It’s always a balancing act for artists touted at the beginning of the year as the Next Big Thing as to when to bring their debut album out. Too early and you can be forgotten by the end of the year, but too late and the hype may have already evaporated. Niki And The Dove have had no such worries, though. The Swedish electro-pop duo, comprised of Gustaf Karlöf and Malin Dahlström, finished fifth in BBC Sound Of 2012 tastemakers poll and have been on the tip of tongues ever since.
Such anticipation is usually something to be wary of, especially when it comes to the BBC Sound Of… polls. Just look at Mona or The Drums. However, there is something about Niki And The Dove that suggests they needn’t worry about the possible downsides of being one of the most talked about artists of the year before it even begins. They may be the latest in a long line of Scandinavian electro-pop acts, but it was clear from the duo’s early releases – including The Fox and The Drummer EP – that the fevered hype surrounding Niki And The Dove was justified.
In fact, if it wasn’t already clear that Niki And The Dove are a band worth making a fuss about, then their debut LP, entitled Instinct, all but confirms it. The album opens with Tomorrow, which begins with Dahlström’s fragile vocal, before exploding into life with a burst of exuberant synths on the chorus, as she sings: “Oh, if tomorrow comes/ I wanna waste my love on you.” It’s an early statement of intent if ever there was one.
Comparisons have been drawn between Niki And The Dove and another Swedish electro-pop duo, The Knife. And it’s not difficult to see why. In Our Eyes sees Karlöf making use of throbbing, magnetic synths – a common feature of The Knife’s earlier material – in a song that makes the most of Dahlström’s enchanting vocals. Not only do the two Swedish acts share similarities in sound, but both play on an element of mystery, which is as alluring as the rich synths they use to such marvellous effect.
Mother Project – one of three tracks from The Drummer EP to make the album – is another delicately balanced song, with a restless, bubbling synth line eventually breaking into a huge euphoric slice of luscious pop, as Dahlström wails “I am furious!”. It’s a compliment to the duo that Instinct never feels laboured; there’s always something interesting to be found in the many layers of synths.
At no point during the album do Niki And The Dove rely on their established singles to mask deficiencies in other areas, with The Fox and the highly addictive DJ, Ease My Mind slotting in seamlessly among the new album tracks. The latter, in particular, with its tribal beats, pounding synths and seismic chorus works perfectly in the overall soundscape of Instinct. Unlike so many new artists, the Swedish duo have produced a consistent debut album, where newbies such as the rousing and flamboyant Somebody or the wistful Love To The Test hold as much weight as those early attention-grabbing singles.
So, there is a lot to love about Niki And The Dove’s debut album. While Instinct is full of the ambitious, chorus-driven pop songs that brought the Stockholm duo to our attention in first place, the album also exhibits their canny ability to craft a compelling verse. Songs such as Winterheart and closer Under The Bridges prove that Niki And The Dove are much more than just purveyors of expansive electro-pop. In what has already proved to be a strong year for breakthrough artists the duo have gone and raised the bar once again, and in doing so, created one of the most essential albums of the year.