With the release of projects such as Lorde’s Solar Power, Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee and now MUNA and Phoebe Bridgers’ “Silk Chiffon”, the indie pop-rock scene seems poised to enter a decidedly sunnier, more sanguine era.
The single is the first collaboration from Bridgers and MUNA, released under The Saddest Factory record label, which Bridgers formed last year. Contrary to the label’s name — a nod to Bridgers’ established reputation as patron saint of “sad girl” music — “Silk Chiffon” comes as an unexpectedly incandescent anthem about queer relationships, growing up, and embracing joy in its most simplistic, youthful forms.
In its first set of live performances since the onset of the pandemic, MUNA is slated to join Phoebe Bridgers on her highly anticipated Reunion Tour, which kicked off Sept. 3 in St. Louis. MUNA’s rise to prominence within the alt-pop scene is at least partially intertwined with its identity as a queer band — each member of MUNA, Gavin, McPherson and Maskin, identifies as LGBTQ+. Its 2019 album Saves the World intersects thematically with “Silk Chiffon” in many ways, most notably in the members’ shared tender treatment of adolescence and early adulthood. While queerness has long been a MUNA trademark, the band has expressed the desire to delve into more explicitly LGBTQ+ territory on future endeavors, tweeting last year: “our next project will be very gay and it will be called ‘gay’ probably, lol”
Debuting freshly-pinked hair and delightfully kitschy Pepto-Bismol-pink-tinged outfits on the track’s accompanying music video, MUNA and Bridgers perform against the backdrop of a gay conversion therapy camp turned Sapphic utopia. “I’m high and I’m feeling anxious/ Inside of the CVS/ When she turns ’round halfway down the aisle/ With that ‘you’re on camera’ smile/ Like she wants to try me on” Bridgers sings on the second verse, lending the track a bit of quintessentially-Phoebe anecdotal lyricism. Bridgers’ unvarnished and intimate songwriting style plays nicely with the MUNA’s persistent optimism, intermingling to produce a track awash with rose-tinted comfort.
Over the course of its two LPs and numerous EP and single releases, MUNA has consistently proven itself to be an instrumentally and productionally polished band. “Silk Chiffon” opens with a delicate guitar line reminiscent of Bridger’s folksier material, before transitioning into an effervescent anthem buoyed by Gavin’s rich vocals, each “silk chiffon” infused with an infectious, saccharine energy.
The bass riffs that punctuate the second verse also add to the musical dynamism of the track, which steadily builds until it erupts on the final chorus. Bridgers and Gavin’s vocal harmonies are also a standout quality of the track, cementing it as one of the most listenable releases of the year. “Silk Chiffon”, while musically impressive and featuring mostly strong writing, is perhaps less lyrically ambitious than expected, given the artists’ history of boundary-pushing songwriting within the indie rock/pop genre. We get little tastes of this kind of writing on the “high at CVS” verse as well as the track’s opening verse and pre-chorus, both of which evoke a unique sense of textural intimacy, but the track does not fully achieve its potential.
This (largely negligible) weak point aside, “Silk Chiffon” is a whimsical and poignant glimpse at the LGBTQ+ youth experience, and is ultimately a continuation of MUNA’s quest to “Save the World” by first healing our past selves.