With a big budget video to boot.
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 Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + more.
Zanda: A bit less melodic than a lot of Sweatshirt’s other stuff, but the droning style of synth that accompanies his smooth rapping is captivating enough for the most part. If I’m being completely honest my favourite part is the conclusion of the track. Not only does it provide some needed sectional variation, but the symbol-dominated drumming and various drum-licks reference a gorgeous style of lounge jazz. 3.5
Sam: Just when poor Earl couldn’t be any more disillusioned with the world his record company go and fuck up his album release. This is some of the darkest hip-hop we are bound to hear this year. It circles around your head with minimal beats and washy undertones which ultimately blend in with his deep, affecting rap. I’m not sure I’m interested in this as much as I am intrigued by it. The video is dark as hell and it’s pretty distressing to watch. This is probably the tightest we’ve ever heard Sweatshirt rap but it’s going to take play after play to make this devilish tune completely sink in. 4
Meshell: Ah, the first taste of new Earl. After the success that was Doris the bar has been set incredibly high for the young rapper. Grief takes the angst felt throughout his debut and twists it up tighter and tighter into psychosis. The low-fi production and undulating synth are the perfect backdrop for Earl’s smooth, lagging rap style. As he tells us all how much he hates going outside, I’ve decided that although the track is angry… it’s not aggressive and by the time we hit the sweet little outro I absolutely love it. 4
Bianca: I’m all about dat outro; a dramatic turnaround from the deep, dark depths of Sweatshirt’s thoughts, giving us a chance to reflect on the outpouring of grief in the form of his threadbare rapping style. Hot tip for iPhone users: Invert the colours to the clip via Settings > General > Accessibility > Invert Colors for an even trippier viewing experience. 3.5
Zanda: Undeniably catchy, and really just a fun tune to jam out to. The chorus is definitely on point, but I’m a little disappointed with how same-same the chorus is compared with the bridge and the verse. A fun track nonetheless. 3
Sam: I think we can agree that we’re due for another naturally cool girl group and I’ve been saying for a long time that these girls are the group to do it. This is a breezy, effortless RnB anthem that showcases the group’s biggest strength – their harmonies. I’m really not sure why the UK charts haven’t given M.O. any love yet, but hopefully this will be the tune to change their luck. They’re so tight. 3.5
Meshell:I feel it’s my responsibility as a reviewer to be completely honest with you dear reader. What we’re hearing with this latest offering from M.O is a poor woman’s Destiny’s Child ¯_(ツ)_/¯
I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s totally fine, but therein lies my problem…fine is the only word I can muster for this track. Its kind of catchy but not enough that I’m going to be singing it whilst making my lunch. The classic pop stylings of it make me feel like it was just written with the intent of cracking the charts and music for the sake of a rating lacks sincerity. I don’t know the origins of M.O but to fresh eyes they look like the major label machine is now manufacturing hip-stars instead of pop-stars. These girls look fresh as f**k and I think that might be the only thing I really like about them. Brilliant marketing…average music. 2.5
Bianca: It’s funky, it’s kinda catchy and good on them for championing the return of girl groups with matching outfits and dance moves…though I really can’t shake the feeling that I’m listening to a Jessica Mauboy song that I’ve already heard 1,500 times. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not my thing. 2.5
Years & Years
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/yearsandyears/worship[/soundcloud]
Zanda: Years and Years seem to have just about perfected a crossover between boy-band and stand-alone electro production. Proved by the fact that the track would work perfectly well as an instrumental, but at the same time the vocals compliment the track rather than detract from the excellent production. This is the sort of track that gets stuck in your head, especially that chorus. 4
Sam: So these guys aren’t a hype act anymore, it’s already confirmed that they’re huge (a number one single will do that to you). Worship doesn’t have the same immediacy as King but it’s a crisp, funk tune nonetheless. It’s nice to hear this mid-tempo verse flourish into an almost gospel chorus. Like any good pop tune, its chorus is its heart and soul built around layered vocals and well-placed words (any religious word in pop always goes down well). Olly’s voice is just so impossible not to be wooed by. 4
Meshell: God dammit, I listen to Years & Years every day at the moment and I cannot get over how wonderfully unique this dude’s voice is. Having an excellent range is one thing, but having a voice that is so incomparable is just next level awesome. Excellent instrumentation again from these boys, sometimes I get too excited by their singer but of course credit needs to be given where credit is due, the whole band pulls their weight when it comes to excellent songwriting and musicianship. Worship might not take out a number one spot like King did, it has however given their loyal fan base (points at self) a little sneak peak at how epic their album is going to be. 4.5 Meshell’s Pick
Bianca: How have these guys not completely blown up on Australian airwaves yet? Their sound is so refreshing and immediately affecting with each of their tracks hooking me in at first listen. Worship, with its lush, tropical-inspired synths and just enough pop, is no exception. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the album. 4 Bianca’s Pick
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/swickswick/swick-crystal-palace[/soundcloud]
Tropical vibes for days. Swick has delivered a polished, up-beat, catchy tune here that will have you wishing it was still summer. The echoey, steel-drum sound melodic lines give off the aforementioned tropical feels, and I would describe a lot of the production as almost Kilter-esque. That is, if you like Kilter, you’ll love this. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick
Sam: The thing I really like about Swick is that he’s operating in that kitsch, PC Music-esque world but there’s more weight to it. That thumping bassline really drives it home and sets it apart from some of the lighter rave-tunes that are floating around. That build-up in the middle is one of the more exciting things I’ve heard in electronic music this year and as far as synth-lines go it’s one of Swick’s more approachable ones. At the moment the Nice Age label is really being defined by hearty bass and it’s something that defines being in a club after midnight. Really exciting stuff once again from Swick. 4 Sam’s Pick
Meshell: While I can imagine myself loving this in the middle of a DJ set, it’s not doing anything for me at the moment. It’s punchy and up-beat and all a bit fun but it’s nothing new. With so much stupidly impressive electronic music being made in Australia alone, you really have to pull some magic out of your arse to get noticed around here. Swick has put together a track that will surely get your head bopping but you won’t be sharing it on your wall with all your mates saying, “TUUUUUUNE”. 2.5
Bianca: Crystal Palace isn’t super multi-instrumental or three-dimensional but, like PC Music, that’s not its point. What it does do for me in terms of dimensions is take me to another one: right now I’m riding along the rainbow road and there are no banana peels or red shells on the horizon. It’s smooth sailing alllll the way while I leave all the other players in my dust. Suck it, Princess Peach. 4
Of Monsters And Men
Zanda: Of Monsters and Men seem to just constantly deliver captivating, emotion-filled music. It’s the simple things that are always done so well, with the use of guitars and other melodic instruments never encroaching on the amazing use of texture and aural space that creates so much room for variation and interest. The vocals are always given so much space, and are so powerful that they could stand alone, but are complimented by a complex yet minimal use of drums and other instruments throughout the track. 4.5
Sam: This is sure to delight many but it makes me feel slightly ill. That whole epic, inoffensive pop-rock genre helmed by Coldplay is driven by its desire to be as beige as possible and in that sense this song succeeds. There’s plenty of metaphors in this but none that really show any sense of genuity. The voices are actually quite affecting and I feel like if they weren’t trying so hard to craft a song that will light up a stadium with smartphones it would hit at the heart a little better than it does. 2
Meshell: I actually really like the drums in this song. I’m kind of not listening to anything else first time round and now that I’m on second listen I’m going to try and pay a little more attention. Vocally this song is nowhere near as annoying as Little Talks so that’s a step in the right direction. Subtle horns are a nice added touch too. My imaginary hat (I look terrible in real ones) goes off for great mixing of this song, does it reach me on an emotional level? No, it’s not actually that good, but I guess there’s plenty to appreciate. 3
Bianca: Ughhhhh. Not even the elimination of the banjos made this palatable. I also take away half a point for Youtube’s autoplay feature leading to Little Talks. 2
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/nero/the-thrill-1[/soundcloud]
Zanda: Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Nero. Appropriately placed vocals accompanying bass-heavy production and dark riffs, with sections of build up that will satisfy most fans of the genre. Nothing special, but a well-produced track nonetheless. 3
Sam: To me this is an Imagine Dragons song disguised as an electronic track. Ok, that may be a little bit far, this is much better than Imagine Dragons but it does have a soft-rock heart. I just find this quite confusing. It’s like a slowed-down hardstyle track that you can neither dance nor head-thrash to. When the instrumental drops out and you just hear the vocals it’s easy to enjoy but apart from that it’s just a bit assaulting. They’re better off when they’ve ramped the tempo up and are going OTT. Promises still remains their greatest triumph. 2.5
Meshell: This is all very loud, genre-confusing and wildly disappointing. I’m talking super basic lyrical content, loud overdone synth and drops that I cannot figure out if they’re meant shove the song into the EDM pile or the shit stadium-rock pile. I felt really uncomfortable playing such a terrible song out loud…what happened to the Nero who won a grammy? 1
Bianca: The ear-thrashing that follows the drop was definitely not worth the headache. 1.5
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
After winning this year’s BBC Sound of Award and their single King reaching #1 in the UK charts, Years & Years are the band on everyone’s lips. Teasing us with only a handful of songs, the British trio have finally announced their debut LP, Communion, due for release 22nd June. To celebrate the announcement, they’ve shared a brand new track from the album, Worship. Not unlike their previously released tracks, it’s a delicious mix of pop, R&B and house influences, driven by lush synths and lead-vocalist Olly Alexander’s smooth vocals. Check out the new track below, as well as the track list for Communion.
Read our interview with Years and Years on the pressure of being the world’s most hyped band here.
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/yearsandyears/worship[/soundcloud]
4. Take Shelter
6. Eyes Shut
Splendour In The Grass is still six months away but the rumour mill has already started and who are we to deny the chance to add fuel to the flame. The ten acts below are basically unfounded predictions but we think that Splendour has the potential to have a huge year with the plethora of big acts releasing albums this year. Below are a few huge headliners, a few up and comers and a few big risks that Splendour could take.
Mark Ronson is probably the first proper rumour that has arisen for Splendour 2015. The producer has had a massive year with his album Uptown Special and he’s just been in the country for a quick promo trip. While here he told Matt and Alex that he could neither “confirm nor deny” rumours that he would be making a return to the country in July. Usually, that means he could confirm but the festival and his management team would kill him. So lock him in? Not so fast. He’s currently got zero live shows booked and he also told triple j, “If I can figure out a great show, I’m going to be here.” He clearly hasn’t worked out just how he’s going to tour the album yet and it may not be enough time to pull it together. If he doesn’t end up on any festival lineups before Splendour is announced you can almost bet it’s game over.
Hot Chip are frequent visitors of the country. Last year in June, they toured their DJ set and were also here in early 2013 playing Falls Festival and Field Day. Joe Goddard was also just here playing as The 2 Bears at Sugar Mountain in Melbourne. They would no doubt be looking for the perfect excuse to head down-under again and their newly announced album, Why Make Sense?, is the perfect one. A headline set on the mix-up stage would perfectly round up one the days at Splendour particularly if they have a whole lot of new additions to their catalogue to spruce.
Florence and the Machine’s inclusion on the Coachella lineup marked her live return and since then details have begun to seep through about her third album. It’s rumoured to be called What Kind of Man and has been teased today with a video entitled How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Florence and the Machine has played Splendour only once, in 2010, and gave one of the most valiant performances in the festival’s history. Splendour would no doubt be looking for a euphoric headliner whose style goes hand in hand with the aesthetic of the Byron Parklands and Florence fits that brief perfectly. If you look at her fast filling tour dates, July is wide open.
Looking at past years of the festival, Splendour has traditionally picked up on acts who are just about to make it big. It’s usually based off the BBC Sound of… which predicts the artists set to make a splash in the year ahead. Last year the festival booked Sam Smith, the year before they had HAIM on the lineup and in 2012 Azealia Banks appeared. We think it might be Years & Years’ year this year.
TV On The Radio have had a pretty shit few years to put it bluntly. Their bassist Gerard Smith died from lung cancer in 2011 and just recently they had to cancel their European tour after drummer Jahphet Landis was hospitalised. They haven’t toured Australia since 2013 when they played Splendour and we reckon it’s about time they made a trip down-under. They’d be playing songs from their 2014 album, Seeds.
Azealia Banks hasn’t had a great history with touring Australia. When she played Splendour in 2012 she was criticised for only performing for 20 minutes. When she toured with Future Music she fought with Rita Ora and The Stone Rose. And when she toured with Listen Out she left the stage mid-set twice, after objects were thrown at her. Lately, she’s had a beef with Igloo Australia (Iggy Azalea) which has probably tarnished her view of Australia even more but maybe Splendour have the guts to bring her back. Her debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, turned out to be brilliant and she’s finding herself on festival lineups again. Although, she is playing in Japan at the end of March so does that mean she’ll extend the trip for some headline shows here in April?
British songstress Jessie Ware was a favourite when she toured with Laneway Festival back in 2012, so much so that we were surprised that she didn’t end up on it again this year. It makes sense, however, when you consider she’s just married and embarking on a national tour in her home country. There will be no excuses come July though. She’d fill a mid-afternoon slot expertly with tracks from her latest album Tough Love and it would give her the push she needs down-under.
This will happen, right? Splendour has always been a place for bands to return to after immense overseas success and Tame Impala have enjoyed that in droves. They’re the second headliner at Coachella, below AC/DC, and with a new album on the way they’re the perfect candidates to potentially headline a night of the festival. They’re well acquainted with the festival, having played in both 2010 and 2012, so it would be a heartwarming return to see them on the mainstage as a more than worthy headliner.
Enough playing LDR. We thought she would play Falls Festival, then Laneway and we’ve also speculated about solo shows but it’s time she just got the hell down here. 2012 was the last year she played Splendour, with good friend Azealia Banks, and she was a shy, amateur at that stage. Her latest album Ultraviolence is a massive improvement on Born To Die and her festival sets everywhere from Glastonbury to Coachella have been praised. If Banks ends up on the lineup again the pair could buddy up at Splendour once again. If not, we’ll probably have to accept she’s not going to make it down here this time round and forever call her Madonna.
Kendrick Lamar toured with Eminem in Australia back in 2013 but now with a new album on the way he’s due for another visit. Splendour has a good history with booking big hip-hop acts. Last year Outkast headlined and Childish Gambino tore the mix-up tent apart and in 2011, Kanye West headlined. He’s playing Bonnaroo, Wireless and Sasquatch so his festival set would be well oiled by the time he got here in July. He also doesn’t have anything booked after 4th July. Lock it in.