MS MR Electrifies at Legends
Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, February 23, 2014
Indie-pop duo MS MR took the stage Saturday night for “Coachella to Campus,” an event hosted by Legends. Though the title may be a little misleading (the group is actually scheduled to play at Coachella this upcoming April), the up-and-coming band’s performance was a strong indication of the good things to come on this year’s festival circuit.
MS MR (pronounced Miz Mister) is made up of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, Vassar alums who reunited to record Plapinger’s distinctive vocals over Hershenow’s electronic, infectious pop beats. Before long, the young group began catching the attention of tastemakers and were featured in Tom Ford’s 2012 runway show as well as the “Game of Thrones” soundtrack with their single, “Bones.”
After releasing a five-song EP on their Tumblr, a format the group has utilized since their start, MS MR released their first full-length studio LP, “Secondhand Rapture,” in May of last year. With a style described both as “vintage” and “electroshock,” the group’s sound is a clever mix of old and new and has garnered comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Daft Punk.
“Secondhand Rapture,” which included the five songs from MS MR’s earlier EP, features epic ballads driven by Plapinger’s powerful voice — think Florence Welch with less strings and more beat — and more upbeat, danceable pop numbers. Rather than be a bubblegum electro-pop outfit, however, the band consciously turns their music in a more sinister and sometimes macabre direction, with Hershenow building up insidious beats as Plapinger croons in minor keys.
Despite the darker elements to MS MR’s music, the band took the stage prepared to entertain, not depress, their enthusiastic crowd. Though Hershenow and Plapinger are the songwriters, founders and face of the group, MS MR took stage as a four-piece outfit, with drums, guitar and synth to round out their sound.
Even with a full band on stage, Plapinger undeniably captured the audience’s attention of with her signature colorful hair (this time it was a blue-green hue) and powerful voice. The group performed a good variety of their songs from “Secondhand Rapture,” opening with super-popular track “Bones.” Plapinger was as endearing between songs as she was while singing them, and the band’s energy was refreshing in a space like Legends.
And the group didn’t hold back for the set’s end. After delivering a pretty impressive cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” (which is almost impossible to listen to and stay standing still), MS MR rounded out their show with “Hurricane,” the band’s biggest single and a definite crowd-pleaser.
Though MS MR has relatively little material to use in a show, performing covers and remixes to fill in the time, the group certainly has strength in their live performances. Their studio recordings and music videos may give off a dark and even aloof image at times, but their stage presence brings a fun and energetic element missing elsewhere. In the music video for “Hurricane,” a creepy collection of clips much like Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” the band tries hard to put on an air of mystery and make viewers a bit uneasy, but upon seeing MS MR live, the duo brings a different vibe to the stage. Even if it’s not cohesive with their dark-side image, the group was more engaging and entertaining than I expected.
Of course, this young band has plenty of time to fine tune their “Tumblr glitch-pop” sound, and while the band’s lyrics show room for improvement, MS MR has found a niche on the dark side of pop that is getting them plenty of attention. They may still be forming an image and creating a bigger body of material, but the group has one thing down for sure: a solid live performance that Legends was lucky to have.