MS MR takes comfort in concealment. Take one look at the moniker the New York duo of vocalist Lizzy Plapinger (MS) and producer Max Hershenow (MR) hide behind. On their sophomore album, How Does It Feel, rather than cut deep to reveal personal truths, Plapinger indifferently sings dull, cliched lyrics. Opening track “Painted” dives headfirst into a sea of synth as she sings, “It’s getting old loving everyone else/ More than you love yourself.” Elsewhere, tired phrases taken from inspirational posters keep popping up. “Only when we’re lost can we find ourselves again,” she sings on “Reckless”. “I know you better than I know myself,” she doubles down on “Pieces”.
As a sophomore album, How Does It Feel delivers more of the same as MS MR’s debut, lacking innovation or development. Hershenow’s synthesizer creates dense and driving beats. There’s an added echo to Plapinger’s unabating rasp, heard best on “Criminals”. Synth violins introduce the title track, while Plapinger chants “How does it feel,” as if rallying up a crowd rather than questioning an individual. She sings of savagery, asking, “How does it feel with my teeth in your heart?” While the song should surge with thunderous rage, it comes across as amicable, suppressing emotion behind booming backbeats.
Vulnerability and conviction finally see the light on “Wrong Victory”, as Plapinger’s vocal scales and breaks add sincerity to her words. “I don’t wanna break down and feel alone,” she sings. On “Tunnels” she admits to more fragility: “I think I’m breaking down again.” But there’s never any hard evidence of that break, no point at which the stakes of her pain are felt. As the angelic closing track “All the Things Lost” builds to an opportunity for an explosive fusion of vocals, synth, and raw emotion, no climax is ever reached. It seems Plapinger’s feelings are among the things lost.
Essential Tracks: “Painted”, “Wrong Victory”