Miike Snow // Happy To You // March 26 // Columbia
Ahh Sweden, still trying to shake off the shadow of Abba. A shadow that among other things make the country look like some sort of gold mine for pop geniuses. Many pop stars go to place for exciting producers is the Scandinavian country while some of its singers managed to have a career of their own, like Robyn or Lykke Li. It’s fair to say that Sweden is the second most relevant country in Europe after the UK when it comes to exciting new music. Miike Snow are from Sweden too. They consists of songwriter Andrew Wyatt and Swedish production duo Bloodshy & Avant who wrote hits for people like Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue among others. Fair to say that they make the sort of stuff that ignites day time radio, it’s only a shame that very little of that is evident on their new album.
Happy To You is what one would call an adult album. Miike Snow have definitely refined their poppy sound since their debut self titled LP came out in 2009. They are much more chilled out this time, they have lost a good amount of energy and vigor that made their brand of Scandinavian psych pop interesting in the first place. Happy To You then consists of two types of songs. The mellow psychedelic pop that hit its peak in late noughties and faux energetic pop hits that usually have stuttering house pianos lifted from mid 90s dance tracks. Hardly any of the tracks on here work the way they were intended to. The psychedelic ones don’t even begin to resemble anything that could be called experimental while pop tracks don’t offer enough memorable hooks. Even if they do, Miike Snow just sound like they’re covering the same old tracks that Bloodshy & Avant wrote for the biggest pop stars on the planet in the first place. It gives the feeling that Miike Snow is just an excuse for the production duo to release their more far out moments but if anything, the group comes off like soulless posers going “yeah, we write bubblegum pop songs, but hey, we can throw some ambient bells around and sound like Avey Tare yes?” NO! NO YOU CAN’T!
The combination of the two worlds is different and unfamiliar to Miike Snow which is obvious in their lacklustre attempt to emulate the genre greats. They come awfully close to just straight out ripping off Animal Collective on God Help This Divorce, while the closest thing to a proper pop hit here is Pretender which more or less takes its hook from Rapture’s How Deep Is Your Love. None of this sound like anything Bloodshy & Avant would give to the brightest pop stars. It sounds way too insecure and compromised. All the best pop music in the world doesn’t care about being cool, it just want to destroy you with hooks. It’s a shame that the songwriting on Happy To You feels reserved. As if the band would be embarrassed to deliver some actual great pop songs. Instead they try to be weird without actually being experimental. The whole album feels camp, like it’s in a closet being afraid of coming out to embrace it inner pop self that it is deep inside. Sometimes I feel like I am listening to the Swedish Maroon 5. Singer’s voice is way too annoying, sugary and one dimensional, whether he tries to channel happiness or sadness, his voice always sounds soppy and lacking any distinct emotion. Everything about Happy To You is childish but while children’s world is vivid with imagination, Miike Snow offer none on the rigid Happy For You.
It’s easy to tell which songs you are likely to enjoy from the first seconds of it. If it opens with a stuttering piano rhythm, you’re in for a pop treat. If it doesn’t open with anything, well, armour yourself with patience as Miike Snow’s experiments are not the ones that will capture listener’s imagination. The band went into the studio having two ideas that could’ve made two decent albums. Happy To You is too unfocused and too mellow to be as memorable as their debut. In a stylistic way, it feels like it should’ve came out before their debut album. Happy To You then is an massive stepback from a group trying to outclever their audience.