When a band takes such care over its music that new releases only appear at something like five yearly intervals, or when recording conditions mean that said band can only get into the studio that often, the results are inevitably something approaching perfectionism. Formed in 2000, The Mary Onettes release their third album on March 12th and their deliberate or imposed musical reticence has certainly provided the Swedish four piece with a useful publicity hook. I’d never heard of them previously, which is one drawback of a bands keeping their songs under serious wraps until they’re more than satisfied with their final recordings, and the core duo of brothers Philip and Henrik Ekstrom aren’t, I’d suspect, up for doing things in any way other than their own.
Which is going to prove just fine with anyone hearing Hit The Waves later this year, because it’s a bit of a carefully sculpted and shimmeringly played masterpiece. The Mary Onettes take the current Dreampop templates and make gloriously lush summer soundtrack music that’s worth every lengthy production delay they’ve endured in bringing us their third album, an album that takes notable cues from Best Coast, Fleet Foxes, The Drums and several other prominent 21st (and 20th) century synth pop outfits, and it’s done with consummate skill in just about every department. With an emphasis of songwriting and some cleverly handled references to other influences throughout – A-Ha jamming with Steely Dan round at Foster The People’s garage is one of several varyingly accurate descriptions I could make of Hit The Waves . The Mary Onettes make no attempt to hide their influences and positively encourage the listener to join their only very slightly indulgent musical travels.
And for all the Ekstrom brothers and their collaborators are perfectionists of one kind or another, the finished results of their recordings are somehow ephemeral, even throwaway, just like so much retro and current chart music, their years of experimentation and replicating their own favorite bands has now arrived at a point where it matters little who the performers are, or where and when the songs were recorded. Glossy production adds a haze of late summer mist to some cleverly realised songwriting and Hit The Waves is an album that stands on its own terms musically, without its needing to explain itself or its influences, or even why it’s taken five years to record. A brilliant modern pop record that just happens to come from Sweden, Hit The Waves has had much positive coverage elsewhere and most listeners will appreciate why. Expect to hear several tracks from the album over the course of this year without finding out who the performers are : perhaps you’d better buy a copy.