Around the middle of April, Swedish duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf, aka Niki & The Dove, released their second album, ‘Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now‘ without, it would seem, too much fanfare. Reviewed and favourably received by some of the big guns, it has since then, somehow managed to keep its head just under the parapet, shimmering away in the shadows without ever building to a dramatic, fireworky explosive ‘Ta-dah’“! Which is a shame, because this is one truly super-cool ‘back to the ’80s’ time-travelling pop album.
While on a very obvious level this album recalls Prince and Donna Summer and, is rife with vocal enunciations that scream Stevie Nicks at every possible nuanced turn, it is also a fusion of everything that was great and glorious about 70’s disco and ’80s pop, conjuring up sonic images of every stand-out name from that era, from 10cc to Five Star, from Nile Rodgers & Chic to Michael Mc Donald.
Album opener, single ‘So Much It Hurts‘, has an intro cut straight from Foreigner’s ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ and a melody line that could amiably mash up with ‘On My Own’, Pattie Labelle’s famous duet with the afore-mentioned Steely Dan frontman. It is sparkling ’80’s slick pop, bedecked with smatterings of darting synth sequences and Rn’B basslines, all topped off with a gloriously wistful vocal. Those dude basslines become even more pronounced in the next track, ‘You Stole My Heart Away‘, when they go pure vintage Freddie Washington in a 21st century refresh of Chic vs Patrice Newton with its crossover jazz/Studio 54 blend. This is the track to transport you back to the glitzy glory days of ‘Forget Me Nots’ and ‘Good Times’, with it’s infectious handclap beat and strutting hard funk guitar.
‘You Want The Sun‘, is jizz-jazzy Summer filled slacker-funk coloured with golden flecks of lush guitar, and a song very much in the mould of the duo’s fellow Nordic musical bedfellows, Lovespeake. While billowing in a reverbed Fleetwood Mac ‘Gypsy’ breeze, ‘Play It On My Radio’ has a line in percussion stuck in a Phil Collins timewarp, with traces of Mike and the Mechanics’ ‘Living Years’ in the easy melody of its inviting guitar loops and strum patterns.
‘Coconut Kiss‘ is an electro-reggae trip to the tropics dotted with gorgeous synth ‘birds of paradise’ singing their sweet song amidst a luscious dense growth of cheeky bass and 10cc style guitars. Watercolour washes of Malin’s infectious dreamy vocal beckon the listener to come take a stroll with her along the sun-kissed white sands of some azure lapped Caribbean paradise. ‘Shark City‘ is a bit of an odd one mind. On the one hand, it’s a little bit Toni Basil on high-pitched steroids, on the other it’s way down low groovy basslines and disjointed percussion. I can’t quite make up my mind, so I’ll leave you to your own decisive devices.
Album closer ‘Ode to Dance Floor‘ sees Malin kick off with a rambling monologue that’s followed by disparate vocal styles, part talking, part oooh ooh, with very little of what you could actually call singing (except for the background harmonics). It veers a little towards late ’80s Talking Heads with it’s talk-talk vocal and bubbling rivulets of electro noises, which Karlöf backdrops with a delightful melodic montage of guitars. The addition of a sublime overlay of brassy sax gives both track and album a gilt-edged, elegant finish.
It’s four years since Niki & The Dove released their debut album, and in that time they have honed and evolved their sound into a rainbow hued confection the recipe for which has been the best of breed ingredients from the glory days of the 70’s and ’80s – an era when pop was king, and disco was queen. In 2016, these avant-garde pop virtuosos have wed these regal highnesses to create a rich royal blend of smooth, groovy disco-funk that is a modern day musical marriage made in retro heaven.
“Sending you Forget me Nots …To help me to remember”