“This is some backpack Twin Peaks nonsense and I won’t have it”: DJ Shadow and more in Singles Club

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 it’s for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. This week, Jennifer Lopez, DJ Shadow, Nite Jewel and more.

Singles Club - Bwana

Bwana – ‘Homeboy’

Aurora Mitchell: Aus’s output can sometimes feel uninspiring and by-the-numbers but this rickety stomper hits the spot. Bwana’s output for the label so far has been deep and dark but ‘Homeboy’ takes him into more springy territory. That silly, spiralling loop lifts you and carries you to a peak-time, sweaty dancefloor. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: This sounds so great, but there is always going to be something slightly dubious to me about white folks making music inspired by Africa, whether it’s Paul Simon, Vampire Weekend or this. But I do wanna be somewhere very hot when this drops, so who even knows what that says about me… (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Up until a minute-thirty in, Bwana’s elements enticingly avoid making sense, as teardrop percussion skims the centre of the leading thump. It’s a seeing-eye challenge where the blurring disappears into a crisp kaleidoscopic image – it’s exciting. (7)

Chris Kelly: While he works from a template that does nothing for me, those reverberating bits of synth cut through the air like Kill Bill SFX. (6)

Son Raw: Automatic points for the ever-so-broken kick drum pattern, but would you really notice this one between two other slow build, one-bar loops come hour 17 at Panorama Bar? (6)


Singles Club - DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow – ‘Mountain Will Fall’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Shadow can do no wrong – he produced Endtroducing and made a massive non-rap audience aware of E-40 – but I can’t pretend this ‘Mountain…’ is approaching anywhere near his finest work. Lofty expectations pushed to the side, it’s a solid piece of dystopia-hop, embedded in a synthesised ‘70s aesthetic that celebrates a distant future while also bubbling with anxiety at what approaches. (6)

Aurora Mitchell: This sounds like a SoundCloud producer’s remix of a Boards Of Canada track. The first minute is beautiful, triumphant ambient and then that screeching “woo!” comes in and the vibe gets squashed to the ground. (4)

Chris Kelly: There’s a decent composition here but its obscured by that dated broken beat. This is miles ahead of the “future bass” he was dabbling with last time we heard from him (and likely better than having to hear his song with Run the Jewels), but come on. (3)

Claire Lobenfeld: “Instrumental hip-hop” has never appealed to me and this doesn’t, either. This is some kind of weird backpack Twin Peaks nonsense and I won’t have it. (3)

Son Raw: SoundCloud’s algorithm played some Ying Yang twins after this, and honestly, DJ Shadow could use some more crunk. I feel for him, since his brand of sample stacking now lies somewhere between financially impossible and outright illegal, but there’s something deeply unsettling about him making the kind of a drawn-out synth track he’d once have isolated two seconds of in search of the perfect loop. (4)


Singles Club - Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez – ‘Ain’t Your Mama’

Son Raw: Without even touching on the nauseating contradiction of Dr. Luke producing a song that’s meant to empower women, his brand of focus group-ready radio pop is so reductive it might actually lessen the value of what would otherwise be a worthwhile statement. In some imaginary world where he’d have done no actual wrong, this would still suck. (1)

Aurora Mitchell: It would be easy to slate J. Lo for working with Dr. Luke, but major labels are fucked. While people were giving Tinashe a hard time for working with Chris Brown, the reality was that it wasn’t her choice to work with the abuser, as she whispered in an interview: “It wasn’t really me, it was the label.” There’s a high chance that it’s the same case here. Fuck whoever is enabling Dr. Luke to still have a working career and profit off women who deserve so much better. For J. Lo and J. Lo alone, this gets a (5)

Chris Kelly: Yes, hiring Dr. Luke for your “feminist anthem” is Very Problematic. But the bigger issue is how J. Lo keeps trying to do what the kids are into, whether its a DJ Mustard banger or a Diplo booty anthem or whatever. Madonna is barely able to pull that off, and she’s Madonna. Just enjoy your Vegas residency, cash those checks, tell your 29-year-old boyfriend to turn off the PS4 and leave pop music to the kids. (1)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: First off, the song is cute, a fine example of Lopez’s skill when it comes to staying fresh for the casual listener, which means combining Meaghan Trainor’s bubbliness to azonto tempos and occasional bass drops. As a combination of everything that passes you by on the radio, it’s deft and almost insultingly catchy. But this is the first real Dr. Luke release of 2016, after the much-publicised rape accusations and the American courts’ decision to rule in his favour. Fun is overcome by the darkness of sexual violence and a legal system’s approach to victims of said violence, so I can understand any reluctance to press play knowing whose studio this comes from. It’s well crafted, but comes with devastating baggage for something this candyfloss-light. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: Dear Meghan Trainor, I am worried about you, girl. I know you have had to do your due diligence post-future husband ode nonsense, but this ain’t it. Your perception of what makes a progressive idea about a woman in the world is so limited and so entirely based on tropes that I am not entirely sure you aren’t just a songwriting robot who has become slightly sentient — and, if so, please have someone reprogram you out of that pseudo-blackface voice you were using on the red carpet at the iHeartRadio Awards. All the best, Claire.

J. Lo, You were Selena, you were in Out of Sight, you made ‘I’m Real’. The Bronx didn’t need this and neither do we. Still luv u, tho, Claire (0.0)


Singles Club - Nite Jewel

Nite Jewel – ‘Boo Hoo’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Ramona Gonzales’ music has barely shifted from the fuzzy zone of comfort presented on her 2009 debut Good Evening – she’s just dialled down the cassette-blurring VST and gotten round to sounding crisper. That’s no problem, but her music hasn’t evolved past Comforting ‘90s Vibes. Should it though? (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: When your output is ahead of the curve, you have to keep pushing yourself when your inventiveness is reflected in the status quo. I’ve always like Nite Jewel for being alt-pop before that phrase was even a glimmer in our eyes, but now I need her to push the boundaries once again. This is perfectly lovely and the track sounds so good, but it’s hard for me not to boo-hoo when we’re ready for something completely brand new and don’t get it. (6.5)

Chris Kelly: Many of the musicians that reference ‘80s synth-pop in their work get so lost in the haze that they forget that the originals had, ya know, hooks. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Nite Jewel, so even if this isn’t entirely new, it’s entirely enjoyable. (6)

Aurora Mitchell: I love pop that feels ghostly and half-present and Nite Jewel is one of the best at that. Her voice is so gorgeous, steeped in tones that feel silky and soft, like velvet for your ears. (7)

Son Raw: This one’s a tad too understated for its own good – background music for a club scene in a movie instead of a tune that would get played on an actual dancefloor. But at least it’s not produced by Dr Luke. (5)


Singles Club - Commodo

Commodo – ‘Hadi Hadi Ah’

Son Raw: As a guy who grew up on instrumental hip-hop, increasingly potent cannabis and a love for films, records and art best described as “dusty”, I make no bones about being this song’s target audience. That vibraphone snippet two minutes in is my happy place. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Slithering across a composition of now-traditional SoundCloud-beat bass energy is Commodo’s wild curiosity: dipping in and out of movie samples, handfuls of scores, dashings of musique concrete and nature. These touches are applied deftly, creating a sense of adventure rather than ADD, more curated than chaotic. (8)

Aurora Mitchell: Once again, Commodo comes through with a low rumbler to set your sub woofers alight. The sinister energy that flows through his output is more restrained here, the bass creeping around rather than confronting you face-on. (8)


Singles Club - Kali Uchis

Kali Uchis – ‘Only Girl’ (ft. Steve Lacy and Vince Staples)

Son Raw: As long as Kali Uchis keeps reuniting various Odd Future alumni and affiliates for breezy So-Cal teen pop, I’ll keep listening. At this point it’s weird hearing Staples over anything less than frosted-over industrial textures, but it’s a nice break from Tyler showing up on her tracks. (7)

Chris Kelly: I haven’t been totally sold on a few of the people involved here, but this is definitely a sum-greater-than-the-parts collaboration. As far as LA scenes go, give me Odd Future over “the beat scene” any day, especially when the result sounds like the best song Little Dragon never recorded. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Steve Lacy’s hook on this is such an incredible earworm, that I can hack a Dude Who’s A Dog But Keeps Trying It track when they are generally my least favorite. (If you’re gonna be a dog, be a dog; if you’re gonna be monogamous, actually be loyal as hell.) Another thing that is kind of on my nerves right now is the whole, like, payment similes? Tinashe singing: “Get money, get money like an invoice” (lol) on ‘2 On’, Ty’s “Put in work like my time sheet” on Fifth Harmony’s latest ‘Work From Home’ and now Kali Uchis singing, “Gonna make you work for it like you’re on commission.” OK, so the lyrics pretty bad here, but otherwise, this is a BOP and I will be happy to hear this in every car and at every cookout this summer ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Just as the weather brightens, up drops this breezy tête-á-tête, courtesy of Uchis and Kaytranada (who, with this and The Internet’s ‘Girl’, appears to have the magic touch for producing relaxed left-of-centre pop jams). From its elegantly dusted breaks to the bookending voicemail pleas, it’s very visual music, bringing to mind an imaginary video of sundresses, Ray-Bans and artifacts of laidback LA cool that should irritate yet don’t. The casualness of Uchis feels natural rather than trained to melt onto an Urban Outfitters playlist. This isn’t to say that the sun blunts her senses when she needs to lay down the law: “Your words are pretty and delivery is coherent / But talk is cheap”. She’d make a great critic. (8)


Final scores:

Commodo – ‘Hadi Hadi Ah’ (8)
Kali Uchis – ‘Only Girl’ (ft. Steve Lacy and Vince Staples) (7.3)
Bwana – ‘Homeboy’ (6.8)
Nite Jewel – ‘Boo Hoo’ (6.2)
DJ Shadow – ‘Mountain Will Fall’ (4)
Jennifer Lopez – ‘Ain’t Your Mama’ (2.4)



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