The Swedish pop duo delivers one of the essential debuts of the year so far.
Tom Hocknell 2012-04-30
Niki and the Dove’s debut album is one of the first long players out of the BBC Sound of 2012 traps, following Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again set. But thankfully this collection is no rush job. Having justified their Sound of... inclusion - as well as their position on several other tips lists - with their superbly excitable and genre-scrambling EP The Drummer, these Swedes have taken similar care with their debut album.
First glance files the duo under Scandinavian kooky pop – but those bands too often stick glitter to the net, while forgetting to catch any butterflies. Gustaf Karlöf and Malin Dahlström avoid any laboured mysticism, preferring instead to sound uncannily like Kate Bush backed by Cut Copy and Goldfrapp’s electro-pop, filching pop’s best bits of the past 30 years while never sounding desperate.
Mother Protect might fulfil some expectations for the eccentric with lines like "I’m friends with trees" presenting potential comparisons to Bat for Lashes, Oh Land and Ladyhawke; but Niki and the Dove emerge victorious above preconceptions.
True to the album’s title, they’ve followed their instincts, crafting a set for themselves that just happens to be brilliant. Their love of pop is evident: from the wistful Italo-disco of the huge DJ Ease My Mind, to The Drummer’s ABBA-like echoed vocals and Somebody channelling Madonna’s Lucky Star, these songs are immediate, intricate and uplifting. Each demands revisiting from the moment it finishes.
The magic’s in the arrangements: a song featuring a recorder might sound slight, but in these hands it’s a powerhouse. Mother Protect’s breakdown will stun festivals this summer, as will The Drummer’s niggling synths and the car-keys percussion driving their most recent single, The Fox. The Gentle Roar samples tapped water bottles, but such experimentation always serves the song – they’re evidently saving pianos falling down escalators for the next album.
The tempo drops with the midnight self-reflection of In Our Eyes and we disappear into their dark, allowing the sultry Winterheart to evoke the still-rumbling machines of deserted fairgrounds with its extended coda.
Seldom do bands enjoying such hype deliver on the promise. But Instinct is the album Stevie Nicks might’ve made had she had fallen further from the Fleetwood Mac tree. Doubtlessly Niki and the Dove will one day relinquish this youthful pop abandon in favour of wilful experientialism, but until then be sure to enjoy one of the essential debuts of the year so far.