Album Review: MS MR – Secondhand Rapture


MS MR are one of those acts that appear from  nowhere and start making the lists of taste-makers around the globe. Where these incredible talents emerge from is a mystery – perhaps they were a wonderful accident in a testing lab somewhere? Or perhaps they were just plugging in on the underground until some important folk paid attention. Anyway, the current thirst for intelligent pop has been a blessing for Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow; whilst it has opened the floodgates for masses of banal and predictable acts, it has proven it’s necessity by giving way to musicians like this duo and provided a platform for their undeniable talent which forms their first full-length – ‘Secondhand Rapture’.

Singles ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Fantasy’ are dark and delicious romps of ambience mixed in with addictive choruses – things are just as catchy on the lighter side of the record with ‘Head Is Not My Home’ and ‘Salty Sweet’ embodying the term ‘grower’ thanks to their sing-a-long choruses. It isn’t an onslaught of a record though, ‘Dark Doo Wop’ stands out as an instant gem due to it’s melancholic tone and stunning vocal delivery courtesy of Lizzy. Likewise ‘BTSK’ also brings the tempo down with a soaring chorus that, again, allows the vocals to take centerstage. Lizzy has a unique voice for the genre – often sounding like a guitar-straddling singer-songwriter thanks to her husky rasp that flavours the tunes and when things need an extra kick on ‘Secondhand Rapture’, her voice is the boot up their behind.

Things offered here are often easy to digest, which is refreshing – pretence is, for the most part, left at the door. ‘Think of You’ and ‘No Trace’ are structured in a rather simple and inviting manner, whilst ‘Twenty Seven’ is a minimalist track that sees a stripped back production evoke a mighty atmosphere. No strangers to a huge crescendo (see ‘Dark Doo Wop’ and ‘Head Is Not My Home’), ‘Bones’ defines their ability to build and build into a stunning conclusion but not wishing to be too predictable, ‘Ash Tree Lane’ omits a lyrical hook in favour of a summery melody and ‘This Isn’t Control’ sees the album at it’s calmest as it draws to a close. The latter two are probably the only tracks you might not instantly adore, but after a few listens they are able to earn their place on this veritable record.

Max and Lizzy are a mesmerising pair – they have a sound that is an amalgamation of a vast array of different areas in the pop world and MS MR brings them together – from the relentlessly dark to the almost bubblegum saccharine goodness – they have produced a varied debut that, surprisingly  has a wonderful cohesion. ‘Secondhand Rapture’ is, essentially  a series of quirks that prove the valuable thesis that mature pop doesn’t have to be boring pop.

Words: Simon McMurdo


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