Musical whiz kid Mura Masa released his hotly anticipated debut album exactly a month ago, and its contents have had time to soak into the world’s consciousness. To be honest, since most of Alex Crossan's debut album already existed before the release of Mura Masa (some many years — hello, "Firefly"), the final product feels less of a collection and more a charismatic group of singles. But among these brilliant singles (“1 Night”, “Lovesick”), one nondescript track with a relatively unknown artist, managed to stand out amidst established acts like Charli XCX and ASAP Rocky. It’s dance-y and despondent at the same time, a hyper-efficient catharsis in less than four minutes. God bless!
"Helpline", technically spelled with a lowercase ‘h,’ arrives like a garage rock song, only to morph into a poppy drum & bass tour de force. The way it effortlessly harnesses these two genres speaks to Crossan’s musical genius, one which spans far outside of merely the electronic background. The lo-fi, garage rock entrance of the song and its eventual shift into an electronic track takes the listener on a musical history lesson, and speaks to the innovative ways Crossan blends the sounds of the past to those of the present.
Despite its haste, "Helpline" is incredibly confident and forward. Its vocalist, newcomer Tom Tripp, undergoes a transformation himself as the track does its own metamorphosis. Leaving what sounds like an extended voicemail, he arrives in a huff, wondering how he got back home without a cent in his Natwest. The thrumming bass beneath Tripp serves to keep him grounded, and keeps the track moving in a cyclical motion rather than blasting forward. In doing so, “Helpline” establishes Tripp’s conflicting feelings of anxiety and resolve; while he strives to make sense of his evening, he also realizes he may not like the answers he receives.
But as the panic fades and the electro elements enter, Tripp’s voice becomes more reflective and collected, mirroring the track’s own shift from garage punk into something more intimate and electronic. But it does nothing to slow his haste, which suggests it may be the underlying cause of his troubles. Deterred not at all, he asks for guidance on the matter, the doctor who will quell his fever. Whether or not Gina obliges him is up to her, and while he appears calm, the urgency of the track belies the facade
All of this for the mysterious and compelling Gina. Whoever she may be, she's having a lit year so far. From SZA’s CTRL and now to Crossan, Gina gets all over the musical map. On CTRL she receives a boost to her ego, but with Crossan, she instigates a speed boost.
Tripp and Crossan assuredly arrive on beat one, begging Gina for a remedy for their troubles. Even when acknowledging his own faults, Tripp still pushes his luck, sounding slightly wounded as he reaches for those loftier notes. To enhance his agitation, Crossan lines the production with sweeping synths to push Tripp along. Crossan hits you repeatedly with this chorus, because three times is a charm and it's too good not to hear it only twice.
Among the rest of these high profile songs featuring absolute superstars, “Helpline” manages to shine brighter than all of them, playing with an urgency usually absent in Crossan’s typically relaxed productions. This is the type of song you don’t ever want to end, not just because of its extreme catchiness but also because it leaves things relatively unresolved. It pulls you back for listen after listen like a challenge, enjoining you to come to your own conclusions about Tripp and Crossan’s night out. But regardless of the conclusions you come up with, you can comfortably make at least one: this song, at least as far as Mura Masa singles go, deserves heavier rotation.