Friday, June 22
Better than: A triple album.
When Icona Pop’s banging, rattling “I Love It” came out a month ago, the reaction to it from the pop cognoscenti was pretty immediate. Its lyrics about romantic emancipation from a dude who’s a dud, a searing sine-wave synth line, and a shouted chorus of “I-DON’T-CAAAAAA-ARE, I LOVE IT!” made it an ideal candidate for the Twittersphere’s Dream Song Of The Summer—that scrappy, Scandinavian-via-Internet-borne David that could potentially slay Goliaths like Rihanna and Carly Rae Jepsen and achieve if not world, then at least bodega domination.
This chatter helped tee up the Swedish duo’s American debut on Friday, when they brought their small discography—a handful of tracks, including “I Love It” and the sticky “Manners,” as well as a couple of DJ mixes (you can get a sampling on SoundCloud)—to Glasslands. Downstairs, the Kent Avenue space was wall-to-wall people shimmering under lasers, although the upstairs had a bit of room for arm-waving and the like; I briefly wondered how many of the people inside had paid for their tickets. (Which were $12 in advance.)
Icona Pop’s setup is pretty no-nonsense: Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo flank a table that contains their electronics, taking turns to fiddle with them while the other one sings into one of two microphones. Their songs are percussive and hooky, their danceability and shouty bits (of which there are many) providing a keen mask for the longing of many of their lyrics. (Even “I Love It,” for all its seize-the-day hubris, is suffused with regret, if over nothing else than wasted time.) After passing glowsticks out to the audience they sprinted through six songs, including a deconstructed version of “Manners” that emphasized its defiant chorus—”manners/ take a second look and you’ll see/there is no one like me/ manners/ you’d better reconsider/ ’cause you could never do better”—over its vulnerable, almost-swallowed verses. “I Love It” was second-last, and the room popped upon hearing its grinding opening notes, bouncing along with its giddy lyrical recounting of throwing an ex’s possessions down a flight of stairs, thrashing about and yelling “I-DON’T-CAAAAAA-ARE!” back at the stage.
And then there were some thanks and a final song, and that was it, at least as far as the headlining portion of the show went. I heard a bit of grumbling about the brevity of the set, and given the price ($2 a song? isn’t that what suckers pay at karaoke bars?) I can understand. Then again, given that Icona Pop’s current position is borne of a culture where one song can break an artist (or at least make them sound vaguely familiar and/or interesting to the types of self-styled tastemakers who sell out Swedish duo’s American debuts at Glasslands), it shouldn’t be surprising—and when the songs are as potent as “Manners” and “I Love It,” the rush of blood to the brain provided by those heights far surpasses any that could be provided by a bunch of filler tracks that are designed to mark time.
Critical bias: When I DJed at 285 Kent the night before I spun both “I Love It” and “Manners” twice.
Overheard: “Do you think this glowstick will stay lit long enough so I can wave it at Orion?” (It didn’t.)
Random notebook dump: Glasslands’ tissue-paper cloud looks even more magical up close.