The New York duo, MS MR, consists of vocalist Lizzy Plapinger, a co-founder of Neon Gold Records, record label of accomplished musicians like Gotye, Passion Pit, and Ellie Goulding on its roster, and producer Max Hershenow, who has just embarked on producing music as a side project. Although they started off as an anonymous twosome who released their songs and EP album Candy Bar Creep Show on Tumblr, they have since gotten legendary rap superstar, Jay-Z as one of their fans and have been dubbed by UK’s The Guardian as “the first superstars of chillwave” and that they’re “most likely to storm the charts” before releasing their debut album, Secondhand Rapture.

The album has a plethora of synths and electronic beats which are nicely tied up with their dark, bitter lyrics. With Plapinger’s captivatingly crystalline yet eerily calm voice (almost like Florence Welch’s but less solemn) melding beautifully with Hershenow’s tasteful production of unusual synth tunes and heart-wrenching melodies.

“Hurricane” is a befitting introduction to the album’s theme of heartbreaks and darkness as Plapinger croons “Welcome to the inner workings of my mind/ So dark and foul I can’t disguise/”, echoing the doubts and disappointments we often face when it comes to affairs of the heart, layered over the punchy drumming in the background. The music video proves their “tumblr glitch-pop” status with an epileptic fit-inducing series of images of a fantasy world like place with a turquoise-skinned Plapinger and a red-skinned Hershenow, as if showing their distorted and twisted minds.

The slow, almost menacing piano work and drumming in “Bones” adds fervent  tension to the song, accentuated by Plapinger’s bewitching voice repeating “Dig up her bones, but leave the soul alone”, which gives off a menacing vibe, reminiscent of Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils”, with its bold piano notes, exuding a similar sense of foreboding misery. If you experienced a case of déjà vu while tuning in, it’s most probably because you’ve heard it on popular TV series like Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars, and Grey’s Anatomy.

Both “Dark Doo Wop” and “Ash Tree Lane” are chockfull of Hershenow’s diverse range of echoing percussions and detached notes ebbing from Plapinger’s vocals. “Dark Doo Wop” starts off minimally, stripped of all fancy effects, allows Plapinger’s vulnerability to shine, bringing the listening experience to a much more personal level as she serenades “the world is gonna burn burn burn/ baby you should stick around/”.

On the other hand, “Ash Tree Lane” shows how Hershenow brings unconventional production techniques to the table as the song abruptly stops as though Plapinger is gasping shortly after singing “The dream I take/ To awake/ When my mind’s a mess/” to portray the choking of her thoughts.

Perhaps the best song in Secondhand Rapture, “BTSK” paces slowly in melancholy, channeling Lana Del Rey’s sadness and style of personifying her songs. “Lavender haze/ Djarum Vanilla, Turkish Jade/ You and me/ We have it made/”, Plapinger sings almost as if she is reminiscing the times she once shared with someone she loved very much. The dipping of high and low notes is also similar to Del Rey’s musical style, in her songs like “Off to The Races”.

Although the whole album aligns itself with a ‘I’m-getting-over-you’ theme, “Think of You” devalues the album with its teenage like chorus that goes against their style, “I still think of you/ And all the sh*t you put me through/ And I know you were wrong/” despite the catchy rat-a-tat of the drums and Plapinger’s ferocity as she spits the lyrics out.

MS MR’s Secondhand Rapture may be consistent in bringing out its theme of the emotions we feel when we’ve been dumped, but it lacks variety in song structure and tone, which results in a rather monotonous album, bordering on boring. However it’s evident Plapinger’s and Hershenow’s complementary musical talent make up for that mistake. After all, you’ve got to expect room for improvement with fresh blood.


Album Details:

Artiste: MS MR

Album: Secondhand Rapture

Rating: 3/5

Language: English

Genre: Synthpop, Dark wave

Record Label: Columbia Records

Release Date: May 14, 2013


Track List:

1. Hurricane

2. Bones

3. Ash Tree Lane

4. Fantasy

5. Dark Doo Wop

6. Head Is Not My Home

7. Salty Sweet

8. Think Of You

9. Twenty Seven

10. BTSK

11. No Trace

12. This Isn’t Control