On their third album Dancing Is Easy, Finland’s Icons Of Elegance combine all the best aspects of American popular music, spinning them through an unshakeable penchant for writing great hooks and sing-along melodies. Indeed, the brothers V�xby have been called “the Finnish Wilco”. But do we really need a Finnish Wilco?
Despite its resemblance to Summer Teeth era Wilco, Dancing Is Easy finds Anssi and Henri V�xby letting go of their country roots a bit (though there are hints of steel guitar weeping here and there, as on Running To Catch Up With Myself). Instead, the Icons’ new economy seems to focus on perfectly packaged song structures, ready for immediate radio play. Throughout the album’s 12 tracks, the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure remains intact and largely unfussed with.
The result is an album of singles, rather than any sort of cohesive whole. There’s no arch here, no theme. But each track is so mesmerising in its simple, sunny optimism that the lack of a cementing element is readily forgivable. In a new decade populated by noisemakers and experimenters, it’s weirdly refreshing to hear such a straightforward album.
And while the music isn’t challenging, there’s something worn and familiar about it, like pulling an old sweater down from the attic and slipping it on after years only to unexpectedly recall happier times with your first love. That is to say that Dancing Is Easy is just the sort of album to call up unexpected recollections, and to perhaps cause spontaneous and uncontrollable smiling. Really.
The album’s opener and title track is as danceable as guitar pop can get, with the sort of bouncy rhythm and sunny harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place at a boardwalk sock-hop.� The lyric asks, again with insufferable optimism, “Don’t you think that a little bit of sweet romancing will enhance it?” The answer seems to be a reverberating yes, answered again and again by the rest of the album.
There are moments that call up instant comparisons to that other non-American Americana band, The Thrills. Surf rock is by no means the name of the game here, but the album is certainly tinged by its influence (see the guitar and organ interplay on Sandra Lee, or the pocket symphonic qualities of the chugging Ready When You Are).
Some harmonic moments here are also reminiscent of that underrated American television act, The Monkees (which is not intended to be nearly as much of a jab you might initially think. Last Train To Clarksville, anyone?). Norwegian Girl opens with an homage to Chuck Barry‘s Johnny B Goode.� The jukebox rhythm ‘n’ blues plays on the same ironic level as The Beatles‘ use of a similar style on Back In The U.S.S.R. (which is not to say the final effect works on the same level, necessarily).
In the end, Dancing Is Easy – for all its pop brilliance and sunny singability – suffers from being a bit too familiar, too easy to digest. The result is that the album is forgotten quite quickly after first listen. The good news for Icons Of Elegance, though, is that it’s also an album that bears repeat listens, and if you warm up to it, it could easily become a go-to source of unthinking optimism in the chaotic soundscape of post-noughties overwrought rock ‘n’ roll.
Because, it’s true: dancing really is the easy thing to do, more often than not. Whether dancing gets you anywhere – or solves anything – is another issue altogether.