Singles Club I by I 12.09.17

Singles Club: St. Vincent doesn’t hold back on her scathing salute to LA

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

This week, there’s a scathing new single from St. Vincent’s upcoming MASSEDUCTION album and hardcore punk-infused trance from Lorenzo Senni, while Nile Rodgers assists George Michael on ‘Fantasy’, the first posthumous single from the late pop icon.

Elsewhere, the lights are on but no one’s home for Sia and ZAYN on ‘Dusk Till Dawn’, while SZA continues to make a play for the modern R&B crown with new track ‘Quicksand’. What did our reviewers make of them all? Let’s find out.

St. Vincent – ‘Los Ageless’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I was struck by how mournful Annie Clark sounded on previous MASSEDUCTION single ‘New York’, a type of pained performance that cut too close to the bone. ‘Los Ageless’ swerves away from that grief with pure pop propulsion, quietLOUDquiet exchanged for audio warfare loudLOUDERLOUDEST. The song slowly collapses underneath Clark, as she near-whispers “I try to write you a love song, but it comes out a lament,” and the depressive pulse takes over, as blunt as it is satisfying. (7)

Carl Anka: I’ve spoken before about how St. Vincent’s music is arguably the worst part of the St. Vincent brand, but hot dang we finally have a winner! This is finely-tuned, pitch-perfect pop artistry. (9)

Tayyab Amin: It sounds like this relationship is eating her alive but all I can think about listening to this is just, holy hell, St. Vincent is electric! She captures the spirit of LA alongside her own tormented love and malaise in a story that can’t be told so much as it’s to be shouted with two full lungs. (8)

Jibril Yassin: This sounds much like a cut from St. Vincent’s self-titled album, complete with skronky guitar moments, but the beating heart is a pop one, built on a descending melody. I’m still on the fence about Jack Antonoff’s involvement on this album, but thankfully ‘Los Ageless’ is an example of when his presence doesn’t leave a song dull. (7)


Lorenzo Senni – ‘The Shape of Trance To Come’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Senni’s latest release takes influences from “punk hardcore straight-edge.” As a former punk hardcore straight-edge myself, I can’t say there’s much crossover, although the relentlessness of the track’s pulse does bring to mind the hyperactive windmilling arm dances of my youth. Perhaps I’m projecting – but this does have an idealistic heart beating through the haze and the neon, and when you have THAT much heart, you can crib from Refused (who cribbed from Ornette Coleman) all you want. (7)

Carl Anka There’s a real scrambled feel to Italian producer Lorenzo’s work, which often has a degree of organised chaos to it, made up on the fly: “okay that button… and now that slider, and hit that horn…. now!” Whatever spontaneous method it is he’s employing though, it’s killer: his scattershot beats always charm and enchant. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Senni’s vision of a future utopia emphasizes the emotional nuances that are so often present yet understated in more maximalist trance. Through tracks that are simultaneously rooted in nostalgic retro-futurism, the present and the future itself, it feels as if that future is already here for us to seek out. I’ll report back on that after I mash this tune up with some Ornette Coleman. (9)

Jibril Yassin: Wow, can’t believe Lorenzo really saved trance in 2017. ‘The Shape of Trance to Come’ deserves props for taking trance music – one of the few things people still can’t admit to publicly liking – and transforming it into something dangerous and exciting, even if numerous jaw-dropping climaxes had to be inserted for this to happen. (8)


George Michael – ‘Fantasy’ feat. Nile Rodgers

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is mad corny ghost music, and Nile’s appreciation of any payday in return for half-thought studio disco is the type of thing that cheapens two musical legacies at the one time. This is bad, people! Listen to ‘Fastlove’ instead! That song is perfect! (2)

Carl Anka: Originally an old B-side to ‘Freedom’, this release claims to have re-recorded vocals and new guitar riffs from Rodgers, but it doesn’t really work. Rodgers’ disco riffs only underline the absence of George. We’re not getting this collaboration for any other reason than some suits wanted to make money. (5)

Tayyab Amin: I see my mortal enemy of 2014, “feat. Nile Rodgers”, is back to haunt us all. Okay, maybe I really do hate fun, but check out that warped vocal sample, the cacophonic intro and that revoltingly pedestrian record artwork and ask yourself – how could they do our late legend George Michael like this? It’s as if this entire release is some twisted attempt to sabotage the best thing it has going for it: George Michael’s incredible voice. (3)

Jibril Yassin: It’s refreshing to hear a rework with a considerable amount of restraint. Both Nile Rodgers and George Michael have put in work: the former smart to insert a more propulsive rhythm section and enough signature guitar while avoiding having it sound much like the worst of 2014 (those vocal edits though… yugh!) and the latter with an ostensibly recorded vocal that sounds like it could have been recorded in 1990 or 2016. (8)


ZAYN – ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ feat. Sia

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Sia’s control + OTT melodrama and ZAYN’s echo-aesthetic R&B are here to cancel each other out! (4)

Carl Anka: ZAYN is once again the least interesting thing about his music, but that’s sort of the point. The video is pretty mediocre too, but considering it’s directed by Marc Webb, he of two horrible Spider-Man reboot movies fame, that shouldn’t be a surprise. This song will sell gangbusters and feature on a film soundtrack in a scene with lots of rain. (4)

Tayyab Amin: So immense has Sia’s impact on chart music been, that as she continues to craft pop, collaborate with others and pretty much prop up various stars’ careers, she risks coming full circle and sounding like a weaker copy of herself. Sia’s voice is sure to be synonymous with any impression of generic pop from the mid-2010s in our memories and the fact that I’m only talking about her says everything about ZAYN’s lack of presence on here. This track was made for one of the Transformer movie sequels from years gone by. (4)

Jibril Yassin: Zayn Malik having his stage name in all caps feels weird when he comes across as entirely anonymous in his music. It’s especially frustrating hearing him get swallowed up on a power ballad knowing that he has the vocal pipes to make it work – he displayed it in his old band, so why not here? (3)


SZA – ‘Quicksand’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Maybe I need to get over my SZA scepticism, because this is a real grower: lithe, fun, emotionally complicated. I like. (7)

Carl Anka: ‘Quicksand’ could have easily slotted in on CTRL, but instead The First Lady of TDE saved it for the OST release of Insecure season 2. The vocal melodies are on point, production takes a summery ‘70s vibe. It’s one hell of a flex to leave a track this good off your debut album, but SZA does what she wants and we love her for it. (7)

Tayyab Amin: All this time I thought I wanted more Nostalgia, Ultra Frank Ocean, when it was SZA on ‘Quicksand’ I needed all along. Summer’s moving into autumn and this one’s right on time. (8)

Jibril Yassin: SZA had one of the best albums of 2017 and ‘Quicksand’ continues the hot streak of excellent music. Calling it a CTRL leftover feels denigrating; SZA floats over a DJ Dahi beat that could pass for future funk, her flows skirting and dodging as she sounds equally vulnerable and sincere. When she settles in for a groove during the chorus, confessing her fears of love, it comes across like a personal moment that feels amazing to witness. Here’s hoping SZA season continues throughout the rest of the year. (8)


Lunice – ‘Dropdown’ feat. Le1f

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: More so than Denzel Curry and his buddies, Le1f is acquitted to ride whatever jerky stuffed-glove-compartment electronica Lunice throws at him: and look, he swims where others could sink! It helps that Lunice has calmed down somewhat since dropping ‘Distrust’, but amongst all the clatter, only just. (6)

Carl Anka: Ah, this is a fun jangle. Le1f is firing on all cylinders off what sounds like a luxury N64 soundboard from Lunice. Not quite a club banger, but something primed for a hip-hop dance crew. (7)

Tayyab Amin: There’s a simple litmus test that anyone who’s seen Lunice perform can conduct to determine if a tune bangs or not: stick it on, close your eyes and picture whether he’d ditch the decks, come to the front of the stage and go HAM to it. Le1f’s vocal stunts, aquatic FX and a mallet melody to lose your mind ensure this passes with flying colours. Straddling club and trap with a grime-y synth caught in the middle makes this an enticing track to mix styles with. (8)

Jibril Yassin: ‘Dropdown’ is an example of ridiculous, next-level trap albeit with the edges rounded off, a relative low-key track in the context of CCCLX. The real magic comes from co-producers SOPHIE and S-Type whose contributions keep this feeling interesting albeit off-kilter and rapper Le1f who turns in a monster of a vocal and makes the track his proverbial home in a series of fleeting moments. (7)


Final scores:
St. Vincent – ‘Los Ageless’ (7.75)
Lorenzo Senni – ‘The Shape of Trance To Come’ (7.75)

George Michael – ‘Fantasy’ feat. Nile Rodgers (4.5)
ZAYN – ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ feat. Sia (3.75)
SZA – ‘Quicksand’ (7.5)
Lunice – ‘Dropdown’ feat. Le1f (7)



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