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FI_7apr

First Impressions: Tame Impala, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hot Chip + More

FI_7aprFirst 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 Tame Impala, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hot Chip and more. 

Tame Impala
Cause I’m A Man

Sam: I was worried that Lonerism would end of being Tame Impala’s greatest achievement but now we’ve heard two tracks from Currents and it seems that won’t be the case. They just continue to explore every pocket of the psychedelic realms moving from rock n’ roll stompers to RnB mind-benders. This one reminds me of Feels Like We Only Go Backwards in the way that it plods along slowly and then flowers in the chorus. The bridge of this is sublime and makes way for one of the most quietly epic chorus’ of the year. It may not sound it on the first listen but give it time, it’s an absolute stunner. Also, Kevin Parker – what a songwriter. 5 Sam’s Pick

Zanda: I didn’t think that it was possible to be more excited for Tame Impala’s new album, but now they’ve gone and released this absolute gem. Groovy doesn’t even begin to describe the bass riff that forms the bottom layer for this one. It’s incredibly catchy, full of gloriously rich guitar licks, and gets even more delicious when Cam Avery starts playing on the gorgeous harmonics of his bass guitar. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

 

Carly Rae Jepsen
All That

Sam: This is basically the same treatment that Dev Hynes gave to Solange, with a slow RnB groove and smouldering vocal. There’s something about this that makes it feel like the poor man’s bonus track to Solange’s True but given that this is the same girl who just had Tom Hanks dance in her cringeworthy video, it’s rather impressive. There’s not a chance in hell that this will make it onto radio but maybe that’s not what Jepsen wants. Ignoring all context this song is actually great and passes Jepsen as someone who’s voice is worth listening to outside the realms of a bubblegum pop song. Mr. Hynes I tip my hat to you once again. 3.5

Zanda: There’s no denying that Carly Rae Jepsen is a talented vocalist, and she sings some pleasing melodies throughout this. It’s been efficiently produced as well, but unfortunately beyond that I find myself losing interest. It feels like it doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a ballad or a pop song, and that twinkling synth effect is incredibly overused and often just sounds out of place. 2

 

Hot Chip
Need You Now

Sam: Hot Chips’ Huaraches Lights hasn’t really stayed with me long enough to be overly excited about the new album, but I have a feeling this one will. This is the closest thing too a deep-house dance floor pleaser that Hot Chip have ever done and it’s both current and coated in the Hot Chip aesthetic. That aesthetic is Alexis Taylor’s oddball vocals coupled with Joe Goddard’s organic, almost primal instrumentation. That “I need you now” sample adds so much heat to the track and creates the songs true climax. Let’s hope for more stuff like this on the album. 4

Zanda: The first thing I notice about this track is how beautifully layered the production is. The vocals are smooth and pleasing to the ear, but it’s all about the use of texture and instrumental layering. Hot Chip really showcase their mastery of hiding instrumental complexity within the simplicity of enveloping individual rhythms. Definitely getting keen for their new album, out in May. 4

 

Janelle Monáe
Yoga

Sam: Given the circles that Janelle Monáe operates in, it’s quite amazing that it’s taken this long to hear an all-out urban radio hit from the singer. It’s actually quite odd at first to hear her voice mould itself around harder hip-hop beats but after a while she sounds as charasmatic and lovely as usual. I’m not so sure about rhyming yoga with areole but maybe that’s the clumsy charm if the song. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet it still manages to smoulder. I’ll take or leave Jidenna’s verse, but this random drop from Monáe has me very happy. 4

Zanda: This song is probably a little bit too up-tempo to actually do any meaningful yoga whilst listening to it, so I guess on that level the title is a bit deceiving. However, that is literally the only thing I don’t like about it. Janelle’s vocals are super soulful and really suit the echoey style of bass used throughout. The build-up is sufficient enough that you’ll get excited every time it comes it’s time to ‘let your booty do that yoga’. 4

 

Bwana
Drop Mechanism
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/ausmusic/bwana-drop-mechanism/[/soundcloud]

Sam: I’d really love to understand and get into industrial techno but it always just leaves me cold and a little bored. The repetition often has me skipping so fast through that I can be done with a seven minute song in seven seconds. However, there’s something about this track from Bwana that has me so intrigued from start to finish. He carefully layers and adds texture to the track over the course of its six minutes transforming an abrasive, pulsating number into a euphoric, victory lap. When he drops everything out in the middle and the pulls it all back, it’s truly the mark of a producer who understands how to make a club goers heart beat. 4.5

Zanda: This track is all about being patient, and I can immediately see that it’s the sort of track that many may skip or switch off as soon as they don’t hear the introduction go through immediate progression. You will be rewarded for your patience people; the second half of the song is a gorgeous build-up that plays with dissonant tonalities as well as resolving melodic aspects. Lovers of proper house music will be pleased with this one. 3.5

 

What So Not
Gemini
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/whatsonot/what-so-not-gemini-ft-george-maple[/soundcloud]

Sam: I’m just so enamoured with George Maple’s voice that it’s impossible for me not to like anything she’s involved in. Her voice is beautifully complemented by the thumping, ricocheting beat of What So Not. It’s also probably the most nuanced thing to come from What So Not yet too. That synth-line in the break is just a s good as anything by similar international producers by RL Grime and proves their potential on the world stage. I personally would’ve hoped for a bit more belting from Maple but I’ll hold out for that on her solo work. 3

Zanda: Another track from these guys that you could have easily never heard before and your first thought would be ‘Flume has definitely been near this’. It’s a certain note on the synth, a certain mannerism in which the bass pulls out just before the drop, and just the way the vocals and backing vocals are seamlessly inserted into the track that all typify Flume’s production style. Although being part of What So Not has definitely allowed him to explore a different side of his production, tracks like Gemini really make you wonder what on earth What So Not will sound like once he’s gone. 4.5

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

Content Director: Sam
Contributor: Zanda

fi_1april

First Impressions: Rihanna, Jamie xx, FKA twigs + More

firstimpressions_31march
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 Rihanna, Jamie xx, FKA twigs + more. 

Rihanna
Bitch Better Have My Money

Meshell: PRAISE ALMIGHTY QUEEN RIH! The bitch is back, and this piece of juicy trap goodness is getting put on REPEAT. After the sickly sweetness of her new animated film Home and the heart on her sleeve of Fourfiveseconds, we can all finally breathe a collective sigh of relief that our blunt-smokin-titty-showin-not-givin-a-f**k-Rihanna is back stronger than ever. 4.5

Sam: Last week I read that Rihanna was making an album that was “timeless” and then we get this. I ain’t mad though. RiRi has always used trends to her benefit and this one sees her at her best bat shit craziest. From the first bet she digs in and goes hard. What she’s doing is not singing and it’s not rapping, it’s simply doing Rihanna. God bless her for putting the word bitch back into the charts. 4.5

Zanda: Definitely a dark side to Rihanna that we’ve seen glimpses of before. Grimey synths and bass suit her slightly altered vocals to a tee, and it’s really quite a captivating track in its simplicity. I don’t really think the outro with the male vocals adds a whole lot and I’m not quite sure why it’s there. Other than that, a cool tune. 3

Jamie xx
Loud Places (Feat. Romy)

Meshell: The opening of this song has an effortless grace and sadness that we have come to know and love from Romy and Jamie. The song almost sounds like it was written for The xx, until we reach an unexpected build-up right before the chorus. As the bubble pops I am both joyous and confused. It’s an interesting arrangement in the choruses, Jamie has used an old Idris Muhammad sample that both lifts the song to a nostalgic place and also draws the song away from being a melancholic xx number. It was not what I was expecting and I think that’s why I love it so much. 4

Sam: “I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with,” is such a beautiful beginning to a song and it’s made even more heartbreaking by Romy’s heartbreaking voice. This is the warmest thing we’ve ever heard from Jamie xx and it’s also his most accessible. The gospel-influences in the chorus elevate the song while Romy brings it back down to earth. This rise and fall makes it such a subtle journey of emotions which is something I feel xx hasn’t achieved before in his solo career. Stop saying we can pretend this is a new xx track because it’s so much more than that. The xx have never been this uplifting. 5 Sam’s Pick

Zanda: There is just so much to love about this track, from the haunting lyrics from Romy to the chilling harmonies when the group vocals are introduced. A master of musical texture, Jamie xx again showcases his ability to build a very specific mood in his music, and to then explore the complexities of that mood through subtle variations in timbre and repetition. It’s hauntingly intense and almost could be interpreted as a teaser for his album, which unfortunately isn’t due to be released til June. 5

FKA twigs
Glass & Patron

Meshell: There’s just not much left to say about this new offering from FKA twigs as it’s already flooded every corner of the internet and I’ve already sung its praises in my coverage of the YTMAs. To re-iterate though, this is the song that has given me my FKA twigs appreciation breakthrough as nothing else she has done had really stuck with me. I think I just love the raw energy at the start of the song and the unusual transition into something that’s…kind of sassy. 4

Sam: I’ve tried to listen to this without watching the visuals because I didn’t want to get caught up in the whole image of it. Luckily the song is just as intriguing on its own. The start is mystifying. I really didn’t know where she was going with the whole minimalist almost acapella part but I’m completely digging where she went. Speeding it up makes her sound almost sub-human and sounds like it could’ve been produced by SOPHIE in parts. It’s distinctly FKA twigs but at the same time it offers up something different from her LP. It’s exciting that she’s clearly got plenty of creativity left in the tank. 4.5

Zanda: There’s no denying FKA twigs is an incredible and unique vocal talent, but personally I find her music a little bit hit and miss. There are sections of this track that are super engaging and pleasing aurally, but other parts that I struggle to make sense of musically. A track that isn’t for everyone, but I can at least appreciate that’s her aim, to polarise an audience. I’m not even going to start on the video because I can’t even. 3

MAS YSA
Look Up
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/masysa/look-up[/soundcloud]
Meshell: This song kind of makes me want to tear at my shirt and run screaming through a rainy street in a London. Y’all feel the same…right? In seriousness though this vocal delivery is devastating…it’s beautiful but it’s so damn sad which is in completely juxtaposition with the very preppy drum-beat and washy synths. I like it…I’m just a bit unsure what I like. 3.5

Sam: You’ve got to listen to this in headphones. It’s so beautifully and intricately textured with crisp, glassy beats and popping vocal samples. I think it could’ve done with a more defined chorus but it’s enthralling nonetheless. I just can’t get over the production value of this, it’s so rich and measured and that really makes the song for me. I find myself listening for nothing else but those little ear prickers. 3.5

Zanda: Gorgeous production by MAS YSA here. He is part of a growing number of artists bridging the gap between indie instrumental and electronic music. The texture builds nicely throughout, but unfortunately there’s nothing here that really makes it stand out musically. Not a huge fan of whatever the effect is that makes the vocals sound increasingly shaky throughout. 3

Brandon Flowers
Can’t Deny My Love

Meshell: Brandon Flowers has so much to live up to every time he releases a track…a lot of his earlier work with The Killers essentially defines my teenage years. So do I think this lives up to the excellence I expect off him? I think it does, it’s got a lovely unique melody that jumps around quite a bit, the percussion drives the song and there is fantastic layering, especially in the chorus. It’s not the best I’ve heard from him but there is a subtle excellence in this song. I feel like Brandon Flowers is akin to a great bottle of scotch, he is getting smoother and easier to sip with age. 4.5

Sam: I feel like Brandon Flowers’ opinion of what he’s bringing to the music world is much larger than what he is. Nonetheless it’s a smart move on his behalf getting Ariel Rechstaid on board. It sounds just as good as any of the alt-pop music going around at the moment. It probably won’t be remembered by the end of the year but that euphoric chorus is something to behold for the moment. 3

Zanda: An emotional track that showcases Brandon Flowers’ immense vocal talent. The chorus is incredibly catchy and is built up really well through each verse, and I really enjoy the guitar-synth effect that echoes the vocal chorus line. Not hard to see why his popularity is booming with songs like this. 3.5 

Japanese Wallpaper
Forces (Feat. Airling)
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/japanesewallpaper/forces[/soundcloud]
Meshell: When I saw that Airling had paired with the unfairly talented wonder-child Japanese Wallpaper I knew it was going to be epic before I even listened. Then I saw Andrei Eremin mixed and mastered the track because OF COURSE HE DID HE IS A GENIUS. This song is so easy, everything about it just works together perfectly. I’d be really happy to see this partnership do a few more tracks as they’ve really created some magic here. (Side note, wrote the word “magic” as Airling sung it…totally freaking out). 5 Meshell’s Pick

Sam: I’ve been pretty nonchalant about Japanese Wallpaper’s previous offerings but how good is this? Airling’s voice is so crisp and pure and this is the perfect atmosphere for her to show off in. The verses are stronger than the choruses melodically but for a song that sticks on the same waveform for the most part it keeps my attention. It’s mindblowing to think about how young these two are but that shouldn’t matter. This track would be great whatever age they were. 3.5 

Zanda: I was a massive fan of Between Friends, and although this follow-up has taken a while to be released it’s been well worth the wait. Japanese Wallpaper has an almost unbelievable maturity and polish to his production for someone so young. The production itself is deceptively complex (despite sounding quite simple), with various aspects of melody and effects slowly added and removed throughout, to complement Airling’s ethereal vocals. Airling has been killing it recently by herself, and it’s truly a testament to Japanese Wallpaper’s talent to really feature her in a way that shows off such a huge amount of her ability. 5 Zanda’s Pick

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

Content Director: Sam
Contributor: Zanda

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FI_23March

First Impressions: Earl Sweatshirt, Swick, Of Monsters And Men + More

FI_23March

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. 

Earl Sweatshirt
Grief

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 

M.O.
Preach

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
Worship

[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

Swick
Crystal Palace

[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. 

Of Monsters And Men
Crystals

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. 

Nero

The Thrill

[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

Contributor: Zanda

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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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FI_11march

First Impressions: Kanye West, Chromatics, M.I.A & More

FI_11march

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 part tracks by Kelela, Kanye West, Chromatics, M.I.A + more. 

Kelela
A Message

Sam: “If I was your ex…girlfriend” – that line is everything to this song. At first it’s mystifying and haunting but that line grabs you and brings you closer. It’s the most subtle of hooks but Kelela and Arca have done a masterful job of creating an intriguing track that rarely wavers if we’re talking waveforms.

This song trades in silence, with the quick breaks in noise building the intensity and making Kelela’s voice even more powerful. It’s as if Bjork and Janet Jackson reproduced and it’s unbelievably good. 5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: Take one glance at the Youtube comments surrounding this track and you’ll notice constant comparisons of Kelela to FKA twigs. Whilst she does bear some similarities to the London songstress (produced by Arca, synonymous R&B stylings and their unique explorations of love and sexuality), Kelela is an artist in her own right. While treading a bit slow for my liking, it’s a hauntingly beautiful song with a truly sensational video clip to boot. 3.5

Alex: There’s a quiet intensity to this track which demonstrates a haunting vocal. A Message shows a raw and vulnerable side to Kelela there’s a true sadness and hurt behind the lyrics which really evokes something within me. The video for the track is equally beautiful in comparison to the song with her twitching sharp movements which exaggerate the breaks in the song. 3.5

Cashmere Cat
Adore

Sam: To me, this song is like Be My Baby part 2 but the thing that makes it ever so slightly better is Grande loosens up a bit. The hook of this song is absolutely ridiculous. She seems to be just singing anything that comes to mind, but it shows that she’s having a little fun with Cashmere Cat in the studio. We’ve kind of lost the appreciation for vocal runs over the past decade. When Mariah was the queen of RnB you got the sense that she was doing anything she could to shock with her voice. Grande is doing the same thing here and she sounds brilliant. 4.5

Bianca: Meh. Ariana Grande never really strikes a chord with me so it’s no shock that she hasn’t in this circumstance either. Cashmere Cat’s production is crisp and catchy but not enough to detract away from Grande’s voice. 2.5

Alex: I’ve never really been a fan of Ariana Grande and this track isn’t doing anything to help that opinion. I mean if you loved Ariana’s last album then this track will be right up your alley. Stylistically it sounds just like something that many of ended up as a bonus track on the album. That being said if we isolated Ariana’s vocals and just focused on Cashmere Cat’s production on the track it’s clear that there was some potential to the track. I would have just liked to see a bit more oomf. 3

Kanye West
All Day

Sam: What more is there left to say about Kanye? He’s spent the last few weeks owning Paris, New York and London with fashion, music and speech with his most impressive promotional campaign of his career. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was such a success because it was a communal effort where Kanye brought out the best in every artist that featured on that record. Then Yeezus was Kanye’s solo chest-puff. On All Day it feels as if he’s adopted that communal atmosphere again, blending together hip-hop, grime, organic whistles and trap in what could be his largest sounding track yet. 4.5

Bianca: Has it only been a week since All Day has been released? I feel like this track has already been amongst West’s repertoire for an age. It manages to mix old Kanye with new Kanye in a beautiful way; it’s a punchy, genre-smorgasbordin’ smackdown that traverses between a manifold of stylings without sounding messy. McCartney’s jovial whistle is a pleasant addition. With its credits expanding to 17 individual artists, it seems that too many cooks doesn’t spoil the broth. 4.5 Bianca’s Pick

Alex: Well, well, well Mr West it seems there is something I like of yours. I’ve always been a hard line no when it comes to Kanye’s music in the past, but I’ve got to admit this track is absolutely killing it.. The pumping bass that runs as the heartbeat to the track cuts straight to your bones and could make even the stiffest person break into a little groove. 4

Deutsch Duke
Battleground

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/deutschduke/battleground-1[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love when new Aussie talent release tracks early on in their career that stack up to what’s going on internationally. That’s exactly what Battleground does. The production is crisp yet interesting and the vocals melt around the track. They are buried under so much production and yet they still manage to tug at the heart strings, aided by dense, rushing synths and the beat that falls in and out. Pretty special stuff. 4

Bianca: This is truly mesmerising. Soulful vocals enveloped in a delicious combo of house and funk have me hooked from start to finish. There’s not really more I can say about this except that I love it. 4.5  

Alex: Yess now this is more my style. Soul-Funk to the core. Effortlessly cool and electrifying. 4

Chromatics
I Can Never Be Myself When I’m Around You

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”500″]https://soundcloud.com/johnnyjewel/chromatics-i-can-never-be-myself-when-youre-around[/soundcloud]

Sam: So far Chromatics’ forthcoming record is turning out to be a pretty melancholic affair. I suppose that’s always the case but on their previous record they were yearning for love and on this one it seems like they’ve found it but they’re not completely satisfied. On I Can Never Be Myself When I’m Around You, it feels as if the lyrics are given more breathing space than the band have ever offered and it’s because they’re some of the best they’ve ever offered up. The central lyric of “I can never be myself when I’m around you” really cuts to the core as the dense, atmospheric production is halted in the verses to drive home the central message of the song. 4

Bianca: I’m getting nostalgic vibes for the washed-out electro-pop of the late 00’s with this one. The shimmering synths wash over you as Ruth Radelet’s pensive vocals lull you into a dreamstate. It’s a beautifully bittersweet ode to love. 4

Alex: It’s an uptempo affair into indietronic which will wash over you like a wave in the sea. Punching beats, soaring synth work and muted echo-y vocal that has massive potential. I wouldnt be surprised if some DJ out there at the moment is currently remixing this with a deep house or banger feel and getting ready to play this in a club. 4

M.I.A.
CanSeeCanDo

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/miauk/canseecando[/soundcloud]

Sam: I thought M.I.A.’s last record Matangi was brilliant because it seemed like she’d finally found a way to meld together her pop sensibilities and her penchant for experimentalism. CanSeeCanDo almost does that but it’s let down by a chorus that doesn’t really go anywhere. Bad Girls had a similar vibe but it was bolstered by the various instrumentals behind the track that reinforced its melody. As much attitude as she brings to this one it really feels a little forgettable by the end. Maybe if she’d incorporated the “na, na, na” part at the end as the main hook of the song it may have added something more to it. 3

Bianca: I feel this track had so much potential. I’m really into “CanSeeCanDo” part of the track but unfortunately all parts surrounding that fall flat. Literally. Is she sounding flat to anyone else? 3

Alex: Can anybody say Bad Girls  2.0? It’s M.I.A people. As if you need any more reasons to give this track a listen and then subsequently slut drop it low to the floor. 4.5 Alex’s Pick

 

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: @alexMYCS

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fi_24feb2

First Impressions: Scarlett Johansson, Sufjan Stevens, Demo Taped + More

fi_24feb

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. Today we pick part tracks by A.G. Cook, The Singles, The ex-Sugababes + more.

This week, we gave one of our writers the option to utilise their poetic licence and evaluate the tracks via acrostic poem. Results found below:

A.G. Cook & Hannah Diamond – Drop FM

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/drop-fm[/soundcloud]

Sam: Maybe I’ve been off PC Music-induced sugar for a little too long because it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get into this one. Hannah Diamond’s Every Night was the closest she’s got to guilty-pleasure pop yet and this one feels like the least accessible yet.

As it is an A.G. Cook song it makes sense that it’s a little more unconventional. It stops and starts and has this jolting motion to it almost like you’re riding in a car with a nervous driver. When Diamond is allowed to really hit the melody it sounds effortlessly brilliant. I think for full effect it really needs to be turnt up loud so that bass can hit hard with those flurry of dense synths. 3

Bianca:

Dulcet

Repetitive

Obscure

Pretty

Frantic

Messy

3.5 

PURPLE – Extinction

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/purplepurplepurple/01-extinction[/soundcloud]

Sam: I love most things WeDidIt puts out and I feel no differently about this one. That’s not to say that this is exactly the same as everything the label has released in the past. The dark, brooding tones are there but you also get a real sense of the artist’s presence on this one which is something that is often clouded in mystery with WeDidIt.

Extinction has a mournful, late-night reminiscing vibe. The vocals float while the beats way the song back down leaving it caught somewhere between being real and a dream (I borrowed that line from the song, btw). The prospect of more stuff from PURPLE this year is really exciting. 4

Bianca:

Pulsating

Undulating

Rippling

Pensive

Lamenting

Electric

4.5

Sufjan Stevens – No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross

Sam: This is light years away from anything on Age Of Adz. It’s Sufjan Stevens as the singer/songwriter and not the multi-instrumentalist producer which is nice in a ‘back to basics’ type way. I’m feeling like we’re back to the raw beauty of For The Windows In Paradise.

These stylings usually don’t appeal to me in any way but Stevens’ voice is so fragile with every word seemingly dangling in front of you until he utters the next. All it takes is a little vocal layering for him to create slight crescendoes. “Fuck me, I’m falling apart” is just such a perfect moment in time within the song. I am really feeling like we’re getting back to a point in music when artists can afford to be simple again and rely purely on the strength of their songwriting. CC: FourFiveSeconds, Tobias Jesso Jr, Father John Misty. 4.5

Bianca:

Sombre

Unflawed

Fragility

Journey

Aching

Nostrum

4

Mutya/Keisha/Siobhan – Back In The Day

Sam: Dev Hynes working with the original Sugababes has the potential to be so brilliant and I feel like with this and Flatlines they’re just scratching the surface. The being said it’s a crime against humanity that Flatlines didn’t reach the heights on the charts it deserved last year, in the UK particularly.

In Back In The Day we really get to hear their pitch-perfect harmonising which is really what MKS should be all about. Structurally it’s pretty simplistic but Hynes does enough with the melody and backing track to make sure it doesn’t float into boring mid-tempo territory. In fact, everytime I’ve listened to the chorus of this it’s grown on me. No mainstream pop music today is this stylish and crisp. I think it’s something we really need to hear on the charts and Hynes deserves a mainstream break, as do these girls (again). 3.5

Bianca:

Mellifluous

Kaching

SUGA

BABES

Idyllic

Tedious

Dainty

3

Demo Taped – I Luv U

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/demo-taped/i-luv-u[/soundcloud]

Sam: Bedroom RnB at its absolute best. This is definitely taking me right back to Jai Paul’s Jasmine but the vocals are a little more up-front making it more easily digested. It’s got this woozy, off-kilter feel to it created by its ocean-like synths. Demo Tapes says on his Soundcloud that he wanted to emulate “the feeling of love” and it really feels like he’s successfully done that. It sounds like that moment when you know everything is good but you can’t really tell why and everything surrounding you is blurred. In this case Demo Taped’s voice is in focus and everything surrounding is a blur. Super, super smooth. 3.5

Bianca:

Inky

Luuuurve

Unstable

VIP

Urbane

3

The Singles – Candy

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/federalprismrecs/candy/[/soundcloud]

Sam: I’ve always actually had a bit of a soft-spot for Scarlett Johansson’s musical projects. While her Tom Waits’ covers album was a little bit drawly, I thought the way she re-did Falling Down was actually warming. Her stuff with Pete Yorn also showed that she had a melodic side and a voice good enough to make her sound like an actual musician.

I feel like the news surrounding her release as The Singles is surrounded by less negativity. Before I say anything, I’ll say this – this is good, by any standards, whether she is a somebody or nobody. The problem I have with is is it sounds like circa 2010 when alternative girl groups were really in vogue and yet none of them did anything particularly spectacular. This is enjoyable but it’s enjoyable in the way a zooper-dooper tastes good. It’s always going to taste good but it’s never going to blow your mind. Candy. 3

Bianca:

Cute

Agreeable

Non-event

Dulcet

Youthful

2.75

FI_17Feb

First Impressions: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Hot Chip & More

FI_17Feb

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. Today we pick apart tracks by Hot Chip, Florence + The Machine, Kendrick Lamar + more.

We’ve decided to take the chance in today’s First Impressions to test whether a picture really does speak a thousand words. One reviewer is doing so through text while the other has chosen images to try and best represent the songs. Can things really be reviewed with zero words? Allow six .gifs below to answer that.

Hot Chip- Huarache Lights

Sam: I definitely was hoping that Hot Chip would go in the same sort of direction as Flutes on their next album and it seems like they are. As good as they are at pop songs, sometimes I prefer when they head straight for the dancefloor and ditch the vocal hooks. Huarache Lights sits in between those two. It still has the more organic sounding instrumentation but then sometimes like the sassy vocal sample pulls it right towards the dancefloor.

The tempo and the backbeat of the track is so mundane yet their subtle layering somehow keeps you hooked for the whole five minutes plus. At times I wish that they’d ditch the vocal and just keep with the vocal manipulation for something entirely different but that would probably ostracise a whole audience, so best they keep with what they’re known for. I feel like the bizarre, woozy soundscape of the track gives them so much room to do something a little more spectacular with the vocal though. It’s a great track but Hot Chip do great so effortlessly and maybe that’s the problem. 3.5

Bianca: hotchipgif 3

Dan Deacon- Learning To Relax

Sam: I’ve always really struggled to commit myself to Dan Deacon because in 2009 he released like three records and that’s a lot to handle. It’s kind of like never hearing The Smiths or Morrissey and then deciding you’re going to go through his whole back-catalogue with no knowledge of who is and then just deciding that it probably is more work than you’re prepared for.

Anyway that was obviously pure laziness because Learning To Relax is great. I’m always intrigued when elements of electronica combine with prog-rock. MGMT did it to a poppier spectrum with their debut and even Tame Impala did it to some extent on Londerism. Even though I can’t understand one word Deacon says, I’m thoroughly intrigued for the whole thing. That schizophrenic synth is anxious and at the same time mesmerizing while the vocal manipulation washes over you in a psychedelic haze. Maybe this is what I wanted from the Hot Chip song? Is it a coincidence that YouTube is recommending I listen to Ready For The Floor? Anyway, the final minute of this song is a hot mess and it’s utterly exhilarating. 4

Bianca: tumblr_l5iagg1MF51qa4w2fo1_400  4

Florence + The Machine- What Kind Of Man

Sam: The first time I listened to Florence’s second record Ceremonials I was impressed. It was grandiose and sophisticated and all the while had this reckless ambition but as I kept listening it revealed itself to be over-produced and too big. I had no thoughts on how she was going to tackle this third album but I’m really happy with the direction of What Kind Of Man. We haven’t heard her this aggressive since Girl With One Eye from her debut Lungs but we’ve never even heard her like this before.

The gentle beginning is beautiful but it’s the way she sings when the brass howls and the drums thrash that’s really impressive. Her accent is like nothing we’ve ever heard before, like an angsty PJ Harvey tightening the jaw. She’s lost the crystalline image of Ceremonials and roughed up to a part-primal state. She could’ve easily called up Calvin Harris and sold millions of copies but the fact she’s leading with this single shows she cares way more about her legacy than the amount of times she’s shazamed. I think this year she’ll make her upgrade to festival headliner and that will be an important talking point this year. Florence is a woman with the personality and ambition to tear up the main stage of any festival far better than a weary AC/DC or U2 can. 4

 Bianca: i-am-a-strong-woman-o3.75

Kendrick Lamar- The Blacker The Berry

Sam: It’s obvious from the first few seconds of this song that it’s way better than i. Kendrick’s last album was so successful because it was so raw and passionate and had something to say. i felt a bit Lamar-lite which wasn’t the comeback track he needed (or maybe he did. He won two Grammys), this is the track he needed. He sounds angry and it actually feels like he has something to say. “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”, is a pretty powerful line to open with particular when it’s over a dark, raw instrumental that sounds like something Nas would’ve happily put on Illmatic.

The reggae samples are just as affective as they were on Kanye West’s I’m In It, giving some kind of melody to grab on to in an otherwise pretty instrumentally linear track. I wish I could give some greater insights into his comments on race in this but I really don’t feel I could do it any justice. His line are so pertinent and powerful that they need no elaboration. “I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society/ That’s what you’re telling me, penitentiary would only hire me.” That’s some powerful stuff right there. Potently powerful. 4.5 Sam’s Pick Of The Week


Bianca: rockos
4.5 Bianca‘s Pick Of The Week

Jesse Davidson- Laika

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/jesse-davidson-9/laika[/soundcloud]

Sam: On the surface this is such a simple song but there are so many different amalgamations of genres in it. On first listen I got a strong Chet Faker vibe but there’s so much more to it than simply labeling it with a lazy comparison like that. Davidson’s voice sounds like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard if he spent his early years listening to R&B/soul and the instrumental oscillates between crisp electronica and expansive psychedelia with the chorus taking a turn towards Tame Impala.

What I’ve described it above makes it sound like a truncated, mess of a song but it isn’t. It’s actually quite a simple melody lifted by a melting pot of different genres that effortlessly blend into one another. Laika is definitely the strongest track from Davidson yet and the clubs are going to go crazy for this one. I’m actually keen to hear him on something even more expansive, borrowing more of those elements that he uses in the chorus of this. That’s when he sounds truly unique. 3.5

Bianca: clouds 4

Drake- Energy

Sam: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is wayyyy polished for a mixtape. Energy is definitely the best track on the record and that’s because Drake just digs in and goes hard for three minutes. There’s no singing, there’s no pop hooks, there’s no features, it’s just him being wonderfully arrogant.

It’s such an interesting track because it essentially digs at the internet (“Fuck going online, that ain’t part of my day”) and the culture surrounding it yet his mixtape drop basically centred around the hysteria of the internet. Drake has kind of always been a walking contradiction and for some reason that works for him. Energy is really paranoid and that’s what makes it fascinating. It feels like he’s sleeping with one eye open even though he’s not quite sure who his enemies are. Sometimes we just need to stop making sense of Drake. That and his memes take up way too much of my brain capacity. 4

Bianca: giphy (1) 3

FI_10feb

First Impressions: Feat. Obey City, Paces, Unknown Mortal Orchestra + More

FI_10feb

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. Today we pick apart tracks by Obey City, Say Lou Lou, Paces, Unknown Mortal Orchestra + more.

Obey City- Waterbad

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

Bianca: It’s slow-burning, sexy R&B without being overly soulful or smutty (choosing to ignore the use of the term ‘panties’. Ugh, I hate that word.). The electric guitar/piano breakdown is an interesting lead-up to the outro which gives us roughly 1.5 minutes of quiet reflection. 3

Sam: I haven’t heard a slow jam like this for a long time. It’s got the sort of soul that D’Angelo’s Untitled had and yet it replaces organic instrumentation with a punchier, electronic sound. I’m actually quite surprised that this sound hasn’t made more of a resurgence in the RnB resurrection but the up-side is that this sounds so much fresher and in a league of its own. I’m always up for a guitar solo to finish proceedings. 4

Meshell: I’m trying very hard to love this song because I love Obey City but it feels SO unfinished production wise and lyrics like “got your face down, ass up” can really only be sung by real bad-asses and this song makes me feel like being I’ve been slapped with a wet towel. My favourite bit is the outro, when our feature singer has left us and I can just enjoy some sweet Never Ending Story-esque synths. 1.5

Say Lou Lou- Nothing But A Heartbeat

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

Bianca: This is an instantly catchy pop tune; simple and cleverly arranged by the Australian-Swedes, Say Lou Lou, like an Ikea instruction manual. There’s an element of nostalgia to it in the form of the anthemic chorus and dreamy synths, brought back to earth with piano keys and tingling strings. 4

Sam: These girls are making such crystalline pop music and yet for some reason they haven’t had that track that really makes everybody look up yet. I would’ve though it would be Games For Girls but that kind of whimpered on and off the internet. Nothing But A Heartbeat also has the goods with its big sprawling chorus bolstered by ethereal vocals. I feel like it’s perfect for a TV promo and that would give them just that extra push. Either way, this makes me super excited for the album. If we’re talking purely melody and vocals, it’s almost faultless. 3.5

Meshell: The opening hook of this song is a blatant imitation of that annoying Ed Sheeran song Sing and so I am already lost.There are dreamy synths and reverb filled guitars galore which I’m sure is meant to give the song sweet indie cred but to me I am hearing a cleverly arranged pop tune that is going to be stuck in my head all day…still, I’d probably go watch their set at a festival (Laneway 2016?) because I’m curious. 2.5

Towkio- Involved (Feat. Vic Mensa)

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/towkio/involved-ft-vic-mensa-prod-kaytranada[/soundcloud]
Bianca: Vic’s Down On My Luck was one of the most exciting tracks of 2014 and seeing the Chicagoan in action at Laneway Festival on the weekend secured his status as a promising MC. Towkio holds his own in the beginning and Kaytranada’s production is as clean as ever but it was Mensa and his velvet-smooth vocals that I was really holding out for. The finale is very confusing for me. The crescendoing chanting braced me for an exciting climax but instead I’m left wanting more. 3

Sam: Vic Mensa and Kaytranada are becoming quite the team now, aren’t they? This is probably the funkiest thing they’ve combined forces for and that’s probably owed to Towkio. Towkio is part of the Save Money crew with Vic and, based on the strength of this, could easily be the next highlight to come from the label. The verses aren’t overly memorable but the dense baseline that runs behind it really drives it home. The end gets me excited for another chorus and then leaves me high and dry 🙁 3

Meshell: The great thing about this song is that even though Vic Mensa is dripping his fantastic brand of lazy cool onto it, he’s not stealing the show because the production is totally holding its own. That beat, that bass, that boys-club chant at the end of the tune. I’d play this at my next house party. 3.5

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-Love

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

Bianca: This is pure heart-melting stuff. The multi-layered Multi-Love has smatterings of pop and touches of soul, led by the ethereal voice of Ruban Nielson. Like love, it’s bittersweet; swaying between the moods of happiness, satisfaction, sadness, agony and ecstasy. I may not know much about love but I do know that I have strong feelings for this song. 4.5 Bianca‘s Pick

Sam: I was captivated by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s last record. It was this warped indie-rock thing that somehow weaved in melodies taken straight out of the Motown era. I’m so happy to hear that Multi-Love still brings that familiar warmth to it. The difference is, this is much cleaner. There’s less reverb and the keys are far perkier. It’s good to hear UMO in a different mode than loneliness because I feel their warmth lends better to tunes that have a little more sunshine. Mark Ronson would love this/wish it was his. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Meshell: This new clean-cut production from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is so unexpected and has me totally entranced. There is a perkiness in the rhythm and melancholy in the vocals all strung together with hints of psychedelia, romantic piano and beautifully reaching melodies. There really is just something a little bit magical going on here, I’ve just played this track 4 times in a row and it gets better every time. If this single is anything to go by, the album is going to be mind-blowing. 5 Meshell’s pick

Nothing’s Forever- Paces (Feat. Kucka)

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/pacesmusic/nothings-forever-feat-kucka-2[/soundcloud]

Bianca: The slinky mood is instantly set as Kucka’s crystalline voice, followed closely by the music box-inspired melody, opens the track. Once Paces’ signature future-beat sneaks its way in, Nothing’s Forever instantly turns into a glitchy, yet structured, piece of sugary sweet goodness. Possibly a bit too sweet for me. Paces’ shimmering production, however, is as clean-cut as ever. 3

Sam: Kucka’s opening line to this just melts me. Her voice is so tender and yet so other-wordly. Below her Paces sounds like he’s lightly tapping on china making the whole thing beautifully fragile. Things then ramp up a bit and we’re left with a bass-heavy drop before the storm calms and we’re delivered a far more dense second verse. Paces work with Tkay Maidza has been nothing short of brilliant and he does the same here with Kucka. He’s great at showing his production chops and also allowing enough room for the oddities of his vocalists to come through. 4

Meshell: Paces is kicking all kinds of goals this year (hello Hottest 100) but that clearly hasn’t made him complacent. This new offering is a perfect blend of tropical bubblegum glitch and grimy future-beat. This is the epitome of the “Australian sound” that is so envied in the world of EDM at the moment. This track isn’t pushing the envelope in terms of originality but it’s fun, well-layered and it’s nice to see to young Aussies teaming up and setting the bar for new talent crazily high. 3

Ara Koufax- Market

[soundcloud width=”750” height=”200”]https://soundcloud.com/ara-koufax/market[/soundcloud]

Bianca: Ara Koufax always know how to set the mood. While some may class 2013 and 2014 as the years of sax overkill, courtesy of Ariana Grande and ♪♫ Jason Derulo ♪♫, I still find it very necessary. But only when used appropriately. In Market, it’s used tastefully, acting as the vehicle for the track and not as an annoying, looping add-on found in mainstream pop songs. Backed by a steady bass and undulating synths, this track can weave its way into any late night playlist. 4

Sam: This is the ultimate summer dusk mood setter. It’s been an unbearably hot day but he sun is beginning to set and a slight breeze is beginning to weave through loose-clad clothes. Both Brenda and Market have given me this heartwarming sense of community. Cut Copy dropped the former at OutsideIn and without any commotion the crowd put their hands in the air and began to sway. It’s the same with this. It makes me want to be with friends, listening to the same thing, all pretending we know a shit load about the history of contemporary sax playing. Of which I know nothing. 4

Meshell: That sax….THAT SAX. I have never heard of Ara Koufax before but I am now on the bandwagon. This song is a total slow burner FYI but somewhere amidst the serene synths and drone-like bass, is something that makes this song way too sexy to play in the office without getting a few weird looks. In all seriousness though this is a fantastic display of great musicianship and production know how, and if Andrei Eremin is following them on Soundcloud, you know they’re good. BRB going to remove a few layers of clothing. It’s getting hot in here. 4

fi2ndfeb

First Impressions: Feat. Daniel Johns, Kaytranada, Shlohmo & More

fi2ndfeb

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. Today we pick apart tracks by Daniel Johns, Kaytranada, Shlohmo + more.

Courtney Barnett- Pedestrian At Best

Donna: All Courtney Barnett’s songs sound the same to me. My honest opinion is that she’s not that great. The lyrics to Pedestrian at Best are sombre and depressing, and her Aussie twang doesn’t help matters. 2
Sam: I said it when I wrote this up and I was pretty pleased with myself so I’ll say it again- Courtney Barnett is doing for Aussie accents what Alex Turner did for British accents. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but every artist with a clear distinction has been divisive and Barnett is no different. This is her bringing her A-game. She’s angsty and sings like a runaway train, allthewhile making the mundane sound raucous and thrilling. Love her who vibe and her in general, actually. 4

Sam: I said it when I wrote this up and I was pretty pleased with myself so I’ll say it again- Courtney Barnett is doing for Aussie accents what Alex Turner did for British accents. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but every artist with a clear distinction has been divisive and Barnett is no different. This is her bringing her A-game. She’s angsty and sings like a runaway train, allthewhile making the mundane sound raucous and thrilling. Love her who vibe and her in general, actually. 4

Bianca: Courtney B has got such a unique twang to her singing style. Slightly ocker Aussie without being painfully bogan, she manages to portray her lyrics with an honesty and wit that enable her songs to be received in an amusing way, much like the comical Australian poetry and yarns found in the most woop woop of pubs. Like Vegemite, I feel people will love or hate this song. And I loooove my Vegemite. 4

Shlohmo- Buried

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/shlohmo/buried/[/soundcloud]

Donna: Not overly familiar with Shlohmo, but Buried is a dark, rock-centric track that takes a while to get going. While every facet of the track is painstakingly obvious, it is not necessarily a bad thing, and I found myself being drawn into the song. Shlohmo shows off his musical dexterity, and grasp of structure within Buried, and while I couldn’t picture the perfect setting for it, I imagine there would be ravers and/or goths dancing to this track. 3

Sam: I’ve been watching rock creep into electronica for a while now and it’s actually really doing things for me. Shlohmo is the dark king and Buried is exactly what you’d expect from him if you’d just seen him for the first time. It sounds like an old, creaking church whose bells chime when rats scurry over them. It’s the middle section climax that really drives it for me. That’s when it’s no longer unbearably mysterious. I’m also feeling some Metallica vibes in there. 4

Bianca: When releasing this track, Shlohmo was quoted as saying: “You don’t have to like it, just listen to it.” And I’m doing as told. This one is a bit too sci-fi for my liking, the dark synths and pitter-pattering melody kind of leading nowhere. Buried belongs as an intro or interluding track on his upcoming album, Dark Red, and nowhere else. 2.75

Kaytranada- Drive Me Crazy (Feat. Vic Mensa)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/kaytranada/drive-me-crazy-featuring-vic-mensa[/soundcloud]

Donna: Since I heard his remix of Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life”, I have been a staunch fan of Kaytranada, and Drive Me Crazy solidifies that love. Vic Mensa changes it up with hard, choppy rapping, and then soulful singing in the chorus (and thank gawddd he doesn’t once say “bitches” or “hoes”). Kaytranada’s production prowess is evident, as little bits of melody created with dreamy synth sounds are carried by thumping kick drum, and goes from hard and trappy in verses to soft in the choruses. The 2nd single off his upcoming album, Kaytranada does not fail to impress. 4.5

Sam: Well this is pretty much a who’s who of hyped artists. Vic Mensa and Kaytranada are a match made in heaven with Mensa perfectly slotting his rap into Kaytranada’s electronica come hip-hop aesthetic. It’s woozy and a little unsettling but that’s what makes it interesting. I think the hook could have been a little bit more memorable but to do that would be to damage the vibe of the song, so I don’t know what I want. 3

Bianca: Vic’s velvety vocals really make this for me. He manages to smooth out the track just as the rap portion becomes a little bit monotonous. The production leaves a little to be desired, however. A second over 4:02 and I would have certainly become bored. 3

TALA and How To Dress Well – The One

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/howtodresswell/the-one[/soundcloud]

Donna: How To Dress Well is an artist I have labeled as part of the elite “white boy RnB” club, and rarely misses when it comes to releasing new tracks. From the #songsfromscratch series, How To Dress Well worked with TALA to create a stellar track. TALA, although pretty new on the scene, delivers some nice vocals, explaining how her first live show sold out last week. I love the intermingling of the male and female voices at the end, and HTDW’s vocals are on point as usual. While it is a good addition to the summer playlist, with just the right amount of trap/tropical vibes, it’s not a massive standout within the genre. 4

Sam: I just love this so much because it’s so abrasively melodic. Tom Krell is a master of melody and TALA is becoming an innovative force within the electronic music sphere; together they’ve created something that’s a definite RnB throwback but one that also sounds futuristic. You know how in turn of the Millennium video clips everyone was obsessed with space and metallic outfits? That’s the visual I get from this. I want to direct a video and have the two of them floating around in some loved-up embrace. Aside from that, it’s really nice to hear TALA’s vocal potential straight up without the experimenting she does on her own work. I think that’s Krell’s doing. He’s the best. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: I love it. Krell’s voice really shines with the fast-tracked, skittering backbeat. You can definitely hear TALA’s influence making an appearance; the Middle-Eastern-cross-Caribbean melodies creating a sonically beautiful cross of cultures. Bianca’s Pick

Daniel Johns- Aerial Love

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/danieljohnshq/ariel-love[/soundcloud]

Donna: Well, this is different, and as one Soundcloud commentator pointed out: I can’t believe this is not rock. No, it definitely is not! What Ariel Love is, is a sexy, steamy and intimate song to enjoy while sipping some red wine in the spa. The song, with its throbbing kick drum pulsating all the way through, adds an element of heat, with the inviting vocals and harmony in the pre-chorus drawing the listener in. Despite being a drastic change for Johns’, this song is effortless, remaining simple, with layered vocals creating a satisfying ebb and flow effect ensuring the song continually moves, and the listener is never bored. One point: this track, while extremely “on trend”, sounds like what many artists are currently doing – very Drake/Sohn sounding. In saying that, this is Donna’s Pick 5

Sam: When I was a kid my two idols were Ian Thorpe and Daniel Johns. When Thorpe came out last year, I found this fire in me that felt like I had to defend him against the naysayers, like some paternal instinct. I feel the same with Johns. Aerial Love is so far removed from Silverchair, that I don’t even really feel as if they have to be mentioned in the same sentence, but I just did it so…That track definitely doesn’t have that pop-smack that radio would eat up but it doesn’t seem Johns is endeavouring to go down that path. Instead he crafts a minimal, mellow track that’s the most soulful thing he’s done. His voice is wildly unbelievable but it’s really nice to hear him pull it back and show some restraint. 3.5

Bianca: It’s so refreshing to hear someone making such a subtle comeback. This track oozes experience and self-reflection; Johns has had some time away from the limelight, re-visiting his music career and approaching it in a new light. The R&B influence suits him surprisingly well and I look forward to hearing the rest of his upcoming EP to see if he follows the same direction. 3.75 (Side note: This is my Mum’s pick of the week.)

Mike Will Made It- Drinks On Us (Feat. The Weeknd, Future, Swae Lee)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/theweeknd/mike-will-made-it-drinks-on-us-feat-the-weeknd-swae-lee-future[/soundcloud]

Donna: I find this track to be pretty average and the chorus lyrics uninspired (and repetitive). I enjoy the rapping –  both rappers have a good flow and feel within the track, but it would have been good to see them more integrated, instead of just tacked on at the end. Nothing monumental is happening in the instrumentation, which is by large repeated throughout the whole song on a loop. This clocks the track in at a relatively uninteresting 5 minutes. I feel this track could have had some more work on structure, however, the Weekend doesn’t disappoint on vocals. 3

Sam: I love Mike Will Made It but this song pisses me off to no end. I think if he began the song with the Future verse I would be able to prepare myself for The Weeknd but starting with his slimy vocals on that annoying hook is just unfair really. I feel like they’re channelling a Move That Dope vibe but failing. There’s something about The Weeknd that really irks me and he really has to be in the pocket for me to come around. Unfortunately, he makes this feel limp. Future’s verse is on point though, so it’s a shame it only comes in after 3 minutes. By that time it has already lost me. 2

Bianca: Well, this is quite monotonous. You’d think with all the guest spots, the rhythm would have been shaken up a bit? I’m also going to take a point away because The Weeknd’s hair was a bitch to photoshop. 1.75

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