It’s been over four years now since Karen Andersen delivered her first album to us as MØ and since then she’s become a global pop sensation (a fact which has actually contributed to the album’s delays). While this follow-up is by that nature much closer to her recent singles than her indie crafts from the past, it’s raw emotion and generally unique hits. While there’s a couple moments that get either too weird or pop in all the wrong ways, MØ delivers enough tracks on this record to leave fans satiated.
Between all the sliding guitars, “Intro” gives a raspy and moody intro to a record that’s about to be anything but lounge-like. Interestingly, those who’ve followed Andersen’s career up until now will notice all the autobiographical lines that play under her fairy tale story. “Way Down” is an instant banger for the record, that mixes an infectiously loud bass hook with Andersen’s knack for off-kilter dance beats. Slinking and interacting melodies are just as infectious MØ’s unusual affectations, but it’s strangely rhythmic way that Andersen’s cackling laugh is mixed that really tops this track off as one of her best in a while. Though “I Want You” sinks into a much more distinctly pop energy than any previous album cut from Andersen, there’s an urgency to her vocals that drive it home as something distinctly MØ.
It’s all but impossible to ignore the “Where Is My Mind?” overtones to “Blur” but that only makes its party energy all the more addictive to come back to. With all the dark emotions that underscore Andersen’s horns, it almost seems like she’s trying to reach out to someone who only understands pop. “Nostalgia” wastes no time kicking into its beat, with its heartache for lost youth fueling its need to dance it all out. The drums fly just as dynamically as Andersen’s own harmonies (not to mention pianos), making the song into a kind of organic pop gem that feels like it’s constantly evolving and part of something larger despite being recorded from her and her band. MØ keeps side A of this record going on the glowing pop of “Sun In Our Eyes” with all the fun and instantly catchy energy you would expect from one of her Diplo team-ups.
Though she’s stepping away from many of the indie sounds that made her solo work such an interesting gem of the pop world, she knocks pop out of the park like she’s been in the game her whole life. Little exceptions like the too familiar production of “I Want You” or being abrasive rather than unique on “If It’s Over” are easily overlooked with such a wealth of songs, and often unusual tonal additions to the mainstream pop cannon.
Andersen even slows down for something between stadium-pop and Kate Bush on “Mercy” as she not only compares herself to a leaving bird but even coos like one at times. Through all the song’s hefty emotional choruses, there’s something goose-bump-inducing when she takes it one step further on her overblown final vocals. “Hollywood” is a strange beast of a track as it starts like any simple diary-like interlude, and soon expands its sound so wide that you’ll wonder how she left it after only a minute. As the abrasive tones sink down a little, MØ takes an unusual approach to pop on “If It’s Over” creating something that despite all its interesting aesthetics is a pop core we know. Unfortunately all the amazing fills and boundary-pushing techniques she mixes into this track just can’t elevate it due to how slowly it all moves.
Somewhere out of the bones of Imogen Heap’s “Hide And Seek” “Beautiful Wreck” seeks to grow from all the damage we take in life. With all the heavy emotional content of the song, Andersen drives it with her signature drums though never hitting the highs of some of her other tracks outside of the triumphant and heartbreaking extra vocals she brings out. There’s a more atmospheric approach to the reggae base of “Red Wine” though MØ is taking such a frantic party approach to the lyrics that it feels so much more immediate than anything in the genre. With some of the record’s most in-your-face vocal hooks, this track is a constant surprise of genre-fusion. “Imaginary Friend” takes a seemingly straightforward pop energy, and slowly grows it into this weirdly pointed but atypical body. With bass creeping in like it’s trying to hide, you’re suddenly overcome by how intense some of the choruses can be.
Andersen makes her closest call back to No Mythologies To Follow on “Trying To Be Good” as she mixes weirdly traditional harmonies with boisterously punchy drums. It’s her ambient approach to the writing however that makes it such an interesting anomaly on this much more distinctly pop-driven album, especially as harps swirl through the background. “Purple Like The Summer Rain” ups the energy of our intro song for something half-way between a drum & bass track and experimental recordings, especially as she questions her own psychology through a mix of spoken-word and guttural screaming.
Words by Owen Maxwell