Niki: review of Nicole – introspective indie from an artist in search of her sound | pop and rock

AAlthough she is only 23 years old, Indonesian singer-songwriter Nicole Zefanya, aka Niki, has already experimented with several iterations of her sound. His first EP of 2018, Zephyr, exchanged over the bass- and hook-laden R&B exemplified by SZA and Jhené Aiko, while his 2020 album, Moonchild, shifted to atmospheric synth-pop. His second album, nicole, in the foreground gently strumming guitars for 12 introspective indie tracks.

Where Zefanya’s voice presented a more solid soul sound, Nicholas finds it stripped of a more delicate falsetto, almost spoken. It’s a choice that works well to wrap in the lines of his storytelling material, from the tale of a long-distance romance (Before), to high school flirtation (High School in Jakarta) and lost love ( Oceans & Engines). A familiar arc is traced – love found, fought and won – as Zefanya delivers each song in an equally familiar confessional style, moving from light melodies to crescendos of seething emotion.

The overall effect plays like a pastiche of Phoebe Bridgers, but without the Californian’s darker undertones. Although a satisfying listen, Nicholas still fails to present Zefanya with a distinct sound. Maybe future records will see her settling on one.

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