From ‘DAYTONA’ to ‘K.T.S.E.’.
From ‘DAYTONA’ to ‘K.T.S.E.’.
“Honestly if Harry Styles tries me with generic garbage like this when he drops his solo material I will be absolutely livid”: new music roundtable reviewed.
“An off-brand attempt to cross over”: this week’s new music reviewed.
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 Wave Racer, Disclosure, Tory Lanez, Meg Mac, Kid Cudi and Carly Rae Jepsen.
Flash Drive (Feat. Baby)
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/wave-racer/wave-racer-flash-drive-feat-bby-1[/soundcloud]
Zanda Wilson: Well I should disclose that I’ve been waiting for something new from Wave Racer for a while, and boy has he delivered. Wavey gamer vibes are what has made a name for the Sydney producer, and Flash Drive has all of it in spades. Nothing unexpected, just some great feel-good effects, and dayum that slap bass solo interlude in the middle. Just fantastic. 5 Zanda’s Pick
Alistair Rhodes: Wave Racer’s distinct and unique sound definitely shines through with this new song, as soon as you hear it you know it’s Wave Racer. The addition of Baby on vocals is just wow! I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more producers use her vocals over the next year or so. That bass guitar in the middle screams ‘Seinfeld intro’ to me and who doesn’t like Seinfeld! 4
Ben Kyi: Over a year since the release of his single Streamers, Wave Racer has returned with the jovial Flash Drive. The track utilises to full extent the sugary, high spirited electronica and video game vibes that we have come to expect from Wave Racer, but with the added bonus of killer vocals from Baby and a fantastically sporadic cut and paste bass solo. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait another year for his next release. 4
Sam Murphy: Yes, I love wavey adding vocals to his tracks. There are definite rays of PC Music in this one but it still has his signature aqua-soaked beats. It’s colourful and playful, exactly how it should be and surprisingly never gets overwhelming. I also like that it’s attached to an EP, which means we’re getting more music from the beat maestro. 3.5
Omen (Feat. Sam Smith)
Zanda: There’s something about Sam Smith’s voice that just suits Disclosure’s style of production. Anyone that loved Latch will dig this one. The British duo are able to feature Smith’s spectacular range whilst still imparting their signature bass vibe on the track. If I had to pick on something I would suggest that Smith’s vocals in the chorus are a bit over-worked and altered, but there’s no doubting the huge value of this tune. 4.5
Alistair: Disclosure really love working with Sam Smith and who wouldn’t, he has an amazing voice, but in saying that I’m really not digging this one from the British lads. Omen doesn’t seem to go anywhere and stays stagnant throughout the full four minutes of the song. It definitely doesn’t get me moving the way that Latch did. 2
Ben: Following on from Latch, there was a lot of understandable hype surrounding the release of the second collaboration between Disclosure and Sam Smith. The pulsating bass, shimmering beats and great production that the two piece are known for, are all present on Omen, and Sam Smith’s vocals are once again impeccable. However, the track doesn’t really build to anything. This isn’t to say it is a bad track. Though instead of accelerating, Omen seems to be content with merely drifting along. 3
Sam: This one’s a tough one because the first time I heard it I thought it was a little lacklustre. It just felt like the chorus was flat. But it’s grown on me since it’s release and I actually remember thinking the chorus to Latch was a bit of a letdown when I first heard it too. Now I’ve gotten used to that fact that Omen isn’t a 120BPM banger I’m starting to enjoy it’s subtle textures. The layered vocals in the chorus suit Sam Smith to a tee and the beats are bouncy and malleable. It’s probably not the earth-shattering hit it could’ve been but it’s good. Ask me in a month I might say it’s great. 3.5
Zanda: With vocals as smooth as Tory Lanez, its hard to go wrong. However good production should always be recognised, and although there some sparse, underworked backings throughout some of the verse sections the overall use of synthetic melody and effects is good. The chorus redeems any other flaws, with free-flowing vocals sitting on top of some gorgeous bass. 3.5
Alistair: Boy oh boy Tory Lanez what a voice. I wonder if he was ever in the church choir as a little boy because those harmonies that he breaks into are truly gospel like. Tory can not only rap but he can sing and I wouldn’t be surprised if this catchy R&B number races up the charts. 3
Ben: There is very warm feeling throughout Tory Lanez’s latest cut Say It. Whether it is the low key production, the gospel style backing vocals or the honesty in Lanez’s words, Say It is a mostly solid R&B number. The only drawback is the unnecessary use of auto-tune on Lanez’s vocals. This somewhat kills what would have been a pretty amazing track. 2.5
Sam: Torey Lanez is really holding us down while we wait for Jeremih to get his shit together and release Late Nites. Lanez is a smooth vocalist but it’s the sample of Brownstone’s If You Love Me that really takes this track to the next level. Lanez’s work with WeDidIt earlier this year was brilliant but this seems to tread a really careful line between alternative R&B and the mainstream. I reckon over the course of this year this one’s going to be a real sleeper hit. 4
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/megmacmusic/meg-mac-never-be-1[/soundcloud]
Zanda: Its awesome hearing Meg Mac exploring a darker side to her style here, with dominant and dark piano dominating some gorgeous phrase-ending cadences. ‘Never Be’ also shows another side of her vocal range, really delving into the lower levels of pitch, and putting Mac’s amazing versatility on display. She just keeps going from strength to strength. 4
Alistair: This song kicks off with a BANG as soon as Meg Mac starts singing. She has such a powerful voice which is perfectly accompanied by an equally powerful piano and kick drum. If you close your eyes and listen to Never Be, automatically your foot will start tapping and your fingers will begin clicking. You just want to start screaming out the lyrics with Meg Mac on this one. 5 Alistair’s pick
Ben: Arguably one of the most talented musicians kicking around the country at present, Meg Mac is back with Never Be. Mac has a flair for smart and engaging composition full of heart and emotion, and this track is no different. Both the striking piano chords and sharp drum hits are anchored by the superb vocals belted out by Mac. This gal can do no wrong at the moment. Eagerly awaiting the release of her debut album. 4.5 Ben’s Pick
Sam: Meg Mac’s voice is always undeniable but it’s really good to hear her hitting it a bit harder with this one and that’s thanks to M-Phazes formidable production. There are hip-hop, gospel and singer/songwriter vibes in her and it all comes together perfectly tied together by Mac’s smokey, textured vocals. The repetition of “I will never be thank the lord” is also a really choice move. That’s the thing that takes it from being good and makes it really memorable. This is her best to date IMO. 4
[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/cudderland/confused[/soundcloud]
Zanda: An interesting track here by Kid Kudi, with that initial guitar riff dominating the entire song showing off a heavier instrumental emphasis than we are used to. Truthfully it gets a little repetitive, and the guitar itself sounds too synthetic for the role it’s playing in establishing the track as almost a rock tune. It doesn’t sound like the equalisation is quite finished either, with layers of sound all competing in the same register. 2.5
Alistair: Is Kid Cudi trying to channel Nirvana here? This song has taken a very different style to what we are used to hearing from Kid Cudi. Rather than being an upbeat dance number which Cudi is renowned for, this has tried to go grunge and it fails miserably. The guitar riff is just as repetitive as the whiny singing and after a minute 30 I’d already had enough. 1
Ben: I understand that Kid Cudi is trying something vastly different with Confused, but to be brutally honest, it really hasn’t worked at all. His vocals are off, the main guitar riff is flat and uninteresting and the mix is all over the place. This track recalls a bad ‘90s cover band, comprised of a group of angsty teenagers, recording a demo on an old cassette player which requires cleaning. Confused left me confused, and slightly infuriated. 1
Sam: I know Kid Cudi has a real cult following and they’re probably up with why he’s trying to be Creed but I really, really don’t get this. Melding hip-hop with rock is very rarely a good idea and that point is proven here. It’s off-tune, unfinished and really self-serving. Raury’s Devil’s Whisperer pulled off a similar aesthetic this year and that was by adding in a fire rap verse at the end. Cudi seems to ditch all his identity here and for what? A real stinker of a single and to quote a user on Soundcloud “wtf is this shit.” 1
Carly Rae Jepsen
Zanda: Carly Rae has jumped on the bandwagon of using song titles to describe types of blood. This is a weird one, I can’t quite get my head around what she’s trying to do with it. With some of the spacing of the bass where the entire sound almost drops out at certain points I feel like Jepsen is trying to show that she’s not just a sweet and cute pop star. If that’s the goal here she unfortunately misses the mark, and it just sounds confused. 2
Alistair: It’s clear that Carly Rae Jepsen is trying to break free from the pop star mould that she created for herself with Call Me Maybe. At times throughout this track you can get a sense that she is capable of achieving that, but not with this song. Warm Blood is all over the place, the bass line backing track keeps fading in and out at odd intervals and when at it’s loudest Carly Rae’s voice isn’t powerful nor loud enough to compete with it. The secondary vocals are completely unnecessary. Nine out of 10 for effort for trying not to be a pop star anymore. 1
Ben: In an attempt to stray away from her pop image, Carly Rae Jepsen has concocted Warm Blood; a lacklustre and jumbled foray into electropop which comes across as a watered down version of a CHVRCHES B-side. It makes sense that Jepsen would want to shed her previous image, but this shift doesn’t feel natural in the slightest. 1.5
Sam: I’m really starting to sound like I’m one of whatever Carly Rae Jepsen calls her fans…Jeppers or something like that. Her last album Kiss was really weak but this latest one is probably the best pop album of the year. Warm Blood is a highlight from that. It’s a twisted, liquid banger, produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmangli who like Dev Hynes has been really successful at making interesting pop music. Here he plays with her vocals and adds some really lovely pitched-down samples that make me wanna squeeze this song, it’s that good. Actually, now I think of it, it’s the same kind of vocal manipulation they used on Ezra Koenig’s voice in California English – just a lightbulb moment, may or may not be relevant. 4.5 Sam’s Pick