niccokick_coverSwedish indie rockers Niccokick were an unknown quantity to me prior to this review. My (ahem) "research", however, tells me that they formed in 2001, and along with the usual demos, EPs and a notable collaboration with Jose Gonzales, they have released one previous album, 2004's Awake From The Dead, My Dear Best Friend.So much for facts, then: what flavour of music do they make? The first thing that is apparent is how very overdone almost everything here is. The songs sound too produced; the vocals and instrumentation are too layered; the lyrics are over-emoted, and the vocal delivery seems to often be pitched too high for the lead singer's natural range ('The Art Of Doing Nothing', 'Troubled') or too low ('The Poet'). Whilst effort is certainly, as a general rule, something to be praised more than criticised, the cumulative effect of this is to actually negate the emotions, dramatic effect, and so forth: if everything is set to this same pitch, then nothing stands out and it all becomes curiously bland.The music often sounds rather old-fashioned, due to the aforementioned overblown production - very "eighties", but not in a trendy-again-electro-pop way, the corny and tiresome insertion of "perky" brass bits in numerous tracks ('15 Broken Bones', The Art Of Doing Nothing', White Light/Red Light', Teenage Love', This Pain In My Throat Is Just A Sign Of Health Anxiety') and the naff cheap keyboard sound, as found in The Poet. The slower and/or more serious tracks, like 'Troubled' and 'Don't Say You're Sorry', also use strings, but again, as with the brass, in a fairly predictable and obvious way.Better is their use of percussion, which lends an atmospheric and interesting edge to 'Troubled', 'White Light/Red Light' and 'Don't Say You're Sorry', and I also mainly enjoyed 'Your Hands Were So Warm', with its waltz rhythm and - significantly - its more relaxed and unadorned simple vocal.Mainly, though, the songs here feel strangely unfocussed, with an attention-sapping amorphous quality to them. It's never quite clear what all this emoting is actually about, and the mainly quite obvious, clichéd lyrics, don't really help the listener out here (although to be fair it must be remembered that English is not the band's first language).Disappointingly, then, this album hasn't turned out to be one of those "undiscovered gems" that every reviewer looks forward to receiving, uncovering and proselytizing about: those really do only come along every once in a while. Instead what I've discovered is a rather plodding, predictable and ultimately quite uninspiring release, and not one that I would really feel able to wholeheartedly recommend.48%Niccokick on Myspace