Miike Snow’s eponymous debut album was something of a surprise. The album came from nowhere to receive critical acclaim and widespread airplay. Yet, while the Swedish trio’s rise was impressive, considering the background of Pontus Winnberg and Christian Karlsson – who under the name of Bloodshy & Avant produced two of Britney Spears’ best songs, Toxic and Piece Of Me – it was hardly surprising.
Their piano-based, electropop-leaning debut was full of intoxicating and delicately layered tracks that worked together beautifully in the album’s overall soundscape. It contained several pivotal moments; the jaunty, Police-esque opener, Animal, the infectious Black & Blue, the seductive A Horse Is Not A Home. With their debut having gone down so well, the pressure is now on Miike Snow to prove they are not just a flash in the pan.
Unfortunately, the band’s sophomore effort, entitled Happy To You, does not quite reach the high standards they set first time round. Opener Enter The Joker’s Lair fails to kick the album off with the same energy as Animal did on their debut. It’s a frustrating start that sounds like the band are feeling their way into the album. The Wave is much more like the Miike Snow that many came to know and love though, with a stuttering piano and marching drums giving the song a sense of direction that the opener lacked.
The band recycle the marching drum beat once more on Bavarian #1 (Say You Will), yet it doesn’t work as well second time around. Instead, the song just ends up sounding rather muddled, with even the sweeping chorus failing to save it. In contrast, God Help This Divorce is vastly different to anything the’ve have attempted before. It’s the closet thing the band have ever got to a ballad, with Wyatt’s hazy vocals detailing the end of a relationship: “She was beauty queen, but I held her down, down, down.”
The album may not be as hit-friendly as their debut, but that doesn’t mean there are no hits at all. One song that does stand out is the dramatic and adventurous The Devil’s Work. It’s a swirling, euphoric and chaotic track that easily sits alongside their best work, with the effervescent piano combining seamlessly with the shuffling beat as the song reaches its chaotic climax.
The first single from the album and closing song, Paddling Out, also captures Miike Snow at their electropop best, with schizophrenic synths making it certain to be a dance-floor favourite. Then there’s the punchy Pretender, with an infectious, jaunty piano providing a clear nod to the ’90s.
Happy To You is certainly not as accessible as the band’s first LP, with the potential singles not abounding from the album like they did first time round. Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable, but the album is undoubtedly better when listened to as a whole.
Some songs that work better than others – The Devil’s Work and Paddling Out being the pick of the bunch – but the general standard of the album does not match the band’s first effort. Overall, Happy To You is a solid if unspectacular second effort, one that disperses moments of brilliance with the occasional filler track.