Niki & the Dove – InstinctPosted by Ashleen Aguilar
Malin Dahlstrom, Gustaf Karlof and Magnus Boqvist – collectively known as Stockholm’s Niki & the Dove – spent two years perfecting their debut album, Instinct. The electro-pop album is the age-old story of one-sided love, each stage injected with shamanistic details and introspective themes. Most of the songs first appeared on previously released EPs, but this fresh incarnation shows that the attention showed to each track, and the album as a whole, was time well spent.
Dahlstrom’s romantic lyrics are a refreshing change from the lewd and crudeness of many modern radio pop artists. That’s not to say it isn’t amazing fun to dance and sing along to Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” at the top of your lungs while stuck in traffic (No one else? Okay, just me then). But a chorus like, “If tomorrow comes/I want to waste my love on you,” is so tender, it could melt the Swedish snow, not to mention the hearts of fans of sensual electro-pop.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Gentle Roar” is a tense, uncomfortable song filled with superstition and foreboding. All of the bad omens Dahlstrom learned as a child – ravens, black cats, being born on a Friday – make appearances. The tone of Instinct shifts from one of excitement over new love to the pain and brokenness of a love lost. It’s minimalistic, with strategic synthesized percussion and vocal harmonies creating tension and a scary, otherworldly quality.
But Dahlstrom is able to fight the negative energy with her own brand of shamanism. Spirit animals protect her during the most emotional songs – eagles, lionesses and foxes make appearances when she needs perspective and strength. “Mother Protects,” for example, could be a happy-ending love story, but it’s obvious by the end that the character was scorned. It’s hard not to feel the intensity from the shuddering break between the two halves of the song and the chanted chorus from Dahlstrom, calling on her spirit guide: “You can’t keep me down/I am done/I am furious/Fear the lioness/painted face black and golden!”
“DJ Ease My Mind” is like when women watch The Notebook. Even if you are in the happiest relationship, you can’t help but mourn Ryan Gosling’s and Rachel McAdams’ broken connection. You also can’t help but mourn with Dahlstrom. The subtle power of the song makes you want to lose yourself in the heavy stereo. “Tonight I want to forget/I want lights to blind me/I want to/to disappear … DJ ease my mind will you?/Play that song again/‘cause we were in love.”
Instinct is a beautiful tye-dye of lyrical romanticism and melodic themes, invoking feelings of nature and wilderness within the confines of the city. Niki & the Dove take the listener on a pagan ride, following cues from other electro-pop acts (Fever Ray, Bat For Lashes) using airy synths, powerful dynamics and deep, tribal percussion to fold modern production techniques into influences from the natural world.