The thing about this Brave New World of #NewMusicFridays and The Way We Consume Media Today is that, all too often, the unquenchable thirst for what’s next overshadows the perfectly good-but-overlooked gems sitting right in front of us from just a few weeks past, already collecting digital dust.
Case in point: Niki & The Dove‘s Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now.
Perhaps you’re already familiar with the group because of 2012’s solid Instinct, the Swedish duo’s debut (yes, of course they’re Swedish), released shortly after their nomination in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 Poll. (If you’re into The Knife, you’d likely dig Niki & The Dove, too.)
To this day, “DJ, Ease My Mind” remains incredible — like a primal, pounding reinterpretation of “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life.”
In early April, the duo returned with a follow-up called Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now and, as the title might imply, it’s got a whole lot of sadness crammed inside — and nonstop sunny vibes. Summertime sadness? Someone really ought to write a song about that.
I’ll admit: At the time this album was originally released, the weather hadn’t quite turned yet, and the record pretty much went in one ear and out the other, like any time I hear the words “Taylor Swift” and “new boyfriend” in the same sentence.
But, on a whim, I gave the album another listen this afternoon after several beach days-turned-(very)-boozy nights, and I can’t think of an album experience that makes more sense for Summer ’16. (Besides, Lana Del Rey‘s still out on her Honeymoon.)
Everybody’s Heart is a dreamy record rooted in the ’80s — the equivalent of a weathered cassette unearthed from your childhood attic — in the sense that the production could conceivably fit on Cyndi Lauper She’s So Unusual, but it’s not really kitschy or, gulp, “tribute band” territory. (If you enjoyed La Roux‘s vintage Trouble in Paradise from 2014 or College & Electric Youth‘s “A Real Hero,” this one’s in the same general sonic realm.)
Be warned, however: It’s, like, all lowkey sad. You just won’t notice if you’re not paying attention to the words.
Sad disco delight “You Stole My Heart Away” is full of sexy bass licks and a fierce strut would earn the approval of Nile Rodgers, but those teary-eyed proclamations on the dance floor would likely make Robyn cry.
“You took the love I gave and left me / Hollow as an empty shell / And I keep dancing by myself / To make the hurt go away, the hurt go away…”
There are plenty of understated, last-burning-embers-of-sunshine vibes for the contemplative commute home, like the lush “Play It On My Radio.” And even a tropical delight named “Coconut Kiss” is misleadingly emo, despite the breezy vibes. (This is clearly a group of people who go to the beach wearing all black.)
“I am a loner / And I paid my dues, and I don’t depend on nothing or no one / I am a loner / All confused, waiting for the rainy day / While I spend my time walking in the sunshine.”
“Lost UB” is my personal favorite of the bunch (and now one of my favorite songs of the year) for several reasons, including but not limited to:
1.) Malin Dahlström, the talented singer of Niki & The Dove, sounds eerily like Stevie Nicks on some songs, especially this one. If you told me it was a recently leaked Stevie demo, I probably wouldn’t even question it. (Could you imagine if it was?)
2.) The production is legitimately timeless. I’m actually horrified that this has less than 2,000 streams on YouTube.
3.) “I’m so lost now, B. Won’t you come back home again?” This is a song written about someone named B, which means it was absolutely written about me. Or Britney Spears. In either case, it hits home on a deeply personal level.
4.) “I’m not a child anymore and things come to an end / But I’ve never understood the end / I’ve never understood the end…” GUH.
5.) “Well, they say this is for life / And they say love never dies, love never dies…” DOUBLE GUH.
Usually official artist biographies draw over-the-top comparisons, but this description of the duo’s sound is spot-on: “As inspiration for the sound, Malin and Gustaf kept certain catchwords in mind during the creation of the record. Two of those were ‘Dance Romance’ and ‘Bladerunner Disco’, fitting nicely onto the romantically futuristic album. Starting with one foot in days passed Niki & The Dove aspire to step into the future, holding the music they love near to them wherever they may go. The finished product takes what started with ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ in 2010 a step forward.”
At a time when pop music has swerved all sorts of shadowy and serious in what is surely a reaction to these frighteningly uncertain times, this Niki & The Dove album is a warm and nostalgic reprieve — an escape back to the future, if you will.
Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now was released on April 22. (iTunes • Apple Music • Spotify)