Modern pop music can be broken into two general categories. First is the candy-coated, overly excited radio pop. While catchy, this sound often lacks substance — think Katy Perry and Britney Spears. Then there is the more soulful, emotionally raw pop in the vein of Adele and Florence and the Machine. MS MR falls under this category, but unlike an Adele, the New York-based duo leans in a more organic, chillwave direction. They harness the vocal power of a Florence, but circa the release of her slightly less polished debut album, Lungs.
The vocals aren’t the only thing that MS MR’s debut full-length album Secondhand Rapture has in common with Lungs. Both efforts possess a macabre aura, and each song is an expansive dark fantasy that is both mysterious and extremely compelling, yet MS MR takes eccentric to the extreme with their moody sound and their complementary completely-out-there music videos. MS MR produces pop music that is genuinely from the heart — the deepest, darkest crevices of the heart, that is.
Secondhand Rapture begins with the duo’s standout hit “Hurricane.” The moody track begins the fantastical running theme of the album. “Welcome to the inner workings of my mind / so dark and foul I can’t disguise,” vocalist (MS) Lizzy Plapinger sings. However, through her dark dream world, we find her insecurity: “I never saw / what you saw in me.” The character believes that there is darkness in her heart, a fact that genuinely terrifies her, so while powerful and catchy, the song is distinctly morbid.
Another track that continues this theme of darkness is the aptly named “Fantasy,” which delves deeper into MS MR’s inner psyche. The all-too-relatable song is about the difference between how one perceives their surroundings in their dream world and the harsh realities of life, particularly in regards to love.
“When my reality / could never live up…to the fantasy,” Plapinger croons. The song deals with the subject of unrequited love, both with regard to what the object of the singer’s affection could be and what they actually are. Nothing can live up to the hyped deity we create in our minds, but the song digs deeper than just that realization, taking a darker turn when she applies the same thoughts to the world beyond just that person: “How many hours will I let slip away / before I realize existing and living are not the same.”
Not all of the tracks on Secondhand Rapture are bleak, though. The duo really does specialize in pop and many of their songs are unbelievably catchy. Their music still maintains that power-jam element, and although many of their songs deal with the struggle between heart and head — see: “I still think of you and all the shit you put me through / and I know you were wrong” in “Think of You” and “Moving in space but not in time / choices made but nothing’s right” in “Ash Tree Lane” — the bouncy, utterly addicting sound remains.
MS MR isn’t easily categorized. Each track has a multifaceted texture, and while there often isn’t much poetry to the lyrics, there doesn’t really need to be. The album contains so many conflicting emotions and dark thoughts that the lyrics are powerful even when stated plainly. All put together, Secondhand Rapture is a distinctly human album built on the intersection of rationality and imagination.
MS MR Tour dates:
05-15 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
05-16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
05-19 Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
05-21 Columbus, OH – The Basement
05-22 Toronto, Canada – Wrongbar
05-23 Montreal, Canada – Il Motore
05-25 Boston, MA – Boston Calling Music Festival
06-07 New York, NY – Governors Ball
For more information: