Swedish electro/indie pop is a surprisingly cluttered niche. The likes of Robyn, Lykke Li, Avicii and Röyksopp have all enjoyed some form of commercial success in last decade, and Miike Snow are now hoping to achieve something similar. Consisting of producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (probably best known for the pop masterpiece that is Britney Spears’ Toxic) and vocalist Andrew Wyatt, Miike Snow made a splash in the indie scene in 2009 with their self-titled début. Miike Snow persists as one of my most overplayed albums; it’s nothing particularly special, but its combination of relaxed sound and catchy hooks mean it’s the perfect for shutting out the stressed atmosphere of an early morning bus journey.
Happy To You is stylistically similar to the début: piano hooks still dominate and Wyatt’s vocals are almost constantly altered by reverb and what sounds like a muffling effect. The outcome isn’t particularly offensive, but I did spend most of the album wondering whether it was entirely necessary since at times it can be difficult to decipher lyrics.
Although many elements have been passed down to Happy To You, the band has made some attempts to experiment with new sounds and groups of instruments. While I would usually support such a move as an attempt to avoid artistic stagnation, it hasn’t been executed as well as I would have hoped. Bavarian #1 (Say You Will) stands out in this regard. With a military style percussion march, whistling sample and apparently compulsory attempt at a dubstep bassline it feels like an ill-considered blunder when it could have easily been a simple yet pleasant album track.
Other tracks fare slightly better. Black Tin Box has a dark, depressing tone and features steel drums, which can only ever be a positive thing in my opinion. The fact that it features Lykke Li on vocals completely passed me by though, and felt more like a cynical attempt to reach a larger audience than anything else.
The opener, Enter the Joker’s Lair, has a strange feel to it. The backing track jitters all over the place and is accompanied by low-pitched, glissando synths. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not the strongest track here. Pretender is an uplifting dance track with a surprisingly well-implemented tuba part, while the vocals on God Help This Divorce sound almost scarily like Simon & Garfunkel during their peak. It’s not a bad thing, just mildly off-putting.
Happy To You doesn’t break any boundaries. This isn’t music that is likely to take either the indie or mainstream worlds by storm but it’s by no means a bad album. There are some songs that will always be skipped over during a play-through, and others which will remain happily rooted in your brain for days after just a couple of listens. The episodic videos are worth mentioning here as something to look out for, and I believe the album definitely merits a listen, though not necessarily a purchase. Miike Snow have created an enjoyable LP, but in an already overflowing genre they haven’t done enough to stand out from the crowd.
Favourite tracks: Paddling Out, Devil’s Work, Pretender
Least favourite track: Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)