Swedish duo Niki and the Dove seemingly came out of nowhere; their debut single for Sub Pop, The Fox, was an interesting, albeit brief, collection of electronica-tinged pop, with lead singer Malin Dahlström sounding not unlike fellow experimental pop Swede Robyn. But their latest release, The Drummer is a massive great leap forward that most certainly was only hinted at on previous releases. Impressively, the duo of Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf simultaneously expand their music in two normally opposite directions; what is found here is both more experimental AND more pop minded. The title track is a perfect example: it’s hard not to imagine hearing this playing in dance-clubs, and on the radio shows of those who eschew pop fare. Its beat is pure 80s, and Dahlström is a dead ringer for Hounds of Love era Kate Bush. Ms. Bush is perhaps the key influence to be heard here, but Dahlström is one of the rare talented artist who rightfully earns the comparison. The downcast “Last Night” is a ballad of regret and pain, set over an utterly cold musical melody, and “Mother Protect” is a rhythmic number that is as appealing in its beats as it is in its narrative tale. The last two songs on The Drummer, though, can best be summed up in two words: really weird. Do not think that they suffer for being called that, though. Both are melodic requiems; “Manon” is somewhat upbeat, blending world-beat rhythms with what could best be called a folk song, whereas closer “The Birth of the Sun” is a dirge-like, yet compelling, semi-instrumental that concludes an equally unique twenty-two minutes. As it stands, The Drummer is jarring in its originality, appealing in its sound—even as it is, at times, alien—and it’s probably leading to one of the best albums of next year.
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