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Bars: Shut up and lose yourself to this week’s staggering new tracks, February 3

Missy Elliott, Kehlani, Jimi Tents, Mac Demarco, and Barclay Crenshaw are the perfect pick-me-up

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If you’re reading this then you’re probably at a crossroads in your life. Maybe you’re sick of your job. Maybe that co-worker you’re desperate to talk to just got in a relationship. Perhaps you were disappointed by Triple J’s Hottest 100 for the tenth year in a row. Either way, life has you down in the dumps without a rope to hang on to. But I understand what’s going on here. Trust me. I once did Psychology in year 10. I’ve seen the symptoms and I know how to treat it. I’m sorry to say but severe bouts of the blues require a full weekend of treatment. Listen carefully, the doctor’s in. First, I recommend a three-and-a-half-minute dose of Jimi Tents, to drain all the sadness and earn back some vitality. Friday night should then consist of bangers from the best, that being Missy Elliott. Saturday, you may still find yourself in a funk. The only way to beat this is more funk. Barclay Crenshaw and his futuristic funk to be precise. Now comes Saturday night, and Kehlani is certainly the kick-up-the-arse you need. When seedy Sunday rolls around Mac Demarco and his gorgeous, lullaby voice will be there to soothe the headache and get you optimistic about the coming Monday. I’m not sure what to prescribe for the next week. See a doctor or something?

If you want to put us on to your favourite new tracks, send your tips to [email protected]

01. Barclay Crenshaw - 'U Are In My System (feat. The Cool Kids)'

Not since Kool Keith’s sociopathic alter-ego Dr Octagon has an artist evoked the tricky theme of alien intelligence. Barclay Crenshaw even takes a step further on ‘U Are In My System’ and warps his voice to the point where it sounds like an alien supercomputer translating otherworldly languages for unsuspecting humans. That being, there are many parallels you can draw between these two artists. Both are clearly pushing an alter-ego – Crenshaw worked under the title of Claude VonStroke – and moved onto stranger territories. Furthermore, both use the lyrical extrapolation of hip hop to unravel the unknown. Without the Cool Kids trading verses on the existence of E.T. or not being surprised if that new girl “ask where the cash at?” the track would play like an oddball SoundCloud piece. Given dextrous style of production and inhuman execution, Crenshaw manages to achieve something rare in modern hip hop, leave planet Earth.



02. Jimi Tents - 'Should've Called Pt. 2 (feat. saidbysed)'

Jimi Tents is an East New York youngster with a chip on his shoulder. So, it’s not surprising that ‘Should’ve Called Pt. 2’ is a three-and-a-half-minute airing of grievances. But even with a “stuck to the floor/ I’m grieving” attitude, there’s still an uplifting tone to this track. This is the kind of number that would’ve been stuck between two Slim Shady pro-arson, comedy relief tracks 10 years ago. It’s downtrodden, but also seems necessary for emotional balance. “I can’t control my demons/ I like to hide my problems/ Sometimes I choke on reefer/ So much beyond my mind.” Even through this bout of self-flagellation, the gentle production and saidbysed’s choral harmonies retort a grim reality. This would all seem overwhelming on an individual-level were it not for Tents’ lyrical prowess and unflinching flow.


03. Kehlani - 'Undercover'

You might feel the need to wince as soon as the acoustic guitars start playing on Kehlani’s latest number, ‘Undercover’ – it ain’t 2003 anymore people, this ain’t Justified people – but the chorus should remove any reservations. This thing goes. The choral bass – dammit people, that choral bass – will blast holes in your spine while Kehlani’s vocals blast your pathetic heart. There’s no denying ‘Undercover’ resembles a turn-of-the-millennium bubble-gum pop nugget. But the 21-year-old executes the track with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, albeit humming with youthful exuberance. With a theme of clandestine intimacy and a “fuck it” attitude (literally) Kehlani shows the world she can put her money where her mouth is. If she’s going to sing about secret love and hitting “that 6-9, yeah, that FaceTime”, then the vocals should be just as seductive.


04. Mac DeMarco - 'My Old Man'

“Oh no, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me.” As Mac DeMarco’s young career struts forward, his insecurities become more and more transparent. Another One was the closest fans have come to seeing the Canadian singer-songwriter bare his soul. ‘My Old Man’ seems like a natural progression. Loneliness can be cured, but ageing is a cruel reality. While this doesn’t affect the warmth of the track, it’s still as minimal as DeMarco gets. A lone acoustic guitar and drum machine jaunt under DeMarco’s gorgeous vocals. Simple enough, but there’s always something simmering under the surface. When he sings “Look in the mirror/ Who do you see? / Someone familiar/ But surely not me,” you can almost picture DeMarco sitting in his home studio, looking at a mirror dead-ahead and feeling the lyrics just fall from his mouth. A gap-tooth grin would almost certainly follow.

05. Missy Elliott - 'I'm Better (feat. Lamb)'

At the turn-of-the-millennium, Missy Elliott was so far ahead of the game it was embarrassing for everyone else. Her tracks strutted through airplay with a confidence and foresight few other artists in the dial-up-modem era possessed. Her music was also otherworldly; jittery and at times incoherent. None of this stopped Missy from being a radio smash. But neither did it stop the hordes of biters and copycats violently latching on to the ‘next hot thing’. In 2017, Missy Elliott’s music is right at home and no one can touch her. While not as instant as ‘WTF (Where They From)’ or ‘Pep Rally’, ‘I’m Better’ is still an excellent track. Missy has never tried to make “instant” music. At first listen her biggest hits in ‘Work It’ and ‘Get Ur Freak On’ are hypnotic. ‘I’m Better’ swaps the eye-crossing Timbaland production for Lamb’s murky trap approach, one that buzzes with nervous energy.  Missy’s flow is also perfectly executed. She sounds as volatile as ever, even as she compares herself to “Bruce Lee on the beat”.