Swedish duo Icona Pop has arrived

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Icona Pop's girl-power tour doesn't come close to Pittsburgh, though it did bounce in and out of Philadelphia this week. Still, you can get all the flash-bash music you need from their newly released album, "This Is ??? Icona Pop," out today. Or just turn on a radio.

Icona Pop is the Swedish duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, who are sweeping the world up in their electro-pop/???indie-rock dream as fast as they possibly can.

"You meet a few people in your lifetime that you really feel like you're connecting with," Ms. Hjelt said in a recent phone interview. "And when we met that night ??? It was at my place, four and a half years ago. We had a mutual friend who took Aino to my party. And it was just weird, it was love at first sight.

"I think we were both kind of down at the bottom. Nothing was working out with my music or my love life. And then I met Aino and I felt so inspired.

"The next day Aino called me and said, 'Hey, I'm on my way to your place now.' And we sat down with a bottle of wine and the computer and we wrote our first song. Without even talking about what kind of music we wanted to do. So it was really, really natural."

Natural, but intense.

"We felt kind of stressed in the beginning because we wanted to get our music out so quick," Ms. Hjelt said. "We were just like, 'Oh, we're writing all these songs, I wish we could release an album tomorrow.' We booked our first gig two days after we met. And a month later our shows were sold out.

"We were always dreaming about touring the U.S., touring the world, releasing albums. It was never like, 'Let's make a song.' It's more like, 'Yeah, we're the best band in the world and now we're going to do this together.' We've got some weird energy together."

Ms. Hjelt is 25. Ms. Jawo is 26. Their mega hit "I Love It," a fixture in the clubs all summer, has been covered by Robin Thicke and spoofed by The Cookie Monster.

"It's insane," Ms. Hjelt said. "This year has been just incredible. The fact that we've been able to be everywhere, traveling and performing. It's just a little bit surreal. It's a little bit hard to take in sometimes. But we've been dreaming about it, so it's living the dream right now."

They've gotten a lot of help, and yet it's still -- at its core -- these two young women.

"We're actually control freaks, so we're involved in everything when it comes to our music, the pictures, the videos, what stuff we should do on this tour," Ms. Hjelt said. "Nothing happens if we don't approve it or it doesn't come from us.

"We've worked with people who tried to change us. We decided pretty quickly we didn't want to work with them, and now we have the best crew and everybody's just trying to make our vision come true.

"We're club kids from the beginning. We were born in sweaty clubs with smoke and crappy neon lights. It's such a weird, incredible feeling to be in an arena and people are singing along with you.

"It's so funny. We have all kinds of fans of all ages. Even older rock dudes will come up to us and say, 'I usually don't like this type of music, but I like your punk attitude.' And then we have little girls and boys. It's such a mix, and we love that."

The attitude of their music is reflected in the contradictory chorus of their hit: "I don't care. I love it."

"We like to disguise some heart-breaking stories in bittersweet melodies," Ms. Hjelt said. "We want to make music that people feel. We want you to laugh and dance, but at the same time we know you could cry to it as well."

Writer Ashley Dean gave the album a glowing review in the Colorado Daily in Boulder.

"Icona Pop doesn't really have a soft or slow side (and that's just fine)," Ms. Dean wrote. "When they do pump the brakes, the result is a track like 'Just Another Night' -- a steadying-thumping ballad that's powerful enough to hold its own among crowd-pleasing party anthems like 'Ready For The Weekend' or 'We Got The World.'"

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Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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