Every couple of years are so, the ever-changing litmus test music fans construct to determine who has “cool” taste gets a makeover, redesigning which boxes on the checklist make the cut. As of late, one of the standard questions seems to be, “Do you listen to Drab Majesty?” In just a few years, the androgynous sadpop duo (made up of Deb Demure and Mona D) have amassed a small but devoted fanbase, winning over crowds with their retro, extraterrestrial blend of synth pads and reverb-heavy guitars. Modern Mirror, the group’s third full-length record, might just be the best argument to date for their infectious appeal.
From flowing album opener “A Dialogue,” eerie and ethereal as its dreamy instrumentation comes oozing in, to the final notes of urgent, space-age voyage “Out of Sequence,” Modern Mirror is driven by a devotion to its atmosphere. Layered surrealism moves us from expansive, echoed ballad “Noise of the Void” into driving, pulsating “Oxytocin” into the tactile synthwave landscape of “Long Division.” The pounding, late 80s power pop of “Ellipsis” is primed for an aimless, nighttime drive. These songs have a chameleonic appeal, able to effortlessly twist and contort themselves in order to serve as the soundtrack for any given moment in your life.
But this is not simply a weary mood piece. Sandwiched in between dower synth beats are peppy and explosive earworms that are sure to make their way onto house party mixes all over the country. The busy rhythm of bright and blistering “The Other Side” and the clap-clap dance pattern of sultry club track “Dolls in the Dark” burst through the soggy atmosphere, fully formed and ready for radio airplay. Modern Mirror boasts so many different tones that it has an allegiance to no single one in particular. Or perhaps it has an equal allegiance to all of them at once.
Drab Majesty love wearing their influences on their sleeve, everything from Duran Duran to The Chameleons, but unlike many of their contemporaries, they are able to do so while still maintaining a recognizably individual thumbprint. For them, nostalgia is jumping off point, rather than a defining characteristic, and that makes all the difference. Modern Mirror finds the duo at their most potent, as they continue to be one of the most intriguing acts of the most recent synthpop revival.