May 17, 2009
Review: Miike Snow
It's not unusual that great albums come out of nowhere. What makes Miike Snow's eponymous debut unique isn't just that Miike is a group, not a person. It's that two thirds of this band are Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnber. As Swedish pop production team Bloodshy and Avant, they've produced some sugary suburban masterpieces (Britney's Toxic) and some truly dire ones (Kylie's Nu-di-ty). Still, there is nothing in their discography that suggests they'd produce for themselves such a vibrant piece of what I'd call "city music." The presence of third band member, New Yorker Andrew Wyatt, creates the friction that sparks the fire. At the risk of sounding backhanded, Miike Snow (the album) is a sum greater than its parts would suggest.
Built primarily on piano and electronics, this is not an in-your-face album. Nothing leaps out urgently, but after just a few listens, the whole record is solidly fantastic, diverse, yet clearly of a piece. Opener Animal launches the album's (grey) theme of dour relationships with a disclaimer: "When I slip, yeah... I'm still an animal." Single Burial lays down an earworm chanted chorus against a martial beat, while the lengthy Silvia goes all Royksopp two minutes in, with what sounds like a snaking sawtooth synth and processed vocals.
Justin Timberlake, who may have wedged himself into a Timbaland-gated cul de sac, should check Song For No One. It's his next step, the path laid out for him, taking r'n'b influenced radio pop (with a slightly retro feel) and squeezing it through a Euro synth machine. Black And Blue extends that sound into something truly exciting. It's music for a very fast, expensive car and the closest thing to disco here. Sans Soleil has a disenchanted, blame-the-city-not-the-girl lyric, with a particularly sensual line ("Without sun we pull what feeds us / From the heat that's in-between us.").
The final third of the album veers between minimal pieces like Cult Logic and the strutting, striptease-ready Plastic Jungle, with its repetitive chorus "I wanna get slain." It all ends up at Faker, a short, Beach Boysian finale: "Send in your reverie to me faker / Into the mouth of green morning, faker." Finally, a color.
Miike Snow, the album, has a sort of sonic integrity, as if it were made to please no one but its creators. In doing so, it will thrill pop fans savvy enough to know there's a world beyond their shopping mall divas.
Buy Miike Snow at iTunes US for $6.99 and Amazon UK
Miike Snow Burial/Animal stream/download via link