Singles Club: Azealia Banks is still a problematic fave

FACT Singles Club features a panel of writers rating and slating the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

When Offset called Cardi B his “wife” on stage at this year’s BET Awards, it didn’t take long for TMZ to dig up information that proved the couple got married last September in Atlanta. So this week’s ‘Who Want the Smoke?’ is notable for featuring the chart-dominating husband-and-wife on the mic together, with Lil Yachty as the third wheel.

Elsewhere, inc. no world’s Daniel Aged goes it alone, felicita charts out a new direction for PC Music, Xavier Stone keeps Fractal Fantasy bouncing and Azealia Banks is everyone’s problematic fave, again.



Lil Yachty – ‘Who Want the Smoke?’ Feat. Cardi B & Offset

Caroline Whiteley: One of the fun things about being posted up in Brooklyn for the moment is hearing that Cardi B is still blasting out of car radios all over the city. Hyping up Cardi might be more than cliché at this point but to hell with it. Her ability to elevate most tracks she appears on from decent into full-on bangers always impresses me. And while some of Lil Yachty’s tracks in the past have felt a bit sluggish to me, I’m gonna listen to this on repeat. (8)

Cameron Cook: I’m high key waiting for collaborative power-couple album à la The Carters’ Everything Is Love from Cardi B and Offset, but in the meantime this Lil Yachty track takes everything from all three artists – grit, gravitas, hardcore attitude and pulsating bars – and makes for one of the best tracks any of them has released in a while (well, at least since Invasion of Privacy). Top-of-game stuff. (9.5)

Jesse Bernard: Yachty often excels over beats where there’s less autotune and fewer harmonies, but recruiting Cardi & Offset was the best thing he did for his track. Still, Cardi B & Offset lack much of the chemistry you’d expect a couple to have on wax. (6)

Michelle Lhooq: God bless Offset for trying to save this uninspired mess. (3)

6.6



felicita – ‘marzipan’ Feat. Caroline Polachek

Jesse Bernard: Caroline Polachek’s vocals here feel very shadowy and the ominous keys throughout make the song sound like a haunting rendition of a lullaby. ‘marzipan’ is exactly the type of experimental pop you would expect from PC Music’s felicita, which is exactly why it’s so strangely appealing. (8)

Caroline Whiteley: At first glance this seemed odd: indie darling Caroline Polachek pairing up with PC Music for a hauntingly calm drone-y number? This sounds way more ghoulish than anything I’ve heard from the label in recent years, like the score to one of Gucci’s fashion films, even. (7.5)

Michelle Lhooq: felicita and Polachek’s reinterpretation of an old Polish lullaby is deliciously dark and creepy, capturing the true spirit of an unvarnished fairy tale. While the source might be ancient, the sparse composition feels entirely new. Bonus points for the incredible video. (9)

Cameron Cook: Chairlift have always been a favorite of mine, so I’m always happy to see Caroline doing something fresh. This track is really interesting, her voice gives it a little bit of levity when it could go down the path of predictably spooky. Kind of wish there was a little bit more going on in the background, but I’ll give felicita a few more listens in the future. (6)

7.6



Daniel Aged – ‘BH’

Michelle Lhooq: Aged’s sound has been described as “r’n’boudoir”, but here, he cuts out the vocals and lets the mood drift from the bedroom into the clouds. If it wasn’t for the undercurrent of rippling bass, the pools of synth tones are so delicate they almost evaporate into mist. This song is so gorgeous if I heard it at sunrise at a forest rave, I might start to cry. (8.5)

Jesse Bernard: Daniel Aged is best known for R&B, but ‘BH’ barely ventures into that realm. It doesn’t have the depth to be called R&B: it’s too minimal and lacks vocals. As an experimental instrumental however, ‘BH’ does deliver. (7)

Cameron Cook: inc. no world have always left me a little cold, but I have to say, this is quite nice. Nothing revolutionary by any means, but as a chill out/no stress/good vibes instrumental track, it’s giving me what I need. Half of me wants a crazy intense vocal on it (like, a Liz Fraser kind of thing) but sometimes, less is more, I suppose. (6.5)

Caroline Whiteley: Just a simple-but-beautiful ambient guitar mashup. It reminds me a lot of the Music From Memory stuff in the best possible way. (8)

7.5



Xavier Stone – ‘Give Me Sum’

Cameron Cook: This is OK but it doesn’t really go anywhere; the opening is ear-catching, but once the SOPHIE-esque bass bounces in, it doesn’t really deliver anything else. Despite everyone trying to do it, I feel like this sound and aesthetic are actually only well-executed by a very few number of producers, and this just seems kind of less-than. (4.5)

Jesse Bernard: This feels like an amalgamation of dancehall and rap, but it’s a dazzling and beautifully layered dance track that’s one or two drops away from being a dubstep track that no one asked for. (9)

Michelle Lhooq: Sounds like a horny fuccboi droning “gimme sum… don’t front” over and over against a drooling trap beat. The Arabesque instrumental breakdown is a nice touch, but ultimately, I’m triggered. (4)

Caroline Whiteley: This track doesn’t play around – Xzavier Stone lulls his demand over and over. It’s exactly the kind of tune for when things get loose at the house party, when the drinks have fully kicked in and people are grinding. After all, there’s a reason this is part of an LP titled Thirst. (7)

6.1



Azealia Banks – ‘Treasure Island’

Jesse Bernard: When Azealia said she’d have the rap album of the year, I didn’t question her claim. Time and again, she’s proven herself to be one of the most prolific and inventive rappers and ‘Treasure Island’ not only displays that, but does so over production that’s far left of what rap crowds are used to. (8)

Michelle Lhooq: Out of the three tracks she’s released so far off her mixtape, this one’s the weakest—Azealia’s best when she plays it mean and cool, and doesn’t quite pull off the breezy Bahama vibes here. Still, I’m so tired of this narrative of “Azealia is wasting her talent because she’s crazy.” If we can tolerate Kanye’s problematic babbles, Azealia deserves a chance too. Everyone knows she’s got bars. (6.5)

Caroline Whiteley: Ring ring, it’s Azealia Banks, back with an annoyingly hot new release. Having said some truly ignorant shit in the past few years she’s definitely become a problematic fave, but musically at least, this redeems her. I was immediately humored by how self-referential she is in her callbacks to the seapunk and vaporwave aesthetics that dominated the internet when she released Fantasea (hello 2012). (7)

Cameron Cook: Ah yes, my ultimate Problematic Fave™, Azealia Banks. It would be so easy to ignore her if she wasn’t actually very, very good, but here we are. ‘Anna Wintour’ is one of my favorite tracks of the year, and this isn’t far behind. There’s something about her sniper-precise flow and actually-not-bad-at-all vocal style that just makes her completely a completely unique force. No one else has the balls to release R&B/club/house/soul/rap bangers like she does, and I guess that’s why I fuck with her. (9)

7.6


Final scores:
Azealia Banks – ‘Treasure Island’ (7.6)
felicita – ‘marzipan’ Feat. Caroline Polachek (7.6)

Daniel Aged – ‘BH’ (7.5)
Lil Yachty – ‘Who Want the Smoke?’ Feat. Cardi B & Offset (6.6)
Xavier Stone – ‘Give Me Sum’ (6.1)


Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist currently residing in Berlin, Germany. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kate Bush. (@iamacameron)

Caroline Whiteley is freelance writer based in Berlin. (@carowhiteley)

Jesse Bernard is freelance music and culture journalist based in Brooklyn and London, still hotsteppin’ in a Nike Air sneaker. (@MarvinsCorridor)

Michelle Lhooq is an LA-based journalist writing about music and weed. Find her on Twitter.

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