First Impressions: Britney Spears, Kehlani, Justice And More


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 Snakehips, A.G. Cook, Justice, Dreller, Britney Spears and Kehlani.

Cruel (Feat. ZAYN)

Courtney: Is it just me or is anyone else getting Mura Masa vibes in this beat? I actually think this is better than “All My Friends” and as much as I love Anderson Paak I also think it’s better than Money On Me but what can I say I am a sucker for a pop banger and for anything Zayn touches. Snakehips production is just out of this world on this track, they rarely ever put a foot wrong 4

Sam: Snakehips have tasted a hit with All My Friends and now it seems they’re hungry for more. Cruel is probably the most straightforward production they have ever presented but that said it’s a whole lot more interesting that most of the stuff circulating the radio right now. This is actually exactly the vibe that ZAYN should’ve gone for his on debut solo effort. It’s funky, woozy and dark without sounding like try-hard The Weeknd cut. Good job everyone involved. 4

Harrison: I don’t like this as much as All My Friends, but it’s definitely got massive commercial appeal. I feel like this is pretty dance music, that sure as hell caters for some, but not for me. I think having Zayn on this track really saves it, because overall the sound design feels kind of weak. 3

Average Score: 3.6

A.G. Cook

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Courtney: I am so not a fan of PC music. Whenever I listen to it I feel trapped in a horrible Japanese video game with seizure inducing visuals that I will never escape. It’s all just so sickeningly sweet but this track is actually bearable. The section from 1:40 to 2:45 is probably the highlight. I like how he contrasts super upbeat bridges/choruses with a kind of dark and ominous section 2

Sam: Somehow this is both the most accessible and over-the-top thing A.G. Cook has ever done. It’s kitsch as hell and if you already don’t like PC Music there’s absolutely no way this is going to change your mind. It’s the musical equivalent of a durian and if it’s not to your taste it may make you gag. As a fan of Cook, I like this but it really doesn’t hook me until about the one minute 40 mark. Parts of it feel like he’s simplified his production for the masses so I hope that’s just a one-off because he’s definitely a key visionary in the electronic scene right now. 3.5

Harrison: Cue the PC Music hate. Straight up, this does not do a lot for someone who virtually lives on SoundCloud, where PC Music thrives. Maybe I haven’t delved enough into scene in a while, but the upbeat parts of the song don’t work for me. It’s got some Porter Robinson Worlds which I half vibe. This is probably sitting on a seesaw for me. 2.5

Average Score: 2.6

Safe And Sound

Courtney: To quote a fabulous Youtube commenter “The BASS!!!!! THE BASS THE BASSSSSS!!!!!!” When I listen to this I am instantly thrown into a Disco roller rink and I am totally ok with that. I do think the disco throw back is kind of cliched now, Daft Punk, Bruno Mars have all been there and done that (and they did it well) but let’s be honest Justice had been doing it long before them and with this track they are still in fine form. Studio 54 here I come! 4

Sam: I feel like this track has had its release date pushed further and further back because the disco resurgence was three of four years ago now. There’s nothing wrong with it at all really. It’s grandiose, groovy and charming but Justice were forward-thinkers back in the day and this just doesn’t really do much for my excitement levels. Good fun but it would barely even get a Shazam from me if I was listening to it without knowing what it was. 3

Harrison: Ok, as much as I am all about wanting artists to try new things and like Sam has said Justice were forward thinkers back in the day, I am biased to the fact I love Justice. They are an act I attribute to helping me fall in love with electronic music and it’s just been far too long since i’ve had some booming disco in my life. This comeback has all the hallmarks that make Justice royalty of electronic music. It’s funky, it’s got the classic symphonic flair and it’s got some KILLER BASS. Caress me, as Safe And Sound is one hell of a comeback. 4.5 Harrison's Pick

Average Score: 3.83

A Signal That Comes Back

Courtney: For some reason when I listen to this I hear it as a sort of new age James Bond theme. I think it’s the lingering synth in the background and syncopated lead guitar riff which totally sounds like a spin off the main James Bond theme. Personally I feel like a James Bond movie with this as its theme instantly sounds more interesting than anything that’s been done so far. 3

Sam: This is very good and I’m very happy that this is coming out of Australia. A Signal That Comes Back sounds like a roughed-up CHVRCHES to me, like the gloss has been scratched and run through the dirt. It’s flawlessly produced with every detail shining through as another sonic treat along the way. Dreller’s vocal is impassioned but not forced and the final two minutes or so are pure bliss. A beautifully put together song that provides reasons for everyone of its many levels. Very impressed. 4

Harrison: Oh so smooth. Everything on this track works extremely well together. The beat is smooth and Dreller’s vocal flows naturally and sounds really great. This is the track of the week that will make its way into my playlist, and thank heavens for its place in this week’s First Impressions. 4

Average Score: 3.6

Britney Spears
Make Me (Feat. G-Eazy)

Courtney: Ahhhh Britney, I love you, I really do. You will always hold a special place in my heart but let’s be honest you haven’t released anything that will stand the test of time since Toxic. You were close with Till The World Ends and Work B**ch but alas no. This track is no different. You can recruit as many it-rappers as you want but it won’t make it ‘lit’ as the kids say. 2

Sam: This is very exciting because for the first time in about ten years we can actually hear that flirtatious, sultry tone in Britney’s voice that made her such a star in the first place. It’s still produced but it’s the least produced her voice has been in a while and it’s infinitely better than Work Bitch, the lead-single of her deserved flop of a last record. It’s just nice to hear Britney deliver the key melody instead of a synth or a silly British accent. It’s her best single in I don’t know how long and I just feel like flying to Vegas and giving her a high-five. She’s finally back and it’s ABOUT BLOODY TIME. 4

Harrison: If it wasn’t going to be Britney, then it would have been Katy Perry. Is Britney really back though? I don’t know, this isn’t really grabbing my attention like I wanted it too. It’s not a “It’s Britney Bitch!” comeback, but I can understand what all the fuss is about. My love for Britney will forever stay entrenched in the late ‘90s and really early ‘00’s. Because those were some damn good times for pop music. 3

Average Score: 3


Courtney: Saving the best for last I see 😉 Following up the massive trap jam that was Did I and the heartfelt fan track 24:7 with this just feels so right, you get the feeling that the album is going to be so cohesive. The amazing thing about Kehlani is her unfailing ability to, as Aaliyah would say, “dust it all off and try again”, working through an emotional suicide attempt to come out with CRZY and lyrics like “If I gotta be a bitch Imma be a bad one”,  “I’m just counting counting blessings” and “all the shit I’ve been through only made me more of an assassin, I kill em I kill em I kill em with compassion”. Her optimism and determination is never-ending. The perfect role model for girls nowadays, if we could all only try to be 1/10th of what Kehlani is the world would be a better place. This track gave me my new life motto, “Live for the challenge, only makes me stronger, one more reason to turn up on em”. 5 Courtney’s Pick ?

Sam: It’s been a pretty difficult year for Kehlani and Kehlani fans, despite starting off with a Grammy nomination. The good news is Kehlani always delivers and this is no different. Taking the fierceness of Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money, she delivers a fire flow, using every piece of instrumental to inject her charismatic, attitude-filled vocal. “If I gotta be a bitch Imma be a bad one,” is a t-shirt waiting to happen and potentially the line that will make this a hit for her. After all the drama, she’s kept quiet and decided to speak through the music and it’s so potent. 4 Sam's Pick

Harrison: Every 10 seconds I have to tell myself that this isn’t Rihanna, with Kehlani really really bringing it on this. Hot damn, my playlist just got another addition. Although this has CRZY massive commercial appeal, everything about it cancels this thought out. The beat is tight and the lyrics speak volumes. Kehlani: bra-f*cking-vo! 4

Average Score: 4.3

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10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: The Weeknd, Hudson Mohawke, Basenji And More


This week Apple finally announced its streaming service Apple Music. While in most weeks this would've been the headline-of-the-week they were beaten to the post by a homophobic Ten Walls and the fact that Nicki Minaj's arse was plastered 1,000 times over a Helsinki cathedral. Oh, what a weird world we live in.

In celebration, we've combined all these news items by presenting to you ten songs that you can stream (for free), that aren't homophobic and also feature no mention of Nicki Minaj's derriere.


The top dawg is back with his first single of 2015 and what a cracker it is. Sydney producer Basenji struck gold with his 2014 single Heirloom but it feels like he's even one-upped that track with Petals. Petals is a floating daydream built around glassy beats and airy synths. It's beautifully delicate and helped-along by the gentle, windy vocals of Scenic. This is just begging to be in a baby powder ad just as it is ready to be the most euphoric moment of a night out.

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Hudson Mohawke

Ah HudMo just cannot stop going bigger and better with his Lanterns singles. This latest one Warriors featuring Ruckazoid and Devaeux is an absolute monster of a song. It sounds like it's been made for the lighting of the Olympic torch - it just aims to be so damn euphoric and triumphant and it succeeds in every way. Can it really be anything other than huge when your main lyrics are "warriors", "war" and "battle." Them are fighting words.

The Weeknd
I Can't Feel My Face

He's done it. He's gone pop. It's not as big a transformation as country Tay Tay to Kendrick Lamar-featuring Tay Tay but it's a slight departure from The Weeknd's normal material. For one, there's no mention of pussy once in the song. It's a Max Martin-produced hit-in-waiting with a funky baseline and MJ-esque vocals. It's obviously been made for radio but it doesn't mean that it's unenjoyable for previous The Weeknd fans. If anything, it's just an extension of his already large sonic cannon - yes, I understand you could imply other things from that.

Kira Puru
All Dulled Out

Melbourned-based singer Kira Puru used to go by the name Kira Puru & The Bruises but it seems that those bruises have finally cleared-up because she's going it alone this time around. All Dulled Out is her return track and it's a bold statement track that sits somewhere between Megan Washington and Kimbra. Her voice is just far too good to be ignored with jazzy undertones and grand extensions but it's her songwriting on All Dulled Out that really sticks out.

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Kehlani & Mr. Carmack
All In

Yours Truly and Adidas' Songs From Scratch series has seen How To Dress Well team up with TALA and Jeremih and Shlohmo realise their invaluable musical connection. The latest pair to craft something rad together are US RnB singer Kehlani and all-encompassing producer Mr. Carmack, delivering All In. All In is about that point in a relationship when you either walk away or go for it completely. Alternatively it's about the moment you reach the halfway point of a BBQ Shapes packet and have to decide if you can swallow your pride and finish the packet. Different interpretations aside, it's a beautifully dim, soulful track that makes Kehlani's smokey vocals the star.

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If you don't want to get-up and go-hard the minute you hear this then there is something clinically wrong with you. Ambience, the latest track by UK producer Melé is an absolute dancefloor-stomper taking cues from Jersey club tracks. "You can do it baby, c'mon," howls a booming voice as the percussion fires-up and leads into a carnivale-inspired party. This is fierce and it will no doubt make you work your arse off if you're serious about paying it the respect it deserves.

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Running From Sane

Adult Swim does this thing where they release amazing singles all through summer from an array of artists. This year they have promised tracks by SOPHIE, Chromatics and Run The Jewels but this week they have delivered on the first single of 19. Running From Sane is by D?WN who rose to fame in Diddy's girl-group Danity Kane. She's come along way from that trading pop songs for experimental electronic tracks. This one's a stunner crafting a mind-blowing soundscape alongside D?WN's otherworldly vocals. If you like this, it's worth checking out her brilliant album from this year Blackheart.

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Mura Masa & Nao
Thinking Bout You (Frank Ocean cover)

We're big fans of both 18 year-old producer Mura Masa and British songstress Nao so we didn't even need to do the math to figure out that we'd be digging this one. The pair have just collaborated on Mura Masa's Firefly but here they have stripped everything back for a gorgeous cover of Frank Ocean's Thinking Bout You on Radio 1's Live Lounge. There are no bells and whistles, just Nao's voice wafting through the genius melody of the song.

Gravez & ELHAE
Call Me Back

Allow us to introduce you to Atlanta artists Gravez and ELHAE. Gravez is the beatmaker while ELHAE is the vocalist and together they have made one fine RnB scorcher. ELHAE switches between signing and rapping, with both modes as strong as each other. As such, he's able to deliver a stellar hook and then bring a sharp edge to the track simultaneously. That alongside Gravez sparse but hard-hitting beats is a match made in heaven.

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Dance On Me

US rapper GoldLink is tipped to do big things in 2015. He was included on XXL's iconic 2015 Freshman Class alongside Fetty Wap, Dej Loaf and OG Maco and now he's dropped his first track since. Goldlink differs to the rest of the artists on the list because he seems to be more open to more electronic, Kaytranada-esque beats and it's really working in his favour. Dance On Me is energetic, vibrant and in parts sensual making the perfect soundtrack for love-making and dancing - simultaneously or separately, it's up to you.

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Kehlani Chance The Rapper

Kehlani And Chance The Rapper Team Up For 'The Way'

Kehlani Chance The Rapper

Oakland RnB singer Kehlani is gearing up to release her LP You Should Be Here very soon (as in today) and now you can hear her collaboration with Chance The Rapper The Way. Chance has seemingly featured on 4000 songs this year already but it seems to be a case of quantity and quality because once again his verse on The Way is brilliant. Kehlani matches him 100 percent though with a verse that sees her voice sitting somewhere between Ciara and Tinashe. She's a confident vocalist and stabs at every accent with force giving a strength to the song. This album is going to be a killer.


10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Rihanna, Jamie xx, Shamir + More


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:

  • "Don't do this Zayn man! please stay,life awaits for no man, living a normal life won't pa the bill at the age of 44 build ur empire while you still can."
  • "he's the reason for my tear, yesterday, today and tomorrow. It was hard to accept those statements."
  • "im crying again damn"
  • ""I don't want you to leave!!!!!" Says my daughter Elizabeth."

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.

Jamie xx
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
Go Slow

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.

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Hudson Mohawke
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.

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FKA Twigs
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.

Club Cheval
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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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