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Posted on June 5th, 2013 (10:59 am) by Matt Essert

MS MR (pronounced “Miss Mister”), the New York-based duo of vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, is a very of-the-moment band. With their debut LP Secondhand Rapture, they're making the kind of music that’s often considered “cool” right now. But more specifically, it would be considered “cool” by those middle-aged guys making Sprite commercials. It’s an album of music that’s doing what a lot of other artists are doing already, and though it’s better than some of that music, it’s scarcely anything original or anything likely to stand the test of time.

Though both Plapinger and Hershenow attended and graduated from Vassar College in 2010, it wasn’t until after the fact that they crossed paths and started making music. By this time, Plapinger had already formed her boutique record label, Neon Gold Records, which, despite its small size and short history, had already produced singles for then up-and-coming acts like Passion Pit, Gotye, Marina and the Diamonds, and Ellie Goulding. Perhaps because of her closeness to the current music scene, Plapinger seems to have a real knack for understanding what the kids want to listen to and then selling it or, in the case of MS MR, making it herself. Though Secondhand Rapture was released in mid-May under Columbia Records (which actually has a joint venture agreement with Neon Gold), several of the tracks have already made the rounds of either through the band’s own slow but steady track-releasing on their carefully curated Tumblr or through the 2012 release of the Candy Bar Creep Show EP, which included the tracks “Bones,” “Hurricane,” “Dark Doo Wop,” and “Ash Tree Lane,” all of which can also be found on Secondhand Rapture.

Whether it’s because several of the best tracks on the LP have been officially released in another capacity or because of something else, MS MR’s first full-length effort does a lot of things well—in some cases better than average—but generally fits very neatly into the rest of today's alt-music scene without making much noise, resulting in a record that feels like it’ll easily vanish before too long. Most of the songs on Secondhand Rapture follow a similar pattern of thunderous and vaguely clubby beats, sparkling synths, and soaring vocals that have an almost ghoulish tinge. These are songs that requires a sizeable amount of in-studio production—MS MR’s live performances sacrifice a touch of on-album excitement—an come out sounding as heavily produced as they likely are. That said, this music isn't bad, but it's filled with fairly fleeting ideas and nothing overly substantial. I'd be hesitant to call it bubble-gum pop, but there is something a bit sugar coated about it. A song like “Think Of You” is a fairly raucous and jovial affair, but even a surface level listening of the lyrics reveals a story that sounds much more Taylor Swift-esque than you’d expect from an album like this. Additionally, while a number of songs follow the same basic blueprint, those that do deviate (like the Jamaican dance club-feeling “Salty Sweet”) tend to be slightly less successful. But if you disregard the repetitiveness of several parts of the album, the songs that follow through with the MS MR plan are tight and solid tracks.

With the strong female vocal lead and grand, thunderous song writing style, MS MR have already attracted comparisons (arguably lazy ones) to acts like Florence and the Machine and the pseudo-hipster wunderkind Lana Del Ray. But just because two bands both have strong female singers, doesn’t mean they’re the same, and the more the audience tries to group bands like these together, the less MS MR will likely do to separate themselves from the rest of the genre or even just from themselves. Secondhand Rapture is a solid album, but it fits too solidly in the current alt-music zeitgeist for it to be considered anything other than “solid” or for it to earn enough attention to carry this band all that far. But to make something great, something that stands apart from the rest, you need to first understand “the rest.” Plapinger and Hershenow have done that here, so now they just have to hope they can figure out the next part.

Track List:
1. Hurricane
2. Bones
3. Ash Tree Lane
4. Fantasy
5. Dark Doo Wop
6. Head Is Not My Home
7. Salty Sweet
8. Think Of You
9. Twenty Seven
10. Btsk
11. No Trace
12. This Isn’t Control

MS MR, secondhand rapture, Lizzy Plapinger, Max Hershenow, Neon Gold, Columbia
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

61 / 100
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