By Zachary Landau | The Duquesne Duke
Ever since coming across their music over a year ago, I have been a huge proponent of Niki & the Dove and eagerly anticipated their new, retro-inspired release “Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now.” The Swedish indie duo embody everything I look for in music: the mixing of old ideas with new ones, a unique, well-crafted sound and a sincere love for the art of music that is evident in everything produced.
Indeed, Niki has each of these qualities in spades; their music is recognizably retro, but it also has more modern electronica and pop sensibilities. The hybridization of Stevie Nicks-inspired lyrics with party-ready beats is the string to Niki’s bow. Their sound is simultaneously a love-letter to the hippie songwriting of times passed and a declarative statement of the group’s club intentions.
However, that style of music is shockingly absent from their latest release, “Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now.” Eschewing the more modern undertones from their previous album, Niki & the Dove have crafted something that sounds like it was ripped straight from the ‘70s and ‘80s for better and worse. Unfortunately, the worse outweighs the better in this situation, as “Everybody” is a surprisingly dull trip that, while solidly produced, fails to entice listeners into its more somber tones.
The problem with “Everybody,” at least compared to its predecessor, is that it is more of a cohesive work. One of the strengths of their previous album, “Instinct,” was its experimental nature. There was a healthy mix of loud, triumphal tracks and more mellow songs; both types were linked by haunting vocals that course through the album. Each song sounded different but felt like part of a whole thanks to the stellar singing, leading to a varied and interesting experience.
Those vocals are still here, but gone are their ominous texture. In their place is a rather standard experience that does little to impress; the range of singer Malin Dahlström’s voice is rarely stretched, turning some of the songs into a tedious experience.
That monotone nature continues into the music of “Everybody” as well. While there are obviously differences between each track, the adherence to late-disco and early-synth styles causes the songs to bleed into each other. After the first three or four tracks, the album feels remarkably uninteresting. That is until the last three songs, when it suddenly begins experimenting with different genres again.
In fairness, the beginning and end of the album are really good. The album’s first song, “So Much It Hurts,” carries the creepy tones of past works, opening with a synth-heavy chorus of sounds that ride the line between singing and cheering. That uncertain tone continues into “Play It On My Radio,” which, coincidently, features some of the best lyrics on the album. The closing track “Ode to Dance Floor” is similarly nostalgia-heavy, paying lip-service to the disco-era of music without fully embodying it.
Nostalgia really exemplifies this album. It longs for a time when music was made for fun but is keenly aware that time is long over. While the music aims to recapture the care-free sounds of The Bee Gees and Cydni Lauper, the lyrics are stuck firmly rooted in the melancholy trappings of most modern songs. The pangs of loss are the brick and mortar of “Everybody,” and while its theming is acutely apparent, it still suffers from a lack of engaging tracks to pull the listener into these sentimental feelings.
As such, it is hard to recommend “Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now.” It feels like an album that was created to fill a niche in Niki’s repertoire, and while they deserve more applause for their underrated craftsmanship, their latest album should not be taken as an example of their best work. If anything in this review sounds remotely interesting, however, they are worth a look; they are extremely proficient at making good music, even if sometimes that music is somewhat dry.