FI_16March

First Impressions: Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, T-Pain + More

FI_16March

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 Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, T-Pain, Tame Impala + more. 

Samo Sound Boy
You Come For Me

Sam: For me this is a cut above the first track Samo Sound Boy dropped from the album, Baby Don’t Stop. This is a soulful slice of electronica which operates in slow motion. It’s only a short cut and I can imagine it’s going to bridge two tracks together beautifully on the album. On its own, there’s still plenty to get excited about, particularly the fireworks that seemingly go off in the latter part of the song. The dancefloor lives off euphoric moments and this is one of them. 4

Bianca: This is such a hands-in-the air, anthemic club track, but not in the classic, obvious sense. Driven by a constant drumbeat that whirls its way around your eardrums, glittering synths gently crescendo, before gently teetering out into nothingness. The track doesn't reach a full-on climax but that's the true beauty of it. 

Zanda: Another polished track from the American House producer, but for me, not his best. It’s the sort of track that will fit fine into a generic House music playlist, but lacks the bite, bass, and melodic interest of some of his previous work like the 2013 banger Your Love. I find myself ready for the introduction of a few more layers of sound and before I’ve even realised it’s not coming, it’s over all too soon. 3

Tame Impala
Let It Happen

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/stereogum/let-it-happen[/soundcloud]

Sam: As far as the psych-rock thing goes Tame Impala have kind of already nailed it. Operating within its realms again for the third record could have been very tedious. Luckily Parker and co have adopted a few extra sounds on Let It Happen, dabbling very subtly in electronica to help this song sound even more expansive and wonderful. Parker has always been great at writing pop melodies and it’s no different here, the chorus is a triumph. Also, the fact that he can extend this into a 7 minute epic complete with lush synth-riffs is an extraordinary feat. This is probably my favourite lead-single from the band out of all three records. 4.5

Bianca: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, My Chemical Romance's Welcome To The Black Parade, Tame Impala's Let It Happen. They may be from varying genres but they all hold one thing in common: extended song lengths that expertly keep the viewer's attention through the transcending of diverse styles, tempos, highs, lows, crescendos and decrescendos. This experimentation gets me going like nothing else. Like a gripping novel, a flurry of emotions are felt through its course from beginning to end. And, to use the same book simile again, you can read listen to it over and over again. I'm so (prematurely) excited for their upcoming album and even more excited to see them perform at Coachella. Fingers crossed for an epic, live, seven minute outro. 4.75 

Zanda: There are barely words to describe how excited has made me for Tame Impala’s forthcoming third studio album. It’s a perfect balance of the funky, psych-fusion sound that made their second album Lonerism so popular, but Let It Happen is also upbeat and compact in a way that suggests that we might be soon be hearing a slightly different overall sound on the new album. At seven minutes in length it’s also far from Tame Impala’s shortest, yet at its conclusion I found my earbuds longing for a live, never-ending jam version. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

 

Kendrick Lamar
King Kunta

Sam: Lamar’s album dropped in full today but I am writing this without fully hearing King Kunta within the context of the record. First impression was it’s far lighter than the powerful The Blacker The Berry, erring more on the side of i. To me though, it’s far more effective than i. Lamar is genuinely funky, reminding me a little of Outkast’s Aquemini. I never thought I’d hear “we want the funk!” in a Kendrick Lamar song, but here you have it and it actually works. It’s an egotistical, chest-puff of a song but that’s one of the greatest things about hip-hop - its unabashed confidence. I’m loving everything from To Pimp A Butterfly so far because it feels like Lamar is taking his newfound reach really seriously and trying to make something that will resonate with people for years to come. Nothing feels throwaway. 5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: This track wasn't even out for a minute before the entire album, To Pimp A Butterfly subsequently dropped into our laps a week early (literally an hour ago). But before I go into that, let me take you back to Saturday when King Kunta jived its way into the airwaves. Upon first listen, it forced a smile onto my face from its unabashed tribute to funk. Unexpectedly groovy but not in a Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars tacky kinda way, it still holds some of the grunt and heavy undertones found in The Blacker The Berry. The backing melody increases and decreases in semitones (or is it tones? It's been a while since I've studied music theory so please forgive me) which alters the tension oh so subtly. The track doesn't allow you to take your attention away for even a second, with pops and brief instrumentals interrupting the groove every so often, particularly when it's stated "By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you." Lamar's given me the funk and I'm gonna take it. Phwoar. 4.75 Bianca's Pick  

Zanda: The driving bass definitely delivers a level of funk to this track that you wouldn’t normally associate with Kendrick Lamar. I can’t say I love it though, and don’t think that the use of female back-up vocals necessarily adds much. Lamar’s rapping itself is typically proficient, but I definitely prefer his slower stuff. 2.5

 

Young Fathers
Shame

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/youngfathers/shame-yf[/soundcloud]

Sam: That synth that runs behind this song is really becoming a Young Fathers signature. As is the fast-paced almost tribal feeling. There’s something very communal to Young Fathers that feels like they are all in a room together jamming and feeding off eachothers energy and that’s their biggest quality. What this song lacks is a release. The beat that runs beneath it sounds quite anxious and it could’ve done with a climactic moment, percussion-wise. That’s a small complaint of an otherwise brilliant group. 3.5

Bianca: There are so many great tracks in this week's First Impressions so it's kinda unfair to pit this one against the others. A Shame, really (not sorry). Despite its mish-mash of sounds, it's surprisingly well-structured in an organised mess kinda way. 

Zanda: The abrasive and often dissonant sounds that Young Fathers have become known for frequently foster debate in various comment sections on YouTube. Shame is another track that is sure to divide opinion, with its intentionally out-of-sync rhythms and coarse melodies that honestly make it difficult to listen to at times. It’s not the sort of track that will make any easy-listening list, but I have to give them props for continuing to strive boldly away from musical conventions. 3

 

Grimes
REALiTi

Sam: I actually can’t believe that Grimes wrote this off as just an offcut from “a lost album.” The stuff that is going on her next album must be real-good if this didn’t even get a look in. REALiTi is Grimes’ most human song yet. Her voice sits atop the instrumental in a way we haven’t heard before and the chorus is unashamedly melodic, uncluttered with sound - a space that Grimes often fills with electronic murmurs. “Every morning there are mountains to climb,” shows the artist with a clarity that we haven’t heard from her yet and it’s refreshing to hear. 4.5

Bianca: REALiTi to me is exactly opposite to that. Through the dreamy synths and celestial vocals, Grimes takes us to another world, her own world; one of fantasy, mystery and intrigue. All I can say is thank God this was rescued out of the trash can. 4.5 

Zanda: This is definitely the side of Grimes that I prefer. Its soft, echoey timbres are kind on the ear, and its uber-chiller, but not to the point that you couldn’t dance to it. It’s hard to believe that she rated this track so low that she decided not to include it as part of any of her albums, but I guess that shows that the gap between artist intention and fan reception is a difficult one to reconcile, especially for someone like Grimes who recently has recently been exploring a new direction with her music. 4

 

T-Pain
Disa My Thing

[soundcloud width="750" height="500"]https://soundcloud.com/nappyboymail/t-pain-disa-my-thing[/soundcloud]

Sam: T-Pain’s had this weird resurgence of late where he seems out to prove his worth as an artist. I find it so bizarre that he’s such good friends with FKA twigs but it’s kind of all starting to make sense as he explores more obscure pockets of hip-hop. Disa My Thing has T-Pain rapping without auto-tune, going hard over a dancehall inspired beat. The chorus is on-point with everything Drake and Kanye are doing at the moment and it’s genuinely entertaining. T-Pain’s Soundcloud has his oldest song as four months old. It’s clear he’s trying to turn a new leaf and based on the strength of this, it’s probably going to work. Good luck to him. 3.5

Bianca: Huh. At first I thought T-Pain was in here for a lol but after listening I was surprised at how much I could actually digest this. Refreshing to see TP has lost his sea legs/obnoxious glasses and hat and is finally off the boat. 

Zanda: I’m not normally a big listener of T-Pain or melody-lacking, sound effect-filled hip hop. However I found myself strangely captivated by the incredibly smooth, rapid style of vocals used in Disa My Thing. Something about it gives me weird aural flashbacks to Busta Rhymes in Look At Me Now…3.5

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

Content Director: @sam_interns

Managing Director: @bianca_interns

Contributor: @wilso_92z

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10songs_6Feb

10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week: Madonna, Young Fathers, Angel Haze + More

10songs_6Feb

This is, completely unintentionally, the most sensual 10 songs we’ve ever put together. There are plenty of bedroom jams, RnB stunners and sultry pop songs and we’re not sure whether it’s because that’s all that was released this week or because we’ve been selective because we’re in some sort of smutty mood. Either way, we can’t help but feel now we’ve peaked a week too soon. This would have been perfect for V Day.

Young Fathers- Rain Or Shine

Glasgow group Young Fathers would be feeling pretty happy with themselves right now. And that’s absolutely deserved. They won the Mercury Prize for their excellent record Dead and are now wasting no time in getting on with the next one. It’s a sense of immediacy that The Avalanches, D’Angelo and Guns N’ Roses never quite grasped. Rain Or Shine sounds like a carnival ransacked by a gang. Its perky yet distinctively dark with a carnivale synth slaughtered by a thumping back beat. It’s from the album White Men Are Black Men Too which will come into existence in early April.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/youngfathers/rain-or-shine-2[/soundcloud]

Shy Girls- Arrest (Feat. Tei Shi)

And herein commences the love-making section of 10 songs for this week. You may have heard Portland-based singer Shy Girls lay his voice down on tracks by ODESZA and Cyril Hahn in the past few years, but his solo work is equally impressive. Arrest is taken from a mixtape title 4WZ and it’s an after-dark, sweltering mid-tempo. Mid-tempo duets make my heart skip a beat and when Tei Shi joins on the second verse all self-control is lost. You can download the rest of the mixtape here which I highly recommend you do.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/shygirls/arrest-me-ft-tei-shi-1?in=shygirls/sets/4wz-mixtape[/soundcloud

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruben Nielson was one unhappy man on his last record II. Despite being lonely, however, the record was delicious melodic and quaint. On the title-track from the forthcoming record, Multi-Love, he sounds considerably happier. And what does happiness sounds like? It sounds like less reverb, stomping pop-inspired percussion and sunshine-induced choruses.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/jagjaguwar/unknown-mortal-orchestra-multi-love[/soundcloud]

Madonna- Iconic (Feat. Mike Tyson and Chance The Rapper)

I never thought I’d be writing about Mike Tyson in the same sentence as a new song but here goes. Madonna has released a new song and it features Mike Tyson alongside Chance The Rapper. The good news is Tyson barely even attempts to rap. The bad news is Madonna does. It’s not as bad as it sounds though. She basically does a lot of rambling about sweat and tears and makes a whole lot of boxing innuendo before she gets on with it and bursts into a massive, trap-inspired chorus. It’s worth sticking around for Chance too if you can make it that far.

Say Lou Lou- Nothing But A Heartbeat

After what seems like decades of waiting, Swedish sisters Say Lou Lou are finally releasing their debut album, Lucid Dreaming. With that announcement this week came a new song called Nothing But A Heartbeat which is another sprawling, magnificent pop song that only Swedes could manage. Where their last release, Games For Girls, plodded along with an effortless cool, Nothing But A Heartbeat is more a combustion of emotion. Both work for us.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/sayloulou/nothing-but-a-heartbeat[/soundcloud]

Angel Haze- CANDLXS

We already raved about this Angel Haze song earlier in the week so we won’t take up too much of your time here. Basically CANDLXS is the first song off Haze’s forthcoming release TFBAN. According to Haze herself this is about the fifth best song on the record which has us insanely excited (that was no doubt her intention and possibly a lie but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt). CANDLXS shits over most of the stuff on her debut album because its unmistakably an Angel Haze song. As she oscillates between singing and rapping you get the feeling no other rapper could manage this.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/angxlhxze/candlxs-prod-troy-noka[/soundcloud]

Migos- One Time

After a slew of mixtapes and random drops, rap collective Migos are finally gearing up their debut album Y.R.N. The Album. One Time is our first proper taste of that album and to be completely blunt if you don’t like hip-hop go to song nine. If you do like hip-hop, you’re going to love this. Basically they run through everything they’ve done just “one time” over a badass beat by Deko. The “one time” hook is enough to keep us interested while the verses are where the magic really comes. These guys are charismatic rappers and in shines through in droves.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/migosatl/migos-one-time-prod-deko[/soundcloud]

Raye- Flowers

Raye is the girlfriend everyone will want after hearing this. Flowers by London newcomer Raye is about how she doesn’t want flowers and doesn’t need to be given them. Over a confident, fierce beat, Raye takes the bull by the horns. “You don’t wanna know how many little guys I met like you”, she sings sending every guy to the corner of the club immediately. Props should and will be given to her flow on the verse which is impeccable.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/arayeofcolours/flowers[/soundcloud]

Obey City- Waterbad (Feat. Anthony Flammia)

I don’t like to ever say the word “jam” unless I’m talking about the condiment but I feel like it’s more than warranted here. NYC producer Obey City felt like the world needed a slow jam so he gave us one that sounds like a prototype of D’Angelo crossed with Maxwell and Frank Ocean. Anthony Flammia takes to the sexy beat with a sensual finesse, using his falsetto to induce weak knees. It’s from his Merlot Sounds EP which is due out 23rd February on LuckyMe.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/obey-city/waterbed[/soundcloud]

 

 

 

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