Miike Snow – Happy To You
Released: 19/03/2012 on Downtown Records / Universal Republic
It's official: 90s music is experiencing a revival. When even Swedish indie pop bands like Miike Snow have given up on their 80s influences, and Blur are back in business, you know it's serious. This has the effect of making anyone in their mid twenties feel prematurely old and nostalgic. But! Is that the opening bars to Karma Chameleon I hear? No... my mistake. It's just 'Vase', track four on Miike Snow's follow up to their 2010 self titled debut. Which pretty much sums up the album right there: catchy as hell, but undeniably derivative.
Back to the 90s then. While Miike Snow’s last album was very much a record of it's time, this time around the trio expertly mix modern day bleeps and beats with piano hooks that could have been lifted straight from any 90's dance hit. We're talking Back-2-da-Old-Skool–5-CDs-for-a-tenner-from-HMV-oh-god-please-KILL-ME-NOW stuff. In fairness, it's better than I’m making it sound – in particular, lead single 'Paddling Out' brings together all that is good on the album: it's hooky, perfectly, perfectly produced, and like all the best indie dance anthems, expertly layers up to an almighty climax. There’s no doubt it would make even the most rhythmically challenged listener want to bop along in their seat.
Sadly, the other tracks don't quite manage to do the same. Particularly grating is ‘Bavarian #1’. Hey, if you like music that feels like a bee has flown into your ear and is having a rave with all his bee friends, I’m sure you'll love this. Personally I like my music not to induce involuntary spasming of THAT particular nature, but each to their own. Likewise 'Pretender' is ruined by some annoying digital trickery that make Andrew Wyatt's reedy vocals sound like a yowling feline – but minus the aggression and/or cuteness. Too many of the other songs on Happy To You I have very little to say about. I appreciate that they are songs: very polished, well produced, even clever, songs. I just don't like them. The album doesn't have the simple charm that songs like 'Animal' and 'Song For No One' radiated, and that's a real shame.
However, that's not to say there aren't flashes of brilliance. 'The Wave' is a gorgeous song – a melancholy piano refrain forms the main focus of the song, faultlessly complimenting Wyatt's breathy vocals. When the falsetto “woo-ooh-ooh-hoos” kick in, it's enough to make your heart leap into your mouth. It’s in this sad, dark place that Miike Snow seem to hit their stride. 'God Help This Divorce' is also stunning, evoking post-break up meanderings through rain soaked streets. And ‘Black Tin Box’, a duet with Lykke Li, just about stops itself from being too clever for its own good by the sheer fact that it’s so creepy that it sucks you in and makes for compulsive listening.
I do like this album (and not only for the fact that it made me go and look up what an 'Archipelago' is), and a handful of the tracks will be on heavy rotation on my laptop for a while yet. But overall the boys seem to have just missed the mark again. They've taken out the good bits of their debut and replaced them with other, equal but different good bits – but the real problem is that they haven't actually changed the things that needed changing. When they're good, they're so, so good – but when they're bad they're just plain boring.
Turn On: The Wave, Paddling Out, God Help This Divorce
Turn Off: Bavarian #1, Pretender