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It's not too late to fall in love with Sharaya J's Missy Elliott-directed 'Takin' It No More'/'Shut It Down' video

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Missy Elliott hasn’t released an album in nearly a decade. As a fan, that can be hard to deal with, especially as other rap and R&B stars of the early ’00s have mounted comebacks over the past few years. But as frustrating as the lack of a new Elliott LP has been, it’s hard to argue with the admittedly well-deserved semi-retirement she’s been enjoying, casually jumping on tracks for old friends, releasing the occasional hot new thing whenever the mood strikes her, and not really sweating career stuff.

Recently she’s taken on Jersey artist Sharaya J as a protege, performing with her at the afterparty for an Alexander Wang runway show and even making a video for her. Back at the end of September, Sharaya J released a diptych video for her songs “Takin’ It No More” and “Shut It Down,” which Elliott co-directed and executive produced. It’s Elliott’s first time directing, as she admitted last night on Twitter, but she’s obviously learned a lot from starring in videos, and the results of her debut effort are way more impressive than the average novice. It helps that Sharaya J is a superstar just waiting to happen, with intense vocal and dance skills matched by a charisma that blasts out of the screen with an almost palpable force.

She also seems to have inherited Elliott’s frenetically experimental streak—there aren’t many artists out there who have the skills or even the inclination to pull off choreography that incorporates real-time sign language translations into their dance moves.

The “Takin’ It No More”/”Shut It Down” video has been out for over a month now, and so far it’s only racked up a little over 100 thousand views, which is only a tiny fraction of what it deserves. A month may seem like a million years in today’s hyperkinetic pop landscape, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to fall in love with it.

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The Paperhead shares what they've been listening to in the van

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The Paperhead is frequently grouped in with Nashville’s vigorous garage rock scene, but the band actually draws less from The Stones and The Seeds than it does from a period of the late ’60s and early ’70s where whimsical psychedelia and pastoral folk met up with rock’s push toward more sophisticated songwriting.

Their new Africa Avenue LP (out now on the buzzy Chicago label Trouble in Mind) is full of giddily tripped-out pop hooks and unexpected sharp turns that have made them one of the most talked-about rock bands of the moment. They just wrapped up their latest tour, and they’ve shared with EW a playlist of what they’ve been listening to in the van.

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Stream singer-songwriter Pisces' luminous new LP

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On much of her self-titled debut LP, singer-songwriter Sarah Negahdari–the front person for the band Happy Hollows who also records under the name Pisces–sounds something like an L.A.-ified reincarnation of Nick Drake, with the same delicate, dreamy take on folk music but sunny Laurel Canyon vibes taking the place of Drake’s very British gloom. The Pisces LP, featuring the hard-to-shake single “Being With You,” came out last week. You can stream it here or buy it on Bandcamp.

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It's ghouls' night out in Johnny Aries' 'This Grave Is My Bed Tonight' video

Johnny-Aries

Last year, erstwhile Two Wounded Birds front man Johnny Aries moved from London to New York in order to join up with his former tour mates The Drums. Along with playing on their most recent album, Encyclopedia, Aries has also written and recorded his first solo LP, Unbloomedsince his relocation.

Combining punchy pop with a bit of gothy postpunk edge, it’s like a trip back in time to the period in the ’80s where alternative youth culture was ruled by swooning, floppy-haired Smiths fans.

The video for its lead single, “This Grave Is My Bed Tonight,” underlines that aspect by slapping some vampiric makeup on Aries and friends and sending them out onto the streets of New York.

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Ryan Hemsworth talks about his new direction on 'Alone for the First Time'

Ryan Hemsworth has spent the past several years doing exactly what a young producer working on the increasingly blurry border between dance music and hip-hop should do to advance his career: playing for an adoring underground fan base while also booking bigger and bigger EDM festivals and assembling a portfolio of high-profile remixes for clients like Cat Power and Frank Ocean.

According to the producer playbook, his next move should have been to cash in all the professional capital he’s accumulated to pack an album of expansive, dance-friendly pop and rap with enough guest stars to attract attention from mainstream listeners. Instead, next week he’ll release Alone for the First Time, a collection of subdued pop songs with a decidedly organic feel, created alongside cult artists like Dawn Golden and The GTW who many listeners have probably never heard of. It’s a decision he’s extremely happy with.

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Sara Jackson-Holman releases a spooky Natasha Kmeto remix of 'Haunt Me'

In its original form, which you can hear on her River Queen EP, Sara Jackson-Holman’s “Haunt Me” is an airy piano ballad that shows off her knack for catchy melodies and interesting, unfussy arrangements, and is considerably cheerier than its title suggests.

In the hands of fellow Portlander Natasha Kmeto, whose dark but danceable electronic compositions might seem a world away from Jackson-Holman (but are actually strangely complementary), it becomes something much more, well, haunting. It should come in handy when you make your playlist of songs to get spookily down to this weekend.

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T-Pain's Auto-Tune-free Tiny Desk Concert will blow your mind

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On the surface, T-Pain may seem like an exceedingly odd choice for one of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, not only because the series usually focuses on rootsy singer-songwriters and indie rockers, but because his Auto-Tune-drenched signature sound seems wildly incompatible with the type of stripped-down intimacy the whole premise is founded on. But two things a lot of people don’t realize about T-Pain are that 1. behind the top hats and stripper lyrics he’s actually an incredibly talented musician, and 2. perhaps even more surprisingly, behind all that Auto-Tune he’s a phenomenally talented singer. READ FULL STORY

FKA Twigs gets severely creepy in her 'Video Girl' video

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Last week, avant-R&B cosmonaut FKA Twigs released a video she directed for Google Glass that used a reworked version of “Video Girl” from her recent, EW-beloved LP1 as the soundtrack (along with the song “Glass & Patron”) for a hallucinatory dance-off between multiples Twigses. It served as a showcase for both her impressive dance moves and her equally refined sense of the surreal, but that wasn’t the end of the song’s video presence.

Wednesday morning, Twigs released the official “Video Girl” video, and it’s a whole world apart from the comparably conventional Google Glass clip and its white-room choreography. Directed by Kahlil Joseph, it trades in the lush, color-drenched psychedelia of her “Two Weeks” visual for harsh black-and-white, with the singer playing some kind of otherworldly presence haunting a prison and a man who’s being executed there. It’s an unsettling viewing experience that combines the most disturbing aspects of J-horror and Mulholland Drive, and it climaxes with Twigs straddling a dying man strapped down to a table with a tube of poison running into his arm. All in all, it delivers about 10 times as much creepiness as any horror movie this year in just a fraction of the time.

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Mykki Blanco on Gay Dog Food and why you shouldn't call him a gay rapper

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Michael Quattlebaum Jr., better known as Mykki Blanco, is a singular presence in hip-hop, not just because he’s part of the first wave of openly queer rappers to gain traction with an audience outside the queer community but simply because there’s no other hip-hop artists who look, sound, or act like him. On his new mixtape Gay Dog Food he shows off some of the blunt-instrument flow that he built his reputation on, but spends far more time channeling Iggy Pop with an elastic sprechgesang that he uses to deliver hallucinatory lyrics about freaks, drugs, and kinky sex, wallowing in transgressive behavior with manic glee over beats engineered for maximum sonic filth. It’s one of the year’s most bracing rap records, and signals Mykki Blanco’s elevation from a new artist to keep an eye out for to an icon who demands attention. A few days before Gay Dog Food‘s release EW spoke to him by phone about where’s he’s been and where’ he’s heading.

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Stream Chance the Rapper tourmate Sweater Beats's fizzy 'Cloud City' EP

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In the two years since his single “MLLN DLLR” put him on the map Brooklyn beat maker Antonio Cuna, a.k.a. Sweater Beats, has accumulated an enviable list of co-signs from important figures in EDM and hip-hop, the two genres that he blends in his music to giddy, effervescent effect. He’s been big-upped by Diplo, performed for Boiler Room, and toured with Chet Faker, Flume, and Chicago star-in-the-making Chance the Rapper, who he’s on the road with right now.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 28, the Huh What & Where label will release a free-to-download EP entitled Cloud City that whips together club rap, trap music, a little electropop, and a touch of ambient atmosphere into four frothy tracks that bang hard but stay airy and light. Until then, you can stream it here.

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