Before Nirvana released In Utero in 1993, the band threatened that their album was an “unlistenable punk-rock nightmare,” thereby challenging their fanbase to embrace their challenging new sound or die. However, many album of the years and top ten lists later, In Utero went on to be a critical success, despite the lack of a rallying track such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to buoy it. The same can be happily said of Swedish-American indie-electro group (thats alot of hypens) Miike Snow‘s second LP; though it doesn’t have a single that is as accessible or radio-friendly as last LP’s Animal, Happy to You is musically more adventurous both in scope and in texture, rewarding the listener with multiple beginning-to-end listenings.
Opening track, “Enter the Jokers Lair,” does a decent enough job of setting the tone of the rest of the album, The Wave, from its first lyric — “The first strike of the hammer / make my heart beat faster” — is an immediately militant and exhilarating call to arms for the listener, showcasing an innovation and maturation that was subtly absent from their first outing, though to be fair, you can’t argue that vapidness aside, the first album had undeniable catchiness.
Tracks like “The Wave” and “Paddling to You” are the closest Happy to You ever gets to the radio-friendliness of Animal; however, the second half of the album also yields treasures like the track, “Vase,” which is a endearing homage to The Cure’s “Close to Me.” “Vase” is as melancholic and intimate as another track, “Black Tin Box” (featuring Swedish contemporary Lykke Li), is haunting and moody. Amidst the gamut of emotional extremes, other gems like “Archipelago” and “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)” also do well to remind you that sometimes, the members of Miike Snow just want you to soar along with them. The only outstanding stumble is on “The Devil’s Work,” where they try to be complex but instead, lack the magic they had on other tracks.
Overall, Miike Snow’s Happy to You succeeds more than it fails; its actually quite refreshing to see the group ultimately push themselves sonically on their sophomore outing. Moreover, its even more refreshing that they did so whilst honoring the “indie electro-pop meets Top 40 hooks” motifs that made them such a blast to listen to in the first place. If you’re a fan, stop reading this and pick up a copy. Even if you’re not a fan, but just a fan of dance music that engages both your mind as well as your feet, consider adding Happy to You your collection. Miike Snow plays Seattle’s Paramount Theatre on April 10th.
Key Track: “The Wave”