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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. Wilting under our stern gazes this week: Lily Allen, Disclosure, L-Vis 1990, and a bunch of other poor sods.

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Disclosure ft. Nile Rodgers and Sam Smith – ‘Together’

Josh Hall: 
This is far more enjoyable than their last horror. It feels like Disclosure producing a Nile Rogers track, and that really plays to the brothers’ strengths; whatever you think of them, they are very well acquainted with the construction of a decent pop song. I could definitely tolerate an album of this. (7)

Tom Lea: “Wrap the vines around your thighs?” God bless Disclosure, but they don’t half have a way with chat-up lines no one would ever say in real life (see also: all of ‘Latch’). In that long lineage of pop songs with ‘Together’ in the title, it’s nowhere near Taylor, Al Green, Mariah or Bangalter, but you know, at least it’s better than Nickelback. And better than ‘Apollo’, actually. (6)

Joe Muggs: People doing the sort of record that Pharrell should be doing in 2013. This is karmic justice for ‘Blurred Lines’ right? Brilliant. (8)

Brad Rose: I’ll say this much: this is the least lame track I’ve heard yet that Disclosure is involved in, but the credit for that belongs to Nile Rodgers. That being said, this just makes me wish Rodgers was working with Dam-Funk instead.  (5)

Chal Ravens: This is unexpectedly great, isn’t it? The disco guitar, the funky bass, the full-fat Boyz II Men vocal – it’s got that kinda Eglo Records or Dam-Funk feel to it. Unfortunately they’ve only written two-thirds of a great song, but it would make an excellent radio soundbed, maybe? (6)



MssngNo – ‘XE2’

Chris Kelly: 
Gloriously patient songwriting that proves that R&B vocal snipping can still be done when it’s done right. Just gorgeous. (8)

Chal Ravens: Absolute stone cold perfection. I was convinced there wasn’t anything left to squeeze out of the old R&B vocal flip, but this is the sound of a hundred doors opening. Killer. (9)

Josh Hall: My god, why has no one thought of pitch-shifting R&B vocals before? (5)

Brad Rose: In general, I am so tired of shoddy samples of R&B vocals on electronic music that I almost always automatically tune such tracks out.  MssingNo cuts up and repurposes R. Kelly’s ‘I’m A Flirt’ in such an interesting way that I was hooked from the opening seconds. The track unfolds slowly but the samples and icy, looping synths are the focus throughout. I’m really digging this. (7)

Joe Muggs: It’s a classy DJ tool. (6)

Tom Lea: Just when you thought repitched r’n’b vocal + pads + grime / hip-hop drums sounded like the most played out combo going, here comes a dude named after a Pokemon to make you reevaluate everything. Mssterpiece. (10)



Lily Allen – ‘Hard Out Here’

Chris Kelly: 
What hasn’t already been said about this tripe? Three minutes of flaccid synth-pop laced with lazy gender commentary and a half-assed criticism of hip-hop materialism, gussied up with a hipster-racist video that is clearly (and effectively) trolling for think-pieces. To quote Sarah Nicole Prickett: “Satire used to be a weapon, now it’s the weakest defense.” (0)

Chal Ravens: In the clamour to tar and feather the mockney perpetrator, it’s as if no one’s realised what a godforsaken pox of a song this actually is. Bad enough that it nicks the hook from well-known gender equality campaigners Three 6 Mafia (will they get royalties from this faux-feminist ‘anthem’?), but it also sounds about a decade out of date, aside from the possibly satirical but totally spiritless use of Autotune. Garbage of the most audacious order. (0)

Joe Muggs: Well, as we know, the last thing the world needs is another middle-aged white person having an opinion on this video, so in the interests of balance I canvassed the opinion of the first black person I could find, which happened to be the lady who lives over the road. She said “Haaaaa that’s really funny – why’s her hair like that though?”. She drinks a lot, though. My neighbour, I mean – not Lily Allen; I wouldn’t dare make any assertions about what intoxicants Lily Allen must have been imbibing to think this was clever or good. (4) 

Josh Hall: I’m not going to be so Thicke as to presume that I could tell a woman what her feminism should or should not consist of. That said…Jesus, white people. (3)

Brad Rose: Look, as a white dude who calls himself a feminist, I’m just gonna leave that side of this track alone because Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote such a great piece already that everyone should read and just go after the song itself, which also is not very good. I like good, catchy pop songs as much as the next guy, but this is all so by-the-numbers and unmemorable that it’s obvious this track would have zero traction if it weren’t all “Ooooh, controversial subject matter!” or whatever.  It’s sad what counts as controversy in popular music these days (see also: Kendrick/’Control’). (3)

Tom Lea: Big fat zero. Or simply an emoticon representing Lily Allen’s Baggy Pussy, however you want to frame it: (0)



Starlito & Ryan Hemsworth – ‘Can’t Get Over You’

Josh Hall: 
Ryan Hemsworth is essentially the Steve Roggenbuck of dance music: infuriatingly self-aware, constantly insisting that he is being ‘sincere’ while wrapping himself in endless layers of stupid irony and dodgy appropriation. This, though, is actually pretty good: the synth brass is satisfyingly grubby, and Starlito’s delivery is sufficiently strung out to make up for the dodgy lyrics. (6)

Chal Ravens: Ouch, that brass! And a welcome pleasant blast from the past to have some Timbo-style harp in the mix. Not entirely sure Starlito’s verse hangs together that well, but heartbroken gangsters are always a recipe for quality. (7)

Chris Kelly: These Songs from Scratch have been such no-brainers, and this one is no different. Hemsworth borrows Sinjin Hawke’s brass stabs and offers his own take on the very in vogue Memphis sound while Starlito’s grumble works surprisingly well in sensitive thug mode. (7)

Tom Lea: Guys, get a room. And then make a whole mixtape in it, please. (8)

Brad Rose: It’s amazing what the right producer can do for a rapper and how, when the perfect pairing comes together, the results are not just great, but a massive surprise. Starlito has always occupied space in that 3rd tier of rappers who obviously had talent and some bright spots but just couldn’t put it all together. Well, Hemsworth seems to be Starlito’s soulmate in that regard because ‘Can’t Get Over You’ builds on everything that was excellent about ‘Mistakes To Make’ and then some. It’s all so downtrodden and surprisingly heartbreaking – it’s such an awesome surprise. If there’s justice in the world, these two will do a whole record together. (8)

Joe Muggs: Meh. I’ve loved things by both these guys before but somehow this just sounds like old-school Tricky with a little bit of dirty south. What do you call trip-hop-meets-trap? Trip-trap? (5)



L-Vis 1990 & Sinjin Hawke – ‘Flash Alert’

Josh Hall: 
Everything about this is absurdly good. The intro could constitute an entire track on its own; the video is astounding; the patchwork intricacy of the song’s construction, with new, diametrically opposed elements being introduced seemingly every ten seconds – it’s all really excellent. Even better than the Vissacoor material. (9) 

Chris Kelly: As much as I love Club Constructions, I prefer Sinjin Hawke’s maximalist orchestrations for home listening. However, I’d be up for a club night that only plays these Fractal Fantasy tracks/videos. (6)

Tom Lea: The currently-on-fire L-Vis on some I Am The God of Hellfire shit here with Sinjin, who’s also been on wicked form this year. Prefer this to the Vissacoor track, which was cool but I don’t think I’d ever want to hear it in a club. (7)

Joe Muggs: WOW. We’re deep, deep, deep into uncanny valley here. The play of the lo-fi ’80s drum machine stuff against the massive-processing-power sound design (and graphics) could have been really arch and showily ironic but it just works – because it’s done with funk. I could listen to this for days. (9)

Brad Rose: I thought my browser had locked up during the first 20 seconds of this collaboration and that’s a big compliment. Musically, it’s very good, and reminiscent of something you’d hear in a club if the future looked like a way less depressing version of Blade Runner. But the visuals are a totally fantastic mindfuck and worth more than the price of admission alone.  (7)

Chal Ravens: The kind of “WTF!” track that makes you laugh out loud on the dancefloor because it is so. Damn. Ridiculous. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to sweat to right now. (7)



Justin Bieber – ‘All Bad’ 

Chris Kelly: 
Bieber’s Music Mondays series has been a decent distraction from the lowlights of his post-pubescent Vanilla Ice phase, and a source of hope for those of us that think he was onto something with ‘Boyfriend’. This one isn’t all bad (har har) but referring to women as “females” is just gross. (3)

Joe Muggs: The perfectly realised soundtrack to his seamlessly turning into a Brett Easton Ellis character. Deeply uncomfortable. (6)

Tom Lea: I honestly think that if Bieber manages to make 21 without completely imploding, we could easily see a JT-circa-2000-style makeover. He already works with some great songwriters and producers, and if the timing’s right a redemption album exec produced by Mike Will or somebody, released just at the point where the public’s down to its last shred of patience, could be brilliant. There’s probably a chart dedicated to this very scheme in a boardroom somewhere. Anyway, despite the cover art, this isn’t half as crap as people are going to make out – give me ‘All Bad’ over Angel Haze covering ‘Wrecking Ball’ or half of Kiss Land any day. (6) 

Josh Hall: The Weeknd has a lot to answer for. (4)

Chal Ravens: Oh, how absolutely infuriating that the production is all purring hi-hat rolls and satin sheets of piano. And the lyrics! Keats himself would’ve been proud of this one: “Ooh, you know females / And how they like to run their mouths.” (1) 


Final scores:
MssngNo – ‘XE2’ (7.5)
L-Vis 1990 & Sinjin Hawke – ‘Flash Alert’ (7.5)
Starlito & Ryan Hemsworth – ‘Can’t Get Over You’ (6.8)
Disclosure ft. Nile Rodgers and Sam Smith – ‘Together’ (6.4)
Justin Bieber – ‘All Bad’ (4)
Lily Allen – ‘Hard Out Here’ (1.7)

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