Album Review: MOTHERMARY – I Am Your God

[Italians Do It Better; 2022]

Twin sisters Larena and Elyse (aka MOTHERMARY) don’t just use their past as a creative starting point on their debut album – it’s the entire essence of it. They’re both former Mormons who left their religious lives behind, one way or another reaching New York. Elyse was the first to find a new life away from daily scripture reading and praying, and attending weekly services and four-hour meetings. She found her way to Salt Lake City where she began her music career, before finally heading to New York. There she found the misguided direction of producers to the detriment of the music she wanted to make, and eventually went it alone, taking full control and learning to produce music from her Bushwick bedroom.

When her sister Larena joined her, it seemed only fitting that the duo combine forces. “We went through this experience together. We tell it together,” Elyse explains. Their debut album I Am Your God condenses all that indoctrination, all that religious experience and life into a short album of considered and refined art pop and synth wave music. Leaning directly into the religious iconography and sentiments, they recast themselves in the world of angels, devils, resurrection, and God. This is their reckoning with a post-religious life, the desire to find clarity after the cult, and to take hold of faith as a weapon they instead wield.

If there’s one thing that cannot be faulted here then that’s the fine-tuned deliberate sound to I Am Your God. The timbre of each synth sound is carefully chosen, the frequencies tried and tested, and the clack and snap of each drum machine sounds intentional. On “Pray” they boast a Eurythmics-like quality, the plastic tunnel synth matched against a hairwhip rhythm. The smoldering “Burn With Desire” has glowing, white light arpeggios fitting to its title while “Resurrection” plays with some trap-like drops and pauses as well as the high and low frequencies which are scattered across the track. As honed as the tracks here are, they also seem primed and ready for future remixes. (HERO’s Terrorvision remix of “Resurrection” feels like a glimpse of the creative opportunities available.)

Where I Am Your God falters a bit is in the way it takes a little time to hit its stride. It’s only by the third track “Give It Up”, with its vibrant traction and drive, that the duo feel like they are firing fully on all cylinders. It’s also a little telling that the highlight of the album is a cover of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” (they also covered “Like A Virgin” for a recent Italians Do It Better Madonna tribute covers album). Setting aside the kitschy feel and gospel-infused vocals of the original, MOTHERMARY make the track something that feels like their own. A testament to the strong songwriting, it’s the most playful and flexible offering here, full of replay value and also fitting perfectly into the thematic style of the album,

Still, the album has plenty of offerings of the duo’s own that are worthy of being heard far and wide, be it the shimmering, engulfing chorus of “Coming For You” with its church-like tone and Kavinsky synths, or the chittering, chilly feel to “Wearing Me Thin”. While Elyse and Larena favour alluding images and questions rather than statements that feel like personal reckonings (“Are you really gonna give it up?”; “Are you what I waited for?;” I’m a make it so light / I’m a make you so alive”), it’s impossible to separate the personal history from each moment here. They both sing in perfect unison so often that discerning which sister is taking the lead feels impossible, but the weighted sentiments that track their past lives still ring with poignancy (“Can you see the design / In the lines that they’ve drawn for you?”).

Come the final title track, the duo are no longer passive followers or escapees; as the title suggests, they are the creators. Like their name, they are reclaiming and recasting the story of Mary, mother of Christ. They are Women (with a capital W), the creators of life, and fully formed beings instead of simple, pretty, functional girls destined to live out a set path. Now full of sexuality, life, creativity, and opportunity, the duo embrace the life they had been denied for years. On “I Am Your God” they take their time to unfurl and unveil themselves amidst manipulated voices and crystalline synths. Like deities watching ashes form, MOTHERMARY are ready to burn down the world to start again. I Am Your God is that first step, a near seamless document of rebirth. They are no longer just walking into the light; they’re now the ones shining it.