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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 six pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time – with Diplo’s ‘Crown’, Azealia Banks and Paul Oakenfold’s ‘Venus’, Dawn Richard, Mazzy Star, Dizzee Rascal and more in the line of fire.

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Mazzy Star – ‘California’



John Twells: The only reason I’m giving this 8 (rather than something excessively high) is that I think with Mazzy Star the songs usually take bloody ages to reveal themselves. I remember buying ‘Among My Swan’ when it came out and listening to it on headphones while lying in bed over and over before it made total sense. That was over half my lifetime ago, but I think the same is likely to be true with ‘California’. It’s gorgeous and subtle, and if the whole album’s this good it’s likely to get better and better with each play. (8)

Joe Muggs: Well that’s lovely, that. I was more about Galaxie 500 BITD, never paid this lot enough attention but this is played, sung and produced with 100% conviction, and it’s well worth repeat plays. (8)

Chal Ravens: I’m sure that mere months ago it was definitely not okay to admit a liking for Mazzy Star, so it’s been a grim pleasure to see all these secret fans crawling out of the woodwork and getting hyped for their return. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like Mazzy Star, so the question remains: were they any good in the first place? All rests on Hope Sandoval’s voice; her musical vehicle is almost irrelevant. But that voice is wonderful, of course, all incense smoke and velvet trousers and destined to soundtrack some lucky teenager’s agonising heartbreak once more. Endearing. (6)

Brad Rose: As over comebacks of 90s bands looking for a quick payday as I am, I am willing to make an exception for Mazzy Star. This makes me feel 14 all over again – pretty much put Hope Sandoval at the forefront of anything and I’ll probably give it at least a 5, and ‘California” hits all the right notes you’d expect from Mazzy Star. The expected nature of it is a strength, though, because I don’t want to hear these guys try to reinvent or do something new with their sound. When you do a particular thing this well, stick to it. I could do without the fucking handdrums, though. (6)


Paul Oakenfold & Azealia Banks – ‘Venus’


Brad Rose: Being described as a poor woman’s Nicki Minaj surely can’t actually be a career goal for anyone yet here we are. (3)

Chal Ravens: Human civilisation has been responsible for a great many unnecessary things in its ten-millennia-or-so tenure on earth. Penny farthings. Perfumed toilet roll. Choccy Philly. But it’s reassuring to know that there are innovators among our species who continue to make advances into as-yet-unrealised sectors of uselessness. Could this be the most inessential single of the week, though? It’s certainly in the running. (2)

Joe Muggs: Oh shit, that’s actually not awful. I mean, it’s drunk idiot music, but as such it’s perfectly realised, hilariously like a Scouse house record pumped up to ridiculous proportions, mind-numbingly monstrous trance riff, Azealia raps quite well, I can’t bring myself to hate it, and what? (4)

John Twells: If Mazzy Star’s ‘California’ takes a while to really show itself, then on the other side of the coin is ‘Venus’, coming at you like a frozen turd to the face at 100mph. It’s so incessant it feels like an EDM woodpecker burrowing directly into my brain, drunkenly cajoling the cells into switching off. Even for massive, stadium-filling dance music this is a fucking embarrassment. (0)


Diplo – ‘Crown’


Joe Muggs: Now this IS truly fucking shit. I can’t, as they say, even. (2)

John Twells: Nowhere near as bad as it could be, and there’s at least Riff Raff plonked on the end for comedy value. I prefer ‘Climax’-zone (or even ‘Diplo Rhythm’-zone) Diplo, but you have to admit this is a cut above ‘Venus’. (3)

Chal Ravens: The 20 minutes of precious Glastonbury time in which I was forced to endure Diplo’s “set” were perhaps the most violent buzzkill of my life, and those repressed memories are now flooding back with alarming force – someone take me to the stone circle, my ears have waxed over in protest. (0)

Brad Rose: Since Diplo is, well, Diplo, I like to experience songs like this entirely through their Soundcloud comments, all of which I imagine are written by my 11 year-old niece and her friends.  Let’s give it a whirl: Oh shiiii, Posner is still garbage. Word is Bond. Look ma, I’m pettin the snake. WHAT! Sooo fire. Hahahahahaha. Head bangin. Diplo is BIG. U are my fuckin best friend, like a good borgore. So dope. Fuckin acid jazz, this drop don’t match the song. This can be better. Diplo you a fool for this one. RiFF RaFF tho. This is sad, I’m gonna put on the Florida LP. Acid jazz…. lols! And now party; rave.  Wow what the fuck was that? (3)


dBridge & Sceptikal – ‘Move Way’


Joe Muggs: Stone cold banger. We can pass over the fact that my mate Aid got the sample first – this is brilliantly done. Drum’n’bass is a really exciting place right now. (8)

Chal Ravens: “Every kind of clart you can think of is a bad word”: Wisdom the FACT office can relate to this week. This is both punishing and cavernous; heavy but with acres of space to breath. The pacey tempo and breakbeat snippets point to dance music’s mass movement towards faster living at the moment, and it’s a welcome direction. (6)

Brad Rose: Start any track with that sample and alright, you’ve got my attention. Shackleton comparisons are pretty apt, I think, and is probably why I’m digging this as much as I am. But at the same time, ‘Move Way’ is far more danky. The kicks are relentless throughout, giving the whole thing an edgy intensity. Skeptical’s fingerprints are all over this, too, and adds some needed depth to dBridge’s production. ‘Move Way’ is some serious skeleton-style drum & bass and I’m pretty goddamn happy with that.  (7)


Redinho – ‘Searching’


John Twells: Numbers releases are always good value for money, and ‘Searching’ is no different. It’s pretty much all I want from a dance track; lush synths, talkbox warbles and tight, pinging bass. Weirdly it reminds me of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Sexual Seduction’ (which I mentioned last week too) but re-imagined by Plaid. (7)

Joe Muggs: Really really nice. Kind of puzzling why that wonky honking synth tone that’s in the first half disappears in the second, but ours is not to reason why: it’s proceeding according to its own logic and that’s just great. (8)

Chal Ravens: Ah, an aural massage after the miscellaneous horrors of this week’s selection. Hey, Diplo – this is how you do maximalism, right? Redinho’s got something finely crafted here – deep and glittering and, at just over three minutes, definitely not long enough. (8)


Justin Timberlake – ‘Take Back the Night’



Chal Ravens: Up. For. This. Don’t care what you say about, “oh, it’s like a Michael Jackson rip-off”, as if that was some sort of ill omen and JT is building his Neverland right now and inviting Jaden Smith round for pillow fights and ice cream. This has got horns and disco guitars and crowd noise in the background, so I can stay in tonight, put it on, and pretend I’m having a fine time on my own, actually. Thanks, JT. (8)

Joe Muggs: His face is starting to get really annoying – that smug gurning in the beginning of the promo clip is a right turn-off. Thankfully this is more of the same as 20/20 part 1, i.e. luxurious and funky. Heavy on the Jacko, but when was JT imitating MJ ever a problem? (9)

Brad Rose: The whole saga with the title of this track vs. the anti-rape organization that it’s not named after (but that should be familiar to anyone in the States with any interest in women not being raped?) is like a bad SNL skit. The song itself?  Pretty middle of the road. None of the above is all that interesting, though. (5)

John Twells: JT’s really on a Michael Jackson kick with this ‘un, and as with every single one of his singles I’ll probably be singing this in the shower in a few weeks after hearing it every time I set foot outside my house. It’s never totally a bad thing either, I have time for JT. (7)


The Weeknd – ‘Belong to the World’


Joe Muggs: This mings. Sounds suspiciously like an artist who’s been A&Red to within an inch of his life, overproduced, wildly unfunky, but weirdly dreary given how expensive it presumably was to make. (3)

Chal Ravens: I heart The Weeknd unapologetically and my love of Portishead runs deep and true, so this whole debacle saddens me immeasurably. Simple rules of engagement, Mr Tesfaye: No messing with Winehouse. Stay away from ‘Candle In The Wind’. And for fuck’s sake, don’t lay a finger on the incomparable ‘Machine Gun’. A horrible shame, even though I could listen to his wailing whining whimpering voice all day (and have). (3)

Brad Rose: Never really understood the massive hype that’s followed The Weeknd since his first mixtape, and ‘Belong To The World’ isn’t doing much to change my mind. I will say that I wish more came from the Terius Nash/Weeknd “feud” or whatever just for the entertainment value (#Team-Dream obviously, even if IV Play was a big disappointment). Anyway, Portishead controversy aside, this song, like the vast majority of his output, is just alright. There’s parts of this tune I dig, don’t get me wrong, but to my ears he never puts everything together. It’s always a couple good ideas that are always disjointed. No thanks, there’s way better bummer r&b stuff out there.  (4)

John Twells: Portishead’s ‘Machine Gun’ is totally peerless, and while I don’t have any problem with The Weeknd sampling it, he doesn’t exactly do great things with the material. He’s managed to strip the chilling starkness away from a near-perfect beat, and then spread over several layers of processed cheese. Weak. (3)


Dawn Richard – ‘Meteors’


Joe Muggs: Just imagine if the people making this kind of R&B record now listened to UK garage and funky instead of electro-house and middle-of-the-road dubstep. How much better would this be? There’s some good hooks and rhythms in this but it’s a bit dead and disjointed all told. (5)

Chal Ravens: The production is solid (despite the now-inevitable trap-rave embellishments) but there’s not a lot to get excited about here, is there? I’ve been steered towards the idea that Dawn Richard is an R&B auteur to be filed alongside the likes of Janelle Monae, but to me this sounds mercilessly engineered for the masses. She dips her toe into experimental waters, but I want a full belly-flop into madness – a bit of atonal metal scraping at the end isn’t enough. (7)

Brad Rose: I fucking love Dawn Richard. Even if Goldenheart didn’t quite deliver on the promise of her Armor On EP (though it’s still really good), she’s quietly doing some of the best r&b & dance tunes in the world right now (and never gets enough credit for her performance on the vastly underrated Diddy Dirty Money record). Basically, next to Robyn, there’s nobody in the field who I get more excited about. ‘Meteor’ keeps that momentum going. As with just about every Richard track, the focal point is, and should always be, her voice. Hakan Özkan’s bleakly futuristic and minimalistic production is a huge selling point, and it gives Richard a lot of room to play around with her voice, cutting it up, stretching it out, and sometimes just belting it the fuck out. Towards the end things get a bit weird and that’s just icing. I have no idea why Dawn Richard isn’t a household name at this point but maybe Blackheart will help that cause. (8)


Dizzee Rascal – ‘I Don’t Need a Reason’



Joe Muggs: Very decent, but one point docked because although his flow’s on point the lyrics are tired, and one more docked because fuck Chris Brown. (5)

Brad Rose: This song is lame, I don’t need a reason. (All I want is sex, I don’t need a reason? Really? Jesus Christ). (2)

Chal Ravens: In an astonishing week for issuances of venereal trap-trash with a Euro lilt, it was really very fortunate that Dizzee chose to put out the one song on his new album not pegged as more of the same post-Guettian ear-mulch. Not that it marks a return to his early ’00s grime swagger or anything, but in the context of the Dizzee-lite we’ve been fed for the past few years, it’s a treat to hear him rapping his little face off over a crunky beat that’s actually got some heft to it. It’s all relative though. (5)

John Twells: It ain’t fine art, but it’s a damn sight better than anything else to drift out of the Dizzee camp recently. I doubt I’ll be rinsing this (actually scratch that, I definitely won’t) but it’s heavy and is a step in the right direction after that Robbie Williams travesty. (6)


Lil Kim – ‘Looks like Money’



Joe Muggs: Oh forget all the ‘WTF’ nonsense, that’s just triffic. Totally inhuman, like actually sounds like it’s all robots – love it. (8)

Chal Ravens: Top tip: when planning a comeback single, try to release it as soon as possible after writing it, or at least remember to update your pop culture references at a later date if it ends up sitting in your out-tray for two years (Lil Kim goes hard in the paint, apparently, and scoffs at those who do the dougie). Her cold-hearted delivery sits well atop a wave of evil electronic scree, though – if Kim can deliver another at least as good as this she might actually be able to call it a comeback. Not holding my breath, though. (5)

John Twells: Honestly, I preferred the truly bizarre unofficial leak that came out a few days prior to this one. The problem with ‘Looks Like Money’ is that it doesn’t do a damn thing that someone else (Kim included) hasn’t done better. Save your money. (4)

Brad Rose: Being described as a poor woman’s Nicki Minaj surely can’t actually be a career goal for anyone yet here we are. (1)


Final scores: 
Redinho – ‘Searching’ (7.7)
Justin Timberlake – ‘Take Back the Night’ (7.3)
Mazzy Star – ‘California’ (7)
dBridge & Sceptikal – ‘Move Way’ (7)
Dawn Richard – ‘Meteors’ (6.7)
Lil Kim – ‘Looks like Money’ (4.5)
Dizzee Rascal – ‘I Don’t Need a Reason’ (4.5)
The Weeknd – ‘Belong to the World’ (3.3)
Paul Oakenfold & Azealia Banks – ‘Venus’ (2.3)
Diplo – ‘Crown’ (2)

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