Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen, shorthand MØ, is back for a second studio album after her brilliant 2014 debut 'No mythologies to follow'. Punchy, multi-layered and polished, 'Forever Neverland' is one of those rare albums that sound just as great in your headphones as they do on the dancefloor.
I want you
Judging from its bouncy guitar line and overbearing bass drum, you might be excused for thinking 'I want you' is just a run-of-the-mill dancefloor hit vehicle. But it's not: MØ and ghost songwriter Sarah Aarons, who previously worked with Lykke Li and Anne-Marie just to name a few, add an incredible amount of layers to this particular track - and sure enough, 'I want you' quickly becomes a memorable earworm.
Indeed, despite an incredible amount of contrasting drum lines and the fact that this is a loud song, it never becomes too much - on the contrary, 'I want you' oozes the charm and polish that is rarely seen in the hastily-written singles of modern pop. Short and compact, but incredibly well-written, and without ever taking itself too seriously ("Burn the *lighter click* house down"), 'I want you' might just be one of the best saturday-night-songs in recent memory.
Another surprisingly multi-layered piece disguised as a dance hit, 'Blur' is built on and around MØ's brilliant raspy vocals, with an auto-tuned choir that sounds like somebody transported the Eighties into the current century and a vuvuzela-like brass hook that should be incredibly irritating, and yet turns out to be endearing and memorable at the same time.
Much like the rest of the album, 'Blur' is a track that just has no right to be this good or work that well. It's like going to the restaurant, ordering the chef's suggestion and being served a weird mix of flavours that somehow turns out to be the best dish you've eaten this year. Incredibly eclectic and as experimental as commercial pop ever gets, one can only wonder how many experiments ended up on the cutting room's floor to deliver a track as incredibly punchy and clever as 'Blur'.
Red Wine (feat. Empress Of)
'Red Wine' is by far the best out of the four collaborative tracks on 'Forever Neverland'. Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez, also a maker of remarkabe pop hits) does deliver some fresh background vocals; but it's her arrangement that really steals the show here.
It's not hard to imagine an entire club swaying left and right driven by the brilliantly bouncy hook ("Feeling like a loose leaf stuck on a tree"), and yes you can crank the volume up and bang your head, but what's really special about 'Red Wine' is that it kinds of retains its personality even on a low volume on a pair of decent headphones. In fact, there's just so much detail and polish and depth to this track that it would almost be a shame to just blast it on a 500-watt speaker.
By far the most personal track in the album, 'Beautiful Wreck' is strategically positioned halfway through - just after the aptly named 'Interlude' track - to offer a bit of respite to one's ears.
And sure enough, there's almost no bass track to find in 'Beautiful Wreck' - just an incredibly chill synth line which is perfectly matched by MØ's sweet vocals. Gone are the raspy vocals or the aggressive digital brasses of the rest of the album: 'Wreck' is almost a ballad, and really brings home how much Andersen has grown since her 2014 debut 'No mythologies to follow'. By the time the incredibly orchestral set of arcs kicks in on the final seconds of the track, you'll be wondering what kind of album this is.
The answer is easy. It's a masterpiece.
In today's commercial pop landscape, it looks like there's artists dropping a new single every month. MØ's album took four years to make: in pop years, that's an eternity.
But the wait was definitely worth it, because MØ's 'Forever neverland' delivers on all fronts. It is one of the most brilliant pop albums in recent memory, with its catchy hooks hiding a remarkable depth, and a surprising amount of polish even amongst today's over-produced albums.
There are no frills or superflous fillers in 'Forever neverland'. Every single track has enough content and richness to carry multiple single hits, and everything just feels in its right place. It's very rare to stumble upon an album that simply works, from start to finish, and even more rare for it to be one of the most anticipated commercial releases of the year.
Yes, it can be cheesy. Yes, it gets loud. Yes, sometimes it's a bit much. But 'Forever Neverland' shows that you can have commercial pop without dumbing down the arrangements; that a successful hook doesn't need to be repeated twenty times to stick, and that light-hearted lyrics need not be stupid and trite. After four years of exploration, it looks like MØ has finally found a place to be proud of.
If this really is Neverland, we'd like to stay a while.
If you liked this, also listen to: Ms Mr, Banks, Empress Of, FKA Twigs, Aluna George
MØ in Amsterdam: not really, but she'll be at the AB in Brussels on 13th november and at TivoliBurg in Utrecht on the 15th. Both reasonably priced!