Miike Snow, Happy to You
By Heather Wible
March 14, 2012
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? The new Miike Snow album is great. You’ll love it. It’s nearly impossible not to. Having said that, I recognize a few cynics out there will dislike it just to prove it can be done. But for the rest of us, it’s sunshine for your ears; it’s an audible spring in your step.
Despite touting one man’s name, Miike Snow is actually a trio comprised of two Swedes (Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg) and an American (Andrew Wyatt). Though this is only their second alum as a trio, all three are professionals and familiar with the intricate world of the recording studio. The three met originally in 2000 while working on another artist’s album in Stockholm, and out of that meeting and the following friendship, Miike Snow was spawned in 2007. Two years later, they released their first album. The self-titled debut rose to wild success, with catchy tunes like “Animal,” “Black & Blue” and “Silvia” even now still finding their way to airwaves around the world. The new album, Happy to You, sounds like it will receive equal, if more expected, attention.
On first listen, there is nothing drastically different between Happy and Miike Snow. There doesn’t seem to be another “Animal”-sized hit hiding on the album—but even better, each track holds its own and is as likely to be found in a club as on a med student’s iPod. Where Miike Snow had a few standout tracks with the rest being nice but comparative valleys, Happy to You is solid throughout. The beats are fresh, the rhythms moving but not anxious. The album as a whole has a very nice flow. Beginning with “Enter the Jokers Lair”—which sounds reminiscent of a mid-90s Super Nintendo game—to the heartbreaking and slower “God Help This Divorce,” down through “Paddling Out,” the album’s first video, and finishing with “No Starry World,” each track creates its own world different from those of the surrounding tracks.
Even though this is only their second album, its quality suggests a band that’s been together for years. That might be because the three have put several years into the music industry with other bands—Wyatt has been part of Black Beetle, The A.M., Fires of Rome and Daniel Merriweather, while Karlsson and Winnberg both are active in the DJ and punk scene and have worked with Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Britney Spears (for whose song “Toxic,” they won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording). Regardless of their previous involvement in the industry, there’s something to be said for time spent together on the road touring an album and the general effect of time on one’s own maturity. This maturity shines through Happy to You in its consistency of quality, indicating patience and caring hands on the parts of all three members and their guests. Lykke Li lends her vocals to “Black Tin Box,” and several others offer their string and brass instruments on “Devil’s Work,” “The Wave” and “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will).” How many other dance/electro-pop albums do you know that have trombone, French horn, flugel horn, field drums and string quartets?
This idea of being their own creation, different from what else is happening around the music world but somehow having a place everywhere, drives much of what they do. “I don’t think Miike Snow functions inside of a genre,” states Andrew Wyatt on the band’s Facebook page. Pontus Winnberg supports that, saying, “We don’t really wanna tell people what the titles are about, or the lyrics, or what our thoughts are about. We’d prefer them to put them in their head and their lives and make their own interpretation.”
Miike Snow is about serious fun and play, and those concepts ooze throughout the whole of Happy to You, whose title comes from a misspelled postcard in their recording studio. The songs and beats keep you moving, the booklet contains absurd, though dark, stills from the videos, and even the band’s signature Jackalope is a little bit of fun. The self-described “Three-Headed Band With the One Man Name” is back with a rightly anticipated and worthwhile follow-up, and it shows a band with an exciting willingness to get even better with every release.