“I’m having rap-rock flashbacks”: Future, PJ Harvey and more reviewed in FACT Singles Club

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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 it’s for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. Rated and slated this time: Future, PJ Harvey, Primal Scream & Sky Ferreira, Tessela and more.

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PJ Harvey – ‘The Wheel’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The Artist I Enjoy Nicknaming Big Peej has been seemingly great forever, so it should come as no shock that ‘The Wheel’ is really quite terrific. Atop handclap percussion and a devilish guitar lick, Harvey draws on global horrors with a poetic, wondrous gaze, standing at a distance and seeing each one fade to the background. Then she vanishes, the song close behind, point proved. (8)

Chris Kelly: After getting political on Let England Shake, PJ Harvey got closer to the action — literally — for The Hope Six Demolition Project. The intensity of witnessing the effects of atrocities in Kosovo and Afghanistan brings ‘The Wheel’ to life, those 28,000 children a stand-in for either soldiers or street workers or the victims of gun violence — it doesn’t really matter which, does it? (9)

April Clare Welsh: The Queen of Really Great Ideas But Really Boring Songs is back. (4)

Aurora Mitchell: When Let England Shake was universally loved and praised, I felt like an alien who was listening to a completely different transmission. Listening to this makes me feel exactly the same way. There are no tones or shades for me, just this one continuous flatlining drone. Feel a bit sleepy now. (3)

Son Raw: This could have dropped 20 years ago but that’s not a problem coming from PJ Harvey. My main issue here is the booming production: it doesn’t sound like a real room but it’s not quite the impossible digital creation we’re accustomed to from Pro Tools rock. I never thought I’d say this, but… needs more Steve Albini. (7)

Tayyab Amin: What I find most striking about this single is how well PJ Harvey cultivates the passivity of people looking on in the face of inhumanity: “I heard it was 28,000.” Whilst I find that line irksome musically, it really taps into the news-of-the-day mentality we’re cultured in within a small talk/current affairs conversation context (outside of social media, at any rate.) PJ Harvey’s own voice is passive too, and I can’t help but wish she’d make a clearer case against the way we reduce inflicted horrors to tragedies. (6)


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4Minute – ‘Hate’

Chris Kelly: I’ve been reading “K-pop Is The Next Big Thing” thinkpieces for about three years now, and I still don’t buy it. I guess we’re reviewing this because of Skrillex’s involvement, but I’m not adding this to his post-dubstep successes: the gently wub-wubbed verses are forgettable, and that festival trap chorus has nothing on ‘Hello Bitches’. (5)

Aurora Mitchell: The start of this is so good, it’s a soothing, sad piano K-pop ballad, but then the chorus kicks in and they start shout-singing and some obnoxious horns come in and I’m thinking NOT ANOTHER ICONA POP. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I can usually take or leave 4Minute, but after rapper Hyuna’s stonking ‘Roll Deep’ from last summer, I had high hopes for hearing new material from the group. Alas, ‘Hate’ never goes anywhere beyond the industry cool points earned by hosting a Skrillex co-sign, which is undoubtedly the reason we’re paying attention to this song. As a marketing tactic, it’s already worked; as a song, it’s beneath the performers and producer, a real sludge to wade through. (3)

April Clare Welsh: This is (almost) four minutes of glorious pop-prog theatrics: an OTT, full-throttle, tearing-at-your-heartstrings, slapping-you-in-the-face kind of symphony that’s like Evanescence with a dubstep wobble. Hate transcends all language barriers. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I’m fully floored by the bait-and-switch and I’m way too gassed to sit on it for too long ‘cause Skrillex popstep ain’t my thing these days. This lot came out so strong that they made me forget I don’t really like the music, I’ll applaud that. (7)

Son Raw: I was hoping for an Orwell reference but the fact that this achieves the same effect unintentionally is all the sweeter. I can’t argue with the execution: this packs more ideas per minute than anything coming out of the west, but we know that formula by now and half a decade removed from Girl Unit’s ‘Wut’, poppy electronic trap has lost all currency. Like being force-fed candy. (6)


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Tessela – ‘With Patsy’

Tayyab Amin: The bleep test, techno edition. You can properly feel it when Tessela shifts gears: the clatter, the clamour, the fucking elephant being swung by its trunk – yes come on! (8)

Chris Kelly: While I prefer Tessela in full-on rave nostalgia mode, there’s plenty to dig into here as he gradually builds this techno roller into a monster. Those hoover-ish squeals are particularly jarring — in a good way. (7)

Son Raw: You’ve got to subtract the first and last two minutes here since only DJs will ever hear something this tracky outside of the mix. Even by those generous standards though, this is a bit too linear and lacks the junglist energy that powers Tess’ best material, but it wouldn’t push me off the floor either. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This rattles – and hard – but leaves as quick as a sugar high, with only your ringing ears to account for. (6)

Aurora Mitchell: I was just sitting zoning out to this track, thinking, this new Tessela KICKS. It’s rainforest techno that makes me want to dance in a dark room filled with beautiful plants. Losing myself as the weight of that kick drum filters through my body and that crunchy, roaring siren makes me do a double take in the dance. Then my dad comes in and goes, “this sounds like a whole bunch of seagulls screaming their heads off for 10 minutes.” Cool. (9)

April Clare Welsh: Nothing like a blast of steamy tropical techno to make you berate the absolute bleak disgusting hell of a Monday morning, gale force Imogen [That’s the storm we’re currently enjoying, non-UK people – Ed.]. Those elephant trumpets sound like an MBV creation, but Kevin Shields will never know the Tessela world of needle-sharp precision. (8)


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Future – ‘Fly Shit Only’

Tayyab Amin: At first I was having rap-rock flashbacks but I’ve really fallen for the way DJ Spinz brings cymbal crashes into the beat. His whole production on this is pure, explosive gravitas – the whirring, the croons in the background, those strings at the climax; it’s the movie that Future claims to live. Future is in that phase now where he really is stunting on pretty much everyone but still has that hunger. “Maybe one day I’mma get out the drank / And maybe one day we can fuck in the bank,” he briefly considers, teasing with uncertainty. You’re compelled to feel sure of him either way. (9)

Chris Kelly: Future lays out lavish life imagery (translators for models, fucking in banks, etc.) better than anyone, but this DJ Spinz beat isn’t sure what it wants to be, with layers of trance filters, cinematic strings and an in-the-red beat over that guitar riff, and Future gets lost in it at times. Like Future himself in his post-Honest phase, it’s a glorious mess, but at a certain point, quality control has got to be an issue. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Guitarzzz 4 2016! Is it just me or does a intro sound a teensy bit like ‘Street Spirit’? I haven’t listened to EVOL yet but I’m already feeling kinda dizzy from this. (6)

Aurora Mitchell: I know that Future’s new album title EVOL represents ‘love’ backwards but part of me wants it to be in homage to Sonic Youth. Damn though, this is a banger and a half. “I take my drugs in doses,” he starts off, sounding eerily like Dean Blunt. The kind of track that makes me wish I could drive so I could go for a spin in the dark at 80mph with it on blast. Who knew guitars could sound so good under trap snares? (8)

Son Raw: Future grabs Sonic Youth’s album title, New Order’s cover art and Allan Parsons (via Michael Jordan)’s guitars and not only does it work, it’s absolutely fantastic. So many questions here: is the grab for “white” signifiers a knowing nod, or is he just making this shit up as he goes along? Is this what Lil Wayne was going for on his ill-fated rock project? Is my enjoying a grunge-rap song with gated trance synths a sign of the forthcoming apocalypse? (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s becoming harder to pick certain Future songs as ‘the single’ because everything he makes these days seems inseparable from its album-orientated home. The closer from his surprise EVOL album is yet another successful, sunglasses-clad drain of Actavis, but finds Future overlapping his own lines with each delivery, multi-tracked vocals showing a racing mind hard at work. The hook sticks to three words and three words only, his mind seemingly able to chill for a brief moment and run on autopilot. And the fact that I wrote this much for this song despite it being Future on autopilot is a sign to how good his run is at present. (7)


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Primal Scream & Sky Ferreira – ‘Where The Light Gets In’

April Clare Welsh: Oh Sky, what have you done? Seriously, this is pass-the-sick-bucket gross, and dripping with sleaze, but I’m almost hoping it’s too pointless to actually have any kind of negative impact on her career. (3)

Chris Kelly: Primal Scream and Sky Ferreira doing their version of a Fleetwood Mac duet is a fine enough one-off, but I’m much more interested in hearing Ferreira than Bobby Gillespie and company at this point. Here’s hoping Masochism isn’t delayed for as long as her last album. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Well, this is buoyant. Are indie discos still a thing? They should be for this song to really take off. (7)

Aurora Mitchell: This reminds me of the vocal dynamic between Win and Regine from Arcade Fire. There’s some vocal chemistry between Bobby Gillespie and Sky Ferreira that really works, but it’s not enough to lift the track up from being average at best. And it definitely comes nowhere near to the electric, all-consuming, fun, unpredictable energy that oozed from her collab with supreme douchebag Ariel Pink. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Nah, this is the kind of nameless, faceless song slotted into a movie climax where the main characters are triumphantly lipsing in the crowd of some gig or whatever. A crucial moment, but you won’t remember how it sounded. (3)

Son Raw: Canny pairing here: Bobby Gillespie’s faux 60s croon is the perfect foil to Sky’s sweetness, and this has gobs of melody – rock music that’s actually having FUN instead of “fun” with three layers of disclaimers surrounding it! Yeah, it’s music that my dad could like but visiting the folks would be more fun if he put this on. (8)


Bobby Brackins feat. Ty Dolla $ign – ‘Faithful’

Aurora Mitchell: Basically a sequel to Chris Brown’s ‘Loyal’. Ty Dolla is on fire at the moment though. (5)

Tayyab Amin: Does this sound like another any Dolla $ign hook, written-by-Brackins tune? Yeah, sure, but that’s why it absolutely slaps. It’s a formula I remain totally down with (though it’s still early days in 2016). That synth loop is solid too – out with the lasers, in with the fireworks. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This sounds like it was written and produced on Ty’s lunch/smoke break, which is great because it shows how relentless that man is with hooks but bad because you spend most of the song praying for the sleazy Noughties Nate Dogg to reappear. (5)

Chris Kelly: Bobby, Ty and Nic Nac is a winning combination, and ‘Faithful’ is ‘Loyal’ without all the baggage (read: Chris Brown). This one deserves to be a song of summer, because it’s still ridiculous that — despite having Zendaya and Jeremih on it — ‘My Jam’ wasn’t a hit. (9)

April Clare Welsh: This is prime student clubnight fodder, with a suitable amount of pretty obvious references to pretty obvious sex. (5)

Son Raw: Ty’s had better hooks and has worked with better voices. Meanwhile the beat proves DJ Mustard’s move house-ward correct: his old style’s played out, rendered fat and flabby by imitators who forgot that it’s the sheer sparseness of his beats that made his West Coast run so memorable. This fills up every empty space but still somehow has little to say. (4)


Final scores:

Future – ‘Fly Shit Only’ (7.7)
Tessela – ‘With Patsy’ (7.2)
PJ Harvey – ‘The Wheel’ (6.2)
Bobby Brackins feat. Ty Dolla $ign – ‘Faithful’ (6)
4Minute – ‘Hate’ (5.3)
Primal Scream & Sky Ferreira – ‘Where The Light Gets In’ (5.2)

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