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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: new Novelist, Skream and more.

Skream – ‘Littler’

Anupa Mistry: Surprisingly impressed, but not actually cos Skream’s always been good — it was just us that fell off dubstep. Is it interesting, refined techno? Nah, but that bass hits. (6.5)

Tayyab Amin: I’m not mad at this, the textures are a bit ugly though. The hi-hat seems loose and the kick restrained, there’s no bite to this techno. It feels artificial, faking it as a big room stomper before retroactively gleaning some character. I wouldn’t stop dancing or anything though. (4)

Son Raw: I resented Skream for jumping ship to four on the floor at first, but now I just feel bad for him and wish he’d make something interesting within its confines. This is a slowly evolving arp over a kick drum and hi hat, and it simply can’t compete in world where Livity Sound, Pinch & Mumdance and a host of other UK outsiders are twisting amazing shapes and sounds out of dark (don’t-call-it) techno. This has all the confidence of a very small fish in a very big pond. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: This caught me completely off-guard. In the first few minutes, my notes were: “If someone prepped me for a track with, “It’s techno, but it’s ~different~” this is exactly what I would think it would be” but it actually is just so much more fun than that. Sometimes I forget that techno requires other things than intellectual scrutiny. This reminded me that sometimes I just need to show up to the party. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: I’ve never been much of a Skream fan, and this certainly isn’t changing my opinion in any way. This is a completely serviceable faceless thumper that doesn’t really offer any real peaks or valleys, and instead just serves up a series of tired cliches that would likely make deep-fried Burning Man LED hula-hoopers and grizzled bridge & tunnel weekend warriors “feel it.” Would make a pretty solid piece of evidence for techno haters to bemoan why they can’t deal with the music – it goes nowhere, it does nothing, it’s just there, and you have to deal with it. Entirely pleasant and entirely pointless. (4)

Brad Stabler: We have officially arrived at Skream strutting in full blown confidence again, and it’s…not very interesting? The problem with Skream’s productions now isn’t that he’s completely fallen off – this is the best mixed and arranged thing he’s put out in so long God knows an accurate time stamp to compare it to. This would slay in 2012. But in 2015 his newer, more solid tracks seem like they’re eating the crumbs off the plates of current giants. (5)


Novelist – ‘Ignorant and Wot’

Claire Lobenfeld: “When I’m out at a bar, it’s chicken and chips cos eating healthy’s expensive” forever. This is gut-punch misery, like if Big L did grime but with fewer sexually dubious allusions. (8)

Brad Stabler: It’s new Novelist. Of course it’s good – the grime and road don is only getting better and with each track I run out of hyperbole. But is there a trend this year I’m just now picking up? With each tune from any UK MC in the past month, you could plan a three course meal out of all the food references. Is English food really that bad that y’all have to make us Yanks hungry, too? (8)

Son Raw: Does that hook and flow lean just a bit towards southern… hip-hop? For a guy who’s made his name on a series of grimier-than-grime bangers, it’s a very interesting new wrinkle to the arsenal and because this is Nov we’re talking about, the results still land closer to Dizzee Rascal than Juicy J. Then there’s the production, which proves that enthusiasm and a couple of synths go a long way, even you don’t re-invent the wheel. (8)

Tayyab Amin: The droning synth beneath the hook is so unnerving, I don’t enjoy it but it’s in a way that I appreciate. Novelist channeling the psyche of his generation through these tales from the road. Take time to empathise with where he’s coming from. (6)

Anupa Mistry: I actually heard this out the other night here in Toronto, which is weird – we’re well and truly obsessed with what’s ringing out of the U.S. right now – but also Novelist’s done something interesting here because this isn’t that far off from that murky, post-trap sound either. The slowed tempo, the screwed vocals and the gnarly hook; it can easily fit into a non-grime DJ set. But also, Novelist does a wicked job with the story here, talking himself through leaving his gates and the social dynamic on road. It’s like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for entrepreneurial millennials: “If I stick to myself, I’m gonna be on top cos man like me don’t flop.” (9)

Mikey IQ Jones: Obvious Dizzyisms aside, this spindly, lean, and nimble tune’s a tight little beast that subtly creeps up from the back rather than bludgeoning you with sheer weight. I found myself humming and chanting the hook an hour later completely out of context and thinking “shit… he got me!” Well done, Nov. (7)


Nao – ‘Apple Cherry’

Brad Stabler: The pitched up vocals (and I hope those are pitched up) spoil what’s basically a beauty of a slow jam – I mean, just listen when the synths drop out and come back caked in rust. If Nao dials the chipmunk knob down a little on her next EP, it’d be one to keep. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: C’mon, no…. it’s WAY too soon to be dealing with knockoff FKA Twigs pastiches. I’m not hating on this, but it’s got no personality of its own, and I was so unsure as to whether or not this was a parody at first that it actually made me laugh. Nao’s ‘Inhale Exhale’ was a tune I really dug, but this teeters on a knife’s edge in a way that I just can’t take seriously, right down to the screwed harmony voices. From what I’ve heard of her other work, she’s better than having to piggyback on the aesthetics of another artist without injecting anything of her own. (3)

Tayyab Amin: On first listen I thought it was a bit too syrupy, a bit too sultry for my taste, 2012 blog R’n’B cues notwithstanding. Nao won me over though – something clicked and I find it really charming how up-front and unabashed the lyrics and the track itself are. The ending’s really tight as well. (6)

Anupa Mistry: Food metaphors and music don’t really mix for me but I’ll take a second serving of this, thanks. (8)

Son Raw: I wonder what this would sound like sampled and pitched up, cause that register can’t get much higher. My platonic ideal for R&B is a mixture of early millennial pop futurism and neo-soul’s adult sophistication, and if this doesn’t have the energy to go all the way, the vibe still carries it to the finish line. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: I genuinely believed that alt-R&B was taken to the glue factory and we were just going to let weirdos be weird with no more kowtowing to this type of How To DressWV-ing, but, oh, how wrong I was. The music is beautiful, but the vocals are just not on. (3.5)


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Slaves, Mike Skinner & Jammer – ‘Cheer Up London (Remix)’

Mikey IQ Jones: Oh look, Sleaford Mods and The Prodigy had a lovechild and left him in a skip. The editors are just straight-up trolling us now, Singles Club. (1)

Brad Stabler: You don’t make the claim that your new band’s name is somehow cool because “through art we’re all equals.” That’s just not getting it in its purest, most fuckboy form. And it’s not worth elaborating on how this attempt at a save is a colossal failure… grime and politics for the 8th grade Hot Topic set. (0)

Anupa Mistry: Nope, you can’t make me listen to this. (?)

Son Raw: The Tories won the election and all London got was this shite punk song. (2)

Claire Lobenfeld: I was expecting to go into this talking about the stupidity of this band’s name and their piss-poor way of defending it, but this is literally the worst track I’ve heard in 2015, maybe the last five years, maybe my entire life. (0)

Tayyab Amin: The thing about the Streets, certainly in their prime, was that they brought relatable and insightful social commentary. That’s something Mike Skinner did, but here he is now producing something that sounds like the Prodigy discovering drill music on a taurine-fuelled YouTube bender. I’m not getting any of that social awareness from Slaves, brushing aside the despicable way they’ve handled scrutinisation of their tasteless name.

As a young adult and as a student, their message mocking people on the daily grind, trying to figure out that white collar life, makes no sense to me against the backdrop of post-2008 austerity measures. I could be missing the point, but is anyone really adding zeroes to their paycheck? We don’t all have the privilege to ignore unemployment levels and rising living costs (certainly in London) at the moment. I wonder whether there are any brown people in the UK who can relate to their message, ‘cause God knows the pressure to fight for a stable career has been on us for our families’ sakes.

The thing about grime is that it’s never really thrived off pure sound and fury. A lot of it has been about self-expression, often channeled through some creative means. Even at its angriest, it has come with a dynamic energy that throws the body behind the punch it packs. Slaves are standing squarely with no force backing them, their one-dimensional sound doesn’t impact. Their demeanor is contrived and their music seems to consider attitude and loudness as synonymous and intrinsically good. It turns out to be neutered and bland.

Mostly though, I can’t believe that after finally connecting to new audiences overseas with grime, we’ve only gone and resurrected grindie. Fucksake. (0)


Father – ‘Please Stop Making Fake Versace’

Tayyab Amin: “Eatin’ nasty ass Chipotle, wearing bindis.” Noooo Father you reckless for that! I’m here for it, Father sounding candid with the light-hearted tongue-in-cheek takes. There’s something about the frequency of his voice that goes so well with these barebones bassy beats. It doesn’t take much to get you rocking and I like how it closes with the radio alarm clock ringing synth. (8)

Son Raw: Nah, bring on the bandulu Versace until the brand is completely devalued by 15 year old wankers aping Migos. Title aside, the problem to the increasingly sprawling Father oeuvre is that it never fully lifts off, but then you catch a brilliant line like “I single handedly keep the world spinning on its axis, I single handedly keep your bitch pinned up on this mattress” and all is forgiven. Now he just needs to string a full tape’s worth of them in a row. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: It’s hard for me not to harp on the, “Eating chipotle while wearing a bindi” line, which seems to be the least consequential part of the track. Is Father so acutely aware of his audience that he knows that, even while dismantling crap-rap bros, he can still throw in a barb aimed at terrible festival girls who “twerk” to ‘Look at Wrist’? Do I need to write a treatise on why Father is a genius? I don’t know, but the Kool Aid tastes so, so good. (6)

Brad Stabler: Played this at a party this weekend and this dude asked me to turn whoever this copycat was off and put on ‘Look at Wrist’ instead. Please stop making fake Father fans. (8)

Anupa Mistry: “Please stop wearing fake Fendi, eating nasty-ass Chipotle, wearing bindis.” Did Father just become my favourite rapper? (8)

Mikey IQ Jones: It’s a rather one-note sentiment, but Father serves up a decent if obvious dismissal of “basic bitch” culture that doesn’t really take anyone or anything specific to task. My main beef with this is that if you’re serving up a title like this, you’d better go big or go home, and he doesn’t deliver on that front at all. I’m sorry guys– ‘Getaway’ is my jam on this EP; I can entirely do without this one. (5)


HANA – ‘Clay’

Son Raw: You could do worse when it comes to anthems for sitting alone, eating ice cream on the couch, but you’re still sitting alone eating ice cream on the couch. (4)

Anupa Mistry: Gorgeous track and unexpectedly subdued for a Blood Diamonds production, but with just enough weird effects to be better than your average pop track. Sped up a bit, lyrics brightened, it’d have the pace and melodic alchemy to be a breezy summer teen pop banger. (7)

Tayyab Amin: It started with me thinking I was going to lay curled up in bed listening to this for the next week as a coping mechanism for that stressful thing called life, but by the end I was feeling Disney-movie levels of victorious. I think of Taylor Swift, whose music I’ve never really vibed with because of how busy the production is. Here, HANA and Blood Diamonds balance the beat just right, which is tricky to do when you’re repeatedly changing the pace. HANA’s harmonising in the final third is so comforting and warm, and hearing her build conviction throughout the track makes it easy to appreciate. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Taylor Swift-caping nonsense. (3)

Mikey IQ Jones: I admire the way that this takes the sentimentality of prime-time teen dramas and attempts to frame it in digital hypergloss, but this just isn’t my cup of tea. She’s certainly talented, but I’ve a feeling she’s more effective delivering hands-up declarations rather than the somewhat hesitant and trifling sugar of ‘Clay’. If you’re going to subvert pop tropes, go all-in on the bet. (6)

Brad Stabler: Factory sealed and impeccably produced, just like the Illuminati would want. Unlike Nao, where there’s actual fucking potential, this just seems like one of a few thousand tracks unleashed in the Great Indie R&B Deluge of 2011. At what point does a late pass become just being late? (4.5)


Final scores:

Novelist – ‘Ignorant and Wot’ (7.7)
Father – ‘Please Stop Making Fake Versace’ (7)
Nao – ‘Apple Cherry’ (5.9)
HANA – ‘Clay’ (5.3)
Skream – ‘Littler’ (5)
Slaves, Mike Skinner & Jammer – ‘Cheer Up London (Remix)’ (0.5)

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