It took more than two years for Swedish pop group Niki And The Dove to make their debut album. As a result of quick popularity, early fans have already heard some of what would eventually become Instinct. But for the familiarity there is in work such a long time coming, the most impressive aspect of Instinct may just be that the trio manages to utilize its already successful ingredients to produce a pop creation strikingly more savory than what preceded it.
“Tomorrow” opens the album with a gentle embrace as Malin Dahlstrom’s voice warmly pours over a staccato synthesizer line. The greeting suddenly erupts into a soaring reception as the chorus takes the song from earthy and ethereal to a flourishing anthem of love. Electro-pop heavy “The Drummer” pulses with breezy, New Wave synths and dry beats. As the chorus strikes, Dahlstrom proclaims, “The pounding of my heart/I’m a drum, I’m a drum now/It is what makes me human,” and this explains what makes Niki And The Dove’s music so appealing: Behind the electronic pop that can keep you at arm’s length, there’s a lot of heart.
Aptly titled “The Gentle Roar” conveys power in its sparseness. This is the most spacious song on the album and features Dahlstrom whispering most of her lines over tribal-sounding beats. It’s a creepy song, but like all of Niki And The Dove’s music, “The Gentle Roar” is still driving and upbeat. On the opposite end, “The Fox” is the most congested track. Like “The Gentle Roar,” there are witchy vibes all over this song, but there’s also the presence of nature, an element which grounds a body of work that could border on overly unrealistic. The narrative-heavy song has a dark edge, accentuated by jagged slices of synthesizer, filled with natural imagery about foxes, woods, purple skies, flowers. With so many different elements—hands clapping, glass smashing (or are those chains clanking?), synthesizers dancing high and low—this song should be a disaster, but it speaks to the skill of the group that its most complex track also turns out to be the most stunning.
Instinct is an electro-pop album, but it’s got that New Order-style darkness that gives it a comforting weight; this is that kind of bummer music that will make you dance. Case in point is fan favorite “DJ, Ease My Mind.” Dahlstrom says she wants “to forget,” “to disappear,” for the “lights to blind [her],” which is a more poetic way of describing the need to go out and rage after you’ve gone through a breakup. “DJ, ease my mind, will you?/Play that song again/’Cause we were in love/Before, before the rain began,” she requests, adding, “And if I cry I’ll cover my ears.” But the chorus is so infectious that you barely notice the tears in her eyes.