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MUNA – MUNA

In their third album release, indie pop icons MUNA have gone self-titled. Since lead singer/songwriter Katie Gavin, guitarist/producer Naomi McPherson and guitarist Josette Maskin began making music together in college at USC, they’ve always embraced pain as a bedrock of longing and a part of growing up. This band doesn’t shy away from the sadness of marginalised experience: the band members belong to queer and minority communities, and play for these fellow-travellers above all.  

We sent a couple of our writers off to see what they thought…

A group image of the band. They are all wearing white t printed t shirts, and are posing with fierce, determined expressions on their faces. They appear to be backstage, in the background we see a black tarpaulin. The image is set in a circle within an abstract illustration in the rrramble colours.

Kit

Having been a fan of MUNA (one might say their ‘Number One Fan’?) since their debut album About U, I’ve loved watching them ‘Grow’. Not only have they amassed a greater following, particularly since they broke the internet with the release of ‘Silk Chiffon’ in September 2021, but they’ve also developed lyrically, sonically and emotionally since they square-danced onto the queer indie pop scene (and my Spotify on repeat) in 2017. So, I think it’s fair to say that my expectations for their new self-titled album were high. These expectations were surpassed in the most unexpected moments on MUNA, like the genre-bending drum and bass-y ‘Runner’s High’, or the 80s-feeling pop-y queer love song ‘Solid’. MUNA have always blended emotional, introspective lyrics with powerful pop beats, but this album is a true masterclass in “sad soft pop songs for sissies angry girls emo queers and crybabies” as their merch reads.

About U and their sophomore album Saves the World established their trademark lyrical introspection, but both albums had an outwardly more earnest feel to them. When I saw MUNA live at The Garage in Islington in May 2022, Katie spoke about their success with ‘Silk Chiffon’ and the importance of celebrating “moments of levity and queer happiness and romance” despite Tiktok users who wrote it off as a “silly song”. When I heard those words, I didn’t yet know that this levity and queer euphoria would be the enduring theme of MUNA. From the most recent single ‘What I Want’, the refrain of which is “I wanna dance in the middle of a gay bar”, to the radical queer sensuality of ‘No Idea’, MUNA pulses with shameless, hedonistic queer joy. 

Emotionally, the singles from MUNA have provided solace for me during a difficult year, and these tracks couldn’t have come at a more apt period, both personally and politically. MUNA debuted in Trump’s America and the political tensions of the period were very evident in their first two albums. While About U and Saves the World never dipped into total hopelessness, their radical honesty occasionally fell to sentiments of shame and moments of isolation. MUNA lyrically shirks this shame in a track list of impactful self-acceptance. This empowerment was always present in MUNA’s music, in the anthemically feminist ‘I Know a Place’ and the ever-encouraging ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby’, but they had to drive into dark moments of fear, oppression and slut-shaming to access this liberating musical persona. 

MUNA rewrites the band’s political and personal schema, where now there isn’t even the slightest glimmer of self-doubt. This confidence ties itself around both the lyrics and the tight and exciting production, which is unafraid to take inspiration from touchstone pop periods while carving out an entirely fresh sound. ‘Handle Me’ feels like the band’s response to the vulnerability of their pop comrade Lorde’s ‘Liability’, but with none of the self-effacement. The common thread of being ‘too much’ is instead put as an issue with the invisible partner, not the narrator, which feels affectingly radical in a world that tells women and nonbinary people their emotional expressions are too much to handle. 

It feels significant, too, that the album is bookended by two love songs, ‘Silk Chiffon’ and ‘Shooting Star’, despite there being tracks that deal with healing from heartbreak in the album. This exemplifies the core emotional manifesto of the album, one that still sparkles in even the most dejected tracks: hope. 

The album art for MUNAs self titled album. The band/album name is in the top right hand corner, with the three band members making up the three remaining quadrants of the image. There is a white backdrop.
Album art is © MUNA (of course)

Sophie

One way to get me hooked on an album is by starting it off with a banger like ‘Silk Chiffon’. There is something addictive about this song – I have had it on repeat since September last year, I am not even kidding. It’s a summer vibe filled celebration of queer love that women-loving-women have been gasping for, and it makes me feel nothing but pure main character energy. Immediately I am reminded that life really is so fun, and that’s the kind of vibe I feel the first song on an album should bring. 

Following this strong start, MUNA hit us with another fun filled bop. ‘What I Want’ is exactly what I am about; it gives dancing in the club with your best pals, absolutely covered in glitter. I, too, “want to dance in the middle of a gay bar.” So far two upbeat jams that deliver nothing but good vibes, I am nothing short of impressed. Admittedly I wasn’t so enamoured with the next song, I got a bit bored halfway through and skipped it. Maybe I should have given it more of a chance, but after the fun I had with the first two songs this seemed to drag my mood down drastically. I am absolutely not opposed to a melancholy song, this one just felt out of place. 

One thing I am a sucker for is bittersweet nostalgically sad lyrics, accompanied by upbeat music, so of course the next jam on MUNA found me wanting to dance around my kitchen while reflecting on particularly painful times of my life. It has that sickly-sweet ‘rose-coloured glasses’ feel that you experience after the end of a relationship. ‘Home By Now’ reminds you exactly how it feels to question if you did all you could, while also confirming that sometimes those relationships just need to end. In a similar sort of vein, ‘Anything But Me’ once again provides a good beat to dance to, while reminding you why you broke up with your ex. MUNA really said you will be sad but you will be dancing while you do it. The bridge of this song has me grinning from ear to ear while brimming with self-love: “I would rather lose you than who I am meant to be.” As I said before, this album has me in my main character role. 

The final song on MUNA, ‘Shooting Star’, is a beautiful slow confession of love – a welcome feel-good change of tone from the previous melancholic songs. Ending the album on this note felt perfect. While I didn’t fall in love with every song on the album, I did feel a sort of full circle moment at the finale.

There is definitely something here for everybody, and I wouldn’t say any of these songs were bad, they just weren’t on the same vibe I was. Maybe you just caught me on a good day, where the sun is shining, and I just want to dance. If you are looking for an album to listen to while you walk down the street and pretend you are the main character in an early 2000’s rom-com, then this is the perfect soundtrack. 

Listen to MUNA by MUNA on Spotify, or wherever you get your music.

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