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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 Tyler, The Creator, a collaboration between E-40 and Ariel Pink and a post-Alice Glass Crystal Castles.

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U.S. Girls – ‘Damn That Valley’

Chal Ravens: Beneath the clashy guitar scree and reggae bass lurks a sad story about her S.O. getting killed by friendly fire in “that valley”, guessing Afghanistan, which makes this tune even more interesting than the catchy-but-weird 4AD-pop it already is. I liked the bit in the chorus where she goes fully off-key (“I can’t believe I won’t see you no more”), at which point there were so many clashing things going on I thought I had music going in three tabs at once. (7)

William Skar: Psychotic freak-skank – a sort of carnivalesque cousin to that LA Vampires and Zola Jesus LP from a few years back. Top stuff (8)

Brad Stabler: Will never get this. (3)

Son Raw: This kicks off with a strong groove but she doesn’t know what to do with it and the song somehow manages to feel long at three minutes. The video manages to be so completely obvious for punk that it undermines the whole concept of rebellion through sheer predictability. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: This has piqued my interest, but there isn’t too much that’s memorable about it. Totally on-the-nose for 4AD — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but not much about this gets me excited. (4)

Mikey IQ Jones: Meg from US Girls is an old friend of mine, and I’ve watched (and heard) her evolve this project from a somewhat guarded and wounded solo exorcism into a fuller representation of who she’s always been as a listener and creator. Remy’s always been an omnivorous devourer of culture, and made the most of what she’s had at her disposal to create her versions of the pop she loves, and that pop streak has always been there, even at US Girls’ most murky and obtuse. ‘Damn That Valley’ seems deceptively simple on the surface, a pastiche that reconfigures Springsteen singing Northern Soul heartbreak balladry into a Jamaican soundclash. With repeat listens though, it becomes clear that Remy actually knows the DNA of these musics well enough to actually pull this off. I might be somewhat biased, but I’m still proud as fuck of her evolution, and honestly, while I’ve not loved everything she’s done, I kinda love this song. (7.5)


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Tyler, The Creator – ‘Fucking Young’

Claire Lobenfeld: To-date, Cherry Bomb is making my list for best albums of the year. He finally had the gumption to make his own In Search Of… and it’s better. ‘Fucking Young’ is ambitious and ballsy, not just sonically, but lyrically. Tyler just wants to love and to be loved and the more he grows up in front of us, the clearer the portrait of his desires becomes. Must be mentioned, even though it’s not this song, there is a cut on the album about eating pussy that HAS A WANYA MORRIS FROM BOYZ II MEN ON BACKUP VOCALS. TYLER IS A HERO. (8)

Mikey IQ Jones: Of all of this week’s contenders, this was the song that I had playing on repeat all weekend as NYC was treated to its first tried and true stereotypical springtime sunshine weekend of the season. Walking around, you could just FEEL the schmoopy lovey vibes everywhere – the majority of the city just felt thrilled to not be wrapped up in layers of Gore-Tex and wool, and quite a few got so overzealous they were bordering on nudist beach attire. ‘Fucking Young’ embodies that vibe fully; this is the soul rap equivalent of running outside in shorts in the morning, only to realize after it’s too late that once the sun goes down, your ass is shivering through the rest of your evening plans. ‘Fucking Young’ is essentially the exact inverse of Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘Grief’ – the energies are inversely complimentary, right down to the sudden-flip second-act codas, and in some weird way, their energies also work well together; they offer a unity that none of the Odd Future projects have been able to really display until now. 2015 might be the year that I’m fully on board for their cause. (9)

William Skar: Tyler’s stick-in-the-mud schtick gets on my nerves – it’s been over five years since Bastard, and his modus operandi (schmaltz, slavish Neptunes worship, anaemic beats) has barely evolved. However, a pretty tune is a pretty tune, and although a lot about this makes my skin crawl, it’s still pinging around my head (6).

Chal Ravens: Some quick maths tells me that Tyler likely wrote this song about a 17-year-old girl he was crushing on, which is obviously “too fucking young” in several US states, so well done to the former feminist-baiting rap pest for not committing statutory rape, I guess. Musically, it sounds like Tyler is actually gonna pull it out the bag on Cherry Bomb – I’m totally up for another N.E.R.D. record in my collection and other than that comparison he doesn’t really sound like anyone else out there right now. Video also ace. (7)

Son Raw: Sorry Tyler, you don’t have Pharrell’s vocal chords and Charlie Wilson can only help so much. The good news is you’re actually a great songwriter who can call up the feeling of being 15 and confused at will, and one day, once you get out of your protracted adolescence, you’ll write a beautiful pop album for some lucky singer. Until then, let’s be happy that you haven’t gone full Andre 3K and still rap on most of Cherry Bomb. (6)

Brad Stabler: I’m not sure if I’m feeling the Stevie Wonder comparison that’s probably been dropped here, since the backstory behind ‘Young’ is all kinds of “ew,” which only slightly detracts from his strongest writing and beat shuffling to date. This is a patchy track off an extremely patchy album, but Tyler’s finally figuring out how to use his musical ADD to his advantage, just in time for only the faithful to see it in action. (8)


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E-40 – ‘California’ (feat. Dam-Funk & Ariel Pink)

William Skar: A Guardians of the Galaxy coalition of oddballs – and like the film, it’s rollicking larks, without quite being as ingeniously loopy as it could have been (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: Oh man… why? This starts out promisingly, from 40’s upside-down M to the cartoon G-funk groove, but then reality sets in; Dam’s left to playing a token boogie merchant, while Ariel Pink’s idea of a hook is walking into the booth with an entire fucking burrito in his mouth. The track’s like a soda fountain suicide; all of the flavors are just squirted into the cup, and the best way to enjoy it is to just take a deep breath and chug your way through it. No thanks. Shout to sleeping with your pants down, though. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: Three great tastes that taste corny as hell together. I love E-40, I love Dam-Funk, I love Ariel Pink, but this is hot nonsense. You know what we all already know? That these guys are about California. I do love when Pink lays on the SoCal sleaze, but this is just an ad for a place I do not wanna go. (2)

Brad Stabler: This sounds like four different radio stations bleeding together while you’re driving a rental around an underground garage desperately trying to find a place to park. (2)

Son Raw: I’ll take “unlikely combinations that make total sense when you think about them” for 500, Alex. 40 Water’s in restrained social realist mode when he’s at his best when the slang is practically bursting out of the track, but even when he’s (west) coasting he’s the rare elder rap statesman whose music is still absolutely vital. Ariel Pink sounds like a supporting actor in a David Lynch movie and continues to be one of the few figures in pop rock with a personality worth engaging with and Dam Funk is cooler than I’ll ever be. This makes me want to ride through Los Santos without committing any crimes, just so I can feel like I’m in California. (8)

Chal Ravens: A strangely sinister, slow-moving ode to the West Coast with Ariel Pink strategically deployed to add a note of creepiness in their sloppy garage-band take on G-funk. E-40 can rap over pretty much whatever and I’m charmed, but this is very odd indeed. (6)


Hudson Mohawke – ‘Ryderz’

Chal Ravens: I’ve tried to drum up some enthusiasm for this but basically it’s just too turnt for me when it kicks in. I feel like I’m being crushed to death by a carnival float and a military tattoo at once. (5)

Brad Stabler: It’s all to easy to call this lazy since this is just a festival ready flip of this, but D.J. Rogers is mad slept on and HudMo may have just displayed he’s got another Butter in him, so all is right with the world. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: We’re never getting back the guy who made Butter, huh? (0)

William Skar: Full body screwface (8)

Mikey IQ Jones: Straight-up, when people are saying this is good because it’s not a mess, you need to think about where your priorities lie in terms of songwriting and production. This is a boring flip of an old D.J. Rogers soul tune, and whose existence is completely superfluous and unnecessary aside from hopefully inspiring kids to do their homework and discover the original tune (“Hud Mo brought me here!!”), which – coincidence? – was recently reissued. I’m seriously finished with this album. Can we please not feature any more Lantern tracks on Singles Club, guys? (2)

Son Raw: Much better. I tore into ‘Very First Breath’’s festival pap with zero regrets, but this has all the soul and warmth that track was lacking, without sacrificing the colossal bombast that makes Hud Mo’s music work outside of a rap context. The only question now is which song will the rest of the album sound like? (8)


Crystal Castles – ‘Frail’

Mikey IQ Jones: Nice and easy, this one. If you’re going to make an ugly stink about your recently departed former creative partner not having actually contributed creatively to your most popular and famous songs, it’s probably a good idea not to have your first public offering afterward be an entirely indistinguishable piece of festival banger EDM witchhouse. Never really cared about you in the past, and I care even less now. Sorry bro; go cry about it and delete the tweets later. (1)

Chal Ravens: What a sad man you’d have to be to announce your new single by publicly disparaging a woman who’d not only been your girlfriend and bandmate for eight-ish years but was also, by some chalk, the best thing about your neutered trance-punk laptop-slop-pop, as anyone who ever saw Crystal Castles live would attest. Music’s rubbish. (0)


Brad Stabler: Nothing says “I lack confidence in this” like throwing Alice Glass under the bus and then retroactively shuffling your discography’s finest moments to include only tunes without her. There are some great tunes in that note, I’ll give you that, but really, Ethan? These are the same noises that have been made before, only now you’ve made it really hard to judge ‘Frail’ as its own thing. Which is to say it’s forgettable if you’ve been on the fence since 2008. (3)

William Skar: The best Crystal Castles tracks glower and bang in equal measure. This is about 7mg glower to 4mg bang, which isn’t a bad recipe by anyone’s standards, but it’s not vaulting into my CC Top 10. (6)

Son Raw: Fuck off with this noise, you precious hipster twat. And stop stealing credit. (0)


Sarah Cracknell – ‘On the Swings’

William Skar: Makes me think of Woo. Gosh, I love Woo. (7)

Chal Ravens: Lol why is this in Singles Club? The thing is, I really, really hate musicals, and this kind of e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e-d voice just make me think about the hills being alive with the sound of music, and now my skin is crawling. I’ve never really got St Etienne either, so I feel pretty mean about giving a low score but hey ho. (3)

Claire Lobenfeld: Sometimes in Singles Club, we’re given stuff that I just don’t feel qualified to make a judgment on because I don’t want to shit on something that just isn’t my steez. Then again, shouldn’t one be striving to make music that is so singular that it captures the attention of someone who doesn’t necessarily respond to your style? Asking for a friend. (3)

Mikey IQ Jones: Full disclosure: I am a Saint Etienne lifer. The group’s been in the biz so long at this point that it’s easy for any of its members to slip into comfortable ruts, yet Pete Wiggs recorded a gorgeous film score last year with How We Used To Live, and now Sarah Cracknell’s releasing a solo album that conjures Roy Budd circa Get Carter orchestrating early 70s Island Records bucolic folk. Cracknell’s voice sounds confidently velvety, while the arrangement evokes a rustic setting built around a river of quicksilver, much like Etienne’s unlikely yet incredible cover of Scott Walker’s Tilt centerpiece ‘Manhattan’. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the idea of Sarah recording a new solo album after being tied to Saint Etienne’s pursuits for so long since Lipslide, but this sounds like a much stronger album than what Lipslide ended up being in retrospect. This is swooningly gorgeous. (8)

Son Raw: Well, now I’m reminded of not one but two exes. Can’t be mad at that production and melody though, even if I’m not sure I could tell it apart from last week’s Laetitia Sadier track in a blind taste test. (7)


Final scores:

Tyler, The Creator – ‘Fucking Young’ (6.2)
E-40 – ‘California’ (feat. Dam-Funk & Ariel Pink) (5.8)
U.S. Girls – ‘Damn That Valley’ (5.7)
Sarah Cracknell – ‘On the Swings’ (5.6)
Hudson Mohawke – ‘Ryderz’ (5.2)
Crystal Castles – ‘Frail’ (1.7)

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