Review of Instinct Album by Niki and the Dove

As if by way of some timely reminder, Loreen's 'Euphoria' via the Eurovision Song Contest has been re-affirming and cementing the long held popular opinion that Sweden and pop are a winning combination; inextricably bound and irreversibly inseparable. Like Ant & Dec, Rice & Peas or Death & Taxes, they have become a near unwavering constant capable of always delivering. Whilst Niki & The Dove may not fit the standard remit of polished, pretty and unashamedly positive pop that pervades the Euro airwaves, they nevertheless deliver up a fabulous mix of left of centre pop; skewed by attitude, influence and creativity, it is pop with a slanted and retrospectively funky electro twist. As musical cocktails go, this one washes down a treat.

Paisley Park is well and truly in the heart of Niki & The Dove as the mini Minnesotan wonder boy's magic seems to have been inadvertently woven through their debut album, 'Instinct', making for a very individual and tightly focused collection. The jagged, sliced notes of the arrangements, the drum machine beats and electro hooks set up a very 80s referenced framework on which Malin Dahlstrom lays her acute and angular vocal upon. From the get go of the latest single 'Tomorrow', the twelve track set is driven by pacey percussion and quirky keys. The upbeat tempo and almost operatic vocal arrangement is strangely reminiscent of Malcolm McLaren's take on Madam Butterfly. The reverse synth notes and frenetic interjections of last year's single 'The Drummer' follow on before the more cinematic, Moroder-mimicking 'In Our Eyes'. This is a track shot through with a sun drenched haze that uses a more layered back vocal, a funky bass line and a subdued disco dance floor beat almost as if it were homage to big hair and big mixes.

Niki and the Dove Instinct Album

'The Gentle Roar' changes tack and gives rise to a 'newer' sound on the album. The electro bass beats and more multi-layered vocal create an essentially percussive track that sees Malin temper her voice to deliver a far softer and sometimes schizophrenic vocal. Whilst the track is not as immediate as its predecessors, it is more contemporary and begins to show why Niki & The Dove came in at #5 on the BBC's Sound Of 2012 poll. 'Mother Protect' continues in a similar vein before the slightly darker, sinister and often awkward notes of 'Last Night'.

The Raspberry Beret is donned once more on the soaring, swinging sound of 'Somebody'. A re-worked version of the band's original single from 2010 replete with fantastic tribal drumming, 'DJ Ease My Mind' makes for another fine inclusion before the playful and pensive penultimate notes of 'The Fox'. 'Under The Bridge' sees the band sign out with the pop panache of would be seasoned chart troublers. 'When we dance it takes me back...' Malin sings out as the hand claps and steel drums are interspersed with an array of instruments that flit in and out of a pulsating, pleasingly extended arrangement.

With 'Instinct', Niki & The Dove have shown how good and enjoyable pop can be. The whole album may be backward facing and strewn with retro references but it still manages to deliver a contemporary concoction of powerful and biting pop tunes that should be, but are probably slightly short of, becoming mainstream.

Andrew Lockwood.

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