Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo are two Swedish DJs that met by happenstance. They’ve been spending the better half of the year down in London working with Patrik Berger, releasing only teasers of the fruits of their labor with “Manners”, “Still Don’t Know”, “Top Rated”, and most recently “Sun Goes Down”. Brought together from a breakup, Icona Pop owes much of their sound to a fusion of pop, dance and electronic coupled with a catchiness of finely tuned DJ. I interviewed Aino and Caroline back in June right when things were taking shape. So now it’s October, the leaves are falling and finally we’re able to harvest what’s been growing in London Town with Nights Like This.
The four track EP only has 3 new songs if you skip over “Manners”, which you would commit a grave mistake in doing so. Nights Like This gets the title track out of the way, which under typical pop circumstances would be a foreboding decision leaving the rest be labeled filler (which isn’t the case here, thankfully, so shed those auspices). It kicks off with a percussive synth beat I’d like to be hearing sonically pulsing the speakers at a packed venue. The layers reinforce before the Caroline and Aino join up on the chorus; a higher pitch up top while a drum machine peeks in briefly to the right. The beats remind heavily on the classic 8-bit video game systems, but without the brightness that would distract from the strength in their pop-oriented voices. It’s a great balance, very similar to La Roux but with the pop aesthetics of Lights.
“Manners” has been the flagship single since the spring, which was lengthened since the Manners 7″. It’s underwater, glitchy feel has a certain jaunty, slow-motion dance to it. Around 2 minutes in, the new version has gone high definition with a tremendous addition to the production, letting the previous whisper surround you with newfound clarity. The additional 20+ seconds doesn’t add much but strengthen the beat, think how a DJ lengthens a track to hold the right parts just a touch longer. “Lovers to Friends” is the most pop you’ll find on the album, something that “Top Rated” achieved in expressing the two music sensibilities of Icona Pop. It’s far more straightforward with the music, emphasizing the lyrics. Personally, they do it very, very well, aided by Patrik’s experience behind the boards. Though “Nights like This” and “Manners” show a strength behind their beats that, when combined as on those tracks, is the breakthrough, exceptional talent of the duo.
“Sun Goes Down” features The Knocks, fellow Neon Gold Records electronic artists. It’s a bit darker than anything released yet, serving as a definite conclusion to the EP. When you hear the song, you know the EP’s over as opposed to most electronic albums that seem to put you into a trance that would be hard to break if you pressed Repeat All. The fuzzed guitars are a refreshing addition over electronic drums. It reinforces Aino and Caroline’s talent for broadening addictive music, stretching away from the often too-constraining trap that lures most pop artists into an inescapable narrow range. If they can keep up with the little surprises like “Sun Goes Down” mixing in the pop of “Lovers to Friends” with the beats of “Nights Like This”, you’ve got the latest Scandinavian artist to glue your ears to everything they create.
Till their debut LP, start with the EP, then go back to the 7″ if you can.