First Impressions: Ed Sheeran, London Grammar And the xx

Written By the interns on 01/10/2017

First Impressions are our weekly roundtable reviews sifting through all the fresh new music. Our writers take a listen, slap a score on it and then justify said score. This week Ed Sheeran, Snakehips, London Grammar, the xx, Kehlani and Lonelyspeck face the jury.

Ed Sheeran
Shape Of You

Annie: One of two songs released by Sheeran at the very start of this year, Shape Of You can best be summarised as ‘Sheeran’s take on 2016 pop’. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. Though he’s late to the game, the dancehall elements here actually work in his favour, creating what will likely be his next big radio hit. Notably, the track was intended for Rihanna followed by Rudimental initially, which is unsurprising as somehow both of their sounds can be heard here. It’s probably the danciest of Sheeran’s releases to date, and evidently quite enjoyable. 4

Harrison: I tweeted that both of these new Ed Sheeran tracks are ok, but don’t really offer anything new. I mean, I have a tonne of respect and admiration for Ed Sheeran but it’s difficult for me to be wow’d by his work when it really, to a degree, just sounds the same. I’m probably going to get roasted for this view but I’m just calling it like I see it. It’s going to be hard to knock but to this day the best Sheeran track for me is Tenerife Sea. 2.5

Sam: This is definitely the best song of the two that were released on Friday. The other one sounded like Snow Patrol which was worrying to say the least and while this sounds scarily similar to Cheaps Thrills, it’s enjoyable. Ed Sheeran was never going to release an expletive-filled, left-centred banger so the fact that this is a slight departure from his sound is enough for me. On YouTube the next song that threatens to play is James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go and I’m immediately reminded of just how bad this song could be but isn’t. So that helped pump the score up a bit.

Update: I just had a though. What if Ed Sheeran’s first single sounded like Maggie Rogers’ Alaska? Now that’d be worth writing home about. 3

Average Score: 3.16

Snakehips
Don’t Leave (Feat. MØ)

Annie: I’ve previously held the opinion that out of all of Snakehips collaborations, nothing will ever beat Money on Me with Anderson .Paak. After playing this a couple of times, I might be tempted to reconsider. Snakehips and MØ join forces here in a way so strong I’m left wondering why they haven’t worked together before. They’re a perfect match. The chorus of Don’t Leave is enough to cement this as a killer track, with MØ’s emphatic vocals driving the vehicle here with simple yet relatable lyricism, “I may not ever get my shit together/but ain’t nobody gonna love you better”. While Snakehips have garnered a respectable amount of hits, they haven’t really hit the ball out of the park since their collab with Tinashe. Don’t Leave might just be the song that matches that level of attention. 4.5 Annie’s Pick

Harrison: It took Final Song to finally have me truly appreciate/ fall madly in love with MO, and now Snakehips have also won me over. Before I get questioned, Don’t Leave sounds more like a MØ song than it does Snakehips. Snakehips have never been an act I’ve raved about, and they still aren’t quite there yet but this collaboration both feels and sounds absolutely perfect for me. I labelled it Snakehips’ next All My Friends and rightfully so because  it has all the aspects of being one of this year’s biggest commercial anthems, and yes, this just mere days into 2017. It’s MØ that really carries this song. It’s no longer a question of is she one of the biggest names in pop music because she damn well is. Whether this track goes number one or not (high chance it will), MØ just yet again reigns supreme, attaining hit after hit after hit. I feel a little sorry for myself for being a little foolish in letting MØ’s presence slip pre-2016, but I cannot thank her enough for Final Song, Kamikaze and now Don’t Leave. If this track isn’t in my top 10 most streamed of 2017, I’ll be shocked. My favourite part of the track is when that first pre-chorus hits, damn, what an anthem!!! 5 Harrison’s Pick

Sam: “I’m a mess, please don’t hold that against me,” pulls me straight in from the beginning with this song and it just has so much promise from that point onwards. MO sounds fractured both vocally and emotionally and it’s a mode that suits her really well. My issue with this song is that after the verse the big ‘ol chorus comes and drops down like a heavy brick. The brilliant melodic work in the verse is lost with clunky, over-saturated production which is such a shame. That said, I’m still a fan, it just could’ve soared even more. 3.5

Average Score: 4.3

London Grammar
Rooting For You

Annie: I almost feel bad for not liking this song. Objectively, it’s evident that London Grammar have hit all the right notes with this one, both figuratively and literally. Hannah Reid’s vocals are striking in their ability to carry the song for a whole two minutes by itself, and the orchestration that joins around the two minute mark is similarly superb. However, while I’m able to appreciate this track for what it is, I just can’t get into it. If you’re a fan though, I’m sure this will do it for you. 3

Harrison: I may have placed all my eggs in the one basket in giving Don’t Leave my pick of the week, but London Grammar’s return wasn’t far behind. It was neck and neck, with Don’t Leave only just edging things out due to it feeling more upbeat. Anyhow, the return of London Grammar ey! Wow, this track is incredible. Hannah Reid welcome back! Her vocal work is beyond exceptional. Her vocal work is graciously commanding that you feel a want, not a need to listen. It holds so much texture and tone, that during different moments (perhaps just like on If You Wait) you are left feeling different emotions. From the piano to the solemn guitar to the string section, everything about Rooting For You is heavenly. If you listen closely the lyrics withhold a presumed assumption that  Rooting For You is perhaps about a lover or significant other but, what if it’s really about humanity? Perhaps an anthem we need right now. I never give broken scores, but today’s the day. 4.99

Sam: Is it just me or does this song feel as if it goes for 18 years? I just find nothing to really latch onto here and while the vocals are undeniably beautiful, this is such a forgettable return from a band that really needed to step it up to maintain relevance. I can understand how people could call this beautiful, but let’s have a chat about it in two months and see if you remember it. 2.5

Average Score: 3.49

The xx
Say Something Loving

Annie: This is something new for The xx, and I’m really enjoying it so far. The vocals and general vibe of this track are a sharp departure from their usual, so much so that it’s almost unprecedented for them. It’s significantly more upbeat than anything I’ve heard from them previously, but it still carries many of the same elements that made The xx so popular in the first place. This could potentially alienate some of their older fans, but that will be proven when I See You is dropped later this month. 3

Harrison: This week barely gives you chance to breathe, so many quality selections with The xx’s last taste before album release this week. I’ve said plenty in regards to this release and their return, so I just cannot wait for Friday. Naysayers may preach “fuck this upbeat sounding xx nonsense” as it appeals to a more commercial audience, but I think even they won’t be left disappointed. The xx do what they do so well and all the previews thus far have the trio sounding on freaking point. It’s a flip of the coin as to whether you like On Hold or Say Something Loving more, but for me Say Something Loving has Romy and Oliver bouncing off one another so damn well. 4.5

Sam: If you’re going to be brooding and emotional, this is how you do it. It’s the boldest the trio have ever been both vocally and production-wise because they sound like their not afraid of dipping into the pop world. I love how Romy and Oliver weave between each other’s vocals and both tell their separate stories with the same notions. Totally agree that this may alienate some of their old fans but also, for me, it’s the first time they haven’t tried to sound quaint or quirky. It’s mature and really bloody good. 4.5

Average Score: 4

Kehlani
Undercover

Annie: Akon has never sounded so good, seriously. Kehlani is killing the sampling game here, reinventing Akon’s 2007 hit Don’t Matter a whole 10 years later. It’s undeniably catchy, and a cohesive follow up to previous singles CRZY and Distraction. If this is indicative of what her album will be like, I’m definitely on board. 4

Harrison: They are totally different tracks, but CRZY is still my favourite Kehlani jam. Kehlani is a go to artist for me, but CRZY was a really nice album taster from 2016. This is probably a grower though, and I’m scoring it sitting just ahead of the middle of the road. 3

Sam: Sampling Akon is kind of like trying to find a use for a Sony Walkman but gosh darn Kehlani slips it in so perfectly. This cut definitely isn’t as immediately hard-hitting as CRZY or Distraction but it’s a grower. The gentle guitar strums fool you into thinking it’s going to be a softie but this she hits you with this “fuck it” attitude in the chorus and we’re reminded Kehlani would never go soft. One of the best R&B vocalists in the game right now. Easy. 4

Average Score: 3.6

Lonelyspeck
Happy New Year

Annie: This track is super evocative, and perfect for listening to with headphones at the end of a super long day. There’s some really interesting elements here, that only grow more intriguing as the song progresses. Standing at six minutes, it’s by no means a short track- but at no point does it drag or lull. It’s one of those tracks where the listener will discover something new each time they revisit, a rarity. 3.5

Harrison: Happy New Year received a fair bit of reposting via my stream on SoundCloud four days ago, so I was immediately curious. This is that divisive pick of the week (excluding Ed Sheeran’s return) and that’s exactly how it’s going leave people, divided. You are either going to love it or hate it. For me, it’s been four days and I still don’t know where i really sit with it. I don’t hate it, because there are things that I am drawn too with it. But at the same time I’m not wow’d by it to go, “guys guys guys you really need to listen to this”. 3.5

Sam: Really cool to watch Lonelyspeck effortlessly capture the attention of the country with one track – All My Skin On The Air. Happy New Year is a very strong follow-up capturing that same essence of fragility. In terms of production, this is incredible. It uses its silences powerfully and layers poignantly, never over-doing it but always giving us the substance we need from it. The climax at the end is spectacular and worth all six minutes of waiting. Lonelyspeck’s voice is also beautiful and a really effective tool throughout. 4

Average Score: 3.6

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/lonelyspeck/happy-new-year[/soundcloud]

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