Track-by-Track: Mr Little Jeans Dives into Her Intimate & Ethereal Sophomore LP, ‘Better Days’

Mr Little Jeans 'Better Days' © Nina Jordan
Mr Little Jeans 'Better Days' © Nina Jordan
Mr Little Jeans’ Monica Birkenes dives into the depths of her sophomore LP ‘Better Days’, an achingly emotive electropop record of trauma and healing, grief and growth that radiates with an ethereal light.
Stream: “Intentions” – Mr Little Jeans

My biggest challenge is to remind myself of the transience during the bad times, as those too shall pass.

If it feels like the world has sunk into an ever-more engulfing and enveloping darkness these past couple of years, you’re not alone. Between the all-too common horror of mass shootings, the worsening climate crisis, the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, chaos and corruption at the highest levels of power, and more, everyday life seems to have become a daily test of strength, willpower, and endurance. We’re each experiencing this inescapable, all-consuming darkness in some way, shape, or form, and most of the time we’re dealing with it on our own – isolated, as individuals. Sometimes, it helps to just to remember we’re not alone, and that’s exactly what Mr Little Jeans does on her recently-released sophomore LP. A record of trauma and healing, grief and growth, Better Days radiates with an ethereal light and achingly emotive electropop passion.

Better Days - Mr Little Jeans
Better Days – Mr Little Jeans
Broken glass where there where windows
Broken doors and roofs
Big boots been dragging the mud in
No good intentions bred through
in the bloodline turn a noose

Big boots been dragging the mud in
Hold me for a second
Hold me as we sway
Tighter as we tumble
Hold me as we stray

Released June 3, 2022 via Nettwerk Music Group, Better Days is a long time coming for Mr Little Jeans. Arriving six long years after her acclaimed debut Pocketknife, the Los Angeles-based Norwegian artist’s sophomore LP finds a matured Monica Birkenes weathering life’s innumerable storms and emerging triumphant, but scarred.

“Writing Better Days has been a rollercoaster of a journey for me,” the singer/songwriter tells Atwood Magazine. “The songs have been written over time, so I’ve experienced (along with the rest of the world for parts of it) my better days being either in the past, the present, or the future. When I initially came up with the concept, I was looking at it from a blissful current day perspective, but lived through how quickly it changes. From a crushing breakup to falling in love with my husband, from feeling contentedly safe, yet shamefully ignorant about the world around me, to the pure shock and horror of watching the former (piece of sh*t) president take office and literally fearing for the planet and the people on it. The MeToo movement quickly followed and unearthed a range of emotions and past experiences for most women I know, myself included. As we’re attempting to heal from the devastating impact both the former president and the pandemic left behind, it has more of a wounded feel to it for me.”

Mr. Little Jeans © Nina Jordan
Mr Little Jeans © Nina Jordan

Mr Little Jeans’ music is a spirited expression of raw vulnerability, self-empowerment, and staying power.

Though it’s by no means a concept album, each of Better Days’ songs seems to go through the wringer as Birkenes puts her heart and her soul on the line. She explores everything from romantic turbulence (and love’s fragile, fleeting, but nevertheless enduring allure), to an existential fear for the planet and our future selves, our never-ending struggle with our own inner demons, and more.

It’s a lot to take in at first, but Birkenes, processing everything in real time, allows her music to be a safe space; a sanctuary – shelter from the storm.

“The record might come across darker as I’ve come more into my own,” she adds. “My main objective is always to make music I like, so it’s also probably gonna change slightly with what I’m inspired by at the moment. Better Days is a continuation of my story both personally and in the musical sense. Not worlds away from Pocketknife maybe, but slightly darker and fuzzier perhaps, and always very honest. Better Days as a whole represents to me how fleeting everything is, the good, the stable, the joyous, the challenging, the bad, and the ugly. After a few especially rough couple of years, I’ve become quite excellent at savoring and celebrating the good times. My biggest challenge is to remind myself of the transience during the bad times, as those too, shall pass… I think.”

From cinematic highs to softly stirring lows and everything in-between, Better Days challenges us to put down the rose-colored glasses and take on life’s cold realities head-on. Birkenes leans into the rough right off the bat with opening track “In Spite of Me,” reckoning with longstanding insecurities around intimacy, self-worth, and trust. “When the world isn’t exactly what it used to be, and the answer isn’t hanging right in front of me, I will try to give you what you need in spite of me – save my ruminating mind from getting lost at sea,” she sings softly at the start, setting the scene for the unapologetically honest confessions, upheavals, and implosions to come.

Mr. Little Jeans © Nina Jordan
Mr. Little Jeans © Nina Jordan

Letting one’s guard down is never easy: Throughout Better Days, Birkenes wrestles with how much of herself to give; how much pain she can endure; what it means to surrender yourself to someone else; and why, in spite of everything she’s experienced, she continues to put herself out there, holding onto hope that there is good in the world and plenty of light in her life.

Further highlights include the smoldering synth-swelling track “Blitz,” the moodily pulsing “Lazy Love,” the immersive R&B outpouring “Intentions,” and the cool, emotionally charged “Better Days.”

“The title track is very much a diary entry for me,” Birkenes says on the topic of favorites. “I love ‘Lazy Love’ on more of a musical level, and I have a soft spot for ‘After Midnight.’ And I almost forgot ‘Intentions’ – I love that one. They’re all top ten for sure!” she laughs; there are only ten tracks on the album.

As a lyricist, Birkenes cites two lines that (currently) have the most meaning for her:

how do I keep this, never let it go
how do I hold on without breaking bones
how do I win when all I’ve done is lose
how do I keep my old sorrows this underused
– “In Spite Of Me
you’re bleeding out, I’m getting free
it’s down to muscle memory
I’m wide awake it’s fictional
the man I dreamt not there at all
breaking it breaking it breaking it down
waking is better when you’re not around
I’m coming I’m coming I’m coming to
never been lonely like I was with you
– “Better Days

“[I hope listeners take away] whatever they’d like or need to take away from it,” Birkenes shares. “When people quote their favorite lyric to me, it’s usually wrong – and I tend not to correct them. They’ve re-written my lyrics and created their meaning from my slurry mumblings, and I think that’s pretty great and sometimes funny.”

“I love what I do,” she adds. “I think Pocketknife, initially, was a fairly stressful record as I hadn’t quite figured out who I was musically. There was also the constant pressure of intending to prove myself and create singles which aren’t really what I do. Me walking around with undiagnosed Hashimoto’s probably didn’t help either. This record I made was just for me and just for fun, and it has been the most enjoyable thing. I took my sweet time (nothing new there) and truly savored the process.”

Seductive and soothing, Better Days is a buoy for dark times: An inspiring outpouring of vivid energy and visceral emotion all at once. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Mr Little Jeans’ Better Days with Atwood Magazine as Monica Birkenes goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore LP!

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:: stream/purchase Mr Little Jeans here ::
Stream: ‘Better Days’ – Mr Little Jeans

:: Inside Better Days ::

Better Days - Mr Little Jeans

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(Monica Birkenes / Aron Forbes)
Was written as I first started dating my future husband and realizing he’s the best thing since sliced bread. It’s about my fear of not knowing if I’m able to overcome my old roadblocks and baggage that has held me back in past relationships.


(Monica Birkenes / Tim Anderson / Aron Forbes)
After a week of dating who I thought was the man of my dreams, he dumped me. A week later we got back together. Two years later we were married. This is a song about that time my husband dumped me.


(Monica Birkenes / Tim Anderson / Aron Forbes)
This song is about navigating through a nightmare of an experience and making it through to the other side. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as invincible as I did post this breakup. I wrote this soon after meeting my future husband.


(Monica Birkenes / Drew McFadden / Leon Jean-Marie)
Is a somewhat light take on being emotionally unavailable with a partner and how destructive it can be.


(Monica Birkenes / Drew McFadden / Leon Jean-Marie)
About the beginnings of a relationship. When you have a really good feeling about something, but you just don’t know where it will lead.


(Monica Birkenes / Aron Forbes / Maize La Rue / Drew McFadden)
Is built-up anger looking at past experiences with new clarity. It’s one of those songs that took forever to finish writing as I hit a big stumbling block and couldn’t finish the chorus. I was close to moving on, but after 157 failed voice memos I ended up in the cavalry. I got some help from my friends and here we are!


(Monica Birkenes / Drew McFadden / Leon Jean-Marie)
Explores the feeling of me saying goodbye to making music in the distant (hopefully) or not so distant future. It’s about the journey it’s been written through fictional future narrative looking back at it. “You know I always loved you the most” is me talking directly to the love of my life, music.


(Monica Birkenes / Tim Anderson / Aron Forbes / Sapphire Adizes)
After having my confidence and self worth corroded in an unhealthy relationship for over 3 years, I made the decision to walk away. A couple of months later, after moving through nonsensical (in retrospect), but debilitating grief, I put words to what happened. This is my diss song to the man who never deserved me.


(Monica Birkenes / Drew McFadden / Leon Jean-Marie)
This is a song about our planet, global warming, my fears for the future, and also my shame for standing by doing very little to change the trajectory of where we’re headed.


(Monica Birkenes / Aron Forbes)
Me dealing with my inner demons. Parts of the song are referencing talks I’ve had with my therapist.  She tries to convince me of a possible scenario where I’m able to handle my emotions without much effort, but in the moment it just seems too far-fetched to me.

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:: stream/purchase Mr Little Jeans here ::

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Better Days - Mr Little Jeans

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? © Nina Jordan

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