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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: Naughty Boy & Beyoncé, DOOM & Ghostface, Laurel Halo, Special Request and more.

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Naughty Boy – ‘Runnin’ (Lose it All)’ (ft. Beyoncé, Arrow Benjamin)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It must take a lot of chutzpah to tell one of the world’s most famous women to sound as much like Jess Glynne as possible, right? (4)

Son Raw: Calling this sort of melismatic fireworks show engaging is like saying McDonalds tastes good: sort of, but it’s also frankensteined in a lab and absolutely terrible for you – and not just because both spike your blood pressure. Meanwhile, all I can think about when I hear those poor, limp, break beats is that Goldie has a point. We’re a long way from Metalheadz and we’re all poorer for it. (2)

April Clare Welsh: It’s great when the little guy finally gets his moment in the spotlight and Naughty Boy certainly deserves his. He’s turned his hand to some great stuff over the years – Susan Boyle, anyone? – but it’s times like these I start to query my own capacity for feeling. Am I dead inside? Why does this song wash over me in feeble trickles of emotion rather than envelop me in gushing waves of sentiment? Am I missing something? As a piece of polished chart-ready music it’s flawless, but it does little to stoke the dying embers of my cold cold heart. (4)

Tayyab Amin: These crossover tracks tend to introduce up-and-coming pop singers, right? ‘Latch’? ‘Hot Right Now’? This track is well within that tier, so how they’ve got Beyoncé for this I just don’t know. It’s pretty devoid of character, as strong as the vocals are. Drums are weak to me as well – let’s be real, ‘Never Be Your Woman’ only ever sold because of Shy FX’s amazing remix which they chose for the video. This’ll do the job, do the numbers but it’s no modern classic. And the video is basically a jeans advert. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: Beyoncé is way too dynamic for a power vox feature on a mediocre pop-EDM pseudo-ballad. This is like when she tricked us into thinking ‘Standing on the Sun’ was what we were meant to expect from her following album and then we got the mastery that is BEYONCÉ. It’s a one-listener. Next, please. (4)


DOOM & Ghostface – ‘Lively Hood’

April Clare Welsh: These guys have so much chemistry I can practically see the sparks flying off my screen. It’s alive! (but “evil lurks in the shadow”) and DOOM’s thudding, portentous beat is crushing NYC underfoot like he’s Godzilla, with Ghostface narrating the apocalypse. This track is pure drama – and in thrall to the concept that what’s worth having can certainly be worth waiting for. DOOMsparks, more like. (8)

Son Raw: Awkward truth: Action Bronson was right – Ghost ain’t spitting like he used to. I’ll take the man’s 93-06 run up over any emcee’s from any era, but since then he’s retreated into cliché goonery over off-brand beats. This is a man whose abstract phrasings were on par with Young Thug’s post-verbal gymnastics 10 years ahead of time, but now all he does is threaten to kill you. DOOM’s not quite so bad and the beat’s exactly what these guys need to spit on, but there’s no escaping the fact that everyone here cares more about cashing checks than writing rhymes. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: As the primary representative of Recovering New York Old Heads At FACT (hi Geng!), I should be slobbering over this kind of Ghostfacing, but it is just so unbelievably boring to me because it’s just fine. It’s the epitome of status quo. But, you know what? It’s pretty cool we’ve entered into the ‘Anybody Seen My Baby?’ era, where “old school” artists can keep putting out material without having to be current. What DOOM and Ghost do is very sonically specific and it would be a huge bummer if they tried to keep up being anything but themselves. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘Songs about New York’ has been its own hip-hop sub-genre for years, a traditionally celebratory song model that now acts as a tool for 90s revivalists and stubborn people to grump about how Swizz Beatz’s keyboards heralded the end of days in 1998. Despite an old head status, Ghost rarely ever sounded like one of those grumps (despite his now-dated complaints about D4L on ‘The Champ’), probably because he was always heading in a more esoteric direction than his peers. ‘Lively Hood’ is an interesting entry into the sub-genre, in part because of its beat – a discombobulated piece of razzmatazz – and the inclusion of DOOM, who ironically seems less bound to a city or region than perhaps any other rapper alive. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Rough and blunt introduction to NYC, the city that never sleeps nor stops being talked about, over a cypher-ready instrumental. I realised I’m all for rap intros to narrative premises when last year’s Tokyo Tribe kicked off with one. Ghostface is one of my favourite storytellers but he sounds like he’s telling a story even when he isn’t. DOOM might be the greatest descriptive rapper and he can say a fake-deep amount under Twitter-friendly word count constraints. That said, their slightly-above-average days are better than most rappers’ best, and I’m nodding my head long after the music’s stopped. (8)


Laurel Halo – ’Situation’

Son Raw: This is Laurel Halo’s most Hyperdub sounding material yet so it’s odd to see her make the leap to Honest Jon’s. I’m absolutely rating those shifting, shuffling drums with those chords – the results sound like a rougher, rawer take on Livity Sound’s junglist techno. (8)

April Clare Welsh: This is like a dubby, interspecial call-and-response; the death-rattle of an anthropomorphic robot spliced with the chirruping coos of some field recorded dolphin sonar. It bristles with restless energy and is rich with identity; every new listen brings fresh discoveries, a bit like an archaeological dig, I imagine. This song wouldn’t feel out of place in the British Library Sounds archive but Honest Jon’s will do nicely. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: An EQ test, but at least a beautifully mixed and mastered one. (5)

Tayyab Amin: How does she do it? Those wubs and glitches, the whistles and continuously-morphing keys – a properly off-kilter shuffle of a collage. I want more, so it’s definitely doing its job as record preview and opener. It lies in wait, it takes its time and it compels us to do the same; patiently playful, daring and smart. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: Synth wisps in the wind! While those off-kilter flourishes are nice, they are the only immediately memorable part of the track. The beats are solid, but I could use a little more. This is another instance where context is probably key, though, and I bet it’s going to sound awesome in a darker, hotter room than where the bright, person-less one I sit in to complain about electronic music. (6)


Decka – ‘Escalation’

April Claire Welsh: I like my Berlin (via Bristol) techno with a heavy dose of anxiety and this slab of the crunchy crunchy variety makes me want to bite the skin off my fingers and scratch my eyes till they bleed. In the best possible way, of course. I love the dank atmosphere and the frigid space this song creates – it’s like the freezing cold corner of a huge room – and the sputtering beats are kept in check by the syncopated ones. Dynamic! (8)

Son Raw: If this were any more of a tool, it’d be sold in hardware stores and branded by Black & Decker. It’s high quality though – I can picture myself sweating in a warehouse to this and it’ll work just as well in a straight techno set as in weird 130BPM bass music sessions. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Decka’s insistence on tripping himself up while juggling different drum tempos is fascinating to listen to, and more fun than it would appear. By the time he’s gotten a handle on these click-clacking sounds, however, the thrill has gone. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: Another one that must be much better in the club, but the percussion is so strong that I can appreciate it without the extra ~vibes~. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Bangin’, clangin’, brilliant whirlwind of a tune. The Matrix-looking record sleeve is suitable for a weapon so ready to soundtrack high-octane experiences. I can feel the concrete walls around me being pounded with the rollicking, relentless weight. It’s got me throwing my shoulders, I’m down. (9)


Special Request – ‘Amnesia’

Son Raw: The two-minute build up did nothing for me but all is forgiven the moment that vocal sample hits – Beyonce and Naughty Boy could learn a thing or two here. I wish Special Request would get past the retro pastiche because there’s so many ideas in his tracks that would be more powerful blended with contemporary contexts, but I dare you not gurn like it’s 92 when that piano loop comes in. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘Amnesia’ is an amusing title, seeing how Paul Woolford wants you to remember the sonics of sub-cultures past by incorporating rave, bass and jungle aesthetics into a big, hearty mix. It doesn’t feel like Woolford is blinded by nostalgia or is aiming to sneeringly disassemble the tropes of Nineties dance music: he just loves this sound, and it shines through. (7)

Tayyab Amin: It sounds tight but it’s quite vanilla too. For me, this is a little confusing. I can’t tell whether I should be feeling euphoric or ready to go deep into it, the bass and the slow breaks give the track a lurching feeling whereas the piano and vocals are almost radio-friendly. Woolford’s mixing plenty of his talents in here and it beiges out. (6)

April Clare Welsh: I found it hard to listen to the first five seconds of this song and not instantly think of ‘Fool’s Gold’ but maybe I should stop killing my brain cells with Stone Roses records because this sounds nothing like them. It does sound it’s been dug up from the dawn of rave though and the Special Request moniker, big soulful vocals and piano flourishes certainly compound this further. (8)


YGG – ‘Okay’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The way these three MCs and the bouncy beat play off one another in a way that takes me back to Heartless Crew, but Bushkin and Moe didn’t spit quite like these guys can. Saint takes it with nostalgia about caneroll and multi-coloured kicks, if you’re keeping score. (7)

Son Raw: ANTHEM ALERT – THIS IS NOT A DRILL. If punters aren’t singing along to every word here by this time next week, the game’s fucked. My sole complaint about grime’s new emcees has been the emphasis on bars over personality, but YGG sound like they’re having the time of their young lives on this one. Large up Moony as well: just when you think London’s getting a bit heady with experimental eski and weightless mixes, a bunch of kids bring it right back to weird, mutant 2-step with one of the catchiest club tracks since ‘Boo You’. (10)

Tayyab Amin: Shout out to Moony on the beat – I rinsed the hell out of ‘Heavy’ last year. The flows on this one are nice, man said, “I was trying to turn pesto to peso.” I’m really into this, just finding it hard to talk about it because I just heard our prime minister allegedly once got busy with a dead pig. Going off this track alone, I’d rather have YGG running things up there, nevermind the club things they’ve clearly got on lock. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: Is “pesto” British slang for pounds or is this just another GRIME FOOD REFERENCE FOR THE GRIME FOOD REFERENCE CANON? Regardless, the chemistry here is unimpeachable and this gets increasingly more fun with each spin. Looking forward to what else these guys have in store for the rest of 2015. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Sometimes you need a break from the seriousness of it all and this track shows off the fruity, bouncy side of grime that comes at you from a different angle. It’s catchy as fuck. Make some space! (8)


Final scores:

YGG – ‘Okay’ (8)
Decka – ‘Escalation’ (7.2)
Special Request – ‘Amnesia’ (7.2)
Laurel Halo – ’Situation’ (7)
DOOM & Ghostface – ‘Lively Hood’ (6.4)
Naughty Boy – ‘Runnin’ (Lose it All)’ (ft. Beyoncé, Arrow Benjamin) (3.8)

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