There is no doubting that MS MR are a talented pair. Having met at liberal arts college in New York, vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow graduated in 2010 and had made their name with debut album, ‘Secondhand Rapture’, less than three years later. Now, they return with second album, ‘How Does It Feel’.
‘Painted’ doubles as ‘How Does It Feel’’s opening track and lead single, ushering in what seems like a new direction for the duo on just about every platform that they could muster. The staccato keys and quintessential dance rhythm turn away from ‘Secondhand Rapture’’s vast, indie-pop soundscapes, punctuating Plapinger’s usually soaring vocals with a distinctly aggressive bite. But MS MR lose their way as ‘Painted’ sashays into verse; becoming lost between the sweeping synths and slower beat, the pair’s new direction is diluted with the more recognisable trappings of their last few years in service.
‘How Does It Feel’ continues in this ilk. ‘No Guilt In Pleasure’ tinkers with brass and ‘Tripolar’ funk-infused bass, but neither quite manage to pull together their experimentations and take the path less trodden. Even the title track falls somewhat short, with hits of “how does it feel?” never quite reaching their heady destination. ‘Wrong Victory’ stands out as the most polished of MS MR’s second release, however, providing ‘How Does It Feel’ with the oozing – and much-needed – emotion that so marked their first outing as a duo.
Something that gradually becomes clear is that this is an album of uncertainty. From the voyeuristic rhetoric of the album title to Plapinger’s “what did you think would happen?” (‘Painted’) and “should I even stay?” (‘Tripolar’), it’s hard not to wonder whether MS MR know any of the answers to the questions that they so repeatedly provoke. Perhaps if they did, this would be a completely different album, one that would bravely alienate all that had come before it. Perhaps if they did, MS MR would have achieved the omniscience that their questioning so desperately and ambitiously teeters on.