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Niki and the Dove
[Subpop Records; 06/12/2012]
The Swedish Duo's Greatest Hits In Debut Album Form
“DJ, Ease My Mind.” Ten! “Under the Bridges.” Ten! “Mother Protect.” Ten! Like an electropop Nadia Comaneci, Malia Dahlstromm and Gustav Karlof have been dominating the music blog game since releasing their first single two years ago. As Niki & the Dove, they exploded with a sound — Fever Ray meets Rihanna meets the Knight Rider theme song — that hit that bittersweet spot in our gut where all the crazy emotions live (and dance).
I’m relieved to say that their debut full-length is finally dropping (UK release May 14 on Mercury; US digital release June 12, physical release Aug. 7, on Subpop). But since 80 percent of the album has already been released, Instinct functions more like a walk down memory lane, as if the album were a special boxset that you buy to commemorate your already proven mp3 fandom.
And I’m good with that. For fifty minutes, with waves of synth gloss and Malin’s tremulous pipes, the duo combine dancefloor crack and heartbreaker ballads. ”Tomorrow’s” neo-eighties drama sets the stage for what’s the come, while “Mother Protect’s” panpipe refrain and giant drop scream neverending rave.
“Last Night” is an r&b slow jam dressed in neon finery, obvious from the chorus: Last night we got married in a backseat. This song’s production, with its reverbing bass drums and empty spaces also owes a debt to Timbaland, during those golden years when he was able fuse his weird production mojo with chart and dancefloor gold. ”The Fox,” pulls in some handclaps, but the star is Malin’s cascading scales in a song that is Niki & the Dove at their most gothic and ominous.
To say these songs are “big” doesn’t really get to it, so I’ll make up a word and call “DJ, Ease My Mind,” an ur-anthem. Malin’s lyrics preach beautiful melancholy — Oh DJ, ease my mind/play that song, when we were in love – but over an enormous production built like a Zedd club-banger. Synth crescendos are like an eighties movie marathon, in HD, if sound HD were a thing, about enduring adversity from The Karate Kid to Chariots of Fire.
Only two tracks are completely new: Over its synth layers, drumkit, and guitar riffs, “In Our Eyes,” shows Malin at her most Kate Bush-tastic, a comparison that gets at Malin’s vulnerability and range. The other track is forgettable and I won’t even mention it, because we’re already ODing on awesome here.