As Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have created some of pop’s biggest numbers—for the uninitiated, even Britney Spears’ pop classic Toxic should ring a few bells—yet things have always been a little different for them as Miike Snow. In contrast to their slick and shiny mainstream pop productions, Karlsson and Winnberg’s personal style leans more toward alternative and natural synthpop. That style never changed much over their first two albums, though, and this latest album is no different: iii is exactly what you’d expect from Miike Snow, for better or for worse.
There’s no denying that Karlsson and Winnberg are still pop powerhouses in every capacity. Even working with something a little less mainstream than their most known work, the production is still top notch and the hooks are plentiful. Genghis Khan catches the ear with a repetitive and simple piano line recurring throughout the song, linking perfectly with fellow bandmate Andrew Wyatt’s vocals and the flow of the slightly obsessive lyrics—I feel a little bit Genghis Khan / I don’t want you to get it on with nobody else but me—which quickly worm their way into your head. Karlsson and Winnberg’s pop prowess really shines through when they team up with Charli XCX on For U: not only do her vocals perfectly match their style, the song’s jittery vocal sample and dirty beat add another layer to the track that makes it stand out from the rest of the album—a little abstract, but effective nevertheless.
One big problem with the album lies in the fact that everything feels so familiar. Much of the album rests on catchy piano melodies, but these piano lines can feel somewhat familiar at times, with Back Of The Car’s 3-4 plinking notes standing out as something we’ve all heard many times before. Compounding the problem, the highs never really reach the heights of their previous albums, either. Most of the tracks stay at a sort of middling tempo, with nothing quite matching the energy of Pretender or Paddling Out on Happy to You, leaving an air of lethargy hanging around the album.
It’s hard to say anything truly negative about iii, though. There just aren’t any glaring weak spots on the album. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but despite the familiarity of the release in the larger context of Miike Snow’s discography, it’s still filled with solid pop songs. Karlsson and Winnberg are accomplished producers and more than competent at what they do, so it’s hard to resent them for being merely good instead of great, ultimately leaving iii as a wholly inoffensive and respectable album.