Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo have already established themselves as the go-to dance pop duo in Sweden since 2009. They’ve enticed American shores before, teasing with a quick concert through Neon Gold in 2010 before disappearing back to Europe where they shored up with Patrik Berger, the man behind Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” The United States seems in their sights now with numerous appearances during New York Fashion Week (Elle, Rolling Stone, Perez Hilton, Consequence of Sound), and now dominating CMJ with six concerts or DJ sets. Icona Pop, who came together via a breakup, had been DJing around Sweden for some time before and had those chops cut on the turntables well before London embraced them to record (our interview). Welcome to one of the results, the Iconic EP, a powerful slice of pop that sharpens the hooks from Nights Like This in preparation for the debut full-length in 2013.
Two of the tracks have already been released in some way, mostly by the Manners 7″ that introduced “Top Rated” to the world. The charged beats perfectly crafted could be a crossover for the darker end of the club spectrum, washing lights over people as Aino and Caroline’s superb chorused harmonies back up the bite they honed on the demanding Stockholm audiences. “Sun Goes Down” featuring The Knocks and St. Lucia is that other end; a dark, gothic feel given the processed doom’n’gloom guest vocals. Songs like this are needed, much like a killing off a key character in Lost to keep your attention and prove that you shouldn’t get too comfortable thinking you can generalize this duo. They step back, giving much of the verse to the collaboration generously. While it may not be the strongest on the EP, keep at it-Icona Pop is one of the few groups that could pull this off.
Aside from the previous favorites that haven’t aged a bit, the first half of the EP is bursting with fresh cuts. “Ready for the Weekend” being such a banger that unexpectedly tops “Nights Like This” and “I Love It”, by far. It takes the high-pitched processed vocals without feeling over-produced; you could even say a dash of deadmau5. The Charli XCX featured “I Love It” takes the pop side that first attracted people to Icona Pop, then supercharges it. The “Nuclear Seasons” singer ideally fits in there, though subtle enough to not dominate. Though how can you be subtle with, “You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch.”
“You love for love. You know you’re never gonna find better love. You hate my love because you’re dead without it.” Icona Pop easily fall as one of the top dance leaning pop artists. Each little recording fix gets more addictive, production gets tighter, and their charm is now beginning to convert tastemakers outside of music. The fact they grew out of one of the toughest DJ scenes, something a bit more uncommon for singers of pop music that dominate our shores, and had the backing of Neon Gold‘s superb taste early on, Icona Pop won’t be disappearing under performance pressure. Nor are they slowing down going into their first big test; the full length. Here’s one of the top newcomers to watch for in 2013.