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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 pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time. On the chopping block this week: Jessie Ware, Claude Speeed, Head High, Airhead and more.

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Jessie Ware – ‘Tough Love’

William Skar: 
Ware goes full metal Lauper, to great effect. Most of Devotion’s ballads left me fairly chilly, but I can see myself whimpering to this on the N41, wilting bouquet in one hand, curry chips in the other. (7)

Joe Muggs: It wasn’t broke so they didn’t fix it. There’s something about Jessie Ware’s formula that strikes so directly at the heart of my puberty years – ‘Come Into My Life’ / ‘Tango In The Night’ / ‘Don’t Look Any Further’ / ‘Piano In The Dark’ / Eurythmics ballads etc etc etc – that my response to it is purely hormonal, and critical faculties are foggy to say the least. This is another perfectly good version of a Jessie Ware song in that mode. (7)

Aimee Cliff: Proving that the toughest moves can be the softest and most subtle. Jessie can do no wrong. (9)

Chris Kelly: Good to see Two Inch Punch and Benny Blanco drop BenZel’s giggling-Japanese-teenager gimmick, but despite their talents – and Ware’s always touching vocal performance — this one is punchless without a shout-it-from-the-rooftop chorus. (5)

Aidan Hanratty: It’s somewhere between ‘Sexual Healing’ and ‘Body Party’. Let’s just hope there’s not a Sigma remix in store. (7)


Toddla T feat. Jammer & Danny Weed – ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear That’

Chal Ravens: 
Can’t knock this – there’s a deeply satisfying heft to it, with loping bass, junkyard drums and squelchy keys expertly knitted together by two veterans. Sure, it feels like a throwback, but there’s more than enough room for some solid vocal tracks among the deluge of instrumentals we’ve heard lately. (6)

William Skar: People have tagged this as a mini-That’s Not Me, but the parping bass and funkless lumber is closer in spirit to Roots Manuva circa Awfully Deep than vintage grime. Jammer’s having fun, and it’s great to have Weed back, but there’s something a bit bucktoothed about the whole affair. (6)

Joe Muggs: To hate this would require it to be either a) shit or b) cynical – and it’s neither. Derivative it may be, but this is what Toddla does for the most part – retools old-school things (R&B, retro rave, bassline etc etc etc) for his own DJ sets. He’s worked with Jammer and other grime MCs pretty much since he started out, and he’s such an enthusiast that you know there’s not an ounce of cynicism about this. It’s not groundbreaking but it is walloping great fun. (7)


Claude Speeed – ‘Tiger Woods’

William Skar: 
American Men were great, Speeed’s various mixes have been great, and this is, by extension, great.  The album’s not going to be everyone’s cup of joe, but it’s fab – synthetic schmaltz, inspired by Reich, designed by Glass, and full of heart. (8)

Joe Muggs: Terry Riley in dub! More of this sort of thing, please. (8)

Chal Ravens: The Reich influence is utterly brazen but Speeed almost pulls it off. If it’s meant to have that James Ferraro-esque corporate muzak vibe to it then it has succeeded; likewise if he’s angling to license it to an HSBC ad campaign he’s also got the right idea. (6)

Aidan Hanratty: The palpable Reich influence has already been noted, but alongside those looped and tweaked clarinet phrases there are some wonderful vocal harmonies, and that snarling bass. I’m really intrigued as to what the rest of the album’s going to sound like. (8)

Aimee Cliff: Does Tiger Woods deserve to have something so beautiful named after him? (7)


Airhead – ‘Believe’

Joe Muggs: 
Absolutely rock solid. Warm, funky, good times. What’s not to like? (8)

Aimee Cliff: They say they’ve exchanged the inward for the outward, but even 1-800 Dinosaur’s biggest tunes feel like dance music for introverts in pitch black, dusty basements. This one especially feels a bit like I’ve swallowed the speakers and it hits from the inside out. (7)

Chal Ravens: Ah, the perennial charms of the quasi-religious house vocal sample. There’s so much to like about this, from its ruff’n’tuff mechanics to the churchy organ breaks, but it doesn’t quite fall into the groove of either – an extended edit would really do the trick. (7)

William Skar: So Airhead’s making belters now? Sound like Blawan on the grog. (8)

Aidan Hanratty: Gorgeous, hands-in-the-air, feet-in-motion stuff. Almost sacramental – devotional, I’d say. It’s a bit heavy handed, but it works. (7)


Nao vs. A.K. Paul – ‘So Good’

William Skar: 
Perfectly professional, but lacks the pep, edge and precociousness of, well, you know who. Based on this evidence, A.K. is the Paul to Jai’s Jonathan. (5)

Aidan Hanratty: I’m not a fan of Jai Paul – and let’s face it, this does sounds a lot like the more famous Paul brother – but I’m finding it hard not to like this. Maybe it’s cause the vocals don’t sound like they were recorded through a washing machine. Poppier and less deliberately weird, but I’m not mad at that. Nao sounds like one to watch too. (7)

Joe Muggs: Don’t understand the production on this. It sounds like a demo. Not that there’s anything wrong with using a bunch of preset sounds but it just seems awkward and perverse in this case, given the obvious massive skill that’s gone into the songwriting and arrangement, and the production’s hardly lo-fi even if the sounds are spindly. It’s not bad, but it’s off-putting. (6)

Aimee Cliff: I don’t want to immediately compare this to ‘BTSTU’ and ‘Jasmine’, but those synths are doing nothing to play down the family ties. It’s pretty, and Nao’s strong pop vocal sets it apart, but it plays it so much safer than either of those tunes; there’s none of the same “don’t fuck with me” volatility. Still, in the absence of any new stuff from Jai, I’ll take it. (6)

Chris Kelly: Fat-bottomed electro-funk that’s ready for summer. I was tired of waiting for Jai Paul to release something, anyway. (7)


Head High – ‘Megatrap (Real Mix)’

Chal Ravens: 
Maybe I’m feeling particularly enamoured having seen a Head High set at the weekend, but this is effortlessly perfect. What pushes my buttons is the way the breaks are muffled nice’n’low to keep the pastiche vibes to a minimum, while the structure traces a slow-and-steady techno build – it’s just as good in all three versions, as well. (8)

Aidan Hanratty: SO REAL. Do I have to say more? (9)

Chris Kelly: Head-rush breakbeats and faraway vocal fragments build to a climax that almost never comes. I like it even more when I imagine it as a subversive way to reprogram kids searching YouTube for “mega trap mixes.” (6)

William Skar: Sounds exactly like you’d expect, of course, but Rene Pawlovitz does great throwback, and his percussion programming is still off the charts – those kicks sound like bailiffs beating down the door. Bish, bash, bosh-bosh-bosh. (7)

Joe Muggs: Nice, but ultimately boring, DJ tool. Having said that I’ll probably find myself striking a crucifixion pose and absolutely bathing in its vibes in some corner of Glastonbury in a few days time, but y’know…  (5)


Final scores:
Airhead – ‘Believe’ (7.4)
Claude Speeed – ‘Tiger Woods’ (7.4)
Head High – ‘Megatrap (Real Mix)’ (7)
Jessie Ware – ‘Tough Love’ (7)
Toddla T feat. Jammer & Danny Weed – ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear That’ (6.3)
Nao vs. A.K. Paul – ‘So Good’ (6.2)

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