Friday 6th October 2023
TICKETS ON SALE AT 18 May 2023 10:00am
Since breaking through with her 2018 EP Zephyr, NIKI has made a powerful imprint on the pop scene, amassing a devoted global fanbase and making history as the first Indonesian artist ever to perform at Coachella. But after delivering her critically acclaimed debut album MOONCHILD, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter felt compelled to completely reexamine her artistic process - a move that found her revisiting the vast catalog of unfiltered and indie-folk-leaning songs she’d created in high school. As she returned to the stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting that defined her earliest material, the 23-year-old musician soon arrived at her sophomore album Nicole: a boldly self-possessed body of work written entirely by NIKI, spotlighting her finespun storytelling and warmly expressive vocals more fully than ever before.
“During the pandemic I did a deep dive of the archived videos from the YouTube channel I started in middle school, and realized that those songs are where my heart is,” says NIKI. “I wasn’t trying to ace an assignment; I didn’t care what constitutes a radio hit. For a while I forgot what it felt like to work that way, but with this album all those concerns just went out the window. I wasn’t worried about making a perfect record, and because of that I ended up with something that’s perfectly me. It’s the kind of music I always wanted to put out but never had the courage to.”
With its first half comprised of new or never-before-heard songs and its latter half featuring her favorite tracks from nzee24 - the widely beloved YouTube channel that led to such triumphs as opening for Taylor Swift at age 15 - Nicole embodies an understated yet intricately textured form of alt-pop. As co-producer on every track, NIKI shaped the album’s singular sound by merging lush synth tones and fantastically glitchy beats with the graceful guitar work she first began honing in fourth grade. Also made with producers like Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Remi Wolf), Tim Anderson (Halsey, BANKS), Jacob Reske (Vince Staples, Trippie Redd), and Jacob Ray (Alison Wonderland, Evan Giia), Nicole ultimately provides a mesmerizing backdrop to NIKI’s lyrical outpouring. “I’ve never allowed myself to experiment as much as I did with this album,” she notes. “We made most of the songs in my collaborators’ garages and living rooms, and the whole process felt so carefree and energizing, like being a kid at the playground.”
With its title referencing her birth name, Nicole unfolds in a coming-of-age narrative centered on what she refers to as “my first-ever earth-shattering heartbreak.” To that end, the album-opening “Before” brings her vividly detailed lyrics to an intimate reflection on an ill-fated trip from her hometown of Jakarta to North Carolina at age 17.
The next chapter in Nicole’s love story in reverse, the bright and bouncy “High School in Jakarta” documents the ins and outs of teenage infatuation with riveting clarity (“Had no chance against the Marxist girl with marijuana/I was your piñata, she was a star-charter/Glad she gave it to you real hard, but I loved you harder”). “I had the idea to name-drop all my high-school girlfriends in a song, and it turned into a song about how my ex and I were doomed from the start just by the sheer fact that we went to high school in Jakarta,” she says. “It was a very suburban private school, with a lot of silent side-eye and hostile texting, and it felt right to compare it to a Spartan battlefield” An up-close portrait of unrequited affection, “Keeping Tabs” takes on a dizzying momentum beautifully suited to NIKI’s mile-a-minute inner monologue (“The reality is you unironically love personality tests/All of the data’s weak, half-amusing at best/But it could never work cause I’m an Ennetype 4 Aquarius”). “It’s about the period of time before we got together, when I was dealing with the absolute frustration of that obsession being one-sided,” she says. And on “Oceans & Engines” (one of the album’s oldest tracks), Nicole offers up a heavy-hearted and quietly hypnotic piece illuminating the poetic sensibilities of her early work. “I wrote that song right as he was leaving for college,” recalls NIKI, who created a short film encompassing “Before,” “High School in Jakarta,” and “Oceans & Engines.” “It’s funny to listen back now and see how much I was influenced by taking high-level English lit classes and trying to be so metaphorical in my lyrics. But even if my writing today is way more blunt and direct, I think that innocence is sort of the charm of it.”
All throughout Nicole, NIKI imbues her songs with the kind of lived-in specificity that immediately reconnects the listener with the rush and devastation of their own first love. As she reveals, the ability to unearth those deep-rooted emotions has much to do with the highly intuitive nature of the album-making process. “In the past I created mental confines for myself, based on the type of artist I thought I should be,” she says. “But with this record I wasn’t trying to emulate a certain aesthetic or vibe; I wasn’t trying to be anything but myself. I learned to trust my gut and have real confidence in myself as a songwriter and producer, and it was so freeing and so much more fun.”