Niki & The Dove – Instinct (Mercury/Sub Pop Records)
May 8, 2012 by Tshepo Mokoena
In a climate of mp3 blog hype, fickle fans and easily-forgotten buzzbands, Swedish two-piece Niki And The Dove are staking out their rightful place in the minds of new music fans (and obsessed Scandophiles). Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf are finding their feet more with each release, and this debut LP effort is a clear indication of their songwriting skill and near-perfect execution of both an elated pop chorus and wonderfully melancholy dynamic build.
At the core of this album is its range: when it really comes down to pinpointing what makes their sound so addictive, Malin and Gustav are anything but a one trick pony act. On an initial level, the amount of attention they both play to crafting earwig-like melodies is what makes tracks like opener ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Mother Protect’ as strong as they are.
The clarity of Malin’s vocal rides atop pulsating and often suddenly jarring bubbles of bass, while a variety of synths and sampled found sounds hold it all together. Big fans of Niki & The Dove will already recognise several songs on the record: previous EP title track ‘The Drummer’, sorrowful ‘Mother Protect’ B-side ‘Winterheart’, and ‘DJ Ease My Mind’ (the song that triggered their blog hype in early 2010) are just some of those that re-emerge here, tweaked and polished.
As far as new offerings go, ‘In Our Eyes’ veers more towards 90s bubblegum pop in terms of its vocal melody: it sounds like something Robyn could have performed on Top Of The Pops in 1998 and initially leaves a sickly sweet residue in its wake. Things pick up with the introduction of sad love slow jam ‘Love To The Test’ – it follows the rather excellently reworked version of ‘Somebody’, all tight drum machines and unashamedly 80s revelry. Proceedings end languidly with ‘Under The Bridges’, a rumbling beast of a song clocking in near the 9-minute mark with a vocal hook you’ll likely find yourself humming hours after you’ve heard it.
Throughout there is the sense that Malin and Gustav have taken their time delicately piecing together each element of this album, and their hard graft pays off – it’s a beautiful, emotive celebration of the power of pop when it’s been made for the love of the art. If this is what their instincts tell them music should sound like, we’re on board.