If Miike Snow’s eponymous debut is this relatively new band’s introduction to indie-friendly electro-pop music, then this sophomore offering by Stockholm-based trio is their gate to top-40 success. For some this is a revelation, but if you found comfort in the band’s mid-tempo beats, twinkling synths and easy-listening rendition of Scandinavian electro-pop through their acclaimed first record, then Miike Snow’s second release might be a slight disappointment.
Then again, if chart-topping success is what the band really looking for, the members of Miike Snow are already an expert in the trade. Two-third of the trio is Chris Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg – the songwriter-producer duo under the moniker Bloodshy & Avant a.k.a the Grammy-winning producers behind Britney Spears’ massive electro-infused hit “Toxic.” Simply, these lads know exactly how to turn a song into radio hits, they have the recipe to make outstanding pop music approved by the top 40 masses (and yes, even I like “Toxic”)… but why am I not feeling this record?
Happy To You opens with splendid chimed-synth-effects “Enter The Jokers Lair” that reminds you of Vampire Weekend’s African-inspired tracks in Contra. Relaxed yet enticing, this introductory track sounded promising before moving into “The Wave,” a catchy dynamically-composed percussion-heavy number fits for radio airplay. Sure, “The Wave” has every ingredient needed for a crowd-favorite sing-along song but the much-awaited ‘kick’ I was looking for the way the band’s first ever single (off their debut album) “Animal” had was nowhere in sight.
The album continues with the disco-tinged “Devil’s Work” and synth & drum machine-driven “Vase.” Again, that awaited ear-explosion seems very unlikely to happen. It wasn’t until the fifth track when “God Help This Divorce” shifted my almost-drifted attention to the album. A beautifully composed lo-fi folk-inspired number that reminds me of the reason why I love Miike Snow in the first place: their emotional electro-infused balladry pieces. Vocalist Andrew Wyatt sings beautifully in that signature languid voice of his, particularly over the chorus, “She was a beauty queen/But I held her down, down, down.” For a while I regain my confident in the album.
Sadly, the magic of “God Help This Divorce” doesn’t seem to do much justice to the album when following tracks like “Bavarian #1” and “Pretender” got lost into the band’s polished production. By now, Wyatt’s inconsistent and ineffective vocal presence has starting to become a disadvantage to the band’s power-producers’ works and at one point making the record seems too mechanical, imbalance and if not too much… soulless.
“Archipelago” on the other hand rides on the band’s strength for slower electro-pop numbers. This light percussive track is a good replication of the band’s earlier works like “Silvia” and “Sans Soleil” but none appeal much to me. In “Black Tin Box,” the band features fellow Swedes and singer-songwriter Lykke Li in a track that is unlike anything you’ve ever heard of from the band. Here, Miike Snow gets experimental with sultry mystical melodies that will either make you creep or laud in admiration. I am the latter. The record closes with first single “Paddling Out,” a '90s-inspired disco euphoria that truly represents the sound of Miike Snow – genre-defying Scandinavian electro-pop at best.
Happy To You has every reason not to fail – award-winning producers’ members; tracks that would make it into radio and clubs’ playlist in just about any time; and even their critically-acclaimed debut is a solid one at that too. It’s unfair to not mention, albeit weak songwriting in a number of tracks in this album, about how good the production as a whole is and this comes by no surprise given the background of Karlsson and Winnberg – what you get is a well-crafted electro-pop production but again… why am I still not feeling this record? Ah well, maybe it’s just me but then again, each to their own, no?