Tales of record contract nightmares, mishandling of record marketing by labels with higher priorities and lengthy delays aren’t necessarily anything new in rock `n’ roll. Business drama can make for good headlines when it happens to notable artists, but for smaller acts, it can be more commonplace, and likely more frustrating. Sweden’s Mary Onettes, by all accounts, should have released their debut album a long time ago. Having weathered being dropped from two labels and a lot of wasted time, The Mary Onettes spent seven years of their life as a band with only an EP to show for all their effort. Thanks to Labrador Records, a label with an outstanding track record, the world finally gets to hear what The Mary Onettes have to offer, and it’s quite an impressive display.
The Mary Onettes’ self-titled debut is a treasure trove of ’80s-influenced pop, from New Order style keyboards to Robert Smith-influenced guitar, to shoegaze effects and hazy folk rock. Though the post-punk influenced indie pop trend has yielded countless bands in the past decade, from top-tier bands like Interpol, to miserable copycats such as She Wants Revenge, The Mary Onettes’ tuneful and organic nature makes theirs a treat easily set apart from the crowd, as their debut reveals stunning textures and captivating songwriting with an emotional punch.
Leadoff track “Pleasure Songs” is relatively subdued by the band’s standards, with acoustic guitar and piano driving the downcast melody. It’s a lovely tune, if a bit misleading for an introduction. By track two, “Lost,” the band changes direction a bit by playing up synthesizers and chorus-treated guitar, finding a gloriously glossy middle ground between Power, Corruption and Lies and The Head On the Door, with a hard driving chorus. “Void” even begins with a bit of Johnny Marr-like guitar, jangling wonderfully into a wiry post-punk anthem. “Slow” is melancholy and huge, but ultimately mesmerizing with its layers of synthesizer. And “The Companion” is delightfully sinister, driven by an ominous bassline beneath its glossy exterior.
It may have taken way too long to happen, but the release of The Mary Onettes’ debut is quite a gift. Labrador Records deserves a pat on the back for taking on such a talented band, though even greater kudos to the band for recording such a magnificent piece of music. It may sound a bit on the nostalgic side, though its influences merely melt into a greater whole, in which various sounds meld together in synth-pop ecstasy.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.