Following up from their excellent album under the name Det Vackra Livet in 2011, the Ekström brothers apply the improvements they made to their musical approach to the third Mary Onettes record, 2013's Hit the Waves. The first two Mary Onettes efforts were weighed down by overblown arrangements and somewhat derivative songwriting (and an overarching Echo & the Bunnymen fixation), but Det Vackra Livet was better because the arrangements were more organic and the songs had sharper hooks. Seems simple enough, but it was a big breakthrough for them. The songs on Hit the Waves are similarly catchy, scaled down to human size instead of arena size, and Phillip Ekström's anguished croon sounds better than ever delivering them. The band shared the production chores with fellow Swede Daniel Lissvik (formerly of Studio), and as with most of the jobs he has undertaken, his skillful layering and sculpting adds all kinds of dimension to the sound, and he and the band draw from a wider, more interesting sonic palette this time. His style is a perfect fit for the songs Phillip Ekström wrote for the album. He can make things sound huge and dramatic (as on the title track and the elegiac "How It All Ends"), but he and the band shine when they pull things back and underplay the emotion, as on "Years" and "Can't Stop the Aching." These tracks have a feel very similar to the quieter, achingly desperate songs on the Cure's Disintegration. There are even a couple songs that tap into Lissvik's background as a cosmic disco producer ("Black Sunset" and "Don't Forget (To Forget About Me)"), a song that taps into a dreamy Fleetwood Mac vibe complete with Buckingham-style guitar lines ("Unblessed") and one that sounds shockingly like a spacy Cure-meets-Harry Nilsson piano ballad ("Blues.") The combination of strong songs, Lissvik's inspired production, and the chances they take (and nail every time) make this the best Mary Onettes record yet, and the first to sound like they have their own voice.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra