When I Was Young
Karen Marie Ørsted (MØ) is one of those few artists that can have platinum pop collaborations but still feel completely different when working solo. On her latest EP, her first album of any kinds since 2014’s No Mythologies To Follow, she offers up a mix of her latest pop and older indie creativity to give fans a taste of everything she’s written outside of singles since then. While it definitely doesn’t feel like the big new album she’s been promising, there’s so much emotion and raw talent here that it’s easy to listen to again and again. It’s crazy to think based on Ørsted’s previous claims that there could be a LP coming soon as well.
Cutting open on dense accordion-tinged chords, “Roots” opens with a menacing crawl as Ørsted ‘s vocals fly through with satisfying crisp tones. With haunting harmonies flickering through the background the track carries a demented emotion to it before the strings start to sprinkle in. Twisting her vocals up and down the register, she hits an endlessly catchy chorus as her layered production hits its fully fleshed out assault of sound. Using her voice like the dense mix of instruments on the track, she questions where she truly belongs anymore.
“When I Was Young” kicks into more of Ørsted ‘s pop singles as it bounces along with clever percussion and sprinkles of synth. Taking advantage of this production, the pre-chorus builds on intoxicating vocal hooks, as the swelling harmonies beg for crowds to sing along in a live setting. Dropping to the chorus, there’s a hint of circus energy as she brings in the kind of electric swing that you’d more likely expect from a Caravan Palace or Parov Stelar. Her reflective lyrics dissect the excitement of youth while also yearning for it deeply for a track that celebrates its energy. Blending her catchy pop with some of the more outlandish production of her albums, this track serves as an interesting crossroads of her style.
Pushing her vocal register to a limit that barely sounds like her real voice anymore, “Turn My Heart To Stone” feels like Ørsted testing herself as much as she’s expressing herself. Through each “Wish I could, Wish I Could” the vocals become more addictive, as she leads into a suave and entrancing saxophone riff that gives the song a more jazz feeling. Layering in her instrumentation in weirdly useful ways at stranger parts of the song, the track feels like a constantly evolving beast. Her own call and response play with herself is just as fun, showing a sense of inner turmoil that is rarely shown so harshly.
“Linking With You” gives a new take on her warped production previously seen on tracks like “Drum,” as she bends drums and even her own vocals into totally different instruments. Cascading her “All That I Do” vocals higher and higher, the song hits its booming chorus with euphoria, as each flaring synth moves the song from relaxing to dancing. Giving her signature raw rasps in the second verse as she slowly tumbles into her own harmonies, the track has a fun cycling feel in its delivery. Slowly ramping up each hook in the bridge, she hits the climactic yell with a perfect blend of grit and lush pop.
Singing on her own broken harmonies, “Bb” has a strange sense of discordant relationships before the lyrics tell you this directly. Cutting the music in and out for sharp vocal moments, the song feels deeply personal, especially as some of Ørsted’s older harmonic work shows up in the track’s chorus. Offering a cute modern alternative to the constant use of “Baby” in songs, the muttered “Bb” has a strange and sweet ring to it in song. Coming out of the chorus wailing at her most passionate, she hits the final chorus soaring and bringing a full range of vocals on top of already huge instrumentation.
Bringing things down to a sparse darkness on “Run Away” she gives a more shimmering and bass-filled take on Lana Del Rey’s venomous retro pop. Slipping in little high notes as she brings in a warm and cheery chorus, the track has a deep sense of sadness to it to. Leaning into her more classic sound the most, the track highlights her vocals much more dynamically than the rest of the record and lets the guitars really pop.
Words by Owen Maxwell