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Mk.gee Craves Intimacy and Creates Tension on ‘Two Star & the Dream Police’

Michael Gordon isn’t one for subtlety. The songs that the New Jersey artist makes as Mk.gee froth and fizz and occasionally freak out, making their unwieldy production not just noticeable, but an integral part of the songwriting. Take “New Low,” the brisk two-minute opener to his exceptional debut album Two Star & The Dream Police: its percussion has the lightness and congeniality of a schoolyard hand-clapping game, but it’s set atop a wobbling synth bass that underlines his contemplative lyrics. He sounds both resentful and filled with pity, pointing out a friend’s woeful fraudulence. Still, the song’s metallic clangs are more acerbic than anything he could sing, and he knows it—he doesn’t utter a word during the final 30 seconds.

Gordon’s works haven’t always been this robust. His 2020 mixtape, A Museum of Contradiction, was rife with straightforward R&B and bedroom psychedelia, sounding like watered-down Tame Impala and Thundercat befitting “Chill Vibes” playlists; the lo-fi aesthetic was often the entire point. The leap from that record to Two Star is massive; where a song like “Dimeback” felt like dream pop backwash, the 12 tracks here draw endless comparisons. In “Rylee & I” alone he evokes the mangled production of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million; the gauzy seduction of Jai Paul’s demos; the attention to space in Arthur Russell’s World of Echo; and the everyman sensitivity of John Mayer.

That Mk.gee can bring to mind such varied artists is a testament to his ingenuity. “I Want” is a moody sophisti-pop track in the lineage of the Blue Nile, with a driving beat and haunted vocal harmonies that carry a persistent anxiety. He frets about the unspoken tensions between him and a lover, and he longs to close the gap between his desires and reality. His fantasy comes to life, if briefly, in the form of a flashy guitar solo; it’s the album’s most pointedly jarring moment. There’s also some showboating on “Candy,” and it too has narrative importance: Gordon shreds like he’s got a massive grin on his face, as if this is a private moment of goofy, endearing affection for someone he loves.


This unabashed craving for intimacy is at the heart of Two Star’s best songs. “Little Bit More” has muted guitar playing that’s offset by the raw sound of piano chords and the briefest, sparest string arrangement. This confluence of the muddy and clear echoes the gradual softening of his heart. “I dream of nothing like I used to before/Since you opened the door,” he sings. It’s a tender lyric, and before long the song is over.

The brevity of Gordon’s music is welcome because Two Star is an album about reflection. He suffers heartbreak on “Dream Police” and reminisces about an ex on “Breakthespell.” He argues with a lover on “Alesis” and bickers throughout “DNM.” Listening to these tracks feels like paging through an old diary and coming to terms with how much you’ve grown. Never is this more clear than on album highlight “How many miles,” a song about feeling lost and finding yourself. He sings the titular line in the chorus, but the second time it comes around he lets the instrumentation run without much accompaniment. In his decision not to sing, he offers a reminder: it’s only through such distressing rumination that we understand what needs to change. Two Star is an album about sadness and frustration and loss, but it is also, in the same way, about knowing what you want: love, joy, contentment.

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