The Teenage Monna Lisa: A Review of mxmtoon’s ‘rising’

People who know me know that I’m an absolute sucker for what I call “the aesthetic” of a particular piece of art. By aesthetic, I mean visual bust also auditory, when it comes to music: production, instruments used, effects, vocal technique, and so on, all contribute to the overall “vibe” that the artist wants to convey.

It’s no surprise, then, that I was almost immediately drawn to listen to the latest album of American singer-songwriter mxmtoon (please don’t ask me how to pronounce it), titled rising. What caught my attention at first was–not gonna lie– the cover of the project, dominated by purple, pink and indigo tones.

Her music itself is no less coherent: her delicate vocals stand out over catchy and sometimes overly joyful electronic instrumentals. It’s the musical manifestation of spring, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the album came out in May of this year.

rising (which evokes and resembles the word “spring”) starts with a classical reference to Leonardo’s “Monna Lisa,” and to honor this reference, she posed like the famous Italian muse on the cover of the homonymous single. The song feels like a breath of fresh air and it would very nicely fit a tv series like Sex Education, for instance. The following track, “victim of nostalgia” and “sad disco,” are examples of happy-sounding melancholic songs.

As explicitly indicated by the title of the last track, the project is a coming-of-age album, reflecting on the teenage experience and presenting musical influences that can be expected from the latest generation of teenagers.

Credits: @mxmtoon / Instagram

The most evident of said influences is Taylor Swift: besides the fact that their voices sound very much alike, mxmtoon, just like Taylor, puts a lot of emphasis on her lyrics, almost following a storyline. Songs like “growing pains” and “haze” particularly give me that vibe.

Taylor Swift is not the only influence I hear in mxmtoon’s music, however. When I first listened to “frown,” it vaguely reminded me of something and then it hit me: Lily Allen! A few years ago, I was literally binge-listening to her first album Alright, Still on repeat, and a song like “frown” perfectly matches that vibe, also thanks to Instagrammable lines like: “The weather forecast today is showing a slight chance of sunshine and sadness / It’s another perfect day to not feel that perfect.”

One last influence that I detect in rising is Kero Kero Bonito’s, especially when I think of their album Graduation, full of “girly,” careless and almost cartoonish tunes that could easily be the soundtrack of a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Though I haven’t read all of her lyrics, for what I’ve understood, mxmtoon’s songs are full of clever lines with a subtle irony to them: “I wish that time passed like seasons in L.A. / When grass in the front yard was waiting for greener days.”

Although, at times, rising might seem a bit too tongue-and-cheeky and repetitive (leaving a saccharine taste in your mouth), it is still an enjoyable project from a very promising young artist.

Cover image credits: mxmtoon


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