It’s been over four years since indietronica outfit Miike Snow released their last full length album Happy to You, and longer still since the Swedish trio unveiled the deliciously hypnotizing licks of “Animal” and “Black and Blue” for all the world to enjoy. But lengthy periods of hiatus can be dreadfully commonplace when your band relies on so many begrudgingly, successful moving parts–in this case, producing wizards Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg of Bloodshy & Avant and crooner Andrew Wyatt. Yet, the beating heart of Miike Snow has always been deeply entrenched in the various avenues of pop the trio have cemented their side-projects in. Both Karlsson and Winnberg have rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in the business, the kind embezzled on neon signs outside stadiums (Britney Spears, David Guetta), while Wyatt’s now signature cries and songwriting have been involved collaborations with everyone from Mark Ronson, to Bruno Mars and Flume.
Miike Snow’s discography has never boasted much diversity–nor should it ever– because what they do have is a seamless bravado for designing vigorous exercises in lush synthetic hooks and danceable medleys. To that end, their third studio album, iii, has continued the group’s relentless chase for excessively warped adaptations of the pop enchantments they’ve studiously dissected over the years; the result being a criminally short album frothing with surgically precise cuts of potent synthpop. In an alternate reality, the album’s opening track, “Pull My Trigger,” could’ve been a Maroon V hit (It Won’t Be Soon Before Long-era of course). Against the looped beats of a J-Dilla song, Wyatt’s fingers dance gleefully on ivory keys as his helium coos cut through a swathe of layered vocalizations (contorted to not coincidentally resemble bluesy harmonics) and rollicking timpani. Like the yellow diamond spears that Wyatt mentions in “The Heart of Me,” Miike Snow turns the predictable evolutions of hummed synthesizers on their collective heads through the employment of stratified yelps as the track’s backbone melody. “Genghis Khan,” one of the album’s joyous peaks, sees the trio teetering back and forth between the dichotomy of love’s jealous ferocity and the blissful yoo-hoo’s of Wyatt’s uncertainties.
“Oh I wanna make up my mind/But I don’t know myself/No I don’t know,” Wyatt channels woozy assertions of possessiveness, (soundtracked blithely by wisps of rolling percussion and flittering piano refrains) whilst juggling his own dubious theories on relationships. Garage-rock from the 60’s collides with the brutal oscillation of 90’s hip-hop beats on “Heart Is Full,” but the track, which has two versions on the album, shines brightest when accompanied by the grimy daggers of slick lyricisms that only Run the Jewels could possibly concoct. Both El-P and Killer Mike, in their characteristically whimsical savagery, plow through the track’s baroque snyth drops like a pair of bulls inside a china shop. The opening melody and spacey harmonizations of “For U” casts shadowed resemblances to The Police’s 80’s rock aesthetics, but swiftly descends into a bustling sibilation of droning synths, bass, and the breakneck dulcet of Charlie XCX’s chirps.
Taking their feet off the throttle and pulling the emergency break, the trio bring iii to a skidding stop in the slow-rise ballad “I Feel the Weight.” Peeling back the technicolor veneer of their aggressive pop sentiments, the track thrusts Wyatt’s agonizingly tender murmurs against a crescendo of percussion strolls and Winnberg’s mournful background yodels. With the opening piano shrills of “Back Of The Car,” the group shift gears into a seductive assemblage of sizzling electric guitars and percussiveness, while twisted garbles of Wyatt’s clarion hollers wrestle for dominance. Touching on brief undertones of neo-soul design, the delightfully breezy “Lonely Life” is a double-dutch of genre hopping that answers a question I didn’t know I wanted an answer to until now: what would The Shins sound like with some synths? Wyatt, brandishing his inner James Mercer (probably), dives into a dreamy pool of elated bass plucks and effervescent percussion tumbles–snowballing blissfully into a medley of vibrant drones.
The confused mixtures of stuttering drum clicks and buzzing vocalizations fall flat on “Over and Over,” but the track’s singed guitar riffs and Wyatt’s amiable croons manage to salvage the moments in between. For its finale, iii does anything but disappoint–against the happy rise of uplifting strings and brass on “Longshot (7 Nights), Miike Snow stick the landing on their tumultuous somersault through their cosmic pop influences. So euphorically beside themselves, the song’s cheery vulnerability, 60’s stylized rhythmics, and gushing orchestral arrangements (TV on the Radio eerily comes to mind) push iii towards new terroitories of elation.
Sonically, the group’s third album deals out an impressively concussive arsenal of radiant electronica in the form of its authors’ eclectic interests and past-conquests–ultimately, this is what pop music should always sound like. Miike Snow have once again proved the limitless levels of dexterity that emanates from their music, fearlessly bashing any complaints of lack-of-substance with every explosively catchy hook and sublime harmony.
Words: Steven Ward