"There's a lot of old school techno in Paris. You need to look further afield for innovative, new music."
The best tunes of the week ranked including Nicki Minaj's verse on Yo Gotti's 'Down In The DM' and Club Cheval's new slapper 'Young Rich And Radical'.
Their debut album is out 4th March and it's going to be F***ING GOOD.
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 Kelela, Miley Cyrus, Basenji, Tory Lanez, Club Cheval and Her.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/kelelam/rewind[/soundcloud]
Michelle: What’s with the high-pitched range? Despite Kelela’s soulful vocals, the high pitch of this song has the unfortunate side effect of transforming an otherwise soulful song into something strangely saccharine. The ebbs and flow in tempo keeps the tune interesting and while the bridge stuns, the echoes are somewhat (entirely) excessive. 2
Annie: Kelela has been showing up everywhere lately, and this song is the perfect example of why I don’t mind. Her vocals remind me of a young Janet Jackson, but rather than overpowering, they work with the beats behind them to create the ideal modern R&B track. 3
Sam: Wow, what a production team on this one - Nugget, Kingdom and then bits by Obey City and Girl Unit. Despite the massive team behind it though Kelela still manages to remain front and centre with her distinctive brand of future R&B translating immediately. I love how she’s gone for a bit of a banger with this one, rather than serving out another slow-burner. In some ways it reminds me of like a pared-back I Wanna Dance With Somebody, probably due to the ‘80s-tinged beat and full-bodied chorus. It feels sexy and joyous which is a rare combination for Kelela but it really works. She’s easily one of the best new artists, if not the best, out there right now and deserves every accolade she gets. 4.5
Michelle: Coyne, we know how much you love the fuzz pedal but Miley’s voice could have done with a lighter touch on the damn thing. The lead single on her experimental / dancing unicorn / psychadelia record comes from left field but still manages to pay homage to the dance-heavy hip hop vibe of Bangerz. However, this track is hardly representative of the rest of Dead Petz – it’s quite possibly the most energetic of the 23-track LP that’s all mild guitars and whimsical ballads. The lyrics, meanwhile, sound like she’s trying too hard to cement her position as the biggest happy hippie there ever was. 3.5
Annie: Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love Miley Cyrus. Even through the Robin Thicke debacle I defended her, ‘she’s just expressing herself!’ I said, ‘let her explore!’. But no, this is too far. I am so pissed off at this song and the album that came with it. Firstly, I knew that this musical ‘evolution’ was impending (anyone that follows Miley on instagram would), and yet that still doesn’t soften the blow of this god-awful piece of work. Secondly, it’s just shit. Like, really, really shit. The song itself is boring as fuck, and the lyrics are so embarrassing they bring literal tears to my eyes. Am I being too dramatic, too sensitive? Absolutely. But listen to the rest of My Dead Petz, and I assure you, you will come out of that 24 track monstrosity feeling the exact same way. 1.5
Sam: The Miley album surprisingly has some really beautiful moments - mostly the MikeWillMadeIt-produced tracks. Unfortunately Wayne Coyne really hasn’t done anything of value for a while now and he’s just shat all over this track, not that Miley delivers much either. It’s obnoxious, shouty and try-hard and barely delivers any melody. I understand that she wants to do something different and evolve but this was just a shocking end to the VMAs and a really alienating first single - if that’s what it is. Lighter or Fweaky would’ve been a much better introduction to the album and actually much more indicative of what the album is. This just sucks arse, really. 1
Can’t Get Enough
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/basenji-cant-get-enough-1[/soundcloud]
Michelle: The melody works but I don’t know what’s with the preschool vocals. It could have done without the prepubescent singing because the tune is quality on its own – that is, until the breathy, mismatched vocals come in. Luckily, the horns, backed with hints of jazz piano, save an otherwise average brass-influenced track. 2
Annie: I already liked Basenji on a ‘can listen to, but probably won’t download’ level, but this track may have just made a real fan out of me. The vocals add a certain cuteness to the track that makes it sweet enough, but when the horns start to play it brings it up to a whole new platform. I can’t get enough of this song. 4 Annie’s Pick
Sam: Basenji is just absolutely nailing it right now. He’s taken that cutesy, kawaii sound that has been doing the rounds on Soundcloud and really cleaned it up, adding pop sensibilities at the same time. Petals perfected that formula and this one goes even one better. It’s so euphoric and gives off so many warm and fuzzies while also hitting with a really killer brass-driven instrumental. Right now I think Basenji could be Australia’s answer to SOPHIE and could actually work with mainstream pop artists and give them something really interesting. People are going to have problems with this vocal but that’s a shock to no one, it’s meant to be divisive but if it’s your kind of thing it’s like a brilliant sugar-rush. 4
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/torylanez/initiation[/soundcloud]
Michelle: Above-average hip hop but Initiation isn’t striking. It’s delicate and well-constructed with cadenced melodies yet unlike Lanez’ past releases, it doesn’t have much built into the track. Slow-moving and unremarkable and, having heard his last few releases, I suspect Lanez can do better. 2
Annie: The introduction to Initation gave me high hopes, but they were quashed pretty quickly. It’s not altogether a bad song, it’s just really forgettable. With that said, I definitely don’t have the finest ear for hip-hop, so that may just be my lacking knowledge of the genre. 2.5
Sam: Tory Lanez is kind of like the new Jeremih. He’s good at the mainstream R&B stuff but he’s also been really open to working with different producers like BenZel (like on this one) and the WeDidIt crew. On Initiation, BenZel really build the production around his style coming into Lanez’s world rather than the other way around. I really like BenZel’s much softer approach to urban production and it means Lanez is left to bring a tougher edge with his voice. The hook really doesn’t grab me too much but it’s a cool song, I’m just not going crazy for it like I was with Say It. 3
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/clubcheval/discipline-original-mix[/soundcloud]
Michelle: While not terribly original, Discipline is another solid, heady club beat from the DJ supergroup. What it lacks in originality, however, it makes up for in melody, and despite its repetitive and unoriginal rhythm, it’ll still do brilliantly in most strobe-filled rooms. 1
Annie: To be honest, I’ve never listened to Club Cheval before this, but knowing that they’ve mixed with the likes of both Brodinski and Gesaffelstein, I had relatively high expectations. Discipline met none of them. It’s not a terrible song, if anything it’s standard EDM, but it doesn’t feel like a solid track. It just feels really lazy. I would hate to hear this in a club, but obviously there’s a huge market for tracks like this so undoubtedly it will be successful. 1.5
Sam: I love that DJ Dodger Stadium and Club Cheval are really championing that hard-hitting brand of nostalgic techno. While DJDS use repetition where Club Cheval have used a more conventional verse, there’s still that really thumping beat and alarm-like synth that really smacks hard on the dancefloor. It’s really cool to hear an R&B type verse amongst a track like this but it’s that synth-line in the chorus that is getting me really excited. It feels like so many styles have been combined here and it just works so well. There’s so much trendy electronica floating around at the moment but this feels detached to any kind of movement. I just bloody love this. 4.5
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/thebandher/five-minutes[/soundcloud]
Michelle: I love how stripped back Five Minutes is – it maintains a perfect balance between the lyrics and sparse instrumentals. This is the very definition of minimalism because there’s enough to fill the voids but remains empty enough for the listener to cleanly focus on the groove. Shame it doesn’t make it all the way to five minutes. 4 Michelle’s Pick
Annie: Such a good display of minimalism. Through stripping back this song it allows the listener to pay more attention to the beautiful lyrics that come with. The vocals too, are stellar. They’re so strong in a way that fits superbly with this song. 4
Sam: Her’s debut Quite Like made me take an invested interest in this band immediately with only one track to their name and in some ways that’s been justified after hearing song number two Five Minutes. This one’s a little less sexy and sounds more Jungle than alt-j but it’s another really smoothly-produced track that triple j listeners would just eat up if they added it to heavy rotation. I like it and I think it will probably grow on me even more but it doesn’t really blow me away completely - maybe it’s that the chorus doesn’t hit hard enough. It could’ve probably done with a bit of amping up for the final part - some more vocal layering. 3.5
Now time for your vote:
We're going to use this space above the important stuff to describe the week using comments left on One Direction's Facebook post announcing Zayn Malik was leaving:
This week the world mourned together but the music must go on. It's what Zayn would've wanted. Let's also hope this cheers Elizabeth up.
Bitch Better Have My Money
Bitch (me) does have Rihanna's money and bitch used some of that money to buy Rihanna's new single. Bitch also stayed up until 3am last night only to be directed to an app to hear 20 seconds of her new song, so bitch thinks he might keep Rihanna's money at least until she gives us her album. Ransom. Lord knows what Rihanna's doing right now. First she releases a song with Paul McCartney that both your Dad and you could sing along to and now she drops an absolute banger who's chorus has to be censored on the radio. It's not the most sure fire way to grab a number one hit but it's a song dripping in RiRi swagger and a level of ridiculousness that only she could get away with.
Loud Places (Feat. Romy Madley-Croft)/Gosh
Jamie xx, the beatsmith of the xx has had a cracker of a week, announcing his debut album In Colour and dropping these two unbelievably great tracks. The first, Loud Places, features his xx bandmate Romy Madley Croft and is a stunning slow-burner that ramps up into a gospel-flavoured chorus. Gosh is centred very much in the club world with a sound that harks back to last year's All Under One Roof Raving. The synth that creeps up towards the end of the song creates so many warm and fuzzies, it's hard to imagine life beyond the end of the song.
Tei Shi is ready to just explode all over the internet in the next few weeks with the release of her Verde EP. Go Slow is taken from that and it's the strongest cut we've heard from her yet. A humble, smooth verse explodes into an expansive, flourishing chorus that brings the track home strong. It's voices like Shi's make you believe that there is still life left in the electro-RnB genre.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/tei-shi/go-slow[/soundcloud]
Very First Breath (Feat. Irfane)
Producer Hudson Mohawke delivered an incredible show at the Fader Fort at SXSW last week and he continued the hype this week by dropping Very First Breath featuring French vocalist Irfane. It's taken from his forthcoming album Lanterns and sees him hold things back a little to make way for the delicious melody delivered by Irfane. Fans of abrasive HudMo need not worry though. There's still plenty of pulsating bass and dense synth-work to keep you happy.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/hudsonmohawke/very-first-breath-feat-irfane[/soundcloud]
Glass & Patron
Only FKA Twigs could have video where she gives birth to dancers who she then competes with in a voguing battle and makes it look beautiful. This is probably the most unconventional song and video we've heard from Twigs yet (and that's saying something). The track goes from plodding along at a snails pace to speeding up into something altogether extraterrestrial. It was the best video from the YouTube Music Awards by a mile and we are now convinced that Twigs would make an excellent Anna Wintour.
Call It Off
"It's not time to get started, it's time to call it off," may be a rather negative notion to begin a song with but Shamir manages to move upwards and onwards from there on latest track Call It Off, crafting another effortlessly charismatic pop song. The cow bells from On The Regular are back and while there is notably less sass there's muppets in the video so it all equals out really. This one's taken from his debut album Ratchet which is due to change your life in about seven weeks.
From The Basement To The Roof
Electronica supergroups are all the rage at the moment and by that we mean we can name one other from this year off the top of our heads - Future Brown. Club Cheval consists of French producers Canblaster, Myd, Sam Tiba, and Panteros666. It's quite the lineup and naturally this song is as smooth as the French are. An unobtrusive vocal sits atop lushes synths and candied beats creating the kind of tune you want to hear when you're popping bottles of champagne in a Parisian club. So classy, so chic.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/clubcheval/from-the-basement-to-the-roof-2[/soundcloud]
Holding On (Josef Salvat & Niia)
UK producer Tourist is building a reputation for creating some of the best emotional electronica around and this latest track Holding On on builds on that. It features London-based Australian vocalist Josef Salvat and NYC singer Niia. That little bit of Aussie in the song probably makes it eligible to win an ARIA and it probably should given how beautifully nuanced and textured it is. It's the type of song that you'll jam to in a club but will also go home and cry in the shower to (if you have a waterproof radio).
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/touristmusic/tourist-holding-on-feat-josef-salvat-niia[/soundcloud]
How That Taste
Kehlani is an LA-based RnB vocalist who's been mixing in circles with Chance The Rapper and Travi$ Scott so needless to say she knows what she's doing. We've heard a few of her tracks but this is the first one that's really made out ears prick up. How That Taste is essentially a diss song for her haters which also manages to double as a victory lap. She sounds flawless throughout with a vocal that's part unbreakable and part husky. She told The Fader of the track, "It's a Tsunami Mob anthem, ready to wake people up and ask them how that shit taste!" What a rude awakening.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/kehlanimusic/kehlani-how-that-taste[/soundcloud]
It's always a good week when you finish it off with a bit o' Skepta. The UK grime rapper has barely allowed us to recover from the mammoth Shutdown and he's dropped out another banging cut. It may be just over two minutes but it's more than enough for him to pack in a real punch. Basically it's just like a runaway-train, free-style that sees Skepta call out all the people that have hated on him. He's no doubt enjoying his well-deserved time in the spotlight while the people who have hated on him will have their tails between their legs.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/skepta/nasty[/soundcloud]