MØ - No Mythologies To Follow Review
Posted by David Hayter on 03.11.2014
Danish starlet MØ made a hell of impact with her early singles, but after two years of hype, was No Mythologies To Follow worth the wait?
MØ - No Mythologies To Follow
1. Fire Rides 2. Maiden 3. Never Wanna Know 4. Red in the Grey 5. Pilgrim 6. Don’t Wanna Dance 7. Waste of Time 8. Dust Is Gone 9. XXX 88 [ft. Diplo] 10. Walk This Way 11. Slow Love 12. Glass
It’s been two year’s since “Pilgrim” sent bloggers the world over racing to their keyboard to extol the virtues of the latest bedroom superstar in waiting. MØ seemed too good to be true. She came complete with an 80s tinged, but completely contemporary, look. “Pilgrim’s” hypnotic film noir video was reassuringly amateurish, yet fully realized and stylised to within an inch of its life. MØ appeared to bridge a gap between Scandi-pop perfection and Brooklyn’s hipster aesthetic; pinching the best of both and discarding the worst. Attempts had been made to tip toe across this fragile middle ground before, but the Kate Boys and Elliphants of this world could never quite find sure footing. Crucially, “Pilgrim” was a banger of the highest order that felt timely and yet strangely unique (it remains a proper unrepentant pop song). For three minutes and fifty two seconds MØ was perfection itself.
The illusion has since shattered. MØ is no more or less fully formed than her rivals. She produced the ideal opening gambit, but Lorde she is not. The album was not forthcoming; instead MØ spent 24 months going through the record industry motions. Her live debuts across Europe were enticing but under rehearsed. The crystal clear aesthetics of “Pilgrims” were not repeated in person as MØ set about figuring herself out. From the look and lights to the setlist and on stage banter, Karen Marie Ørsted was revealed to be a work in process. There is no shame in this fact, but the longer her debut album (No Mythologies to Follow) took to gestate, the more distant that initial image of perfection became.
Hearing the routinely serene and surprisingly diverse sounds of MØ’s debut for the first time, only highlights the image of an artist in transition. Unlike, Lorde, Lana or Lily, Karen’s debut album isn’t a cohesive start to finish statement. No Mythologies to Follow is not a perfect polaroid of an artist acutely aware of who she is and how she should sound; instead it captures a talented starlet tentatively stretching her wings in search of originality and identity. In truth, the wilfully obnoxious “Pilgrim” and the Grimes-ish delicacy of “Glass” are red herrings. MØ’s fundamental sound is more routine. Glacial Scandinavian synths contrast spritely pop vocals, distorted sonics and dance floor friendly percussion with, the almost customary, floral guitar overlays. When Europe’s northern cousins aren’t bombarding our eardrums with gleaming glucose, this is their modus operandi: ironic ice sheets.
MØ may well be overawed by her competition. She tries and largely fails to recapture the off-kilter punch of “Pilgrims”. “Don’t Wanna Dance” is too conventional, too restrained and too on rails, while “Waste Of Time” ups the grandeur stakes, but lacks pop nous as it saunters towards a crescendo that sounds like a latter day Maccabees off cut. More often than not she’s happy to serve up a delicious sense of drift. “Maiden” still sounds stellar; gliding across an industrial ice plain MØ undercuts any sense of po-faced tedium with subversive sonic ticks that remind the listener of her bedroom roots. “Slow Love” is equally successful; a playful burbling beat offsets a sumptuously delivered but rather straightforward vocal. The end result is a demure and perfectly posed aesthetic underwritten by a cheeky artistic wink.
This is MØ’s greatest weapon. She might have the voice of an ageless spectre, but her sensibilities are girlish. She sees the value in irony and employs it sparingly. She knows there are a million or more sound-alikes both inside and outside of Scandiavian and she ensures her subversive personality shines through. MØ can’t always manage to assert herself unfortunately. “Red In The Gray” is a mess of ideas that don’t quite hit the mark (the buoyant arrangement is a facsimile of an already overused facsimile and Karen offers little or nothing to enhance it). “Never Wanna Know” is worse still. The world doesn’t need another Lana Del Rey imitator and, while MØ shares that star’s passion for oblique noir, the Scandi-star-in-waiting has little or nothing to add to an already overplayed sound.
Smokey, sullen horns and hip hop beats may well be MØ’s secret weapon, because all that tedium is wiped away when “XXX 88” arrives. Sure, it’s another “Pilgrim” knock off that chips away at its own sombre façade, but it’s a reminder that, in fleetingly moments, MØ dances to the beat of her own drum horn section. By the time No Mythologies To Follow reaches the final straight MØ has abandoned her inhibitions and feels free to cut loose. “Walk This Way” is light on originality, but it chops and screws itself deliciously; joining an insistent vocal to the kind of smultzy key line that Phoenix have built a career upon. It’s slight in the extreme, but joyfully so.
“Slow Love” might be a ghostly echo of bigger pop song, but it is the one moment where MØ feels at home in her own skin and truly stately. There’s no need to undercut or self-satirize, this is a delightfully odd little pop song and MØ rightly takes centre stage. Like “Pilgrims” and “Glass” before it, “Slow Love” confirms the suspicion that MØ might really be onto something here. This isn’t a five star debut (far from it), but there is the germ of something brilliant and unabashed to be found on No Mythologies To Follow.
If Karen Marie Ørsted is bold enough to buck the trend and avoid retreating in on herself, she may yet be destined to fully realize the potential first glimpsed on “Pilgrim”. She has the voice, she has the ideas, now she has the practice – next time out perfection should be expected.
The 411: Despite a selection of stellar singles MØ struggles to stand out from a packed Scandi-pop crowd. Quirky club beats and glacial slabs are the modus operandi in northern Europe and, while MØ has insular charisma to burn, she struggles to carve out a space of her own. Thankfully, the future remains bright. The seeds of originality have been planted on this wholly enjoyable and largely serene, if lightweight, debut. The building blocks are in place and MØ has the potential to be transcendent; if she could only rid herself of restraint. But, if this is the most she can muster, then Karen Marie Ørsted is a welcome addition to an already crowded genre. Fingers crossed: the best is yet to come.