The best (and worst) new singles: Ferla, Angel Olsen and a mediocre Machine Gun Kelly
17.08.2021

The best (and worst) new singles: Ferla, Angel Olsen and a mediocre Machine Gun Kelly

Ferla
Words by August Billy

There’s some great tracks and one not so good.

Our singles column fires up for another fortnight with spots for Ferla, Machine Gun Kelly, Beks, and Angel Olsen. We’ll let you decide which artists hit the spot and which ones didn’t.

Best

Ferla – ‘I See You’

Along with being a limber-footed, indie-disco delight, Ferla’s ‘I See You’ is an act of community service. As vocalist Giuliano Ferla shapeshifts between many of contemporary life’s toxic components – claiming to be “deaths in custody”, “plastic floating in the sea” and “condescension to the poor” – he brings a touch of gravitas to our daily frustrations.

Though, you get the sense he’s not trying to invoke guilt or instil perspective. ‘I See You’ feels rooted in the absurd – what an absurd world we’ve created where, on the one hand, we’re acutely aware of rampant injustice and degradation and yet, on the other, we have effortless access to such wonders of pop songcraft as ‘I See You’.

It’s the band’s best work to date – bring on the new album, please.

Worst

Machine Gun Kelly – ‘papercuts’

To be fair to Machine Gun Kelly, “Hello world, you fuckin’ suck” is kind of a great line. But as the lone moment of playful novelty in the rapper-cum-pop punker’s new single, ‘papercuts’, it’s not enough to rescue the song from miserablist mediocrity.

MGK does not sound happy on ‘papercuts’ and we should be careful of making light of someone’s suffering. But it’s hard to shake the impression that ‘papercuts’ is the sound of a high school band with a million dollar budget. 

MGK’s angst feels completely self-serving; there’s no statement here, no indication of what might need improving. The line, “They wanted them, but they got us” is possibly a contrived attempt at optimism, but it falls flat, along with the rest of this trudging pop punk power ballad. 

Ecstasy

Beks – ‘Devoted’

For a defiant kiss-off to a lousy ex-lover, Beks’ ‘Devoted’ sure is an ecstatic piece of pop music. It’s pure pop, shiny, glittery, plastic and fun, but not overcooked or giving strenuous chase to the zeitgeist. 

In fact, ‘Devoted’ could comfortably slot in alongside the four mega-singles from Kylie’s Fever (2001), but that’s not to deny the distinction of Beks’ artistic project. In her hands, making brightly-lit pop music is an act of rebellion and self-liberation. With ‘Devoted’, we’re all reaping the rewards.

Escape

Angel Olsen – ‘The Safety Dance’

Released in 1982, ‘The Safety Dance’ defines the legacy of Canadian new wave act, Men Without Hats. The group also had a hit with ‘Pop Goes the World’ in 1987 and remains a going concern, with a couple of new albums expected this year. But when you write something as undeniable as the forward-moving, synth-stacked ‘The Safety Dance’, it’s hard to live down. 

Angel Olsen redesigns the song with a flourish of laidback, cinematic atmosphere, forgoing the more straightforward drum machine grooves of the original. All of the original melodies are preserved, but in Olsen’s rendering, ‘The Safety Dance’ become a dreamlike fantasia, gestural, understated and a wonderful place to visit.