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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: Beck, Mila J, Popcaan, M.E.S.H. and more.

M.E.S.H. – ‘Epithet’

Anupa Mistry: Two (or more) rhythms compete for attention here and only succeed at disorienting the listener, but in a good way. ‘Epithet’ constructs a song out of jacked drums, the lush scream of a plane parting clouds and the serpentine dribble of running water, punctuated by the odd finger snap. It’s not an easy tune, but I’m intrigued nonetheless. (6)

Chris Kelly: Too much club music drawn from a palette of industrial, mechanical sounds forgoes the club entirely. M.E.S.H. isn’t exactly aiming for a Banger here, but there’s a perfect balance between conceptual and club-ready as the beat crystallizes – before breaking down and getting poured down the drain. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Y’all ever been to an IMAX cinema? Before the film starts, they have some corny announcer boast something along the lines of, “Images so real you want to reach out and touch them!” That’s basically how I feel about M.E.S.H.’s music – the textures always grab me first, with depth and clarity that flatter personal speakers. It’s like passing through some sonic waterfall, initially striking before an all-embracing sensation takes over. I like that M.E.S.H. explores the dynamic between chaos and tranquility, rather than establishing them as sovereign states at opposite ends of an often-unexplored spectrum. (8)

Son Raw: This dives headfirst into the same anti-pleasure complexity that did in IDM and Breakcore, but that makes for a fascinating listen in its own right. Play it as an installation and you’ll have my full attention, put in on in the club and I’ll probably check out room two. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: We’ve been confronted with so much referential electronic music this year that to get a track that not only works so hard to be original, but does it twice, is refreshing. With each turn of ‘Epithet’, I’m surprised at how something that makes me feel physically dirty can keep me so repeatedly engaged in such a brief amount of time. Between this and Lotic, I am not sure how Janus can disappoint at all this year. (8)


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Beck – ‘Dreams’

Claire Lobenfeld: How interesting that after Beck beat Beyoncé at the Grammys this past February, the culturally incompetent rockists went out of their way to do side-by-side lyrical comparisons of the two artists to deem Bey unworthy, and this is what Beck follows up with. It’s as if we were sucked into some time portal to the late 90s when film soundtracks were on their way out, so they were primarily littered with second rate bands trying to fit the zeitgeist. Never mind the fact that Beck is known for his innovative oddball funk and other weirdo ephemera in the many shapes it takes, this is just wholly uninteresting. ‘Dreams’ is to Beck as ‘Why Can’t I?’ is to Liz Phair. Zzzzzz. (2)

Anupa Mistry: Glad Beck was able to brush himself off after his run-in with Kanye at the last Grammy’s, and even happier that he’s coming out with a stomp instead of doing the timid 90s weirdo thing on this track. A funny thing has happened though; Beck’s now become the anti-pop poster child for a certain demographic of incorrigible, taste-bereft white man who sees himself as a victim of progress. I don’t believe for a minute that Beck sympathizes and I wonder what those fans think of this funky, lusty dance tune and the bit where Beck practically goads them: “Oh get a dog and pony for judgment day.” (7)

Son Raw: This will be in a Coke commercial within the next 3 months. That B-section shows signs of life, but the main riff is exactly the kind of backbeat driven #brandfunk you’d expect post-Grammy. (4)

Chris Kelly: Like Kanye circa last year’s Grammys, I haven’t listened to Morning Phase. Can someone tell me if that sounded like MGMT before they lost the plot, too? (5)

Tayyab Amin: This is 100% BBC closing montage of festival coverage music, huh. I wasn’t totally sure of what to expect given that my experience of Beck is limited to the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack, there are bits I’m into and bits I wish it did without – namely the acoustic breakdowns and the shouty-beer-man parts. On the whole it is quite palatable and inoffensive and well, all the best with your future endeavours, Beck! (5)


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Mila J – ‘Freaknic’

Claire Lobenfeld: While I make no secrets about Mila being my favorite Chilombo sister and rate her high on general principle 99% of the time, this doesn’t get me the way the two EPs she’s released in the last eight months have. That said, you get the R&B singer who straddles the line that Jeremih does (i.e. being able to put out ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’ and an EP with Shlohmo in the same year), a ‘Freek’n You’ and the lustiest guest appearance from the 56 God we’ve heard in a minute, I’m all in. This could be finessed a little bit smoother, but Mila has never released something that doesn’t ignite my imagination and now I am all hot in the pants for her and Future to do some rework of Silk, H-Town, et al. It’s a real reminder that the boning music we’re being delivered could serve to be a little bit smoother and it would be great for a Jodeci-esque return to form. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Jodeci’s ‘Freek’n You’ turned 20 last month, so I guess there is that audience of people who haven’t heard it, but I don’t think this is made for them. I reckon Mila J fares better than Future in channeling it, and the verses themselves are tight. There’s something wonderful about how little chill ‘Freaknic’ has, it’s so impatient, and that’s what brings it to life. (6)

Chris Kelly: Mila continues to be the more compelling Chilombo sister — press, hype and placements be damned — and Future has always worked on duets. ‘Freek ‘n You’ is an apropos bit of 90s nostalgia; I hope this one doesn’t just become blog fodder. (6)

Son Raw: The Jodeci interpolation is a tad unnecessary considering how hooky the rest of the song is – you don’t want to be reminding me of an even better one. On the plus side, this somehow manages to be shiny, sweaty and woozy all at once, and Future’s definitely back. (7)

Anupa Mistry: Mila who? Can I get an edit of this track that’s just Future singing those Jodeci lines? (5)


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Popcaan – ‘Never Sober’

Chris Kelly: Fuck Jamie xx: Popcaan continues his steady stream of summer hits unaided and — look! — it’s the first day of summer already. (7)

Anupa Mistry: Almost sounds like Poppy is riffing on Chief Keef’s ‘Never Been Sober’ here, which I’m not mad at. What I don’t like about this song – and it pains me, because I am a massive Popcaan fan — is that the low end is so skint. There’s nothing to bounce to or back up on and for a summer drop from the self-proclaimed raving king, in the wake of the somber roadman shanty ‘Unruly Prayer’, it’s a little unfulfilling. (6)

Tayyab Amin: It’s nice, I can’t really get deeper than that with it but no one needs me to either. Got a feeling this could be one of them ones where everyone sort of does that whole stationary wobbling thing until the chorus comes in. Popcaan’s flow is a beautiful thing still. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: With all due respect to Mixpak, I just do not get the appeal of Popcaan. He has never released anything that doesn’t just bore the shit out of me. Is it because my tastes in popular dancehall lean more toward things like ‘Beyoncé Wine’ and ‘Roof Top’? Perhaps. But nothing about this engages me in any way. If my output was this tepid, I would never be sober, either. (2)

Son Raw: Can we talk about the fact that Popcaan has been holding us down for over five summers with these anthems? Even when his sweetness veers saccharine, I’m 50% more inclined to start buying extra rum and sodas. He’s practically saving the economy here. (8)


AJ Tracey – ‘Champions League’

Son Raw: The test for these new emcees is going to be making the leap from sets to songwriting. Right now, I’m hearing a lot of straight forward shellers and not too many characters pon’ mic (think Disacarda, Narstie) which could eventually be a problem, but AJ Tracey makes a convincing case for the style. This is a straight up shelling track and I’m happy to hear him spit bars for three minutes, but the kid’s got levels: ‘Wifey Rididm’ and ‘Italy’ are my picks off The Front and he’s got plenty of room to grow from there. (8)

Anupa Mistry: AYYYYE. Riddim is nice but, more important, mans got barssssss. (9)

Claire Lobenfeld: I do love me a sports-referencing rap track in any capacity, so I’m rating high just ‘cos. (6.5)

Tayyab Amin: I haven’t come across AJ Tracey before, but I saw the title was ‘Champions League’ from the URL in my inbox and I knew in my soul that it was gonna be a grime tune. Still, how is my guy gonna chat about football but lean on Beckham and Shearer? I can’t echo that on the commute or in the home, nevermind the dance! Goes in on the second verse but I’ll have to wait to see AJ stand out. (6)


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Tory Lanez/Shlohmo – ‘Acting Like’

Son Raw: I guess now that the Weeknd sounds like MJ, we need someone to step up and sound like The Weeknd? I want to hate this kind of Cloud n’ B but I wouldn’t throw you out of the sack for playing it. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I’m into this. Shlohmo’s production and Tory Lanez’s lilts are highly complementary of each other – the track’s executed so so well. Well enough to not matter if it sounds like anyone else. These Late Nights are spent wandering, always going but never really headed any place in particular. Closure isn’t always guaranteed. (8)

Chris Kelly: Post-‘Fuck You All The Time’, Shlohmo’s Jeremih collabs fell flat. That hasn’t stopped him from trying, though. Tory Lanez is about ten times more interesting as an R&B singer than as a rapper, and his Weekndesque turn on ‘Acting Like’ is further evidence to that. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Wow, ask and ye shall receive — although, if this is for some place softer than the dance floor, I can’t imagine that something with “on fleek” in it isn’t a possible boner-killer. Despite some of the lackluster qualities of the aforementioned Jeremih-Shlohmo EP, this is strident proof that he can really tailor his sound to a killer bedroom jam and Lanez’s voice is indelibly smooth. A perfect mood-setter for the kind of make-out that has you gasping for air. (7.5)

Anupa Mistry: Tory’s a better rapper than singer and this Shlohmo beat would’ve been better serviced by PartyNextDoor or Kehlani or even Ty $ — someone with a bit of edge to their singing. While I’m here, let me also add that while I know very obvious links can be made between this song and the Weeknd and PND, Toronto musicians are doing a lot more than just mouth-breathing on tracks. (3)


Final scores:

AJ Tracey – ‘Champions League’ (7.5)
M.E.S.H. – ‘Epithet’ (7.2)
Tory Lanez/Shlohmo – ‘Acting Like’ (6.6)
Mila J – ‘Freaknic’ (6.4)
Popcaan – ‘Never Sober’ (6)
Beck – ‘Dreams’ (4.6)

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