Frank's coming today so this list will be totally irrelevant in a few hours...
Frank's coming today so this list will be totally irrelevant in a few hours...
A song he calls "too personal to share".
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:
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 Robyn, Selena Gomez, Thundercat and more.
Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique
Love Is Free
Zanda: This is just dripping funkiness. The bass oozes out over a bunch of fun and funky samples and sound effects in a way that will make you want to boogie. Again, another track from Robyn that has a typical rawness about it, not that there’s anything missing from the production. The rhythms, bass and beat are just raw in such an organic way, it feels natural from start to finish. 4
Sam: Well this is one way to make people dance their sweaty arses off. Robyn has always made killer bangers. She had Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do and We Dance To The Beat and this is in the same kind of vein as that. It’s so dirty and commanding yet the production is so pure and clean. Robyn has literally not made one bad thing for a decade and this is no exception. 4.5 Sam's Pick
Zanda: This feels like it should be part of a Hollywood blockbuster in that mandatory scene where they go and do peyote or shrooms in the desert and one of them has a bad trip. My main gripe with this track lies in that it’s more than half over before that dope bassline kicks in. Up until this point there’s nothing that really makes it stand out for me, but in saying that the rap verse in the second half is, as they say; straight fire. 3
Sam: I don’t know if I’m fully on board with what Raury is doing yet. It’s kind of like Mumford & Sons cross Vic Mensa and that’s not really my thing. I do appreciate that he’s a passionate musician and he’s trying to do something different so props for that. In saying that, the latter half of this track is killer. His raps have this really organic darkness to them and he injects so much rhythm into the song in just those final seconds. More of that please. 3
face the sun (Feat. Lenny Kravitz)
Zanda: Miguel is about to be a much bigger name in the near future if he keeps writing stuff like this. Everything he does is just the definition of smooth, and this track really compliments his uber-smooth vocals with its up-beat, almost pop/rock style instrumentation. The intensity builds nicely throughout the track, however I get a bit of a murky vibe towards the end where if anything there are a few too many elements crammed on top of each other. 3
Sam: Cliche alert- Miguel could sing the phonebook and I’d be entertained. His voice is just a cut-above the rest and this kind of song allows it to shine unobtrusively. The Lenny Kravitz feature is pretty unnecessary but other than that it’s a blazer. It’s sensual and yet rough and raw. Miguel slowly builds and builds it until its soaring at the end. It’s not as modern or innovative as Kaleidoscope Dream but it’s the mark of an artist who’s discovered his voice's best pockets and is using them. 4
Good For You (Feat. A$AP Rocky)
Zanda: Selena Gomez’s voice is clearly heavily edited on this track, but I actually don’t mind it too much. The production is decent without being anything special, and A$AP Rocky is undeniable in his delivery as always. Definitely listenable. 2.5
Sam: Shit. I hadn’t heard this before now and I thought it would be a bit of a laugh to listen to but goddammit, I think I actually really like it. Gomez hasn’t done anything of significance in her career to this point, but this one actually makes a stamp on her artistry. Everything from her slightly twisted accent to her reluctance to explicitly create a climax shows that she’s actually trying to forge a career as an artist who’s capable of making interesting music. I’m so entranced by Gomez’s verses that by the time Rocky comes in, I’m unphased. Look, if liking a Selena Gomez track is the worst thing that happens to me this week it’s going to be an excellent week. 3.5
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/japanesewallpaper/arrival[/soundcloud]
Zanda: The first thing that comes to mind when listening to this is, ‘holy crap Dustin Tebbutt’s voice is epic on this’. The Aussie producer/singer is really killing it right now, and suits Japanese Wallpaper’s style of delicate melodic production perfectly. This track contains some glassy smooth melodies and the interplay between layers brings joy to my eargasm. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick
Sam: Japanese Wallpaper is absolutely creaming it at the moment. He’s reached that point where triple j worships the ground he stands on and tickets fly out the door like free candy. I’m not sure this really sets me alight with excitement but it’s definitely a sweet, nuanced listen. I had to go back and listen to where this sits on the EP to really understand it and in that context it shines. As a standalone though it wafts in and wafts out for me barely even leaving dust in its tracks. 3
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/brainfeeder/thundercat-them-changes[/soundcloud]
Zanda: There’s so much to like in this it’s hard to separate some of it. The interplay between synthetic sounds and organic instrumentation gives it a really real and raw feel, and I love the use of both piano and sax sporadically underneath the dominant guitars and bass. The vocals are complimentary to all of the above as well, allowing each aspect of the complex instrumentation to have its own space and shine on its own. 4
Sam: Thundercat is the go-to guy for funk right now. He was a winning inclusion on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and seems to have a new shot of career-momentum. Teaming up with Flying Lotus is a choice-move as the two operate in the same musical spectrum. It shows on Them Changes as it all seems so damn right. There’s so much of this funk stuff floating around at the moment and so much of it is imitation. The effortless vocal and floating bassline on this show that it’s the real deal - no imitation here. 4
Bitch, these are the 10 tracks that you should be all over this week with 100 percent less Madonna, Beyonce and Kanye. However, we would've been happy to have them on board if we knew how to get in contact with them :/
Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique
Love Is Free
We're always waiting on new Robyn material and we're yet to be disappointed by anything she's churned out. Her latest project is Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique and the first single is Love Is Free - a '90s house-inspired tune. Robyn half-raps the whole thing, in control and bringing the cool as always. It's a stylish track but it's also designed for those inclined to get down and dirty on the dance floor. The production may be clean but there's nothing clean about what will happen when this drops after midnight in a club.
Little Boots is killing it at the moment with her Ariel Rechtshaid-produced work from her upcoming Working Girl LP. It feels like she's finally found away to entertain her pop sensibilities while also bringing a point of difference and operating in the dance world. No Pressure is far less breezy than the first single Better In The Morning, sounding more closely aligned to the sublime pop on her debut Hands. There are twinkling synths, heavy beats and a pop-laden chorus. It's her biggest shot at a radio-pleaser in a long time.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/littleboots/no-pressure[/soundcloud]
Taken (Dugong Jr Remix)
Tashka's Taken was already a throwback RnB winner but now Melbourne producer and Moving Castle-affiliate Dugong Jr has turned those original vibes up even more. Dugong Jr has given the track a slight renovation, moving it into a dream-like realm where airy RnB vocals circulate the atmosphere. Now we're starting to hear Ciara and Aaliyah in Tashka's vocals, giving the tune a second life at the interns' office.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/dugongjr/tashka-taken-dugong-jr-remix[/soundcloud]
Little May are finally prepping the release of their debut album and Home is the first taste from that. They're one of Australia's finest exports at the moment, even managing to catch the attention of The National's Aaron Brooking Dessner who produced the single. It's a slightly more haunting style for the three girls who have generally traded in lighter folk music but it's a great direction to go in. The track was filmed in New York, offering up a few of the city's most iconic themes while the girls jam it out in a church.
There's been a little confusion surrounding this Aussie artist lately. She was previously known as Grace, however, there is now another Grace tearing up the charts with her cover of You Don't Own Me, meaning that the first Grace has had to add an R and a W to the beginning of her name to distinguish herself. Luckily, it hasn't affected her music at all as she's effortlessly followed up 2014's beautiful Pluto with Shell. Her smokey vocal sinks into a part organic, part electronic instrumental-arrangement. She sounds like an artist who's completely in charge of her artistic path and as such she sounds confident and in control on this track.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/rwgrace/shell[/soundcloud]
Future Classic have turned ten this year and while the label is known for Flume and Chet Faker, every week we're reminded of the wealth of other talent they have. Sydney producer Charles Murdoch is an example of one of those talents and he's getting ready to release his debut album this year. Straws is the first single from that LP and it's a heavenly slice of electronica that's both melancholic and uplifting. The track is bound by a hushed vocal sample which wanders around the delicate synths. Stick around for the subtle drop at the end - not much bass but plenty of bliss.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/charles-murdoch-straws[/soundcloud]
face the sun
We've had plenty of great album releases this year but Miguel's WildHeart looks set to rival them all. Coffee was a sure-fire winner and this week he dropped three other album tracks just to prove there's plenty more where that came from. The Lenny Kravitz featuring face the sun is the one that stood out to us the most. Despite its big-name feature the focus is completely on Miguel who blitzes his way through a sleek, electric guitar-driven track. "I belong to you," is the general notion of the song and Miguel uses those four words to lead the song straight into a full-force climax.
Atlanta rapper Raury is a hard one to work out. He's got this folk-side never explored before in hip-hop and then he's got a more traditional rap side. Somehow he brings the two together effortlessly and his latest Devil's Whisper is an example of that. It begins as a dark, spiritually-twisted track and then detours into strobing-synths and rapping. He's a damn good rapper and we have to admit we're keener on the second half of the song than the first, but the whole thing is killer.
Awful Records have released some of the year's more challenging electronic tracks but ABRA's output is perhaps their most accessible yet. She's just dropped a brilliant lo-fi RnB album Rose and with it launched a video for Roses. The track is bound by a sweet melody and bounces along with hollow beats which create a certain DIY charm. Sweet as the melody may be, ABRA's image is strong. "I'm young and I'll waste you away," she sings, suddenly making it very clear why she's dropping from Awful Records.
What Went Down
It's hard to believe this is the same band that released songs like Cassius and Two Steps, Twice. It's not that Foals are unrecognisable now, it's just that they have bolstered up their sound and puffed out their chests, evolving into a fully-fledged rock band. What Went Down, the title track from their forthcoming fourth LP is a foot-hard-on-the-accelerator type track with frontman Yannis Philippakis howling throughout. It feels anxious and chaotic yet in control. This is a band ready to become a festival headliner.
Atlanta singer/rapper/all-rounder Raury has had a pretty great 12 months. He released a hugely popular album Indigo Child, featured on SBTRKT's Higher and has just featured on Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment's Surf. He's finally released his own solo track Devil's Whisper sharing a similar name with his breakthrough hit God's Whisper. It also shares sonic similarities talking the same kind of folky undertones until he breaks out in the latter quarter of the song with an instrumental detail and a fire rap verse.
If you haven’t heard of Raury Tullis, a.k.a Raury, then get yo shit together, man.
His Sydney show at The Oxford Art Factory on Monday night opened with a great set from relative newcomers Milwaukee Banks. With the venue filling up fast, the Melbourne based duo were well received, delivering some pretty chilled out electro hip-hop vibes. The guys were awesome; vocalist Dyl was as good as the recordings, and had so much energy I couldn’t get a photo where he wasn’t blurry. Many of the punters weren’t familiar with the tracks, but there were some good comments going through the crowd, and Van Gogh, their collaboration with Andrei Eremin, was a definite stand out.
After a longer wait than was comfortable, Raury finally entered, engulfing the audience with a sonic onslaught, complete with rock star entry and Michael Jackson-inspired prancing. His hat and mic stand were used as a prop for some pretty dynamic moves. There were some sound issues, but Raury took it in his stride like a seasoned performer.
He then went into Higher, his track with SBTRKT, which was a big favourite with the crowd. The only drawback was that there was a backing track of the original song playing, with Raury rapping a harmony over his own vocals, and then running out of breath, leaving his backing track to pick the rap up.
Raury’s confidence and charisma belied his tender age, not failing to impress with a high-energy show while adoring fans looked up in awe to the stage, and leaped at the opportunity to touch the rising stars’ hand. Unfortunately the crowds’ energy didn’t match the performance, but this didn’t seem to dissuade the self proclaimed Indigo Child, who populated his set with motivational anecdotes between songs.
Things got a super preachy after Super Fly, with Raury encouraging his audience to follow their dreams, saying that money doesn’t make you happy. Cigarette Song was probably the most popular track, spurring on a hearty sing-along from the crowd.
Lost Souls saw Raury fronting the band with the acoustic guitar, with a spiritual atmosphere created by the audience waving lighters and iPhones along to the track. The show ended with God’s Whisper, with the song getting another play when the call for an encore was met, cumulating with a mighty water fight using water bottles supplied by the band.
Raury gave a wonderful, powerful show with the only drawback would be that there were not enough quiet moments interspersing the loud, majestic performance, leaving my ears fatigued by the end of the show.
With St Jerome's Laneway Festival just around the corner, the time has come for all you festival-goers to get up to scratch with the artists that will be on display. In order to connect with the youth of today, we thought we'd present some of the musicians in an easily-identifiable format. Swiping fingers at the ready...
Swipe right for conversation with Courtney.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/milk-records-2/pickles-from-the-jar-courtney[/soundcloud]
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/banksbanksbanks/banks-beggin-for-thread[/soundcloud]
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/capturedtracks/passing-out-pieces[/soundcloud]
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/partisan-records/nerve-endings[/soundcloud]
Swipe right for conversation with FKA twigs.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/st_vincent/digital-witness[/soundcloud]
Swipe right for conversation with Vic.
[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/fuck-vic-mensa/down-on-my-luck[/soundcloud]
Laneway Festival kicked off in Singapore and Auckland last weekend. For full lineup + tickets to the Australian shows, click here.
Saturday 31 January - Brisbane Showgrounds (16+)
Sunday 1 February - Sydney College Of The Arts SOLD OUT
Friday 6 February - Harts Mill, Port Adelaide (16+)
Saturday 7 February - Footscray Community Arts Centre And The River's Edge, Melbourne
Sunday 8 February - Esplanade Park and West End, Fremantle