Singles Club: Justice do disco fromage and M.I.A. is a #problematicfave

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, Britney recruits Macklemore-lite for her latest big comeback, Justice bring us a humming plate of French cheese, UNKLE do bargain bin Tricky and a long-lost grime MC is finally back in action.

We also check out the new single from our #problematicfave M.I.A. and investigate Future Times affiliate Motion Graphics ahead of his debut album for Domino.

Justice – ‘Safe and Sound’

Son Raw: Justice have always peddled in the finest of fromage, exquisite brie to their festival house followers’ Kraft singles, and this mainlines ancestral Gallic obsessions like hippie-dippie Age of Aquarius pomp and session-man disco grooves into a surprisingly potent package. Absolutely ridiculous but way more fun than a 909 kick on loop. (8)

Chris Kelly: Justice: putting the prog in prog-house since 2005 (I know that’s not what prog-house is; I just couldn’t resist). As glossy and maximalist as ever, with its star-wipe arpeggios, slap-ass slap bass and choir straight outta The Wall, it seems perfectly suited for a bloghaus revival – if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not). (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: My time in the bloghaus era was spent lamenting the crossover of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and packing boxes of Grizzly Bear and Beirut LPs at an online vinyl retailer that is now a discounted music store. Still, the appeal of Justice (or juuus-teeese, as one still-famous DJ who also worked at that dotcom, pronounced it because “they’re French”) [Guilty – Bloghaus Ed.] was not lost on me. ‘Safe and Sound’ makes me feel just that – it’s exactly what the duo sounded like years ago, only it’s comfortingly familiar, rather than scraping the nostalgia barrel and coming back up with nothing. Just keep any new Uffie tracks far, far away from me. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Tentative about developing an emotional liking to this ‘cause I haven’t forgotten Random Access Memories yet, but those strings are awfully irresistible, aren’t they? I know some people are gonna love that moment the funky guitar transforms into acid lines – even if it’s not up my street, that’s where the tune’s cool factor is. Not the children’s choir. Do people go out and get pissed and make out to children singing? Is there a name for this… whatever it is? (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A keen understanding of ambient space aside, this is still very much the EQ-assaulting Justice the world came to know years ago: elasticated disco grandeur. There’s not much going on besides the one idea, but that’s always been Justice, a duo as blunt and definitive as their own name communicates. (7)


Ice Kid – ‘ATM’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: For an artist that just re-entered the wider public consciousness with a Culture Clash appearance, there’s a promise to the public on ‘ATM’: “I ain’t gonna waste another day again on my couch”. That’s the sound of someone with regrets, with a life lived despite being called a ‘Kid’, of someone who got used to the familiar, to routine. It’s a surprising world-weariness packed into one line, and it gives the song around it a sense of poignancy. Other lines, such as the one about destroying rivals like “a spacecraft on re-entry”, do away with the poignancy and remind the rest that Ice Kid’s really really really very good at MCing. (7)

Tayyab Amin: “Anybody saying that I ain’t the best and I’m out.” I love that ‘cause everyone knows it’s the last thing anyone wants. With this track you know that Ice Kid’s about, he can still spit, he can still body it. It’s nice, but I wanna see the bars over something grimier, I wanna see paths crossing with all kinds of MCs, radio, whatever. This feels like just the start, but when you take kick-off you gotta follow through with the game itself. (7)

Son Raw: We all eagerly awaited the Ice Kid comeback after Culture Clash, but if this were an SBTV no-name’s take on drill, it wouldn’t earn a second look. The Wiley protégé’s greatest strength was his ability to tear up the microphone in an unending torrent of syllables, and this stuttering snoozer negates that. Lock him in a room with Maniac and don’t let them out until they’ve got an EP. (5)

Chris Kelly: I guess grime is still in its “wearing a backpack to the cypher” stage of its development. This is serviceable; I think his novelty is gone, post-voice drop. (4)


M.I.A. – ‘Go Off’

Claire Lobenfeld: M.I.A. is my problematic fave and I love the influence of Blaqstarr painted all over this track. I bristle at the Skrillex production credit, if only because everything he’s touched since ‘Where Are Ü Now?’ has been called “tropical house” which, Kygo shmygo, is not a thing. I bet if you asked Skrillex what he was doing he’d say that it had something to do with reggaeton. This only has hints of those experiments here, but still, you people really get on my nerves. Anyway, this is great and portends yet another M.I.A. album that will be completely underrated because the outbursts muddy the hits. Go off on them, indeed. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s always tempting to read some deeper meaning into Maya’s straight-ahead pop songs, like ‘Bad Girls’ and this, but sometimes a sassy cool-gal tune is the musical reset a fan base and artist need. Undemanding fun, and that’s not an insult when it’s so demanding being an M.I.A. fan. (7)

Chris Kelly: The most I’ve enjoyed an M.I.A. track since ‘Bad Girls’ (which still bangs, BTW). Skrillex continues his run of mutant grooves, Blaqstarr (!) returns for those of us nostalgic for Kala and Maya stays focused on songwriting rather than Twitter eye-poking. (7)

Son Raw: An M.I.A and Skrillex collaboration should be far more obnoxious considering their previous output. This is just a bit flat, with M.I.A backing away from her more politically charged output and the brostep survivor peddling plastic EDM product while coasting off the past. At least agitation over wubs would be worth hating. (4)

Tayyab Amin: At this point M.I.A. is that student who’s been retaking the final year of her arts degree for several years on the bounce, and she can’t pass ‘cause she keeps handing in rehashes of the same work again and again. This sounds like M.I.A. – passable lyrics, same flow, nonchalant but catchy hook. Nothing overtly Arab about the video but it’s there in the beat, and it’s not like her largely white fans are going to notice the fetishisation of Arab aesthetics across her work ‘cause one brown fits all, right? Regardless, this is more faux off than go off. (5)


UNKLE – ‘Cowboys or Indians’

Claire Lobenfeld: When I write the chapter in my memoir called Songs I Was Told Were Nods To Sound Systems, Hip-Hop, Post-Punk and Acid House Except They Weren’t: Literally The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard, I will think of this. (0)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Lovely, twinkly melodies from six minutes through to the end, but the rest is the regular guest-heavy slog that James Lavelle has been doing since the release of Psyence Fiction. (4)

Son Raw: Not sure about the bargain bin Tricky thing going on here. It’s somehow less than the sum of its parts – the instrumental’s got weight but the acoustic guitar and vocal sound like a mix up in the stems. Still, I’d rather listen to 2016 James Lavelle than 2016 Avalanches in the “90s collagists making a comeback” sweepstakes. (5)

Tayyab Amin: I think there’s a dissonance between the ideas weaving in and out of this one. The acoustic soul is nice but the harmonising’s shaky. The rushes make for quite abrasive transitions half the time. The guitar and drums together towards the end sound so brash and clumsy. The spoken word was perhaps the most agitating thing for me – maybe it’s the hip-hop head in me talking here but I’m really not about predictable flows. These words lose character as they become stuck in the groove. (4)


Motion Graphics – ‘Lense’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A swipe of keys sounding like a Mario Paint effect, a Chief Keef ad lib buried six feet deep, percussion like crushed snow and loosened locks, accordion tones bleeding out rhrough digital filtration: all normalised by a Hot Chip-esque ‘cba’ vocal style. Hypnotic studio architecture. (8)

Chris Kelly: It’s strange to hear the sonic palette of Classical Curves – those crossover dribble screeches and pneumatic surges – paired with dream-pop vocals. This one doesn’t do it for me, but it almost had me until that digital accordion breakdown. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I can’t tell if the vocals are lost in the beat’s twee inflections or in the mix itself. This has definitely won me over though – I love how it plays with the depth and distance of its elements. The rhythm’s sway and saunter places it in some dainty musical, and those disruptive crashes are the sci-fi twist. (7)

Son Raw: I was wondering when the processed, industrial musique concrete of M.E.S.H, Rabit and Gage might be reimagined as something a little easier to listen to. The percussion makes this one and keeps it from being just another track, but the vocal and melody are rock solid and worth sticking around for. (7)


Britney – ‘Make Me’ feat. G-Eazy

Chris Kelly: I’m surprised this one made it past my “delete every email containing G-Eazy” filter. This is actually fine, as far as a Britney single in 2016 goes. It forgoes the zeitgeist-hopping of that Iggy-featuring single she plopped out last year for a pop ballad that borrows bits from ‘Pretty Hurts’ and ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ and plays to Britney’s limited range. But which is more cringeworthy, “just want you to raise my roof” or the entirety of G-Eazy’s verse? (5)

Tayyab Amin: So this is Britney’s big comeback single, G-Eazy gets the guest verse, and pretty much the only reference he makes is to Penelope Cruz in the 2001 minor box office success Blow? Does this say something about who Britney’s audience is now, or does it simply allude to patchy knowledge of pop culture on G-Eazy’s part? Britney sounds fairly graceful on this, and it’s only a little snoozy because the beat is such a missed opportunity. Throwing the chipmunk soul in with the blockbuster popstep was a mistake – they’d have been much better off raiding Tinashe’s album like everyone else seems to have done. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: I mean, this is fine, I just wanna know why there’s more of a stink made about Macklemore pilfering from black culture than there is about G-Eazy. Is it because he dresses kind of like a greaser? Anyway, something odd about his (and, in the same vein, Post Malone’s) authenticity not being challenged ever, but #tealizard. Keep making money, Britney. (5)

Son Raw: Is there a worse rapper on Earth than G-Eazy? The rest of this is anodyne and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things considering Brit’s long into her Elvis-in-Vegas phase, but as soon as those bars come in I want to hurl Macklemore-lite out the window into a shark tank. Frat rap must die. (2)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Disappointingly middle of the road stuff. There’s a sultrier song in the lyrics, but half of Spears’ delivery is mired in post-Blackout roboticisms while the other half (especially the outro) is gasping for a slower, less turbocharged composition to reach its full potential. Meanwhile G-Eazy appears and adds nothing and a wailing pop-house siren swirls in the way of the melody. Too many cooks spoil the broth – there’s a song in here but there are also five inferior ones you have to wade through to glimpse it. (4)


Final scores:

Motion Graphics – ‘Lense’ (7)
Justice – ‘Safe and Sound’ (6.4)
M.I.A. – ‘Go Off’ (6.2)
Ice Kid – ‘A.T.M.’ (5.75)
Britney – ‘Make Me’ feat. G-Eazy (4.2)
UNKLE – ‘Cowboys or Indians’ (3.25)



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