There’s a huge clash of influences in the debut album from Denmark’s Karen Marie Ørsted (a.k.a MØ). Yet far from confusion, ‘No Mythologies To Follow’ is a collection of idiosyncratic songs that form a colourful and coherent singular vision.
Ørsted began her music career as one half of punk activist duo Mor and this attitude still remains in her current work. Directly, her lyrics touch on social commentary, discussing issues such as youth malaise and Denmark’s social benefits (hence the album title). On Pilgrim, for instance, she sighs “Oh what a world I was born into”, whilst on Glass she longs for lost youth with the questioning chorus “Oh why does everyone have to grow old?”. Yet on a higher level there’s an edgy rebelliousness to her sound and a disregard for convention, varying styles and genres bubbling away in a rich melting pot of creativity.
The genres in question are predominantly electro, R&B and hip-hop – but to define Ørsted’s sound would be a disservice. Electro beats, pulsating bass lines and noodling guitars frequently collide in a weird and wonky mix that hypnotises as much as it thrills. Pilgrim, one of her earliest releases, features a handclap beat and brass stabs, whilst later singles like Waste Of Time or Maiden lean more heavily on electronica with their dark, minimal production and Glass is characterised by suitably crystalline synths. Then there’s XXX 88 produced by Diplo, which takes more of a dance approach but retains Ørsted’s trademark quirkiness.
MØ certainly has a distinct sound that does become slightly repetitive. Yet there’s no time to be bored, the album lurching from song to song (on the lengthy deluxe version especially) and changing up the sound just enough to constantly entice you. Walk This Way stands out for its funky synth riffs and choppy vocal samples, whilst Slow Love is pure house and Don’t Wanna Dance includes an almost Motown (MØtown?) chorus. Never Wanna Know, however, sticks out like a sore thumb for its retro soul sound, grating with the album as a whole. Individually, though, there are simply no bad songs on ‘No Mythologies To Follow’.
Then there’s Ørsted’s vocal, so frequently compared to Lana Del Rey. There’s certainly a laconic drawling quality to it, slinking between a sultry lower range to a haunting falsetto. If anything, though, her punky ennui is more akin to the likes of Lorde or Sky Ferreira.
Above it all, MØ’s music is unashamedly pop. Her recent cover of the Spice Girl’s Say You’ll Be There is evidence enough for her personal tastes and it continues in the catchy riffs and earworm melodies throughout this album. In short, this is one of the best alternative pop albums of the year so far and another massive win for Scandinavia.
* Walk This Way
Listen: 'No Mythologies To Follow' is available now.