Friday, 27 June 2014

Review: 'No Mythologies To Follow' by MØ

If you've been following my blog lately, you've probably figured out that I like the Danish indie pop songstress MØ quite a bit. So, it's about time I took a proper look at her debut LP No Mythologies To Follow. Without further ado, let's get down to it!

The original version of the album comprises twelve tracks, while the deluxe edition (which is the one available on Spotify) features four bonus tunes plus four alternative versions of the new album tracks, one remix, and her Spice Girls cover "Say You'll Be There". With even the ordinary version clocking at 44 minutes, the deluxe edition is clearly quite the package.

Before the album came out, I was concerned with one particular fact: out of the 12 tracks on the initial version of the album, six ("Pilgrim", "Waste of Time", "Never Wanna Know", "XXX 88", "Glass", "Maiden") had been already released in advance in one format or another, four as (then) stand-alone singles. Now, they're all killer tunes for sure, but with the album relying so heavily on 'older' (=previously heard) material, the new stuff has to be extremely good to be on a par. So, the first time I put the record on, I was really nervous - how will the record fare as an entity?

Well. The new songs are on the one hand of top-notch quality and blend in with her debut's soundscape seamlessly. Just a bit too seamlessly, though. While all very nice tunes on their own, together they sound a tad too identical to truly stand out, with similar beats, guitar sound, etc. Songs like "Fire Rides" and "Red In The Grey" all use rather similar instruments and if it weren't for the more distinctive numbers between them, you could almost have a hard time noticing when one song ends and another begins. Wisely enough, they are scattered throughout the tracklist so that doesn't occur.

That is not to say that there wouldn't be gems among the newer material, though. The tropical mid-tempo synthpop of "Slow Love", for example, is actually one of the album's finer moments, and a refreshing change from the otherwise sometimes homogenous MØ sound, showing nice versatility from her part. The same applies for her dreamy, echoey vocal performance on the track. The aforementioned "Fire Rides" serves as an infectious album opener, and has one of the best choruses out of the new songs. The recent single "Walk This Way" is equally memorable enough to differentiate itself from the rest.

And then there is the amazing "Don't Wanna Dance", of course. Don't let the song title fool you, though: as one of the of the definite highlights of the album, this Motown-esque '60s stomper is bound to make you get up and about and dance. Perhaps with a special someone, like MØ: "I'm on my own and I'm crazy for you / Got the creeps by the way your body moves", she admits, before confessing: "I don't wanna dance with nobody / Dance with nobody, d-dance with nobody but you". The song is like a less-sugarcoated cousin of "Stop" by the Spice Girls, who MØ openly admires, stating that Melanie C was one of the reasons she ever picked up writing music to begin with. Understandably so - I mean come on, she was always the best one! (To check out MØ's inner fangirl completely overwhelmed upon meeting Sporty, head over here. Adorable!)

Other than the above examples, the album is at its strongest on the older MØ tracks. (Well, it's hard to use the word 'older' when her debut single came out 1½ years ago. But still.) The Lana-esque crooning of "Never Wanna Know" shows a mellower and more vulnerable side of her elsewhere tougher persona, of which "Walk This Way" or the badassery that is "XXX 88" are excellent examples, despite the latter actually describing the harsh realities of life: "I feel the water flow as I watch him go / Boy, life is cynical despite my heart of gold". "XXX 88" is easily one of the best earworms on the album, as you'd expect from a collaboration with Diplo.

From the urban melancholy of "Waste of Time" to the laid-back brass hooks of "Pilgrim", MØ proves her abilities as a songwriter with a range of excellent, fizzy indie pop tunes, cool beats and various lyrical themes. Her excellent debut single "Glass" (and the first song of hers that I personally fell in love with) for instance deals with the pains of growing up: "Oh why do everyone have to grow old? / Everyone wonder where the good times go". While it might idolise the state of being young, it fortunately avoids the usual cliches of youth-worshipping anthems (*cough* fun. *cough*) and rather deals with the topic in a bittersweet way, more concentrating on the loss of it rather than the reverie, so props for that.

Despite me criticising the record a bit for some songs sounding a bit too much alike, there's plenty of diversity, too (and there's no such thing as a 'weak track' or a 'filler' here, either). This might only be her debut, but she's succeeded in creating a strong, distinguishable MØ sound that makes the album a consistent listen. The four bonus tracks sit perfectly with the rest of the LP, and as a matter of fact, they're even stronger than some of the more forgettable album tracks. Despite rhyming 'fire' with 'desire' (which should already be a no-no in pop music by now), "No Mythologies To Follow" is a perfect example of that aforementioned 'MØ sound' and considering it's the title track, I'm highly surprised it only surfaces as a bonus track. "The Sea" and "Gone And Found" are softer, slower tunes, while "Dummy Head" could've easily followed "Glass" as a worthy final track on the ordinary version, with the lyrics both namedropping her debut EP Bikini Daze and the memorable line "Life is a daydream, we're dead anyway".

Regardless whether singing with a streetwise delivery or belting her lines out more wistfully like in "Never Wanna Know" or "Dust Is Gone", MØ does it all convincingly and with enviable amounts of energy and confidence. The fact that she's been doing music for a long time is evident from that. (Not to mention the live shows she puts up - they're positively mental.) No Mythologies To Follow is a solid, stylish record, showing she's a force to be reckoned with. Even with its minor flaws, MØ's debut album is arguably one of the best and, I'd even go on to say, most important records released this year under the umbrella of pop music. Give it a go, and you'll be whipped into MØ frenzy in no time!

4½ / 5

Try at least: "Don't Wanna Dance", "XXX 88", "Glass", "Slow Love", "Never Wanna Know"

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