cleverly arranged by the Australian-Swedes, Say Lou Lou, like an Ikea instruction manual. There’s an element of nostalgia to it in the form of the anthemic chorus and dreamy synths, brought back to earth with piano keys and tingling strings. 4

Sam: These girls are making such crystalline pop music and yet for some reason they haven’t had that track that really makes everybody look up yet. I would’ve though it would be Games For Girls but that kind of whimpered on and off the internet. Nothing But A Heartbeat also has the goods with its big sprawling chorus bolstered by ethereal vocals. I feel like it’s perfect for a TV promo and that would give them just that extra push. Either way, this makes me super excited for the album. If we’re talking purely melody and vocals, it’s almost faultless. 3.5

Meshell: The opening hook of this song is a blatant imitation of that annoying Ed Sheeran song Sing and so I am already lost.There are dreamy synths and reverb filled guitars galore which I’m sure is meant to give the song sweet indie cred but to me I am hearing a cleverly arranged pop tune that is going to be stuck in my head all day…still, I’d probably go watch their set at a festival (Laneway 2016?) because I’m curious. 2.5

Towkio- Involved (Feat. Vic Mensa)

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/towkio/involved-ft-vic-mensa-prod-kaytranada[/soundcloud]
Bianca: Vic’s Down On My Luck was one of the most exciting tracks of 2014 and seeing the Chicagoan in action at Laneway Festival on the weekend secured his status as a promising MC. Towkio holds his own in the beginning and Kaytranada’s production is as clean as ever but it was Mensa and his velvet-smooth vocals that I was really holding out for. The finale is very confusing for me. The crescendoing chanting braced me for an exciting climax but instead I’m left wanting more. 3

Sam: Vic Mensa and Kaytranada are becoming quite the team now, aren’t they? This is probably the funkiest thing they’ve combined forces for and that’s probably owed to Towkio. Towkio is part of the Save Money crew with Vic and, based on the strength of this, could easily be the next highlight to come from the label. The verses aren’t overly memorable but the dense baseline that runs behind it really drives it home. The end gets me excited for another chorus and then leaves me high and dry 🙁 3

Meshell: The great thing about this song is that even though Vic Mensa is dripping his fantastic brand of lazy cool onto it, he’s not stealing the show because the production is totally holding its own. That beat, that bass, that boys-club chant at the end of the tune. I’d play this at my next house party. 3.5

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-Love

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/jagjaguwar/unknown-mortal-orchestra-multi-love[/soundcloud]

Bianca: This is pure heart-melting stuff. The multi-layered Multi-Love has smatterings of pop and touches of soul, led by the ethereal voice of Ruban Nielson. Like love, it’s bittersweet; swaying between the moods of happiness, satisfaction, sadness, agony and ecstasy. I may not know much about love but I do know that I have strong feelings for this song. 4.5 Bianca‘s Pick

Sam: I was captivated by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s last record. It was this warped indie-rock thing that somehow weaved in melodies taken straight out of the Motown era. I’m so happy to hear that Multi-Love still brings that familiar warmth to it. The difference is, this is much cleaner. There’s less reverb and the keys are far perkier. It’s good to hear UMO in a different mode than loneliness because I feel their warmth lends better to tunes that have a little more sunshine. Mark Ronson would love this/wish it was his. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: This new clean-cut production from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is so unexpected and has me totally entranced. There is a perkiness in the rhythm and melancholy in the vocals all strung together with hints of psychedelia, romantic piano and beautifully reaching melodies. There really is just something a little bit magical going on here, I’ve just played this track 4 times in a row and it gets better every time. If this single is anything to go by, the album is going to be mind-blowing. 5 Meshell’s pick

Nothing’s Forever- Paces (Feat. Kucka)

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/pacesmusic/nothings-forever-feat-kucka-2[/soundcloud]

Bianca: The slinky mood is instantly set as Kucka’s crystalline voice, followed closely by the music box-inspired melody, opens the track. Once Paces’ signature future-beat sneaks its way in, Nothing’s Forever instantly turns into a glitchy, yet structured, piece of sugary sweet goodness. Possibly a bit too sweet for me. Paces’ shimmering production, however, is as clean-cut as ever. 3

Sam: Kucka’s opening line to this just melts me. Her voice is so tender and yet so other-wordly. Below her Paces sounds like he’s lightly tapping on china making the whole thing beautifully fragile. Things then ramp up a bit and we’re left with a bass-heavy drop before the storm calms and we’re delivered a far more dense second verse. Paces work with Tkay Maidza has been nothing short of brilliant and he does the same here with Kucka. He’s great at showing his production chops and also allowing enough room for the oddities of his vocalists to come through. 4

Meshell: Paces is kicking all kinds of goals this year (hello Hottest 100) but that clearly hasn’t made him complacent. This new offering is a perfect blend of tropical bubblegum glitch and grimy future-beat. This is the epitome of the “Australian sound” that is so envied in the world of EDM at the moment. This track isn’t pushing the envelope in terms of originality but it’s fun, well-layered and it’s nice to see to young Aussies teaming up and setting the bar for new talent crazily high. 3

Ara Koufax- Market

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/ara-koufax/market[/soundcloud]

Bianca: Ara Koufax always know how to set the mood. While some may class 2013 and 2014 as the years of sax overkill, courtesy of Ariana Grande and ♪♫ Jason Derulo ♪♫, I still find it very necessary. But only when used appropriately. In Market, it’s used tastefully, acting as the vehicle for the track and not as an annoying, looping add-on found in mainstream pop songs. Backed by a steady bass and undulating synths, this track can weave its way into any late night playlist. 4

Sam: This is the ultimate summer dusk mood setter. It’s been an unbearably hot day but he sun is beginning to set and a slight breeze is beginning to weave through loose-clad clothes. Both Brenda and Market have given me this heartwarming sense of community. Cut Copy dropped the former at OutsideIn and without any commotion the crowd put their hands in the air and began to sway. It’s the same with this. It makes me want to be with friends, listening to the same thing, all pretending we know a shit load about the history of contemporary sax playing. Of which I know nothing. 4

Meshell: That sax….THAT SAX. I have never heard of Ara Koufax before but I am now on the bandwagon. This song is a total slow burner FYI but somewhere amidst the serene synths and drone-like bass, is something that makes this song way too sexy to play in the office without getting a few weird looks. In all seriousness though this is a fantastic display of great musicianship and production know how, and if Andrei Eremin is following them on Soundcloud, you know they’re good. BRB going to remove a few layers of clothing. It’s getting hot in here. 4

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