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Arcade Fire, The Stranger, Ducktails and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club, Sep 16 2013

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 pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time. Among this week’s victors and victims: Arcade Fire’s recent adventures in disco, Leyland Kirby’s jet-black The Stranger project, club fare from Brenmar and Sinjin Hawke, and the return of Luscious Jackson.

Oh, and particular applause for special guest contributor (and real-life 15 year old) Harvey Dolan, who had some particularly tart observations about this week’s crop.

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The Stranger – ‘Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends?’


Brad Rose: 
I’m a bit of a sucker for most things Leyland Kirby is slinging and The Stranger seems like it’ll be no different. This first tune is very good, especially the woozy, slightly-off synth leads  that float in the cracks throughout. Kirby’s not reinventing the wheel here, but this should be excellent accompaniment for the coming winter. (7)

John Twells: Yeah, this will do nicely, it’s not my fave track on the album but it is a timely reminder that Boards of Canada used to make good, weird music (a long, long time ago). Of course Kirby doesn’t simply rip ‘em off; there’s still the sense that the whole thing is going to melt into a filthy, corrosive slop, and that’s always what’s given his tunes the edge. (7)

Joseph Morpurgo: Ninth circle boogie, with Stott and Frizzi as spirit guides. Doom me, Leyland! (8)

Joe Muggs: That works, really well. It is dark and bleak and all the rest of it, but it’s oddly comforting with that – it’s one you can really dive into. (8)

Harvey Dolan: From the second you find out the name of the track, you get the feeling it’s going to be a somewhat strange song. But it is often said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and so I have decided to just it by its rancid innards. It is uncomfortable listening and it sounds like the music that accompanies Mickey Rourke down the stairs in Angel Heart. The track is difficult to hear end to end and is accompanied by a video showing props from a 1960s Dracula movie. (3)

6.6

Ian Isiah & Brenmar – ‘Sweat’


Chris Kelly:
As sublime as his remixes are, I’ve always thought that Brenmar hasn’t paired up with vocalists for originals quite often enough (his excellent work with Mykki Blanco aside). Ian Isiah is like Jeremiah or The-Dream for the underground set, and ‘Sweat’ is a dancehall-kissed sex jam that just bangs. (8)

Joe Muggs: Talking of gritted teeth – this sounds a bit cokey: a bit on edge,a bit tingly in a not entirely pleasant way. The roughness of the mix is definitely endearing though, and it probably sounds amazing at 4am when you’re on a mission. (6)

Chal Ravens: Engagingly hyperactive production paired with deeply unappealing vocal delivery and over-the-line lyrical idiocy. Minus five points for prolonging the life of the phrase “beat the pussy up”, minus another five for the line “we gon’ get ratchet mommy”, and seriously, minus 20 points and two weeks of after-school detention for the fucking artwork. Clap your own ass, pal. (0)

John Twells: This is proper good; it’s basically a Jamaican pop song that’s been smoothed around the edges innit? I suppose Brenmar had something to do with that, but it’s Ian Isiah’s vocals that keep this one from sinking in the mire of soundalike bass-heavy almost-bangers. This is just begging to be played on a large system at 1am. (8)

5.5

Ducktails – ‘Honey Tiger Eyes’


Joe Muggs:
This makes me unaccountably angry for such a seemingly harmless little noodle. It doesn’t DO anything though. Admittedly I’ve not listened to it on drugs – maybe there are psychedelic depths that become apparent in the right state, but somehow I doubt it. (3)

John Twells: The Ducktails videogame was spruced up and reissued this year, so I half expected Matt Mondanile to be on the receiving end of a cease and desist from Disney, but I guess it doesn’t look like that happened. Instead we’ve got this burnout Beatles pastiche, and y’know while it’s pleasant enough Ariel Pink handles the sound with a bit more personality. It’ll probably be well popular. (5)

Brad Rose: It’s amazing how many bands sound like this these days. It’s relatively catchy, but is a bit too by the numbers for me to get excited about. Not bad, not amazing. Moving on… (5)

Chris Kelly: Vaguely nostalgic psychedelic pop. Well-executed but uninspired. (5)

Harvey Dolan: Not that bad, could have been worse. But mark my words; this will be on an advert for B&Q or Homebase before the end of the year. But don’t worry ducktails, it has been shown that appearing on a home supplies ad can ONLY be good for the songs reputation. Just asks the chaps known as ‘Nickelback’ (5)

4.6

Tricky – ‘Valentine’ (Andy Stott Remix)


Brad Rose:
I’m not surprised that Andy Stott could churn out a remix this great, especially given his recent form. Between the heavy sub-bass crawl that feels so gritty I feel like I need a shower and Francesca Belmonte’s smoky vocals, this track has its own gravitational force. Everything about is pulling the listener down and that’s a place I’m happy to be. Awesome. (8)

Joe Muggs: Ewwwww, is Tricky putting on an American accent? Musically this is pretty much flawless, apart from Tricky himself. Maxinquaye is still one of the greatest things ever, but let’s face it, he used up all his good lyrics pretty early on. (7)

Chal Ravens: I’m always fond of percussion that sounds like it’s falling out of a toolbox, so this garners points immediately. The menace levels quickly reach almost comedic proportions, though – it’s a relief when the tumbling footwork pattern drops in. Very enjoyable, could have gone on a bit longer. (7)

John Twells: Andy Stott can do no wrong right now, and he’s only gone and remixed Tricky, who’s also a killer year (let’s say it’s his best since, I dunno ’96?). Those loose jungle rumbles are just what Tricky needs to sound even more menacing, and I can’t resist the track’s slow descent into the depths of hell, as Stott lathers on more and more distortion before toying with… footwork? Fucking ace. (8)

7.5

Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’


John Twells: 
If you’re gonna change allegiances and modify your style to align with something that happened three decades ago, you’d better make sure it’s good. Sadly, the Arcade Fire’s attempt at disco/electro pop just sounds a bit weak. It’s not even bad, but compare it to the litany of Minimal Wave releases and you’re just left thinking “why bother?” Surely they can do better than this. (5)

Chris Kelly: Nobody needed Arcade Fire-does-DFA, and Butler’s description of the Haitian vacation that inspired the song (playing for an audience “who had never heard the Beatles before” and who communicate chiefly through “deep African voodoo rhythms”) is a little too White Man’s Burden for me. (3)

Joe Muggs: I’ve never cared for this lot, but this is OK. It definitely grooves, in its way. A bit too close to U2 in several ways, a bit full of itself, a bit gritted-teeth, but I admire its vigour. (5)

Brad Rose: I readily admit that the combination of ‘Wake Up’ and the Where The Wild Things Are trailer totally got me. This is not that. There’s absolutely no need for this song to be almost eight minutes long. Also, the fucking horns.  (3)

Chal Ravens: Massive oo-er on the bongos, but this is exactly what Arcade Fire should be doing. A deserved backslap for venturing into new pastures while maintaining the elements that won us over all those years ago (fine vocals, a sense of grandeur, intricate instrumentation). I demand a Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve remix. (7)

Harvey Dolan: A rather dismal song to be honest. It seems as though Arcade Fire doesn’t really care what they release to the general populous. It sounded as though they were not even taking it seriously as Win Butler (ironically one of the only people in the video not wearing an oversized mask) possessed a face throughout of a man who was recovering from a hard kick in the balls. They clearly think we’re all twats as their half-arsed attempt to be ‘edgy’ is very noticeable. (2)

4.4

Sinjin Hawke & Gangsta Boo – ‘Yeah Hoe’


John Twells: 
There are so many of these Europe vs. USA rap/dance crossovers at the moment it’s hard to keep up (or actually care), but this is better than most. I have to say it’s nice simply to see Gangsta Boo doing tunes again at all, and Sinjin Hawke’s chirpy beat is serviceable, if a little too tweaky for my liking. A mixed success. (6)

Joe Muggs: Makes me wish I wasn’t so sensitive about playing tracks with The N-Word on my occasional DJ outings, because I’d quite like to play this to drunk and high people in a dance. It’s really good, although that little nose-flute or whatever it is gets a bit nagging after a few repetitions. (7)

Chris Kelly: Sinjin Hawke can do no wrong in my book right now. The orchestral build-up of the intro head-fakes the Timbaland clapper that the song eventually turns into. It’s also great to hear Gangsta Boo over a beat more interesting than anything on Juicy’s album. (7)

Brad Rose: Whereas the horn section on that Arcade Fire track can fuck right off, please, Sinjin Hawke, keep kicking out these horn-and-string-infused bangers please. It’s ridiculous. The production is so over-the-top and melodramatic, I love it. Oh, and Boo’s pretty good too. (7)

Chal Ravens: Ahh, mate. My kind of club track, right here. Regally devastating, artfully minimal uber-crunk with a breathless shout-along hook poised over speaker-nuking bass blasts – and the toughest vocal Singles Club has encountered for weeks. Win win win. (9)

7.2

Blood Orange – ‘Chamakay’


Chris Kelly:
Dev Hynes has busied himself as go-to studio hand for poppier acts, but apparently he’s kept his more intriguing tunes to himself. Here, he’s filtered 90s R&B through a Caribbean palette — the little Guyanese kid aping MJ moves is instructive. (7)

Brad Rose: I love how minimal this is and the way Dev Hynes and Carolina Polachek’s vocals weave in and out of each other. It’s incredibly affecting. The slow build of the whole track makes that last chorus hit even harder. Love it. Great video, too.  (8)

Harvey Dolan: I went into this song with an open mind. At first it seems like a decent song but you only have to go about one minute into it before it sounds as though it is a sarcastic song. Blood Orange’s preposterous dancing is difficult not to laugh at-just a punt, I don’t think that’s what he was aiming for. Right? (5)

Joe Muggs: Yes, yes and yes. I know loads of people find the BO stuff a bit beige, but y’know, I love Terrence Trent D’arby and Sade and all the other 80s stuff he’s mining, and I love this. (8)

John Twells: Is it my imagination or does this sound like an end credits song for some crap 1992 blockbuster romance movie set somewhere hot? It’s sort of like the Weeknd with the rape vibes replaced by a copy of Pan Pipe Moods and a Casio beatbox. And I’m sure that’s the point, too. (3)

6.2

Luscious Jackson – ‘Show Us What You’ve Got’


Chris Kelly:
I can’t make a 90s alt-rock playlist without including ‘Naked Eye’, so this addition to the Year of the Comeback is exciting — for me, at least. The little electro breakdowns were fun surprises and it still has the soul of their early work. Nobody wants groundbreaking from nostalgia acts. (7)

Joe Muggs: Aww I didn’t want to listen to this because I have such fond memories from when they first came out – I still play ‘In Search of Manny’ once in a while too – and I didn’t want to spoil that. They were Beck before Beck, and I always felt like ‘Overload’ by the Sugababes inexplicably owed them a little debt too. This would be classic LJ but the mix is horribly maxed out, loudness wars style: it’s mixed like a bloody Red Hot Chilli Peppers record when it should be a bit rickety and uneven. Now I wish I’d followed my instinct. Let’s listen to this instead. (4)

John Twells: Luscious Jackson how I’ve missed you! They were always underrated, and don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise. What’s more, they’re back over ten years later and they’re still good? Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Just as an addendum – this is better than Sleigh Bells, just saying. (7)

Joseph Morpurgo: For the first minute, this is basically a Jet song, and is correspondingly spoddy and yucky. When it lets its hair down about halfway through, it starts to sound like Mantronix, and gets kind of cute. Then the glasses come off, everything goes a bit Georgia Anne Muldrow, and you realise this was a keeper all along. It’s basically She’s All That concertinaed into a 2:40 indie-pop song. (6)

Brad Rose: FINALLY a ’90s reunion I can get behind.  I was massively into Luscious Jackson when I was a teenager, but hadn’t thought about them in ages (has anyone?). “Show Us What You’ve Got” isn’t mindblowing, but it’s a lot of fun and hits all those nostalgic sweet spots. (6)

6.0

Final scores:
Tricky – ‘Valentine’ (Andy Stott remix) (7.5)
Sinjin Hawke & Gangsta Boo – ‘Yeah Hoe’ (7.2)
The Stranger – ‘Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends?’ (6.6)
Blood Orange – ‘Chamakay’ (6.2)
Luscious Jackson – ‘Show Us What You’ve Got’ (6.0)
Ian Isiah/Brenmar – ‘Sweat’ (5.5)
Ducktails – ‘Honey Tiger Eyes’ (4.6)
Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’ (4.4)

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