Since emerging in 2007 with a buoyant (if monotonous) debut, The Mary Onettes have grown adept at recasting New Wave through a Swedish pop prism. Drawing from among the more exposed acts of the ’80s, frontman Philip EkstrÃ¶m and his bandmates have produced a catalog of pleasant, tame revivalism. On their third album, Hit the Waves, The Mary Onettes wear heavier hearts as they venture into more detailed fields of sound.
Hit the Waves marks the first instance that The Mary Onettes employed outside help in their creative process. By drawing producer Dan Lissvik into the mix, the band allowed themselves to enjoy a little creative friction. It pays off; the record boasts a deeper sound and more creative uses of synthesizers than we’ve ever heard from The Mary Onettes. EkstrÃ¶m has always been a competent crafter of hooks, but Lissvik’s attention to detail bolsters his melodies beyond the warm, safe territory of the first two records.
Despite these new intricacies, too much of the fun has slipped out of The Mary Onettes’ performance. While The Mary Onettes and Islands balanced grandiose ’80s gestures with grounded ruminations on living and learning, Hit the Waves indulges in the kind of lyricism that can rub even the most devoted Cure fans the wrong way. All it takes is a quick glance at the track list to see that EkstrÃ¶m has nosedived into the purple: “Black Sunset”, “Can’t Stop the Aching”, and “Don’t Forget (to Forget about Me)” all deliver on their world-weary titles.
Hit the Waves is both the darkest and the glossiest Mary Onettes record to date. That tension between style and content creates a few engaging moments, but doesn’t offer much for listeners who haven’t already subscribed to the band’s ’80s rehash.
Essential Tracks: “Hit the Waves”