Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Own House | MisterWives


★★★☆☆

The mobile app Vine is a strange, mystical land of six second videos. Not only do memes spread like wildfire across the app, but obscure pieces of music are also picked up, blasted to widespread popularity, and abused by the most popular users for months on end; in particular, "I Don't Fuck With You" and "CoCo" still accompany many of my nightmares. Members of American indie pop band MisterWives are not strangers to the spontaneous Vine-fueled success, after users grabbed onto "Reflections" and didn't let go. With the epicenter of their viral success in the rear-view mirror, the band has unveiled their debut full-length album, Our Own House.

MisterWives carved their own niche within the indie pop genre; they combine "real" and synthetic instruments to achieve their lighthearted sound. However, the band doesn't stray far from their predetermined formulas. In their upbeat and mid-tempo selections, such as "Hurricane," "Our Own House," and of course "Reflections," multiple layers of similar drums, guitars, and synthesizers are systematically added as the pieces swell in their bombastic choruses, but the verses are left as mere ornaments. In turn, songs that lack the signature choruses ("Vagabond," "Oceans") teeter along without much to look forward to.

Lead singer Mandy Duff's voice doesn't have the necessary spark to hold its own, especially when a track is stripped of a lush instrumental backdrop. Her shrill soprano range is impressive, but her limited vocal power often seems to originate from the middle of her throat, and despite being native to the United States, she cannot enunciate English words clearly. While some artists, namely Ariana Grande and Sia, are slammed for slurring words into moody murmurs, Duff's lyrics are scrambled by her overpowered shrieks at moments of excitement or emotion.

In short, Our Own House encompasses listeners with feel-good indie pop with plenty of room left for improvement. Between rehashed sounds and faulty vocal delivery, the band's shortcomings are blatant. At its most jubilant climaxes, the album is surprisingly pleasing, but nothing special fills the voids between those moments. However, for just being on their debut, MisterWives proves to be a promising act. They have already mastered the production of well-crafted choruses, a mandatory skill for pop acts that aim for mainstream appeal. With further songwriting and vocal development, the band's follow-up to Our Own House could make this album look like a basic apartment by comparison.

Our Own House is out now under Republic Records.

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