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Steiner & Madlaina | Biting but plaintive at the same time

09.04.2021 – MARKO LEHTINEN

Nora Steiner and Madlaina Pollina get straight to the point in their new single “Heile Welt” (Perfect world): “Wenn viel zu viele gern mit dem Feuer spielen, in Hass losgerannt und Hoffnung verbrannt, haben wir versagt” (Too many of us have played with fire. We’ve set off in rage and burned our wings. We’ve failed.) Donald Trump, plastic waste on a beach, refugees, despots and the Mexican border wall – the video pulls no punches either. “Today’s world is dividing humanity,” they lament, before breaking into a memorable, melancholic chorus. Theirs is a rueful longing for a perfect world, embellished with images of a bucolic childhood in Switzerland.

The song has a charming pop melody combined with biting lyrics. Yet “Heile Welt” is just one facet of the duo’s eclectic new album “Wünsch mir Glück” (Wish me luck). “Denk was du willst” (Think what you want) is an acoustic singer-songwriter number about self-destructive lust and longing, while title track “Wünsch mir Glück” is a disarmingly plaintive love song: “Warst du gestern, als ich blieb, auch kurz verliebt?” (Were you briefly in love yesterday when I stayed?) The lingering emotion is solitude. “Wenn ich ein Junge wäre” (If I were a boy), on the other hand, is an indie rock piece with edgy guitars, expansive synths and a driving beat. “Wenn ich ein Junge wäre, würde man mir mehr zutrauen. Wer bestimmt das Rollenbild der Frauen?” (If I were a boy, they’d trust me more. Who gets to decide what a girl can and cannot do?

Steiner & Madlaina: “Wünsch mir Glück” Glitterhouse/Irascible, 2021

Zurich-based Steiner & Madlaina recently celebrated a successful debut in Germany. They had only just finished their follow-up when the pandemic struck.

But now the duo’s second album is finally out. “Wünsch mir Glück” is a refreshing record by two young women who epitomise the current zeitgeist of youth activism. The songs have lost none of their relevance since the enforced hiatus – even with Donald Trump no longer in office. Steiner & Madlaina’s observations are not very groundbreaking and are too direct to be poetic, but at least their political and social critiques are forthright and not just skin-deep. They can be forgiven for sounding a little preachy at times.