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Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next six pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time – with Jay-Z, Drake, L-Vis 1990, Floating Points and, yes, Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ in the line of fire.

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Drake – ‘Girls Love Beyonce’

 

Steve Shaw: I’ve just had to check my pupils. I seem to like a Drake song. (9)

Chris Kelly: I love Beyoncé, too, and this just makes me want to listen to ‘Say My Name’. This is more Lovelorn Drake, which I can take or leave, and I think the most memorable part of the song is the introduction of “no new friends” as this year’s “YOLO.” Plus, I’m not sure what James Fauntleroy adds here; that chorus is in Drake’s range, isn’t it? (4)

Joe Muggs: It’s alright. It’s impossible now to hear Drake without thinking of @drakethoughts on Twitter (also Ross from Friends a bit), and this makes them all the more inseparable. I’m sure he really means it all, but Chris Martin is sincere too, isn’t he? There’s nothing to actually disagree with here, it’s all pretty valid, worthy stuff, the sounds are pretty great… but… just… ugh, I’m losing the will to live. What’s it FOR? (4)

John Twells: Drake songs have a tendency to grow on me so I’m wondering whether ‘Girls Love Beyonce’ might end up working better in the context of the full length, but for now it feels just a little flat. It’s no ‘Marvin’s Room’ and I can’t help feeling that after ‘Started from the Bottom’ he could do with something a bit more heavy duty. Still, it’s always nice hearing a nod to Destiny’s Child… (6)

Laurent Fintoni: The beat’s nice. The chorus’ a touch. However I still can’t stand Drake’s whiney voice and the lyrics, well, the ‘i need someone that will help me think of someone besides myself’ kinda sums it all up. (4)

Chal Ravens: I’m an unapologetic Drake apologist, but fun as this is, it seems more like flimsy hidden track material than a teaser for the new album. The wholesale lifting of the ‘Say My Name’ chorus is ill-advised – it would’ve been more concise to just leave a note saying, “Hey bro, remember that awesome Destiny’s track? Yeah, we didn’t write that. But we sure wish we had.” (5)

Joe Moynihan: Oh just fuck off back to the bottom mate. (2)

4.9

Jay-Z – ‘Open Letter’

 

Laurent Fintoni: Jay-Z takes a bite out of Quasimoto’s steez the week that Madlib announces the return of his alter-ego. Conspiracy? Only Melvin Van Peebles knows. It’s good, but Quas still does it better though. (7)

Chris Kelly: Swizz Beats and Timbaland team up for a stealthy beat well-suited to Jay-Z’s taste. For his part, Jay seems to be having fun, stirring the pot enough to require official statements from the White House. I’m not sure how I feel about Hov dropping “you fuckin’ dweeb” but it definitely beats rapping about drapes. (7)

Steve Shaw: I can appreciate Carney was trying not let Z get the upper hand here, but we both know that if Lil Ugly Mane can work his way around ‘lugubrious’ anyone can rhyme ‘leisurely’ with ‘Treasury’. (10)

Joe Muggs: Wow that backing track is lovely. With that behind him Hova could be saying absolutely anything as long as he keeps time and lets that beat breath, and as he does that I’m happy. Absolute magic – the rides, the little clip of cello, the voices, the elegance, and especially when it opens up into that exotica stuff at the end… The JT album showed Timbo’s got his mojo back, but I think this has got Swizz’s genius all over it, it’s got the expensive smoooooothness of him in Million Dollar Bill mode, but also his sense of dance music jacking repetition. Yes yes, and yes again. (8)

Joe Moynihan: First thing involving Jay-Z I’ve actually liked since he was all ghosts, ghouls etc. on that Kanye tune. (7)

John Twells: Rappers tend to have a hard time transitioning from contemplating riches to sitting on the throne, and Jay-Z has only had mixed success in the last few years. Thankfully he’s on form here, capturing his own singular situation with the kind of arrogant charisma that made us fall in love with him back when he was laying down Marcy Projects folklore. The beat works too, sounding fresh without relying on tricks – looks like Jay’s found his pace again. (7)

Chal Ravens: An informative round-robin letter keeping us abreast of goings-on in the Carter household. They’ve been on a nice holiday, I gather. (6)

7.4

Gold Panda – ‘Brazil’

 

Joe Muggs: That’s really crisp. Is the repeated title a clever marketing move as iTunes Brazil just opened this month and Brazilian people are now buying downloads in large quanties? GP’s always been a top notch producer but his tracks felt a bit aimless early on. Now he’s on the Four Tet / Caribou house thing, he seems to have sorted that. (6)

Steve Shaw: It sounds a bit like Daphni. Which is to say it sounds like, well, Gold Panda. I’m sure it’ll have loads of fans, but in a club I’d probably just end up sighing and going to the bar. (5)

Joe Moynihan: Percussion is superb on this, particularly in the second half when the metallic jingly jangles rain over those gorgeously scattershot rims. Love how each element jumps in as if out from nowhere yet never jars; rather each new stem is instantly accepted by this living and breathing soundscape that comes across as some sort of fertile breeding ground for vibes. For such track so densely packed with activity, it’s as light as a feather. (8)

John Twells: ‘Brazil’ works well enough but I just think it lacks the personality to wrench itself free of being identikit ‘bass music’. If I heard this randomly somewhere I’d struggle to pick out who it was and as such it tends to breeze over me and make very little impression at all. It’s not a bad track, but it might as well be. (4)

Chal Ravens: Love Gold Panda, love this. Droplets of drums are spattered over honeyed synths and harp glissandos, escalating to an almost unbearable climax of fizzing, twinkling loveliness. He’s one of the few producers who understands it’s possible to do “pretty” without straying into feeble. I’m such a sucker for this. (8)

6.3

L-Vis 1990 – ‘Ballad 4D’

 

Joe Moynihan: Love what Andrew Ryce said about this track: that the bassline jets through this swamp-like matter that the percussion can barely wade through. Indeed, that submarine bass pulse is the star here, and I’ve honestly not heard anything quite like it before. Remember when you first heard Wiley’s eski bass sounds, or Danny Weed’s camera flash stabs and you just didn’t know what was going on or how to react? Night Slugs do. (9)

Joe Muggs: Is it meant to sound so weary? All the noises are great, it’s kind of dark-ish, but where’s the dynamics? Where’s the thrills? Jam City uses the same elements with far more life, but this just really drags. I dunno, I guess this is for skinny people with more interesting haircuts than me anyway, and they’re welcome to it. (4)

John Twells: L-Vis 1990 has always been an artist I’ve felt was promising rather than essential, but this recent run of tracks and mixes has turned me into a believer. ‘Ballad 4D’ is a monster; sultry, stark and reveling in some kind of widescreen silver sheen that keeps me coming back for more. I love that it keeps you guessing too, this isn’t simple music by a long shot, but it isn’t needlessly experimental either – it’s just damn good. (8)

Chal Ravens: Night Slugs have been working hard to keep us on our toes and defy expectations, and it sounds like this is the latest in a string of superlative material from the label. Just gorgeous – poised, restrained, yet utterly devastating, and with a low end that’s gonna do funny things to your colon when you hear it on ceiling-height speaker stacks. (8)

Steve Shaw: “Periscope up.” A really rather good submerged, patient, thoroughly modern take on vogue. A little clean for my liking, but done very well. (8)

7.4

Floating Points – ‘Wires’

 

Joe Moynihan: Woweeewaa this is special. Love how seamless the transitions are as the track meanders from Bob James-esque noodling into suspended string-fuelled tension before settling into washings of neo-soul alongside gorgeous contemporary classical arrangements and surprisingly welcome instances of Shepherd’s wandering, snakelike basslines. A tune that manages to soar above its sky-high ambition. (10)

Joe Muggs: Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Terry Riley, Cinematic Orchestra, Chris Bowden & 4 Hero, Palmskin Productions – these are all good things. And this is a good thing. Fiver says there’s at least one Norwegian among the musicians. A Sunday evening sort of track. (8)

Chris Kelly: This one lives up to its ambitious concept: 11 minutes, 12 collaborators, and one joyous journey through neo-soul grooves, classical orchestration and a variety of moods. Not something I’d listen to every day, but impressive without being (too) pretentious. (7)

Steve Shaw: Oh, he’s a talented bastard, isn’t he? Little over-reminiscent of Alice Coltrane during the string drop perhaps, and I find the synths quite twee. It can get a little Zero 7-ish occasionally, and personally I’d have enjoyed some more of the David Axelrod grit hinted at elsewhere, but that’s always been Shepherd’s style. There’s very little complaining you can do about compositions that so solidly set out their territory so well, and the episodic nature is just lovely to hear. (9)

John Twells: Nothing about this should work, the very concept sends shivers down my spine, but Sam Shepherd not only pulls it off, he nails it. When anyone starts referencing Alice Coltrane, they’ve gotta step their game up, and Shepherd avoids sounding like a Cinematic Orchestra side-project with ease, excelling with a brooding, thoughtful restraint. When the synths appear in the track’s final act it’s game over for me – so good. (8)

Chal Ravens: Eglo is a great little label run by Floating Points with Alex Nut, who’s essentially the Gilles Peterson of Rinse FM. With that in mind, I’m not too surprised to hear this attempt at a phunky neo-classical voyage featuring live’n’groovy instruments, organic timbres and classical violins. The heartstring-tugging reminds me a bit of Cinematic Orchestra, but it sags a little with the weight of its own earnest pondering, like a stoned mate trying to have a D&M with you when you’d rather be laughing at shit on Reddit and making bongs out of Fanta bottles. (6)

8

The-Drum – ‘Sirens’

 

Joe Moynihan: I suppose if you’re going to go under a name like ‘The Drum’, your percussion game better be fucking incredible. Good thing it is then, eh? (8)

Chris Kelly: For a duo that is as genre-agnostic as The-Drum, half the fun is seeing what’s next into the cauldron. This time it’s polyrhythms and exotic samples, resulting in a track both foreboding and hypnotic. Looking forward to this album, even if I couldn’t hazard a guess of what it’ll sound like. (8)

Joe Muggs: God there’s so much stuff around at the moment that is just proper fractal hippie wigout jams on an early 90s drug dub tip. Is there some good acid going round or something? Old Apparatus, half of Demdike Stare’s stuff, Shape Worship, that new Holden album – and now this, which is a fully involved clip-on dayglo dreadlock groove. It’s really good. (7)

Steve Shaw: Mixed feelings about this. The choice of sample sources is really overdone for me: African/Central and South American/Caribbean samples being used in a prescribed way to evoke an atmosphere – especially a ‘tribal/primeval’ kind of darkness – is pretty clichéd, and especially when, well, the whole of jungle set the bar so high for abstracting such stimulus. However, while I’d prefer something more like T++’s Wireless, the structure and execution of form in ‘Sirens’ is flawless, so I’ll try not to be such a snob. (7)

Chal Ravens: Imagine the tropical fantasia of Lone’s Galaxy Garden after the sun’s gone down, with shadowy creatures rustling in the undergrowth and eerie bird calls echoing in the distance. Why isn’t music like this ever used for film soundtracks? Evocative, smart, if not that memorable. (6)

7.2

Thundercat – ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’

 

Joe Muggs: It’s Balearic! This is like some track off an obscure French prog rock band’s album from about 1981 which only about three people heard until it got picked up DJs with flowing hair and beards in Ibiza… It’s not got the wigged-out quality of Thundercat’s last album which is confusing at first, but it’s probably a real grower and in the right weather with the right embellishments is probably pure bliss. (7)

Chris Kelly: There’s an alternate universe where Thundercat and Flying Lotus produced Timberlake’s album, and this is the lead single. (8)

Steve Shaw: Kind of like Gnarls Barkley if they were better – a distinctly odder take on pop music, and therefore a sound to give the time of day. But still too much like Gnarls Barkley for me on this one. (6)

Chal Ravens: Even by Thundercat’s standards, this is exceptionally busy, isn’t it? Having seen him play last year I totally get his astonishing talent as a bass player, but sometimes, particularly in the final fading seconds of noodling low-end jazz-dribble , you wonder if anyone really benefits from such a skill.  All very impressive, but in practice a bit snoozy. (5)

6.5

Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’


Joe Moynihan:
Ah, another classic case of the finished tune not being quite as amazing as the preview promised. Like everyone on the internet I was swept away by that minute long clip, with T Bangz looking all kawaii in his silver helmet playing that ‘Around the World’ level of funk bassline next to the impossibly handsome Pharrell knocking out one of the most uplifting and infectious choruses I’ve heard in ages. Sadly it’s apparent that that minute is the only truly wicked part of the tune, while the rest kind of jumps from the lacklustre (Pharrel’s flaccid opening line, the vocals needlessly swamping an otherwise lovely mix) to just plain bad (that synth at the end is real stinky and I hope it fades out quickly on the album too). Saying that, when it’s good, it’s really good; that chorus definitely is something special, the hi-hats sound typically Daft, the vocoder switch-up is bomb and Nile Rodgers is an absolute badman. It’s Daft Punk, so I want to absolutely adore it – I just can’t. (6)

Joe Muggs: Well if ever a track didn’t need our opinion it’s this one, but for what it’s worth I absolutely love it. Light, fluffy, seems underproduced but of course it isn’t – the upfront vocal and guitar are impeccably designed to stand out, and they do. Don’t give two hoots if it’s “retro” or if Pharrell is a singer’s singer: disco is disco is disco is disco, you can either do it or you can’t – and they can – and it’s got a topline that’s worth a billion dollars in itself… It’s got hooks for days and a groove that’s lighter than a Milky Way, and I for one salute our robot overlords. (9)

Chal Ravens: Effortless, delirious disco from the supergroup of your dreams. Fuck, I haven’t wanted to listen to anything even remotely disco for at least three years, but every time I reach the end of this song my finger reaches to rewind again. A storming comeback for all involved. What more is left to say? (9)

Steve Shaw: While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a ‘jock date rape anthem’ like disco don Tom Noble did, I can see his point; somebody at Topshop must already be making a line of men’s T shirts with ‘Get Lucky’ printed on them. It’s also definitely set the bar for music aimed squarely at the ‘pub-club’ scene, an audience whose main consumption is dictated by the radio. Which is fine, and probably exactly what Daft Punk were aiming for, these days; ‘Get Lucky’ is still executed well enough to be enjoyed by the ‘heads’, but as with ‘One More Time’ none of us will ever truly escape it for the rest of our lives. (6)

Chris Kelly: Yes, it’s undeniably fun, song-of-the-summer material, and it certainly outpaces Human After All and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. But it’s not exhilarating like the Daft Punk of memory — especially after Ed Banger et al spent the better part of a decade picking Daft Punk’s bones on tracks just like this. I think HudMo has a point. (5)

7

Final scores:

Floating Points – ‘Wires’ (8)
Jay-Z – ‘Open Letter’ (7.4)
L-Vis 1990 – ‘Ballad 4D’ (7.4)
The-Drum – ‘Sirens’ (7.2)
Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’ (7)
Thundercat – ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’ (6.5)
Gold Panda – ‘Brazil’ (6.3)
Drake – ‘Girls Love Beyonce’ (4.9)

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