Singles Club: The Avalanches crash and burn and Beck is on his Cool Dad game

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, the team sharpen their knives for the first song from the Avalanches in 16 years, Beck back on his hip-hop flex, an ice-cold one from Hyperdub’s Endgame, Crater, Machinedrum and more.

The Avalanches – ‘Frankie Sinatra’

Son Raw: So we waited 16 years for backpack rap oompah music? (3)

Tom Fenwick: We waited nearly two decades and this is what we get? Trite beats, dreadful samples and some afterthought verses by Danny Brown and DOOM? I get they need to go populist on their first single back from the wilderness, but they’ve managed the impossible and made a track more annoying than ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’. (1)

Tayyab Amin: Remember when there was a whole discussion around whether Danny Brown’s voice was too annoying for his raps to really do it big? Get this joke of a beat on and you won’t even notice any of that stuff. You don’t wanna pump this in the whip. It wouldn’t make a DOOM album. Why is the song mixed to feel like you accidentally opened too many tabs in your browser at the same time and you’re trying to figure out where all the sounds are coming from? (4)

Chris Kelly: I’ll happily admit that I missed The Avalanches the first time around, but even after flipping through Since I Left You, I don’t feel like I missed much – just another album that thinks the best part of Paul’s Boutique is its technical achievement. But I’ll also admit that the album has an air of had-to-be-there fun, while ‘Frankie Sinatra’ is basically unlistenable, unless you’re really into Danny Brown, late-period MF Doom and klezmer music. (0)

Zoe Camp: A lot of time and thought went into ‘Frankie Sinatra’ – apparently The Avalanches went through 100 mixes in the song’s 36-month gestation. It’s definitely a catchy, showy comeback track (is anyone surprised Zane Lowe was practically drooling into the mic during the Beats 1 premiere?) but all I see is a slightly refined version of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Wind It Up’ gussied up with bars from two eccentric rap visionaries bringing their C-game. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: At first, this nags – is this why you guys love The Avalanches, this kitsch with the ‘Paul Revere’ hollers layered on top? And then it grates – smothering Danny Brown and DOOM verses (from entirely separate sonic universes) into a de-funkified calypso that sounds like the world’s biggest beer stein oompah bro-down. When it calms the fuck down, ‘Frankie Sinatra’ is reminiscent of Handsome Boy Modelling School’s lightest hip-hop moments. At its worst, it’s giving you the sobering realisation that, hey, maybe ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ wasn’t that great in the first place. (3)


Beck – ‘Wow’

Chris Kelly: No, Beck isn’t “doing trap” – he’s just adding the latest rap mutation into his sonic blender with the same nerdy agnosticism that he’s been peddling since ‘Loser’. The most surprising part is that it works so well. (Bonus points if you can actually spot the much-hyped OG Maco sample.) (6)

Tom Fenwick: There’s something rotten about this tepid approximation a summer hit. Musically it just about passes muster (because of my nostalgia for old Beck tunes) but that beat makes him seem like a needy old man knocking at the door of relevance, and lyrically (“Giddy up!”) it’s like an atrocious parody of a Midnite Vultures B-side. Once upon a time Beck was an innovator, but ‘Wow’ is proof that after years making dreary folk he doesn’t have the goods to keep you interested for three full minutes. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Beck Hansen is the most Cool Dad of all the Cool Dads in the world. That’s a great thing, even with all the snark that statement entails! There’s something so goofy about him doing a big technicolour pop single after the Grammys give him their biggest award, a chunky-yet-graceful sing-rap jam that takes some unexpected Pet Shop Boy-esque detours in its bridge. It’s a very Beck move, and as he grows older it only becomes more endearing, like he’s falling back into his pool of knowledge rather than the mid-life crisis the phrase “samples OG Maco” entails. (7)

Zoe Camp: In the press release for this track, photographer Alicia Ward described ‘Wow’ as a song “about the moments in life that leave you in awe of the world.” LIES. This track’s just that bit from 30 Rock where Steve Buscemi dons a backwards baseball hat and asks: “How do you do, fellow kids?” Unforgivable coming from the man who brought us ‘Timebomb’. (3)

Tayyab Amin: I feel like I can see the several stages of an alternate-reality Beck: steadily rising as a respected SoundCloud producer, catching that art school glo-up, then finally selling out and settling in to that feel-good advertisement money lifestyle. Do your thing Beck! (6)

Son Raw: Translating hip hop for dorky white stoners has been Beck’s M.O. from the start, but that doesn’t excuse the schmaltzy nah-nah-nah chorus or bait house chords mashed up with a fake Panda Bear bridge. If you prefer this to Future or Thug, I will fight you IRL. (2)


Machinedrum – ‘Dos Puertas’

Son Raw: It took me a while to warm up to Machinedrum’s high-speed antics but to his credit, he’s stuck to this lane long after the footwork vultures moved on. This floats rather than punishes, while still warding off the sad saps who refuse to dance to to anything that might risk scuffing their Huaraches. (6)

Chris Kelly: Every time this track builds to a climax I hope it will go in another direction: the chopped vocals and stuttering rap beat feel dated. As his other collaboration with Kevin Hussein and his singles with D∆WN prove, Machinedrum is at his best when ceding control to a vocalist. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I had a very strong black coffee before listening to this and I feel like dancing to this juiced-up erratic-ness will only help the Monday blues subside. After that, it appears there’s enough skittish adventure to explore, from the cool-kid toasting to the bumblebee-buzz synths at the track’s close. (7)

Zoe Camp: Machinedrum’s effortless manipulation of space on this track is incredible. ‘Dos Puertas’ remains in perpetual motion (and chaos, to a degree), and yet the intersections between the hyper-speed synth runs and the rapid-fire snares feel inevitable and anticipated, like train lines arriving at the same station. It’s a fun ride. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Love a bit of glitter and bass electronics. During that first drop we were looking at the chops that made us skank in a simpler time, those few years ago, but by the end Machinedrum is playing vocal samples like a violin. Sassy and slick, I’m down. (8)

Tom Fenwick: After a couple of pretenders, we’ve finally got a track worthy of the season. It’s almost let down by one too many stuttering drops, but when Kevin Hussein’s verse arrives it works out to be a minor summer anthem. (6)


Crater – ‘No Paradise’

Son Raw: This is awesome full stop, and sounds even better next to the glut of mediocre, ‘80s-aping synth pop that we’re still somehow still supposed to care about. This may be inspired by Akira, but that film imagined the kind of future Crater are living in, and the feedback loop is delicious when those polyrhythms hit. (9)

Tayyab Amin: This track shifts gears exceptionally. The way Crater twist that synth around their fingers is totally engrossing, and then they knock your feet from under you with the drums. I’m really into the vocal melodies and how strong that delivery is too – it’s certainly no pushover synthpop. (8)

Tom Fenwick: Nice vocals and moody synths abound, but you can’t help but feel like Depeche Mode have a lot to answer for. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This ambles along on pinched vocals and crystalline synths, the type of net-friendly alt-pop that should barely register to anyone vaguely familiar with a Sincerely Yours release from the past decade. Like the releases on that hallowed Gothenburg label, the melody on ‘No Paradise’ belies a darker edge; “don’t you dare,” Ceci Gomez drawls as the movie trailer sheen drops and distortion creaks its warning. (6)

Zoe Camp: I’ve got a soft spot for any song inspired by Akira, even in the most minute sense. Crater’s fuzzy keys and percussive ripples capture the dreamlike atmosphere of the film, but ‘No Surprise’ is missing, well, surprises – or at least the equivalent of Tetsuo bursting out of his skin. (5)


Endgame – ‘Felony Riddim’

Tom Fenwick: With a taut industrial beat, inky black melody and deathly dancehall swagger, this falls directly in the middle of the slow burner/massive tune Venn diagram. So icy I thought I’d left a window open. (8)

Chris Kelly: Endgame checks all the boxes of his (already) signature sound, scoring a lullaby for nightmares that proves you don’t need a thesis for a club track to have a narrative. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The cutting edge sure seems blunt. (4)

Zoe Camp: Hey, video game developers: you know that guy you hired to lay down some sleigh bell tracks on GarageBand for the ice level in your upcoming iOS side-scroller? Fire him, and go with Endgame. You won’t regret your decision. (7)

Son Raw: Is this still-nameless, bashment-inspired wave of dark 100-ish BPM instrumentals the next one? I’m not sure if the energy’s there, but they said the same for dubstep, and this is convincing me that the more evil and streamlined producers like Endgame get, the higher the chance that this will turn out to be something special. Needs yard vocals though. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Not everyday simply dancing to the riddims, sometimes watching riddims dance around each other too. Endgame’s got the tunes that push the dance a step higher and pull you further in. (8)


Final scores:

Endgame – ‘Felony Riddim’ (7)
Crater – ‘No Paradise’ (6.6)
Machinedrum – ‘Dos Puertas’ (6.2)
Beck – ‘Wow’ (4.5)
The Avalanches – ‘Frankie Sinatra’ (2.5)



Share Tweet