Abandoning the much applauded masks of producers/remixers extraordinaires, duo Bloodshy & Avant - Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg - team up with vocalist/songwriter Andrew Wyatt, to release another helping of Miike Snow, in the long awaited second album Happy to You. Riding off the success of a number of well received remixes and single, 'Animal' from the eponymous debut album Miike Snow which reached number 98 in the UK single's chart, the trio further their credentials in a comfortable, well executed return.
The album maintains the same jovial, youthful energy with similar catchy, rhythmic songs that need sledge-hammering out of your brain after one listen. How it differs from the debut is its bettered coherence, depth and innovative production. While maintaining the electro-pop vibe that signals their Swedish origin, they step beyond the boundaries, dabbling in other generic sounds: orchestral influences; piano hooks; quirky off notes; marching beats and playful counterpoint rhythms. What's more they produce a record which is refreshingly absent from those tracks they produce and remix [there I've said it - I hate Britney Spears]. The record certainly contains the 'Miike Snow' sound established in the debut record, but mirrors an adolescent who has matured into musical adulthood, picking up new influences and personality traits on the long road of life.
There are certainly strong tracks on the album, predictably the first two single releases are stand outs, 'The Wave' and 'Paddling Out', but there are a few hidden gems which remain, so far, removed from mainstream single release. 'Black Tin Box's' slowly unwinding drum phrase climaxes in a gigantic, almost troglodytic, roar, teased with dancing electronic pulses which evoke the erratic movement of the aurora borealis. Introducing the haunting vocals of another remarkable Swedish export, Lykke Li, halfway through the track creates a multi-layered narrative in pleasingly stark, minimal production – the band's more obvious generic diversion to date.
Capturing the essence of the album is 'Bavarian #1 (Say You Will),' a highlight that employs the whimsical lilt of a piano melody with playful whistling and boundless distorted synth. All of this is held together with a march-like drum intro that serves as the driving force of the piece, instead of the usual bass. 'The Wave' also utilises this march snare as the backbone of the track, which offers a brighter, more refreshing contrast to the subtler bass line. 'Enter the Joker's Lair' contains a really beautiful fade out, which sounds like a jewellery box being wound and unwound at various speeds. I can help being unable to shake off my reservations towards Andrew Wyatt's voice though, which is good in its own merit, but not, I feel, strong enough to balance out the musical force of the album.
'Paddling Out', the first single from the album, and second release 'The Wave' are synched visually, both music videos being directed by Swedish director Andreas Nillson, forming a strange and otherwordly sci-fi linear adventure narrative. 'Paddling Out's' echoed chorus invites audience contribution, which is ultimately the exact aim of the album - it is designed to stir movement an sing-a-longs. 'Vase' similarly encapsulates this desire for listener interaction and Andrew Wyatt's voice is something which will be the soundtrack to many summer escapades. Snippets of multi-generic influences filter through a number of the tracks, from early Bloc Party in 'Pretender' to Beatles psychedelia in 'God Help This Divorce'.
Happy to You is brimming with infectious hooks and sticking melodies, managing to further the originally established sound of the first album, but twisting and distorting to showcase a new multi-generic influence which can only be defined as its own. It proves Karlsson and Winnberg's worth as artists of their own merit, as well asserting themselves as two of the most accomplished producers in contemporary music.