Barely one year has passed since the mysterious art pop duo MS MR swept onto the music scene with their infectious debut single, “Hurricane.” While Lizzy Plapinger (MS) and Max Hershenow’s (MR) popularity swelled in the wake of the song’s release, a solid four track EP later in 2012 also built momentum and anticipation for the band’s first album. MS MR’s full-length debut Secondhand Rapture (out now on Columbia Records) features a rich, consistent and at times addicting sound that reveals the band’s tremendous potential across twelve tracks.
Secondhand Rapture opens by virtually recycling MS MR’s EP Candy Bar Creep Show. While this may prove irksome to those already familiar with the band, these four tracks serve as an excellent introduction to MS MR and a compelling hook for anyone spinning them for the first time. The impressive “Hurricane” immediately sets a dark tone for the album, featuring Plapinger’s captivating, creepily calm voice above a backtrack that incorporates heavy drums, synthesized horns and stringed instruments, and electronic effects. MS sings lyrics that reveal twisted inner thoughts, and attempt to explain reckless behavior that likely led to the demise of a relationship. The band’s morbid second single, “Bones,” follows, during which MS expresses despair and confusion over loss as well as disillusion with life through disjointed lyrics like, “Candy bar creep show / My highs hit a new low / Marinate in misery like a girl of only seventeen.” The intriguing sound and depth developed during the first two tracks prevails throughout the remainder of Secondhand Rapture, as MS MR puts their musical talent and potential on full display. While the mood and tempo changes slightly from song-to-song, almost every track features a notable hook or riff that listeners are sure to find themselves singing on their own. Additionally, the lyrics of every track offer some significance without becoming too obscure. “Fantasy,” the band’s newest single and one of the top songs on the album, starts with a vocal fill and gradually builds until the chorus, where the song explodes with energy. Plapinger belts the memorable line, “How could you be what I wanted to see?” repeatedly with disdain as Hershenow singularly simulates an entire high school drum line. Songs like “Salty Sweet” and “Think of You” offer a similar listening experience. Highlighted by catchy instrumental tracks and choruses, these songs also possess lyrics that hit the mark in speaking to an audience.
Considering the fact that Secondhand Rapture is MS MR’s full-length debut, the album is remarkably solid overall. Throughout the first few listens, slower tracks that feature more vocal fills like “Dark Doo Wop” and “This Isn’t Control” may seem boring, but over time the vocal and instrumental layering in these tracks starts to shine as the album gradually comes together.
While MS MR breaks no musical boundaries with Secondhand Rapture — they are frequently compared to the likes of Florence and the Machine and Lana Del Rey — the record stands as a strong collection of gripping and memorable songs. The greatest danger MS MR faces is their propensity for the obscure, and the possibility that their second album could become too experimental or inaccessible. Thankfully, for the time being listeners can enjoy this excellent debut effort.