Singles Club: Gucci Mane’s first day out, Drake the swag-vampire and goths on the beach

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, Gucci Mane gets out of jail, The Strokes split opinion, Drake slides into your girl’s DMs and Jenny Hval inspects her period blood. What a time to be alive.


The Strokes – ‘Oblivius’

Chris Kelly: I didn’t care about these denim-clad rich-kids-slumming the first time around, and I definitely don’t care this time, either. Garage rock should close the door and keep the car running. The lead guitar in the bridge shakes this awake, but after all these years, is this it? [Ed: Oh, you went there.] (3)

Zoe Camp: Were it not for Albert Hammond Jr.’s heavy lifting, ‘Oblivius’ would strike me as a Comedown Machine outtake left on the cutting room floor. Dude makes Julian Casablancas look like a square–his clipped phrasing and deft swoops up and down the fretboard lend the ho-hum arrangement some much-needed texture, which helps me look past howlers like, “Act like a puppet, think like sheep (Wall Street).” (Thanks for the parenthetical clarification, guys!) (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: From Pitchfork on May 26: “The Strokes: Something Appears to Be Happening Very Soon”. That is an example of the level of goodwill placed in NYC’s turn of the century princes, that we will happily perk our ears up whenever the vaguest of movements comes from them. And ‘Oblivius’ repays that trust! It’s a taut, old-school Casablancas slur but bolstered with a windmilling chorus, the type to inspire outbursts of jerky dancing. Even cheekily nicking the guitars from ‘Aerodynamic’ can’t stop this from putting a smile on your face – hell, it may just make it even bigger. (7)

Son Raw: The Strokes were and apparently still are a nostalgia ouroboros, but they were always significantly better at this Brooklyn-brand equivalent to Britpop than the horde of poorly dressed scenester dropouts they fathered. That’s a punchy riff but if you’re really connecting with Julian Casablancas’ earnest caterwauling, you might be a stockbroker, or at the very least a serial killer. (4)

Haley Potiker: Man, The Strokes used to be so good. This sounds like you made it to the final level of a video game and have to battle your ex-girlfriend. (3)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve always loved this band. This song kicks off with amazing guitars, but I really love how the key change channels their best work on ‘Butterflies & Hurricanes’. It gets even better as the solo and vocals bring to mind ‘Plug In Baby’ – it’s a real tour de force of their sound. [Ed: Yes, well done, “very funny”] (6)


YG, Drake & Kamaiyah – ‘Why You Always Hatin?’

Haley Potiker: Two thirds of this is a perfect summer anthem. Kamaiyah’s hook is catchy, YG is happy. He has his Benz with the tints (he knows you know, but he’s telling you again) and a Maybach too, his city loves him, and he can afford another Drake verse. Life is Good, but this Drake verse is Bad. Beyond deluding himself into believing that he and YG have any DM-sliding crossover, Drizzy swears on his mother’s life that he blew up with his “own sound” as if we didn’t hear 808s & Heartbreak. Not to mention he’s literally imitating YG’s flow from the first verse. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: YG made the best rap album of the past couple of years; Kamaiyah made the best mixtape of the year; Drake made a dud this year but is still undeniably Drake. But this is not the immediate banger you expect from these three names – instead it’s a roll-along dedication to menace that’s grown on me since last weekend. It’ll sound beautiful sequenced properly on the next album Still Krazy, I imagine. (7)

Son Raw: YG and Drake are polar opposites, YG being a people’s champ with a die-hard fanbase who constantly over performs and Drake being a pop-rap Galactus who swallows entire planets’ worth of flows. Naturally, this pairing involves Aubrey playing swag-vampire to his host’s style, but the Mustard template is established: this will sound perfect at cook outs, pool parties and house parties all summer, and the more YG, the better. And really, music press, it’s our own fault: we created Drake, now we live with him. (7)

Chris Kelly: Just in time for summer, YG is back with a Mustardverse banger. I’m most surprised about how I feel about the guests. While it’s great to hear Kamaiyah on a track that might actually hit the radio, she’s a bit wasted on a hook. And Drake (the feature that will actually get this on radio) has more fun than on the entirety of Views. (7)

Zoe Camp: I wish my ‘02 Prius wasn’t in the junkyard so I could ride around my old stomping grounds in the Maryland suburbs with the bass turned up to window-rattling volume. I’m a little confused about how Drake could hear this punishing beat and be like, “Oh yeah, time to spout creepy boasts about sneaking in random women’s DMs with my friend’s permission!” Then again, I’m confused about a lot of things these days. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Even if it seemed like his fallow year, YG still had one of the best tracks of 2015 in ‘Twist My Fingaz’. This isn’t quite up there, but hearing him over a Mustard-esque beat is enough to make it bop already. It’s disappointing Kamaiyah’s been kept to the hook but I guess they didn’t want her to run away with it, ‘cause she definitely would. I never thought a sleazy Drake feature would sound like a breath of fresh air from him, but after the shrouded Views it’s so good to hear him talk such quotable talk again. (7)


Gucci Mane – ‘First Day Out Tha Feds’

Son Raw: In which our collective exuberance at Gucci being free violently collides with the reality of his hit/miss ratio. Guwop exhibits more than a little ring rust on the flow here, which isn’t unexpected given his extended bid, but Mike Will’s plodding beat is far less forgivable. Look past the sleepy instrumental and the $hort-circa 89’ rhyme scheme and the track’s worth reveals itself: there’s some serious pain in those bars, with Gucci hitting Boosie level pathos. He’s made better music, but this is still a moment. (6)

Haley Potiker: It’s tempting to imagine Gucci Mane unfazed by lock-up, masterminding his career and that of every other 1017 artist while he waits. But here we see a different Gucci, one who’s just as angry and scared as anyone else would be if they were trapped in a cage: “Wake up and take a piss I hear them sharpening knives/ Main focus everyday is make it out here alive/ Take a shower in my boots and go to sleep in my shoes/ Last night I had a dream some killers ran in my room.” Later he admits that being called crazy has gotten to his head, his mom has disowned him, and that anything bad that happens to him is probably karma. Welcome home Gucci. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: There are at least three separate Gucci songs on Apple Music about getting out of prison and now we have this. The back-to-the-grind bounciness of Writing on the Wall’s ‘First Day Out’ has been replaced by someone burnt out, saddened yet free once more. He’s still a wonderful rapper and writer and damaged/damaging human. His mother doesn’t talk to him anymore, he says, and the admission is like a slap to the face. From one prison to another. (8)

Chris Kelly: It was going to be hard not to overrate this due to Freed Gucci excitement, but it’s pretty damn great. Like Boosie before him, Gucci sounds beaten-but-not-broken, his swagger mostly intact and his lyrics sharp (“I lost three people close to me in one summer”). It doesn’t hurt that Mike Will saved his nastiest beat since ‘Move That Dope’ for Gucci’s first day home. (7)

Zoe Camp: For such a paranoid guy, Gucci Mane does a damn good job convincing us that he’s got this. Spat with the half-sung flow we missed so much, his tales of bathroom hallucinations, unsolved crimes, and fair-weather friends scan as flippant, even defiantly optimistic. Glad to see he can laugh at his demons, since I’m sure his demons are laughing right back–for the ice cream cone tattoo, of course. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Tenser than razor wire, and not unreasonably so! What with his busy release schedule whilst he was in jail, his name’s become synonymous with an undying work ethic, even in the face of uncertainty. His tale is so sharp and entrancing, even a toothbrushing ad lib becomes wrought with a sense of danger. (7)


Nao – ‘Girlfriend’

Haley Potiker:  This is stunning. I love her ‘70s soul vibes, her perfectly high-pitched vocals, the fact that the opening lyric is “losing it to waterfalls,” which leads me to believe Nao lost her virginity to TLC. (9)

Chris Kelly: After the criminally underrated February 15 EP and the sultry ‘Bad Blood’ (Taylor who?), Nao announces her intentions with ‘Girlfriend’ and embraces her contradictions: delicate but piercing, vulnerable but powerful, with a hook that will stop you in your tracks (and sorta inverts that of Kelela’s ‘A Message’). No apologies for the pun: the future is Nao. (9)

Zoe Camp: Nao’s velvety soprano and staccato phrasing have always reminded me a little too much of FKA twigs, so I’m happy to hear the singer carving out her own space on ‘Girlfriend’. Swirling synths and blues guitars make an odd R&B pairing, but the juxtaposition between organic and artificial ends up making the track feel so much more alive. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Even though her melodies can be great, I haven’t quite hopped aboard the Nao train yet. The swelling instrumental is really distracting – it’s like trying to balance on a waterbed in the middle of a brass parade. That solo around the climax is really not the one. (4)

Son Raw: Timely Prince reference to say the least, but that’s the only easy reference – everything else here feels like a natural extension of 30 years worth of R&B, and Nao never caters to fans of any particular era – this is up to the second. Most feel-good music feels cheap – this never does. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Nao appears to have an aesthetic kinship with Gallant (whose Ology LP is one of this year’s best) in her penchant for wonkyish R&B that buzzes with hyper-pop hooks. ‘Girlfriend’ is exactly what you expect given this kinship, and while promising, leaves a little to be desired. A newfangled song can tick all the aesthetic boxes, but it needs to satisfy too. (6)


Factory Floor – ‘Dial Me In’

Haley Potiker: In order to find out whether I like this song, I had to move all the furniture out of my condo. It still wasn’t dark enough, so I bought blackout curtains. Then the acoustics weren’t right so I had to bring in a bunch of concrete and sweaty teens. It turns out I do like this song, but my home is destroyed. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I lost a lot of steam on this one – it’s less of a workout and more of a warm-down. Even in the club this looks set to sound really stark, barely skeletal, but in a limp way. I guess I was readying myself for something more propulsive in the final third, and this doesn’t quite have the same charm as their debut stuff – holding out for the album it is, then. (5)

Chris Kelly: Perfunctory dance floor filler for people excited about a LCD Soundsystem reunion that builds in the most predictable ways. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Burbles and sassy milleniallisms (“Sad face”) separate this from the once-groundbreaking Korg squelchers the group undoubtedly pay tribute to, but it fills the time, and it can fill space in a DJ set. (5)

Son Raw: There aren’t enough drugs in the world to make another acid revival palatable. Actually, that’s probably not true, but I’m taking a stand because the only reason this isn’t beating a dead horse is that there’s not horse left to beat. (4)


Jenny Hval – ‘Female Vampire’

Zoe Camp: The other day my friend and were pondering what gothic beach music might sound like. After 15 minutes of brainstorming phrases like “nautical organ riffs,” “turbid synths”, and “ominous steel guitars”, I realized how stupid I sounded and changed the subject to Pitbull. Well, looks like I wasn’t so stupid–THIS is goth beach music. (6)

Son Raw: Reading this track’s conceptual breakdown prior to listening gave me flashbacks of undergrad art film screenings in the worst way possible, but turns out this is basically motorik freakfolk and I’m totally OK with that. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: An icy, interesting piece, but stuck to one spot throughout: is there a destination that this song would like to reach? (5)

Haley Potiker: I feel strangely obligated to enjoy any song made by a woman about her period blood. But this time… this time I can’t. I feel a little rude calling it heavy-handed, but also her album title is Blood Bitch. (4)

Tayyab Amin: I’d fallen in love with this during the first minute, and then it just continued to get better! The drastic urgency is overpowered by its gravity when the drums come in, but the drone heartbeats make you give into it much earlier without even registering it. Hval’s vocals are a spectre passing right through you. (8)


Final Scores

Gucci Mane – ‘First Day Out Tha Feds’ (7.3)
Nao – ‘Girlfriend’ (7.2)
YG, Drake & Kamaiyah – ‘Why You Always Hatin?’ (7)
Jenny Hval – ‘Female Vampire’ (5.8)
Factory Floor – ‘Dial Me In’ (5)
The Strokes – ‘Oblivius’ (4.5)



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