MUNA impress with pop freakout The Loudspeaker EP

Loudspeaker"But I think I'm gonna kiss you," she says, finally, a dramatic pause teased out across eons. It's the emotional money shot on "Winterbreak", the highlight of MUNA's second - hell, let's call it - their breakthrough EP, The Loudspeaker. The line follows a rhyme on "tentative ellipsis" and "parting of your lips," which, frankly, is already enough to engage me in journalistic hyperbole mode: as much as I lost my shit alongside everyone else the first time I heard "The Mother We Share", you start to feel like the perfect pop promise of a band like Chvrches could finally be realised in the dark, stormy-night elegies bequeathed to us here.

Conditions are perfect for their brand of heartfelt, John Hughes melodrama. Haim picked up the 80s pop formula (verse, bridge, second bridge, chorus, post-chorus, is it too early for the middle eight?) and ran with it. The 1975 recently scored an unlikely number one album on both sides of the Atlantic by channelling the shrill funk guitars of INXS, a move that would surely have been inconceivable ten years ago. Unsurprisingly, singer Katie Gavin cites The Breakfast Club as her favourite movie soundtrack ("I'm Allison all the way"); crucially, it feels like a genuine influence on a modern pop group, rather than a lazy nod to nostalgia.

And that's just the thing: for all the throwbacks, the record is utterly pristine, unmistakably a product of 2016's tumults. Title track "Loudspeaker" plays out as an intersectional call to arms, the thread between Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson's guitars coiling arounded the band's tightest lyric: "Every time I don't shut up, it's revolution." It's a pretty concise summary of how the band operate; particularly a band who've embraced the 'queer pop' label thrust upon them by several journalists. Indeed, they've crafted such a slick vehicle for catchy hooks - all written and produced by Gavin - that it's easy to miss some of their bolder pronouncements. "So Special" finds the 22 year old reminiscing on "the time I went down on you at the gallery," set to the kind of widescreen synth palette that Tegan & Sara have been emblazoning their romantic dramas across lately, but spiked with a lascivious twist.

Like the Canadian twins, part of MUNA's magic is that they manage to imbue every inch of their songs with something that swells or sparkles; even when it feels like the whole thing is teetering into the saccharine ("You tell me you wanna stay, and you wanna watch me change"), the lyrics flinch back as fast as the song's protagonist does ("... But I'm scared, so I tell you to fuck off"). Delivered with such unflinching honesty, it's a narrative gambit that renders the heart of what The Loudspeaker EP communicates so compelling, and even poignant: the courage that it takes to allow yourself to get hurt. Consumed in one sitting, it's enough to render the listener temporarily invincible; enough to look a whole year in the eye, and take in all the shitty things it's done, whether it's stealing away your girlfriend, or your moral compass, or just Bowie and Prince, and saying, you know what? I think I'm gonna go out and kiss someone.

Release: 6th May 2016, RCA Records


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