Review Summary: Vacation pay.
Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, also known as production duo Bloodshy & Avant, could be forgiven for taking it easy. Having crafted pop hits for the past decade – not to mention “Toxic” the best pop song of the millennium (I will brook no dissent) – Miike Snow always seemed like a bit of a vanity throwaway. Then, surprise!– 2009’s debut was actually one of the best electro-pop records of that heady time, its swirling mix of vibrating bass and stabby synths eerily presaging a future where electronic is less of a buzzword and more of an assumption. Even singer Andrew Wyatt’s soulful falsetto could have taken a few years off with the royalty checks from “Animal.” 2012’s Happy to You
, though, was a bit of a shock in that it showed a project with actual staying power. The lazily titled iii
, then, is a bit of delayed gratification for those hoping the trio will actually stumble.
It’s a pleasantly relaxed portrait of a band kicking back and stretching its legs: a touch of moody synth drone on “Feel the Weight,”; some drunken vocal filtering of Wyatt’s voice (soulful James Blake here, helium-filled imp there) on “Back of the Car”; a glitchy up-tempo carnival house of an electro-pop song with a peculiarly (if lovely) subdued Charli XCX. There are some enjoyable songs here, and some, well, question marks. All in all, it’s a decent record, with a couple genuinely great additions to the Miike Snow catalog – one, the bouncy and familiar pick-me-up “My Trigger,” is smartly positioned as the opener here – but an album that remains mostly content to see how far they can stretch their sound. At times, like on earworm single “Genghis Khan,” iii sound like your favorite Miike Snow, albeit with a greater than usual affection for piano and funk melodies. Other times, iii
expands and breaks.
Exhibit “A” is “Over and Over,” a mishmash of slinky electric guitar and its somewhat ominous melody leading into a rather rote piano-based chorus that comes out as the musical equivalent of pairing macaroni and cheese with sushi. It’s a fine example of the kind of quintessential songwriter hubris that Miike Snow have in spades. Yet they still make a song like the whacky studio creation “Back of the Car” a success many other groups couldn’t pull off. The languid, full-bodied string section behind “Longshot (7 Nights)” is a smooth counterpart to Wyatt’s velvety voice, and would appear to be the ideal closer to a Miike Snow album that seems more at home in the lounge than the dance floor. But, of course, the record has to end with a “Heart Is Full” remix featuring Run the Jewels (?!). The original version exists solely to feature a sweet Marlena Shaw (“Waiting for Charlie to Come Home”) sample, its melody and chorus hackneyed and limp, while the remix somewhat haphazardly attempts to slot Killer Mike and El-P right in over Wyatt’s verses. The end result works, but the question remains: why? Because they can, God dammit.