Bikini Daze, Danish singer Karen Marie Ørsted’s debut EP, was one of the most promising and welcome surprises of the past year. While as a result of the record comparisons abound to the vocals of Purity Ring’s Megan James or the music of Chvrches, Bikini Daze saw MØ transcending those comparisons to make pop both catchy and original.
Now, on her major label debut No Mythologies To Follow, MØ offers listeners a taste of what she can do alongside major label production. Overall, while the album may not hold the mystery and concision of her earlier releases, the songs it contains make for a thoroughly satisfying listen.
From the onset of No Mythologies To Follow we are introduced to a more sophisticated, soulful and darker MØ. “What am I to do with the thunder? / Don’t know who to cost or to pawn” she sings on opener Fire Rides, a booming, dense synth track. Meanwhile, the Latin melodies on second track Maiden spice up today’s overdone typical 808-laden synth pop song by explicitly appropriating a global influence. Even the tracks on which MØ clearly channels other singing sirens are quality pop songs; she wonderfully shows off her inner Lykke Li on Never Wanna Know, a retro-sounding, choral lament about an ex that has an odd melodic similarity to Li’s bubblegum pop gem Sadness Is A Blessing.
At the heart of MØ’s success on No Mythologies To Follow is simply her ability to combine the old with the new. Much like another artist who recently channeled the past in his own individual way, Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, MØ shows what past popular genres might have sounded like with today’s methods of production. (In fact, the house beat of Slow Love could have easily found its way onto Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe). On Red in the Grey, for instance, she combines a maximal dub beat with a soul-influenced lyrical delivery.
The same soulful delivery shows up on Pilgrim, but this time over a reverby drum beat, layered handclaps and a deep bass line. In general, MØ impressively shows that at her young age she can load her songs with multiple genres and elements that on paper might be dissonant but on record sound natural, as if they were always meant to be together. She never overwhelms and never loses focus.
But as good as No Mythologies to Follow is, its best songs already appeared on Bikini Daze. Never Wanna Know is MØ’s potential radio hit, featuring the potential ability to ride the current wave of retro-sounding chart toppers, and it’s far and away the catchiest song on No Mythologies To Follow. And one of the most talked about songs on the album, the Diplo-featuring XXX 88, already shared on Bikini Daze, still stands tall among the rest, sounding like the more interesting, dancier, triumphant and less self-righteous cousin of Lorde’s Royals.
The other two tracks from Bikini Daze, the skittering Dark Knight and the James Blake-like Freedom #1, together with XXX 88 and Never Wanna Know, travelled the same musical ground as No Mythologies To Follow but over a concise package of four tracks, instead of over an arguably two-songs-too-long 12. Yet, but for some editing, the album stands as MØ’s primary personal statement, showcasing her as master curator and tastemaking trendsetter. No Mythologies To Follow is a solid record, one that features a slightly older and more thoughtful MØ. It should make any fan of pop music look forward to what’s to come next from this gifted artist.