Following our last piece about the wonderfully exciting and massively hyped artist, Flume, you would be forgiven for thinking The Recommender might have turned into a hit-chasing buzz blog, seeing as we’re now about to recommend yet another artist that’s recently gained plenty of blog inches. Hopefully regular readers will be aware that we prefer to search out new music independently, only ever writing up someone with integrity intact. We like to list artists that have not only caught our attention, but that have genuinely stolen our hearts, and just because today’s recommendation has been playing the heartstrings of others does not reduce her chances of getting coverage on the pages of this blog too, as dismissing an artist purely because she’s excited other blogs would be foolish. Hot or cold, if you’re good enough, you get on. However, the real interesting points in question with today’s artist will be to see if they’re worthy of the buzz in the first place and ultimately to ask if they have enough talent to survive it?
MØ is a new solo artist from Denamrk, making alternative electronic pop. She’s so very nearly a new Karen O, seeing as her real name is Karen Marie Ørsted, although the comparisons she lists of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on her Facebook remains only a tiny hint at her own sound. So why all the excitement? Well, over the last few weeks she’s earned some fantastically useful coverage on sites such as The Guardian, which assessed her comparison to Grimes, as well as blogs such as Disco Naivete, which declared her to be “the new girl in town” who may “finally be the perfect crossover between pop and indie“. There’s a wonderfully exciting sense of buzz building, but it’s not just with her ability to write music with enjoyably sharp edges that occupies an alternative space behind the pigeon holes, but it’s actually how she harnesses a sense of accessible pop that is most likely to continue the momentum long term. After all it’s pop that dominates the all-important radio waves. Elsewhere, Dre Albert mentioned comparisons to Shakira on her article for The Line Of Best Fit, whilst Paul Lester brought up similarities to Lana Del Rey on his piece for The Guardian’s A New Band A Day page. This isn’t just exciting, this is lethal.
If the British used to fight out the ownership of alternative pop music with America, then the new battleground can now be seen between Canada and Scandinavia, as the likes of Grimes or Lykke Li carve out commercial careers whilst still sounding like the future. The ease, fluidity and freedom with which electronic pop productions can be made, such as with those that have poured out from cities such as Toronto or Copenhagen in recent years, seem to have pushed indie music further and further into the background. Whereas the guitar once seemed the instrument of choice, with it’s seemingly endless boundaries, it now seems restrictive when compared to the laptop. Sure we’ve had interesting arrivals in 2012 with the likes of Pins and Savages carving out a new breed of guitar-based cool, but they both seem reflective in their sounds, whereas the likes of MØ, or Grimes before her, seem to harness something far fresher. This is music with a future – a future they’re designing for themselves.
Two songs currently exist online for MØ. The track Maiden seemed to arrive back in May, blending stuttered beats, rapid cymbals and an incandescent guitar sample, whilst she delivers a crooning vocal with a dark centre, singing “where can I start, when all of you find me crazy, coz I have a black heart“. Vocals sung as if playing a character are nothing new of course, although she chooses not to make the words unrecognisable in the same glossolalial way that Grimes does, this is more akin to how Lana Del Rey emphasizes the sexual flirt with the listener, channelling Jessica Rabbit more than she is Liz Fraser. The tune, Pilgrim, arrived more recently and seems to slow things ever so slightly, with heavier basslines and giant handclaps for a beat. There is a scaled-up size to her sound, escalated by her dominant vocals, the samples of brass and the layers of additional voices. She’s earned her attention by blending the alternative with the accessible, leading to what seemed like a packed show for the Yours Truly party at New York’s CMJ music marathon last Friday, where getting into the room seemed like the hardest thing for most attendees – a case of the accessible turning out to be inaccessible.
The key thing with buzz is that it is ultimately very difficult to survive it. How do you maintain interest when it’s this mountain-sized before you’ve even released an official single, let alone carry it all the way through to the actual debut album? On the flip-side, rushing the album, Lana Del Rey-style, can create a false-start, so there’s dangerous ground to be covered which ever way they play it. Pressure is something you just have to get used to if you write fantastic music, but we hope she has the strength to continue developing, and lines such as those she sings in Pilgrim, “All the time I just want to fuck it up and say urgh to hell with it“, don’t become statements she expresses to her record label. In truth, all the attention should set things up wonderfully well for MØ in 2013 as she sets about releasing more music, but get the timing wrong and the flame of buzz which burns so bright will not burn long. Hype gives an artist the desired traction required to get going and to ultimately get signed, but the pace at which those same commentators move their attention on will also mean she needs to work hard to maintain the excitement. The trick over the next few months will be how she capitalises on the buzz, turning attention into sales – a good start is only a good start after all – but because her alternative modern pop is so immensely strong she can not only look forward to those next steps but take them with confidence. (MB)
MØ – PILGRIM
MØ – MAIDEN