L.A./NYC Funeral Pop duo MXMS step out from the shadows in the City Of Lights on "Paris."

MXMS traditionally trade in late-night electronic atmospherics, like moody late-90s Trip-Hop, a la Tricky or Massive Attack, blended with 21st-Century experimental club music - the detached romanticism of James Blake, the disembodied spectrality of Burial, with just a hint of Dan Snaith/Caribou's live electronic mutations.

These ethereal touches - growling sub-bass, a hall of mirrors of prismatic echoes and delays - paints their stories of love, romance, infatuation, and obsession in an avant-garde light, like an indie arthouse film made with a handheld Pixelvision camera. Figures, stories, are blurred and indistinguishable, abstract and poetic.

On "Paris," however, MXMS are at their clearest and most in-focus. It's downright upbeat by the duo's standards. A woolen, cottony club beat underscores a delicate, fluttering, skeletal guitar, and woozy, detuned synth. It serves as a proper setting for the crown jewel of Ariel Levitan's warm, seductive vocals.

It's one of MXMS' best offerings to date, destined to bring in hordes of fresh ears into their funeral parlor. The moody gothiness is replaced with a scintillating pop freshness, bringing to mind newer Sia, minus the vocal pyrotechnics, or other club-led indie pop like Toronto's Stars.



It's a good look for MXMS, who don't need to hide behind special effects or gimmicks. First of all, they're talented musicians and arranger, never bogging down a single with unnecessary flimflam. The clearer production makes it easier to appreciate their musicality - the perfectly placed tremor of muted guitar, the catchy synth, flickering and melting like a heat mirage. Most importantly, it lets us stop and appreciate Ariel Levitan's smoky, sultry vocals. On "Paris," she sounds fresh and unencumbered, like a young woman in a pretty dress exploring Paris in springtime. It's the sound of lightness, of freedom. It's the sound of a fresh start, of letting go of the phantoms of your past and living fully in the moment.

"Paris" is a reminder that it's never too late to start over. That innocence can be restored, even if it's colored by experience. Innocence tempered with wisdom is a good place to be - childlike but not childish.

We Are: The Guard couldn't be more honored to help usher in MXMS' music into the light of day. Me and my Shadow's debut album is supposed to be out this year, on our very own label. After the non-stop parade of exceptional lead singles, we're frothing at the bit for the whole thing to see the light of day!


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.