MS MR - Secondhand Rapture Review

MS MR There is nothing new to speak of in "Secondhand Rapture", the first full-length album by New York duo MS MR. Whether that is a compliment or a criticism is something that has to be taken with some thought though; the band's entire style seems to be firmly routed in a vintage style that resonates with a lot of their fans, particularly through their online promotion. In many ways, they have become the "first band of Tumblr", with their feed on that website being the location for many of their original single releases, as well as a cavalcade of retro-filtered photos of the Addams Family and various other kitsch nostalgia images. The music videos for original singles like "Hurricane" and "Bones" used snippets from old movies and TV shows to tell a story. It is not just in the imagery that they surround themselves with that MS MR may seem familiar. Lizzie Plapinger (the MS of the band) has vocal stylings that make you wonder whether she is the lovechild of Natasha Khan and Florence Welch. Plapinger herself is another explanation for the retro feel of the band: she is the co-founder of Neon Gold Records, who have made a name for themselves of late through their production of limited edition 7" vinyls for the likes of Marina & The Diamonds and Ellie Goulding (two more artists who MS MR can easily be seen to have been influenced by). Much like Florence, Plapinger's impressive voice booms over several haunting tracks on the album; if there is one thing that cannot be criticised on this album, it is her vocal range, which proves itself to be more than capable at distinguishing itself when necessary on tracks. So, where does the issue of there being "nothing new" start to cause problems for "Secondhand Rapture"? Unfortunately, it's from the minute the album actually starts to play. Given the eight month wait from the band's original EP, "Candy Bar Creep Show", it might seem odd that instead of an album full on unreleased work, the entire tracklisting from that EP features right at the start of "Secondhand Rapture". What's perhaps more galling is that all four of these songs had also been released for free on Tumblr before they found themselves on "Candy Bar Creep Show" too, let alone this debut full-length. In some respects, the band have every right to want to promote the likes of "Bones" - made famous by its use in the Game of Thrones trailers - and new single "Hurricane", but by throwing all four songs on to the album, there's a distinct feeling that the whole thing either feels rushed or that there is a lack of new ideas that has harmed the project. In some respects though, it's also for the better. While the band made a name for themselves with some rather haunting tunes, there's a point in the album when you begin to wonder if there is anything else they can do. This is especially true on tracks such as "Twenty Seven" and "Btsk", an unfortunate back-to-back double that you struggle to get through. More baffling is when the album goes in to a completely different direction on tracks such as "Salty Sweet", which is so sickeningly sweet that it has no real place on the album. All three tracks only serve to derail the album and make you yearn to go back to the early songs. All is not lost with the newer work, though. "Fantasy", the lead single of the album, is a much needed shot of energy at the start, followed by a powerful turn by Plapinger on "Head is Not My Home", perhaps the song most akin to a Florence and the Machine track. Also of note in this section is "Think of You". An ode to a former lover, the energy it carries turns it in to a much more powerful affair of something like Katy Perry's "Part of Me". "No Trace" is a shining beacon at the decidedly weak tail end of the album, again leaning towards a Florence sound but also sounding distinctively MS MR with some soaring sounds on the chorus floating over orchestral led verses. You wonder if, therefore, it would have been of more benefit to the band to release the above four songs as another EP; all four work together as a package and do serve to show another side from the eerie early work. Instead, by being spread liberally throughout "Secondhand Rapture", they cannot work together well enough to create a synergy that would lift the album from the confusing fog it finds itself in. In no way is "Secondhand Rapture" a bad album; the majority of the songs are still more than impressive. Unfortunately, however, you feel that some of this work has been nothing more than an afterthought, cheapening the strong beginning that MS MR seemed to have in the industry.
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22 year old Journalist/Producer, with far too much to do and spends far too little of his time actually doing any of it. You can find me on Twitter (@KatsJonouchi) or on my YouTube (katsinthebox)