Three years after making a name for themselves with the single "Hurricane," on How Does It Feel MS MR balance where they've been and where they're going. The formerly anonymous duo revealed the names behind the music (singer Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, respectively), but also returned to their old home base of Bushwick while recording their second album. Similarly, the pair expands on the smoky mystique of "Hurricane" and Secondhand Rapture on these songs, taking that sound in a more immediate direction with the help of co-writers such as MNDR, Tove Lo, and drummer Zach Nicita. Hershenow and Plapinger's more attention-getting approach reflects the pop trends that cropped up after Secondhand Rapture's release: literally and figuratively, How Does It Feel is a busier, brassier set of songs that feel more active even when they're not aimed at the dancefloor. "Painted" gives the duo's drama a surprisingly kinetic backbone, while "No Guilt in Pleasure" and "Criminals" boast some of their most irresistible choruses yet. Plapinger's voice is just as compelling in these more streamlined surroundings as it was on their debut; where her torchy delivery recalled Adele or Florence Welch on Secondhand Rapture, here she finds kindred spirits in Kiesza and Jess Glynne songs like the house-tinged standout "Reckless." Here and on How Does It Feel's other highlights, Hershenow and Plapinger give their innate drama a pop gloss, with slinkier tracks such as "Wrong Victory" and the MNDR collaboration "Tripolar" sounding like heightened versions of their debut. While a few tracks sound too similar to each other, How Does It Feel's best moments deliver pop accessibility without sacrificing any of MS MR's identity.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares