There’s rarely a note out of place on MUNA’s self-titled third album. The band, composed of lead singer Katie Gavin, producer Naomi McPherson, and guitarist Josette Maskin, explore desire, lust, joy, distance, and love across 11 tight songs, each containing a jewel of a lyric or production trick such that you’ll never get bored.
“Silk Chiffon” is a perfect opener and lead single. It’s a feat the song is bolstered, not dampened, by sad-girl phenom Phoebe Bridgers, but the song’s rallying cries of “Life’s so fun, life’s so fun” have made their way on TikTok (where it’s sometimes used sarcastically). It’s also refreshing that the band’s sexuality isn’t hidden, but talked about almost in passing: “She’s so soft like silk chiffon / That’s how it feels, oh, when she’s on me.” They talk about a female partner again, on “Solid,” where she acts like the antithesis to her softness on “Silk Chiffon.” “She is like a bullet in between your eyes,” they describe. Move over, Harry Styles, MUNA have no interest in the oft-discussed practice of ‘queerbaiting,’ they’re the real thing.
Many associate “Silk Chiffon” as its most exuberant and joyful song, but a case can be made for the playful and glittery “Anything But Me.” Though its ideas surrounding distance and setting boundaries are decidedly less fun (“You say that you need relief / Well, I hope you get everything you need / Everything but me”), the chorus is still reminiscent of huge pop songs. “Runner’s High” and “No Idea,” too, play with EDM- and hyperpop-influenced production, with the former’s staccato bursts and the latter’s dark beat drops.
On first glance, “What I Want” starts off like a generic, mid-2010’s pop song overplayed on the radio, with its desire for drugs, nights out, and freedom. But once its warbly synths explode into the chorus, there are deeper notes of hedonism and creative expression bubbling beneath its surface. “I’ve spent way too many years not knowing what I want, how to get it, how to live it,” Gavin says. “And now, I’m gonna make up for it all and once, ‘cuz that’s just what I want.” Much like Self Esteem’s Prioritise Pleasure, MUNA are done with others deciding what’s best for them.
The album has lighter moments, too: the spacey production on “Handle Me” could fit easily on Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour. The preceding song, “Kind of Girl,” is a country-infused ode to the idea of personal change: “I could get up tomorrow / Talk to myself real gentle / Work in the garden.” The song has palpable momentum, with each of its choruses sung differently and more intensely, as if Gavin is becoming more sure of herself. “I like telling stories / But I don’t have to write them in ink,” she sings, speaking of the allure of waking up reinvented.
It’s impossible not to notice the many catchy melodies I’ve been muttering to myself throughout the past week: “SILK! (pause) …chiffon”; “That’s what I want! There’s nothing wrong! With what I want!”; “Why is it so hot in L.A.?” or “She’s so solid, my baby, she’s so solid.”
Sometimes, lyrics can be on the nose. The metaphor on “Shooting Star” is hammered home, and the pseudo-affirmations on “Handle Me” (including “I am not a brand new bicycle”) are odd, but usually enjoyable. There are extremely clever tracks — “Home By Now,” “Kind of Girl,” and “Anything But Me” all have tossed their hats into the ring for Song of the Year. It’s a perfectly produced summer album that allows desire to drive decisions, but most of all, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun.
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