Miike Snow - iii

Miike Snow - iii

Review : Antoine Morin

We will have waited four long years before seeing the unlikely Swedish jackalopes trio on stage again with, as a bonus, a brand new album, named iii, of course referring to the fact that it is their third one. After a twisted and fantastically vibrant sophomore album, Happy to You, the bar was quite high for the third record of this interestingly underestimated indie pop band.

In Between

The four years separating the two last albums definitely weren’t the calmest ones, since all three members worked on their own individual musical endeavors and were quite successful to it, both locally and internationally. First off, the American front man Andrew Wyatt could release in 2013 his very first solo album, called Descender, that lead him to give a few shows, notably in the New York area. Wyatt’s texts, combined with a quite whacky style and musically accompanied by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra could get a very good reception from the critics. In the last years, we could also hear Wyatt’s voice featured in the chart-breaking song called Push by Québec’s own DJ A-Trak, which could also benefit from several remixes throughout the year.

On his side, Swedish musician Christian Karlsson teamed up with the DJ and producer Linus Eklöw, better known under the name of Style of Eye, to form an electronic dance music duo called Galantis. The group had a very quick phenomenal success, succeeding to release an eponymous EP in 2014 and a full-length album in 2015 named Pharmacy. They then started touring all around the world and were able to play in a few of the world’s biggest electronic music festivals and could finally see their hit song Runaway (U & I) be nominated at the American Grammies in 2016.

Only one of the three members is missing, and that is the Swede Pontus Winnberg, who was also quite busy. In the recent years, he formed the band Amason under the new label and Swedish collective INGRID with four other musicians: vocalist Amanda Bergman, bassist Petter Winnberg, drummer Nils Törnqvist and guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Gustav Ejstes. First coming together in 2012, the band released their first EP in 2013 and then their first full-length album in 2015, called Sky City. Gaining success and praise by the critics, especially in Sweden, the album was even given the prize of Album of the Year at the Grammisgalan 2016 (or Swedish Grammies), one of the most prestigious prizes of the Swedish music industry. Later in 2015, Amason also released a second EP, called Flygplatsen, which strictly contains songs written in the Swedish language.

The Album

Miike Snow being easily one of my favorite bands of the last few years, me who follows them since their very first album, the announcement of new material was exciting and I had quite high expectations. I must admit becoming extremely skeptical when the first single of the album, Heart Is Full, was released. The song was not bad, that is for sure, but it was so far from the Miike Snow style I knew and loved. It was more the kind of song I would have expected from Galantis rather than the trio. They then released a second single from iii, entitled Gengis Khan, and my doubts were quickly erased thanks to this track that would without a doubt become the next Miike Snow hit after Animal and Paddling Out. It is on the following March 4th, 2016 that the rest of the album appeared on the record store shelves, and I of course was one of the proud buyers.

With a total length of 36 minutes and 48 seconds, iii is a relatively very short album holding 10 well-worked songs with the excellent sure-fire production by Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg that we are used to. Two songs out of the ten were also co-produced by fellow Swede Henrik Jonback. Right when the album opens, we know we are dealing with Miike Snow, but with a sound that seems to still have evolved to match the present-day flavors. On a media reception standpoint, the critics aggregate Metacritic emitted an average evaluation of 67% for the album, which is inferior to the two first albums, which could both get a well-earned 72%. Here is therefore my very own critic of this new album according to my own criterias.

Hit Song : Gengis Khan
This is an easy decision because Gengis Khan already has quite a success in the charts all over the globe. I had personally never even heard a single Miike Snow song on the radio before and this very song changed everything. I barely listen to the radio and I even heard this song more than once, to give you an idea. It’s a very catchy track with the Miike Snow elements we are used to: a solid rhythm, a swinging piano and Wyatt’s voice, going from one octave to the other without too much trouble. We can possibly criticize the song because of its short length, but it remains a great 3 minutes of pure pleasure.

Strong Link : The Heart of Me
Second song on the iii track list, it’s a four-minutes musical piece that is quite similar to Gengis Khan, but with a slightly deeper atmosphere that also lasts longer. It was a bit hard to choose the strong link of this album since none of the songs really stands out when we look at the whole picture objectively, but The Heart of Me seems to have a little extra compared to the others.

Weak Link : For U (featuring Charli XCX)
I do not have a single clue about why this tune made it to the final cut of the album because it ends up acting as a sort of barrier between the first and second halves of the album. The kind of mood that is created in the four first songs is destroyed during For U and it seems like the album would have been much more fluid without it. We could even tend to believe that this song was simply a melting pot of unfinished ideas, juxtaposed together inside a few minutes to create something that sounds somehow cacophonic. Then, to add up to the confusion, pop singer Charli XCX was invited to record her voice over it, and honestly, the feature is a little disappointing. In the end, this song is bearable to listen to and has glimpses of fine ideas, but nothing more than that.

Personal Favorite : I Feel the Weight
A more-than-charming song filled with emotions. Featuring a downtempo rhythm and a computer-edited voice from beginning to end, I Feel the Weight is a unique and authentic track, and this is why it is my favorite. The Miike Snow signature sound can be heard all throughout and I even think the song could eventually end up in my all-time Miike Snow favorites. I could certainly have named this song as the strong link, but I think the track might unfortunately end up being ignored, since it acts as a sort of black sheep in between the rest of the more uptempo songs on iii.

General Notes :

Originality/Uniqueness : 6/10
It is somehow less exciting than the first two albums on an originality standpoint. Many of the songs seem to be built on the same idea. However, Miike Snow remains Miike Snow, even though they sound more cautious than usual.

Depth : 4/10
It looks like a severe note, but it is mostly attributable to the fact that the album is so short, and the songs composing it all have pretty much the same length (under four minutes) and structure as well.

Vibe : 6/10
It is pretty average, but still not that bad. Of course, the song For U, like previously mentioned, has a quite negative effect on the general atmosphere of the album, but for the rest, it’s regular.

Radio Factor : 7/10
A high evaluation that I never thought I would have given to Miike Snow, but the sound of iii is now considered mainstream. It is already possible to notice the radio-friendly character with Gengis Khan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one other song gains extra popularity, in its original state or remixed.

Global Appreciation : 7/10
Even after all that, once again, Miike Snow remains Miike Snow and I still have a lot of pleasure listening to that album. I could try my luck and say it is the weakest album of all three, but I believe that it is still too soon to judge. We will have to see with time!

Miike Snow

Formé en 2007 Miike Snow est un groupe originaire de Stockholm composé de Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson et Pontus Winnberg.

Depuis leurs débuts, ils ont sorti trois albums studio: Miike Snow (2009), Happy to You (2012), et iii (2016).