Hailing from Jyväskylä, Finland, the electro-pop duo, MSRBL, have been trailing down the indie-pop path since 2010 and their latest offering, the 4-track EP titled “Colours,” released in August 2021 via Secret Entertainment, sees them plunging headlong into the slightly modernized New Romantic synth-pop. As the duo’s name suggests, with its thinly veiled reference to the word “miserable,” the music is layered with a subtle sense of melancholy atop a strong undercurrent of radio-friendly pop sensibility. The outfit has already been likened to artists such as KENT, SIN COS TAN, and DEPECHE MODE but I wouldn’t go as far as to agree, at least not on the account of the new four-track release. The music is substantially more light-hearted in its melancholic overtones compared to, say, Dave Gahan‘s heart-wrenching renditions of faith, devotion, and love gone sour. By default, the KENT vocalist, Joakin Berg, often treads in a tad more darkly shaded emotional depth as well. The sadness of MSRBL is more akin to the synth-pop of PET SHOP BOYS and CUT COPY, as though resonating with the bittersweet sense of longing for the bygone days of summer when the autumn twilight projects its long shadows on mundane objects.
The EP opens with the title track, “Colours,” and it triggers instant flashbacks of both the Australian synth-pop outfit, CUT COPY, and the British electro-pop legend, NEW ORDER. That’s not bad at all for an up-and-coming synth-pop startup. The sonic palette is predominantly comprised of various shades of summer pop with a slight sting of melancholy. This dynamic duo knows how to write catchy melodies and pop hooks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song played out on the sunny terraces of any stereotypical holiday resort on the west coast of Finland in summer 2022. You can almost feel the gentle summer breeze on your face and smell the cider sparkling.
Synths are turned down a notch on the track “Wall,” where the wistful mood intensifies as the duo recites a story about the fear of losing someone. Here, the melancholy pop takes on stronger shades of campfire folk and hipster indie-pop á la BON IVER and the like. The mood conjured up by the acoustic guitars resonates with the air of naïve innocence, reminiscent of the honeymoon or puppy love period in any new relationship; you simply want to block out the outside world to be with your significant other as though the entire world had suddenly condensed into that one person for a passing moment that feels like forever. These sort of things don’t always merit singing out loud, but you cannot deny that the adolescent innocence is kind of disarming. Depending on your mental state and outlook in life, the song either sounds really cute or utterly annoying.
By the third track, “No One’s Gonna Stop the Rain,” I began to doubt that there is a unifying, common narrative to the songs. The song titles read out like the typical story of a relationship gone by the wayside due to whatever unfortunate happenstances. First, your eyes see the world anew as though everything was brimming with new colors when you meet someone. For a brief moment, you just want to dwell in that cocoon and never leave – maybe even want to build a wall around the crazy dream. Little by little, reality starts biting, until one day you wake up to the realization that nobody is going to stop the rain. Finally, you catch yourself muttering under your breath something similar to the line of lyrics in the closing track, “Unspoken,” that goes, “If I could only see the colors once again…” When vocalist Lauri Puranen articulates the lyrics with a somewhat bittersweet tone that is reminiscent of the American singer-songwriter Khalid, the synth-pop is suddenly and briefly swathed by a thoroughly contemplative aura. For a moment, it almost feels as though the auteurs of dark electro-pop, DEPECHE MODE, would approve. Then, the baby-faced synth-pop innocence takes over again.
With a few more heartbreaks, bingeing on hard drugs and liquor, and a couple of dark nights of the soul, I am damn right convinced that the pastel-shaded innocence of MSRBL would get tarnished into deeper shades of blue and hit like a ton of bricks. As of now, the synth-pop sounds light as the summer breeze, the pop hooks are cute as a puppy, and the melodies are sticky as duct tape. You either love it or hate it.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- No One’s Gonna Stop the Rain
Lauri Puranen – vocals, keyboards
Sami Mäkinen – guitars