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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. 

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FI_10Nov

First Impressions: Coldplay, Craig David, Rustie 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 Coldplay, Craig David, Rustie, Ty Dolla $ign and more. 

Craig David x Big Narstie
When The Bassline Drops 

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/craigdavidofficial/craig-david-x-big-narstie-when-the-bassline-drops[/soundcloud]

Jack Cain: What do you get when you take something like what Disclosure have been trying to copy for ages and mix it with an actual artist from the era of what Disclosure were trying to copy (I’m referring to Artful Dodger)? You get this track, which has been absolutely nailed by a fairly unknown producer known as White n3rd, enlisting the RnB superstar Craig David who is just filling everyone in that in 2015 he is still relevant, still on point and still chilling on Sundays. There’s no way anyone will be walking away from this tune when it gets played in the club. 4.5 

Alistair Rhodes: I’ve never actually liked Craig David ever but he has come bouncing right off the blocks with this song. It’s dance, RnB and Grime, mixed all into one song. Grime is seriously the flavour of the month at the moment, spreading out across the world from England where it’s going through a massive resurgence. 4

Sam Murphy: Ayo! Craig David is back and is going about it exactly the right way. Pairing Where Are U Now with Fill Me In was a genius move as it married nostalgia with something that’s current and he’s done it again here on this track. It capitalises on the whole garage rejuvenation that’s happened this year thanks to the grime movement and it’s also classic CG. It’s catchy, melodic and energetic but best of all it doesn’t make him sound like an old fart. 4

Santigold
Can’t Get Enough Of Myself

[soundcloud width+”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/santigold/cant-get-enough-of-myself-feat-bc[/soundcloud]

Jack: I am a big Santigold fan, although I’m not a big Can’t Get Enough Of Myself fan. Maybe it’s because of all the other music I have been listening to lately but this just sits in a place I don’t want to. It reminds me of The Jackson 5 but it’s like a song that wouldn’t have ever made it to the public’s ears, and I think that just says it all.  The song seems confused; I don’t know what it is, where it came from, or where it is going. I feel like Macklemore would have more luck getting me to like this song because at least I’d be expecting it from him. The bridge is my favourite part, and I wish it was the chorus. In saying that, songs like this tend to grow on me. While this is my first impression I may be swayed further down the track.

Alistair: I’ve also been a massive massive fan of Santigold but what the hell is this rubbish. I Can’t Get Enough Of Myself has taken a huge turn in another direction from her usual songs. The hook is really repetitive and quite annoying to be honest. 1.5

Sam: Santi is back and going about it the right way in my opinion. This is one of her lightest, sunshine-soaked tracks to date and the melody just hits you immediately. I love the way she navigates the slightly off-kilter beat and then ramps things up for the chorus. I can’t get enough of Santigold frankly. 4

Ty Dolla $ign
LA (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Brandy, James Fauntleroy)
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tydollasign/stream-la[/soundcloud]

Jack: I really enjoy this. It’s so good to hear some hip-hop that isn’t smashing your ear drum with a rolling snare, kick drum combo. But rather this song is layered with beautiful strings, piano, and soul. Kendrick Lamar brings to the table his lyrical wisdom and truthfulness as he ever so reliably does. This song is the one you roll a blunt to just before sex.

Alistair: This would have to be the first song that I’ve heard from Ty Dolla $ign. For the first couple of verses I was  really starting to wonder where the song was going to go, then Kendrick Lamar stepped up to the mic and really gave it that explosion of energy that was needed. Without Kendrick I personally think this song has nothing and just meanders along. 3

Sam: I couldn’t hold it together when I saw Kendrick, Ty and bloody Brandy, of all people, on a track together. The last really obvious LA anthem was courtesy of Katy Perry and the city of angels deserves better than that. Cue LA. The track is as smooth as any hip-hop track I’ve heard this year with flawless harmonies and an A+ verse from Kendrick. It brings together so many facets of the hip-hip world of yesterday and today and it just works. Absolutely love it. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Rustie
Peace Upzzzz

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/rustie/peace-upzzz[/soundcloud]

Jack: do like Rustie, always have. But how long does Rustie get to be Rustie before we are all bored of the same synths and sounds, squeaks and drum patterns? This wondrous thought of mine extends also to the likes of Flume or anyone who is just going back to their biggest hits and re-sampling the same sounds. With all that aside, I do enjoy this. It’s ambitious and experimental, though it builds for me for way longer than it needs to, considering the end result is somewhat anti-climactic. I think it could be a stepping stone away from the ultra thizz sounds of 2012. 3.5 

Alistair: I’m really liking the sound of Rustie’s latest album, EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE and Peace Upzzz is indicative of that. Yes, it’s weird and a bit odd, but you can really lose yourself to it…especially when that bass drops. 

Sam: In one way I agree with the point about this being classic Rustie once again but I think that’s only at the end. The idea of starting really minimalistic and then only hitting hard right at the end os something really new for Rustie. It feels a lot less glossy than the last album and totally bereft of label influences. This is the music Rustie genuinely wants to be making and it sounds exciting. Big upzzzz from me. 4

Ecca Vandal
End Of Time

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/dewprocess/ecca-vandal-end-of-time[/soundcloud]

Jack: I saw Ecca Vandal live once and I really couldn’t get what was going on. I do remember noting that the music production was top class, that the ideas in place where good ones and I can happily say that “end of time” for me is the definition of nailing those two things firmly into place. I now know to expect huge things from Ecca; her voice is insane, her sound is mature, despite her young age, and clearly the team behind her know what they are doing. End Of Time/Ecca is Australia’s answer to MIA. Now i’m just waiting for her to take down Malcolm Turnbull in a political stage rant.

Alistair: What more do you want in a song…You’ve got a dirty heavy bass-line with a powerful voice that can reach notes that most singers can’t. I love this song. The production on this song is top notch. 4.5 Alistair’s pick 

Sam: To be honest I haven’t really understood the hype surrounding Ecca Vandal before. And that’s probably because I haven’t given her enough of my time. I actually heard this on the radio for the first time and immediately pricked up before I knew who it was. Now I feel I’m willing to give a little more time to Ecca. This is a killer tune. It’s dark and haunting but also really melodic and accessible. Her personality comes through stronger than most new artist and makes me really want to love her. Really great. 4

Coldplay
Adventure Of A Lifetime

Jack: Do I like Coldplay? Yes. Do I have great memories at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre during their Viva La Vida tour with paper butterflies falling upon my head during Lovers In Japan? Of course I do. Is Adventure Of a Lifetime a refreshing step-up and away from anything they’ve done in the past two years? Fucking oath. And yet they still sound exactly how I remember them. Chris Martin has always had the ability to make the most complicated parts of life seem like simple sentences in his songs. The guitar riff makes them sound like an emerging indie band, and I think from a bunch of middle-aged men, some youthfulness is quite nice. 5 Jack’s Pick

Alistair: I can’t say I’m usually a Coldplay fan but Adventure Of A Lifetime had me moving in my seat. It’s got a powerful rhythm to it and great singing. We know these lads can write music and perform it like none other and the same goes for their production. Think I’ll put this on my iTunes to purchase list. 

Sam: There’s something about this song that makes me feel sick in the stomach. I’m not sure if it’s the tacky cover or the over-glossy production or the chorus that doesn’t really go anywhere or the corny lyrics or…you get the point. I don’t use this word often when talking about music but I think this song is lazy so I will say that it’s just shit. Coldplay produced by Stargate should never happen. It’s not even an arena tune. It’s one made for pop radio and it just lacks any human emotion. 0.5

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