The newest addition to Sweden’s ever-growing canon of expertly crafted pop music, Niki and The Dove may be at a disadvantage from the offset. While their music still has an original heart beating behind its array of keyboards and reverberating drums, it is chasing on the coat-tails of some serious talent – Lykke Li, Miike Snow, Little Dragon; the list goes on. After the synth mastery of ‘The Drummer’ helped clear a path through to the public conscience last year, fans have been tentatively waiting for the release of this album, with hopes that it would live up to that EPs promise. Thankfully that hope wasn’t misplaced.
Opener ‘Tomorrow’ showcases the true breadth of vocalist Malin Dahlströms range along with being one of the standout tracks on the album. There is a distinct Kate Bush flavour to her voice: pirouetting from hushed lament to the dramatic crash of the chorus and its description of a reckless love – “if tomorrow comes, I want to waste my love, on you like a pearl merchant” – it is a statement of intent, and quickly washes away any notion that they are riding on their fellow Swedes success.
The theatrical sheen that she, along with musical partner Gustaf Karlöf creates is more influenced by their history as stage music writers rather than any one artist or style of music in particular. Throughout the album, their influences are elusive: Kate Bushs’ theatrical nature one minute and the pounding synth of 80’s electronica the next.
Up until now their releases have displayed this more energetic side to their style and it is those tracks that shine brightest here. ‘The Drummer’ still sounds as immediate and exciting as it did when they released it in EP form in October; it’s their calling card with regards marking themselves out from the rest of the Swedish groups permeating the music scene at the moment. Likewise with lead single ‘DJ, Ease my Mind’ – it stamps their individual mark on their country’s brand, fitting snugly between The Knife and Lykke Li in its sound.
As a whole, Instinct proves an exciting prospect. Following in the wake of such critically lauded albums as Little Dragon’s Ritual Union and Li’s Wounded Rhymes, its relationship to those artists’ work could have been the albums undoing. It gladly lives up to expectations however and while it’s not drastically different from its contemporaries, it still sounds fresh enough and inventive enough to be taken on its own terms.