Swedish avant pop trio Miike Snow returned after a four-year silence with their third LP, the appropriately titled iii. Progressing naturally from their previous releases, iii is a collection of soul-infused pop-fusion nuggets. Hook maestros Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg -- also known as Bloodshy & Avant, writers of Britney's Grammy-winning "Toxic" -- and Andrew Wyatt built reputations with their knack for inventive songcraft, which is well executed here on their own material. Opening with a theatrical piano and drum flourish -- and closing with the sweeping coda "Longshot (7 Nights)" -- iii is a confident and catchy third act for the Swedish-American trio. Featuring electronic flourishes and soulful vocals, the album is peppered with fuzzy synths ("The Heart of Me") and languid Auto-Tune ("I Feel the Weight"), tracks that recall past hits like "Animal" and "Black and Blue." At times, the mood is melancholic and introspective, but always with a bold beat, heavily influenced by the trio's love of hip-hop producer J Dilla (especially on the subwoofer-friendly "Back of the Car"). The breezy "Lonely Life" even sounds like Air, with a little more muscle. Otherwise, the head-bopping energy remains elevated, like on highlight "Genghis Khan" and the bombastic "Heart Is Full," which samples jazz and soul vocalist Marlena Shaw (the digital version also includes a Run the Jewels remix). Fellow pop experimentalist Charli XCX makes an appearance on another standout, the popping banger "For U." The most surprising moment appears near the end of the album: "Over and Over" clicks with a skittering chorus, but the rest of the song is gritty, sounding almost industrial. This mix of genres at work makes for an exciting listen, another addictive affair of dark melody and bold beats from a trio that excels in intelligent, deftly produced art pop.
by Neil Z. Yeung