Album Review: Mercurial World
Updated: Sep 21
2021 was an incredible year for music, so much so that many of the best albums to release went unnoticed since there were simply too many incredible records to hear them all. One album which deserved more attention was Mercurial World, the debut album from synth-pop duo Magdalena Bay. Mica Tenenbaum provides vocals throughout the album, while Matthew Lewin handles production.
This album combines the bubbly synths and carefree vocals of a Kero Kero Bonito album with the punchy percussion of a dance song. The subject matter is standard for a pop album: love, rebellion, and happiness. However, where this album stands out is in its production. It draws inspiration from so many sounds, be it the glitchy sound of 'Secrets (Your Fire)' which is reminiscent of a video game soundtrack, or the abrasive synths and drums on 'Chaeri' which would not feel out of place on one of Charli XCX's hyperpop releases.
Vocalist Mica Tenenbaum gives an incredible performance on this album. Her whispery tone seems as though it would be drowned out in the loud and colourful production, but the two contrast each other perfectly. The dichotomy of the soft vocals to the vibrant beats makes the album all the more engaging. At points, such as at the climax of 'Chaeri' or the chorus of 'Domino', Mica's voice builds until she is almost shouting. These moments give so much impact to the songs, contrasting her soft tone made familiar to the listener.
I appreciate Mica's approach to the vocals on this album, because a constant loud and dramatic performance may have been overwhelming coupled with the production, and may have distracted from the intricate instrumentals from Matthew.
Mercurial World is an album as forward-thinking as it is creative. While its inspirations are clear, when it comes to the final product, there is not another album like Mercurial World. Each song seamlessly transitions into the next, and the album even loops back around at the end, begging for another full listen. There are few albums which focus so much on the album experience. Not to discredit modern pop legends such as Charli XCX or Carly Rae Jepsen, but on their most recent albums, little would change if a few song placements were switched about at random. But on Mercurial World, every song links to the next, turning the album itself into one larger song which feels wrong to play in independent pieces.
The album is aptly titled. As soon as it begins, you are brought into the sound of a mercurial world, where you cannot predict how its sound will change from track to track. Even the more standard pop bangers such as 'Mercurial World' and 'Dawning of the Season' on the front half of the album display intricate and detailed production unseen in so many pop records today.
The colourful synths give the album so much character, and the drums are used effectively at key points to give the song a punch. Every aspect of the instrumentals has purpose: to create the vibrant atmosphere, to build to a climax, or to compliment Mica's vocals and express her emotions through the production alongside her voice.
Instead of a single, unchanging beat repeating throughout the song, every track on Mercurial World evolves, adding and taking away layers when necessary to give the record an unpredictable and engaging sound. Mercurial World is what every pop artist should aspire to create. It is an album which creates a vivid atmosphere unlike any other album, using its inspirations as tools to craft an entirely unique sound. Each song can be enjoyed on its own, but as a cohesive album, the effortless song transitions heighten the experience, making me want to spin the entire album each time to hear how each track blends into the next. Magdalena Bay know how to make appealing pop music, but they do so without sacrificing what makes them unique. In my opinion, Mercurial World is one of the best pop albums ever made, and I hope it gets the praise it deserves as time goes on.
Fav tracks: Secrets (Your Fire), Domino, The Beginning, Chaeri, Hysterical Us