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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 Julio Bashmore’s ‘Duccy’, Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s ‘Flatline’, Mr. Oizo and Marilyn Manson’s collaboration and more in the line of fire.

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Mutya Keisha Siobhan – ‘Flatline’

 

Joe Moynihan: As far as comebacks go – and there have been more than enough of them lately – seldom do you see one as natural and needed as that achieved by Mutya Keisha Siobhan this year. Across just two tunes they’ve reminded everyone what made them such a big deal as a collective force in the first place: highly infectious pop music with just the right amount of melancholy that would sound gorgeous – and genuinely moving – whether filling massive stadiums or leaking out of shitty earbuds on the quiet carriage. How many times did you read the word ‘harmonies’ the last time this lot came around in the Singles Club? Cos bloody hell mate, harmonies. (9)

Joseph Morpurgo: I’ve always been a bit confused by the froth and frenzy that’s surrounded the return of the biological Sugababes: as good as One Touch is, their canonisation definitely owes a lot to US bloggers selling a lost-in-translation vision of them as leftfield pop deconstructionists back to the world. In ‘Flatline’, our prodigal heroines squidge Robyn, Florence & The Machine and Coldplay c. Viva La Vida into a lumpy, intermittently satisfying package. Signs of life. Might not pull through. (5)

Chal Ravens: Coming after the off-the-cuff genius of their Kendrick Lamar cover, this lumpen MOR stomper is a crashing disappointment. Part of the allure of the Original ‘Babes was the way their distinct and fragile voices floated over the cool garage-inspired pop of their debut album, making them sound both innocent and detached, and wise beyond their years. This, sadly, is identikit hands-aloft chart fodder with bells on (and by bells, I mean Dev Hynes) that squeezes their unique vocals into throat-straining pop shapes with total disregard for nuance, subtlety or vibe. Traitorous. (2)

Brad Rose: Before any vocals start, I would have bet this was a new Annie song.  Once it gets going, 30 seconds in or so, I’m hooked.  The production hits the right spots, paving the right path for MKS to crush anyone listening with their stellar vocal harmonies.  Catchy melodies and a narrative structure that pushes well into melodramatic territory are all just fodder for MKS to blast through.  Seriously, I could listen to the three of them sing anything, anywhere, anytime.  Such a welcome return. (7)

Joe Muggs: Oh man, it’s all there – they look incredible, their voices are full of character and brilliantly recorded, harmonies are great, it’s got that fantastic Jane Wiedlin / Pat Benatar 80s soft rock undercurrent, the structure of the track is super dramatic… only they forgot to write a decent song. ‘Sgood though. (7)

Chris Kelly: I love the ‘Swimming Pools’ and ‘Entertainment’ covers, and I really wanted to like this more, but the chorus is too outsized and obvious for me. The rest is a perfect pairing of the trio’s vocals and Hynes’ production, though. (7)

6.2

Main Attrakionz – ‘Summa Time’

 

John Twells: So fucking good. Obviously I’m biased on this one, but MAz just sound so good when they team up with Friendzone, and this flip of Triple Six’s ‘Da Summa’ is just epic. Everyone’s heard that Rick James sample before, but Friendzone really push it into widescreen territory here. Job well done. (8)

Chris Kelly: Only Main Attrakionz would record a summer anthem so heavy with resignation and melancholy. The sample of Rick James’ ‘Hollywood’ has been around the block, but Friendzone make it their own with a synth melody straight out of Twin Peaks. 808s and Dark Grapes 3 should be a treat. (8)

Joe Muggs: It’s getting towards something really amazing arrangement-wise with those maximalist choruses, but doesn’t quite hit it. It’s extremely enjoyable, but if you’re going to be that ambitious it needs to be breathtaking. (7)

Chal Ravens: This is mostly fine, but those schmaltzy strings in the chorus are the pits. Sounds like this track got signed off on an especially heady evening when no one had tasted fresh air for many long hours. It worries me that the often-impressive Main Attrakionz would think this track merits lead single status – here’s hoping the rest of 808s 3 can turn things around. (4)

Joe Moynihan: Friendzone recently clarified on Twitter that their name has never meant “that sexist bullshit regarding girls putting ‘nice guys’ in the friendzone. It’s always meant your inner circle”. I like that. I like that because in every tune these guys produce for Main Attrakionz there’s always a little bit that makes me want to run up all in their inner circle and give them a big ol’ cuddle. Hear those synths that break out after the chorus that adequately soundtrack the ecstatic-meets-heartbreak sunset that inevitably follows the most memorable of summer days? That bit. 808s and Dark Grapes 3 is gonna be absolutely wicked. (8)

Brad Rose: A few years, I would have sworn MAz were well on their way to some kind of stardom. Then something happened and I dunno, it’s like the duo stagnated in the worst way. ‘Summa Time’ shows signs of getting back on track, though: Friendzone’s beat is a good one and the layered vocals on the chorus, in conjunction with nostalgic-dripping synth leads, give the hook more heft. Nobody flows so lazily, in a good way, like Mondre and Squadda, and when they’re dialed in, it’s its own kind of hazy magic. (7)

Joseph Morpurgo: Treat this as a Main Attrakionz joint, and ‘Summa Time’ is cloud-by-numbers with a beefier-than-your-average chorus. Trick yourself that you’re listening to Len, however, and this suddenly becomes immaculate. (8)

7.1

Julio Bashmore – ‘Duccy’

 

Joseph Morpurgo: Yuccy. (2)

Chris Kelly: So, is it a tool or a troll? I’m leaning towards the former. Sure, it’s more simplistic than simple, but is it that different than ‘Husk’? It also follows last year’s ‘Troglodytes'; maybe this is just how little regard he holds for his audience. (3)

John Twells: I know this has been slagged off by pretty much the entire internet now, and while it isn’t the worlds worst single, it’s pretty bad. Actually bad doesn’t really do it justice, it’s just dull as ditchwater. It sounds like a tech demo for a DAW with the voiceover removed. (3)

Joe Moynihan: Part of me is convinced this tune is some sort of mad post-whatever PR-campaign to make everyone talk about vitriolic Soundcloud comments and maybe write a thinkpiece or seven about it and then have a dorky Fruity Loop demo do really well on the back of all that chitter chatter. It’s the sort of thing someone who bangs on about Miss Millie’s fried chicken on Twitter all the time would do, right? (Shouts to Millie btw – love your work x). Another part of me thinks this is just pony. (3)

Joe Muggs: Hate to say it but it’s a bit of a grower. Yes it sounds like an absolute pisstake at first, but so do loads of my favourite Relief Records classics, for example. It’s a big, dumb, simplistic DJ tool, no more, no less – certainly not worth getting sand in your genitals over. (5)

Chal Ravens: Is anyone else worried we’ve become the victims of an elaborate prank orchestrated by Bashmore for his own sick amusement, in which he dares himself to write ever stupider tracks in ever shorter time frames using only freeware from the early 2000s? It’s possible, on the evidence of this cretinous dose of bilge-house. Fine as early evening filler; absolutely not good enough for an almost-household name. (4)

3.6

Mr. Oizo feat. Marilyn Manson – ‘Solid’ 

 

Brad Rose: So the next logical step is a Paul McCartney / Manson collaboration that causes FACT’s editors to allow us negative ratings, right? (0)

John Twells: Full disclosure: I quite like Marilyn Manson (Smells Like Children is ace, c’mon). This isn’t that bad either, I just wish it lived up to its billing. Basically the Marilyn Manson sample could be anyone, it’s really just another (admittedly OK) Oizo track with a chopped vocal on it. A missed opportunity – I wanna hear Oizo go full industrial on us. (5)

Joseph Morpurgo: Glitzy electro-sadism. For the first half, it’s fifty shades of beige, but then Oizo turns on the bright lights and this becomes the sort of thing you could quite happily have a coke tantrum to. (6)

Chal Ravens: Shouldn’t work. Works. But I wouldn’t want to hear another second of the godforsaken DJ set this might crop up in. (6)

Chris Kelly: This works better than it should: Oizo sticks to the script and a de-fanged Manson offers a dance-floor universality. (5)

Joe Moynihan: Right, I have a confession that probably won’t go down too well here: I kinda love everything Mr Oizo has ever done. This is no exception either. It’s just so brash and stupid, like an obnoxious drunk that somehow – as divergent as he seems to set himself out as – convinces you to get involved in all the dumb as all fuck fun. (7)

Joe Muggs: Cracking bit of electroclash, that. (7)

5.1

Moby – ‘A Case For Shame’

 

Joseph Morpurgo: ‘A Case For Shame’ sounds a bit like a Sherlock Holmes novella, which makes me think that Moby would actually make quite a good TV detective. He’s got the air of diffidence, the self-discipline (he’s a strict vegan), this nondescript charisma – he’s the sort of blank type that would give perps enough rope to hang themselves. Actually, he looks a bit like a troubled cop on the front cover of Hotel. Everything Is Wrong – that could be his catchphrase! And I’ve just seen he’s called this new album Innocents. That’s the show title right there. Anyway: if you like Massive Attack circa Heligoland, you’ll like this a bit less. (4)

Chal Ravens: This sounds exactly like Moby, doesn’t it? It’s amazing more people don’t rip off his ad-friendly easy listening – it must be more difficult that it sounds. This track suffers from a too-loud vocal that detracts from the intimate atmosphere, probably because it’s provided by Al Spx rather than a disembodied sample from an old black spiritual. Bad news then, because apparently the new album is full of similar collaborations with famous voices. Still, as someone who fell asleep listening to Play most nights between 1999 and 2004, I can’t help but enjoy this ever so slightly. (5)

Chris Kelly: In ’99, Play was the first album to have all of its tracks licensed for commercial use. Six albums and over a decade later, it sounds like not much has changed – I look forward to hearing this innocuous little number underneath a car commercial. (4)

Brad Rose: This sounds like typical Moby fare so whatever. I’m not sure anyone really needs or cares about a new Moby album, but let’s just hope he doesn’t do some endlessly obnoxious PR campaign like Boards of Canada and then, inevitably, deliver a rather middling, pointless record (just like BoC!). ‘A Case for Shame’ is very much Moby-by-the-numbers. It’s not grating but it’s not very good, either; it’s just kind of flacidly there (motto of his career?). I can only hope that a few poor souls will get confused while searching for Innocents on iTunes and download Erasure’s fucking great The Innocents instead and be better for it, not that any of these people need the money. (2)

Joe Muggs: I learned to stop worrying and appreciate modern day Moby around the time he realised that he should just stop mucking about, keep doing those stirring orchestral chords and trip hop beats and count his money. Which would be about 2009, and ‘Wait for Me’ (the ambient version bonus disc of which is lovely). This one lays it on with a trowel, it’s almost laughably cheesy in its high-camp trip hop seriousness, but dammit, he does it well… I reckon this is a winter night with a lot of wine sort of tune. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Sounds like someone has just sung over ‘In This World’ and ruined it completely. (5)

4.5

Roger Robinson – ‘Sheets’

 

Joe Muggs: I love me a bit of crackly-piano ambient – Fennesz-Sakamoto, Roger Eno, Simon Fisher-Turner – so I’m naturally well-disposed to this, but over and above that it’s pretty excellent, gets under your skin really quickly and stays there. Another one going into the winter-night-with-wine folder. (7)

Joseph Morpurgo: Really lovely stuff, matching the intimacy of King Midas Sound, but replacing that album’s quiet dread with a sense of timid optimism. Interesting to see this sharing a stage with Moby – it’s not a thousand miles away from some of 18’s better moments – but it’s a score of notches above ‘A Case Of Shames”s soul-in-a-bag (8)

Chal Ravens: Inadvertently chose exactly the right early morning slot to listen to this and was pleasantly carried away by its reverb-soaked reveries. A very slight track, but it avoids wishy-washiness through its brevity and the late insertion of shuffling drums. Not bad at all. (6)

Brad Rose: Roger Robinson is an artist that totally perplexes me.  Do you ever hear things that, for seemingly no reason, just do it for you? Seriously, I don’t get Robinson at all, but I’m a person that likes being confused. Mostly in that, on the surface, this isn’t the kind of thing that would get at me, but the number of times I’ve returned to his mixtape and this EP, it’s pretty clear he’s very much onto something. Fractured music at its best walks the fine line between intimacy that doesn’t feel forced and crumbling confidence.  With ‘Sheets’, Robinson nails it. There’s a simplicity to his music, and especially ‘Sheets’, that’s infectious. Oh, and it has the added bonus of rendering James Blake even more pointless. (8)

Joe Moynihan: This is lovely. I’m a bit of a sucker for pretty much every element on show here admittedly – reversed piano chords shoved deep underwater, vinyl crackle like trampled autumn leaves, understated crooning, sad-yet-optimistic lyrics, one lone Bristolian snare – but even still, as rinsed as those sounds are, Robinson brings them all together with a quietly compelling warmth that makes this kind of tune timeless. (8)

Joh Twells: Roger Robinson’s light touch is just pleasure to behold, and ‘Sheets’ is yet another elegiac addition to his canon. Reminds me of Spiritualized (way back when) for some reason… gospel dub, maybe? (7)

7.3

King Louie – Val Venis (Brodinski Remix)

 

Chal Ravens: If drill is the hot new thing and all, why would you want to remix a track to make it less drilly? I’m into the sizzurped queasiness of Brodinski’s attempt, but it tastes like a Chinese takeaway from Tesco – palatable, yes, but lacking an authentic kick. (4)

Joe Moynihan: This is alright I guess, but it barely holds a candle to the original – which I still hold up a bludclart lighter to each and every. (4)

Joe Muggs: Well that’s just brilliant. There’s tons and tons going on in it, but it sounds like there isn’t. A lesson in restraint. The production on everything else this week sounds weak in comparison. (9)

Joseph Morpurgo: Where drill’s breakout hits are all shaky HandiCam and rough cuts, Brodinski’s ‘Val Venis’ remix plays like a Hollywood remake of a microbudget feature – the cinematography is swisher, the shadows darker, the sets less wobbly. ‘Val Venis’ loses something in the touch-up, but Brodinski’s version still makes a decent appeal to the gut (read the book first, though). (6)

Chris Kelly: The twinkling, barely-there beat of the original is pretty perfect to begin with, but a post-Yeezus Brodinski finds a way to make it more menacing. This is basically a well-executed version of what Cruel Summer tried to do with ‘I Don’t Like’, even if it steps a bit too closely to the “trap” line. (7)

Brad Rose: The original version of ‘Val Venis’ was great, but I’m feeling this remix more than I expected.  Brodinski strips the tune down to bare bones, making the whole thing eerie as fuck.  Some of the loping, minimal production reminds me a lot of Zebra Katz’ DRKLNG mixtape (one of my faves this year), but with a side of drill.  Right on.  Looking forward to The Purple Ride quite a bit more now. (6)

John Twells: When the original has the potential to bring dancefloors to their knees, what exactly prompted Brodinski to make this absolutely pointless remix? Hopefully this will lead some young heads to go download the original and hear what it’s supposed to sound like. Four points just for having King Louie on it. (4)

5.8

Final scores:

Roger Robinson – ‘Sheets’ (7.3)
Main Attrakionz – ‘Summa Time’ (7.1)
Mutya Keisha Siobhan – ‘Flatline’ (6.2)
King Louie – Val Venis (Brodinski Remix) (5.8)
Mr. Oizo feat. Marilyn Manson – ‘Solid’  (5.1)
Moby – ‘A Case For Shame’ (4.5)
Julio Bashmore – ‘Duccy’ (3.6)

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