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: Rihanna & Korn, Lana Del Rey, Future and more.
EVOL – ‘Flapper That’
Son Raw: 00:00: Whoa! This sounds awesome
00:30 Uhh… getting old now.
01:00 Yo, bruh.
2:00 We have a switch!
3:45 This is what candy flipping must feel like.
5:25 Actually, this is what being a modular synth enthusiast must feel like.
7:00 I wonder if I can make a grime bootleg out of this. There’s mad open sounds.
9:56 This had some amazing WTF factor and proceeded to drive it into the ground over the course of 10 minutes. But I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt cause this will do damage at the right rave, in the right DJ’s hands. Don’t leave it on the decks and go for a piss, though. (7)
Brad Stabler: Look, I love techno. I love noise. I love when the two collapse on top of each other and turn into some scary, addictive, but nonetheless groovy shit. But EVOL tries to put something to tape that’s something you should just see live in person, and the result couldn’t be more annoying. (3)
Akash Chohan: Let’s be real, this shouldn’t be clocking in at 10 minutes; a three-minute segment in the middle of a Powell set would fit far more snug. (5)
Anupa Mistry: I’m sure this is excellent under specific conditions (drugs) but I’m sat at my desk at work on a Monday morning and now all I want to do is flip a table and send a 1,000-page Google book to the print queue, just because. If I am unemployed by the end of the week I blame EVOL. (4)
Tayyab Amin: SubhanAllah, this is like a giant gym ball of sound I want to 3D-print and sit on forever. I have a low tolerance for acid but this is far from annoying – these sounds are really entertaining, with their unsteady, irregular gaits. It’s like setting off a bunch of slinkies down a thousand steps and never quite getting to see them inevitably tangle into whimpering disappointments. That said, I might need to hear this bring a Diagonal dance to a bewildering standstill to really get it, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and imagine the moment to clock in at (8).
Claire Lobenfeld I really hate myself because all I can think about is some intrepid idiot mashing this up with ‘Rubberband Man’ because I am pretty sure this is exactly what a rubber band would sound like if it could make beats. This is total bait for little turds like me who need things to “push boundaries” or whatever I am always crying about every time a house song sounds too house-y and I am a little annoyed at myself. But don’t worry, guys, an electronic artist named after my favorite Sonic Youth album just made me realize I am The Madd Rapper of dance music. It’s OK. I promise it’s OK. (5)
Mikey IQ Jones: I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to pretend to “get it” regarding ANY strains of experimental composition or production, and this tows a VERY fine line between pranksterish pisstaking and straight-up laziness for my ears. I can see the pleasure in feeling this pummel you with elasticity in a live context, but listening to 10-plus minutes of nothing but a bobbling cartoon hoover bass isn’t anything to which I need to dedicate any of my time. (3)
Julia Holter – ‘Feel You’
Chal Ravens: I wouldn’t want to call this simplified – songwriting that sounds this “classic” is never usually simple – but it seems as though Holter’s new record is going to be more accessible and less overtly cerebral than 2013’s very acclaimed Loud City Song. Even though she ticks a few boxes for me, she’s never quite become one of my faves, so a move in this direction isn’t going to do the trick – I’d rather listen to Ramona Lisa. (6)
Brad Stabler: Glad to see Holter get herself out of the chamber dirges that sound like prom night at the Overlook Hotel, if only because we get a video that features a pretty badass dog. (6)
Mikey IQ Jones: I was a big fan of Holter’s Tragedy album, its rough-hewn long-form drama nicely updating the pop dreams of the 1970s Soho NYC and Mills College California experimental set; she’s lost my interest more and more with each significant release, though, as each record came delivered in an overthought manifesto that never really seemed necessary in the first place. Listening to this with no ideas of what the surrounding press release might read, it’s a perfectly harmless four minutes of emotive, accomplished pop balladry with a charming baroque flourish, but nothing sticks with me by the song’s end, which leaves me pretty much exactly where I felt at the start: not caring. This floats considerably too far into preciousness for my tastes, though a lot of people are going to be very, VERY excited by this. I predict a tote bag filled with misused grandiose adjectives being tossed around the critical pool like beach toys at a summer music festival. I’ll be sitting near the lifeguard’s chair, blowing a whistle and yelling at everyone to stop running so fast near the deep end. (5)
Akash Chohan: A song that tries to climb air currents to grasp at Ducktails-levels of grandiose but plummets short. Felt nothing after repeated listens. (2)
Son Raw: This totally works for me because it actively engages with Los Angeles’ tradition of grand orchestral pop without subsuming it to the tired, quasi-twee irony that tainted almost every not-quite-psych record of the last decade. Whereas too many of her peers try to be clever, Holter is just consistently better and doesn’t need to obscure her songwriting and arrangements by recording her tracks to a 4-track fed through an elephant’s asshole. (8)
Anupa Mistry: Sometimes it’s difficult to find an entry point to Julia Holter’s music, but ‘Feel You’ is like a shot to the heart. I’m sure the Ekstasis devotees are off in the corner weeping. Perhaps that’s who these particularly sprightly strings are for? Those lovely violin swells are really doing something to me — or maybe it’s the adorable pup traipsing around the music video? It’s like Kanye’s ‘Only One’ video but about hanging out with a cute pet instead of your cute kid. (8)
Claire Lobenfeld Man, Julia Holter’s voice is so lovely but what she does, aesthetically, is so far beyond anything that interests me. This song reminds me of the corporate greeting cards store I worked in during college and I kinda wanna crawl in a hole lest someone taps me on the shoulder to ask about wedding invitations for them. Cool dog, though. (3)
Tayyab Amin: ‘Feel You’ is sonically cinematic – it’d do an amazing job of soundtracking a moment where the protagonist is rejuvenated in the respite of being together, alone. But hear how fantastic Julia Holter is at telling a story! Her words described this memory as fast as her brain can process it, and singing it is what enables her to process it in this circle of realisation. The result is something personal described so vividly we can’t help but feel we are right there, in the scene. I love it. Do you think she would be up for collaborating with Dean Blunt? (8)
Lana Del Rey – ‘Honeymoon’
Akash Chohan: I read Bluets by Maggie Nelson not too long ago. The connection to this song was instantaneous; it’s the kind of book that renders you useless to any benefit of humanity for the short while you’re reading it, similar to the six debilitating minutes of this song where, now, the sonic and print are inseparable. I’d just gotten over it too. (8)
Chal Ravens: She’s gone back to the ridiculous shag-pile melodrama of her early material and I remain unmoved. “There are guns that blaze around you, there are roses in between my thighs”? Yawn. (3)
Mikey IQ Jones: The production’s absolutely lovely, and while we’re not really getting anything that we haven’t heard already from her, I give credit to Lana for getting a generation of insufferably snarky party animals into the sounds of torch songs. When you stop and think about how she’s essentially a gateway drug for young millennials discovering and listening to the likes of Julie London, Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, and Doris Day, she’s actually doing a great service; while she’s nowhere even close to reaching the economy and phrasing of those masters, this is certainly one her most accomplished recordings yet. (7)
Tayyab Amin: Lana Del Rey’s film noir is aesthetically pleasing, sure, but unmemorable and played out, too. It’s hard to get excited about, it’s hard to hear anything more to this than its potential for advertisement use. Bittersweetness, melancholia, uncertainty, tension, longing, resignation – Del Rey seems to try and express these feelings without ever actually communicating them. Whether that’s intentional or not makes no difference to me here, I can’t connect either way. This lacks colour, but black and white doesn’t always mean lacking in colour, and more importantly, doesn’t determine the quality of a film noir piece. ‘Honeymoon’ is flat rather than sparse in its bland solitude, and I won’t be coming back. Del Rey’s harmonising sat pretty nicely at points though. (4)
Claire Lobenfeld I am a Born To Die apologist and then some, but the further away we get from that record, the more confident I am in thinking she was on to something then, and is becoming the actual manifestation of boredom the more music she puts out. I didn’t think it could get more snore-y post-Ultraviolence but ‘Honeymoon’ has proven me wrong. Lana: Where did the camp go? Bring that shit back, it was awesome. This? No, thank you. (3)
Anupa Mistry: Is there actually something to ‘get’ about Lana Del Rey? I find her voice quite beautiful but the character she plays is kind of boring to me/doesn’t appeal to my aesthetic preferences (bygone Americana is not really my thing). ‘Honeymoon’ is quite nice though, especially the harmonies on the chorus. But it’s that slight, unexpected key change toward the end that’s really sublime. I don’t know if I can deal with an album full of this incredibly morose melodrama, but, okay fine, Lana you got me with this one. (7)
Son Raw: Remember what I said about subsuming your music to irony in the last blurb? Yeah, that. I know the Internet has been excessively cruel to Lana Del Ray, but I’m still not convinced she wasn’t conceived in a test tube by a label exec who wanted a drug-free, soul-free Winehouse clone. (3)
Brad Stabler: Speaking of the Overlook… this is actually very good. Would have more thoughts on it if I wasn’t too busy listening to it on repeat late at night and getting lost in it. No longer a hater. (8)
Future – ‘Blow A Bag’
Claire Lobenfeld Can we talk about how when I reviewed Beast Mode on this very website and beseeched Future to let the floodgates open and just be emotional again he DID JUST THAT? Not that this is of the ‘Loveeeeeee Song’ or ‘Neva End’ ilk, but I am just thrilled to live in a world where Dirty Sprite 2 exists and that the most emotionally honest, even when it’s ugly, rapper is so so close to being back to himself. This isn’t as intoxicating as ‘Fuck Up Some Commas’ but I feel like the guy who made Pluto is back from the dead. Thank goodness. (8)
Mikey IQ Jones: And we go from Lana Del Rey’s attempts at Doris Day masquerade into what plays like a modernist cybernetic retrofitting of the torch song. I’m not the biggest fan of Future’s work (true story: one of my colleagues made a Dirty Sprite reference the other day in conversation, and I asked if that was a weird sex thing like I was Liz Lemon in 30 Rock), but I’m feeling this in the context of what else I’ve been hearing in Singles Club this week. Dude still raps like he’s gargling a mouthful of cash, but it’s working in regards to what I think I’m deciphering in the lyrics, and I’m feeling the instrumental’s quicksilver drip-feed dread. Having a summer cold and being slugged out on meds probably helps, but I certainly didn’t make that recommendation, kids. (7)
Brad Stabler: Dirty Sprite 2 is divided into two halves: there’s the first, where Future rides a monotone across nine tracks. Of course, this being Future, him in ‘Diamonds from Africa’ mode for 25 minutes is still pretty dope. Then we get to the second half when ‘Blow a Bag’ comes around, and things start to get darker, weirder and more, uh, not monotone. It’s not ‘Fuck Up Some Commas’ or ‘March Madness’, but as the opener to a run of tracks that can at least match Beast Mode, it’s more than enough. (8)
Akash Chohan: If this particular beat on Dirty Sprite 2 is a soup of purple smoke, Future Hendrix is the bath bomb fizzing and effortlessly gliding over the surface. It’s got the healthy, full bass from the other tracks off the LP, with a longing synth that feels like the music when Kaguya stares at the moon for too long. (7)
Chal Ravens: I’m not really following the recent deluge of Future material but I always like a track that pairs lavish lifestyle talk with a relentlessly bleak instrumental. And hey, I know where “fugazi” comes from now. (5)
Son Raw: Future doubling, nay tripling, down on his street bonafides with his post-Honest, post-Ciara mixtape run is the best of all possible multiverses. ‘Blow a Bag’ is one of the most conventional moments on the tape, so for me, the real conversation is that it’ll lead people to tracks like ‘I Serve The Base’, which somehow reconnects street rap to 2002 era Def Jux production. Like the best rap music, this encourages deeply anti-social behavior and will have genteel types wailing and gnashing their teeth. (7) but the tape is full of (8) and (9) material.
Anupa Mistry: I’m still stuck on the manic top-half of DS2, particularly ‘I Serve The Base’, which is my personal fight anthem for the second half of summer 2015 (stay out of my way!). After that kind of energy, ‘Blow A Bag’ is practically a ballad, but what I do appreciate is the rare moments of (sober-ish) levity this gives to the substance-addled DS2. “If my granddad was livin, I know he’d be proud of me,” Future warbles before he cashes out on the hook. If we were going to pseudo-science Future’s psyche on DS2, one might suggest that shopping is just another form of addiction and emotional transference, and maybe it is (can we not glamorize drug use for one quiet second?), but in Nayvadius’ world it’s also a come-up. (7)
Tayyab Amin: Even after watching some interviews, I find it hard to imagine Future talking without his backing track ad-libs. He’s like a whole team within himself. But he’s got one serious team around him – Southside, Sonny Digital plus a whole lotta Metro Boomin and some more. ‘Blow a Bag’ is all about the squad: the first verse about where he was and who isn’t with him anymore, whose flags he carries with him now; the second is on where he is now, and who he has around him, supporting him. So many of us want to make it, we all have our story, but take a look around right now and in some way or another, we’ve made it. Future advises us to remain humble, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself either – the whole team’s earned it. (8)
Natasha Kmeto – ‘Come and Say’
Anupa Mistry: Yes, this is excellent! Natasha’s been inching toward a more brazen sound for a minute now and I love the narrative arc of writing these insular bedroom jams, excising all the muck of life, for a couple of albums and then bursting cathartically forth both vocally and musically. Those Enter The Void-style synth cascades are everything, particularly on a song that’s essentially a lover’s lament. This album will be something special. (9)
Son Raw: Nothing about an electronic pop song from a Portland-based indie singer whose single debuted on Jezebel sounded remotely good to me on paper, but this is brilliant. Kmeto’s voice is stunningly hi-def and the production is huge without smothering the song’s dynamics. Has the American undergound finally found an alternative to burying their tracks in noise? Between this and Julia Holter, I’m hopeful. (8)
Claire Lobenfeld The hook on this! Nothing about it appeals to my sensibilities but the chorus here is undeniable. (6)
Tayyab Amin: That first pulse of bass melted me with its weighty charm. Kmeto’s voice more powerful and emphatic than I’ve ever heard before, and she puts how packed the track is into perspective with an intro that quickly builds from delayed claps into a full-blown fist-pumping, heart-pounding supernova. The lead synth stab progression is perfect too. ‘Come and Say’ blows down the door and floods the room with vitality. (8)
Chal Ravens: Bigger and glossier than anything on Crisis, which had a real come-under-the-covers intensity to it, but when Kmeto applies the full force of her voice it ends up feeling diluted, like an X-Factor contestant covering Kelela. Bet it would sound great if you slapped a load of Autotune on it, which probably says more about me than her. (5)
Brad Stabler: The Dropping Gems mainstay finally strikes out. (2)
Mikey IQ Jones: I accidentally had this playing in two browser tabs simultaneously at first without catching it, and the slight phase of the double tracked playback was somehow tight enough to sound legit yet completely fucked to a degree that really impressed and knocked me out. Now I’m listening to it as it was meant to be heard, and while I’m still enjoying it, it feels a bit less thrilling, unfortunately. Her voice is arresting, but the production on this does the vocal a bit of a disservice; it sounds too flat, cluttered, and somewhat neutered to support her belter of a performance. Each time that I hear this consecutively, the song’s sheer force of will impresses me less. That’s a shame, because she’s definitely bringing heat. Let’s get some remixes, shall we? (6)
Akash Chohan: If this were released seven years ago as a Fantasy Black Channel Bonus Track I would’ve loved it. (4)
Rihanna – ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ (Korn Remix)
Son Raw: One day, my generation is going to have to come to terms with the fact that a lot of us spent our teenage years listening to nu-metal alongside Timbaland-produced R&B. This is not that day. (2)
Tayyab Amin: I mean, it does sorta go in, doesn’t it? Especially the chorus, that packs a serious punch. I love how the intro’s been twisted into a demented merry-go-round vibe. Hopefully this gets a bunch of 2015 Korn fans into Rihanna, but I’m not totally sure why anyone else would bother with a second round. It’s a nice kind of novelty, but let’s be real – the original didn’t need much doing to it to get people moshing anyhow. (6)
Anupa Mistry: While I do think Rihanna would fuck with this, I don’t. (2)
Mikey IQ Jones: Look, I know that Aaliyah was a big fan of Korn, and that the band (who I’m not hating on) were one of the first to make a legitimate effort to fuse the kindred aggressions of hip-hop and metal together without making a joke of it. But hearing one of Rihanna’s worst songs given the five-string bass abuse… actually makes way more sense than it has any right to. Ri’s song still blows, but at least here it’s clothed in an ensemble that’s giving listeners more respect than the emaciated mess that was the original production. I’m not expecting any Judgement Night soundtrack moves on the album (should it ever see the light of day), but I guess we finally know what the deal was with that Krokus T-shirt Rihanna was wearing for a while. (5)
Claire Lobenfeld This is hilarious because it just sounds like someone smushed a Korn song on top of ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. I’m not mad at these guys for wanting to get in here except WHERE IS THE JONATHAN DAVIS BEAT BOX INTERLUDE OR WHATEVER? THAT IS THE BIGGEST WASTE OF A REALLY BEAUTIFUL OPPORTUNITY! WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY? (4)
Akash Chohan: I wish I could’ve dunked this like Giggs’ favourite brand of digestive into the molten depths of hell – the bottom half containing all of the instruments belonging to said Korn breaking off and falling in. (0)
Chal Ravens: The best thing about this is you just know that Rihanna could make the collaboration a reality in a second and totally pwn the entire history of nu-metal. RAP ROCK ISN’T OVER YET, DAMMIT. (6)
Brad Stabler: Whoever came up with this is an engineering genius. Imagine that: a perfectly produced nu-metal instrumental by has-beens slapped over a Rihanna a cappella like the two were destined for each other. It’s, like, audiophile quality. If you need something to test your PA this should be your new go-to. (5)
Future – ‘Blow A Bag’ (7.1)
Natasha Kmeto – ‘Come and Say’ (6)
Julia Holter – ‘Feel You’ (5.8)
Lana Del Rey – ‘Honeymoon’ (5.4)
EVOL – ‘Flapper That’ (5)
Rihanna – ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ (Korn Remix) (3.8)