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Singles Club: James Blake is asleep at the wheel on ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, our writers rate and slate the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

This week, James Blake returns to his experimental roots with comeback single ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ and unlikely lads Sting and Shaggy team up for new single ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’.

Elsewhere, A$AP Rocky gives Dean Blunt and Arca a nod with his Ambien-rap loosie ‘Money Bags Freestyle’, Alice Glass unleashes an electro-industrial battle-cry with ‘Cease and Desist’ and Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods persona finally slides into view. Also – member George FitzGerald?! Dive into the week’s hottest singles below.

James Blake – ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’

John Twells: I’ll admit, it took me a minute to realize that YouTube wasn’t having buffering problems. But no amount of studio trickery will wake up this snoozer. The beat’s interesting enough to begin with, but ‘If the Car…’ is another grey slog from an artist whose best work is an ever more distant memory. (4)

Chal Ravens: The vocal science feels a bit heavy-handed, but maybe that’s because it feels like such a throwback to his early singles? The lyric is memorable, though, so a point for that. It’s funny how much he sounds like ANOHNI after all the warbling and pitch-shifting, too. I don’t know! My thoughts cannot congeal around it for some reason. He’s a slippery bugger. (5)

Scott Wilson: Although there’s been flashes of the genius James Blake used to be a few times since he decided to become a neo-soul crooner, this is the first solo track of his since 2010’s ‘Klavierwerke’ that I’ve not actively hated. He’s become impossibly saccharine to deal with over consecutive albums, so this return to relative abstraction – even if it is still a little too sickly sweet at the climax – works nicely for me. I don’t know if this is a permanent direction or a temporary diversion, but for now at least, it’s good to have old James Blake back. (7)

April Clare Welsh: I simply cannot abide Blake’s wilting piano man persona most of the time, so this is a semi-welcome change from the open-hearted minimalism that we have been subjected to in varying degrees. However, there’s still something lacking for me here. Yeah, the pitch-shifting and glitches give it a certain amount of crunch, but at the same time it all feels at odds with the track’s squeaky clean casing, which has been scrubbed within an inch of its life. (5)


Sting & Shaggy – ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’

Scott Wilson: I’m finding it so hard to understand 1) what led to this collaboration and 2) why it ever got the stage of a whole album being made. The whole thing feels like a desperate Alan Partridge pitch that got picked up by a dying music industry looking for something – ANYTHING – to catch our attention. Once you’ve got past that, this song itself could be much worse, I guess? Having said that, Shaggy deserves better than to be consigned to the Radio 2 playlist, which is where this material will inevitably find a home. (3)

John Twells: The only thing I’m waiting for now is the end of the world. Are the missiles flying yet? Why not? (0)

Chal Ravens: Incredible they didn’t think of this in the mid-90s when their shared stock was considerably higher, but the pairing makes a weird kind of sense: Sting made a career off bastardizing Jamaican music, of course, while Shaggy is best known as being, erm, a bit of a bastard from Jamaica (“caught red-handed” and all of that). This is a horrible cultural cut-and-shut of plodding rock drums and only the faintest whiff of a reggae lilt – neither one nor the other, rhythmically, but with significant potential on the commercial radio market I suspect. Bad but logical. (3)

April Clare Welsh: Don’t make me wait… for this song to not absolutely suck? For someone to finally explain the point of Sting to me? For a gap yah student called Henry to play this off his iPhone on Bondi Beach? The only thing worse than this song is… nothing. (0)


A$AP Rocky – ‘Money Bags Freestyle’ (Dean Blunt Meditation)

Chal Ravens: Is this for real? Wow. Wish I could time travel back to 2011 to tell myself about this one – the peak of my A$AP adoration and the beginning of an ongoing fascination with Deano. Works for me – I think Rocky’s a little bit underrated in terms of his taste for weird beats. In another life he’d have been more of a Danny Brown character maybe, but he just can’t resist that #fashion life. It’s that dissonance that makes for an interesting collaboration, of course, which is no doubt what Dean Blunt was going for. Could listen to more of this. (6)

April Clare Welsh: A$AP Rocky has been keeping it experimental with his new tracks, but this is the aural equivalent of a sleepy English village. Five points for sampling Dean Blunt and Arca though. (5)

John Twells: It’s 2018 and A$AP Rocky is hinting at the future by jumping on a 2016 Dean Blunt beat? WATTBA. (1)

Scott Wilson: It’s crazy that US rap royalty hasn’t come knocking at Dean Blunt’s door until now, but Deano deserves better than a lazy A$AP Rocky freestyle over a two-year-old track. Let me know when he’s producing a Kanye album or something. (3)


Alice Glass – ‘Cease and Desist’

April Clare Welsh: This is a fairly retro battle-cry, but delivered with the zeal of someone who clearly isn’t done yet. I’m so glad Alice Glass finally freed herself from that scumbag – there’s nothing like an abrasive blast of electro-industrial clamour to lance the boil of hate – and I’m very willing to stick along for the ride while she figures out her winning formula. (6)

Chal Ravens: It would be great to see Alice Glass go stratospheric now she’s severed herself from Crystal Castles, but I’m not sure she’s going to do it with this very nuts-and-bolts electro-punk missile – although the lyrics have the right amount of autobiographical bite: “Honestly, you’re never the victim / Honestly, you have to fight.” I mean, it reminds me of indie-raves of yore – around the time Crystal Castles first appeared, in fact – and it’s a bit weird that her sound still slots into the 2007 zeitgeist, but it’s short and sweet and her very existence is appreciated. (5)

Scott Wilson: This track is the perfect mix of riot grrrl, electroclash, noise rock and the sort of teen-friendly rock Paramore was knocking out back in 2007. It sounds a little dated, yes, but what it lacks in originality Glass more than makes up for in sheer energy. (7)

John Twells: Better than Crystal Castles, but haven’t we heard this before? (4)


Justin Timberlake – ‘Say Something’ feat. Chris Stapleton

John Twells: Seeing JT bash away at a Maschine in the video is pretty funny, but it just looks like a Native Instruments advert and then transitions into a song… that sounds like Blake Shelton rewriting a Bon Iver track from memory. It reminds me of what Dirty Projectors did with Black Flag on Rise Above, but without the good bits. (2)

Scott Wilson: I know we shouldn’t be looking to Justin Timberlake to be a paragon of liberal virtue, but there’s something a little off about dressing yourself up in a flannel shirt, rebranding as a rootsy Americana artist and writing songs about doomsday prepping at a time when white supremacy is alarmingly rampant. This song is called ‘Say Something’ yet it says absolutely nothing at all: nothing about the turbulent era we live in, nothing about Timberlake’s politics and, on a basic level, nothing about the human condition. It is – like Timberlake’s non-stance on working with Woody Allen – a cop-out. (0)

April Clare Welsh: Is this the Bear Grylls of pop moment we have been waiting to jump on, or what’s actually going on here? Because I wouldn’t bring a Maschine to the woods. JT is in full Embarrassing Dad Music mode and John is right – the video literally looks like a gear ad. (2)

Chal Ravens: Struggling to summon the energy for another JT dispatch after last week’s epic, but look, my role in this scenario is to act as an unwavering cheerleader for one of my all-time faves, a commitment boosted, as I mentioned previously, by finally seeing him in the flesh last year. And I lost my shit. Re: ‘Say Something’, this whole, “oh, Justin’s gone country, Justin’s gone white” response to Man of the Woods is interesting but sort of misses the fact that several massive pop hits of recent years have leaned on country tropes: this shit is straight-up bankable, as Beyonce (‘Daddy Issues’) and Avicii & Aloe Blacc (‘Wake Me Up’) can tell you. Issue with ‘Say Something’ is it’s really very boring, but I like the way it’s presented as a live performance in the vid. Still cheerin’ for ya, JT! Go team! (5)


George FitzGerald & Lil Silva – ‘Roll Back’

Scott Wilson: I don’t care what anyone thinks, I liked George FitzGerald’s old stuff, even if it was just ‘Hyph Mngo’ served in slightly different ways. I’m not sure what you’d call his current direction – slow house? comedown house? – but it sounds like the kind of soggy dross you’d hear on a Majestic Casual playlist. Also, remember when Lil Silva made this banger? We truly are living in the darkest possible timeline. (1)

Chal Ravens: Wet like the sneeze-soaked tissue up my sleeve. Presumably a five-figure sync deal is coming their way but I can’t find a purpose for it in my own life, unfortch. (3)

John Twells: George Fitzgerald’s vocal is about as MOR as it gets but UK funky survivor Lil Silva’s production elevates this nicely, taking a Stranger Things-esque arpeggiated analog synth and allowing the beat to build slowly around it. But it’s hardly pushing the envelope (generator). (4)

April Clare Welsh: As limp as a Rich Tea biscuit that’s been left out in the rain. (1)


Final scores:

Final scores:
Alice Glass – ‘Cease and Desist’ (5.5)
James Blake – ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ (5.25)
A$AP Rocky – ‘Money Bags Freestyle’ (Dean Blunt Meditation) (3.75)
Justin Timberlake – ‘Say Something’ feat. Chris Stapleton (2.25)
George FitzGerald & Lil Silva – ‘Roll Back’ (2.25)
Sting & Shaggy – ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ (1.5)



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