Miike Snow navigate an identity-crisis on new album ‘iii’ [Review]
When Swedish supergroup Miike Snow let their eponymous debut album loose in 2009, their genre-blending sound seemed to bring worlds together. Their tracks were featured on both the Jersey Shore and Jools Holland. Remixes emerged from all ends of the spectrum — Crookers, Tiga, and even Peter Bjorn & John. In the years since, dance music has reached peak mainstream popularity and crossover hits are more feasible than ever. Indie electronica has become genre of its own right with its keystone artists in festival headline slots and their releases in the Urban Outfitters vinyl bins.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Miike Snow frontman Andrew Wyatt commented on the group’s sound, saying: “When we came out, I don’t think a lot of things sounded like us, but now I think a lot of stuff sounds like Miike Snow’s first record.”
Navigating the third album can be a tricky endeavor, but determining where to go in an oversaturated genre is more like a full blown identity crisis. For musicians, the success of tapping into a prescient vein can restrict and confine.
With iii, we see Wyatt and his cohorts allowing themselves to make music they unabashedly enjoy, unconcerned with how fans may perceive their work in comparison to their previous albums. Like a glittery, shattered disco ball, iii is all over the place. It’s a fractured, sprawling effort to shrug off the sonic identity that has become too vigorously demanded from the trio. The identity-concerned album title matches its self-searching tone.
Yet, throughout their journey, the creative process has remained the same. “We try to put something that’s thoughtful or humane into pop songs,” said Wyatt. “Then, we kill it with a hook.”
The group revealed early on that much of the new album was inspired by hip-hop recordings and J Dilla stems. This influence is clear on the album’s wryly-titled opener “My Trigger” and the soul-tinged advance single “Heart is Full” featuring rap iconoclasts Run The Jewels.
On “Genghis Khan,” the trio manages to repurpose one of the most notoriously brutal historical figures into freakishly catchy synth pop perfection. Even the most fastidious aesthetes will find themselves tapping their feet while Wyatt croons on about the toxic relationship that fuels his sickening sense of possessiveness — all of which pales in comparison to the utterly camp video which, nonetheless, prompts an involuntary grin at its tongue in cheek conclusion.
As always, the trio galvanizes even their most ambitious tracks with earworm hooks that demand to be sung.
The inevitable itch to repeat tracks endlessly is largely due to the group’s collective production experience. Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, the remaining two thirds of Miike Snow, have produced a cavalcade of pop divas together. Their side project, Meadow, is a partnership with Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia fame. This all in addition to Karlsson’s side, side project, Galantis.
Nowhere is the process clearer than “Back of the Car.” The track’s meaningless lyrics and vague, lazy rhymes yield eye-rollers like: “Don’t want to be your planet/Cause it was not like you planned it/Just want to have you come and play/just say my name from day to day.” But, as the jaunty piano devolves into a warped, “Loud Pipes”-esque soundscape, the song smacks with feeling.
Wyatt’s unintelligible words take on a novocaine numb affectation. His pristine falsetto unwinds into a slurring, haunted refrain. The piano hook, which once sounded like a Fitz and the Tantrums b-side, suddenly seems vaguely sinister. The impulse to play again and search for something that eluded a first listen comes on strong.
The rest of the album, hits similarly. iii likely won’t conjure up any real emotions, but it’s less vapid than it could be–lowlights like “For U” prove it. The stellar Empress Of remix yearns for the innovative sound that could have been. Then again, for Miike Snow, profundity has never been the goal.