Features I by I 22.08.17

Singles Club: LCD Soundsystem’s ‘tonite’ suggests American Dream will be no nightmare

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the past seven days.

This week, Bieber’s back, and singing in English this time after his recent excursion into Español – Bloodpop collaboration ‘Friends’ is the latest from the Purpose singer.

There’s also the small matter of another new LCD Soundsystem track as the New York kingpins’ reunion album American Dream grows closer, plus new efforts from Denzel Curry, Ariel Pink and James Holden. Let’s see what our reviewers made of them, shall we?

Justin Bieber and Bloodpop – ‘Friends’

Chal Ravens: Poor broken-hearted Biebz, still so cut up about that Gomez gal. After several rewinds, though, I’m convinced ‘Friends’ belongs in the forgettable half of his ever-expanding catalogue of wistful break-up doodles, merely a winkyface WhatsApp message to the drunken tattoo dedication of ‘Sorry’ or 4am serenade outside your window of ‘Purpose’. It’s propulsive, sure, but I don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere, Justin – please stop calling. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Biebervelli just cancelled his world tour to re-assess his faith, which is admirable if you see it as a way for him to prioritise what is important and an easy cop out if you see things cynically. Since the initial Purpose redemption tour petered out, it feels like every new release finds him going through the motions, and ‘Friends’ is no different. When needed, he is a talented singer, a light presence even when attempting to go husky. These charms aren’t audible on ‘Friends’, because he is simply singing words off a sheet to wannabe-Robyn electro-pop from around 2007. He blatantly wants to be singing R&B again – or, more likely, not singing at all – and with performances like this it feels like he should dedicate himself to something other than music, because he barely sounds dedicated to getting through these three minutes. (3)

Carl Anka: One to drink loads of tequila in a crappy club and add an old ex on Instagram to. This will sell gangbusters. Nice work J. Leave Selena alone. (6)

Tayyab Amin: “I was wonderin’ ‘bout your mama” has to be the worst to start a song/conversation/literally anything of all time. Imagine if Justin Bieber was actually your ex – you’d be constantly facing the threat of a relapse with a man whose logic is: “Can we still be friends? It doesn’t have to end. And if it ends, can we be friends?” This is going to be massive and it’s going to ruin so many lives. (6)

Jibril Yassin: I’m sick of Bieber being everywhere but this is… not bad? Pivoting away from the sounds of his recent EDM collabs, Bieber actually sounds kind of home over Bloodpop’s slick synthpop production – likely because it’s not too different from what we got on Purpose. This doesn’t read like the harbinger of something new so I’ll take it for now. (7)


LCD Soundsystem – ‘tonite’

Chal Ravens: Although I never got to see LCD until their reunion tour, and am eternally grateful for my chance to dance in the final flickers of early 21st century indie disco, I’m torn about their continued existence – there’s something just so cool about splitting up at your peak and never coming back. However, however. While the initial rush of discovering LCD’s ultra-arch, knowingly geeky repackaging of dance history has worn off, there’s still no one writing lyrics quite like James Murphy. He’s a master of putting himself under the microscope via his “late era middle-aged ramblings”, simultaneously skewering and celebrating the mindless joy of dancefloor repetition: “All the hits are saying the same thing, there’s only tonight, tonight, tonight… and life is finite, but shit, it feels like forever.” It’s the ageing raver’s lament, the same kind of edge-losing anxieties that have animated his writing for years, but done with the kind of style and panache rarely seen since the heyday of Talking Heads. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: As someone that has always gone up and down with the cult of LCD Soundsystem, a good way to get me on board is with a signature horror-of-suburban-life James Murphy couplet over retro synth and locked-in drum sets: “You’re getting older/I promise you. You’re getting older”. Yikes, shakes me to my core. (8)

Carl Anka: Sounding like your cool uncle after too many vodka shots at a wedding, this effort’s strength is the bouncy electro-disco drum groove that gets your head moving. LCD’s comeback songs have so far sounded like their old ones, which is no bad thing: much like your cool uncle, this sounds world-weary, tongue-in-cheek and up for a laugh. (8)

Tayyab Amin: This is just like when Hipster Runoff ended and then a couple of years later Carles put out his Nothing Matters ebook manifesto on alt-bro late capitalism and no-one cared. When will he realise he embodies the “they” he talks about in this song? (5)

Jibril Yassin: ‘tonite’ suggests that for all their ambition and flaws, James Murphy and co are still great at crafting extended dance bangers that harken to their past identity as music geeks first and weary modern beings second. Rather than settle for an album of Bowie homages like their first single suggested, it’s cool to hear them work in the confines of an identity they know they’re great at. (8)


James Holden and The Animal Spirits – ‘Pass Through The Fire’

Tayyab Amin: You can still find me blaring out Holden’s The Inheritors on a semi-regular basis four years on, so you know I’m hyped for the return of my trance-folk synth prince. I love the simplicity of its initial drive, slight deviations over the rustic percussion framework until reeds come in and inflate everything to messy oblivion. The track ignites, swells and takes flight like a hot air balloon over propulsive rhythms and jazz psychedelia, before coming full circle and settling on a delightful outro that holds a mirror up to the melodies of the tune’s opening. (9)

Chal Ravens: I can’t imagine that this new Holden project will have quite the same effect on me as The Inheritors aka one of the greatest albums of the last decade, but for a gorgeous home listening wig-out this is exactly the thing, isn’t it? Holden’s been influenced by Moroccan gnawa music recently and has apparently been working on replicating those irregular rhythms through his modular machines by programming them to produce random, humanlike errors, a technique which he was already using on The Inheritors but which seems particularly fitting now that he’s thrown live instruments into the mix. In many ways it’s a return to his trance roots, but instead of whooshing risers and a fistful of eccies it’s all Riley-esque polyrhythms and mugfuls of shroomy tea. Banging! (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: As a first time listener to Holden’s focused, bold wig-outs, which here combine DFA-era electronics, jam band repetition and Moroccan gnawa, this is some exciting shit. (8)

Carl Anka: This sounds like James Holden and friends fucking about by a campfire: a fun, electronic-tinged sprawling mess. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Anything that crams multiple saxophone parts in less than six minutes is officially certified as wild. Those are the rules. (9)


Ariel Pink – ‘Feels Like Heaven’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy:  Alarm bells started ringing almost immediately when ‘Feels Like Heaven’ started: intentional worn-cassette production, C86 tribute band vocals, the general Ariel Pinkness of it all, the horror, the horror etc. But I cannot lie when a well-written and performed song exists, when a chorus floats into the sky as easily as this, and when my frown turns upside down – I’m happy to not be stubborn and say that this is a good damn song. (8)

Chal Ravens: Publicly approving of this prickly figure is something to think twice about, I know, but I can’t help but love this, just as I’ve loved everything Ariel Pink has released in the past three years or so. The faux-Anglo-janglo-pop loveliness brings to mind the best of the C86 generation and the heart-pumping dreaminess of The Jesus & Mary Chain, with maximum melody packed into its three-minute container. A name to scribble on your pencil case. (8)

Carl Anka: ‘Feels Like Heaven’ could be end credits music to a dreamy Miami Vice episode. One for Phoenix fans who were left wanting back in April. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This opens up sounding like the Smiths and there’s a direct correlation between how quickly it shakes off that quality and how much better it gets as it progresses. (5)

Jibril Yassin: This is quite unlike Ariel Pink’s past stuff – the eye to detail is there and the pop mastery intact but there’s no wink at all, no irony to be found. Instead we’ve got Pink in his best widescreen, romantic Cure impression and it rules. (8)


Denzel Curry – ‘Skywalker’

Chal Ravens: He’s already one of my fave new-ish rappers so I’m open to whatever Denzel does, and what ‘Skywalker’ lacks in production fizz is easily made up in verbal charisma – the way he twists those vowels with a quiver of Auto-Tune and a dash of Nate Dogg-ish melisma is always satisfying. Still, would prefer to hear him do more stuff along the lines of his previous collaboration with Lunice, which was just b-a-n-a-n-a-s in the best way. (6)

Carl Anka: Denzel is more melodic than usual here and he kinda sounds like Pusha T? Biblical references, harsh bars about fame distracting him from greatness, the whole package. Denzel fired some shots on Thursday about fans who want him to go back to his more rapid fire Nostalgia 64 style, saying he wants to evolve as an artist. This is a solid step in the right direction. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Less try-hard than last month’s Lunice collaboration ‘Distrust’, but there’s something still missing for me when it comes to Denzel Curry. He should have it all, as evidenced by this song: a good ear for beats, an easy on-record presence and vocal adventurousness, but the songs still don’t connect on a purely primal level. I don’t want to be, but I still feel unconvinced. (5)

Tayyab Amin: Denzel Curry always goes hard but I usually struggle with how he attempts to turn his tenacity into actual songs. Here he realises the formula’s true potential with a full mezze platter of melodic flows to dip between. He goes super Saiyan on the beat to fight his demons in a way that screams for a Danny Brown collaboration, so catch me batting for that partnership to happen soon. (8)

Jibril Yassin: I know that ‘spooky’ is seemingly bred into every active Florida rapper’s DNA, but none seem to toy with it as well as Denzel. On ‘Skywalker,’ he sounds alluringly bleak over the dense Ronny J production, inhabiting the spaces like a man obsessed. If his recent release wasn’t his best work, I’m excited to see what else he has waiting. (8)


Final scores:
James Holden and The Animal Spirits – ‘Pass Through The Fire’ (8)
LCD Soundsystem – ‘Tonite’ (7.4)
Ariel Pink – ‘Feels Like Heaven’ (7.4)
Denzel Curry – ‘Skywalker’ (6.8)
Justin Bieber and Bloodpop – ‘Friends’ (5.2)



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