Swedish band hits right and wrong notes


Courtesy of press

Pop trio Miike Snow released their second album after three years (Photo courtesy of Downtown Records & Columbia Records).

Chris Nguyen

Swedish indie-pop trip band Miike Snow, known for their 2009 breakout hit “Animal,” stay close to their sugar-induced pop equation on their follow-up album, Happy to You.

Composed of Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, who also go under the moniker Bloodshy & Avant when churning out hits for Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue, Miike Snow are not afraid to frolic in the Swedish pop landscape. They are the anti-Lana Del Rey; their appeal lies in their unabashedly major-chord hooks and utter lack of mystique.

With Miike Snow, it’s as if the pop factory itself has become the Barbie doll it’s creating. On “The Wave,” synthesized drums tip and tap under twinkling electronic beats over the echoing vocals, while on “Devil’s Work” piano chords charge as horns burst in and out, similar to their “How I Roll” on Spears’ Femme Fatale.

It’s this familiarity Miike Snow has to their other alter ego’s productions that works both for and against them. The songs are immaculately produced, every inch of the songs masterminded by Karlsson and Winnberg to be jammed out to in a major brand commercial, and they make for a cohesive album. After a while however, monotony sinks in. That repeating piano melody over synthesizers becoming grating by the time the seventh track “Pretender” comes around.

Miike Snow has a bags of tricks that work well on singles but lack the originality to take on a full album, especially on an album with few changes from the debut. One wishes they would let go and let a screech in the vocals or a messy real life instrument enliven things. Only on “Black Tin Box,” do the heavy drums and whispered singing surprise listeners with their total weirdness.

However, the extremely polished production is balanced by surreal lyrics. On “Archipelago,” an apocalyptic world is described from above over a infectious chorus, which makes for a jarring combination.

The group also describe a relationship gone sour under dreamy vocals and gentle melodies on “God Help This Divorce.” The ironic disjoint between the emotional heft of the lyrics and the cheery music recalls fellow Swedish band, The Cardigans of “Lovefool” fame, using pop music as a vehicle for warped tales.

This self-awareness saves Happy to You from the fate of albums from producers-turned-singer/band that fail to be anything more than a showcase for production tools rather than substance. They may make pop candy, but it’s both sweet and sour.

Editor's Note: This video contains violent images.

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Swedish band lacks variety, uses cheerful techno beats