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caribou singles club - 4.26.2014

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

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more.

Rated and slated this week? Dark0, Charli XCX, Caribou and more.

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Yung Gleesh – ‘Since When’ 

Joe Muggs:
As intensely depressing as watching the news has been lately, but with better bass. (7)

Chris Kelly: DC is quietly entering the street rap conversation and Gleesh is part of the reason why: his rubbery flow is equal parts Deep South and Based God, and the hook on ‘Since When’ gets bows thrown, even if the verses may be too slippery for some. (5)

John Twells: You can spot Gleesh from a mile off, and his slurry drawl sounds perfectly matched against Dolan Beats’ bass heavy backdrop. With Gucci imprisoned mid-way through a run of mostly avoidable drops, Gleesh might be the ideal replacement in his stead. (7)

Alex Macpherson: For over half a decade Autotune has been enabling rappers who couldn’t hit a note to save their lives to sound strange, vulnerable, alien, emotional, glacial – to the point where drawing for the sad robot trope to gush over every post-Future sensitive (young) thug has become a gigantically boring cliché. The likes of Lil Durk are still doing stellar work with Autotune, but a return to rapping-ass rapping feels overdue. Whatever the answer or the next step is, it had better not be Yung Gleesh’s strategy of aiming for Autotune-enhanced sing-song melody without any Autotune at all: his untreated voice doesn’t make him sound more menacing, just an amateur version of something generic. (4)

Joe Moynihan: My favourite thing about this tune is that the beat on this shuns bait and garish 808 kicks in favour of a properly sinister and muffly low-end rumble. Hanging over it like a cloud, that bass murks the whole tune right up, and helps set an appropriately moody backdrop for Gleesh to pull the faux fur rug from under the feet of the fakers he’s addressing. (6)


Dark0 ‘Gaia’

Chris Kelly:
Dark0 goes full Gobstopper with the grime version of ‘Moments in Love’. (9)

Angus Finlayson: Every young grime producer and his dog seems to have grown up on a diet of Japanese RPGs, but Dark0 processes these influences in a very particular way. Or rather he doesn’t process them at all: sort of like musical sweetcorn, those melodies come out the other side more or less fully intact. Whether this works for you is contingent on how much of your teenage years you spent outdoors experiencing real emotions. I’m a fan, obviously. (7)

Alex Macpherson: It’s strange to hear grime reaching the “pretty but inessential” stage. “Gaia” attempts to trade on melodic beauty, à la peak Slackk, but Dark0 doesn’t have the same knack for a hook. (5)

Joe Moynihan: JRPG soundtracks have had a handful of healthy run-ins with grime in the past, with some producers using them to help pack their instrumentals with an emotional or physical punch. While it’s debatable to what extent those tunes rely on the nostalgic impact of their sample material, what’s undeniable is that Dark0’s productions are consistently more than the sum of their respective parts. Like ‘Mako March’ off the same EP, ‘Gaia’ sees Dark0 simultaneously paying a respectful homage to the music that’s inspired him the most, while creating a spin on grime/trap-driven club music that’s utterly his own. (9)

Joe Muggs: Great on so many levels. Because Gobstopper and Mr Mitch deserve every bit of attention they’re getting and more; because it sounds a whisker away from whale noise new age relaxation music with a grime beat; because Dark0 is destined for big things; because it’s not even the best track on the EP. (8)

John Twells: Anyone wondering what a grime version of ‘Chrono’s Theme’ sounds like, now we have the answer – it sounds fucking brilliant. (9) 


Caribou – ‘Our Love’

Joe Muggs:
Call me a soppy twat – plenty have – but I’m a fan of the heart and general good vibe in just about everything Snaith does. Caribou’s set at Sónar was monstrously good, and this is lovely. Given what people had been saying about the Kevin Saunderson piano I’d expected a wholesale ‘Good Life’ rip off but it’s only one little riff that’s really just an embellishment, hardly the main theme. Basically: warm and easy, just as you’d expect. (8)

Alex Macpherson: As Daphni, Dan Snaith makes a few simple ideas compelling on the dancefloor; as Caribou, he takes many ideas and flattens them out into home listening for indie-dance beard-scratchers. Individual parts of this sound as though they’d be tremendous on expensive audio equipment – the strings! Tip of the hat to Owen Pallett there – but the lack of momentum, propulsion, physicality render the overall product pretty useless. (4)

Angus Finlayson: I liked ‘Can’t Do Without You’ – enough to scrub through that crazy whooshing drop-moment a few times, and enough to defend it to my tired, comedowny friends as it echoed round an enormous festival field at the hands of the dreaded Bicep. Which makes me feel all the sillier now. ‘Our Love’ lives up to all of the ‘wafty indie-house’ criticisms levelled at Dan Snaith out of what I would previously have considered laziness. The odd mixing flourish aside, it’s a lacklustre assortment of house and techno signifiers pre-chewed for easy digestion. Frustration peaks when, at the four minute mark, it turns out we’ve been listening to a remix of ‘Good Life’ all along. (4)

Joe Moynihan: Fuck knows what Caribou is trying to tell us about love on this tune but blimey what a disorienting ride that was. Packed full of ups, crashes, sudden turns, euphoria both stifled and otherwise, deeply dark undertones and oh, cool, I get it. Very good. (7)

John Twells: Anyone wondering what a Caribou version of ‘Good Life’ sounds like, now we have the answer – it sounds fucking shite. (2) 


Charli XCX – ‘Break the Rules’

John Twells: 
Definitely a contender for worst song of the year, this sounds like Death in Vegas collaborating with Garbage while studying the KLF’s The Manual. It’s so unbelievably cynical I  almost respect it, but not quite. (0)

Joe Moynihan: A timely back-to-not-wanting-to-go-to-school anthem. Bait as the lyrics are, Charli sure knows how to pen hooks that could probably claim squatter’s rights on my brain. (6)

Angus Finlayson: Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ inna post-Skrillex big beat style. Six decades into pop history pushing the moral panic buttons this hard just feels kind of gauche. (3)

Joe Muggs: Really want to hate her – and this – because of the absolute horror of ‘I Don’t Care’ (right, like we needed a Republica revival), but there’s something so bizarrely pure about this that it just can’t and won’t be denied. It’s ruthlessly put together from only the simplest, most functional parts: an AK-47 of a pop track. (6)

Alex Macpherson: On her debut album, Charli XCX’s obvious potential seemed both underdone (as in, her songwriting talent was still raw) and overproduced (in a major label sort of way). But instead of refining the rather distinct gothicke Tumblrpop aesthetic she had going on, these days she’s following the money: having scored hits writing and singing bratty, stompy hooks for others, that’s what she’ll give the public herself. It’s had an odd effect on her material, which has simultaneously become less interesting and unique – but more confident and effective as pop. ‘Break The Rules’ is a reckless, impetuous headrush of a song, the slightly naff references to the “school” and the “discotheque” (Charli sonds too old for the former, too young for the latter) overridden by that incredible bassline and the cavernous build as the chorus pummels its way to a climax. The nod to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is slightly obvious, especially once the break hoves into view – though this is clearly a thousand times better – but the song whose blindly drunken devil-may-care spirit it evokes for me is PJ Harvey’s ‘The Sky Lit Up’. (9)

Chris Kelly: Still cashing checks for ‘I Love It’ and ‘Fancy’, Charli gets her own ready-made teenage rebellion anthem, and it’s a song that has the balls to be called ‘Break the Rules’ while breaking exactly no rules. (4)


Kelela x Leif x P Morris – ‘OICU’

Chris Kelly:
A super unsettling sex jam. While it doesn’t completely gel, new music from any of these three is always a treat, and I appreciate the chances taken. (6)

Alex Macpherson: The trouble with Kelela’s so-called reimagination of R&B is that she’s more of a producer tool than an actual presence on her own songs. Here, once again, she floats around and goes absolutely nowhere while awkward stop-start beats shrug half-heartedly in the direction of a vibe. Beats that sound like they’re made of glass are more “interesting” than effective; and being ethereal is no excuse for not writing a hook. Listen to this next to 2006-era Cassie, whose icy non-voice has become an unlikely (and wearying) template: listen to how ‘Me & U’ bangs hard despite its skeletal beat, and how Cassie stamps her personality indelibly on the song. Kelela simply feels lacking in comparison. If you want to fetishise R&B singers for how pliable and charisma-free and nebulously sensual they can be in male producers’ hands, go ahead – but at least cop to that being the reason you’re avoiding R&B singers with actual voices, life experiences and shit to say. (3)

John Twells: I like this – P Morris’s woozy production is particularly good – but considering the talent involved, it’s nowhere near as jaw-dropping as it should be. (6)

Joe Muggs: If the melody line was about 75% stronger this would be world-beating; as it is it’s a great atmospheric neo-trip hop meets Aaliyah tune with excellent singing but it sort of slips by and then all you really remember is the big bendy bass note. (6)

Joe Moynihan: Kelela and Le1f sound brilliant together, coupling fiery sexual tension over a gaseous beat that’s colder than the iceberg in history. Goose pimples. (8)

Angus Finlayson: Structurally rambling, but when we reach the snow-capped summit – roughly when Kelela parachutes in for the first chorus – all is forgiven. (7)


Thurston Moore – ‘The Best Day’

Angus Finlayson:
 Went to an ATP once, saw enough Thurston Moore to last a lifetime. (4)

John Twells: There’s no shortage of iffy Thurston Moore solo material (his run of awkward noise LPs alone could keep you busy for days), but when he puts his mind to it he’s capable of records that could go up against Sonic Youth’s greats (’95s Psychic Hearts for example). ‘The Best Day’ certainly sounds like he’s on form, but I’d need to hear it in context with the rest of the album to get properly acquainted. (7)

Alex Macpherson: The only worth this has for me is in enabling me to give smug thanks that I neither was the kind of teenager who idolised tedious rock bands like Sonic Youth, nor am the kind of adult who listens to 6music and gets most excited when my old heroes creak out of the woodwork to trade on their reputation when peddling this kind of unremarkable jingle-jangle indie. (1)

Joe Muggs: I’ve got this weird thing with Sonic Youth that I keep thinking “oh yeah that sounds really great, I should listen to it more” when I hear their stuff then just not.  Same with this, I like it when I’m listening to it, then the urge to hear it again disappears really quickly after. After a couple of listens, during the guitar solo, the thought formed “actually I WOULD like to listen to Dinosaur Jr.” so maybe it’s that. This is nice though. (5)

Joe Moynihan: Oh boy look at that very cool dog cooling in the water there. (Dog)


Final scores:

Dark0 – ‘Gaia’ (7.8)
Kelela x Leif x P Morris – ‘OICU’ (6)
Yung Gleesh – ‘Since When’ (5.8)
Caribou – ‘Our Love’ (5.5)
Charli XCX – ‘Break the Rules’ (4.7)
Thurston Moore – ‘The Best Day’ (4.3)

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