Niki and the Dove

Incantatory and atmospheric, the music of the Swedish electro-pop duo Niki & the Dove — singer Malin Dahlstrom and her co-writer and keyboardist Gustav Karlof — is equally suited to the chill-out room as the dance floor. The fact that the 14 drum-machine-driven tracks on “Instinct,” their full-length debut, appeal to both the fundament and the cerebrum makes them all the more alluring — and distinctive.

“Someday,” the album’s current single, is an expansive soul workout featuring sing-along choruses and hard-charging beats. “Love to the Test,” meanwhile, is the closest thing to a ballad on the record. Dahlstrom’s petulant performance on the latter harks back to early ’60s girl-group toughs like Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las (of “Leader of the Pack” fame).

Unabashedly theatrical, Dahlstrom’s bravura vocals at times recall everyone from Bjork and Annie Lennox to Florence Welch (of Florence & the Machine) and Madonna. With its highly torqued beats and careening keyboard lines, “The Drummer” updates the cathartic dance-floor anthems of the Material Girl circa “Open Your Heart,” albeit with consistently darker overtones. Much the same is true of the rippling “Mother Perfect,” with its ominous rumble, cavernous synths and crackling snare up top.

Tribal accents color other tracks, but ultimately, the sound of this restlessly inventive duo brooks few comparisons. “Our influences are other art forms; a book, a painting or a poem. Or it could be the environment,” explains Dahlstrom in the album’s press materials, a characterization that’s as evocative as her duo’s smart, introspective dance-pop.

Bill Friskics-Warren

Cover art for Niki and The Dove's album “Instinct.” (Courtesy of Sub Pop)

Recommended Tracks

“Somebody,” “Mother Perfect,” “Love to the Test”