Change is an essential part of life — we face changes (be they minuscule or all-encompassing) what feels like every second of our lives. As people move through life, their experiences shape them in both fantastic and tragic ways, eventually culminating in a fully-realized person in the best of cases. This is particularly true of artists, who have the unique ability to translate what these events impart on them into consumable media. Few pop musicians this decade have succeeded so thoroughly in this endeavor than MUNA, a three-piece band composed entirely of queer women, on their 2017 debut, About U, and their sophomore record, Saves the World, providing a true emotional catharsis for their legion of devoted fans.
Opening with a literal plea for change on “Grow,” vocalist Katie Gavin articulates the desire young adults have to transform, “put[ting] away [their] childish things” as they age out into lives they weren’t as ready for as they had initially believed. The song is one of three semi-acoustic moments on the album —the other two being “Good News (Ya-Ya Song)” and the penultimate “Memento” — that tend to deal in generational sentiments in contrast to the more nuanced and specific writing on the rest of the tracks.
Masked by maximalist synth-pop production and refracted vocals that give the record a sense of celebration (which is true of lead single and self-help banger “Number One Fan”), many of these songs are deeply damaged vignettes of the band members’ lives, often detailing broken relationships they have suffered through past or present. Advance tracks “Stayaway” and “Who” are two sides of the same masochistic coin; “Navy Blue” and “Never” find them at their most despondent, with suicidal ideation and the contemplation of shunning love permeating the respective songs. But closer “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby” throws these woes to the wind as Gavin takes a walk down memory lane, assuring her former self — and by extension, the Gavin of the present — that hindsight will save her. It’s here that MUNA proves that Saves the World might just do as its title suggests for other souls that have gotten lost along the way.
Standout tracks: “Number One Fan,” “Stayaway,” “Hands Off,” “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby”