BestSongsFINAL

the interns’ Best Songs Of 2016

2016 has been a devastating year for many but amongst all of it, perhaps as a response to what’s gone on in the world, music has risen above and given us one of the best years in recent memory.

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FI_15Sept

First Impressions: CHVRCHES, Raury, Tinashe + More

FI_15Sept
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 CHVRCHES, Tinashe, Lana Del Rey, Yeo, Kylie and Raury

CHVRCHES
Clearest Blue

Zanda Wilson: The latest single from CHVRCHES‘ forthcoming sophomore album is another gorgeous exploration in pop-synth from the Scottish group. ‘Clearest Blue’ is easily the most up-beat of what we’ve heard from ‘Every Open Eye’ so far. The concluding minute or so has to be the absolute highlight, built on what is a fairly simple synth riff, but building in a way that explores the intricacies musical layering with Lauren Mayberry’s stunning and bordering-on-iconic vocals mirroring this building progression. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Alistair Rhodes:

What can I say about CHVRCHES… I never really used to be a fan of them to be honest but the more and more I’ve listened to them the more I’ve grown to like them. This is why it’s great that they’ve been teasing  our taste buds with the release of a few singles off their soon to be released album Every Eye Open. The latest single Clearest Blue is more of a fast pace track to what we’re used to hearing from these guys. This synthpop number just keeps building and building towards the last minute where it just pops and explodes into one catchy tune. 3.5

Sam Murphy: Everything so far off this new CHVRCHES record has been good but this really smashes through. I feel as if it’s a combination of my two favourite tracks from The Bones Of What You Believe, We Sink and Tether. It has the sprawling, heavy-beated instrumental of We Sink and then it bursts into that spectacular climax just like Tether. Of course, the whole time you spend waiting out for the climax but the start of it is utterly captivating as well in a sort of tense, edge-of-your-seat way. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Tinashe
Party Favors (Feat. Young Thug)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/tinashenow/tinashe-party-favors-ft-young-thug[/soundcloud]

Zanda: Set up by a dope combination of bass and beats, ‘Party Favours’ sets up an instrumental accompaniment that complements Tinashe’s vocals really well. From the very beginning the track feels like it’s ready to take-off but unfortunately there isn’t a whole heap of progression either rhythmically or instrumentally. I don’t feel like Yong Thug’s vocals add much either, in so far as I think the track would be supplemented better by someone not so heavily reliant on auto-tune. 3

Alistair: Right off the bat you get the feeling that this is is going to be a dirty and dark track. The heavy bass and slow singing really gives you that impression which excited me at that point. Skip forward a couple minutes and I’m pretty over it. Party Favors just doesn’t seem to amount to much. To be honest I was pretty sick of constantly hearing “party favors for you.” 2

Sam: Tinashe has nailed something that not many R&B singer are usually able to do. She treads a thin line between the mainstream and the alternative, singing over beats that light up radio and also contribute to a greater body of work like her brilliant debut Aquarius. Party Favors does exactly the same thing. That woozy, drunk synthline is really interesting but deliciously melodic and then she appeases the mainstream fans with that flawless hook. The tempo basically moves at snail’s pace but her voice is so sexy, it grips you from the beginning. Young Thug gives the best Tinashe-feature verse we’ve heard so far too. 4

Lana Del Rey
Music To Watch Boys To

Zanda: Lana Del Rey’s voice just doesn’t take a step back, and this latest track is further proof of her status as the queen of summery, shimmering vocals. However that’s about where my interest in this track ends. The production seems kind of purposeless when it starts so sparse and doesn’t really build to much. Whatever the echo effect being used on both her vocals and that background drum effect, it is being flogged way to hard. The result is a track that seems to drift aimlessly, which is unfortunately because there’s no doubting the potential that is unlocked in the opening phrases. I’m falling asleep. 2.5

Alistair:

Lana Del Rey has just hit the ground running over the last few months with song release after song release. I get the feeling that you either like Lana Del Rey or you don’t. She is one musically talented person who writes really heartwarming tracks that you can tell mean so much to her personally. With Music To Watch Boys To I’m once again left wondering and seeking for more. The track doesn’t seem to go anywhere yet her vocals are what makes this track an alright song for me. 2.5

Sam: This year for Lana Del Rey has been really interesting. Everyone’s gone from really hating her and questioning her identity to either not caring or loving her. I’m in the latter category and while I have been from the start, this material from Honeymoon is the best I’ve heard from her yet. It perplexes me how I could be so enthralled by her Marilyn Monroe vocals that almost sound lazy but they have a certain allure to them – maybe it’s in the way she gently slurs. Music To Watch Boys To captures the very essence of that. It’s slow moving and subtly orchestral, setting a stage for Lana to be the absolute star. I don’t usually see Lana as being sexy but this is sexy in a vintage, film noir way. 4

Yeo
Icarus

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

Zanda: Many of us got our first taste of Yeo on Hermitude’s latest album ‘Dark Night Sweet Light’ where he features on a couple of banging tracks. Proving he’s got what it takes to smash out songs on his own, ‘Icarus’ is a fun track with plenty to like. Playing around with effects, guitar licks and other sounds, Yeo has created a song here that is easy to enjoy and is equally melodically pleasing. There could be a little more depth to the rhythm and bass, but that’s probably not the effect he’s trying to achieve here. 3.5

Alistair: Icarus is finally allowing Yeo to step out of Hermitude’s shadow. We are now seeing what this tastemaker is capable of. Yeo’s melodies are just simply outstanding. There’s so much going on instrument wise with this song that it takes you a couple of listens to appreciate it for all it’s worth. This fun track makes me wanna have a little jive and a shimmy. 4 Alistair’s Pick

Sam: I just love that Yeo is finally getting his time in the sun. He constantly churns out banging pop melodies that were just crying out to be heard by more people and now it sounds as if Icarus will. The first listen actually went straight over my head but on repeat listens that funk, ‘80s-tinged chorus really stuck – so subtle yet so smooth and there’s something about it that just makes me swoon. Yeo fan boy since the start and I ain’t goin’ anywhere. 4

Kylie Minogue
Black And White (Feat. Shaggy)

Zanda: Kylie and Shaggy! Oh my stars and stripes. It’s a weirdly fun track and Kylie’s vocals are lovely as always. And wow I didn’t realise how much I needed Shaggy back in my life until now. The only thing I don’t understand is why they’ve decided to leave the peak distortion on the EQ levels for the chorus sections, because surely that’s intentional? A good bit of fun. 3.5

Alistair: Not even a minute in and this already has everything that we know and love about our gal Kylie. The catchy upbeat tune screams the Kylie of old. Then the song decides to hit you with Shaggy, another 90s hero. I love that these two have teamed up together. The last 30 seconds really turns into a bit of a dance number and I love that. I can’t say I’ve ever been a massive Kylie or Shaggy fan but for what this song’s worth it’s a good combination. 3.5

Sam: It’s a bit of a shame that everyone snoozes over a surprise Kylie drop because she does still have the pop goods. Her last album Kiss Me Once was like a seven out of 10 which is A+ in the pop world and this tune is actually really great. I like hearing her over production that’s less manicured, she’s got a really sweet tone and it’s often strained when she goes for those big pop bangers. How Shaggy turned up there I’m not really sure but I haven’t see a “feat. Shaggy” since circa 2000 so I suppose it feels a little like an old friend turning up at your door stop after a prison stint. It’s surprisingly comforting. 3.5

Raury
Friends (Feat. Tom Morello)

Zanda: Some real summery, chiller vibes here. The production strikes me immediately as being extremely well balanced and just aptly put together. It plods along in a fairly satisfying way, and the multi-layered choral vocals are really nice to just chill out to. As the video-clip suggests, this is some for-real road-tripping music. 3.5

Alistair: Now I’m sure we are all familiar Raury due to God’s Whisper which has been remixed many a time and has become a staple at music festivals for DJs. He has teamed up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello for this tidy little number. It’s got such a summer vibe to it and it does what Raury does best and that’s tell a story lyrically. It’s a good song, it’s not a great, but it’s good. 3.5

Sam: Raury has so much talent and he’s capable of delivering so much fire but he just keeps giving us stuff like this. It’s so boring that I could feel myself slumping further and further down my chair until I was just in a heap on the floor dreaming of Tom Morello at the Big Day Out. I just want so badly for him to give us something iconic but this feels like the kind of song that would turn up on that awful album Johnny Depp just did with Alice Cooper. 1.5 

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BieberScott

Hear Travi$ Scott’s ‘Maria I’m Drunk’ Featuring A Rapping Justin Bieber

BieberScott

Travi$ Scott is gearing up for the release of his Rodeo LP on 4th September but his Young Thug and Justin Bieber collaboration Maria I’m Drunk has surfaced early. The track is a cruiser with Scott doing a rad job but it’s the inclusion of Justin Bieber that has tongues wagging. Bieber does sing on the track but he also tries his hand at rapping and actually does a much better job than he did on Boyfriend. He is actually not far off matching the flow of both Scott and Young Thug which is no easy task. Predictably, Twitter is going nuts that Bieber is rapping which is great entertainment.

FI_26May

First Impressions: Florence + The Machine, Hudson Mohawke, Jarryd James And More

FI_26May
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 Florence + The Machine, Jamie xx, Hudson Mohawke and more.

Hudson Mohawke
Scud Books

Meshell: Scud Books is badass. The gradual buildup hits anthemic heights about a minute in and then drops back again for another step by step build-and again. It’s all very simple theme and variation stuff but somehow it’s still captivating. There is a real art in something that sounds this simple because it never is…there is always the exact amount of instrumentation to keep the dynamics on the steady up. I’m really feelin’ this and I am super excited for the album. 3.5

Caitlin: One word – brilliant. Genius, perhaps if two words were needed to describe this track. The build up by Hudson keeps the listener anticipating the next beat drop for just the right amount of time before bringing them into the wonderful sound that is Scud Books. Listen to the music with eyes closed, embrace the festival feel the sound brings to the ear drums and picture the crowd throwing their hands up in unison recording the moment on their smart phones. I don’t know, man, this song makes me really happy. 5  Caitlin’s Pick

Sam: This HudMo record just keeps getting better and better. I have no idea why he led with Very First Breath because everything since then has been miles stronger. The brassy-synths are back on this one with that HudMo-defined bass. Like Ryderz it’s wrapped in this sense of euphoria and just takes flight around the three minute mark. Meanwhile those Nintendo-like synths sweeten the deal with a bit of melody. 4.5

Jamie xx
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)

Meshell: As a prematurely old lady it makes me super happy to hear this sample by The Persuasions having new life breathed into it. Shame original member Jimmy Haze had to be such a wet rag and have a tantrum about an unsolicited sample (don’t worry guys, Jamie did get it cleared and the silly old coot “forgot about it”). Irrespective of the surrounding controversy, this song does make me believe there are going to be good times. First DJ who I hear dropping this in their set will get a free whiskey from me. 4

Caitlin: Collabs these days, am I right? As foreseen as Beyoncé or Drake’s surprise album releases – this collab is pretty left of field. The mix of Jamie xx ‘s ability to reincarnate a ’70s hit, Young Thugs’ rap (kind of) and Popcaan’s Jamaican charm makes for a pretty decent track. For the younger audience, the lyrics maybe a little M15+ rated (but then again what song isn’t these days) but lets look past the sexual innuendos for just a moment.  For me, Popcaan’s smooth vocal chords make this song as good as it is.  3.5

Sam: Loud Places, Gosh and now this – Jamie xx has really run into the album with his best foot forward. First up that Persuasions sample gets you and then Young Thug rolls on with one of his funnest verses. The song is more up Popcaan’s ally than anyone else and he doesn’t disappoint with his slurred rap over the sample. I wish we were going into summer right now and not winter because this track is readymade for sunshine. Unexpected but excellent and the more and more you listen to it the closer it sounds to Jamie’s previous tracks. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Read: Jamie xx’s In Colour Reviewed Via The Colours Of A Mood Ring 

CL, Diplo, Riff Raff and OG Maco
Doctor Pepper

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/maddecent/diplo-x-cl-x-riff-raff-x-og-maco-doctor-pepper[/soundcloud]

Meshell: Sound design in this is so grimy and wonderful and I love that Diplo paired with CL who is the baddest bitch in K-pop…like some wonderful Rihanna/Yolandi Vi$$er/Missy Elliot hybrid child (and if you don’t listen to K-pop the internet thinks you’re irrelevant). TBH I could totally do without RiFF RAFF on this but maybe I’m being bias because I think he is an absolute tool. Not the best thing I’ve heard from Diplo but whaddya gonna do when he just keeps setting the bar so high for himself? 3.75

Caitlin: I read the title of this tune thinking it was a metaphor for something but after listening to it for quite some time the song is literally about the American soft drink Dr Pepper. Now delve a little deeper into the names accompanying the track. Riff Raff is still hanging around the music community backed by music producer and Mad Decent (the label responsible for this) record company founder Diplo, Atlanta rapper OG Marco and wait for it…. K Pop superstar turned English speaking rapper CL. Blame CL for the catchy hook guaranteed to burrow into the brain and never leave, try to look past the fact Riff Raff is still “rapping” and keep your eyeballs peeled for all the internet parodies waiting to be unearthed from this tune. 2.5

Sam: I wondered how long it would take Diplo to get his head around the whole K Pop thing. Given how energetic and over-the-top Diplo’s production usually is it makes sense that he was drawn towards the genre. This, however, sounds nothing like K Pop. Instead CL sounds like Rihanna on a song that sounds strong but brings nothing new to the table. In terms of introducing CL to the Western market as something a little bit different I think it misses the mark. 2.5

Sinead Harnett
Anywhere But Here

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/sineadharnettmusic/anywhere-but-here[/soundcloud]

Meshell: Sinead has a voice like sad honey. Which I have decided is a thing. Her tone is astoundingly inviting, there’s a warmth to it that immediately draws me in but there is a distinct sadness in her delivery and I absolutely adore it. I am such a sucker for bittersweet RnB-electronica (just ask my ex, totally used to piss him off).This girl has serious soul and is an unexpected home run for me. 4.5

Caitlin: How much do I have to pay Sinead Harnett to teach me how to sing? But seriously, the vocals on this are killer. The soft electronic beat in the background of this track highlight her velvet tongue perfectly as she sings some pretty deep lyrics. How have I not heard this song blasted from a 17-year-old girl’s car as I sit in traffic? After listening to this track, I can’t wait to hear her next single coming out in early June. 3

Sam: Sinead’s voice is where it’s at. There was something about the melody of She Ain’t Me that didn’t really stick with me but this one does. Immediately. We get to hear the powerful depths as well as the flighty heights of her voice over a ‘90s throwback, RnB instrumental. I’ll be keeping a firm eye on her solo material now. Consider me won over. 3.5

Jarryd James
Give Me Something

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/jarrydjamesk/give-me-something[/soundcloud]

Meshell– The first time I heard Jarryd James’ voice I was probably about 14 and Myspace was still cool (If anybody wants to hear him and his buddy Matt Corby covering Ne-Yo…hit me up). From these humble beginnings anybody who heard him sing knew he was going to make it big one day. It’s taken a little longer than expected but his new partnership with should-be-household-name Joel Little is taking him from strength to strength. The cool thing about this new single is that it feels like a teaser-like Jarryd is only giving the audience a tiny glimpse of how good his voice really is. 5 Meshell’s Pick

Caitlin – Correct me if I’m wrong but I do believe Jarryd James is the Australian Ed Sheeran. Jarryd’s music is not something I would race to put on my iPod and crank in house on a Sunday morning but his voice is so soft and mesmerising it is hard to un-listen once you have heard it. From the comments on the song, I have seen some people call the track ‘art’. And that is exactly what it is! The catchy tune sits like a blank canvas, the lyrics almost everyone can relate to acts as the paint brush and the smooth groovy deliverance of the said lyrics are the paint creating this masterpiece. A very close second favourite for me. 4.5

Sam: His voice is very obviously good and it was what immediately drew me to Don’t You Remember but is it enough? To me it feels a little bit Guy Sebastian repackaged for triple j. Joel Little does his best to put a few intricacies into the production but ultimately it doesn’t really help brighten a song that’s a little beige. That said, props where props are due. His voice is great and he’s obviously going to be a huge riser on the Australian scene this year. But it would just be good to hear something different on triple j, rather than giving off a vibe that says Vance Joy discovered RnB. 2

Florence + The Machine
Delilah

Meshell: I am one of the few people in the music blogging world who just doesn’t get Florence Welch. I appreciate how talented she is and I have really REALLY tried to see the appeal but anybody who’s been in the car with me when Florence comes on shuffle knows I always skip to the next song. Maybe there’s something wrong with me? Maybe I’m just slow? Maybe in ten years time this song will come on and I’ll be hit smack bang in the face by a sonic “ah ha!” moment where  I’ll finally get it…for now I’m just kind of waiting patiently for it to finish and thinking about what I should have for dinner. 2.5

Caitlin: There are two types of people in this world – people who know every song from Florence + The Machine and people who only know You Got The Love. And yes, I am the latter. Nothing against Florence, her vocals are definitely one of a kind but this 4:54 song just seems too long for me. It begins with catchy lyrics… the beat shortly follows… Florence then belts out a one of a kind Florence high note… the middle of the song reminds me of a church choir singing the backing vocals… then the song continues and continues then keeps continuing to continue. A three-minute song, possibly good but for me the song is a bit of a miss. Maybe next time. 3

Sam: It’s taken me a little while to realise the true strength of all the tracks we’ve heard off How Big How Blue How Beautiful so far. They don’t smack you in the face like the Florence of old. Instead, they’re far more subtle. On first listen Ship To Wreck sounded limp but a month later, it’s now looking to be one of her finer releases. Despite Delilah having a little more oomph behind it, it does take a while to get on board with. It’s gospel and motown peppered with indie-rock and while it doesn’t fit anywhere in the music spectrum right now, it’s distinctively Florence. She’s always written a killer bridge and here it’s no different. After the three minute mark the song grows wings and takes off. 4

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