If there’s a band that knows how to deliver a slow-burn, it’s MUNA. With major label success almost in their grasp, the band was dropped by RCA Records in 2019. Although this decision was shocking and disheartening at first, looking back on the band’s time post-RCA, the drop might be better to recontextualize as something of a release.
Taken on by indie phenom Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory Records in 2021, the band, comprised of Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin, was given the freedom to operate and create on their own terms. Though they release pop-sounding records and had previously been under the umbrella of a major label, MUNA has always been able to maintain something of an indie feel — perhaps attributable to the fact that the band still self-produces their work.
Under Saddest Factory, the band released the mega-hit “Silk Chiffon,” which featured a verse from Bridgers herself, and with their self-titled third album “MUNA” embarked on a headline tour.
Much of the band’s appeal comes from the group simply continuing to do what it does best — releasing some of the hookiest, best-produced pop music on the market today while pairing shimmering songs with raw, honest and gut-wrenching lyrics. While staying true to their expertise and guiding musical principles, virality hit with “Silk Chiffon” and MUNA was ready to hit the ground running. As Dani Blum of the New York Times puts it, “The band is now on the verge of breaking out of its cult following and bringing its anthems about queer joy to a wider audience.”
Now, MUNA is back with a fresh release. The band put out “Live At Electric Lady” EP Oct. 12, a collection of old songs and covers re-recorded at the iconic New York City studio. The live release from the storied institution is in and of itself a milestone, a testament to their rise as a band into the ranks of the greats.
Featured on the EP are tracks “Anything But Me,” “Kind of Girl” and “Silk Chiffon.”In addition, the band threw in a new rendition of “Taken” from their 2019 album “Saves The World” and a cover of Taylor Swift’s “August.”
While MUNA stays true to the original arrangements of their songs, the live recordings allow for the musicians’ true skill to shine. As with their other work, “Live At Electric Lady” is also self-produced, yet another testament to the artistry of this band. This latest offering is, in short, delightful. The instrumentation and mixing on the EP has come out just right for what a live album should be — not overly polished, but not messy; acoustic with enough processing for digital consumption. Gavin’s vocals in particular soar on this EP, as they’re given more room to expand than they usually are amid the band’s usual tight synth-pop mixes.
Dedicated MUNA fans are likely in for a treat with the new rendition of “Silk Chiffon.” Here, Bridgers’ second verse has been replaced with a rendition from McPherson, who has been singing the verse on the band’s recent tour. McPherson’s lead vocals are a rare addition to MUNA records, but they provide here an exciting new texture and depth to the track.
Their cover of “August” has been generating buzz as well — and for good reason. The synth treatment of the twangy Swift track brings it a fresh energy, with Gavin’s breathy and full vocals bringing the song’s melancholy full-circle.
“Taken,” “Kind Of Girl” and “Anything But Me” also prove to be perfect for live-album treatment. As the more guitar-oriented of MUNA’s songs, each does well with the naturally more acoustic tone of live re-recordings. “Kind Of Girl” is perhaps the most stripped-back of the new renditions, a choice that highlights post-relationship self-reflection and contemplation in a way that at times gets lost in the pop production of the original.
The EP is perhaps most significant not just for its musical innovation, but also for what it represents for the band. Making their mark at Electric Lady, we see MUNA once again coming back to prove they deserve their seat at the table. Now, fans can simply sit back and watch what’s in store for MUNA. Having submitted their self-titled album for Grammy consideration just a few days ago, whatever happens next is sure to be a thrill.