First Impressions is our weekly feature where our writers get the chance to lay down their unfiltered opinions on the week’s new tracks. This week, we’re digging into a joint of Khalid’s Free Spirit, Jonas Brother’s new track and Vampire Weekend’s This Life, plus more.
Hatchie – Stay With Me
Paul Waxman: Ever since I saw her live in 2017, Hatchie has always excited me with her new music and Stay With Me has got to be one of the best tracks she’s put out.
It’s a prime example of spacey dream pop with her iconic vocals, reverb drenched synths and a punchy dream beat. The chorus is genuinely beautiful in the way the lyrics really meld with the bass and just create what feels like pure emotion. The lyrics of this song are pretty devastating but in a good way!
This track is a tease for a debut album that Hatchie is putting out soon and this track makes me so so excited for a full-length collection of her songs! 4.5
Roz Farrell: It’s taken me a little bit to warm up to Hatchie, but with every release of hers I get a little more intrigued; I’m now very excited for her upcoming album. This isn’t quite “Without a Blush” level of a dream-pop bop, but it’s certainly a solid tune and fits perfectly into the musical identity that Hatchie has created for herself. It’s definitely the kind of single you put out to keep people engaged as you build up to your album drop, and not one you lead the charge with, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It just takes a hair too long to pick up steam for me, but I’ll definitely be paying attention to upcoming releases. 3.5
Sam Murphy: This is Hatchie’s best single to date for me. It feels like she’s completely let go of all her ambitions and has made the banger she never knew was inside of her. It’s a turning point, similar to Sky Ferreira’s Everything Is Embarrassing that’s likely to change people’s opinion of what she can do. The pop kids are jumping on board, the indie kids are staying and everyone else is missing out. 4.5
Anderson .Paak – Make It Better
Paul: It’s pretty undisputed that Anderson .Paak is the King of Funk and this track is testament to why we all need to kneel at the bottom of his throne. His most recent track King James, showed more of his funkier side but what I love so much about Make It Better is how laid-back it is – for .Paak’s standards that is.
.Paak’s vocals almost feel like a crooner in a speakeasy. His vocals are dripping with romance. This, on top of the strings and a blippy synth part create such a seductive feeling to the song.
.Paak really can do no wrong and even when he experiments with more romantic pieces like this, his ambition just leaps out of my headphones. 4
Roz: I will own up to not paying nearly as much attention to Anderson .Paak as he undoubtedly deserves. Frankly, this just isn’t a genre I frequent, although I’ve long intended to rectify that. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I really like this, and will be speeding up my timeline to get caught up on his work. The vocal here is so incredibly smooth, and the blend of strings and bass guitar is mesmerizing. The video is super cute as well. 4
Sam: Everything off Ventura so far has been miles better than Oxnard. This isn’t trying too hard, it’s just .Paak sitting right in his lane and making the most of that textured voice. Smokey Robinson is a perfect vibe for him and I love the way he interpolates How Can You Mend A Broken Heart. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s an incredible flex of his skills. 4
Khalid – Outta My Head (Feat. John Mayer)
Paul: Songs with a little “feat. John Mayer” on it always really pique my interest, whether it be Beat It by Fall Out Boy feat. John Mayer or White by Frank Ocean feat. John Mayer, it’s always a nice surprise to see Mayer popping up and collaborating with other musicians, but his addition on this song is lukewarm for me.
Khalid has been producing some really great pop that feels like a serene Summer’s afternoon and Outta My Head is no exception. I love Khalid’s understated vocals, and the simple production, with little guitar licks from John Mayer. The “oowa-oowo” part of the tune will be stuck in your head for weeks I promise you.
It does remind me of one of the most recent Mayer singles First Light. When Mayer’s guitar solo hits towards the end of the song, it also reminds me of a solo from his song from back in the day Heartbreak Warfare. Mayer’s additions sound a bit derivative and could’ve fleshed out a lot more character for the song. 3.5
Roz: Before I start writing this for real I just wanna say I’ve been avoiding this in New Music Friday playlists for the last few days because everything about this combination makes me nervous. Ok I shall proceed.
This isn’t nearly as painful as I feared, mostly because John Mayer isn’t singing and their vocal styles aren’t clashing horrendously. However it’s just… completely average in every way. It’s going to be obnoxiously stuck in my head for the rest of the night and yet I will remember none of the lyrics. I was so on the Khalid train when her first started getting attention, but this entire album feels like an exercise in streaming exploitation. He’s everywhere right now, it seems like he’s had a new song every week for the last two years, and it’s all very chill but completely inescapable and I feel a bit like I’m drowning in it. The songs aren’t painful or awful, they’re just always there. And short, maximizing the number of streams. This is just more of the same with a slightly energizing guitar solo thrown in. 2
Sam: I’m getting very bored. It feels like Khalid is coasting on this new record and he should really be doing some groundbreaking stuff right now given how hot his run has been. This is one of the better songs off the record but no one will ever really make me come around to John Mayer’s styles. I need more excitement and I’m willing to acknowledge that may be personal taste. 2.5
Amber Mark – Mixer
Paul: I don’t think I had ever heard any of Amber Mark’s music before going into this track but by the 5 second mark of this song I felt extremely guilty for never checking her out before. Being her first single of 2019, it’s made to impress and WOWZERS does it impress.
This song oozes with funk and soul and probably has one of the punchiest beats of 2019 already. It is pure fun and has the best slap bass part I’ve ever heard. Mark’s voice is so forward. If this is a teaser for an album I am going to be so excited to get into it. It’s danceable and has me hyped like I never expected to be. 4
Roz: I saw Amber do a great job opening for Glass Animals at Radio City about 18 months ago, and it’s great to see her doing so well right now. This song has an addictive, confident vibe that has sufficiently knocked the prior one out of my head, which I am eternally grateful for. The bassline is energetic, the lyrics and vocals are sultry, and the whole thing fits together super cleanly that it’s addictive within the first 30 seconds. 4
Sam: I hate comparing songs directly but, in regards to the above, this is proof you can make cruisy music that doesn’t sound a heartbeat away from dead. Amber Mark drips with style and cool, even without watching the video. She sounds confident and in control, making what could’ve been a pretty uninspiring beat come across like a classic.
Jonas Brothers – Cool
Paul: THE JONAS BROTHERS ARE BACK for their second single of 2019, and now they’re making it clear that they’re cool af. They compare themselves to James Dean in the song, but they don’t need to do that! They’re the Jonas Brothers! They have their own brand of cool!
In terms of comeback singles, I think it’s a little bit weaker then Sucker. I think the production is just a little bit barebones and lacklustre. Don’t get me wrong the song is fun, but I’m just missing that Jonas Brothers charm. I’m excited to hear more in the future, but Cool isn’t my favourite of the bunch yet. 3
Roz: I’m just as hyped for the return of the Jo Bros as everyone else, I promise. This one just doesn’t do it for me. I think “Sucker” is a genuinely well crafted pop song, with some solid rhythmic choices and harmonies in addition to just being fun to listen to. This… isn’t that. It’s a tad cheesy for my taste, and I think I’ve reached my max capacity for James Dean references in pop songs. 2
Sam: I mean, I’m not about to press repeat but I will say Jonas Brothers are doing an excellent job with this comeback. It’s self-aware, a bit daggy and a little sleek which is the perfect combo. They couldn’t have comeback taking themselves too seriously and I’ll applaud them for that. 3
Vampire Weekend – This Life
Paul: Vampire Weekend’s 4th album Father Of The Bride is just weeks away and the band has teased the album’s tracklist along the way with singles like Harmony Hall and Sunflower. The brand new tease is this song This Life, and it’s got to be my favourite of the bunch so far.
The song feels like Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison if it was put through a psychedelic filter. In true Vampire Weekend fashion, the lyrics are dismal but the music is the literal embodiment of happiness. I think this is Vampire Weekend at the peppiest they’ve ever been since 2011’s Contra. The song is legitimately uplifting and kind of feels like hugging joy itself. Their new album drops next month and I’m not really sure if I’m prepared to handle the emotions. 4.5
Roz: This one I’m pretty neutral on. It’s objectively a decent track, just really not to my personal taste. I was much more enamored with some of the prior singles, notably “Harmony Hall” and “2021”. The upbeat folksy guitars vibes aren’t really my thing. Definitely interested to see what tone the album as a whole takes though. 3
Sam: This is the song that’s going to make people realise they’re really excited about the new Vampire Weekend record. Ezra’s melodic licks are better than ever and lines like, “I just thought it didn’t rain in California,” are exactly what we signed up for. In the absence of Rostam, Danielle Haim is an excellent sidekick giving the song a depth it wouldn’t have had otherwise. 4.5