Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Record label: Labrador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Swedish Pop/Rock
The Mary Onettes has been releasing dreamy indie-pop from Jönköping, Sweden since Swedish label par excellence, Labrador, put out the band's Lost EP in 2006. Seven years and two albums later, the band has decided to change its tactic a bit. On 2007's self-titled debut and 2009's follow up, Islands, The Mary Onettes traded in lush, orchestrated pop symphonies whose big, instrument-filled arrangements masked a certain darkness and lyrical melancholy.
Following up from their excellent album under the name Det Vackra Livet in 2011, the Ekström brothers apply the improvements they made to their musical approach to the third Mary Onettes record, 2013's Hit the Waves. The first two Mary Onettes efforts were weighed down by overblown arrangements and somewhat derivative songwriting (and an overarching Echo & the Bunnymen fixation), but Det Vackra Livet was better because the arrangements were more organic and the songs had sharper hooks. Seems simple enough, but it was a big breakthrough for them.
Hit the Waves, the third album from the Swedish band the Mary Onettes, opens with an instrumental “Intro” that’s calm and ominous, seemingly setting us up for a dramatic start, as if this is going to be a grand, ambitious concept album. In fact, the calmness and eeriness of the intro lead naturally into the moderate pace and anxiousness of the first track “Evil Coast”, which sets the tone of the album. If it’s a concept album, it’s definitely not the surfing-fun album you might imagine from the title, but a downcast, somewhat nautical-themed album of tragedy and loss.
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.
When a band takes such care over its music that new releases only appear at something like five yearly intervals, or when recording conditions mean that said band can only get into the studio that often, the results are inevitably something approaching perfectionism. Formed in 2000, The Mary Onettes release their third album on March 12th and their deliberate or imposed musical reticence has certainly provided the Swedish four piece with a useful publicity hook. I’d never heard of them previously, which is one drawback of a bands keeping their songs under serious wraps until they’re more than satisfied with their final recordings, and the core duo of brothers Philip and Henrik Ekstrom aren’t, I’d suspect, up for doing things in any way other than their own.
Perpetually calling out behind a foggy haze of sparse, ethereal soundscapes, The Mary Onettes return with their third full length and first album proper in five years. The band’s five-year silence is an indication of an unrelenting persistence: their perfectionist dispositions are immediately palpable once presented with something as meticulously crafted as Hit The Waves. It’s clear from the start that a lot of time and exertion went into making this record: it’s a shimmering denouement of the band’s assiduity; a refined, perfectly sculptured collection of songs that weave in and out of sonic consciousness.
Rewind five or so years back and The Mary Onettes’ brand of crystalline synth tunes fitted snuggly with Ladyhawke and Cut Copy’s obsession with eighties electro-pop. The Swedes’ self-titled debut and its follow-up ‘Islands’ showed that the land of superior social care and peculiarly-named furniture had something new to shout about.Now onto their third album, this quartet is still infatuated with the era of hairspray and shoulder pads. Like their contemporaries before them, The Mary Onettes are not ashamed to admit it: see ‘Hit the Waves’ (sounds like Cut Copy) or ‘Years’ (sounds like the Killers’ ‘Battle Born’).