Nick Zinner
March 03, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
We gave it a B

Sweden’s history of turning out pop pros like Robyn, Max Martin, ABBA, and others has been well-documented. Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, the producers professionally known as Bloodyshy and Avant, should be added to that list of regularly name-checked hitmakers, thanks to their work with Britney Spears (“Toxic”), Kylie Minogue, Madonna and more.

For the last seven years, though, they’ve opted for a Wizard of Oz-style role as the brains behind Miike Snow, who broke out in 2009 with indie-pop hits like “Animal” and “Black and Blue.” On iii, the group’s first album since 2012, Karlsson, Winnberg and frontman Andrew Wyatt make a much-anticipated return with more Top 40 tropes for the Coachella crowd — a formula they’ve perfected and don’t tweak too much here.

iii‘s foundation rests on ebullient, instantly hummable melodies and, like most pop albums, the songs hinge on Karlsson and Winnberg’s mastery of the cathartic swells that would make a festival crowd go bonkers. The single “Heart Is Full” smartly deploys a sample of Marlena Shaw’s soulful 1967 cut “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home” and juxtaposes it with booming horns and synths — it’s the album’s wildest highlight. The vibrant “The Heart of Me,” meanwhile, sounds perfectly engineered for Spotify’s running feature or the sprawling pastures of a music festival.

Miike Snow may cultivate a slick sound throughout, but their expertise doesn’t always extend to their lyrics. “I get a little bit Genghis Khan / I don’t want you to get it on / With nobody else but me,” Wyatt sings on “Genghis Khan” in an ill-fated metaphor likening romantic jealousy with one of history’s most violent warlords. And on the enticing album opener “My Trigger,” Wyatt croons incoherent couplets like, “I saw you licking a dollar bill / I’m in the graveyard if looks could kill.” Huh?

But for Miike Snow, words are hardly the point. iii‘s guiding principle seems to be style over substance — and Miike Snow have that in spades.

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