Happy to You by Miike Snow
Before creating what was initially thought to be a one-off side project with American musician Andrew Wyatt, Swedish production duo Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg (then known as Bloodshy & Avant) were mostly known for their international work on numerous pop albums throughout the last decade.
However, three short years ago and amidst a shroud of anonymity, the trio (whose quirky name is usually attributed to the mash-up of the names of a friend with an irrelevant Japanese film director) played into most people's expectations by releasing one of the catchier dance/pop albums of that year. A record of smashing singles with less-than-fulfilling songs dispersed in between, 2009's Miike Snow was considered good but not great.
On 2012’s follow up, a couple years of worldwide tours seem to have transformed the producers into the same kind of pop stars they helped create for almost a decade. Miike Snow have blown all expectations out of the water. The music they have churned out is more than just another dance album. Instead, the twelve songs on Happy to You are a dense collection of art. Each track is composed carefully and produced with an even clearer example of the precision for which the trio was already known.
Happy to You is a brilliant combination of simplicity and variety, full of unmistakable allusions to a diverse crowd of musical genres that span from the obvious instances of dubstep and keyboard-driven Europop to quieter moments that channel the classic sounds of Simon & Garfunkel or The Cure.
The opening track, “Enter the Joker's Lair,” sets the mood of the album at somewhere between Vampire Weekend's carefree instrumental indie-pop and the driving dub-beats of DJ Shadow's trip-hop. The song is followed with a surprising moment for what is primarily a dance album—the beginning of “The Wave” goes nearly a minute without a bass track. By the third and fourth tracks, more than a few musical themes are already established: familiar keyboard riffs borrowed straight from 1990s; a dizzying variety of vocal effects; creative placement of the iconic wobble bass; happy-pop melodies hidden among a flurry of beats; melodramatic sounds evolving into upbeat frenzies; with happy-go-lucky lyrics to tie it all together. From there Happy to You continues to deliver with massively effective hits like “Say You Will,” “Pretender” and the album's first single “Paddling Out.”
It is easy to predict which songs will become singles (“Say You Will” is sure to be the next to hit the charts, if not the catchiest track of the album, “Archipelago”), but this is not to say that the album is in any way disconnected. In fact the opposite is quite true, as the album's fluidity is one of its strongest qualities: each song blends together complex sounds, each sets up smooth musical transitions and each releases at the perfect moment for the next song in line.
Happy to You definitely one of the year's best indie/pop contributions, is chock-full of enough beautiful melodies, beats, and nonsensically catchy lyrics to stay in your must play list for months to come.
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Label: Downtown Records
Stars: 5 out of 5