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

This week, Major Lazer attempt once more to recreate the magic of their all-conquering ‘Lean On’, this time with assistance from Travis Scott, Camila Cabello and – him again! – Migos’ Quavo, in his (approx) one billionth Singles Club appearance in 2017. Cabello’s old band Fifth Harmony also return this week, with new Gucci Mane-starring single ‘Down’.

Elsewhere, Arcade Fire are back and want ‘Everything Now’, Lorde searches for ‘Perfect Places’ and there’s impressive electronic offerings from Lanark Artefax and Bok Bok. What did our crack team of reviewers make of them all? Let’s find out…


Major Lazer feat. Travis Scott, Camila Cabello & Quavo – ‘Know You Better’

Chal Ravens: It’s probably time we renamed this column in honor of Quavo and his tireless vision to rebrand himself as “feat. Quavo”. Who knows how much he earns off each of these 20-second spots but those Ratatouille chains don’t pay for themselves. Otherwise this is pretty indistinct stuff from the algorithmic filler factory that is Major Lazer – lyrically vacant, musically formulaic and custom built for the H&M in-store playlist. It’s a hit! (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: By skimming through Major Lazer’s Know No Better EP, I think the Diplo & Friends hit machine wants every guest to slot into a structure that was perfected with ‘Lean On’, and that’s disrespectful to the musicians jumping on those tracks: there is no way a J Balvin/Sean Paul collaboration shouldn’t be a summer-seeking missile but under Major Lazer it flops. The guest performers here also phone it in, with Travis Scott yowling between ad-libs because that is all Travis Scott knows. And yes, reader: the chorus is another of those diminishing return ‘Where Are U Now’ wordless howls. (4)

Carl Anka: This is pretty timid. Save for the Quavo verse (obviously), there’s very little here to hold interest to the sober mind. Also, at what point do we stop getting excited at Quavo guest verses? Homie is diluting his brand. (5)

Jibril Yassin: ‘Know You Better’ has all the hallmarks of a melancholy summer hit: while ‘Lean On’ and ‘Cold Water’ cast long shadows over this tune, Diplo – excuse me, Major Lazer – can still make a paint-by-numbers EDM jam feel thrilling. The MVP here, however, isn’t an overexposed Quavo, who chokes on what should have been a show-stopping verse, but Travis Scott. Shedding his enfant terrible persona, he sounds engaged twisting melodies around the chords and playing out his inner Flo-Rida. Meanwhile, Camila continues a streak of unconvincing returns as a solo artist but this is still miles above her duet with Machine Gun Kelly. (6)

Haley Potiker: At least Quavo and Camila sound joyous. (6)

Tayyab Amin: When will Diplo’s seemingly eternal gap year end? The beat here is as you’d expect, Quavo’s answerphone verse is uneventful and Camila Cabello doesn’t sound like she’s gonna be the star of her own solo career at this rate. That said, Travis Scott’s flow over the suppressed piano house riddim is exceptional. (5)

4.8


Fifth Harmony feat. Gucci Mane – ‘Down’

Haley Potiker: My sincerest congratulations to Gucci Mane on becoming the fifth harmony. (9)

Carl Anka: Everything feels cohesive here, from the bassy beat to the, ahem, harmonies. Gucci keeps it simple with his verse as Guest Harmony, and I’m well into the idea of them having a rotating cast of rappers fill in for the ousted Camila in future. 2 Chainz next please. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is infectious enough but fairly rote – not as much a slip from the heights of ‘Work From Home’ as a tumble into a briar patch. Not a great entry into the good girl/bad guy pop canon (overwhelming winner is still Field Mob and Ciara’s ‘So What’). (6)

Chal Ravens: This is pretty much a chilled rehash of ‘Work From Home’ with a touch of that ubiquitous Major Lazer-influenced trop-house prettiness (note the faint synth melody in the chorus, particularly). As the comeback track from the newly slimline Fourth Harmony it’s probably not bold enough to repeat the uber-smash-success of ‘Work From Home’, but you know, it’s a vibe. Once again, the H&M playlist awaits. (4)

Jibril Yassin: Really confused as to where Camila went but it’s a good look nabbing an energized Gucci Mane on what should be one of the best songs of 2016. Wait, this isn’t ‘Work From Home’? (2)

Tayyab Amin: Fifth Harmony actually sounding like a group as opposed to a handful of singers, incredible scenes. Love that Gucci’s paying dues to Keyshia Ka’oir one year on from his release from jail. He comes across as one of the most genuine artists in the spotlight right now. (6)

5.6


Arcade Fire – ‘Everything Now’

Chal Ravens: The intro got me excited for some kind of Radiohead-ish angsty electronic makeover, and have you noticed how their new logo in the video is kind of a bodged version of the W.A.S.T.E. and Warp logos together? But then the jaunty pianos come out and there’s handclaps and na-na-na-ing, and this all feels so damn tired and normie at this point. It even seems lyrically blander than the usual Arcade Fire fare. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This kicks off with disco strings before turning back into the earnest AF A.F. aesthetic we know well – all brazen emotion-tugging over acoustic guitars. I’m not saying that’s bad, because I’m always here for people utilising the famous bottle-blowing technique made famous by Bernie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’. (6)

Carl Anka: Is it too churlish to describe this as sounding like a Talking Heads cast-off? I mean it in a nice way. Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk is injecting Arcade Fire here with the same sparkle Nile Rodgers used to give David Bowie. I’ve changed my mind: it was too churlish of me to describe ‘Everything Now’ as a Talking Heads cast-off. This is a near perfectly formed indie-pop tune. (9)

Jibril Yassin: The syrupy strings and piano melody pilfered from the ABBA songwriting book beg #feels. (7)

Haley Potiker: You know how depression manifests physically as an overwhelming, unshakable tiredness? That’s what I feel at the prospect of sitting through a new Arcade Fire album in the year of our lord 2017. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Well this is an unexpected entry into the 2017 woodwind series. I’ve never really been able to develop passionate feelings for Arcade Fire’s music: the insufferable lyrics, the hapless social commentary, Win Butler’s muted calls don’t do it for me. There’s a little World Cup globalism in here, a lick of U2’s early expansive sound, but the piano-chanting combination pushes this one over the edge for me. (5)

5.8


Lorde – ‘Perfect Places’

Chal Ravens: A sleek-yet-basic product from the southern hemisphere’s fave hair-whipper, bits of Eurythmics here, bits of a John Hughes movie there, a cheeky swear, a hand-clappy chorus. The lyrics are the best bit, really – more teenagers should be singing about being “off our faces” on the radio. I can’t knock it, but I’ve reached my personal Lorde limit this year. (6)

Jibril Yassin: This is totally a Pure Heroine rewrite but the details are where the song truly shines – Lorde recounting just how awful searching for the best times can be, wringing a euphoric chorus out of despair. I’ve been very iffy about the prospects of Jack Antonoff’s huge involvement on Melodrama but his choice of piano and synth clash in such a great way. The house rave-up at the end of ‘Green Light’ may have been revelatory but this feels practically effortless. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A little odyssey of growing up and understanding that alcohol and sex are, like, pretty good until you overdo them! And there’s few better than Lorde at making the lessons of youth verbose and widescreen. (7)

Carl Anka: Every Lorde song is full of the same near flawless melodrama and honeyed, husky vocals. Partway through ‘Perfect Places’, when the New Zealander warbles “I hate the headlines and the weather/I’m only 19 but I’m on fire/But when we’re dancing I am alright,” it’s a reminder – that’s how you write a pop song. (8)

Haley Potiker: I would be absolutely petrified to have Lorde at a party I was throwing. Would she take it as one of these too-perfect prom nights suspended in amber or would she think my jewelry was tacky and, like, a moral failing or whatever? ‘Perfect Places’ is middle-of-the-radio-dial pop, but it’s stronger than ‘Green Light.’ Maybe Melodrama will be alright. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I’m totally here for Lorde’s journey of self-discovery. Her songwriting is wondrously inviting, even if I can’t relate at all. She’s one of few pop stars that hold on to an intimacy with their fanbase and she’s able to articulate her ambivalences across lyrics and melodies really well. I’m not so hot on the chorus but I’ll cheer this one along. (7)

7.3


Bok Bok – ‘Island Hopping’

Carl Anka: Mmm… that’s some solid toe-tapping repetition. The silly part of my brain thinks you could have probably made this on Music 2000 on the original PlayStation. The silly part of my brain also played this over a dozen times before it got bored. (7)

Chal Ravens: I for one really enjoyed Bok Bok’s boogiefied mini-revamp on 2014’s Your Charizmatic Self, and all the Kelela-related production from that time. This chillaxed IDM-funk groove is definitely in that ballpark, but though it doesn’t quite reach the retro-futurist WTF levels of ‘Melba’s Call’, it’s got a kind of ‘90s dreaminess that turns addictive on repeated listens. Slot next to Ikonika’s new album on your in-car playlist. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Pretty solid piece of Gran Turismo menu music with the bass turned way up. (6)

Haley Potiker: Bok Bok’s described his forthcoming EP, Salvage 2017, as being his “most directly grime-informed” work in several years. But true to the song’s title, ‘Island Hopping’ sounds as if it’s from far closer to the equator, something to rack up frequent flier miles to while Western democracy crumbles. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Oh this is lush, and it’s dropped at the perfect time of year too. Coasting with sunny optimism and chopped to perfection, it’s as seamlessly gratifying as a fidget spinner nearing perpetual motion. I had to immediately draw for the street skating compilations on hitting play, it’s got me in another place. (9)

7.4


Lanark Artefax – ‘Touch Absence’

Jibril Yassin: This is great! Splashes of acid, jagged and bursting with monochrome detail, this IDM-inspired jam is a slow roller, its industrial skeletal groove recalling far too many after-hours sets where you just wanted to go home but this came on, so you convinced yourself you were good for another 10 minutes because it sounded just right. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Taking classic early-‘90s Artificial Intelligence techno and spiking it up with laser-focused gabber bass is a pretty fine idea – by the time the chopped-yet-cared-for vocal moans slip into the mix, your heart should have been taken by this masterful edit. You can add to a composition, but knowing what to take away and make it stronger is even more impressive. (8)

Carl Anka: Why this make me want to do the Running Man dance so much? This is like crunchy peanut butter: I’m allergic to peanut butter, but from the limited experiences I get with it, it seems like really good stuff. (7)

Tayyab Amin: My favourite thing about this – aside from its gorgeous snare – is the stuttering introduction of vocal samples and how they slide over soothing chord sustains amidst all the crunch. It’s an engrossing take on ‘90s breakbeat electronica with a little call to trance in that respect. (7)

Chal Ravens: Obviously I love this but I would also love a time machine to take me to ‘90s Detroit, so let me know when you’ve finished building it, Lanark. It’s bloody lush electro with pretty vocal tweakery, thumbs up. (7)

Haley Potiker: ‘Touch Absence’ works so well because even at its most cautious and intricate, it comes with the feeling that everything might unravel at a moment’s notice. There’s plenty of room to move and breathe, or to get lost in the technique, whichever you prefer. (9)

7.6


Final scores:

Lanark Artefax – ‘Touch Absence’ (7.6)
Bok Bok – ‘Island Hopping’ (7.4)
Lorde – ‘Perfect Places’ (7.3)
Arcade Fire – ‘Everything Now’ (5.8)
Fifth Harmony feat. Gucci Mane – ‘Down’ (5.6)
Major Lazer feat. Travi$ Scott, Camila Cabello & Quavo – ‘Know You Better’ (4.8)

Latest Stories

Latest Stories

Share Tweet
+