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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. Up this week: BANKS, Chromatics and the return of Rustie.

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BANKS – ‘Better’

Claire Lobenfeld: I am a sucker for an “I can love you better” track, from the most audacious to the sappiest yearning. This lands perfectly in the middle in that it’s beaming with a very particular kind of confidence that you don’t normally toward the sadder end of the spectrum. The backing vocals are beautifully meditative, bolstering that desire in a way that blooms. I wasn’t totally sold on BANKS when she first landed, but between her guest appearance of TALA’s ‘Wolfpack’ and the calm cool here, I’m more than open to giving her another chance (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A heavyweight performance from someone I pegged as a forever featherweight. Banks has often made music reflecting the last couple years of viscous R&B trends rather than building her own persona, and here defines herself through sheer power, building Gregorian chants and synthetic symphonies in the purpose of LOUDquietLOUD romantic drama. She sounds hungry – not only for the opportunity to make a song that connects, but for her character to focus on the man she wants. Pegs down the manic lust of the Other Woman trope in popular music, while performing it on an IMAX scale. (8)

Son Raw: Very #dramatic. BANKS lands those melismatic vocals runs but she’s writing a check that those lyrics can’t cash, and the production misguidedly confuses a lack of funk for creativity. (4)

April Clare Welsh: If there’s one thing BANKS can 100% lay claim to, it’s that she’s got the word “smouldering” on lockdown; it makes total sense for her to be supporting The Weeknd aka her gothic r’n’XY equivalent on his upcoming tour. But for me, this new song treads a little too heavily on the boring side. I’m all over the less is more thing but it just sounds a bit like one big vape exhalation. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Many of BANKS’ tracks are paced in quirky ways, and beyond her voice, beyond the textures of her sound palette, it’s that branch of her songwriting that I remember her most for. That pacing is also quite risky, sometimes hitting, sometimes flying past me completely. ‘Better’ loses me and brings me back a couple of times within its mere three minutes. Conversely, I love how it can be both desperate and commanding, and I think it’s a graceful reintroduction. (6)

6.2

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Jeremih – ‘Oui’

April Clare Welsh: This operates at the more loving ‘n’ tender end of the fuck-me sex jam spectrum because he’s using his tongue for the act of clever wordplay. I’m definitely adding the phrase ‘there’s no oui without you’ as much as possible to my romantic endeavours without scaring too many people off. Basically, thanks for reminding me that Toni Braxton is a thing because it’s gonna be a smooth day all round. (8)

Son Raw: See? Contemporary R&B doesn’t need to be an impossible choice between 70s/80s pastiche and quasi-dark blandtronica. This captures the bounce and pep of classic Motown and the stomp and bump of today’s best hip-hop without even making a big deal about it. Hand in the damn album already, Jeremih. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: Yeah, yeah, beggars can’t be choosers, and I am that desperate for Late Nights that I might let the “oui”-“we”-“you/u and i/I” thing (where’d the “o” go, tho?) slide, because I will take any and all Jeremih ephemera at this point in the game. This is one of the most softball offerings we’ve gotten since ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’ but that split-second coda is nice. Ughhh!! You can ice skate across his voice, it’s just so lovely!!! Where is your album?!? (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Every time someone mentions Jeremih, I state how badly Def Jam seems to have dropped the ball with him. ‘773-Love’ wasn’t enough to merit a release, nor did ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’, which didn’t even receive a video despite play on every radio station possible. I’m still shaking my head at nobody jumping on the Magic Mike bandwagon after ‘Fuck You All The Time’ turns up (literally) at the film’s climax. I mean, Channing Tatum was dry humping to your artist’s song in the film that made a bazillion dollars and nobody thought it would be a good idea to push said artist? It beggars belief. ‘Oui’ is good – not as good as everyone claims Jeremih records are, but good enough. But this is a sure thing that is being messed around for reasons beyond his, ours and his genre’s control. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I’m all about this. I have no idea where the Jeremih album is at this point, but he’s been so nice to us in the meantime. This was apparently made two years ago, though it’s clean and Jeremih enough for now. Those splashes of piano, the flow switch between rapping and singing, the Shai melody! I screamed at the Shai moment. It’s all so effortless. The wordplay in the hook, “There’s no oui without you and I,” has untapped potential and I’d love to see it repurposed as a call for consent. Jeremih’s built himself a space only he can occupy, and if that’s what you’re craving, this is a (9).

7.8

Rustie – ‘First Mythz’

April Clare Welsh:I guess you could say it’s more than serendipitous Rustie dropped his new album on Bonfire Night because it’s exploding with bangers. This first cut is so beautiful I feel like I’m swimming in a jelly of scrambled prog trance, painting waveforms in magenta, indigo and violet as the dolphins pop up to say hello, again. (8)

Tayyab Amin: This sort of rave was never quite my thing. It’s a really jarring track – how overexcited the buildup is, getting well ahead of itself in admirable glee, then plunging into the ocean to meet the call of its dolphins, aquatic submersion slowing things to a sluggish crawl. That said, as it ascends to some distant light towards the end, those final rushes of claps do manage to take my breath away. (5)

Son Raw: Rustie’s always had an amazing knack for crafting bombastic synth leads, but EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE adds a new wrinkle to the proceedings by fuzzing up the trance with a newfound sense of texture. It’s a (dare I say it) MATURE take on the sound that made Glass Swords so great, and ‘First Mythz’ even pushes the approach into an arty, shoegazy take on EDM’s stadium sized maximalism. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The way some people remember their first pill, I remember the first time I transformed into Super Sonic. It was late for a young man my age – 21 at the time – and I was playing Sonic 2 in the wee hours of the summer evening. I had amassed all seven Chaos Emeralds across the space of two hours and decided I couldn’t save it for a final boss, or a moment of panic – I had to transform right there and then, and feel the speed, feel the hyper-powered thrust that my schoolmates promised me was as cool as it was. My little blue sprite jumped into the air, let out a silent scream, and turned yellow gold. As this spiky hellion raced high above Moebius on the Wing Fortress, smashing into Cluckers without avail and leivtating over death plummets, I was one with the emeralds. I had achieved pure euphoria, which appropriately sounded like the 16-bit rave that makes ‘First Myths’. Then I got killed by Metal Sonic, lost all my continues and screamed so loud I haven’t touched a Sega Saturn since. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Green Language had its moments—especially his Danny Brown collab ‘Attak’ and the excellent inclusion of Gorgeous Children—but I am so smitten by the return to form on EVENIFUDONTBELIEVEME. ‘First Mythz’ is not my favorite from the album, but its euphoria is undeniable and it’s seamless within the full package. I am slated to meet a real life dolphin in the next week and there is no doubt I will ask her if she likes this track. (8)

7.4

JT the Goon – ‘Still Stepping’

Son Raw: The only track this year that can outgun Rustie in terms of sheer exuberance and energy, and an absolute anthem. In an era where “waiting for the drop” is a sentence that defies non-ironic use, this one really, REALLY makes you brace yourself for the drop. Exploding in a flurry of sub-frequencies, mariachi horns, Japanese flutes, synths and gun blasts, ‘Still Stepping’ is the most confident thing JT The Goon has ever written and the most fun you’ll have on a dance floor this year or next. (10)

Tayyab Amin: The delicate opening is like a tear in the eye being brushed away as emotion and passion catalyse the explosion into Super Saiyan mode. When I reach my final form, JT The Goon will be the soundtrack for sure. It’s bombastic, it’s anthemic, it’s registering (8) on the Richter.

April Claire Welsh: I had been on a personal quest to slip the word ‘goon’ into my portfolio of everyday insults (“he’s just a goon”/”they’re all goons”/”too many goons, not enough time”) when this moniker first made itself known. And as album tasters go, this track is tighter than a pair of Spanx after a serious pasty binge. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: Hey guys, when I said I was a grime novice earlier this year, it didn’t mean pad Singles Club with Novelist and Skepta tracks, it meant tell me about dudes like this! Let me not just dump a bunch of adjectives here to try and talk about precisely why I like this and sound, myself, like a goon, but the nuance here is unfuckwithable even without being totally tough enough for my usual liking. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It may not be the case for the heads that were present at grime’s ground zero, but this Korg-smashing assemblage of squeaky-toy hollers and baile brass mayhem still sounds like a future that other genres haven’t caught up to yet. They may never do so. (7)

8

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Chromatics – ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Some’

April Clare Welsh: Trap + Cyndi Lauper = ?? This sucks all the bright yellow fun out of the original and that’s just not fair. Also, what’s this “some” girls want? Pray tell. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is on a short list of songs that I do not find particularly offensive, but that I never (ever, ever…ever, Ever, EVER) want to hear again. Chromatics’ aesthetic is not enough of a sell to get Cyndi Lauper’s video out of my head the entire time and the subsequent hives I will get from it just being too much. This version is for a specific kind of person, but that person is not me. (4)

Son Raw: Such a dilemma here. On one hand, I sort of dropped the ball by not rating Grimes last week and de facto bumping her score. On the other, I’ve beaten the dead horse Chromatics enough, leading to some fairly creepy DMs from someone affiliated with the band, which was weird. So I’ll just be descriptive and say that it’s a chillwave Cindy Lauper cover and I don’t want to be involved with anything beyond that – you can decide if that’s a good idea your own damn selves. Don’t disappoint me, fellow Singles Club reviewers. (N/A)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Last time we covered Chromatics at the Singles Club, I mentioned how hard it is to get away from describing the chic pleasantries of their dull compositions without using the word ‘Eighties’ and now I can’t help but feel like they’re trolling me on purpose. You guys out there may be feeling the same way too. (5)

Tayyab Amin: Trust Chromatics to turn something raucous into a melancholic lullaby, or even a lament. It’s nice, but I’m not feeling much about it other than that it’s cool that the avenues for people to hear this song have been diversified. Both beat and vocals are coming across pretty anonymous, there’s so many other people I’d love to hear mess with this track.The potential for an after-hours slow-burner cover is there, but this sure isn’t it. (4)

4.8

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Migos – ‘Them Jeans’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The list of rappers that fit perfectly into Timbaland’s universe is surprisingly short: Jay-Z, Bubba Sparxxx, Ludacris, alternate universe crazed Eminem. More often than not, perfectly skilled artists are left to flounder on Timmy’s most inventive bells and whistles, and the famed producer gets caught up in the mechanics rather than the song. ‘Them Jeans’ is a fun blast that attempts to place the Migos into the echelon, and they are well-matched with the springy funk that Timbo has always playfully enlisted for low-key collaborations. Two problems, however: this should have been on the middling Yung Rich Nation LP, and THERE’S NO THIRD VERSE, COME ON ALREADY. Timbo sliding synth swooshes can’t hide the fact this song doesn’t feel complete, but even after all that it’s still Migos > Beatles. (6)

Son Raw: We’ve really come full circle: in the late 90s NY rappers would awkwardly try to rhyme over double time BPM bounce tracks in a bid to attract a southern audience, now we’ve got Migos sounding just as uncomfortable at more traditional, 90BPM tempos. Timbaland’s track is dope by his current standards, but this feels like yet another stumble for Migos after YRN – Future and Thugga have run off with their flow and it’s going to take more than this to get it back. (6)

April Clare Welsh: The synth line sounds like The Raccoons’ theme song, or is that just me? (7)

Tayyab Amin: This sounds hot enough to get the Leviticus treatment on Empire, but it also sounds forgettable and pastiche enough to appear on Empire. It’s strange hearing Migos appear on a track outside of their usual palette without any guests, but they shine a little even if the stars don’t align on this one. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: When I saw the producer and the track title, I was really ready to call Timbaland a straight up grave digger, but I’m sort of willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the Ginuwine reference was conceived by Migos, who sound great here. However, HOWEVER! ‘Flex’ came out in…February? This is not a ‘Fancy’ to ‘Classic Man’, “She steals from us, we steal from her” sitch; this is Tim straight up being lukewarm on the job. (Unless that job is producing a Hakeem track for Empire and I’m still not sure why the whole IRL rap industry hasn’t flamed him for keeping that heat in the chamber.) (4)

5.8

Final scores:

JT the Goon – ‘Still Stepping’ (8)
Jeremih – ‘Oui’ (7.8)
Rustie – ‘First Mythz’ (7.4)
BANKS – ‘Better’ (6.2)
Migos – ‘Them Jeans’ (5.8)
Chromatics – ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Some’ (4.8)

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