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FirstImpressionz

First Impressions: ZAYN, All Saints, Charli XCX And More

FirstImpressionzFirst 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 ZAYN, Nao, Charli XCX, Baauer, Tokimonsta and All Saints.

ZAYN
It’s You

Zanda Wilson: If this song was a drink; it would be a non-alcoholic beer, but one that you expected to be alcoholic, and so therefore you are taking on maximum carbs at minimum efficiency. 2 out of 5 

Sam Murphy: I’m glad that we finally get to hear some of the Malay material from ZAYN and it’s definitely a different vibe to Pillowtalk. His voice is near-perfect and it’s great to hear some runs that we weren’t really able to hear on his 1D tracks but I can’t help but think he’s got more to give us. There’s gotta be some real gritty stuff on the album and that’s what I’m hanging out for. Also I can’t help but think this is a slowed-down version of 1D’s Gotta Be You. 3.5 out of 5 

Annie Cooper: I was excited to hear Zayn’s solo stuff initially, but between this and Pillowtalk I can’t help but feel really underwhelmed. I mean, at least with 1D there was that guilty pleasure aspect, but this track is kind of just nothing. His vocals are good and so is the production, but quite frankly I can’t remember what it even sounded like and the track stopped playing about two minutes ago. Hopefully his album will come bearing grittier tracks but I’m not getting my hopes up. 2 out of 5 

Jack Cain: Fuck off,  Zayn. 0 out of 5 

Meshell Webb: Nice to see Zayn being all grown up…leaving behind the childish realm of boybands and instead writing songs for the next Twilight film (they’re still making those…right?) 1 out of 5 

Average score: 1.7/5

Nao
Fool To Love

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/thisnao/nao-fool-to-love-1[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a spiced rum or whisky, think Sailor Jerrys or even Canadian Club Spiced. Smooth as hell but with a slight kick that you probably weren’t expecting. 4

Sam: Nao has nailed that funky-electronica aesthetic. It feels like she’s got the perfect toolkit and she’s sticking to it which means all her stuff is starting to sound really consistent. This is another knockout. It’s effortless but also sounds really modern and fresh. Her voice is interesting but not in your face and it doesn’t seem like she’s forcing anything. So natural and so bloody good.

Annie: This track grabbed me from the start, and it only got better as it progressed. Something about it is giving me early ’00s vibes, which I can’t get enough of- though it’s still undeniably very modern. Annie’s Pick

Jack: Another song like this, how fun. This song takes me back to 2013 when the first lot of producers started bringing this sound back. Not modern. Recycled. Kaytranada and Snakehips made this shit when no one cared. Still kinda cool, but yeah, not mind blowing. 3

Meshell: Will add to my cooking dinner playlist [I like to cook to sexy R&B…what of it?] but I’m with Jack when it comes to the production, it’s incredibly recycled. Luckily, it’s got some solid melodic content going on. 3.5 

Average score: 3.7/5

Charli XCX
Paradise (Feat. Hannah Diamond)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/vroomvroomrecordings/paradise-2min-edit-charli-xcx-4416[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a European Radler or American hard lemonade. You might be worried about it being overly sweet, but there’s some real substance there. Some may say that they’re not a fan of the style but you might surprise yourself by indulging. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: I’m going to be really biased because I love Charli XCX to death and that love only grows stronger with every batshit crazy thing she does. She’s literally just established herself as a mainstream popstar and then she goes and starts her own label and released sugar-high tunes like this just because she wants to make cool shit. It’s a shame commercial radio only accepts different shades of vanilla because this could be a runaway hit if given the chance. 4.5 Sam’s Pick 

Annie: I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Charli XCX, because this track and everything else she’s released as of late is killer. She’s come a long way since Boom Clap, and i’m very thankful for that. If her future releases follow in this direction, she’ll be making a big fan out of me. 4

Jack: Scooter called, they want their Logical Song back. What is this exactly? Sounds like a bunch of Minions shit into a sampler. 1.5 

Meshell: I would rather listen to the Donald Trump says China REMIX than ever have to listen to this all the way through ever again. 

Average score: 2.9/5 

Baauer
Kung Fu (Feat. Future and Pusha T)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/baauer/kungfu[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a decent-quality whisky or bourbon. Think perhaps Monkey’s Shoulder or Maker’s Mark. Something that should probably be enjoyed alone but you might find yourself occasionally adding it to a playlist and mixing coke with. 3.5

Sam: The way I know Baauer is doing a great job at the moment is because I literally forgot that Harlem Shake existed until it popped up on my feed the other day. He’s forged ahead with dope tunes and this is another one of them. Getting Future on the track at the peak of his career is a clever move and it also helps that he suits the Baauer sound down to the ground. Still, Future adds the melody here but it’s Pusha T who raises hell. 3.5 

Annie: Getting Future and Pusha T on this track only proves that Baauer is becoming a huge artist in his own right. With that said, I can’t really get into this track. It’s undeniably catchy and I could definitely hear this being played in clubs, but it’s just not for me. It feels incomplete, as though it was building to something that just never happened. 2.5 

Jack: Big swing, no ding. 

Meshell: Sorry to say that I’m ready to fall asleep right now…but getting Future on your track is a smart move, now every fuckwit in Adidas Superstars and a Thrills t-shirt is going to think you’re a trap god. 

Average score: 2.7/5

Tokimonsta
Giving Up (Feat. Johnny Pierce)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/giving-up-feat-jonny-pierce[/soundcloud]

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a long island iced tea. There are a whole lot of elements here that work together so well, but there’s nothing soft about what you’re drinking. Each part is just as important as what together they create. 4

Sam: At different points in my life I’ve wanted to be The Drums and Tokimonsta so this pairing is obviously right up my alley. The Drums were more of a circa 2010 thing for me but Tokimonsta is very much the sound of the future so she’s able to bring Johnny Pierce into 2016. This doesn’t hit as hard as the Anderson Paak-featuring Put It Down but it brings a haunting vibe that circles the ears nicely. 3.5 

Annie: The pairing of Tokimonsta and Johnny Pierce was a great one, their combined talents make this track one of Tokimonsta’s best so far. It’s pretty easy going, never reaching so far as to go over the top, but it really works. As a SoundCloud user stated, ‘this some magical shit’. 3.5

Jack: Hello, it’s me the guy who hates everything. I was wondering if you were all wondering if I’d end up liking something. This is it, this is great, fuck yes. A beat that kicks in and takes you tumbling through your head and into a dancefloor, vocals put in their place nicely and a thought-provoking arrangement. Its 2016, this is living, Barry. 4 Jack’s pick

Meshell: A GOOD SONG! A GOOD SONG! Good to know those are still getting made. This is a clever and unexpected pairing. The piano is gorgeous and the choice of instrumentation in the chorus is charming and everything I love about Tokimonsta. 4 Meshell’s pick 

Average score: 3.8/5 

All Saints
One Strike

Zanda: If this song was a drink; it would be a smooth, dry white wine. Relatively inoffensive on the palate but not a whole lot else to back up the soft exterior taste. 2.5

Sam: For a group that really only have about three songs that I’ve circulated, it’s interesting that I still really care about All Saints. I think I’ll be forever paying them appreciation for adding a minute long monologue to the beginning of a pop song and that’s why I was really excited about them coming back. The best thing is, they’re not reuniting to join some ‘90s tour with 5ive and Bewitched, they’re actually making good tunes that sound like 2016 but also sound like All Saints. The harmonies are on point here, the vibe is Pure Shores and they don’t look a day past twenty.

Annie: I’m pretty sure the last song I heard from All Saints was on a Total Girl CD back when I was 9. I probably appreciated them more back then, this song isn’t really doing anything for me. Kudos to them for making a track that sounds more legitimate than a reprise of their old 90’s sound, but there’s still nothing too memorable here past the point of listening. 2.5 

Jack: I’ll “never ever” be listening to this again. 1

Meshell: I’m glaring at my computer screen cursing a certain somebody I know would have made sure this got a spot on the First Impressions list because it’s 2016 and there is no place for All Saints in my musical spectrum. Frankly I’m offended by the blatant attempt to rebrand as some sort of Haim rip off…and that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t even like Haim. 0.5 

Average score: 2.1/5 

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fi_27Nov

First Impressions: Beyoncé, Kučka, Honne + More

fi_27Nov

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’re picking apart the new Major Lazer track with Ariana Grande, George Maple’s newie, Mark Ronson’s new Bruno Mars-featuring single + more. 

Kučka- Divinity

Hannah M: Despite its quick tempo drumbeats, Divinity is calming. The mystical, layered backing track and Kučka’s breathy voice combine to create a divine quality that’s nice and easy to listen to. Without sounding like a douchebag (hopefully) I actually feel this would make a lovely, if unconventional song to do yoga to. 3.5

Sam: This song has kind of blown up on the internet this week and there’s a reason for it. I actually think this is one of the most interesting tracks to come out of the country this year. She mixes an AlunaGeorge-flavoured RnB with Grimes’ empty-room, dim-lit pop. While her voice has an otherworldly aspect to it, it still really connects. 4

Bianca: The layers of Japanese-inspired percussion and ratchety, syncopated drums create a pleasingly dark and mysterious atmosphere. She doesn’t sound like she’s from this country nor does she even sound like she’s even from this world. 3.75

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/midnightfeature/kucka-divinity[/soundcloud]

Oceaan- Candour

Hannah M: I love Oliver Cean’s straight-talking yet soft-spoken voice in Candour; the Northern English accent is somehow endearing. Trailing percussion and synth beats build to the bursting chorus, though everything stays controlled and refined, restrained even. A really cool, smooth jam. 4

Sam: Usually these atmospheric, minimal productions make the voice sound really devoid from the song but here it sits right up the front and carries the melody effortlessly. The instrumental then creeps up behind it moulding its ebbs and flows. 3.5

Bianca: My interest was only piqued at around the halfway mark and by then it was all a bit too late. Don’t get me wrong, this track has some really lovely production, in particular the multi-layered, maudlin percussive elements, but it failed to keep me awake. 3.5

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/ocea-n/candour[/soundcloud]

Beyoncé- 7/11

Hannah M – Beyonce’s performance skills are unmatched and her video clips are always highly anticipated, but this particular iPhone style mash-up really brings 7/11 to life. It’s basically Beyoncé dancing crazy in a way that only Beyonce could. Just as her movements, the rhythm is staccato and punchy, though again I think it’s the accompanying clip that has garnered this song such viral attention rather than the music itself. 3

Sam: Beyoncé literally couldn’t give two f**ks at the moment and this track is proof of that. After her hugely successful solo album, she follows it up with this hook-less song that goes hard for 3 mins 30. It’s the most bonkers track I’ve ever heard by her by rapping instead of singing shows that she knows she can sing the phonebook but she doesn’t always have to use it. She’s such an intriguing, surprising person to watch right now. 4 

Bianca: This track just straight-up smacks you in the face. Immediately, just like Beyoncé herself, it launches into glitchy movements with a rickety, trap-like backbeat syncopating along. Throughout the entirety of the track I’m never completely sure where she’s heading but I’m okay with that. With no definitive beginning, middle or end, it’s like three and a half minute-long, 7/11 Slurpee brain-freeze. 3

Kero Kero Bonito- Build Up

Hannah M: The only good use I can think of for Build Up is as a soundtrack for a kids cartoon show. Sarah’s high-pitched childlike voice and the Mario Cart-style sound effects are so annoying to listen to. Sorry Kero Kero Bonito – Kawaii just doesn’t do it for me musically. 2

Sam: These guys are so confused. They are a group of English people making J-pop that also sounds like PC Music. May sound like a horrible, horrible combination but if you’re prepared for it, it’s a wonderland of delicious sounds. It may be hard to swallow but it’s probably best to give it a try – this is the kind of sound that could be all over radio in a few years. Probably not, but you never know. 3.5

Bianca: Build Up sounds like an annoying jingle you’d hear on the TV that can’t help but earworm its way into your subconscious. And no matter how hard you try to fight it, you accidentally find yourself singing along to it one day, miraculously knowing every single lyric. And that’s the true magic of this ridiculous song. 3.75 Bianca’s Pick 

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/kerokerobonito/build-it-up[/soundcloud]

Pusha T- Lunch Money

Hannah M: There are some arrogant sentiments behind Lunch Money, like spilling thousands worth of champagne; ‘too bad’ I took your lunch money. I find this entertaining and unsurprising considering Kanye produced the track, though the composition itself didn’t capture me. The under-water effects made a quirky addition to otherwise typical percussive beats, though overall Lunch Money fell flat for me. 2.5

Sam: This has Yeezus stamped all over it. From those industrial synths to the altogether minimal production, it’s easy to imagine Kanye himself rapping over it. Mixing that with a few classic hip-hop beats gives it a point of difference from Yeezus but I’m stuck in two frames of mind. I like it but I feel like it’s just too close to Kanye to give it any identity. 3

Bianca: Is that it? I was expecting something really good to happen but I’ve just been left empty-handed, just like those who were denied of their lunch money. This track is like a Kanye West song without the Kanye, and what’s the point in that? 2.5

Honne- The Night

Hannah M: Rather than the sappy romance typically associated with such croony vocals, Honne’s lyrics are a little more risqué (e.g. ‘If you spend the night I’ll make it worth your while’). This makes the track way more likeable for cynics like me, and works with their cozy synths and modern RnB sound. 4

Sam: It’s definitely pleasant in a Chet Faker kind of way but I don’t know if there’s much to distinguish it from every other after-dark RnB tune out there. The vocals are on-point and the whole mood of the instrumental is perfect but I can’t help myself thinking I would’ve loved something else – a little vocal manipulation at points to spice things up, maybe. Perhaps I’m just being picky, it is a good tune. 3

Bianca: This one’s a little too slinky for my liking. I can definitely appreciate the down-tempo, brooding affair, but will be doing so from afar. 3

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

 

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