Janine and The Mixtape, otherwise known as Janine Foster, started off playing open mic nights in her native Auckland when she was just 14 years old. It wasn’t long before she’d concocted her own unique blend of pop, soul and R&B. She released Dark Mind on her own label, Little Mixtapes Records, back in 2013, but it was re-released by Atlantic Records back on November 4th, 2014.
If you’re a fan of Jessie Ware or Tinashe, this one is a must have; Janine is almost like a cross between the two, though her sound isn’t that of a copycat but a truly original, visionary artist. It’s also nothing short of luxurious, her gentle as a warm breeze vocals elegantly floating above crisp, punchy, almost hip-hop beats, soothing one’s soul as one listens.
The EP opens with the trippy “Bullets,” which could easily serve as a lullaby if you took away the beats. “I’m still counting bullets,” she sings. “One by one by one.” If you like Dawn Richard’s album Blackheart then this one will sweep you away like a most pleasant daydream. It’s a bit more accessible though, which is hardly a bad thing; it only ensures that you’ll love it from the very first time you hear it.
“Dark Mind” follows with heavier beats in the vein of FKA twigs, sonorous enough that they’d serve well with hip-hop over them. Said beats also call to mind Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die album. Every time I listen to it, I find my head swaying back and forth. It’s so hypnotic that it commands you to do so.
Janine’s voice is smooth as cream cheese frosting atop red velvet cake on the touching ballad “Hold Me,” which is as haunting as they come. “Give me something good to feel / Touch me so I know it’s real / Never want to ask for help / But I’ma ask’m this time,” she sings pleadingly. There’s also a version of this one featuring Pusha T available individually and it’s definitely worthy of your attention, his rap parts fitting in nicely both in tone and in terms of the lyrics.
The trip-hop flavored “Let It Run” features snappy beats and barely audible vocals before gliding into the first verse. But even the verses are hard to make out, sounding like they’re off in the distance. It’s as though Janine is a ghost, trying to make her voice heard to the living from beyond. To that end, there’s something slightly chilling to this one. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it disturbing, but it does send a shiver up my spine sometimes.
Finally, the EP closes with “Little Bit,” a super synthy number that manages to sound like ’80’s and modern R&B all at once. “I was taken by a stranger and left with an enemy / Even though he’s put away he still lives inside of me,” she sings with a bitterness befitting the lyrics in her voice. During the chorus, she’s practically spitting venom. It’s easily the darkest track on Dark Mind and it’s also its best.
Janine and The Mixtape is the sort of artist I started Love is Pop to tell people about. She might be on a major label now but her music is as independent and visionary as they come.