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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. Up this week: the return of Ameriie and Rich Harrison, the return of Chic, Earl and more.

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Social State – ‘Human Error’

William Skar: My enthusiasm for denuded grime is starting to flag a little, but I like Social State’s jib-cut – less about negative space than sheets of colour and crackle, and a sensibility that’s closer in spirt to MBV than BBK. (7)

Brad Stabler: Five years from now, I could happily live in a world where Gobstepper and weightless were their own genres. (9)

Selomé Samuel: Granted I am in a post-SXSW daze, but this is putting me to sleep. The perfect fit for the soundtrack to a lightly suspenseful ’80s movie, but as it stands alone it fails to hold my attention for long. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: I’m here for pretty much anything that sounds like it could be a horror flick score, so I’m into this. While it doesn’t do too much building, I appreciate its hypnotic qualities its disparate construction. The bass is super eerie but the rest of it yearns beautifully. The dichotomy make me a little sick to my stomach but in a really good way. (7)

Son Raw: Gobstopper’s woozy, emotional take on grime has somehow ended up exploring similar territory to the best of LA’s beat scene, despite an completely dissimilar musical makeup. The melodies here are gorgeous and the structure’s slow build is nothing if not intricate, even if the track is ultimately a bit of a downer. I’m not sure if I want to burn a J to this or curl into the fetal position, but cheers for expanding the genre’s emotional range guys. (7)

Alex Macpherson: A lot of non-vocal grime can seem shut-in, but the interplay between the yearning generosity of the synth melody and the feline bassline padding carefully around underneath it is exactly how to make an instrumental sing. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Very sobering and incredibly deft with the mood switch-up, from rueful to meditative. I’m not super into the percussion, it doesn’t strike hard enough for me. Overall I do dig the arrangement, I’m excited to hear that lead synth signal the track’s entrance in the middle of a mix. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: This sounds like something Thrill Jockey would’ve been flogging heavily from 1997-2001; in 2015, though, it sounds rather pointless without any contextual genre subversion. Two and a half minutes for your track to lift off and we’re left with another minute of aimless waffle? Give me a break. (3)


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Earl – ‘Grief’

Son Raw: Doris was confrontational and contrarian, a self inflicted pin prick to the Earl Sweatshirt hype balloon and an outright rejection of the idea that the guy wanted anything to do with being hip-hop’s savior. If ‘Grief’ is any indication, then he’s standing by his decision, since it’s another hazy, personal missive from a man with a lot on his mind. I can’t ride to it like Drake and it won’t save the world like Kendrick, but there’s always something to be said for rapping about the shit in your life over a hard beat. (6)

Selomé Samuel: I’ve gotta respect the level of openness here, but the lyrics make me feel concerned and uncomfortable. Maybe that’s the point, but I am not dying for repeat listens. (5)

Brad Stabler: To anyone who gets uncomfortable when the class clown gets real and stops being funny, or to anyone who thinks Earl’s delivery is wack: let it be known that this is probably the finest thing he’s put to tape. It’s been arresting to see Earl not only grow upward as a rapper but inward as an MC, but ‘Grief’ is especially captivating, a conversational non-starter that doesn’t play any hand other than its own and forges ahead through a Modern Love-sized bucket of bass and sludge. I’m also digging the sly nod to early Juj and Knxwledge at the end, it’s a “fuck you” to anyone who wants sunshine and rainbows out of a guy who’s never not raw and honest. (9.5)

Alex Macpherson: As a wiser young rapper once said, fuck yo feelings. Especially when they’re such a self-pitying (but also self-fetishising) trudge; this is the sort of thing Angel Haze did with a hundred times more poetry, life and actual unignorable emotion four years ago. (1)

Mikey IQ Jones: Earl’s snowed-in, mindfucked claustrophobe verses murmured over that slo-fi William Basinski-inspired molasses beat would’ve been captivating enough as is, but dude gets mega bonus points for (SPOILER ALERT) a simultaneous “what the fuck/YES, FINALLY” cameo that led me to pull out all of my Gary Wilson LPs for the first time in a few years. Hearing the track on its own is hypnotic and unsettling enough, but the video’s beautiful mental horrorscape kicks things up in a way that makes the coda so much more understandable and pleasurable. I am feeling this so hard right now. (9)

William Skar: Earl’s at his best when he’s tossing word salad, and this lacks some of the free-associative verve of Doris, but otherwise it’s a convincing bit of zonked-out horrocore with a fine beat – a Dantean hell-vision of Los Angeles-era FlyLo. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Earl’s been dark since we were all perked up by him threatening 2 Dope Boyz, “Try talkin’ on a blog / With your fucking arms cut off” but I don’t think mysterious kid making lean smoothies in his debut video was getting recognized for exactly how is the epitome of antisocial. Even titling his record I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is properly in line with the depressive malcontent we’ve always known him, even just latently, to be (but more on that later this week). Again, we’re working with dichotomous beats here and this ends like a mindfuck closing credits music for something a la Too Many Cooks. It’s sitcom music from your nightmares. (8)

Tayyab Amin: If the oppressively foggy beat into that outro wasn’t enough to disorient you, just listen to how Earl Sweatshirt’s flow differs in the first and second verses. In the first, words just roll off of his tongue from line to line, caught between dressing down and bigging up. In the second, he’s wading through syllables to just reach the end of a sentence, like he’s already reached the bottom of the bottle he mentions. It’s as if he’s working through his own stages of grief. (8)


Bwana – ‘Tengo’

Mikey IQ Jones: I feel like I’m stuck in a Porta Potty queue at Electric Zoo. (5)

William Skar: Aus’ releases are often far too polite for their own good, but once it gets the pleasantries out of the way, ‘Tenga’ does eventually achieve proper Border Community liftoff (side note: if you’re looking for a really good MIDI-heavy fantasia, get the new James Pants record stet). (7)

Selomé Samuel: I’m all for minimalism when done well, but this feels devoid of all soul – I couldn’t pick it out of a lineup if I tried. As Mary Anne Hobbs once tweeted, “I would rather gnaw my own leg off than listen to trance”. (3)

Alex Macpherson: Is it asking too much for my anonymously enjoyable functional house to have even one mildly surprising idea over the course of six-and-a-half-minutes? (5)

Brad Stabler: Bwana’s best move was to let all the low-end hold fast and boil over for half the tune’s running time, so just when it starts to get tedious or complacent, the wash that kicks in cinches the whole deal. Aus puts out so many solid winners that it’s easy to take the lot of them for granted, and this is another one. (8.5)

Tayyab Amin: I feel like all the colour that yearns to be seen is suppressed by this filter which puts everything in the same tone, the same spectrum of orchestrated wonder. It doesn’t quite do it for me. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: I don’t care if this is Brooklyn cry-baby nonsense, this is the type of thing that makes me miss the stench and sweat of 285 Kent. It’s rare for me to go out anymore, but this track would keep me up until 5. (8)

Son Raw: This started off sounding absolutely massive, albeit lacking in personality. Then those chords came in and I realised it had plenty of personality, just not a very good one. If you take enough E for this to work, then Tuesday’s really going to suck. (4)


T. Williams & MJ Cole – ‘Privilege’

Alex Macpherson: The kind of privilege everyone should be OK with checking! (8)

Brad Stabler: There’s enough prestige from both parties involved to warrant a listen. There’s plenty of fireworks to make it pop off in theory. But, outside of a club, I just don’t know. It’s probably not a good sign that the first suitable place for this that comes to mind is in the waiting room of a cosmic surgeon. (5)

Tayyab Amin: This is going to make a lot of people very happy! (6)

Selomé Samuel: This mostly feels like a goofy inside joke, but I’ll bite because it’s pretty funny. I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be requesting this at the club anytime soon, but if I’m a little tipsy and hear this in a hotel lobby or elevator? It’s on. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: Do we even need the white noise in this? I am so transfixed by the aggressively dance-y piano keys that I can’t even tell if those flourishes are necessary or slightly distracting. Either way, I like where this is going and am ready for more live aspects to dance music, in general. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: I can roll with T Williams’ DJ work, and I tend to love his magic touch as a remixer, but this me a bit flat. It’s begging for a full-bellied belter of a vocal to kick it into high gear, or at least some kind of sweet, amateurish croon; on its own, I like it, but this just makes me want to jam Lil Louis or Mr Fingers instead. Could’ve been so much better. (6)

Son Raw: If we’re to continue living under a house revival, why can’t it all sound this funky? It takes a lot to command attention with an idea as thoroughly tapped as piano house, but both of these guys have real musical chops and the talent to transcend any concerns about originality. This sounds like a loft party I’m not cool enough to attend, but for once I actually want to. (7)

William Skar: You can’t really fault the basic ingredients, so even though this is empirically the 628th best piano house track of all time, it’s still, y’know, fun. (6)


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Chic – ‘I’ll Be There’

Mikey IQ Jones: It’s great to see Nile Rodgers enjoying a new wave of cultural cache, but it leaves a bad taste in my life hearing a song credited to Chic without Bernard Edwards or Tony Thompson (RIP to both) involved, as they were just as much responsible for Chic’s magic as Rodgers was. I dig the way the lyrics both nod toward the group’s original fans and provide a CliffsNotes overview of disco’s moment in the sun to younger admirers, but overall, this just isn’t Chic – it’s no different than Mike Love touring as The Beach Boys with a bunch of non-Wilson session folk, regardless of how talented they are. C’mon Nile – yes, you earned the right to ‘Le Freak’ all over my contempo pop life long ago, but show a bit of respect for the rest of the family that helped bring you your first taste of fame. (4)

Brad Stabler: For all the sobering backstory that’s been spooled by Nile Rodgers prior to both his and his band’s return, you wouldn’t know any of it just based off a cursory listen to this. It’s standard Chic, and I hope that doesn’t need any further explanation as to what it sounds like. This is no new ground, which is fine, but for a band that understood what not to cut and what to let breathe between a 7″ single edit and a floor-filling 12″, it’s disheartening to hear their return to come out more cluttered than a teenager’s bedroom floor. Flies right by without a single thing to hold onto. (4)

Selomé Samuel: I wasn’t even alive to appreciate the first coming of Chic, but the ’70s is the era for which I have the most faux-nostalgia. I wish the groove here was a bit more laid back, and the lyrics are a touch too sweet but the positivity is hard to deny. It’s impossible for this to rival their classics, but this is a pleasant modern twist. (8)

Alex Macpherson: Chic and Nile Rodgers have too much pride and talent to put out anything really substandard, but is there any reason for this song to exist beyond the opportunistic, if understandable, riding of a trend? This is pure empty nostalgia, and almost certainly something that’s been lying around in the vaults for 40 years jazzed up a little. Fair play to them for wheeling it out but have a word with yourself if you’re genuinely excited about it. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: Speaking of dance music packed with live elements! This also supports my “The emperor has no clothes” feelings about Random Access Memories and its whole faux-disco, Andrew Lloyd Webber-pantomime wasn’t cutting it. What works really works on this track is that it builds on Chic and Nile Rodgers’ legacy without resting too hard on their signature sound. It’s disco, but it feels fresh. “I don’t want to live in the past, but it’s a nice place to visit” indeed. (7.5)

William Skar: I mean, this exists in a world outside any sort of meaningful criticism, right? It’d be like reviewing boron, or green. (ABSTAIN)

Son Raw: Whoa, this is actually surprisingly good isn’t it? My expectations for comeback acts, particularly ones spurred on by Daft Punk collaborations, are minimal at best but frankly this sounds like classic Chic. I foresee many a festival appearance in Nile Rodgers’ future, and few people deserve them more than he does. No sign of Pharell either, mercifully. (7)

Tayyab Amin: It looks like a really, really fun party, but it’s not really my party. Paints a powerful (and increasingly familiar) picture though: Chic have just finished playing one of several dozen hits at your favourite summertime festival, the applause is dying down and then that bassline struts on out, freezing everything. I’d cheer for that. (6)


Ameriie – ‘Out Loud’

William Skar: 0.7 Thing. (7)

Son Raw: Ameriie has a higher daily word count than I do, can probably beat me at Civilization and continues to release the kind of life affirming, percussive music that serves as a reminder that innovative R&B need not sound like it was drugged at the bar. (9)

Selomé Samuel: I wanted to love this, but dreams don’t always come true. The beat is chaotic and distracting and clashes with her delicate vocals, and overall it feels like an afterthought, which seriously bums me out because it could have been great. (3)

Tayyab Amin: Comes in with a bang, finds itself running out of steam before doing well to regain its footing – I can dig it, Playstation console start synth and all. Ameriie bosses it. (8)

Alex Macpherson: You didn’t know how much you missed them, did you? In the context of 2015, the sound of Ameriie’s fluttering, stuttering, gulping, pealing voice, constantly darting out of your reach and popping up behind you, paired with Rich Harrison and his big fucking drums sounds so refreshing. The closest comparison point from their heyday isn’t ‘1 Thing’ but the brilliant unreleased Touch offcut ‘Love’s Off The Chain’: similarly fraught, similarly unstable. As for you, Ameriie: now you’ve come back to us and the threat of your long-mooted sci-fi album has receded, maybe it’s time to drop that extraneous “i” that’s been besetting my iTunes OCD for the past few years? (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: If 2014 was the year of the Breakup Apocalypse, then 2015 is all about crushwave (see: Cashmere Cat, ‘Adore’; Carly Rae Jepsen’s obviously-titled ‘I Really Like You’; the teasing of Omeeka). Before this single came out, I was bumping ‘1 Thing’ like a maniac, as I am wont to do once a year. This, of course, not the same, but her syrupy wail is still in tact 10 years later and still kicks you right in that place that makes you long for someone else. (And the styling in single art? How I plan to look until as soon as it’s just warm enough to stop wearing tights.) (8)

Mikey IQ Jones: Such a banger! Please let there be a new album, and please let the rest of the album be as fun and freaky as this, which is pretty much everything that I wanted Kelis’s ‘Food’ to be but sadly wasn’t. This is a summer jam that’s so hot it needed to come out now to help thaw this seemingly permafrosted shithole winter out. I’ve already replayed this about six or seven times consecutively… That’s a winner. (8)


Final scores:

Ameriie – ‘Out Loud’ (7.3)
Earl – ‘Grief’ (6.6)
Social State – ‘Human Error’ (6.6)
T. Williams & MJ Cole – ‘Privilege’ (6.3)
Bwana – ‘Tengo’ (5.9)
Chic – ‘I’ll Be There’ (5.8)

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