Once in a while, a song comes along that elicits an entirely positive response of: “What the hell did I just hear?” Niki and the Dove’s “The Fox” is such a number. Overwhelmingly lustrous and theatrical, the track exists in a world where Cyndi Lauper and Kate Bush board a stuttering jalopy to go on a reckless drive throughout the 80s, honking past Prince and The Cure on the way to Post-punk Alley. On paper, “The Fox” sounds like a mess, but the reality is flawless in execution, and its existence is enough to establish Niki and the Dove as the latest enforcers of Sweden’s dominance in the world of inventive, electronic pop.
“DJ Ease My Mind” delivers a cathartic triumph over heartbreak, akin to Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes, with its stratospheric choruses and club-style synths that demand surrender. All the while, the relentless pummel of a dark undercurrent forebodes, waiting to take control. The trio’s penchant for entwining the spooky with the resplendent is reminiscent of the flashy, all-too-catchy style of Robyn, with a tinge of Knife-esque ghoulishness thrown in for good measure. The true accomplishment, though, is that the result is unique enough to go by without entirely sounding like either. Even more bewitching is the minimal “Gentle Roar”, where drummer Magnus BÃ¶qvist syncopates spare tribal percussions with what are reportedly taps of a water bottle, vocalist Malin DahlstrÃ¶m urgently whispering like a creature of the night, with all the dramatic flair of BjÃ¶rk.
While Instinct is less captivating on its more conventional tracks (such as the straightforward synthpop “In Your Eyes” or the sugary ballad “Love to the Test”), the album is never dull, thanks to Niki and the Dove’s considerable charm. Even the poppiest song on the disc, “The Drummer”, traverses established club and new wave traditions with an unpredictability that makes what should be overly familiar somehow refreshing. Instinct plays as an open love letter to all forms of pop, while subverting those same objects of affection.
Essential Tracks: “The Fox”, “The Gentle Roar”, and “DJ Ease My Mind”