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MS MR Plays With Shadows On ‘Secondhand Rapture’

Lilian Min |
May 15, 2013 | 1:59 p.m. PDT

Music Editor

"Secondhand Rapture" is, like its predecessor, candy-colored but very dark. (via Last.fm)
"Secondhand Rapture" is, like its predecessor, candy-colored but very dark. (via Last.fm)
Less than a year ago, MS MR was opening for Marina & the Diamonds. Now, this bewitchingly witchy female vocal-driven act is set to make waves in the music world in much the same way (and with a similar soundscape) as Florence Welch first did when she released “Kiss With A Fist.” 

Originally from NYC, the musical duo MS MR (pronounced “Miss Mister”), made up of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenov, has slowly but surely been making waves in the music world despite the group’s young age—lead single “Hurricane,” with its chilly introspection, was first released in April of last year, while debut EP, “Candy Bar Creep Show” was released in September of 2012 on the band’s Tumblr

ALSO READ: MS MR Get Cozy At The Echo

The band further achieved mainstream recognition when their song “Bones” was used in the first promo for season three of HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones.”

So after much fanfare, MS MR has finally released their first full-length EP, “Secondhand Rapture,” and the new album takes the gothic overtones of “Creep Show” and cranks it up to 11.

Actually, that’s a bit facetious: all of the tracks off of “Creep Show” are present on “Secondhand Rapture.” Living up to the EP's name, all four tracks—“Hurricane,” “Bones,” “Ash Tree Lane,” “Dark Doo Wop”—are spooky tunes brimming with lush instrumentation (special shoutout to the brass on “Ash Tree Lane”) and echoing percussion. But as the name of the album might suggest, the band’s moving past its black kohl-lined roots.

So what of the new stuff on the record? “Fantasy,” the first single off the album, opens up with shimmering organ, but quickly evolves into a bombastic plea for self-realization and, cheesily enough, peace of mind—“Existing and living are not the same.”

The rest of the tracks on “Secondhand Rapture” follow the lead of “Fantasy,” in that they are brighter in tone than the original “Creep Show” tunes but continue the band’s trend of going for darkly illustrative lyrics and soundscapes as thick as taffy.

“Head Is Not My Home” “and “Btsk” are Plapinger’s most Florence-y tunes, in that her voice floats over and apart from the melodic lines. On “Head,” this works in the song’s favor, as Plapinger hollers in the opening of the tune and then coos the chorus of “My mouth, your lips / your hands, my hips.” 

But on “Btsk,” one of the weaker songs of the album, Plapinger doesn’t sound like she’s invested in what she’s singing—as if she herself is still in the tune’s “lavender haze.”

“No Trace,” “Twenty Seven,” and album closer “This Isn’t Control” also adopt this dark detachment. “Twenty Seven” in particular feels really dark and depressing, making it all too possible that the tune’s name is a reference to the 27 Club. (Although it’s fun, in a way, to imagine that the song’s a reference to Taylor Swift’s “22.”)

Though morbidity permeates the entire tune, the second half of it does pick up, as the production swings from meditative to paranoid—it reminded this listener of a Muse production, if Muse focused their anxiety inward instead of out into the nebulous world of conspiracy theories. 

But “No Trace” benefits from Hershenov’s rocking and rolling percussion as the tune goes on, and “This Isn’t Control” has an underlying frenetic feel, like a pot just on the brink of boiling, which keeps the listener on her toes—the album ends not with guns blazing, but guns cocked. 

Where MS MR really shines is with tunes that take the band’s pop instincts and run with them. “Salty Sweet,” with its groovy vibe and handclaps, sounds like a ye-ye tune run through a blender—“Just another pop confession,” albeit it one with a considerable amount of drawling sizzle.

Then there’s “Think Of You.” The lyrics are completely unsubtle in their reference of an abusive lover (despite the tune’s surface-level romantic title), but when Plapinger sings “I still think of you and all the shit you put me through” in the chorus, the song shimmers with what could be considered—GASP!—cheerfulness. It’s the perfect kiss-off song: angry, righteous, and catchy as hell.

It’s a beam of sunshine through a layer of clouds, and shows a promise that hey, when MS MR gets out of their emotional funk and flux, they really can deliver on the rapture they promise.

“Secondhand Rapture” is a cynical response to a quintessentially twentysomething question: “What else is out there?” Even the tunes that sound like pseudo-dream pop productions are uncomfortably morbid, but it’s a constructed discontent, meant less to be outright uncomfortable and more to confront and materialize our millennial uneasiness.

For all the surface steez of a certain way of living, after the champagne’s popped and the confetti’s all around the floor, you wake up, eyes bleary from the past night’s lavender haze, and squint into the harsh sunlight of the very real day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to indulge in fantasy—but MS MR makes it very clear that when worlds collide, it won’t be pretty, though it may sometimes sound that way.

Catch MS MR at Governors Ball in NYC.

Read more of NT’s album reviews here.

Reach Music Editor Lilian Min here; follow her on Twitter here and on Google+ here.



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