A diverse album that demonstrates a huge variety of styles. All are done well, but natural human predilection to like some things more than others means that no one person will consider every single track a stand out. Still, if there's one you like? You're gonna really like it.
The three members of Swedish electropop trio Miike Snow are at it, appropriately, for the third time; their most recent album, iii, is once again emblazoned with their signature jackrabbit logo and a stronger sound than ever before. That’s not to say that it’s centralised or committed, however. Compared to other electropop which I’ve enjoyed recently, namely Chairlift’s Moth (to which I was potentially overly harsh last month), this album strays away from the idea of a central unified sound that is often the strongest claim of synth-based stuff. Instead, it dabbles around the genre for a patchwork quilt effect, full of rhythms and disparate styles, which gives it a rich and textured feeling and overall makes it a stronger album.
My instinct is to say that the album’s standout track is ‘Genghis Khan’. It’s the lead single for a reason. It’s bright and funky; it’s got a great hook and wonderful timing, particularly in the latter part of the song; and my favourite music video in years to boot. It’s the gay, 70s era James Bond and supervillain love story, with a secret revenge plot at the end, that you never knew you needed. However, looking past it, if you concentrate long enough on most any track on the album you can definitely see its selling points. Get into its groove.
Album opener ‘My Trigger’ was a shock; piano driven with a very busy sounding set of vocals over the top. I could not help but be reminded of Scissor Sisters and, in particular, their track ‘Paul McCartney’. It’s an immersive track that grows on you, but I definitely feel like the echo effect could have been dialed back a little bit. Listening to it is a bit like being unrelentingly chripped at – great if you’re in the mood, but I wouldn’t say incredibly listenable. I’m tempted to say the same thing about ‘For U feat. Charli XCX’, but after a very energetic outset it calms to a really neat balance of synth and electronic vocals for an almost summery vibe. By contrast, ‘I Feel The Weight’ is almost orchestral, really using a full range of swooping tones in an otherwise stripped-down song. Same for closer ‘Long Shot (7 Nights)’. Soothing, it’s a really beautiful track.
‘Heart Is Full’ is definitely a contender for strongest track. It samples a bit of soul, a pre-existing instrumental backing where the simmer of a cymbal crash melts into a real non-stop, lyric driven track on a synth backing. The album shows off a lot of hip-hop influences; they’re strong here, and in other tracks which share the same sort of downbeat vibe. They are great demonstrations that something doesn’t have to be overly downtempo to be melancholic. Electronic rhythms overlain with pop melodies are a different sort of take on electropop, and it’s definitely an evolution for the group, as well as being a real departure from their previous styles.
However, the question to answer shouldn’t be, “does this sound like Miike Snow?”, but rather should be, “does this sound good?”. And in answer – yes, yes it does. It’s definitely a diverse album which has dipped its toes into several different styles instead of taking the plunge, but as a young group who are already helping to redefine the genre it would be unfair to condemn them for that.
iii‘s greatest strength is also its weak point. It’s hugely diverse and demonstrates a bunch of different styles, as wide as one could while fitting under a single genre banner. The opening and closing tracks barely sound like they’ve been made by the same band. It can’t be denied that every one shows expert production, assembled and created beautifully. But with a range of sounds this wide, it’s impossible that every single one will take your fancy.
So, while you might not like every track that iii has to offer, there’s going to be at least one. And that one? That one you’re going to love.
iii is out now via Downtown/Atlantic.