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BBC Music

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? A$AP Rocky, Sun Kil Moon, Danny L Harle, that Children In Need version of ‘God Only Knows’, and more.

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Sun Kil Moon – ‘War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’


Josh Hall: There’s something perfectly fitting about the fact that Kozelek’s website starts with a series of links to websites writing about his song about The War On Drugs, like a four year old pointing proudly to its own shit. The War On Drugs can fuck off, but not nearly as much as Sun Kil Moon. (1)

Alex Macpherson: Is this the most unintentionally hilarious song of the year? Is this really what counts as a beef track in the world of irrelevant indie boys? Petty swipes that land no actual blows, unbecoming elitist snobbery, unwitting self-zings (“the whitest band I’ve ever fucking heard?” Physician, heal thyself!). But it’s also a tedious dirge that seems to go on for three decades, thus neatly cancelling out the entertainment factor of its pathetic laughability. (0)

Scott Wilson: I have to admire the dedication involved in writing a seven-minute song called ‘War On Drugs: Suck My Cock’ because they ruined your performance with accidental sound bleed, but Mark Kozelek should really be above such puerile ripostes. (3)

Chris Kelly: Bros with guitars in a one-sided feud: put me down somewhere between Meredith Graves and supremely bored. Even if being a curmudgeon is Kozelek’s schtick, this entire debacle is dulling the lustre of Benji, which is a shame. (0)

Angus Finlayson: Funnily enough, I got around to checking Mark Kozelek’s Benji only last week. Actually, I didn’t get past the first two songs: the first about the freak death of a distant relative, and Kozelek’s conviction, in spite of hardly knowing the woman, to “find some poetry, to make some sense of this, to find a deeper meaning…”; the second, ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love’, in which an ornery middle aged man gets sentimental about his mum under the (perhaps correct) assumption that we give a shit. Both are heart-piercing and yet strangely offensive, hinting at tandem motives: one, to be bracingly honest in a way which touches the universal; two, to selfishly insert oneself, and one’s music, into whatever situation one can. ‘War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’ blows apart that fragile equilibrium in seven minutes flat. Spinning a bit of mean-spirited stage banter into some kind of pathetic indie beef is bad enough; referring to a female journalist as a “bitch” and a “brat”, and to the titular artists as “the whitest band I’ve ever heard” in a pot-kettle moment of epic proportions, just about clinches it. Everybody’s mothers die, Mark. You’re not special. (2)

Joe Muggs: Oh arch, wordy indie-schmindie sadsacks are beefing. Can someone make me a gif of John Gielgud as the butler in ‘Arthur’ lugubriously saying “I’ll alert the media” please? (0)


A$AP Rocky – ‘Multiply’

Joe Muggs: 
Meh, the main track kind of drifts by slickly enough, nothing out of the ordinary – totally thrown into relief by the rude, lairy g-funk synth interlude. Seems a bit silly to interrupt your OK song with a brilliant one, no? (4)

Scott Wilson: The relentlessly nihilistic tone of ‘Multiply’ is almost everything I want from an A$AP Rocky track, but doing an about-turn and dissing Hood By Air and Been Trill really isn’t such a good look. (6)

Josh Hall: It’s cool how they’ve worked up about seven unfinished ideas and spliced them together into a song, along with audio evidence of Juicy J’s continued descent into senility. (4)

Chris Kelly: Rocky recaptures the magic of LiveLoveA$AP with a haunting shots-fired anthem. Its corny moments aside (the HBA diss, the rapping through the megaphone), this one is the best thing he’s done in ages. And the Warriors-inspired video is great — shout out Yung Gleesh! (7)

Alex Macpherson: A$AP Rocky still sounds off-puttingly like he’s polishing his personal brand, but at least it’s in keeping with that aesthetic that he places a premium on sounding good. ‘Multiply’ is as hollow as ever but it’s shiny rap ear candy, as remorselessly effective as 50 Cent at his – well, not at his peak, A$AP Rocky’s never come close to making an ‘In Da Club’, but maybe Fiddy circa ‘Candy Shop’. (6)


Tink – ‘Sounds Good’

Alex Macpherson: 
Tink’s critical acclaim within certain critical communities is baffling: so many emergent R&B artists around, and people alight on the one whose arrangements are tinny clouds of nothing and whose voice couldn’t carry two feet in front of her? Of course they do. She at least sounds somewhat alive when she raps but the minute she starts that sub-Cassie cooing the entire song sinks into a mushy-mouthed mess and everything about the backing is a gigantically boring ~wavy cliché. (2)

Angus Finlayson: The more eloquent and affecting of this weekend’s spurned girlfriend songs. Chorus feels a bit bolt-on, but Tink still sounds good to me. (7)

Josh Hall: Tink’s at her best when she’s at her most demonstrative, but I just don’t find her believable when she’s in heartbroken-introspective mode. More like ‘Wanna Party’ please. (5)

Chris Kelly: Tink does lovesick the best way you can: ready to fight and never maudlin. Not one of her most memorable songs, but it’ll have to do as we wait for that album with Timbaland (cautious optimism abounds). (5)

Joe Muggs: Really, really good. Hip hop blues. It’s all about the way the beat always seems like it’s toppling over and never quite resolves. Her flow and singing are great. What’s not to like? (8)

Scott Wilson: I’ve loved most Tink stuff I’ve heard, and all the pieces are in place for this to be great, but something just doesn’t quite click here. The sparse instrumental gives her voice more than enough space to shine, which is exactly how it should be, but her delivery just feels a little too detached for me to be really drawn in. Of course it’s a Tink track, and that still makes it better than most. (7)


Danny L Harle – ‘In My Dreams’

Angus Finlayson: 
Given that Hannah Diamond’s dead-eyed choirbot parp is one of my least favourite things about PC Music, this was never gonna be a winner. It doesn’t help that A.G. Cook does the Fisher Price trance-pop thing too, only with better hooks. (4)

Josh Hall: The artwork for this seems to be a very explicit underscoring of the crossover between PC Music and alt-lit. The further they stray from that the better – as we’ve discovered in the last fortnight, alt-lit is populated almost entirely by aesthetically bankrupt rapists. PC Music doesn’t need to highlight its relationship with other post-internet art factions – it’s already more interesting than almost all of those. (7)

Scott Wilson: ‘Broken Flowers’ is one of my favourite PC Music tracks, but I have to admit I’m a little disappointed with Danny L Harle’s return – the production sounds a little too close to a downbeat take on ‘Hey QT’ to really stand out on its own terms. Having said that, the lyrical content are at least half of what makes PC Music great, and these are some of the most deliriously heart-rending I’ve heard from a PC Music track. (7)

Joe Muggs: I’ve been comparing PC Music to electroclash, but with the nineties replacing the eighties as reference point, a lot recently, and this doesn’t change my mind. It’s a punky, druggy, pisstakey approach, that to the outsider looks like it’s just there to razz up purists but really is for people dressed up funny to get wasted to. Electroclash was often surprisingly lacking in hooks given what a song-based form it was; this is definitely not lacking hooks. I hope some of these lot have hits, it’ll be funny. (7)

Alex Macpherson: In protest at being made to listen to so much identical, execrable, contemptible PC Music bullshit, I’m just going to use this space to talk about the kind of actually great pop that they and their fans doubtless consider beneath them. Nick Jonas’s debut solo single, for instance: its hook is indelible and its goofiness unashamed, which counts as Jonas pulling the pop equivalent of #comingtostealyourgirl on Justin Timberlake, sliding neatly into the space he used to occupy while simultaneously showing his current incarnation up as old and self-important. It also belies its sideways approach to its own subject matter: pop culture has long propped up and legitimised the jealous boyfriend, a deeply and dangerously misogynistic trope. Jonas plays that role self-parodically, but the tension between his performance as a controlling dumbass who can’t be taken seriously and the goofball charm that enables such harmful behaviour to be excused in a potential abuser is an uncomfortable one, and it’s unclear how aware of it Jonas is. Listen back-to-back with Beyoncé’s quiet, complex masterpiece of the same title for examples of how thought-provoking pop can be about tangled, contradictory human emotions. More fool you if you think it needs idiotic meta press releases to be interesting. (0) for Harle, (8) for Jonas

Chris Kelly: A sister track of sorts to ‘Broken Flowers’, Danny L Harle returns with the restrained-but-ravey ‘In My Dreams’. Ringtone xylophone, gorgeous synth stabs, half-shrugged pop missives: long live PC Music. (8)



Sharaya J – ‘Takin’ It No More’

Alex Macpherson: 
It’s strange to watch someone with as much obvious talent and charisma as Sharaya J and to think how little she fits into rap in 2014. Just look at her! She’s got the moves, she’s got the flow, she’s got the attitude, and did I mention those moves? Why have rap and R&B moved so far away from proper choreography that an artist and her dancers moving beautifully in sync with each other seems like a throwback? I could watch Sharaya J all day – and listen to her, too, terse and rapid-fire and revelling in the act of rapping so much that her technical style becomes a display of joy in itself. Sure, the “Missy reincarnated” box maybe fits her a bit too snugly at the moment, but hearing someone whose MO seems to be deflecting everything the beat throws at her and sending it back fizzing with spin is always brilliant. (8)

Scott Wilson: The whole package reminds me of Missy Elliott, which is no bad thing, but it might be a little too close to Missy Elliott for comfort to really stand on its own. (5)

Josh Hall: This is no ‘Smash Up The Place’ but Sharaya is still untouchable when it comes to choreography. No one has more or more effective visual humour in their videos than Sharaya – and it’s a happy coincidence that the songs are always fantastic. (7)

Chris Kelly: Jerrrseeey! Genuinely thrilled that the kid behind ‘Hands On Ya Hips’ and ‘Got No Panties On’  is producing for Missy Elliott’s latest protege. The ‘Take Away’ sample is a nice touch, too. (7)

Angus Finlayson: The lesser of this week’s two spurned girlfriend songs, but still a lotta fun. (6)

Joe Muggs: There’s about eight different really great tracks here. Everything’s stunningly produced, superb beats, tidy delivery, proper hyper-pop, but it’s like having all the courses of an expensive meal splatted onto the plate at the same time. (5)


BBC Music – ‘God Only Knows’

Alex Macpherson: 
The least auspicious launch of anything music-related ever, though it’s no more than one of my least favourite songs ever deserves: this is the soundtrack to that moment when, a few months into Twitter, you realised with a sinking feeling just how many people you knew or looked up to were actually so boring that they spent literally every night in front of the TV live-tweeting boring shit they didn’t even like. It’s important to remember that the bland, whitebread cunts on parade here – desperate to be liked, desperate for respectability, desperate not to rock the boat of the small-minded Saturday night light entertainment audience – don’t actually represent pop in 2014, and neither does the BBC. (I nearly awarded this a point for the homoeroticism of Zayn and Harry singing to each other, before I realised that it was as contrived and pandering as the rest of it: leave the slashfic to the fangirls, they’re a zillion times more creative than anyone involved in this will ever be.) (0)

Angus Finlayson: It’s difficult to work out what’s most excruciating about this. Is it Elton John, who couldn’t even be bothered to remove the insect life from his suit before shuffling his way into the studio? Or Florence Welch, who, confronted with a mere eight notes, still fails to sing them in tune? Or Sam Smith, whose big blubbery sadface is presumably down to all the glorious sex his puritanical views on Grindr have cost him? Or perhaps it’s the whole enterprise which, just like so many platitudes regarding “love of music” – vague, undifferentiated “music” – is couched in one of the most odious and reactionary aesthetic worldviews imaginable? It’s like those people you meet who describe their music taste as “a little bit of everything”, before revealing that that “everything” includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I know it’s for charity, but fuck off. (0)

Scott Wilson: With a line-up of artists as depressingly predictable as an average Brit Awards ceremony, you’d expect this to be bad, but it really is absolutely excruciating – I’ll probably be having flashbacks to the moment of Dave Grohl’s out of tune squall for years to come. About the only positive thing I can take from this is that it makes ‘Perfect Day’ ‘97 sound like a masterpiece. (2)

Josh Hall: This is exactly why I don’t pay my licence fee. And is that Chris O’Dowd at 0:49? (2)

Joe Muggs: Jesus I just imagined getting caught in a conversation between Florence Welch and Paloma Faith at a party, and now I want to die. (0)


Final scores:

Sharaya J – ‘Takin’ It No More’ (6.3)
Tink – ‘Sounds Good’ (5.7)
Danny L Harle – ‘In My Dreams’ (5.5)
A$AP Rocky – ‘Multiply’ (5.4)
Sun Kil Moon – ‘War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’ (1)
BBC Music – ‘God Only Knows’ (0.8)

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