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Miike Snow – Happy To You

March 19, 2012

My love won’t be safe / We’ll all be staring at the wave.

Miike Snow‘s self titled debut was a bit of a grower for me. Sure it is overflowing with pop lyrics and interesting hooks, but when I first heard it, via the music video for “Animal”, I wasn’t sure what to think. It was one of those special circumstances where everything “clicked” into place and I found much to love in that album. And now, eight months from the day Miike Snow became a “must-listen”, I have in my stereo their latest record, Happy To You.

The first track that anyone heard of this album came in the form of “Devil’s Work”, an extremely mature sounding song that helped all see the direction that Miike Snow has decided to go in. Gone is the minimalism of “Animal” and standout track “Black and Blue”; “Devil’s Work” is a fantastic bit of music. A catchy piano riff, space-age sounds, and horns(!) characterize a song that did a good job taking over my listening time. Interestingly enough, its placement on the actual album, track 3, is indicative of the album as a whole. Maybe because it was the lead single, or because of the song’s outright power, I believed it would be a great choice to open the album. Instead, upon pressing play, we are met with “Enter the Joker’s Lair”, which could be easily described as a “surprise”. But don’t let the song’s slow build get the best of you, stick around, for the buildup is worth the result. Following this track comes the album’s third single and second track, “The Wave”. Militaristic snare and piano chords welcome you to a wild ride of a song. This song is fun in every sense of the word. The beat is fun, the lyrics embrace the attitude, and the song just gets better and better as it goes. Pop lyrics with electronic screechiness, groanings, and modulations make the very best of what Miike Snow has to offer. Seriously, this track rocks.

From here, the album drops slightly with “Vase”, a track the begins with a clapping beat and a low sound that revs with the beat. A more electric sound that outright pop, this song still succeeds just by the fact that the track simply works. Whether or not this track follows a logical sound structure that any of the previous tracks has set is beside the point. What Miike Snow have done is make an album that is difficult to listen to as an album. Usually this would bother me, and in a small sense, it does, but I find myself liking every song so much that I can get over myself. After “Vase” comes one of the most beautiful and catchy departures Miike Snow has ever made. “God Help This Divorce” has the strangest chorus: “She was a beauty queen / but I held her down down down”, but it is downright catchy. Everything about this song that I love has to do with all of the noises that they have included in this song, from the plucking of a harp to the glockenspiel to noises that one can’t even identify. This is an incredibly diverse song that is subtle in its beauty despite all of its complexity. “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)” is sonically similar to “The Wave” in that they contain almost the same snare beat, both sounding particularly militaristic, but, at the same time, they are both unique from each other. With a piano part that is Coldplay-like in its simplicity, “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)” is a good reminder of what the songs were like on their debut record, but it still includes all of the maturity and growth of Happy To You, thankfully.

Now comes the home stretch, with the final four tracks having enough energy to carry the album almost on their own. “Pretender” is the most energetic track on the album, coming out of the gate swinging with a driving piano beat and drum accompaniment. “I didn’t want to wake up / but then I felt your touch / and I noticed that I drink too much / in the turning of the universe” goes the chorus to the song, and you believe the singer, because the song does so much to back it up. “Archipelago”, the next track, is all over the place musically, with Miike Snow seemingly throwing every single trick they know into one song. It comes off a bit boring lyrically, unfortunately, but the track doesn’t detract from the album. Think of it more as a rest stop for the final two tracks. The first, “Black Tin Box”, is a subdued affair with the guest vocals of Lykke Li barely making an impact. Similar to Janelle Monae’s work on fun.’s amazing single “We Are Young”, her lyrics do little to add to the song. But, at the same time, the song offers a sense of paranoia that would be ruined by an over-enthusiastic guest vocalist. Lykke Li’s lyrics just continue to keep the mood of the song going, allowing the disappointment of a missed opportunity to sting a little less. “Paddling Out”, the first single and final track, closes out the album on an incredibly high note. Like every highlight before it, “Paddling Out” is a fun, catchy, beat-filled pop track.

In the end what the listener is left with is a beautiful mess of an album. Miike Snow throw every single idea they have at this work, and it shows in how disjointed the work is. But lest one should think this is a negative, all of this creativity helps to showcase one of the most enviable albums of 2012. Every new second offers a new turn in a fantastically interesting album. This is Miike Snow’s version of pop music, a worthy inclusion to any music library. Miike Snow has made an album that shows their creativity has no boundaries and they aren’t afraid to take risks. And with risks comes a valuable reward.

Miike Snow – “Paddling Out”

Happy To You will be released on March 26, 2012 on Columbia Records.

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