First Impressions: Sia, Santigold, SOPHIE 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 Sia, Santigold, SOPHIE, Stormzy, Aura and Mallrat.


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 

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 

New Thing

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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


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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. 


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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? 


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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:
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Hear Sia's Stirring Cover Of 'California Dreamin'

Image: Interview Magazine

Sia is becoming a veteran of movie soundtracks. She's done Twilight, The Hunger Games, Annie and now she's adding San Andreas to that list. For the upcoming disaster thriller, the Aussie songstress as done a rather rousing cover of The Mamas And Papas' California Dreamin'. It's a hard task taking on one of the most iconic melodies of all time but Sia does it with respect while still adding her own flare. There's a bit of vocal experimentation, some hard-crunching percussion and swelling strings.

It's good, but lets have the new album soon please. Or at least a new Rihanna single written by Sia.


First Impressions: Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer + 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 Sia, Crystal Castles, Major Lazer, BenZel + more.

Giorgio Moroder/Sia
Deja Vu

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Sam: It really is hard to dislike this song. It’s probably the most out-and-out disco track to come out since Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers decided it was time disco was resurrected. Sia’s voice soars and really makes the track but I can’t help but feel that it sounds like a bit of an ABBA b-side. That orchestral melody is super daggy and the chorus really falls flat after a huge bridge. It is what it is I suppose. 2.5

Meshell: I saw Giorgio last year in a small Q&A he held as a part of Vivid Live, where he proceeded to win over the audience with his charm and brilliance. So please forgive my bias in advance…This song is would have gotten my tick of approval even without Sia, but with her- it goes from fun disco track to melodic wonderland. There’s a bit of a Never Ending Story vibe hiding in there behind the Nile Rogers-esque guitar and topped off with a sprinkling of Sia’s own brand of cool. 3

Bianca: This is all a bit of fun, isn’t it? It seems like something found on a wedding DJ’s playlist, somewhere in between the bouquet toss and the Chicken Dance. Which, after a substantial amount of glasses of free champagne, can make you perform a certain type of dancing you’d prefer to not remember the following day. 2.5


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 Sam: I actually stumbled upon this last week and was immediately drawn to it. It’s very rare that you hear a new artist for the first time and want to know who they are and if there’s more. The instrumental of this is so strong that it could’ve worked as a track on its own but the vocal also elevates it to another level. FOXTROTT is clearly quite a dark, brooding character but there’s an airiness to this (in the synths) that makes it much easier to listen to than your usual indie-artist-does-dark-thing. Throughout she builds on a simple drum loop, expanding it in the centre for an early climax. It’s well-thought out, smoothly-produced stuff. 4

 Meshell: I’ve never heard of FOXTROTT before and all I can think is, what a great drum line. The synths are a little pre-programmed for my liking but it’s easy enough to just focus on her smooth vocals and the underlying pulse. The song starts incredibly strong but I must admit it does die off a little towards the end. My overall thought is that FOXTROTT is on the cusp of great things. I’d be interested to hear what comes next. 3

Bianca: The moment the tribal-esque drums made an appearance, I was in. The sugar-sweet synths and strong vocals made Driven a strong contender in the Soundcloud-scape. By the time halfway arrived, however, I found myself becoming a bit bored. I was looking for an introduction of a bit more bass or instrumental work but, no dice. And just like when a relationship turns sour, the things I liked in the beginning started to turn into the things that annoyed me the most (that sounded much harsher than intended). 3

Hudson Mohawke

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Sam: Very First Breath was good but this is just so much better. It moves right away from that heavy-bass, TNGHT aesthetic and sees HudMo take on something a little softer and more euphoric. The vintage vocal sample is a choice move but it’s the way that it expands into this crushing, percussion-driven climax that makes it so glorious. This is the kind of song he should end every set on for the rest of his life. It sounds like a victory lap. He knows that. We all know it. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: My co-worker just walked past and said, “Woah…can you send me this? This is fucking cool”. You’re right Joe, this IS fucking cool. I can’t even describe why I love this…I just do. I love everything about it. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Bianca: Flashback to Kanye West’s Graduation days. Vintage record-sounding tracks are a dime a dozen but Mohawke’s unique application gives a refreshing, grungy spin to what already sounds like a classic. All it needs is a bit of West to take these Ryderz into the sunset. 4 Bianca's Pick 

Crystal Castles

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Sam: For me Crystal Castles never managed to capture the energy they expelled on stage within a record - and even then the live show was all about Alice. This basically sounds like Ethan Kath is trying to make something beneath the rubble of Crystal Castle’s own collapse. I don’t know what to say about this really. I guess it’s sad that he’s been left to pick up the pieces but maybe it’s time to move on. 1.5

Meshell: I am just so happy to hear Crystal Castles are soldiering on after losing Alice Glass. I can’t imagine a live show without her though as Ethan Kath was always a little bit boring…Production wise however, he is killing it as usual. With this new offering he has just waltzed back into the dark electronica scene and shouted, “Listen up fives, a ten is speaking”.  4 

Bianca: If I wasn’t aware the Alice Glass had left Crystal Castles I would still be none the wiser after listening to this. This sounds like business as usual for CC...foreboding and glitchy, Frail cuts like Glass, despite the latter’s departure from the duo. I enjoy this track but perhaps Kath should’ve taken the opportunity to try something new and not try to resuscitate what he once had. 3

Major Lazer
Night Riders

Sam: I do genuinely like Diplo and what he’s trying to do and has done for dance music but I’ve never known a project to be more hit and miss than Major Lazer. Interestingly for a band that focusses mostly around bassy, brassy tunes, their finest moments have always been the more subtle ones (Get Free, Lean On). This is the first time I’ve heard Major Lazer take on a more traditional rap aesthetic and it really doesn’t feel like them. There’s a lot of Diplo in here but not a lot of Major Lazer. As a hip-hop track it’s good. The hook is strong but apart from that there’s really not a lot to get excited about here. 3

Meshell: Does Diplo sleep? Is he actually a robot? I’m trying to figure out how he is working on so much new music whilst touring AND keeping me occupied with selfies on instagram…What’s his secret?!In all seriousness though, this track is exactly my type of party jam. It’s got that dirty electronic sound going on, blended with Trap & Ragga and it’s all types of badass…I imagine Rihanna dropping low to this with a blunt in hand. 4.5

Bianca: As I’m sitting, staring outside at the most horrible, windy and rainy day, this song comes along and reminds me that it’s my least favourite day of the week (Tuesday) and that I’m not in the US anymore...which are depressing thoughts in their own rights. It’s a hot and heavy hip-hop track which, right now in my current state, is acting like a warm hug. The chorus is simplistic in melody but the medley of artists swapping lyrics on the verses give it some much-needed spice. 3.5

Stuck On You ft. Tory Lanez

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Sam: This is super smooth. It’s probably the most successful thing BenZel have done since they produced Jessie Ware’s Tough Love. The vocals of Tory Lanez are perfectly complemented by this all-encompassing yet spacious backdrop that detours into trap-inspired territory. The rap shakes things up a bit too. 3.5

Meshell: It may be because I listened to this directly after the production genius of Major Lazer but I find the production and instrumentation to be a bit cheesy and lacking. The vocals however are absolutely stunning, what a beautiful honey-toned voice. Trap love songs are my new favourite type of love song so I’ll ignore the mix for now and say that this tune is worth a play…or five. 4 

Bianca: Stuck On You is a smooth as hell RnB track, modernised by elements of glitchy electronica and trap. BenZel and Tory manage to make this track smooth without being sleazy. 3.5 

Now time for your vote: 

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If you feel the need to abuse us for our opinions, you can reach some of this week’s writers below:

Content Director: Sam
Managing Director: Bianca


10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Sia, Vic Mensa, Kanye West + More


Stepping out of the haze of the Coachella weekend and back into the new music world, here are 10 songs that you need to wrap your ears around this week.

Samantha Urbani

Samantha Urbani was the lead-vocalist of uber cool Brooklyn band Friends who broke out with I'm His Girl back in 2011. It seems now though she's stepping out on her own with the assistance of her boyfriend and our favourite producer Dev Hynes. 1 2 3 4 is her first audible endeavour as a solo artist and was apparently half-recorded on a train which is both impressive and confusing. Its sound is a little cleaner than the scuzzy vibes of Friends but it's still melodically tight and buoyed by an impressively strong chorus. Dev's influence is all over it which is a ok with us, as per usual.

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Let's Get Slow (Feat. Benjamin Diamond)

When you go by the moniker of Aeroplane you better be serving up euphoric, head-in-the-clouds type music and that's exactly what this Italian-Belgian producer does. Aeroplane has done remixes of everyone from Charli XCX to Justin Timberlake but he's also fully-capable of crafting his own tracks of smooth, melodic electronic music. Let's Get Slow features the vocals of Stardust's Benjamin Diamond (remember this?) who helps bring equal parts of funk and sensuality. "Let's get together baby, let's get high," is exactly the kind of lyric the dancefloor needs.

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Made In Heights

Made In Heights have trickled out brilliant tracks for the better part of two years now with never any word of an album. Now though it seems we are finally going to get that LP with their new track Forgiveness coming with word that an album is set to drop on 26th May. The US duos latest track has us swooning once more with a percussion-driven hook bookended by swelling synths and fragile vocals. They nail the rarely-trodden genre of subtle pop music and we can't wait to see what else they have on their album.

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Empress Of
Water Water

Empress Of made a name for herself in 2013 with a brilliant run of tracks starting with Don't Tell Me but since then she's been pretty quiet. That's because she's been working on a debut album set to be released via Terrible Records and XL Records. XL usually don't waste their time with artists unless their pretty damn sure about them (Adele, Shamir, FKA Twigs) so you can feel pretty confident about what Empress Of has been crafting. Our first taste is Water Water, a rushing synth-driven track which is darkened by the brooding vocals that teeter between Robyn and Zola Jesus. This has the potential to be one of the most captivating records of the year.

Stuck On You (Feat. Tory Lanez)

Two Inch Punch and Benny Blanco are in their own right brilliant producers so it's not surprise that together they've been churning out some pretty impressive stuff. Stuck On You is the latest track to come from the duo and it's the first BenZel track to feature a solo male vocal. Canadian rapper and singer Tory Lanez perfectly weaves through BenZel's smooth, spacey instrumental switching between his two crafts effortlessly. This tracks up for free download so grab it while you can.

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Hudson Mohawke

Incase you haven't heard HudMo is prepping the release of his debut album lantern which will be with us in June. First we heard Very First Breath and now we've been gifted Ryderz - a soulful, triumphant number centring around a sample of D.J. Rogers' Watch Out For The Riders. These type of songs are the ones that convert a set from being great to being mind-blowing. It's so grand that it manages to both tug at the heart and raise your hands to the air.

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Giorgio Moroder
Déjà Vu (Feat. Sia)

The reaction to Giorgio Moroder's collaboration with Kylie, Right Here, Right Now, was lukewarm but it's likely that this one with Sia will excite much more. Sia dons her disco diva alter-ego for Déjà Vu, the title track from Moroder's forthcoming LP. There's lush strings, funky guitar-riffs and a blue-light-disco-ready beat sitting below Sia's euphoric vocal. This is the funnest thing Sia has ever attached her name to and it might just have the same effect on people that Daft Punk's Get Lucky did two years ago.

Vic Mensa
U Mad (Feat. Kanye West)

If you're gonna drop a collaboration with Kanye West it's probably best you make a moment of it. That's exactly what Vic Mensa did with U Mad last weekend. He performed the song at Coachella to an elated crowd and then shot it out all over the internet. The track has Mr. West all over it both vocally and instrumentally. There's big horns, abrasive raps and a thudding beat. While Kanye is an undeniable presence, Mensa holds his own proving that he can kick it with the big kids. In fact his rap is probably more abrasive and attention-grabbing than Kanye's.

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Erik Hassle
No Words

We go crazy for a big pop tune over here at the interns and No Words by Swedish singer Erik Hassle ticks all the boxes. Despite making brilliant pop songs since 2008 Hassle is yet to have his huge commercial breakthrough as a solo artist. He wrote Shakira and Rihanna's Can't Remember To Forget You but it's about time he had some chart success with his own face lit up in lights. Surely this will do it. It sinks right into the ears effortlessly without being too in-your-face and compliments a happy-go-lucky instrumental with mournful vocals.

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Sinead Harnett
She Ain't No

You would have heard British songstress Sinead Harnett's name pop up a number of times over the last few years. She featured on Discolsure's Boiling and also was the vocalist on Ryan Hemsworth's Small + Lost. It seems, however, Harnett is done with paddling other people's boats as she's gearing up to really push her own solo career with the release of She Ain't No. Harnett's smokey voice is the perfect antidote for the industrial RnB beats. It's a slight step away from the dance world she's operated in as a featured vocalist which seems like the logical step to differentiate herself.

For your convenience, here are all/most of the songs together:


10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Florence + The Machine, Hot Chip, Kendrick Lamar + More


Sorry too busy listening to Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late to write an intro.

Kanye West - Wolves (Feat. Sia and Vic Mensa)

This one is only a recording from Kanye’s Adidas launch this morning but it’s an official video and the audio beats a lot of what was hanging around this morning. It’s third song we’ve heard from Kanye in as many months but it’s the first that doesn’t feature Paul McCartney and harks back to the stylings of Yeezus more than anything else. Sia and VIc Mensa are on the track too, delivering soulful verses over an industrial, brooding beat. It’s the first track on his new album which is still yet to be officially announced. Go to 8min29secs to hear the track.

Hot Chip - Huarache Lights

Hot Chip are back! It's been a big week for album announcements this week but this is definitely one of the biggest. The group plan to release their new album Why Make Sense? soon and the first single from it is Huarache Lights. It's perfectly melds together organic and electronic instrumentation as Hot Chip tracks so often do while also incorporating some Daft Punk-esque vocals. It's good to have them back.

Florence + The Machine - What Kind Of Man

Speaking of big album releases, they don't come much bigger than this. Florence + The Machine have dropped the details of their forthcoming record, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, and it's headed up by this corker of a single What Kind Of Man. It's more aggressive than anything we heard on her sophomore record Ceremonials, with Welch also pushing her vocal comfort zone. It's electric and makes us very excited for the album.

Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The Berry

Another big release (so many!) was Kendrick Lamar's The Blacker The Berry which follows his single i from last year. i won two Grammys this week but ironically it was one of his weaker songs. The Blacker The Berry is a return to form with Lamar in a much darker mode lamenting about racism in his signature aggressive tone. This is one of the most thoughtful hip-hop tracks we've heard in a while.

Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late

Drake just dropped a whole album called If You're Reading This It's Too Late while we were writing this. We haven't had a chance to listen to the whole thing so we're just going to place this one here and direct you to buy the album. This has been a huge week for music and this is an incredible way to end it. Most of us thought another Beyonce-like drop would be impossible but Drake has proved us wrong.

Chromatics - Just Like You

As if this day couldn't get any bigger, in the middle of the whole Drake saga Chromatics have dropped the first single, Just Like You, from their forthcoming album Dear Tommy. It's a melodramatic, dim-lit number with those signature drawling vocals. It's a sweet, reflective track that's a far cry from Kill For Love, which led the previous album.

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Snoh - Emotional

For a new artist getting RZA on board as a producer is not too shabby at all. The raspy Swedish singer's new track is called Emotional and it's a jazzed-up track full of passion and energy. It's perfectly produced and intricate enough to keep us discovering new textures. Snoh is definitely one to watch if not only for the fact that she's a Swede and they are perfect.

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Jimmy Napes - Making Of Me

Disclosure and Sam Smith collaborator Jimmy Napes is finally taking the spotlight with his solo project. His previous effort Give It Up was a little demure but Making Of Me heads straight for the dance floor. It sounds like it could've slotted nicely into Disclosure's debut Settle with its deep house baseline and soulful vocals. And we have no problem with that at all.

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Emile Haynie - Come Find Me (Feat. Lykke Li and Romy from the xx)

Producer Emile Haynie is gearing up to release his star-studded debut album We Fall at the end of this month. So far we've heard collaborations with Lana Del Rey, Dev Hynes and Charlotte Gainsbourg and now we have a track, Come Find Me, with Lykke Li and Romy from the xx. As you'd imagine it's a sombre affair given the choice of features but it's beautiful and stirring. It sounds more like an interlude than anything with Lykke Li barely singing more than 10 words but it makes us excited for the album nonetheless.

Jessie Ware- Champagne Kisses

This isn't a new song but goddam this video is just so good. Champagne Kisses is the fourth single to be lifted from Jessie Ware's wonderful Tough Love LP and as such it's been gifted with the video treatment. It's her most colourful video to date with director Christopher Sweeney creating an absurdist, weird and wonderful world for Ware. The whole thing is visually spectacular.