Singles Club: Everything is The Carters

FACT Singles Club features a panel of writers rating and slating the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

Like or not, most folks who cover music had their weekend disrupted by The Carters. It’s not the first time: in February 2016, Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ materialized out of nowhere on a docile Saturday. Last time, she was working with Swae Lee from Rae Sremmurd on her hook, this time she’s gone full Migos flow. (There’s a demo of the Migos doing guide vocals for her floating around the internet, but you’ll have to catch it before the label has taken it down again.)

Jay and Bey weren’t the only ones making noise this week. Nina Kraviz announced the 20th release on her трип label, a compilation promising “an homage to some of the most uncompromising manifestations of electronic music imaginable.” Did the first track from the comp deliver? The Singles Club panel weigh in on all this, plus new ones from Low, NAO, and Suicideyear.

Low – ‘Fly’

Cameron Cook: This is my “OK, sure!” entry for this week. Do I hate this song? Absolutely not! Will I ever listen to it again? Debatable! The vocals are on point, and the dreaminess of the muted instrumentation works well. Not a huge huge fan of sound collages, it’s so hard to make those not seem random or amateurish. And we all know that Low ain’t no amateurs, so it just sort of begs the question, why? Side note: remember The Books? That band was so good! (6)

Michelle Lhooq: Light and delicate like butterfly wings made out of lace, this track is perfect for zoning out in a bed of cushions in the ambient room of a rave. While the snippets of vocal samples uttering things like “you know what? I love you” briefly catch your attention with a sense of cinematic intrigue, chances are you’d forget it as soon as it was over. (4)

Jesse Bernard: The song’s brightest moments for me are hearing Mimi Parker’s vocals give you a jolt of life at the near 2-minute mark. I’m also a big Maxwell fan so anyone who sounds remotely like him gets love. (8)


NAO – ‘Another Lifetime’

Cameron Cook: I’m so into the little trip-hop beat on this track, it really takes me back to the ’90s, which I always appreciate. The real star here is NAO’s vocal performance, which shifts from soul diva to torch song belter at the drop of a pin. The “I guess I’ll wait another lifetime” hook is the centerpiece, and she delivers perfectly every time. The backing instrumentation feels little generic – we’ve heard swelling, syncopated keyboards a lot in the past few years – but NAO’s personality and charm is working overtime. (7)

Michelle Lhooq: NAO’s angelic voice, brimming with slow-burning heartache, lifts this song from a somewhat bland R&B number to a powerful sad-girl ballad. Yet, despite the reams of sincere sentimentality oozing out of this song, I have yet to feel a single goosebump. Maybe I’m just a cold-hearted bitch, maybe this is just average. (5)

Jesse Bernard: I love everything about the register that NAO sings in. Her voice is unusual by today’s standards but with GRADES’ production, it feels like cool water splashing across your face. I just hope the next album doesn’t feature too many ballads. (8)


Suicideyear – ‘Days Forever’ Feat. Georgia

Michelle Lhooq: With so much depression and suicide in the news cycle, sometimes all you want to do is curl up in bed, smoke a joint, and wrap yourself in a blanket of gloomy, lo-fi pop. Right down to his alias, Suicideyear feels like the perfect soundtrack for hiding in your bedroom during these dark times. (6)

Jesse Bernard: I’m a fan of this combination of synths, piano keys and vocals but whether it’s just me or not, I feel as though the track could benefit from more mixing. (6)

Cameron Cook: One of the things I really like about Suicideyear is how he’s able to subvert EDM and make it a) listenable and b) interesting, which is not small feat for a genre of music that I feel like most respectable music fans would gladly never have to experience again. Suicideyear isn’t strictly EDM, of course, but his use of piano here, married with Georgia’s distorted vocals, almost makes you believe the beat is going to drop and ruin the whole thing. Instead, it’s a measured study in restraint that makes for a more exciting listening experience than a lot of recent club “bangers”. (7.5)


The Carters – ‘Apeshit’

Jesse Bernard: They’ve come a long way from ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde’. Now they’re standing in the Louvre, making Mona Lisa look ordinary. (9)

Michelle Lhooq: ‘Apeshit’ is already a grade-A banger on its own — “get off my dick” might be the best Beyoncé zinger since “the bitch is on drugs.” But once you factor in the music video, which skillfully deploys the power of black and brown bodies to subvert the Western Art History canon, the song’s gestalt becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. Yet another masterpiece for the post-Beychella world. (7.5)

Cameron Cook: This is how I imagine this video got made: “Yes hello, is this the Louvre? This is Beyoncé, but you already knew that. How much to rent your entire museum by the day? My assistant will be right over with the cash — you can’t miss him, he’s a white tiger.” What I love so much about this track and video is that it’s such an evocative expression of Beyoncé’s DGAF maximalism. The song goes so hard, it could have been shot on an iPhone 5C in the back alley behind a Burger King and still looked and sounded like an open-palmed slap to the face. Also, is Beyoncé low-key as good as rapper as Jay-Z? I’m still out here praying for a full visual album because my jaw is on the floor. (9.5)


Shadowax – ‘I want to be a stewardess’

Cameron Cook: Ok but real talk, I just saw Hereditary and I’m a little shook. This song isn’t helping. What is this? Why is this Russian ghost trying to intercept my phone calls? Is Putin somehow behind this? Is this the reincarnation of one of those dogs the Soviets sent into space in the ’60s to die? Somehow the crazy breakbeat towards the end is even scarier?? I’m out. I can’t right now. (6)

Jesse Bernard: As open-minded as I am when it comes to music outside of my comfort zone, I just can’t vibe with this. I tried, though. (5)

Michelle Lhooq: So much respect to Nina Kraviz for vanquishing the haters, who refused to take a former model-DJ seriously, to become one of the most influential figures in the international techno scene. ‘I want to be a stewardess’ might not be the most scorching track to come out трип, but it’s still a good case study of the heady, acid-leaning releases her label has become known for. Drop this into a peak-time rave set and watch the crowd gasp. (7)


Final scores:
The Carters – ‘Apeshit’ (8.7)

NAO – ‘Another Lifetime’ (6.7)
Suicideyear – ‘Days Forever’ Feat. Georgia (6.5)
Low – ‘Fly’ (6)
Shadowax – ‘I want to be a stewardess’ (6)

Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist currently residing in Berlin, Germany. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kate Bush. (@iamacameron)

Jesse Bernard is freelance music and culture journalist based in Brooklyn and London, still hotsteppin’ in a Nike Air sneaker. (@MarvinsCorridor)

Michelle Lhooq is an LA-based journalist writing about music and weed. (@MichelleLhooq)

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