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FirstImpressionz

First Impressions: ZAYN, All Saints, Charli XCX And More

FirstImpressionzFirst 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 ZAYN, Nao, Charli XCX, Baauer, Tokimonsta and All Saints.

ZAYN
It’s You

Zanda Wilson: If this song was a drink; it would be a non-alcoholic beer, but one that you expected to be alcoholic, and so therefore you are taking on maximum carbs at minimum efficiency. 2 out of 5 

Sam Murphy: I’m glad that we finally get to hear some of the Malay material from ZAYN and it’s definitely a different vibe to Pillowtalk. His voice is near-perfect and it’s great to hear some runs that we weren’t really able to hear on his 1D tracks but I can’t help but think he’s got more to give us. There’s gotta be some real gritty stuff on the album and that’s what I’m hanging out for. Also I can’t help but think this is a slowed-down version of 1D’s Gotta Be You. 3.5 out of 5 

Annie Cooper: I was excited to hear Zayn’s solo stuff initially, but between this and Pillowtalk I can’t help but feel really underwhelmed. I mean, at least with 1D there was that guilty pleasure aspect, but this track is kind of just nothing. His vocals are good and so is the production, but quite frankly I can’t remember what it even sounded like and the track stopped playing about two minutes ago. Hopefully his album will come bearing grittier tracks but I’m not getting my hopes up. 2 out of 5 

Jack Cain: Fuck off,  Zayn. 0 out of 5 

Meshell Webb: Nice to see Zayn being all grown up…leaving behind the childish realm of boybands and instead writing songs for the next Twilight film (they’re still making those…right?) 1 out of 5 

Average score: 1.7/5

Nao
Fool To Love

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/thisnao/nao-fool-to-love-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a spiced rum or whisky, think Sailor Jerrys or even Canadian Club Spiced. Smooth as hell but with a slight kick that you probably weren’t expecting. 4

Sam: Nao has nailed that funky-electronica aesthetic. It feels like she’s got the perfect toolkit and she’s sticking to it which means all her stuff is starting to sound really consistent. This is another knockout. It’s effortless but also sounds really modern and fresh. Her voice is interesting but not in your face and it doesn’t seem like she’s forcing anything. So natural and so bloody good.

Annie: This track grabbed me from the start, and it only got better as it progressed. Something about it is giving me early ’00s vibes, which I can’t get enough of- though it’s still undeniably very modern. Annie’s Pick

Jack: Another song like this, how fun. This song takes me back to 2013 when the first lot of producers started bringing this sound back. Not modern. Recycled. Kaytranada and Snakehips made this shit when no one cared. Still kinda cool, but yeah, not mind blowing. 3

Meshell: Will add to my cooking dinner playlist [I like to cook to sexy R&B…what of it?] but I’m with Jack when it comes to the production, it’s incredibly recycled. Luckily, it’s got some solid melodic content going on. 3.5 

Average score: 3.7/5

Charli XCX
Paradise (Feat. Hannah Diamond)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/vroomvroomrecordings/paradise-2min-edit-charli-xcx-4416[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a European Radler or American hard lemonade. You might be worried about it being overly sweet, but there’s some real substance there. Some may say that they’re not a fan of the style but you might surprise yourself by indulging. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: I’m going to be really biased because I love Charli XCX to death and that love only grows stronger with every batshit crazy thing she does. She’s literally just established herself as a mainstream popstar and then she goes and starts her own label and released sugar-high tunes like this just because she wants to make cool shit. It’s a shame commercial radio only accepts different shades of vanilla because this could be a runaway hit if given the chance. 4.5 Sam’s Pick 

Annie: I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Charli XCX, because this track and everything else she’s released as of late is killer. She’s come a long way since Boom Clap, and i’m very thankful for that. If her future releases follow in this direction, she’ll be making a big fan out of me. 4

Jack: Scooter called, they want their Logical Song back. What is this exactly? Sounds like a bunch of Minions shit into a sampler. 1.5 

Meshell: I would rather listen to the Donald Trump says China REMIX than ever have to listen to this all the way through ever again. 

Average score: 2.9/5 

Baauer
Kung Fu (Feat. Future and Pusha T)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/baauer/kungfu[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a decent-quality whisky or bourbon. Think perhaps Monkey’s Shoulder or Maker’s Mark. Something that should probably be enjoyed alone but you might find yourself occasionally adding it to a playlist and mixing coke with. 3.5

Sam: The way I know Baauer is doing a great job at the moment is because I literally forgot that Harlem Shake existed until it popped up on my feed the other day. He’s forged ahead with dope tunes and this is another one of them. Getting Future on the track at the peak of his career is a clever move and it also helps that he suits the Baauer sound down to the ground. Still, Future adds the melody here but it’s Pusha T who raises hell. 3.5 

Annie: Getting Future and Pusha T on this track only proves that Baauer is becoming a huge artist in his own right. With that said, I can’t really get into this track. It’s undeniably catchy and I could definitely hear this being played in clubs, but it’s just not for me. It feels incomplete, as though it was building to something that just never happened. 2.5 

Jack: Big swing, no ding. 

Meshell: Sorry to say that I’m ready to fall asleep right now…but getting Future on your track is a smart move, now every fuckwit in Adidas Superstars and a Thrills t-shirt is going to think you’re a trap god. 

Average score: 2.7/5

Tokimonsta
Giving Up (Feat. Johnny Pierce)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/giving-up-feat-jonny-pierce[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a long island iced tea. There are a whole lot of elements here that work together so well, but there’s nothing soft about what you’re drinking. Each part is just as important as what together they create. 4

Sam: At different points in my life I’ve wanted to be The Drums and Tokimonsta so this pairing is obviously right up my alley. The Drums were more of a circa 2010 thing for me but Tokimonsta is very much the sound of the future so she’s able to bring Johnny Pierce into 2016. This doesn’t hit as hard as the Anderson Paak-featuring Put It Down but it brings a haunting vibe that circles the ears nicely. 3.5 

Annie: The pairing of Tokimonsta and Johnny Pierce was a great one, their combined talents make this track one of Tokimonsta’s best so far. It’s pretty easy going, never reaching so far as to go over the top, but it really works. As a SoundCloud user stated, ‘this some magical shit’. 3.5

Jack: Hello, it’s me the guy who hates everything. I was wondering if you were all wondering if I’d end up liking something. This is it, this is great, fuck yes. A beat that kicks in and takes you tumbling through your head and into a dancefloor, vocals put in their place nicely and a thought-provoking arrangement. Its 2016, this is living, Barry. 4 Jack’s pick

Meshell: A GOOD SONG! A GOOD SONG! Good to know those are still getting made. This is a clever and unexpected pairing. The piano is gorgeous and the choice of instrumentation in the chorus is charming and everything I love about Tokimonsta. 4 Meshell’s pick 

Average score: 3.8/5 

All Saints
One Strike

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a smooth, dry white wine. Relatively inoffensive on the palate but not a whole lot else to back up the soft exterior taste. 2.5

Sam: For a group that really only have about three songs that I’ve circulated, it’s interesting that I still really care about All Saints. I think I’ll be forever paying them appreciation for adding a minute long monologue to the beginning of a pop song and that’s why I was really excited about them coming back. The best thing is, they’re not reuniting to join some ‘90s tour with 5ive and Bewitched, they’re actually making good tunes that sound like 2016 but also sound like All Saints. The harmonies are on point here, the vibe is Pure Shores and they don’t look a day past twenty.

Annie: I’m pretty sure the last song I heard from All Saints was on a Total Girl CD back when I was 9. I probably appreciated them more back then, this song isn’t really doing anything for me. Kudos to them for making a track that sounds more legitimate than a reprise of their old 90’s sound, but there’s still nothing too memorable here past the point of listening. 2.5 

Jack: I’ll “never ever” be listening to this again. 1

Meshell: I’m glaring at my computer screen cursing a certain somebody I know would have made sure this got a spot on the First Impressions list because it’s 2016 and there is no place for All Saints in my musical spectrum. Frankly I’m offended by the blatant attempt to rebrand as some sort of Haim rip off…and that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t even like Haim. 0.5 

Average score: 2.1/5 

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FI_23Nov

First Impressions: Adele, RÜFÜS, Childish Gambino And More

FI_23Nov

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 Adele, Tkay Maidza, TOKiMonsta, Childish Gambino and more. 

Adele
When We Were Young

Zanda Wilson: I’ve never been a huge fan of Adele, but this song is moody and captivating. The vocals in particular give the song all its strength and backbone. Apart from Adele’s vocals though, there isn’t much here that no session instrumentalist couldn’t do. I appreciate that she’s a fantastic artist and vocalist but I can’t see anything special here. 2.5

Sam Murphy: Adele and Tobias Jesso Jr. are just such a great pairing because they both write really honestly and also tap into nostalgia with ease. This is my personal favourite of 25 because it’s a ballad, like much of the album, but it’s so natural in the way it unfurls. There’s no obvious, stadium-ready chorus but there’s so much emotion and power behind what she’s singing. I love at the end when she sings, “I’m so mad about getting old it makes me reckless.” Getting old is bloody scary even in your mid-20s, I can’t imagine what it’s like when you’re doing it in front of the whole world and titling your albums accordingly. 4.5

Annie Cooper: Adele’s not someone I listen to on the regular, but with that said it’s undeniable that she’s one of the most powerful musicians right now. It’s kind of hard to review any song she makes, because even if she sung over the backing tracks to Watch Me Whip, her vocals would still overpower that bullshit. This track is a good example of that, her voice sets the mood and is 100% the focal point here, while the backing instrumentals are just okay for me. 3

Jack Cain: Recently I talked about a song that had in it what sounded like to me the choir of 10 prepubescent boys singing all at once. I forget what the song was called mostly because I didn’t care about it and hated it. In this wonderful Adele epic there is also a choir (it comes in at the 3.40 minute mark). And that people is how it’s fucking done. This is a hit, this is a song that when you’re a music producer standing in the mixing room, putting on the final touches, you know you’ve got yourself a ballad to rival some of the best (eg: Total Eclipse Of The Heart). It’s everything all Adele fans want and expect from their cherished international treasure. She is the biggest thing in music, with one of the best voices of all time. All of what I just said are the first things you think listening to this. If you look any deeper, you’re expecting too much. 4

Average Score: 3.5

RÜFÜS
Innerbloom

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/rufussounds/innerbloom[/soundcloud]

Zanda: A nine minute epic from these guys was definitely not what I was expecting, but dayum I’m glad they made this one. The start almost sounds like the introduction to something by Deadmau5, but once the rhythm comes in it’s RUFUS all over. The bass just oozes funk and as usual the vocals are echoey and mysterious. There is so much going on in the synth layer as well, and the percussive layers are also used in such a multitude of ways. Just fantastic stuff. 4

Sam: This one’s a difficult one for me. On one hand I applaud RUFUS for doing something ambitious and nutting it out for nine minutes but on the other hand it sounds like an extended version of everything else we’ve heard from them over the past few months. It’s definitely beautiful and sprawling but I can’t help but feel myself nodding off after about four minutes purely because of the fact they’re not giving us anything new. It’s a deep house beat with wistful vocals which has been done over and over. There are some really great parts in this but maybe I was just deterred by the run time. Almost like when you think you’re going to be in the RTA for 20 mins and you end up there for two hours for seemingly no reason other than they didn’t hurry the f**k up. 2.5

Annie: My first reaction after realising this song runs for 9 minutes was “I don’t have time for this shit”, but it wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated. It’s typical RUFUS with its mysterious vocals and superb bass lines, and I definitely enjoyed this more than anything else they’ve released lately. Full disclosure though, I did find myself skipping forward a few times. It’s a good track, the length just feels unnecessary. 2.5

Jack: I was sent this tune on promo the other day, I’m a huge fan of Sweat It Out (the record label) and I usually open everything I get and listen to it right there and then. This song’s been out for two or three days and I still haven’t listened to it. But here it is in this thread, so here goes.. lol brb.

Okay, so my fears have been confirmed. The intro kind of reminds me of the theme music to a really shit ’80s sci-fi movie. then da beat drops and the vocals come in. Honestly, I can’t even say anything else. Just holla at me when y’all write a different vocal melody for one of your songs. As for the rest of the song, it’s a musical yawn and it’s lazy. Can we please bring back The Presets and the Pnau’s (there is so a new album coming) of the world? 2

Average Score: 2.75

Tkay Maidza
Ghost

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tkaymaidza/ghost[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Tkay Maidza has played pretty much every festival in Australia this year, but that obviously hasn’t kept her out of the studio completely. This might be her best track to date, in no short part due to some incredible guest producers. I can hear quite a strong Baauer influence with the dark vibes and darker beats. Tkay’s rhymes are flawless and rhythmic, and the bass is absolutely banging.
4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: I’ve loved watching Tkay’s trajectory this year. From a massive Splendour In The Grass set to a sold-out national tour she’s just continued to grow her fanbase purely based on the fact she’s got a great stage presence and excellent songs to boot. Ghost is her first real big name collaboration but she still manages to come out as the main event atop George Maple, What So Not and Baauer. It’s one of the darkest things she’s ever done and perhaps also the heaviest. It forces her to annunciate more and bring a tougher flow which is great to hear. The hook is so strong and Maple’s coos in the background only add to that. 4

Annie: Tkay is one of my favourite artists of this year, and this could well be my favourite release from her thus far. Everything about this is just flawless, from the obvious Bauuer and What So Not influences, to her flawless vocals- I love this. Just envisioning this live gives me chills. If her next releases follow in this vein, I will be one happy girl. 4.5 Annie’s Pick 

Jack: It’s very well-produced and features a bunch of artists that are easy to love. Tkay has a killer flow, and it really just leaves me wondering how long until she takes over the world and is rapping on tracks with Dr Dre. I’m gonna give this a 5, because each person featured gets a 1 for their part, which is an automatic 4 and its easily the best song of the week. 5 Jack’s Pick 

Average Score: 4.5

TOKiMONSTA
Put It Down (Feat. Anderson .Paak and KRNE)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/put-it-down-feat-anderson-paak[/soundcloud]

Zanda: A well-produced track here, in that the production is seamless and smooth. However, that chord progression is interesting for about the first thirty seconds and after that it’s just annoying and repetitive. I definitely expected more from the drop as well. The rapping is monotonous and again, repetitive. The piano at the back-end redeems it somewhat but overall I’m not a huge fan. 2.5

Sam: TOKiMONSTA is probably one of my favourite producers of the last few years and Paak is a voice I’ve been raving about for the better part of this year so I’m suitably hyped to see them teaming up again. Paak’s vocal on this is perfect and that’s aided by TOKi and KRNE’s well-crafted chords but it’s the drop that I think steals the show on this. I love the melody injected into those really dense horn sounds. But then there are also the horns under Paak’s voice in the verse sounding excellent so maybe I’m going to retract my initial statement. Basically, I haven’t decided what I like most about it because I think the whole thing is next level. It’s one of the most accessible things TOKi has put out and I hope she gets her dues for it. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Jack: The drop really disappoints me and kind of makes me hate the song, I don’t know why songs with a bunch of vocalists need to be turned into some trap anthem. Other than that, this beat is pretty sick, and it is very nicely produced. Pakk kills it and I do agree with Sam, it’s the most wholesome and accessible thing TOKiMONSTA has done. I think it’s safe to say we will be hearing this song well into 2016. 3.5

Average Score: 3.5

Childish Gambino, Vince Staples
Waiting For My Moment

Zanda: An interesting use of horns and strings here, giving the whole thing a kind of orchestral feel to it. The sections with raps and vocals definitely provide more interest, and unfortunately for me there is just too much build up with these orchestral periods lasting minutes at a time. It’s also quite random in its structure, and although various elements fit together I feel like it’s a track that doesn’t know quite what it wants to be. 3

Sam: On paper, this sounds really good. Jhene Aiko, Vince Staples and Childish Gambino is a winning trio but it sounds lame and limp to be honest. “Fighting hard and stronger,” over horns and a choir is really predictable for a boxing movie. It sounds like it’s something Muse have had a hand in which is never a good thing if you’re not looking for something to soundtrack Cathy Freeman lighting the 2000 Olympic flame. Structurally the song is a dog’s breakfast too. Really disappointing. 2

Annie: I’m really confused about my feelings towards this song. Structurally, it’s quite random- I found myself loving some parts, and then feeling bewildered at it’s quick change into something else entirely. It’s orchestral feel (at some points) was a nice touch, but it doesn’t quite fit. It kind of just sounds like a mess, but I guess I didn’t mind it? 2

Jack: I feel like I’ve just watched The Lord Of The Rings simultaneously with The Sound Of Music whilst also watching 50 Cent’s Candy Shop intro on repeat, which leads to a Diamonds Are Forever-esque segue which leads to chants from Blood Diamond. Um yeah, I don’t know what this is. I kinda of like it in some parts. It’s clearly a hybrid score to the movie Creed (which is meant to be good). Hey, Gambino: if you wanna know how to rap in a movie watch Django Unchained. Now that’s a rap score. 1.5

Average Score: 2.125

KLOE
Touch

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/kloemusic/touch-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Very brooding and mysterious, and I’m loving the delay effect on the percussion. KLOE spends a lot of time on this track playing around with texture and melodic space, with various aspects EQ’d very deliberately in ways that make you listen really hard for the effect. It’s captivating, the vocals are gorgeous, and theres a lot in the accompanying layer to sink your teeth into. 4

Annie: This is one of those songs that grow on you as they progress, leaving you obsessed. KLOE’s vocals are gorgeous, and when layered with the percussion of this track- make for something really impeccable. I’ve never listened to KLOE before and after this song, I’m hooked. There’s so many aspects to this song that make it as delightful as this in, I’d recommend it to anyone. 4.5

Jack: I like this. Her voice reminds me of the ’90s. Gwen Stefani, is that you? 2015’s answer to 2005 Gwen Stefani is a good title. So Kloe, I give you that. Take it or leave it. Although, I’ll make a comparison to Hilary Duff. Don’t care what anyone says, Come Clean is a tune.

Average Score: 4.16 

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Best First Impression Of The Week?

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10Songs_21Aug

10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Lana Del Rey, DJ Dodger Stadium, ODESZA And More

10Songs_20Aug

It’s not easy to write and produce a song. Believe me if it were we’d be doing it and not writing about it. That’s why we should give these ten songs, the best of the week, our tender love and care. Listen to them, caress them, spend time with them. If you do that for seven days, we promise you next week we’ll bring you ten more and you can chuck the ones you hated from this week and move on. Sound good?

LUCIANBLOMKAMPF
From Afar

Melbourne’s LUCIANBLOMKAMPF only release his debut album Post-Nature this time last year and now he’s already smacking us with round two. From Afar is the first single from his forthcoming second album and it’s probably his most impressive output to date. It’s a track that just continues to flourish over its four minute duration, ending in a dense, affecting climax. He had a little chat with us following the release of the track to let us know a few things about it.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/lucianblomkamp/from-afar-2[/soundcloud]

Grace Mitchell
Jitter

Every so often there comes along a track like this that is just a certified banger and there’s not much else you can say about it. That’s exactly what Portland newcomer Grace Mitchell has delivered this week with Jitter. It premiered on Beats 1 Radio this week and her Raceday EP followed very soon after. The whole thing is excellent but start with this one and see how you go.

DJ Dodger Stadium
You Don’t Have To Be Alone

DJ Dodger Stadium, the collaboration between LA’s Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL, have followed up 2014’s Friend Of Mine with a brand new cut You Don’t Have To Be Alone. Following the same repetitive aesthetic that made their debut so mind-bending, the pair have also drawn on sunshine-coated house vibes. It’s definitely one of their lightest tunes to date and comes right on time for the end of Summer in the US.

ODESZA
Lights (Feat. Little Dragon)

ODESZA are gearing up to repackage 2014’s excellent In Return with a few instrumentals and new tracks including this one with Little Dragon titled Light. If you’re familiar with Little Dragon’s work on SBTRKT’s Wildfire (If not, you’ve been napping since 2011), you’d be aware that frontwoman Yukimi Nagano is a damn good dance vocalist and she proves it once again here with Light. It’s a little more blissful than Wildfire – a slow-burning jam that makes way for Nagano’s beautiful harmonies.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/odesza/light-feat-little-dragon[/soundcloud]

Gavin Turek
Surrender (Produced By TOKiMONSTA)

Earlier this year TOKiMONSTA told us that she was working on a record with newcomer Gavin Turek. “I want this record to lift her up as an artist on her own but it will definitely have the sort of aesthetic that we have together,” she said and listening to Surrender from that record it seems like she’s nailed the brief. It doesn’t sound like TOKiMONSTA’s solo work, instead it’s a blend of electronica and more funk/disco influences that seem to come from Turek. It’s a smooth record proving that these two are an unlikely but perfect combination. It’s taken from the mini-album You’re Invited out 28th August.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/young-art-records/surrender-1[/soundcloud]

HONNE
Loves The Jobs You Hate

Electro-pop duo HONNE are starting to gain some momentum and this week dropped Loves The Jobs You Hate from their forthcoming EP Over Lover out 2nd September. The track was debuted as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record In The World on Radio 1 meaning it’s some seriously good shit and we agree. It’s got a definite Chet Faker vibe to it but they have traded the electronica for the funk giving us more Nile Rodgers than Flume. It also has one of those choruses that effortlessly takes flight and gets under your skin immediately. Keep an eye on HONNE.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/hellohonne/loves-the-jobs-you-hate[/soundcloud]

Lana Del Rey
Terrence Loves You

Lana Del Rey revealed the tracklist to her forthcoming LP Honeymoon this week due out 18th September. She was then asked by paparazzi as she was exiting an airport which song was her favourite on the album. She actually responded and said this one, Terrence Loves You. Why? “Because it’s jazzy,” she says. And she’s not wrong. It’s a beautiful, sweeping, jazz-tinged number close to the title-track than High By The Beach. LDR just keeps getting better and it’s an excellent thing to watch unravelling.

Alessia Cara
Hotline Bling

Alessia Cara has only released one original and done a cover of Bad Blood and now Drake’s Hotline Bling and we’ve already decided she’s the best thing to happen to 2015. This latest cover she did for Channel V, once again turning raps into sung verses. Her voice has these rich, soulful undertones that means she can insert personality into even the shortest of notes. This track is a perfect match for her voice and she hits it out of the park. Her EP Four Pink Walls is out next Friday, 28th August.

Banoffee
With Her

If you’re like us you’ve been hanging out for Martha Brown AKA Banoffee‘s next move following 2014’s Got It and judging by her latest track With Her it was worth the wait. The song, which was co-produced by Oscar Key Sung, is taken off her forthcoming EP Do I Make You Nervous? out 2nd October. The track sees her channel some more deep-house influences melding them with R&B vibes (the tail-end of the track appropriates the lyrics of Mario’s Let Me Love You). It’s probably the first time we’ve got to call a Banoffee song a banger and we couldn’t be happier.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/banoffeeme/with-her-2[/soundcloud]

Habits
Ether

Habits are a Melbourne duo who have been working their way up the Aus music chain supporting the likes of Banoffee Oscar Key Sung and Black Vanilla. This track Ether is taken from their forthcoming EP Ugly Cry and it’s a twinkling yet industrial cut haunted by whispy vocals. There are pop cues in their but also a few R&B influences apparent. Best of all it sounds like not much else in the Aus music spectrum right now and that’s what interests you straight away.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/habits4ever/ether[/soundcloud]

fi_1sept

First Impressions: TOKiMONSTA, The Preatures, Eminem + more

fi_1sept

First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on first (or second) listen. Each week we each review six new songs from the week passed, each giving them a score out of five and awarding one our pick of the week.

TOKiMONSTA- Steal My Attention

Bianca: Awash with shimmering synths and layer upon layer of electronic goodness, TOKiMONSTA’s latest melancholic offering spins around and paces back and forth. She is apparently “going through some tough shit right now” and you can sense some kind of underlying sorrow in there. The marching drums and male chants really bring this one home for me. 4

Sam: I really dug TOKiMONSTA’s Realla and this one proves she’s on a bit of a roll right now. The high-pitched vocal sample just cuddles your ears along with the mellow synths. It may be a rehash of what’s doing the rounds right now stylistically but she does a damn good job of it. 3.5

Lizzie: The back beat really strikes straight to the heart. I love the squiggle horn beats – I know that only make sense to me but that’s how it sounds in my head. That, mixed with the high pitched-voice, is just gorgeous. 4 Lizzie’s really close second

Hannah: I’m a sucker for a great vocal sample and this is filled with them. I love the juxtaposition of the high-pitched Furby vocals layered with an almost ominous beat and deep house synth. It’s a perfect demonstration of how to maintain melodic integrity while citing some of those Japanese pop-culture influences we’re loving at the moment. 4 Hannah’s Pick

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/steal-my-attention-off-the-upcoming-desiderium-album[/soundcloud]

The Preatures- Somebody’s Talking

Bianca: Look, it’s not you, The Preatures, it’s me. You have so much to offer and will make someone very happy one day but I’m afraid that person’s not me. 2.5

Sam: The Preatures are going to be that band that I’m still listening to when I’m a Dad (heaven help us) and my kids will think it’s really dorky. They’ve got a certain quality of longevity to them and it feels as if they’ll go down as a classic Aussie band. Somebody’s Talking helps that legacy. It’s funky, effortlessly delectable and Manfredi, once again, is a growling, charismatic frontwoman. 4

Lizzie: Great tune. Great tune. It’s got the energy to get everyone up and dancing – coordinated or not. Sam I totally agree with you! I feel I’m going to be dragging my kids onto the dance floor at a wedding with this gem. 4 Lizzie’s Pick

Hannah: Yep, that sounds like The Preatures talking alright. 2

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/thepreatures/somebodys-talking[/soundcloud]

QT- Hey QT

Bianca: Admittedly, when I was first introduced to PC Music, I was not sold. So purposefully kitsch and jam-packed full of ‘90s cultural references in the most obvious of ways, I wasn’t about to be tricked into enjoying it. SOPHIE’s Lemonade made no sense whatsoever, neither lyrically nor structurally, while A.G.Cook’s Beautiful  just sounded like a song from Dance Dance Revolution. Now the two producers have teamed up and it seems that two wrongs have somehow made a right. Upon my very first listen to Hey QT when dropped in SOPHIE’s Boiler Room set, I was immediately addicted to the so-called “Energy Elixir” and everything PC Music-related started to make so much sense. Trapped in my head like a gummy earworm and played in excess as a result, I can’t get enough of the candy goodness and matter-of-fact lyrics, the latter being curiously on point with the line: “I’ve got this new song and it’s the only one I want to play.” Maybe I’ve been converted, or perhaps I’m just on a sugar high, but this track is like a delicious pick ‘n’ mix that just keeps on giving and giving. 4.75 Bianca’s Pick

Sam: I have personally been a fan of all releases by A.G. Cook and SOPHIE, seperately, but I admit that they aren’t the most objectively likeable songs. I knew, however, that they were only moments away from a breakaway hit that would suddenly see people come around to PC Music. Well, this is it. What needs to be said about this song that it doesn’t already say. “They played your new song, it’s like nothing I heard before”, sings the character in Hey QT and surely she is talking about this song. Its melody is impossibly irresistible, the beats sound like bursting bubblegum and it unlocks ‘90s nostalgia aplenty. Something new and yet something so familiar. Unequivocally brilliant. 5 Sam’s Pick

Lizzie: It sounds like I am about to break into a cheer-leading routine. A chipmunk cheer-leading routine. However, in saying that I did find myself joyfully bopping along to the chorus. This is a lot me palatable than the other PC songs I have been regrettably exposed to. 3

Hannah: In every great pursuit, there’s an initial phase of innovation brought on by a forward thinker’s desire to push the boundaries of the box ever onward. That is what PC Music has been about until now. Now, however, comes the phase where people begin to understand that innovation. When unique concepts, or in this case unique music, become attainable and more importantly accessible. This retains the PC Music we’ve come to know, but does it in a manner aimed straight at the jugular of popular appeal. 3

Eminem Feat. Sia- Guts Over Fear

Bianca: I feel I’ve heard this one before, although this time with a constant, reverberating siren distracting me from what’s going on. Probably for the best. Sia’s voice is perfect as usual but the chorus renders it into tired, mainstream territory. Maybe I’m just not angry enough to relate so the impact is lost on me. 2.5

Sam: More inspirational rapping from Eminem with quips about the media and what everybody says about him. It really does feel like more of the same with Sia delivering her second hook for Eminem. She sounds floaty and melancholic but nothing could save Em from dishing up this wet cloth of a song. Also Eminem in general, ugh. 2

Lizzie: When I heard Eminem and Sia, I set the expectation bar so high…and *sigh* what a disappointment. Eminem is on a comeback and Sia is at the top of her game, why is there no chemistry? 2

Hannah: Eminem says “I just want to play my part,” and that’s exactly what he’s doing here. Still running that old poor-little-white-boy-rapper act he’s become known for, only this time he’s doing it with Sia not Rhi Rhi. Eminem peaked with Superman. 2

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/igapromotion/eminem-guts-over-fear-feat-sia[/soundcloud]

Redihno- Get You Off My Mind

Bianca: Just a little bit too much funk in the trunk for my liking. 2

Sam: Redinho describes this song as having a “cheeky kinda optimism” to it and he’s right. The instrumentation is perky with bouncing beats and sunshine-filled synths. Brendan Reilly’s vocal harks back to ‘90s soul and does a perfect job of working up lustful butterflies. However, just like summer love it feels like this song could be forgotten once the sun weakens. 3

Lizzie: It’s very Disco Stu peppered with a bit of R&B cool. With the turn of the season, I think it a great tune to bring that little spring in the step! 3.5

Hannah: The first 30 seconds of this failed to captivate me so I didn’t listen to the rest. I don’t think I missed much. 2.5

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/nmbrs/redinho-get-you-off-my-mind[/soundcloud]

Kero Kero Bonito- Sick Beat

Bianca: I Shazamed this bad boy a couple of days ago so surely that’s a pretty definitive sign that it made a good first impression on me. The flurry of in-your-face nostalgic references and washes of synths and glitchy pops are enough to have me hooked. Surely trumps Taylor Swift’s ‘sick beat’, anyway. 3.5

Sam: This has the same kind of feel as Japanese producer Tofubeats. It oscillates between j-pop, indie-pop and electronica with a bubblegum instrumental alongside kawaii vocals. Like the perfect dessert, it never goes overboard with the sugar pulling the instrumentation right back at times leaving the lead-vocal spraying off, what sounds like, Japanese. Such a fan. 4

Lizzie: Of all the Japanese style songs I’ve heard (except Porter Robinson), this one actually sits ok with me. It’s definitely the chorus which grabs me and keeps me. How does one dance to this though? 3.5

Hannah: Oh no, it’s a Eurasian M.I.A. Make her stop.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/kerokerobonito/sick-beat[/soundcloud]

FI_21July2

First Impressions: Tkay Maidza, Perfume Genius, TOKiMONSTA + more

FI_21June

This week, dance-music reigns as we review a number of different takes on the genre from smooth RnB to EDM to PC Music. Enter the madness that is First Impressions below:

Tkay Maidza- U-Huh 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tkaymaidza[/soundcloud]

Bianca: U-Huh is a more than palatable pop song with some serious hip-hop influences. The hook is instantly infectious and I’m excited to see what else is to come from the Adelaide-born, PG-rated, Azaelia Banks Jnr. firecracker. Bianca’s Pick

Sam: This is a perfect example of when you let a great pop song eventuate under the most natural of circumstances. Every major label in Australia take note- this is how you craft a hit. It’s effortlessly melodic, full of personality and fun to boot. Tkay is surely bound for huge things. 4

Lizzie: I have been a Tkay fan for over a year now, I just think she is the shiz – not just because she is from Adelaide but she has this incredible universal appeal and at just 18 years old, her production skills are impressive. It’s not as punchy as Brontosaurus, but I feel this Summer-time nostalgia – similar to that, after listening to M.I.A‘s Paper Planes4

Hannah: Alright Lizzie, we get it. You’re from Adelaide, she’s from Adelaide, you can claim her. I agree though, Tkay Maidza is a much more bearable Australian answer to M.I.A. She raps across the beat with effortless attitude. It’s fun and instantly infectious. 4

Airhead- Believe

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thump/a1-believe?in=thump/sets/airhead-believe-ep[/soundcloud]

Bianca: The ping pong echoes put the club into the church, evoking visualisations of a Sunday sermon that offers a little less bread and a helluva lot more wine. The record crackling sample also adds a subtle, nostalgic touch. The TV beep effect, however, is a little less welcoming on my ears. 3.5

Sam: The industrial production of this one makes sure that the bass bangs you right into next Saturday. The production feels icy cold, yet the preaching vocal sample that runs under it is comfortably familiar. Some of these sounds just echo around my head, bouncing off dead space (and believe me, there is quite a lot of that). 3.5 

Lizzie: I can feel myself float away with this track. This song could be on repeat for hours and I would have no idea – it’s very much a song that just blends into the background. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just has its own special place in my iTunes library. 3

Hannah: The bass on this one is pure, paired-back house. Something you’d expect to find during the early hours of a Berlin warehouse rave or beneath a Jimmy Edgar track. Its intricate  and complex use of layered sampling keeps you interested, while the vocal pleads with you to believeee in the track just enough  to keep you pulsing right on through. 3.5

Steve Angello- Wasted Love (Feat. Dougy from Temper Trap)

Bianca: This song feels like it belongs in 2009 and I think my 19-year-old self would have loved it. Dougi Mandagy’s voice has a nice familiarity to it but, sadly, I ain’t 19 no more. 2.5

Sam: Dammit. Don’t get me wrong, this is more same, same EDM with barely anything to set it apart from the rest but I’m such a sucker for a crisp, pop hook. Dougy brings that in abundance but I’m so confused. I usually can’t stand the whiny aura of The Temper Trap but there is something somewhat euphoric about this. Also is this not Sky Full Of Stars p.2? DM me if you have answers. 2.5

Lizzie: This track is all about Dougy’s voice, and not about Steve Angello – his production here is subtle, and I think it works really well. It’s the perfect Summer tune; uplifting, all about love and just in time for the Tomorrowland after-movie soundtrack! 3.5

Hannah: This is just more of that tried and tested EDM formula circulating at the moment. Chiefly, hide the fact it’s yet another unbearable, stock standard EDM song, beneath some very cleverly placed, makes-you-want-to-sing-along vocals. Eh. 2.5

TOKiMONSTA- Realla (Feat. Anderson Paak)

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/realla-feat-anderson-paak[/soundcloud]

Bianca: Was it really necessary to spell ‘real’ the way it’s being pronounced? Ugh this track is way too smooth for my liking. 4 realz. 2

Sam: *Adds Anderson Paak to iPod* TokiMonsta kills the productions of this one with those jabbing, brass undertones but Anderson Paak, am I right? The man just murders it on this one flicking between drawn-out RnB vocals and singing rap-like verses. 4 Sam’s Pick

Lizzie: Please listen to this track with your eyes closed. It is the only way to truly appreciate the layered sounds and surround-sound experience this song creates – it’s spine-tingling. Then the horns come in, oh when the horns come in. I’m sold! 4 Lizzie’s Pick

Hannah: For Realla baby, this track hits you with an instantly welcomed Frank Ocean, Channel Orange nostalgia. That brass, that bass, that cascading vocal sample that falls between Paak’s third verse rap. Grind. Just grind. 4.5 Hannah’s Pick 

Bianca: Yeah, okay. I see how it is…

GFOTY- Don’t Wanna/Let’s Do It

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/dont-wanna-lets-do-it[/soundcloud]

Bianca: I really can’t seem to get into PC music. A kid pressing random buttons on a soundboard would produce better noise than this techy headache. 0

Sam: Unlike Bianca, I think PC Music is one of the most interesting and exciting things to happen in the last year or two. Like everything we’ve heard from the label, this is bonkers but it’s even more so than the others. The bipolar flick between I don’t wanna do it/Let’s do it is something I deal with on a daily basis. I have the same conflict with this song. I love it, I also hate it. I’m going to flick to I love it, purely because I keep going back to listen for more. There’s so much hidden melody in this, it’s just chopped up and displaced everywhere. Beautifully incoherent. 3.5

Lizzie: Please, I beg of you, tell me this is not music!? It sounds like a toy-store coming alive when everyone’s asleep. Wake me from this nightmare!! 0

Hannah: When an EDM queen dishes out a zero, you know the song’s clutching at straws. That said, this song has moments of rhythmic crescendo and almost satisfying bass, but ultimately it’s riding an escalator to nowhere. Is that the point of PC music? Who knows. I feel though in the hands of a remix master, that sample could have potential. 2

Perfume Genius- Queen

Bianca: Mike Hadreas is truly making a statement with his comeback track. The steady, marching beat sets the tone with more pomp than a high school graduation. His haunting vocals and synths are gloriously juxtaposed with the cheerful whistling instrument, giving Queen a slightly creepy quality. 3.5

Sam: I found Perfume Genius’ last album a little too introverted to completely get into but Queen is a different story. It’s so outwardly bold, that it feels like a different artists altogether. I would’ve liked a bit more of a climax in the final quarter but apart from that I’m captivated. Please sir, can I have some more? 3.5

Lizzie:  I took one whiff of this Perfume Genius and can’t say I am a fan of the broody and creepy vibe, it’s just not my style. While I can appreciate all the elements – the slow beat, variety of kooky instruments and echoing vocals – I just can help but feel a little sad after listening. It’s a Monday and I need a pick-me-up! 2.5

Hannah: If I was still the Hannah that listened to The Editors and Cold War Kids, I’d be right on board with this suburban angst track. As it is, the languid vocals over what feels like an incredibly lazy guitar-meet-drum-kit production just doesn’t do it for me. Why the dog barking sample? 2.5

lizzierose

Elizabeth Rose on New York, Lady Gaga comparisons and the new album

Kermit Cintron vs Walter Mathysse

At just 22, Australia’s own Elizabeth Rose is as audacious as they come. Making her headline debut in New York, she took to the stage at the Mercury Lounge, just down the road to the iconic Katz’s Deli. Unlike the mammoth pastrami sandwiches Katz’s is so famous for, Rose is a petite performer. Petite, however, is no description of her show.

Playing in front of a small but highly receptive crowd, Rose was a valiant performer. Working her way through songs from the EP, she had the crowd dancing in seconds. At just 2 EPs, it’s a testament to the young artist that she was able to hold the attention of a crowd largely unbeknownst to her music.

The triple hit of Sensibility, her cover of Rhythm of the Night and The Good Life, proved the strength of her back catalogue. The best part about watching her is it looks like she knows it too. She often moves away from her keyboard to face the crowd front-on and throws some dance moves Solange would be proud of.

While her stage demeanour is confident, off-stage Elizabeth Rose presents a different side. She’s softly-spoken and polite yet talks knowledgeably about modern RnB and the sound she’s channelling.

the interns sat down with Rose in a dodgy Mexican cafe in the Lower East Side just before her New York headline to chat Lady Gaga comparisons, YouTube comments and the impending album.

I saw that you were working with Sinden and TokiMonsta. How did those sessions go?

Elizabeth Rose: Yeah they went well. That was in LA last week. The session with TokiMonsta was really good. I met up with her last time. She recently did a remix for me for my single Sensibility. The session with Sinden went well as well. It’s still very early stages.

Is the album starting to take shape?

Yeah. I’ve written about 3/5 of it. I know what sound I want.

Are you finding its a different process from writing the two EPs?

Yeah definitely. It’s a lot more rushed, doing it all while the EPs still doing well. This time around I’m focussing on getting melody and chord progression down rather than worrying too much about details of production. It’s kind of helping- we get through the demos quicker. It’s hard because I usually do the instrumentation first- I do the whole song and then I do the bass-line and then I come back and write the melody and lyrics. But it’s been really refreshing to do it the other way.

Have you found after the good life did so well that you were surprised and thought, oh wow, now I have to get back to work?

Yeah it was really surprising. I was really shocked at how well received The Good Life was. Mostly from Triple J. They really supported it. It’s been great. Since that single everything’s just been gradually building.

How did you find the Australian tour last month?

Yeah the tour was really good. It sold out in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. I’ve never done that before so it’s really exciting. Now it’s this next phase where I think “ok I’ve gotta buckle down and put some hard work in for this album”.

Did you enjoy the response to your cover of Rhythm of the Night?

It was really cool. I was worried because so many people say the nastiest things on YouTube. If they don’t like it they’ll rip it apart. But yeah most of it has been positive. The only negative comment was that I need to get more sun.

Do you read most of those comments?

Yeah. I’m sensitive. But someone wrote as a reply to that person, “it’s called a studio tan you arsehole” [laughs]

How was the show in LA?

Yeah it was good. We had a few technical problems but the crowd was into it. People were calling out for me to play Sensibility which was really cool. I thought no one would know that song at the show but it was a really good turn-out. I’m looking forward to tonight [in New York].

Seeing you’re now in a huge music hub, What’s your classic New York song?

I’d say something by Frank Sinatra.

What sort of expectation do you have when you play a show overseas?

I think when I’m overseas that nobody will turn up. It’s starting all over again, you feel like you’re all the way back at the bottom but it’s good to be surprised.

Did it seem like the road of starting out in Australia to selling-out venues was slow or quick?

Yeah it was slow. Slow and gradual. I’m happy that it took time thought because a lot has happened over the last few years- experiencing playing a festival for the first time, releasing an EP for the first time. It felt like the right pace for me. I feel quite comfortable with the way everything’s panned out. If it was happening too quickly i think I’d be quite anxious about it.

How did recording and writing change between the two EPs?

It changed quite drastically. I was in a totally different headspace for my first EP. It wasn’t really me having a solid concept it was more “here’s a bunch of songs I wrote, I wanna release something, let’s do this”. That one sounds a lot different to the second one because I didn’t really put much thought into it. With the second EP, I had a sound and a concept for it, so it felt like this one had a stronger feel to it. But also my writing has developed as well. Constantly writing has really strengthened that muscle. I’ve found the sound that I like now.

What about the live shows, do you enjoy having more material to play with?

Yeah, I love playing gigs now. I’m going to try and start playing some new new stuff soon so I’m really excited about that. Hopefully when I get back maybe I’ll play some shows with new songs, maybe if I get them ready in time. It’s really exciting to play new stuff and go “what do you think of this?”

Is there anything that’s influenced the direction you’ve gone in with your new material?

Nothing really new. It’s a progression on from the EP where I’ve taken on a bit more RnB. I always am inspired by the music I’ve grown up to like Brandy and Missy Elliot and all those really cool RnB artists. That’s always going to stay with me. Recently, I’ve been listening to some more experimental electronic music, some minimal techno.

I’ve noticed FKA twigs as well. Are you trying to find your own niche inside the RnB genre?

Yeah. I’m not consciously striving for it. I don’t really try and write anything, it’s just what I would like to listen to. I don’t have a sound in mind that I want to make it sound like. It’s just if it sounds good to me in the studio, I’ll go with.

Have you had any songs that you love in the studio and then listen to it with a collection of others and think it doesn’t fit?

Yeah that happened recently with a demo I wrote. It kind of has more of that ’90s pop feel with melody. It reminds me of that song by Olive. I was like, “shit, I’ve written something that doesn’t fit”.

How was your last trip to America?

It was good. I played six shows. It was a bit rushed and hit n miss every show. The venues were just like one fold-back speaker. But I got good feedback from it. I did a club show at the end which was great. I feel like I fit a club scene rather than a live band venue. This time around it’s going to be different. That time was really to get the word out about my music and this time I have the single out and plenty of remixes have been done which helps spread the word.

Have you found that international blogs have helped you overseas?

Definitely. I can’t believe this little trail that you leave. The internet is weird.

Do you like releasing a song and seeing how it’s received and where it’s taken?

Yeah. The TokiMonsta remix of Sensibility actually helped a lot. It’s created a lot of hype.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/elizabethrose/sensibility-tokimonsta-remix[/soundcloud]

Do you ever read a review of somebody writing about your music that says it sounds like something that you disagree with?

Everybody compares everything to anything these days. Like Spotify says listen to this, if you like that. I’ve read things in the past where Lady Gaga was mentioned and I was like “I don’t think so, you were at the wrong show”.

Are you writing with any Australian producers for the album?

I’d like to and I have a lot of people I can think of but nothing’s locked down yet.

Do you have a release date in mind?

I don’t know yet. I’d say sometime next year.

Do you have any writing sessions set for London?

Yeah. I’m trying to get in contact with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

What’s the thought process behind choosing to go overseas?

I don’t feel like this year would be appropriate to move overseas but I’ve already started to think about next year. You can only do so much in Australia. After coming back from America last year, to see how big the market is and how many radio stations there are, it’s just so much bigger. I’m sure in Europe I’ll find that too. You’ve got to go where the music is buzzing, you can’t stay at home when there’s stuff happening overseas. I want to be there to be in it. Collaborations are so much easier overseas.

 

After America, Elizabeth Rose heads to Canada and then onwards to Europe. For all the details, click here. 

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