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MUNA ‘Around U’ Album Review: Triumphant Alt-Pop Debut From LA Trio

To the uninitiated, MUNA is a punchy power-pop trio from Los Angeles (consisting of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson) that concern themselves with hard-hitting beats, huge choruses, and emotive, personal lyrics, all from the relatively untapped perspective of queer performers, particularly a queer pop band.

Their first album About U comes off the back of several moderately-successful songs that make their way onto the tracklist here — their shimmering debut ‘Winterbreak’ is just as glowing as it was upon first listen, while the anthemic ‘Loudspeaker’ retains its ’80s-infused punch and soaring vocal presence.

The entire record seems steeped into those ’80s influences — the propulsive chorus of ‘I Know A Place’, the sunny melodies of ‘So Special’, and the heartbreaking ballad ‘Everything’ balances melancholia with iridescent synths. More importantly, though, the lyricism contained within these glowing pop tracks, is both heartfelt and engaging, deeply personal and yet highly accessible to even the most casual of listeners.

The most prominent of these is ‘I Know A Place’, a song dedicated to the victims and survivors of 2016’s tragic mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, a direct attack upon LGBTQ individuals and culture. The earworm of a chorus ‘I know a place we can go/ Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon’ is both haunting and empowering in equal measure, a testament to the lives lost in the attack, and yet a rallying cry for compassion and unity, rather than anger.

MUNA, by their own admission, make music by and for queer women across the globe, and it’s acutely and accurately reflected here in About U, as the songs here focus on love and loss, identity and heartbreak and the issues that come as a queer individual. However, these don’t exclude listeners who neither identify as queer nor female — the songwriting is so heartfelt and effortless that it proves to be an exercise in empathy for all involved, and marks out that MUNA are here to stay and become as big as they deserve to be, particularly with stellar records such as About U in their roster.