Kylie never fails in disco mode.
What you would typically refer to as ‘A Great Week’.
The Millennium bug didn’t strike down J.Lo, Britney, Mariah 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 CHVRCHES, Tinashe, Lana Del Rey, Yeo, Kylie and Raury.
Zanda Wilson: The latest single from CHVRCHES‘ forthcoming sophomore album is another gorgeous exploration in pop-synth from the Scottish group. ‘Clearest Blue’ is easily the most up-beat of what we’ve heard from ‘Every Open Eye’ so far. The concluding minute or so has to be the absolute highlight, built on what is a fairly simple synth riff, but building in a way that explores the intricacies musical layering with Lauren Mayberry’s stunning and bordering-on-iconic vocals mirroring this building progression. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick
What can I say about CHVRCHES… I never really used to be a fan of them to be honest but the more and more I’ve listened to them the more I’ve grown to like them. This is why it’s great that they’ve been teasing our taste buds with the release of a few singles off their soon to be released album Every Eye Open. The latest single Clearest Blue is more of a fast pace track to what we’re used to hearing from these guys. This synthpop number just keeps building and building towards the last minute where it just pops and explodes into one catchy tune. 3.5
Sam Murphy: Everything so far off this new CHVRCHES record has been good but this really smashes through. I feel as if it’s a combination of my two favourite tracks from The Bones Of What You Believe, We Sink and Tether. It has the sprawling, heavy-beated instrumental of We Sink and then it bursts into that spectacular climax just like Tether. Of course, the whole time you spend waiting out for the climax but the start of it is utterly captivating as well in a sort of tense, edge-of-your-seat way. 4.5 Sam’s Pick
Party Favors (Feat. Young Thug)
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tinashenow/tinashe-party-favors-ft-young-thug[/soundcloud]
Zanda: Set up by a dope combination of bass and beats, ‘Party Favours’ sets up an instrumental accompaniment that complements Tinashe’s vocals really well. From the very beginning the track feels like it’s ready to take-off but unfortunately there isn’t a whole heap of progression either rhythmically or instrumentally. I don’t feel like Yong Thug’s vocals add much either, in so far as I think the track would be supplemented better by someone not so heavily reliant on auto-tune. 3
Alistair: Right off the bat you get the feeling that this is is going to be a dirty and dark track. The heavy bass and slow singing really gives you that impression which excited me at that point. Skip forward a couple minutes and I’m pretty over it. Party Favors just doesn’t seem to amount to much. To be honest I was pretty sick of constantly hearing “party favors for you.” 2
Sam: Tinashe has nailed something that not many R&B singer are usually able to do. She treads a thin line between the mainstream and the alternative, singing over beats that light up radio and also contribute to a greater body of work like her brilliant debut Aquarius. Party Favors does exactly the same thing. That woozy, drunk synthline is really interesting but deliciously melodic and then she appeases the mainstream fans with that flawless hook. The tempo basically moves at snail’s pace but her voice is so sexy, it grips you from the beginning. Young Thug gives the best Tinashe-feature verse we’ve heard so far too. 4
Lana Del Rey
Music To Watch Boys To
Zanda: Lana Del Rey’s voice just doesn’t take a step back, and this latest track is further proof of her status as the queen of summery, shimmering vocals. However that’s about where my interest in this track ends. The production seems kind of purposeless when it starts so sparse and doesn’t really build to much. Whatever the echo effect being used on both her vocals and that background drum effect, it is being flogged way to hard. The result is a track that seems to drift aimlessly, which is unfortunately because there’s no doubting the potential that is unlocked in the opening phrases. I’m falling asleep. 2.5
Lana Del Rey has just hit the ground running over the last few months with song release after song release. I get the feeling that you either like Lana Del Rey or you don’t. She is one musically talented person who writes really heartwarming tracks that you can tell mean so much to her personally. With Music To Watch Boys To I’m once again left wondering and seeking for more. The track doesn’t seem to go anywhere yet her vocals are what makes this track an alright song for me. 2.5
Sam: This year for Lana Del Rey has been really interesting. Everyone’s gone from really hating her and questioning her identity to either not caring or loving her. I’m in the latter category and while I have been from the start, this material from Honeymoon is the best I’ve heard from her yet. It perplexes me how I could be so enthralled by her Marilyn Monroe vocals that almost sound lazy but they have a certain allure to them – maybe it’s in the way she gently slurs. Music To Watch Boys To captures the very essence of that. It’s slow moving and subtly orchestral, setting a stage for Lana to be the absolute star. I don’t usually see Lana as being sexy but this is sexy in a vintage, film noir way. 4
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/snackswithyeo/icarus-1[/soundcloud]
Zanda: Many of us got our first taste of Yeo on Hermitude’s latest album ‘Dark Night Sweet Light’ where he features on a couple of banging tracks. Proving he’s got what it takes to smash out songs on his own, ‘Icarus’ is a fun track with plenty to like. Playing around with effects, guitar licks and other sounds, Yeo has created a song here that is easy to enjoy and is equally melodically pleasing. There could be a little more depth to the rhythm and bass, but that’s probably not the effect he’s trying to achieve here. 3.5
Alistair: Icarus is finally allowing Yeo to step out of Hermitude’s shadow. We are now seeing what this tastemaker is capable of. Yeo’s melodies are just simply outstanding. There’s so much going on instrument wise with this song that it takes you a couple of listens to appreciate it for all it’s worth. This fun track makes me wanna have a little jive and a shimmy. 4 Alistair’s Pick
Sam: I just love that Yeo is finally getting his time in the sun. He constantly churns out banging pop melodies that were just crying out to be heard by more people and now it sounds as if Icarus will. The first listen actually went straight over my head but on repeat listens that funk, ‘80s-tinged chorus really stuck – so subtle yet so smooth and there’s something about it that just makes me swoon. Yeo fan boy since the start and I ain’t goin’ anywhere. 4
Black And White (Feat. Shaggy)
Zanda: Kylie and Shaggy! Oh my stars and stripes. It’s a weirdly fun track and Kylie’s vocals are lovely as always. And wow I didn’t realise how much I needed Shaggy back in my life until now. The only thing I don’t understand is why they’ve decided to leave the peak distortion on the EQ levels for the chorus sections, because surely that’s intentional? A good bit of fun. 3.5
Alistair: Not even a minute in and this already has everything that we know and love about our gal Kylie. The catchy upbeat tune screams the Kylie of old. Then the song decides to hit you with Shaggy, another 90s hero. I love that these two have teamed up together. The last 30 seconds really turns into a bit of a dance number and I love that. I can’t say I’ve ever been a massive Kylie or Shaggy fan but for what this song’s worth it’s a good combination. 3.5
Sam: It’s a bit of a shame that everyone snoozes over a surprise Kylie drop because she does still have the pop goods. Her last album Kiss Me Once was like a seven out of 10 which is A+ in the pop world and this tune is actually really great. I like hearing her over production that’s less manicured, she’s got a really sweet tone and it’s often strained when she goes for those big pop bangers. How Shaggy turned up there I’m not really sure but I haven’t see a “feat. Shaggy” since circa 2000 so I suppose it feels a little like an old friend turning up at your door stop after a prison stint. It’s surprisingly comforting. 3.5
Friends (Feat. Tom Morello)
Zanda: Some real summery, chiller vibes here. The production strikes me immediately as being extremely well balanced and just aptly put together. It plods along in a fairly satisfying way, and the multi-layered choral vocals are really nice to just chill out to. As the video-clip suggests, this is some for-real road-tripping music. 3.5
Alistair: Now I’m sure we are all familiar Raury due to God’s Whisper which has been remixed many a time and has become a staple at music festivals for DJs. He has teamed up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello for this tidy little number. It’s got such a summer vibe to it and it does what Raury does best and that’s tell a story lyrically. It’s a good song, it’s not a great, but it’s good. 3.5
Sam: Raury has so much talent and he’s capable of delivering so much fire but he just keeps giving us stuff like this. It’s so boring that I could feel myself slumping further and further down my chair until I was just in a heap on the floor dreaming of Tom Morello at the Big Day Out. I just want so badly for him to give us something iconic but this feels like the kind of song that would turn up on that awful album Johnny Depp just did with Alice Cooper. 1.5
Now time for your vote:
Tove Stryke is a Swedish songstress who been released some boisterous pop music in 2014 and now she’s gearing up for a full-length release, Kiddo, in 2015. Sweden is the land of pop music and quite frankly, pop’s not worth listening to unless it comes out of Scandinavia so obviously, Ego is brilliant. It’s elevated by a sprawling, elated chorus, the type that would make Dev Hynes squirm and Robyn dance. Very excited to see how Tove strikes in 2015 (see what I did there).
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tovestyrke/ego-1[/soundcloud]
The PC Music mastermind A.G. Cook is at it once again, combining pop with nostalgic bubblegum video game sounds. This time he’s remixed the new single by Charli XCX, which has Rita Ora on it for some unknown reason. The remix sees XCX and Ora’s vocals pitch manipulated and backed by rushing, toy-like synths. It’s a choice move from Charli XCX to support this remix as it continues her appeal as both a mainstream and alternative pop hero.
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/charlixcx/charli-xcx-ft-rita-ora-doing-it-ag-cook-remix[/soundcloud]
Paris Hilton is not a singer and she shouldn’t try, but that doesn’t mean she can’t release music. On Never Be Alone, which surfaced this week, her voice is manipulated within an inch of its life and surprisingly its a nostalgic hit. The production (seemingly by DJ Poet? Who?) channels early 00s club music- think DJ Sammy or Scooter. It’s not going to win a Grammy nor will it set the charts alight but its nostalgic quality makes it a likely contender for an internet cult hit. Also, don’t pretend you don’t revisit Stars Are Blind at least once a year.
We included Tobia Jesso Jr in our Class of 2015, and we’re feeling pretty happy with ourselves after he dropped yet another stellar track, How Could You Babe, this week. The song was endorsed by Adele on Twitter and raved about by nearly everybody with an IP address this week. It’s a throwback track once again showing Jesso Jr’s old soul and immaculate song writing prowess. In an age where the production possibilities are endless, he shows that sometimes the greatest beauty is found in simplicity.
Enigmatic British producer Burial is readying the release of his new single, Temple Sleeper, through Keysound Recordings and this week we were treated to a three minute sample. Temple Sleeper has the appeal of a heart-beat racing ’90s rave tune which sees Burial explore far more energetic territory than we’ve heard in the past. You can buy the vinyl now and here the whole track if you like.
Kylie’s street cred seems to have sky-rocketed in the past few months. First she teamed up with Flight Facilities and now she’s taking to the dancefloor with Italian producer and Daft Punk-collaborator Girogio Moroder. Right Here, Right Now is from his forthcoming album 74 Is The New 24 which will also feature collaboration with Charli XCX, Britney Spears and Sia. It’s a sprawling, disco-flavoured track with a chorus that shoots into the stratosphere.
Coming off the back on an absolutely hectic year of touring nationally and through the States, brass-infused indie-pop Sydneysiders, Lime Cordiale, have just released their new single, Hanging Upside Down. Produced by Sydney’s Jean-Paul Fung (Art vs. Science, Jinja Safari, Glass Towers), Lime Cordiale delivers an insanely catchy tune which will be a Summer soundtrack essential. Of course, a little Lime charm couldn’t be resisted and includes lyrics mentioning ‘perky tits.’ Also, the track was released with a super trippy film clip with artwork by Louis Lime and animated by wolfboy.
We’re very, very close to having St. Vincent grace our shores for Laneway Festival. She’s one of the greatest live performers on the planet at the moment and this new track, Bad Believer, will make a hearty addition to her already formidable set. It’s being added to a re-release of her self-titled album and it’s probably the most up-tempo, funky track of the album. It’s a warped, grungy pop track with one of the catchiest choruses she’s ever produced.
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/st_vincent/bad-believer[/soundcloud]
From one funky tune to another, Julianne is the first official single from US artist, Roy English. It’s a fuzzed-out pop tune backed by Dev Hynes-esque guitar-jabs and vocals that feel as if they’ve been caught in a dispersing cloud. A few years-ago this brand of lo-fi pop would’ve been could’ve been lost due to the sheer volume of tracks like it being released but in 2015 it’s actually refreshing to hear an alt-pop tune that doesn’t sound like a crisp, RnB renewal.
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/royenglish/julianne[/soundcloud]
Producer Emilie Haynie is gearing up to release his star-studded album, We Fall. He’s already dropped tracks featuring everyone from Dev Hynes to Charlotte Gainsbourg and now he’s revealed Wait For Life with vocals by Lana Del Rey. Haynie was responsible for much of the production on Del Rey’s debut Born To Die and once again here they swell a grandiose atmosphere of old school charm. Del Rey seems to be going from strength to strength lately and no doubt her third album, which is apparently more similar to her debut, will be one to look out for this year.
Not to be confused with the Fatboy Slim classic 74 year-old producer Giorgio Moroder has enlisted Kylie Minogue for his new single Right Here, Right Now. The Italian producer plans to release his first album in 30 years this year, featuring collaborators like Charli XCX, Sia and Britney Spears. Daft Punk brought Moroder back into the spotlight last year after he featured on their track Giorgio By Moroder. Right Here, Right Now is a glistening pop tune that would’ve sounded right at home on Kylie’s criminally under appreciated, 2014 album, Kiss Me Once. Moroder crafts a soaring chorus, built from funky guitar jabs and robotic synths. It sounds like his time with Daft Punk rubbed off on him.
Last year, Flume, probably deservedly, took home the J Award for the Best Australian Album of the Year according to triple j. Flume’s album featured one particular collaboration with fellow Aussie Chet Faker, Left Alone, which exemplified a bromance which has flourished ever since. Come 2014 and like a mother feeling sorry for the other sibling, triple j has awarded Chet Faker’s, Built On Glass, the J Award.
This means that in a year where Australia had arguably one of the most excitable musical climates in the world, Chet Faker’s was the one that stood out over all. While we aren’t arguing the fact that Built On Glass was a good debut record, great even, there were plenty of other albums that had a little more flair, originality and energy.
Also file this under our favourite Australian albums of 2014.
The Preatures have had a massive year, not losing any of the momentum they gained from Is This How You Feel? Their debut album Blue Planet Eyes validated all the hype. It was a sexy, melodic record that smouldered with slow-burners and ate into our hearts with its catchy up-tempos. Somebody’s Talking is a cracker of a single, while the album as a whole is unmistakably Aussie. Surely that’s worth celebrating.
Sia was once a triple j darling but since she started writing for the likes of Beyonce and Christina Aguilera she’s failed to gain much traction there. That’s fair enough, it’s not like she really needed it, but nonetheless 1000 Forms Of Fear is a mighty pop record. Led by the soaring lead single, Chandelier, the album is a collection of mid-tempos that go way over-the-top with metaphors, huge chorus and billowing vocals. It would be definitely worth celebrating the success story that was Sia in 2014, particularly given her humble beginnings.
Remi is one of the finest rappers to come out of this country in a long time. He understands the overseas flavour but also has his feet firmly planted within Australian hip-hop. Raw x Infinity was a combustion of youthful energy, with a constantly bouncing beat and effortless flow. Remi really proves his credentials when he takes to the live arena with a show that’s more impressive than any local offering this year.
Allday is one of the first Australian rappers to really admit to overseas influence over local. His debut album Cult, exemplifies that with beats that sit somewhere between Mike Will Made It and Kaytranada. The most impressive thing about Cult is his effortless feel for melody. On the lead single Right Now, he sounds almost sleepy but still manages to carve out this tune that just hovers around your head. It’s the type of aspirational record that a 23 year-old should be delivering for his debut which is a lot easier said than done.
She may be from over the pond, but Kimbra’s debut Vows was nominated in 2011 so surely she could have nabbed the award in 2014. The Golden Echo far surpassed her debut both in ambition and in result. It was a cosmic journey through soul, RnB and pop collisions delivered by a confident vocalist whose mind is out of this world. ‘90s Music was wildly unexpected and while the rest of the album isn’t as left-of-centre, it’s still a refreshing take on a number of genres that have been overdone. Just when you feel like you’ve got a grip of The Golden Echo it takes a sudden turn. If we’re rewarding innovation and bravery here, the prize has to be Kimbra’s.
So, if we give the award to Kimbra then we have to also consider fellow New Zealanders, Broods, who delivered a polished, pop debut this year. Evergreen was full of, excuse the pun, brooding vocals and swirling beats that came together to form expert pop songs. Songs like Mother & Father tugged at the heartstrings while those like L.A.F. dazzled in happy giddiness. They’re the newcomers most likely to do big things overseas and, while a J Award would be slightly presumptuous, it would make triple j look damn good once they finally took off.
It took Andy Bull five years to deliver his follow-up record, Sea Of Approval, but impossibly it was worth the wait. While Chet Faker erred toward electronica to deliver what is essentially a pop record, Bull dabbled in RnB. At times it’s cinematic, at times it’s uncomfortably intimate but it’s always honest. Leading the album with a one-two-three punch of Keep On Running, Baby I Am Nobody Now and Talk Too Much, shows that he’s a popstar in disguise and deservant of far more attention than he’s been dealt.
Oh, what a world it would be. This would never happen and if it did it would be because triple j had been bought by ARN. But if we’re talking about great pop records it’s hard to look past Kylie’s 11th album. Yeah, it was a commercial flop but it was probably one of her most left-of-centre records since her 1994 self-titled effort. Written by the likes of Sia, Pharrell Williams and Ariel Rechtshaid, Kiss Me Once was one of the tastiest records of the year and gave us I Was Gonna Cancel- a moment of pop brilliance from the princess herself.
Many might be declaring rock dead in 2014 but DZ Deathrays are the best argument as to why it isn’t. On Black Rat, the duo’s second album, they’d cleaned themselves up a bit and rather than grunge gave us expansive, anthemic rock songs bound by crunching guitars and organic, thumping percussion. Northern Lights beats out any rock song released by an Australian acts in 2014. They’ve also quietly gone about their business, finding success overseas.
Melbourne group The Harpoons quietly released their excellent, funk-tinged debut this year and while it didn’t attract the fanfare it deserved, it’s one of those records that grows with age. From sensual slow-burners to quirky electronica, Falling For You was an album for lovers, which in many ways sits in the same lane as Chet Faker’s Built On Glass. It’s as if somebody remixed The Preatures with great success and repackaged it as The Harpoons. A brilliant, low-key stunner that reveals itself with every listen.