Singles Club I by I 10.01.17

Singles Club: Ed Sheeran has discovered dembow, people

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

Welcome back to the clerrrrb. For a second there we thought nothing interesting was going to drop during the first week back at skool, but then a babyfaced sixth former with bad tattoos went tropical house, a Hyperdub mysteryman popped out of his bunker, and we got reacquainted with Jens Lekman.

Plus: Migos just got us even more hyped for their new album, Dirty Projectors continue their comeback and Kehlani starts 2017 the right way.

Dirty Projectors – ‘Little Bubble’

Chris Kelly: ‘Little Bubble’ is a lot closer to Dirty Projectors’ highest highs – and significantly more honest and vulnerable – than last year’s ‘Keep Your Name’. I don’t know if the timeline works out, but I’ll chalk it up to David Longstreth completing the circle of Solange’s ‘Stillness In The Move’ cover by contributing to her 2016 masterwork A Seat at the Table. ‘Little Bubble’ shares a soulful groove with ‘Stillness’ and deftly contrasts a hopefully nostalgic verse with one that wishes for death. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Holy cow this is stunning – another lush, depressive tumble through imploding romance under Longstreth’s lens, whose deeply lived genre amalgamations and careful crooning continue to shift into stunning shapes. Sadness rarely sounds as essential as this. (9)

April Clare Welsh: Dirty Projectors are one of those ATP-ready bands that I tried so hard to like but just couldn’t get into and I’m not sure why. I even remember lying to my ex about liking Dirty Projectors to impress them, which is pretty sad. Nothing has changed – I’m still a pathological liar and even harder to please, so this has gone straight over my head. (4)

Son Raw: Ever since Stillness is the Move, Dirty Projectors have stood out from their more, shall we say, “eggshell” peers in the US indie scene, something that serves them well now that everyone’s traded in their guitars for the bluffer’s guide to Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Unfortunately, this suffers from the same problems as every other “alt” R&B jam getting pumped out by late ‘00s survivors – it’s about as sexy as being dragged up to someone’s apartment only to be read their in-progress master’s thesis. You’re not making indie any better, you’re making R&B worse. (2)


Ed Sheeran – ‘Shape of You’

Chris Kelly: You know the dancehall invasion is complete to the point of meaninglessness when Ed fucking Sheeran is wining his pale-ass body to dembow. This one was apparently written with Rihanna in mind; next time, go with your first instinct, Ed, because the biggest crime here isn’t having to listen, but imagining Ed Sheeran having sex. (4)

April Clare Welsh: I kind of respect Ed Sheeran for tapping up tropical house a year too late because he can do whatever the fuck he wants and people will still love him. I just find everything about him completely confounding. He’s so nauseatingly nice that you kind of hope/assume he’s ripping the wings off butterflies every night while listening to Lil Peep. He also writes some of the worst lyrics in pop music and ‘Shape of You’ is a prime example: “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover / So the bar is where I go / Me and my friends at the table doing shots / Drinking faster and then we talk slow.” (4)

Son Raw: Well, at least this isn’t cloyingly earnest as Dirty Projectors, but it’s otherwise worse in every possible way and several impossible ones, reminding us that Ed Sheeran is basically our generation’s Rod Stewart and we’ll probably be stuck with him as long as the boomers were with the original. No amount of hanging out with Big Narstie gives you the cred to make a mock island song with that hook and ooh-aaa-ooh-aaa backing vocals, bro. (1)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘Shape of You’ grows from the never-ending neon chimes loop already familiar from the million or so times it’s been used on Snapchat (SHAMELESS PLUG: Follow me on Snapchat at danmontedona), but never finds a stronger hook. Also, it’s Ed attempting slick sex chat which is always… awkward. You’ll be fine sticking with ‘Thinking of You’, to be played at weddings until the end of time. I love that song. I may sing it on Snapchat. (Follow follow follow follow meeee.) (6)


Quarta330 – ‘Yatagarasu’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The main focus is on those Mega Drive synths, but as somebody that suffered through the weakest of chiptune ‘bangers’, the focus here has to be on the heavy kick that drives ‘Yatagarasu’ onward – and this composition jumps over its fate as a dainty nostalgia object because of it. Let that last 20 seconds of drums, skittering like horror movie breaths, ring out. (8)

Miles Bowe: You wouldn’t expect Hyperdub’s first move of 2017 to be the return of Quarta330, but it’s certainly enjoyable. Those gritty 8-bit textures make a welcome return, glowering like a haunted GameBoy, even if the whole track ends up sounding a little like Ratatat. It’s not revelatory, but this EP should still be fun. (6)

Son Raw: This reminded me to catch on my Adventure Time viewing, and that’s an extremely positive association. Boldly blowing past footwork’s usual tempo, this is hyperactive to a fault but maintains the same sense of Sega Genesis funk that made Quarta’s dubstep era work for Hyperdub so compelling the first go around. (8)

Chris Kelly: I knew all this obsessing over video game soundtracks was going to blow back in our faces, and now we have the beginnings of a chiptune revival. There’s a bit of Hyperdub’s wonky, footwork-inspired triplet attack in ‘Yatagarasu’, but that’s the only development in the Quarta330 sound. Video games (and their soundtracks) continue to evolve and explore new territory; not so much of that here. 8-bit? More like two-bit. (2)


Migos – ‘T-Shirt’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Production duo Nard & B are two undersung pieces of the modern mainstream hip-hop scene – the glue that sticks together many artists’ records. They don’t quite get recognised for their durability. ‘T-Shirt’ is one of their great beats, a swirling echo chamber full of strangled chirping and elegantly unfurling chord structures. Migos are Migos – always pleasing, sneakily great at a turn of phrase and melodic combinations – but Nard & B deserve credit for their work. Also, it has to be said that the video is a better hard-times-in-the-snow movie than The Revenant. (8)

Son Raw: So a solid 95% of that Golden Globes audience had no idea who Migos were, and that, in a nutshell, is why I don’t watch American prestige cinema. This isn’t quite the perfection of ‘Bad and Boujee’, but then few things are. Instead, it’s extra fuel to the wildfire that is the (justified) Migos hype, as they claim their place in the national mainstream. Ingenious “fur trapper” visual pun in the video too. My French Canadian side approves. (9)

Miles Bowe: If The Revenant had replaced Leo and Tom Hardy with Migos it wouldn’t have lost the Oscar to boring-ass Spotlight. ‘Bad And Boujee’ was amazing, but here they reach the same heights while effortlessly surfing on trippy backwards synths. At this rate, the new album is gonna hit harder than a CGI bear. (8)

Chris Kelly: ‘Bad and Boujee’ hasn’t even completed its meme-inspiring, chart dominating, Golden Globe shout-out phase, and the Migos are already back at it. Nard & B production? D4L reference? Designed to make “do it for the culture” heads explode? Check, check, checkmate. Also: the lyric is “woah kemosabe” but I’m going with “woke kemosabe.” (8)


Kehlani – ‘Undercover’

Chris Kelly: Finally: a Kehlani single that delivers on her promise. ‘Undercover’ gives a modern touch to a millennial pop-R&B melody, is more propulsive than the Jhene Aiko-ish stuff she often falls back on, and keeps her vocals upfront and in her modest comfort zone. Kehlani has earned her “No Fucks Given” attitude; here’s to more songs like this on SweetSexySavage. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I think I may overthink Kehlani’s career trajectory on the Singles Club as much as I used to overthink Tinashe’s and the two internet-savvy musicians share an ability to just power through with strong music. With what feels like the seventieth drop from her debut album, ‘Undercover’ brings more of the artist at her sunniest, and her Oakland sunshine vibes are the type of thing an overly murky R&B scene could do with at this moment. (7)

April Clare Welsh: To borrow from Limmy’s recent techno homage to Turkish Delight, this is nice and I like it. I would listen to it again, maybe while browsing online for something else. (4)

Son Raw: That bass rumble on the hook! I (almost) feel bad for this week’s R&B pretenders – they’re lucky I listened to their songs first because their attempts sound even worse next to Kehlani’s brilliant update to the classic 106 & Park formula. This ticks every box – syncopation, low end, swagger and the breezy energy that should carry Kehlani far if there’s any justice in the pop world. (8)


Jens Lekman – ‘What’s That Perfume That You Wear’

Miles Bowe: Few songwriters can slip so much bitterness and devastation into such a sweet package as Jens Lekman. After such a long silence following his semi-disappointing last album, the weepy strings and Avalanches-style sampling of ‘What’s That Perfume You Wear’ is an overdue return to what Jens does so well. It’s tacky and silly and overdramatic, the perfect concoction to break your guard down and drive a line like “At least it was real, if it could hurt like that” like a stake into your heart. His best song in nearly a decade. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After he fell into wonderfully articulated misery on 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, I had accepted that we wouldn’t get Lekman back on a track with a real pulse in the style of his chintzy classic ‘Sipping on the Sweet Nectar’ – but here he is with an immediate indie disco classic. Welcome back, Jens’ mojo! (8)

Son Raw: Those verse lyrics are on the wrong side of ridiculous but that’s a hell of a hook and the beat knocks, at least until the choir-n-string breakdown anyways. Over-ambition hurts this one but you’ll hardly notice in a good DJ mix, it’s natural home. (6)

Chris Kelly: “Sad song, major key” is an old trick and it works here, if you’re into ABBA and Balearic disco-pop. That’s a pass for me, and while it doesn’t really apply to this song specifically, may I add this. (5)


Final scores:

Migos – ‘T-Shirt’ (8.25)
Jens Lekman – ‘What’s That Perfume That You Wear’ (7)
Kehlani – ‘Undercover’ (6.5)
Quarta330 – ‘Yatagarasu’ (6)
Dirty Projectors – ‘Little Bubble’ (5.5)
Ed Sheeran – ‘Shape of You’ (3.75)



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