Review Summary: What did he think would happen?
MS MR are a duo who released their debut album Secondhand Rapture in 2013 to a decent degree of fanfare, with their singles "Hurricane" and "Bones" gaining some traction on alternative and indie radio and featured on Game of Thrones commercials. Their brand of chilled out synths, gothic undertones, Lizzy Plapinger's throaty and soothing vocals topped with sugary pop hooks won them a nice fan base and many spots on the festival circuit.
Fast forward a couple of years later and here we are with How Does It Feel, their sophomore effort that's ready to prove they have what it takes to stay relevant and potentially break into the mainstream in a big way. Unlike Secondhand Rapture, How Does It Feel is a livelier and more immediate affair that expands on what was laid out on their debut. The tempos are higher and the production is bigger this time around; for those hoping more of the same from Secondhand Rapture, hate to break it to you but you may be slightly disappointed... having said that, HDIF still features the duo's sharp songwriting skills at the forefront and enough of their signature sound to warrant a good listen.
MS MR don't reinvent themselves here, but they definitely showcase their more energetic side. Whereas their debut tended to be more relaxed and melancholy (nevermind the at times angry lyrics), How Does It Feel would feel more at ease on the dance floor and pop radio. The title track alone should get you moving in no time.
Opener "Painted" kicks off the record on a fast and instant note, with a repeated chant of "What did he think would happen?", 90s-esque piano, and skittering, shuffling beats. Some people might be put off by how repetitive the song may seem, but the sound and melody are certainly addicting. A very potent way to kick off the album. "Criminals" and the title track are rousing dance-pop songs that will have no problem earworming their way into your subconscious thanks to their seductive hooks, while the synth pop sound of "No Guilt In Pleasure" and the slow jam "Wrong Victory" harken back to the wistful production of their debut album. "Tripolar" features an almost ska sounding chorus which, coupled with Lizzy Plapinger's harmonized vocals (and yes, her voice is similar to one Florence Welch), sounds fantastic.
One problem that I personally found with the album is that variety is a bit of an issue. Don't get me wrong, this is a very consistent effort and MS MR prove to be very capable pop writers, but a little diversity and experimentation goes a long way. Make no mistake, this is a pop album through and through and anyone expecting anything else should go elsewhere. The final few songs that close the record are nothing home to write about, especially considering the quality songs that came before them. A shame, as the album starts off with a big bang, but this does not diminish the positive attributes of the album. Few albums are packed with so many irresistible choruses, and in the long run it sounds terrific. How Does It Feel is pop music done right, and MS MR have crafted a consistent and catchy album, successfully avoiding that dreaded sophomore slump. Anyone looking for a high quality pop record should check this one out.