“We don’t make music for other people, we make it for us”, says Malin Hofvander, one half of Malmö’s art rock duo Mary Anne’s Polar Rig. With the release of their second album, Makes You Wonder, Hofvander and her musical partner Harald Ingvarsson take things at their own pace, going wherever the hell they want, when they want.
Originally a four-piece, MAPR went their separate ways after 2021 debut album Makes You Happy. But Hofvander and Ingvarsson weren’t done. Having shared an apartment during the pandemic, several sketches of new songs they wrote during this time provided a framework for Makes You Wonder. The sense of freedom is palpable, with MAPR grabbing the opportunity presented in the change of line-up to push the boundaries of their music. Makes You Wonder throws off the songwriting confinements of the fast-paced, frantic guitar-centred fuzz-pop that served well on Makes You Happy, replacing them with something more idiosyncratic and personal.
Musically, MAPR don’t settle in any particular place. Makes You Wonder drags its dirty sneaker heels languorously through grunge, pogos and headbangs to spiky CBGB punk hooks and shimmies foxily with dream-pop flourishes. As expected, the singles are the most direct tracks here and two of them seal the deal in the first ten minutes. ‘Dopamine Detox’ is a feverish affair driven by a David Baker-era Mercury Rev vibe. Guitars and drums tumble over each other as Hofvander croaks drowsily like a strung-out Karen O trying to escape the irresistible pull of social media and the endless scroll. Next, ‘Summer Girl’ cuts its scuzzy 90s indie rock with some pure feelgood pop. Later, ‘Som En Dröm’ gives more than a nod and wink to Swedish cult indie band Bob Hund, with its eccentric layered sound and disorganised dream sequence format. MAPR’s experimental freedom never feels self-indulgent or pointless. ‘Som En Dröm’ pulls us into the throng of a wild party, where we’re swept along from one odd room to the next, wondering where we will end up.
It’s not all about the singles, though. The complexity of their sound unravels across their longer, more sprawling explorations. ‘Instead of This’, the almost-title-track, is an epic that starts out like any regular-sounding indie rock staple before being bent into freaky shapes. ‘The Way That I’m Feeling’ similarly gets stretched and pulled apart in all directions, with anxious riffs spiralling and eating themselves in confusion. The gentle disorder of ‘It Goes’ launches a depth charge into a sea of doubt, churning up long-buried feelings and showing us another aspect of Hofvander’s range. Ingvarsson takes a lazy lead on ‘Life In The City’ , sounding like a young J Mascis reeling from blow-backs and existential dread, as the track mutates into a hazy piano hallucination. Things fall into place on aptly named closer ‘Beautiful Mess’ , seducing us gradually with motorik rhythms before writhing tentacles of guitar noise take over, squeezing and choking its climactic finish.
Makes You Wonder does exactly that. While they don’t aim to give us a dopamine hit on every track, Hofvander and Ingvarsson’s chemistry throughout makes this a refreshing, charming, if not gripping fifty-minute ride through their weird world.
‘Makes You Wonder’ is released via Rama Lama on 24th March
Photo: Ebba Agren