As you may have gathered, we’re rather fond of Niki & The Dove. Having heard of them for the first time back in January – when the Swedish band reached fifth position on the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 poll – we swiftly downloaded their EP, The Drummer and previous single The Fox and we were pretty much hooked. Further confirmation of Niki & The Dove’s potential for brilliance came when So So Gay named ‘DJ Ease My Mind’ as our Single Of The Week back in February. An interview with the band ensued and only served to strengthen our anticipation for their debut album, Instinct.
Paradoxically, the album’s key strength is also potentially its most discernible weakness. To Niki & The Dove newcomers, we challenge you not to be impressed by the collection of finely crafted tracks on offer throughout the album. However, if you already own the aforementioned extended plays, then adding Instinct to your iTunes library is unlikely to lead you on a voyage of musical discovery. Seven tracks appeared on either The Fox or The Drummer and, with the exception of most recent single and album opener ‘Tomorrow’, the remaining songs are somewhat underwhelming.
‘Tomorrow’ really does symbolise the band at their quirky best. It’s eminently radio-friendly with its super-catchy refrain yet left-field enough to retain an air of credibility. ‘The Drummer’ is a real highlight on the album, an anthem to feeling a pumping beat pulsate through your very core; ‘Oh I love the rhythm / The pounding of my heart / I’m a drum, I’m a drum now / It is what makes me human’ sings Malin with characteristic aplomb. The synths on the track are truly amazing. Resist tapping your feet to this and you’re made of stronger stuff than us.
‘In Our Eyes’ is reminiscent of 1980s synth pop à la Five Star – only slightly less appealing. The track meanders along pleasantly but does nothing to augment the general ambience of what should be an outstanding aural experience. Thankfully, what follows goes some way to making up for its predecessor. ‘The Gentle Roar’ is a veritable tour de force of musical greatness with its bass-ridden melody and lyrics around the theme of shaking off the fears you carry which others have imposed upon you; ‘And I was told to look away when I saw a raven / And to spit three times when a cat crossed the street / (I was told to be afraid of) so many things / Now I’m waking the witch and I move like a cat’. The whispered ‘Like a cross on your doorstep’ stanzas are delightfully effective and – despite the lyrical optimism – somewhat menacing.
‘Mother Protect’ is equally forceful with its anger-ridden mid-section (You can’t keep me down, I am done, I am furious / Fear the lioness, paint her face black and golden). Sadly though, ‘Last Night’ fails to maintain the flow. It may be ‘fun’ with its lighthearted lyrical take on a Las Vegas-style wedding but it seems unbecoming of the band’s calibre. ‘Somebody’, with its carefree invitation to leave the tedium of the posse you’re with in favour of partying with the band instead, is indeed enticing.
‘DJ Ease My Mind’ provides one of the later high points on Instinct and is another sans souci hymn to dancing the night away. The production values on the track are outstanding and take the album to another level without ever sounding contrived. Penultimate number ‘The Fox’ reflects the band’s previous dalliances in the world of folk music; ‘I’ve grown a handsome tall tree, mother / And I want to bear a fruit for you / And I’ve carried your fears and your hopes, father / I’ll conquer them for me and you’. Once more, Niki & The Dove really push the boat out both vocally and instrumentally on the track, and the effort certainly pays off with its raw guitar riff over a symmetrical beat.
Closing track ‘Under The Bridges’ is, in theory, a simple enough concept. It’s a musical retrospective on happy times spent dancing the night away in a club ‘under the bridges’. Indeed, it sounds joyful and is delivered to perfection. At almost nine minutes long though, the track is a marathon rather than a sprint. A lengthy instrumental brings Instinct to a thumping end.
Overall, Instinct is a strong debut from the Scandinavian outfit. Despite some moments of real mediocrity, the album is successfully carried by a string of truly exceptional songs. What Niki & The Dove do tremendously well is to take a perfectly uncomplicated theme such as having a jolly good night on the tiles and turning into a piece of electro-pop paradise. That is no mean feat in a musical world currently dominated by Calvin Harris and Pitbull collaborations.
Go Get It: ‘The Drummer’; ‘The Gentle Roar’; ‘DJ Ease My Mind’
Forget It: ‘Last Night’; ‘Love To The Test’