A soul-baring project that thrives on honesty...

“Who the fuck are ya?” Hak Baker asks, breathing life into ‘Cool Kids’ - the ethereal curtain raiser of latest EP ‘Misled’. It’s a question the G-folk pioneer’s deeply personal music has always interrogated, and across the project’s six tracks his reflections are more profound and visceral than ever.

Sonically, he floats into new territory on opener ‘Cool Kids’, trading his guitar for dreamy electronics. It beats with the pulse of a mellow, golden-hour dance cut as Hak ruminates on the loss of childhood innocence on the Isle of Dogs. “Hard times make a lad vulgar” he observes, as factors out of his control - poverty and an absent father - help shape him into a teenage drug dealer.

That theme continues on the EP’s lead single ‘Cop Car’ as he moves from selling puff to coke while evading police, to help his mum pay for a car which will get her to work. Descriptions of plugging drugs and hopping fences to avoid arrest are juxtaposed with the track’s playful, nursery rhyme-like melody, masking the degradation and violence of such memories.  

‘Stay Alive’ and ‘Irrelevant Elephant’ are especially poignant offerings, where the addiction and grief he battles with is at the forefront of his writing. There’s a beautiful discord to the former, it’s chords reflecting chaotic thoughts as he describes dreams of dead mates, a kitchen sink filled with vomit and promises to leave the drink alone. In contrast, the song’s refrain is brightened by a choral lightness, a nod to a childhood spent singing in church. “Stay alive” Hak gently urges himself and anyone else who’s struggling. On the latter, his vocals are haunting and refined as he explores the “decadent elephant” of alcoholism that darkens his days. “All I want to do is continue to bloom,” he admits.

Musically, ‘Misled’ closes on a warmer note. ‘Borrowed Time’ is carried by sun-kissed strings and joyful horns as Hak seeks to make peace with the habits that have threatened to consume him. Lyrically, the rawness remains though. “When you look in me eyes, I’m alive to look back only on some days,” he sings. The project then ends with a quiet exhalation of breath, and perhaps with that, an expulsion of his demons too.

8/10

Words: Robert Kazandjian

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