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First Impressions: Harry Styles, Frank Ocean, Halsey And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 04/11/2017

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 Frank Ocean, Harry Styles, Halsey, Dillon Francis, Gorillaz & Slumberjack face the jury.

Frank Ocean – Biking (Feat. Jay Z & Tyler The Creator)

Meshell: No matter what shit has been going on so far in 2017, at least we can safely say that the Frank Ocean drought has ended…right? Biking is another welcome addition to my high rotation (and perfect timing because I think my neighbours are sick of hearing Chanel). I can leave the Jay Z intro but Frank & Tyler together again? My heart simply CANNOT. 5

Harrison: MORE FRANK!!!! Who’d have thought we’d still be getting new material from Frank come 2017, but boy am I here for it. I’m not overly excited listening to Chanel but Slide is still well and truly working its magic. I’ve never truly appreciated Jay Z (no disrespect to anyone, sorry I’ve just never taken much of anything by him and grasped it), but the addition of Tyler has me squealing whilst kicking my legs like a kid filled with joy. A collaboration birthed in heaven. 4.5 Harrison’s Pick

Zanda: I’m warming up to this after a couple of listens. While Jay Z, Tyler and Frank all kill their own vocal parts, I’m not completely sold on the production. I know Frank generally creates tracks with pretty minimalist production, but if I may be the devil’s advocate for a second, it it just kind of drags on. Maybe it didn’t need to be almost five minutes? 3.5

Sam: 2016 was the year of painfully waiting for new Frank material and 2017 seems to be the year he rewards us by staying casually in the spotlight with sporadic drops. This is brilliant for many reasons. He’s managed to make Jay Z sound relevant for the first time in years, he delivers one of his most melodic, pop-driven verses in years and he teams up with Tyler directly for the first time in years. There’s really no better rapping/singing duo than Tyler and Frank and this just feels so right. I’ve decided I want Frank to have a number one record this year so buy this. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Average Score: 4.38

Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

Meshell:I was definitely too old and not pop-minded enough to fall under the 1D spell so for me I’ve not ever cared for what happens in their stratosphere. I figured with the rise of Zayn’s solo career that, like NSYNC…the others would simply fade into oblivion. I heard some other nondescript member has since also begun a solo project but GUYS….HARRY HAS ME SHOOK. This is like when you’re 14 and you discover The Beatles and David Bowie and Catcher in The Rye and all of a sudden you think you’re a sophisticated old-world expert. I cannot handle my feelings on how much I love this song though, I want to thank every psychotic teen girl who thrusted this young man into celebrity because by god I think 2017 needs this. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Harrison: I almost choked on breath upon reading Project U write “Harry Styles’ solo debut Sign Of The Times is a huge Bowie-esque moment”, but upon listening to it the description is plausible. Is it the debut people expected? Hmmm, it’s left a lot of people sitting on the fence. The piano sounds vaguely similar to Imagine by John Lennon and Harry, well, I don’t know if anyone questioned his ability to vocally bring what he brought to One Direction. You won’t find this sitting amongst my library and not because I’m anti-One Direction, but because it’s just an ‘ok’ piece of music. In saying that, it’s an extremely catchy song and I have no doubt someone will catch me murmuring the lyrics come my next visit to the supermarket. 3.5

Zanda: Harry Styles undouvtedly has an incredible voice, and it seems to still be getting better and better. However, I don’t really care about this song, and I doubt more listens will change my mind. It just kind of seems grandiose for the sake of the statement that he’s trying to make. But yeah, I don’t really care. 3

Sam: I was on a plane for 24 hours when this dropped and I sat at the airport at the end of that trip attempting to listen to this through shitty wi-fi. And I regret doing that. I’ve never understood Harry Styles’ appeal beyond his poster boy popularity. I find his online presence far too serious and self aware and his interview with Nick Grimshaw as he dropped this song was dry. Much like this song. 6 minutes of vapid lyrics and a Brit-pop instrumental that no one wanted back equals a bad attempt at placing him in the zone of the greats (Bowie, Prince, Queen). I’ll take Zayn anyday over this, thanks. 1

Average Score: 3.13

Halsey – Now Or Never

Meshell:Is this song good? I can’t tell I’m distracted by the blatant Baz Lurhmann circa Romeo & Juliet rip off music video. Okay, I just turned it off to focus…the song is, lacking. What musical element is being highlighted in this because it’s not her vocals (not throwing shade, the girl can sing). The overall composition just feels a little restrained and not in the easy breezy way that works for the likes of Jhene Aiko or Sabrina Claudio. Pretty easy to get bored with this one, we love Cashmere Cat but maybe you should stick to your other Norwegian producer friend (wink wink).  3

Harrison: I don’t know if I can take this song seriously enough as the video clip feels like major overkill. I gave it one listen and it did absolutely nothing for me. 2

Zanda: I listened to this not really expecting much, but I was honestly pleasantly surprised. It’s a clean and catchy pop song, even if the video clip is very distracting. I really don’t mind the quite heavy production either. 3.5

Sam: Someone pointed out to me that this sounds like Rihanna’s Needed Me and immediately doing that I pressed play on RiRi and never looked back. Find your own lane, Halsey. 3

Average Score: 2.86

Dillon Francis – Say Less (Feat. G-Eazy)

Meshell:THE YOUNG GERALD SHOUT OUT. I.am.deceased. This gives me everything I want from Dillon Francis, a spicy beat and obnoxious brassy synth line. G-Eazy is the tasty icing on the cake. 4.5

Harrison: If that’s not the same or similar horn sample from the iconic 2011 banger Rattle by Bingo Players I’ll go he! I don’t know much about G-Eazy but he shouted out Gerald so he’s in my good books now (S/N if you don’t know who Gerald is you ain’t a real Dillon Francis fan). It’s big and brazen, but it’s not the Dillon Francis anthem I wanted. 3.5

Zanda: Holy shit, just when you think Dillion has pretty much shown you everything he can do he produces a ridiculously great hip hop track. One of the most diverse producers in the world right now, and G-Eazy is just perfect on this one. 5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: I hated the last single Anywhere because I thought it failed to translate Francis’ online/on-stage personality into song. This, however, nails it. It’s totally bonkers and all over-the-place and that’s exactly how I like my Francis. I’m not going to be going back for repeat listen for this but I’m going to be front and centre at Groovin like a sweaty, excitable 16 year-old when this drops. 3.5

Average Score: 4.13

Gorillaz – Let Me Out (Feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T)

Meshell: I feel like I might get a big slap across the face for not enjoying this but I’m just bored. There are little interesting elements here and there and I can appreciate the slick Gorillaz production but overall I’m kind of just waiting for it to be over. After the high octane ADHD nature of the last song though, maybe it’s just comparatively boring? 3

Harrison: This is most Gorillaz sounding track we have been gifted since their return. Ascension fell a little flat as I feel it didn’t compliment the addition of Vince Staples and Andromeda and Saturnz Barz were only just ok. Pusha T knows his limits and this is yet another collaboration he excels on (cc: his collab with Flume Enough). 4

Zanda: I’m absolutely loving this, but in saying that I’ve loved everything that’s come from Humanz and it’d take something crazy for it not to end up being my favourite album of the year. Love Pusha T’s raping and having Mavis Staples on that bridge is simply immense, but for me the rollicking chorus with Damon’s own speaky-singing is just so so awesome. 4.5

Sam: After spending a lifetime trying to explain why I really disliked Gorillaz because Dare haunted me when I was a child, I’m giving up. I’m vibing everything from this record so far and the combination of Mavis Staples experienced, soulful vocals alongside Pusha T’s driven, powerful bars is a knockout. 4

Average Score: 3.88

Slumberjack – Afraid, Unafraid

Meshell: Hey Slumberjack, if you’re reading this…THANKYOU. Australia’s electronic music scene is rampant with lazy “change two things and now it’s not a factory setting” sound design, so it’s refreshing to see that notion challenged. I always get excited listening to new Slumberjack because you can hear the love that was poured into the creation. If we could get a whole lot more of this please and thanks. 4

Harrison: This sounds a little like their collaboration with Vera Blue, Fracture. You could almost palm it off as cheaper version, but this one cuts a little harder. It’s sleek and big, but it’s by no means offering anything I haven’t heard from the duo before. I agree with Meshell’s statement that it’s great to hear the love they pour into their creations, but this is just middle across the middle of the road for me. 3

Zanda: This is a great standalone track, but it just reinforces my suspicions that Sumberjack have two modes. One is ridiculously filthy club bangers without vocals, and the other features a very specific type of vocalist very well. This falls into the latter and while its done well its pretty predictable. 3

Sam: I agree with Meshell. Slumberjack feel like they’re at the forefront of the Aussie electronic scene and I’ve really enjoyed watching their rise. They’re really good at finding the right house for delectable vocal melodies and this proves that. They’re good guys putting on great shows and making enjoyable music. There ain’t nothing wrong with that. 3.5

Average Score: 3.38

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