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First Impressions: Sia, Santigold, SOPHIE And More

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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 Sia, Santigold, SOPHIE, Stormzy, Aura and Mallrat.

 

Sia
One Million Bullets

Zanda: Most of the stuff I’ve heard from Sia in the past has really featured the upper range of her vocals. This one shows how unbelievable diverse her entire range is, by showing off how solid and soulful her lower range is as well. I don’t love everything about this song, but there is plenty to like. Although the production isn’t anything special, the effects used on her vocals create plenty of interest and engagement for listeners. 3.5

Sam: This is definitely the best thing that I’ve heard from This Is Acting so far mostly because it doesn’t have a forcibly big chorus. It’s sparse and gently produced allowing plenty of room to hear Sia’s textured voice. Remember when she wasn’t a big note singer and instead relied on that tone? One Million Bullets kind of brings back that Sia and that can only be a good thing.

Bianca: The way Sia's voice just hangs in the balance on some of those notes is really breathtaking. After the ear-assault that was Alive, it's really nice to hear Sia bring her powerful voice to such a delicate level. The chorus doesn't do much for me, providing much of the same old Sia recipe but the verses definitely make up for it. 3.5 

Santigold
Who Be Lovin' Me (Feat. ILoveMakonnen)

Zanda: ILoveMakonnen’s rapping style almost sounds lazy but is so damn smooth. The thing that really annoys me though is his weirdly un-melodic singing. When Santigold goes to sing the same chorus line it’s much more satisfying on the ear, and actually sounds like she’s hitting notes, which he doesn’t appear to be doing. I understand that particular line of melody is quite dissonant, but it just sounds like he’s not even trying to sing in tune. Its unfortunate because I really like the production, that jingling percussion is really cool. 3

Sam: Ok time for everybody to jump back on the Santigold train. I feel like for some reason her last album turned people off a bit but this track proves that she’s one of the most innovative artists out there. Some people will hate this and that’s the mark of any really great, different song. I happen to love it because I think it sounds drunk and woozy in the best way possible. Santi and Makonnen are the perfect combination because they both have an eccentric tone to their vocals but together it really melds. I also like how Santi gives the first half of the song to Makonnen only to swan in and hit us with a knockout verse. 

Bianca: I love this. Singing out of tune hasn't sounded this good since my shower this morning. 4 Bianca's Pick 

Aura
New Thing

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/auramusicaus/new-thing[/soundcloud]

Zanda: The mixing by Aura here is so good it gives me goosebumps. I’m not normally a huge fan of massively manipulated vocals either, but here they form a crucial layer of sound under Aura’s primary lyrics as well as filling in spaces in the texture. It’s a super cool exploration of how echo and other techniques can really change a melodic space with minimal actual change to any instrumentation. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: There are so many people making dark electro-pop in Australia right now but this song proves that Aura is one of the most fascinating. I have to agree with Zanda - the mixing on this track is phenomenal. I love how her voice sits right at the front of the track. It really smacks you right in the face particularly when it first comes in. I’m getting very bored of hearing nice singers over electronic beats but this pushes that one step further and gains my attention. Instrumentally and vocally she lays it all on the line. It’s a risky, daring debut and she even says, “I fucking love it.” Well, I happen to also fucking love this. 4.5 

Bianca: The vocals meld beautifully into the instrumental. Her voice doesn't just sit on top, instead it's weaved within the complexities of the electronic melody. The beat kicks in just at the right moment, giving it the oomph it needs (and deserves). 4

SOPHIE
Vyzee

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/msmsmsm/sophie-vyzee[/soundcloud]

Zanda: It’s a poppy mix of synths, piercing sound effects and brassy fart noises. But it’s done so fantastically. The choral section towards the back end is so funky as well. I don’t even know what else to say. So good. 4

Sam: Vyzee feels like the ADD sister of Lemonade. Once again the lyrics are centred around fizzy drinks and the instrumental emulates that with perky, bubbling beats. This could be the most pop-infused single SOPHIE has done since Bipp and as annoying as some people will find it, it’s actually really hard to hate. I love the melody change midway through the song - that’s the sort of thing that’ll keep me coming back for repeat listens.

Bianca: My internet completely spazzed out right when I clicked play and I was sitting there for a good minute, thinking the glitchy repeating sound was the start of the song. Isn't it funny that a sound like that could legitimately be confused for a song these days? After I figured out my mistake and gave my computer a quick wifi-off/wifi-on, I was pleasantly surprised to hear something that sounds like the love-child of Lemonade and Bipp. There's just enough squeaks and squelches to make it a trademark SOPHIE song with a poppy chorus to spice things up a bit. I would've liked to hear a bit more of a build-up like at 1:08 but maybe I'm being too greedy. 

Stormzy
Standard

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/stormzy1/stormzy-standard[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Stormzy is one of the kings of grime, but this song is surprisingly not all that grimey. Standard is a showcase of Stormzy spitting straight fire, and it’s all about those words. The production is nothing special, but that’s not the point. This is all about his lyrics, which by the way are incredible, and the incredible way that he forms lines and raps is something to behold. 4

Sam: Ooooooh, this could be the sequel to Shutdown. The repetition of “standard" has the potential to really make it a classic because as Shutdown proved, people go crazy for that sort of stuff. There are a few garage influences here but for the most part I’m hearing production straight out of A$AP Rocky’s latest record. There’s definitely a US influence here which could play really well in Stormzy’s flavour in terms of crossing into that market - not that he’s calculated at all. Lyrically, it’s another phenomenal energetic and aggressive performance. He’s not the brightest new grime star right now, he’s the best new rapper right now. Period. 4.5 Sam's Pick 

Bianca: Stormzy's tracks are built to be enjoyed live. I'm finding it impossible to sit here in my computer chair and listen to Standard in my tinny iPhone headphones without jumping up with my hands in the air. Is it inappropriate to initiate a death circle at work? 

Mallrat
Sunglasses

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/lilmallrat/sunglasses-prod-tigerilla[/soundcloud]

Zanda: A cool tune, that chorus line is pretty damn catchy. Loving the summery, shimmery production as well, but it kind of drags on a little for me. The most interesting part is that bridge line that plays around with the vocals but it’s far too short to be a feature of the track. 2.5

Sam: I lost it for Mallrat’s last song Suicide Blonde and I’m back on board for this one too. I can’t believe she’s so young and yet she’s managed to find a really unique niche that has the potential to break outside of Australia in a heartbeat. Even though she’s beyond her years in terms of talent, Sunglasses sounds young and cool. She sounds bored in the same way that 16 year-old you got bored of your neighbourhood friends. Still, she’s managed to turn that into something really interesting kind of like rap/electronic music’s answer to Courtney Barnett. 4

Bianca: I don't understand how someone can be so cool at such a young age. If I was given the opportunity to create my own music at 16 I think I would have sung/rapped badly about subject matters such as Sass & Bide jeans or my first Smirnoff Black. My uncool youth aside, Mallrat really pulls off this track purely with her attitude and rhythm. The production is simple but I don't think it needs to be too over-complicated in this circumstance. Perhaps a bit more of what we hear in the verses and a bit less repetition would have really made Sunglasses shine. 

Now time for your vote:
[poll id="64"]

10Songs_14Aug

10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Lana Del Rey, FKA twigs, Disclosure And More

10Songs_14Aug

After a few quiet weeks it feels like this week has been jam-packed with new music. We got a new FKA twigs EP, a new Lana Del Rey song and an unexpected Joanna Newsom album announce. We probably could've done 30 songs you need to hear this week but we know you're busy people and so we won't take up too much of your time. Here is a much more concise 10 songs that you must hear.

Tirzah
Make It Up

Lorde and Fourtet love London artist Tirzah and that means so must the world. This latest single has been floating around for a while now but it's only officially just been dropped on British label Greco-Roman's Soundcloud. Produced by Micachu, Make It Up is a muted pop song with mumbling bass but crystal clear vocals. It's an understated banger but after a few plays it really starts to sink under your skin.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/greco-roman/tirzah-make-it-up[/soundcloud]

Lana Del Rey
High By The Beach

It's hard to believe this has only been out for a week. High By The Beach already feels like Lana Del Rey's best song to date and by the looks of it, it's also going to be her highest charting - it's held the number one position on the US iTunes for much of the week. The video revealed today is everything you'd imagine it should be. It's melancholic, dramatic and hyperbolic. You don't really see her getting high by the beach but she is by the beach and she shoots down a helicopter with one hell of a gun so we'll take that as good enough.

CHVRCHES
Never Ending Circles

Glasgow trio CHVRCHES are well and truly back into the swing of things. They have announced their second album Every Open Eye, given us the first single Leave A Trace and now we have the second taster Never Ending Circles. With it's sprawling synths and thudding bass, the track is probably a little more accessible than Leave A Trace. That's not to say they give us a huge chorus here. Like many a CHVRCHES songs they cruise into the chorus and use the instrumentation to really swell the emotion and build climaxes - not pop hook.

Disclosure
Willing & Able (Feat. Kwabs)

After spending so long without Disclosure it feels like the new tracks are starting to flood in. Willing & Able featuring British soul singer Kwabs is the fifth track we've heard from Caracal and quite honestly, it's probably the best. Kwabs' voice is perfect for Disclosure's deep house soundscapes and he brings the soul with a little more depth than Sam Smith does on previous single Omen. There are still plenty of feature to look forward too though with The Weeknd, Lorde and Miguel all set to appear on the album.

Reece
Don't Go

Reece is an 18 year-old singer from Virginia who struck us earlier this week with this brilliant track Don't Go. With so much stuff flooding Soundclpoud everyday, it's often hard to stop upon something for more than a few seconds but Don't Go is a song that immediately demands your attention. It's the falsetto that hits you first and then those weighty beats that he sits back in so beautifully. Then by the time the chorus hits you're already searching for more information about him. It's an exceptional mid-tempo banger and given his young age, he'll probably deliver plenty more of these in his time.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/officialreece/dont-go-prod-jumpa[/soundcloud]

FKA twigs
In Time

When you've woken up for the past month hoping to see a new Frank Ocean album it's good to wake up and see something that's equally exciting. FKA twigs' new EP M3LL155X is exactly that. Both because it's new twigs and because it's utterly arresting. In Time is the highlight of the five-song set. It's a distorted, twisted track that manages to weave in both pop and R&B melodies making us think we've got a grasp on it before taking us on another detour. Her voice sounds fragile and the lyrics have this beautiful dark optimism to them - if there's such thing.

Slum Sociable
All Night

Melbourne duo Slum Sociable make it two-from-two with the release of their latest track All NightAnyway released earlier this year is still one of the better Aussie tracks this year and now they've delivered another surefire winner. It's a bluesy hip-hop flavoured track with a hook that grabs you in the first second of the song. The production feels polished yet organic and the samples are old school without sounding gimmicky. We just have so much hope for these guys now - a big one to watch for the rest of the year.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/slumsociable/all-night[/soundcloud]

Mallrat
Suicide Blonde

It's stuff like this that makes us tick. Mallrat is a sixteen year-old rapper/singer/ridiculously talented citizen of Brisbane and Suicide Blonde is her debut. It was produced by Adelaide's Tigerilla and sits somewhere between US rapper Kitty and Australia's very own Allday. She manages to carefully tread a line between hip-hop and pop, serving up some thumping bass - the type that Robyn makes sure all her tracks don't go without. It's quite frankly ridiculous to think how young she is but so exciting to think of future possibilities. Also, sorry we're late on this one - not exactly sure how this gem passed us by.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/lilmallrat/suicide-blonde-prod-tigerilla-1[/soundcloud]

Ginger & Drum
Habits

Sydney duo Ginger & Drum really caught our attention with the shimmering electro-pop song Ticking Boxes and they have us pricking our ears up once again for their latest Habits. They have this knack of easing you in slowly with the verse and then hitting you with a chorus that makes your heart bleed. The melodic undertones on the chorus of Habits are just ridiculously delicious and that's not even mentioning the vocal which also gets us right here <3. They're playing a few free shows in the next few weeks that if you have half a brain you'll be at before someone plucks them out of this country and spits them overseas. Head to their Facebook for deets.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/gingeranddrum/habit-2[/soundcloud]

Joanna Newsom
Sapokanikan

It's been five years since Joanna Newsom's triple-disc masterpiece Have One On Me but you can't blame her for taking a little while with the follow-up because greatness simply doesn't happen overnight. Sapokanikan is the first taste of the forthcoming Divers (out 23rd October) and it's a delightfully perky number with a marching-band tempo that reminds us a little of Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel. That is, of course, a great thing and we find ourselves smitten once again by Newsom's grace and delicate expertise.

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