Niki and the Dove: Everybody's Heart Is Broken Now

An incredibly unprecedented but refreshing shift in focus by one of Sweden's best.

Niki and the Dove

Everybody's Heart is Broken Now

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2016-07-08
UK Release Date: 2016-07-08

You could make a fair argument that the Swedish electro-pop trend faded away with the Knife’s breakup in 2014. Although correlation is definitely not causation, all the local scenesters who lifted plenty of elements from the synth-pioneers stayed pretty quiet last year, with the most notable synthpop records from the region -- Kate Boy’s One, Tove Stryke’s Kiddo, Say Lou Lou’s Lucid Dreaming -- being relatively slept on.

Thus, it is somewhat fitting that Niki and the Dove, the Swedish duo responsible for one of the most essential albums in that realm (2012's Instinct), have left everything behind with their sophomore release. Gone are the big gushing synths and mechanically explosive choruses. Instead, we have a collection of songs that are far more indebted to a different side of early '80s music -- the era where the disco craze was transitioning into new wave, where Nile Rodgers was producing albums for Diana Ross and Debbie Harry. It is, as they sing on the perhaps subliminally self-referential "Play It on My Radio", a song that “nobody plays anymore…they don’t know what they’re missing.” The fresh new look is executed well enough to give Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now enough merit to prosper on that basis alone, but frontwoman Malin Dahlström’s continued capacity to deliver big songs and jaw-dropping vocal performances makes this record so much more than a mere reinvention.

Another big step in the right direction is the rejection of abstract, daunting subject matter (pretty much every chorus on Instinct was an elegantly crafted but melodramatic and deeply figurative declaration) for something a lot more human. This album doesn’t put you in some glitzy fantasy world; it hits some of the more primal nerves in the romantic spectrum. Niki and the Dove waste no time getting to this.

"So Much It Hurts" takes on the most simplistic but jarring form of heartbreak -- waiting by the phone but hearing nothing, going out dancing by yourself, not knowing why your lover is always coming home late -- and bundles it up into one cathartic whirlwind: “Bring it back! I need your love so much it hurts!”. It’s a gorgeous opening to the album, a perfect balance of the newfound attraction to lush R&B and the big hook potential of Dahlström’s flinty, seductive howl. "You Stole My Heart Away" is centered around similar sentiments and warm atmospherics. However, the tempo is nudged up and the tone is left a bit more minor, as Dahlström declares the even more dismal, “oh, you took the love I gave and left me hollow as an empty shell.”

"Scar for Love" is a bit of a return to form with big room synths and steady beats galore, taking the pain to a much more literal level with shrill imagery like “draw it deep/do not stop until we bleed/we mark each other’s hearts with a scar for love.” On "Lost UB", she is visiting an old house filled with memories but finds herself collapsing at how empty everything feels. The sorrow starts to “dig a hole” in her, a drastic situation that is convincingly captured. So yeah, if the title didn’t make it obvious enough, this is a heartbreak album, but it’s not the type that wallows in its self-pity. Rather, it presents the pain as if it is fact, hiding from nothing but stiffly dancing away from every scent of torment in desperate hope of revitalization. It’s an album that embraces the truth; love is grand enough to defy all rationality.

The lyrics are one thing, but Instinct was made essential by its adventurous and versatile auras. Everybody’s Heart is no different. Sure, they have removed their head from the clouds, but the album goes in a multitude of directions that you’d never expect, even once you get past the major switch-up that is this record’s cumulative approach.

There are very obvious hints of tropical electronica seeping their way into this record on tracks like "Shark City" and "Coconut Kiss", which feel a lot more silly and plastic than the rest of the album, but are still super fun, especially when the latter takes on something of a reggae punch. "Everybody Wants to Be You" is the closest Niki and the Dove have gotten to a conventional ballad, with a topic as theatrical as it needs to be as Dahlström grasps at ambitious ways to express the idolization of someone (“You hold the secret everybody wants to own/they need it, they ask you what you smoke/they wanna smoke it, cause they’re desperate.”) Nevertheless, the most striking sonic departure here has got to be "Brand New", a track where starry, frantic synths and rushed piano collide to form a constantly peaking fit of charisma, one where all Dahlström can do is shriek and squeal.

This album is an incredibly unprecedented but refreshing shift in focus after negating the responsibility to carry the Scandinavian synthpop touch, moving on in a way that is elegant, more purposeful, and smarter, even though it might be less bombastic and more long-winded. However, as Everybody’s Heart bleeds into the night, the trade off reveals itself to be more than fair.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.