Miike Snow emerged on the indie scene like a thief in the night. Their first album was met with much excitement and fan attraction. Now it’s two years later, and they’ve released their sophomore record, entitled Happy To You. Still toting their signature Jackalope on the cover, this one looks tempting and ready for play…
Happy To You picks you up on the first track, “Enter the Joker’s Lair.” As the title suggests, this song feels like a casual prance through a Super Mario-esque level right before you run into Bowser. Whimsical synths, yo-yoing keys, and lighthearted drums help this song bloom ever so slightly, an introduction that won’t allow the listener to judge the remainder one way or the other. A starter song typically should be a band’s control switch…it sets the mood for the whole act, and the mood to start is seemingly one of indifference.
This record relies pretty heavily upon its percussion. In an interview, Miike Snow admitted to bringing in all types of beat makers, including the Swedish Army drum corp. You can hear this influence big time on “The Wave.” Directly following a somewhat feeble start, “The Wave” holds your attention…because you think it’s going somewhere. Despite a militant beat and some interesting horn and chime bits, this song left me feeling somewhat strung along.
Patience comes in handy if you are planning on falling in love with this album. Listen intently, and ye shall be rewarded. After the two “warm ups,” let’s call them, Miike Snow lays down a flush of winners on the table. Songs like “The Devil’s Work” and “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)” please the ear that wants to hear a familiar Snow-sounding tune. “Bavarian” particularly stands out as it builds upward out of an assertive drumroll and orderly whistles, swelling into a mash of marching band-distortion/pedal-electro goodness. Also hitting the mark on some slower tempo tracks like “Vase” and “God Help This Divorce,” the “three headed band with the one man name” proves that they have more chops than just writing radio-friendly hits.
The first release I personally heard off of Happy To You was “Black Tin Box”, which falls second-to-last on the lineup. This track reveals Miike Snow’s dark side and plays like a witching hour excursion into the depths of a vast expanse. The song starts out minimalistic, with just a muffled down-tempo beat and Andrew’s voice. This progressively bubbles up with the addition of Wyatt, guest singer/fellow Swede Lykke Li, and some heavy tribal drum wails summoning your attention.
Miike Snow then closed out the album with the only track they recorded in Abba’s old studio, “Paddling Out.” I can almost hear the ricochet of disco’s ghost hustling around in there. As a strong contender for mainstream popularity, “Paddling Out” will leave you singing along long after the track is done.
One thing I highly appreciate about Miike Snow is their keen ability to arrange. Each song has these precise layers and genius levels. This doesn’t come as much surprise, since the two pillars of this band sport very impressive pop production resumes. Better known several years ago as Bloodshy and Avant, the Swedish music production and songwriting duo of Pontus Winnberg and Christian Karlsson have worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Madonna, and Britney Spears – winning a Grammy for their work with Spears on “Toxic.” Despite how disinterested you may be in the pop princesses of this world, you cannot deny that that song was absolutely brilliant production-wise. So when masters like Karlsson and Winnberg stepped onto the indie scene, the sonic skill bar was instantly raised.
That being said, I have to voice an honest opinion, but I won’t do so without the disclaimer that the Miike Snow sound that we have come to know and love would not exist without the group’s singer, Andrew Wyatt. It just kind of feels as though this indie-pop trio could be so much more were they not so complacent with regards to their frontman. Or rather, were their frontman not so blasé on the mic. Perhaps it’s more about their intricate sound construction and less about him, but Andrew…why are you so bored? We want to hear your voice unfold with the songs, not stay in one place while the rest explodes.
Maybe third time will be the charm, but as far as I’m concerned, Happy To You displayed enough growth and adventure for one album. We wonder where the path (not to mention Jean Noel…see below) will wander to from here.
For more info:
Miike Snow’s Official Site