Hidden beneath all the thumping revelry, newfound freedom, and summertime horniness of MUNA\u2019s marvelous third album, there flows an undercurrent of irony. The Los Angeles trio released two albums, in 2017 and 2019, on RCA Records, a major label with all the resources a budding indie band could ever need to launch them into the pop stratosphere. Yet MUNA remained on the fringes \u2014 well-reviewed with two-dozen dates opening for Harry Styles and The 1975, but far from a household name. So what would it take for MUNA\u2019s big break? How about signing to emo-folk favorite Phoebe Bridgers\u2019 new imprint Saddest Factory Records (in partnership with Dead Oceans) in 2021, which birthed the queer-love anthem and alt-radio mainstay \u201cSilk Chiffon\u201d (featuring Bridgers) in September and notched the group\u2019s first appearance on Billboard\u2019s Alternative Charts. https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?vfhyk9rchC2c Following the single\u2019s success, Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson are poised for an album release that will attract the biggest mainstream attention and anticipation since they began playing music together at USC in 2013. And with the spotlight finally burning, MUNA landed their first knee-buckling knockout, by far the most confident work of their young career. Their self-titled album, out on June 24, explodes with synth-pop hooks revealing ecstasy, reflection and desire \u2014 it is an album to be blasted from the moment the weekend begins, until the drunken 3 am stumble into the bedroom, a new friend trailing close behind. Close the curtains and crank it up. \u201cWhat I Want,\u201d jumps with a bear-sized bass line and laser-aimed affirmations from Gavin, the band\u2019s primary songwriter, like the earworm refrain: \u201cI want the full effects, I want to hit it hard, I want to dance in the middle of a gay bar\u201d \u2014 if MUNA wasn\u2019t already on the precipice of LGBTQ idol status, this line might thrust the members (all of whom identify as queer) over the rainbow\u2019s edge. \u201cHandle Me,\u201d built around a hypnotic acoustic guitar melody, is more private and sensual: \u201cGrab a fistful of my hair, trace me like an outline\u201d Gavin whispers under the cresting synth. And \u201cNo Idea,\u201d another bounce-and-smack Robyn successor with extra Max Martin-molding-*NSYNC late \u201890s influence, is a lusty note to a lover who would dare mistake Gavin as innocent: \u201cYou have no idea, the things I think about you when you aren\u2019t here.\u201d The thrilling track was co-written with indie deity Mitski \u2014 another artist in her \u201clet\u2019s dance and fuck\u201d era. (Credit: Isaac Schneider) Yet a later mid-tempo tune titled \u201cLoose Garment,\u201d which unpacks self-love and forgiveness, is reminiscent of Mitski, featuring the album\u2019s best introspective lyric: \u201cUsed to wear my sadness like a choker, yeah, it had me by the throat \/ tonight I feel I\u2019m draped in it, like a loose garment, I just let it flow.\u201d The song is then swept away by warm violin and cello, a sort of call-and-response arrangement masterfully shepherded by MUNA, who self-produced the entire album. This may be where the band transcends the million other acts trying to make pop songs defined by their bass and drum programming. Not only are Gavin, Maskin and McPherson thoughtful and expressive songwriters who pen choruses worthy of Dua Lipa or Lady Gaga, but they possess the technical expertise to make an album that\u2019s polished yet versatile, multi-faceted yet singular. With that, MUNA feels like an uninhibited creation, blending warm-weather pumps with bleeding humanity from three bandmembers in their late-20s still learning how to navigate toxic relationships, recognize their failures and surge forward. \u201cRunner\u2019s High\u201d explores the art of leaving an S.O., laid over pounding dancefloor throttle \u2014 McPherson\u2019s lone instance of too-heavy-handed drum sampling \u2014 while the vitalizing single \u201cAnything But Me\u201d is the band\u2019s own \u201cWe Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,\u201d a staunch sequel to their 2019 cut \u201cStayaway.\u201d While MUNA\u2019s comparison to fellow Angelenos HAIM is largely worn out, there\u2019s no mistaking \u201cAnything But Me\u201d as a compatriot of 2013\u2019s \u201cThe Wire,\u201d with a similar 12\/8 shuffle-chug. https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?volo9MCKosAI If any one song off MUNA was to act as a thematic centerpiece, it would surely be the country-tinged, Chicks-inspired (Gavin has sung their praises before) single \u201cKind of Girl,\u201d which toys with the stories we tell ourselves, and how self-acceptance stems from the understanding that no chapter is carved in cement: \u201cI\u2019m not some kind of minor trope, who\u2019s never gonna change \u2014 that\u2019s so derivative,\u201d Gavin croons before mandolins welcome a self-help hook about grace and gardening. And that\u2019s ultimately where this album lives, in the revelation that everything is subject to constant updates and alterations. No future is certain. So why wouldn\u2019t you go out, get drunk, dance \u2018til dawn, fuck around, fall in love, break up, love everyone (regardless of orientation) and, most importantly, love yourself for who you\u2019ve been, are and decide to be? That key message, more buoyant than the band\u2019s past albums, coupled with addictive musicality that\u2019s far too fun to put down after a single listen, makes MUNA the most roundly captivating pop album released so far this year, indie or not. It\u2019s a record to wear out through Labor Day, if not longer. While the band\u2019s last album was titled Saves the World, this should be the one to morph them into superheroes, offering them the power and platform to commandeer the genre \u2014 at least they\u2019re the kind of girls who think they can.