First Impressions: Grimes, Chance The Rapper, EL VY And More

Grimes Image: The Fader

Grimes Image: The Fader

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 Grimes, Chance The Rapper, Blood Orange, EL VY, Wishes and DJDS.

Flesh Without Blood

Ben Kyi: Ramping up the anticipation nicely prior to the release of her fourth LP, Claire Boucher aka Grimes, has dropped the catchy Flesh, Without Blood. The track showcases the smart and engaging electronic production of which Grimes is known for, while maintaining a much poppier edge compared to previous outings. Also worth noting is that Boucher’s vocals are a lot more discernible this time round than in the past. Flesh, Without Blood reaffirms the song-writing prowess of Boucher, and how much of a front runner she is within the field of electronica. The accompanying video clip is definitely worth a watch. Absolutely bonkers, though strangely brilliant. 5 Ben’s Pick

Jack Cain: I can see the indie quirky art students choking on their pencil tips after they read this next line but here goes, Flesh Without Blood sounds like it was written for and by the Veronicas. Which don't get me wrong is not a bad thing. That guitar riff is what makes this song so universal and the quicker people realise grimes as universal the better, and maybe not in the Taylor Swift style but maybe more in the Die antwoord style. This song is Grimes’ Can't Feel My Face, it's the song that people are going to go crazy over, because that's what happens when underground artists turn to pop music. even if it is just for a moment. 4.5

Sam Murphy: When I heard this for the first time last week and put it on loop and listened to it about 14 times before I convinced myself that I’d become extremely sick of it in a matter of days if I kept going this way. The last song I did that for happens to be Grimes’ Oblivion and while I can’t really explain it it’s got something to do with the way Grimes crafts her melodies. If you stripped everything back and put a singer like Katy Perry on them they would be bonafide hits but instead she gives them this alien-like quality that makes them completely enthralling. There’s something so bizarre and otherworldly about this song but then the lyrics are so real - “just let me go.” I love that she’s gaining the confidence to make those kind of personal statements. She’s a once in a generation artist and she just keeps getting more interesting. Flawless. 5 Sam's Pick

Blood Orange
Sandra’s Smile

Ben: While being a smooth and flowing R&B number, Blood Orange’s latest cut Sandra’s Smile doesn’t really get off the ground. The heavy subject matter hits all the right spots in a lyrical sense, but the track loses a bit of steam and finishes with a fairly abrupt fade out. It isn’t a bad song by any means. It’s just not overly memorable. 3

Jack:Blood Orange reminds me of Prince, but not so much the genius Prince that we all know and love. Maybe I like to imagine a prince who was formerly known as something else while figuring out how good he really was going to be/could be. I really like this song, it reminds me of the early 2000s which was a great era, but the song after a lot of listens lacks a lot of substance. On the surface it's good, but deep down if this song was released in the era where this music was popular it may of been great, but for me this has been done, and it's largely irrelevant now. The most exciting part of this song for me is the end. I want to hear more of whatever that beat fading out is. 3

Sam: To be completely honest I’ve already made my mind up about Dev Hynes and as such he could strum a guitar once and I’d find a way to wax lyrical about it. Sandra’s Smile is such a worthy and powerful story and Hynes has found the grooviest way to tell it. I feel like when dealing with subjects like this it’s so common to churn out a ballad but Hynes manages to channel the sadness and anger in this through funky guitar licks and ‘90s-tinged beat. It’s kind of like how Marvin Gaye would give real soul to his tracks dealing with the state of the world. I think Sandra’s Smile works as a song seperate to the story and just gets all the more powerful once you do know the story. 4

Chance The Rapper

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Ben: An ode of sorts to his native hometown of Chicago, Angels sees Chance The Rapper spit intricate rhymes with ease, utilising his always dynamic flow. The backing track is giddily exciting and incorporates an infusion of jazz, topped off with the blowing of horns and the hitting of a steel drum. Along for the ride on guest vocals is the excellent Saba, who only further compliments the cadences delivered by Chance. Fantastic stuff. 4.5

Jack: LIDO, that is all. Seriously this beat is what I'm talking about when I say I want a real good hip hop beat in 2015, this beat is the hero for me it's like college dropout 2k15 edition.  I feel even Kanye West himself would be sitting in his room listening to this bouncing his head around to it while complimenting himself constantly. Chance is on fire in the verses painting a lyrical picture of life in his city and it's refreshing to hear some uplifting hip hop every once in awhile.This song is like drinking 3 litres of water after a huge weekend of no sleep and pingaz. just so good! 5 Jack’s Pick

Sam: As much as I loved Surf, I’m glad to see Chance putting out songs under his own moniker again. Angels doesn’t disappoint at all turning the joy to 100 with flaring horns and a beat that sounds drunk. Chance meanwhile runs all over it like the poetic master that he is switching up the flow at every corner. That hooks is also instantly memorable and because of that it has the potential to be Chance’s biggest single to date. He is also such a positive force in the rap game right now and that’s exactly what we need right now. 4.5

Silent Ivy Hotel

Ben: Featuring the unmistakably smooth vocal delivery from The National’s Matt Berninger, the low key Silent Ivy Hotel harks back to the 1970’s for inspiration, with a definite Doors vibe shining through. The balance between the instrumentation is fantastic, as the two utilise vintage organs and keys, jaunty guitar work and solid drumming to great effect. If El Vy’s debut LP is anything like Silent Ivy Hotel, then the duo are sure to have an absolute winner on their hands. 4

Jack Since it was me who suggested this song be thrown in the mix I better give it a good wrap, and I will do that. This song is eerily reminiscent of the 1970s. Reminds me of haunting organs you'd hear in The Doors songs or The Animals. The song is a sad tale of never being able to work it out with someone no matter how much time you spend together, it makes you want to go get a bottle and sit on a rooftop and cry. The guitar riff bounces along with the drums and cuts in and out constantly. It's almost in a similar way the Arctic Monkeys used their guitars on Crying Lightning. So yes I like this song a lot but it's mostly here so i can talk about the fact that the EL-VY album which was also released this week is one of the best albums I've heard all year. No Time To Crank The Sun and It's A Game are pure genius. Matt Berninger from The National is no newcomer, and it shows all over this project. 4.

Sam: In my opinion, Matt Berninger is one of the best lyricists around. He’s honest and straight to the point and so is his voice which is obviously the perfect pairing. Silent Ivy Hotel is so bare particularly in the first verse that his voice is the main event and it seems to be even more croaky than what it is usually like on The National tracks. The atmosphere of the whole track is scary, a little sleazy and also sad which is not an easy thing to achieve at all and I’m completely in agreeance Jack about it reflecting The Arctic Monkeys’ Crying Lightning in some ways. I’m not a huge fan of the chorus as I feel it doesn’t really go anywhere but the bridge is really strong and the choir at the end gets me going. 3.5

I Wanna Be Alone With You

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Ben: Recalling the electro-pop stylings of Passion Pit and Foster The People in equal measures, I Wanna Be Alone With You is the impressive debut single from Sydney producer Wishes. The track slinks along at a steady pace and shows off some nifty production. Bound to get your feet moving and a vocal line or two stuck in the head, Wishes is one producer to watch. 3

Jack: This song reminds me of Dance The Way I Feel, While Ben recalls Foster the people and Passion pit I’m much more reminded of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, but hey those three in total are still good comparisons if you are a small Australian electronic music producer. I’m thinking there are a lot of other producers out there who wish they were Wishes, and I bet all of you who hadn't heard this song before now are all wishing you heard of Wishes earlier. I know very little about Wishes myself, but it won't be long till he is signed to a major label and all over your radio’s, Rufus watch out, There's a vocalist with a dance formula to rival the best in town. 4

Sam: Maybe it’s because I’ve had the latest Neon Indian record on repeat but the first time I heard this I was hooked in the first few seconds. Four or five years ago everyone was making this kind of indie-electro music off the back of the Passion Pit record but it’s such a difficult thing to actually get right and make interesting. I Want To Be Alone With You is effortlessly joyous with a DIY charm and it manages that without sounding messy or cheesy. The atmosphere that he creates over the hook with those swirling synths and rollicking drums is beautiful as is the paired-back climax. I will dance to this at least 20 times this summer and I will not stop summer until that is achieved. 4

Stand Up And Speak

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Ben: Stand Up And Speak by DJDS, formerly DJ Dodger Stadium, has real potential. Which is why it is so frustrating that the track has glimpses of sheer delight, which are unfortunately cancelled out by some really uninspired sections. What could have been a solid dance track has really been hampered by the presence of a lacklustre build and not much of a payoff. The song doesn’t take you anywhere you haven’t been previously. 2

Jack: I listened to this song once and that was enough, I listened to the whole thing only so I would know how to summarise it. And in short (because all of these are in short) it's pretty disappointingly boring. I'm a fan of djds too, and i'm just  left constantly disappointed, at every moment you think this song is going to take off, it just doesn't. It's like the musical equivalent of trying to masturbate and every time you get close to orgasming your mum walks in or your dog comes to your window. I get what the song is trying to do, but what it ended up doing was something that's been done to do death by now. 1

Sam: My favourite thing about DJDS is that you never really know what route they’re going to take. You’re not always guaranteed a climax and you’re not always guaranteed reprieve from an aggressive beat. It’s off-putitng but there’s something really thrilling about that. The first thing I noticed about this is that there’s an actual vocal in here whereas they usually rely just on one looped sentence. As such I kind of expected it to take off like a huge house tune. The second time I listened I reminded myself it was DJDS and I’m bloody hooked. I love that they continue to layer and layer leading you to a climax that never comes. It feels anxious and that’s a mood that’s underrepresented in dance music. Can’t wait to hear what the new albums like given their past three releases have been so different. 4

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