Immersing himself in almost all areas of the music industry, US-based artist NYIKO is a singer-songwriter, record producer, visual artist and label owner – pretty cool, isn’t it? Marching along amidst a pool of indie artists, the Los Angeles resident merges elements of synth-pop, indie-pop and new wave in his sound. Featured on Atwood Magazine, Popdust, American Pancake, Popmuzik, Kinda Cool Magazine, CLOUT, MTV News and several Spotify playlists, NYIKO is building a loyal following across the globe. In fact, we have even featured him a couple of times so he’s on our radar – read about him in our ‘Keeping It Real’ feature.
Described as having a “sophisticated, nostalgic and spellbinding” sound, NYIKO (pronounced nee-koh) can easily ensnare your senses with his pop-inspired music. Not one to shy away from provocative issues, he often touches on elements of difficult relationships, toxic masculinity, self-belief, gender identity, mental health and all those gritty existential truths. While he has released several singles, we have the pleasure of looking at his recently released debut album Honesty.
NYIKO’s musical history can be traced back to the mid-2010s and this was also the time he began working on Honesty. While growing as an energetic and engaging performer, NYIKO penned numerous songs which resulted in the 11-track album we have today. He notes that some of the songs were written as early as 2014 detailing various life events he experienced throughout those years. In fact, he sifted through and refined over 30 demos in 2018 finding the ideal tracks to place on Honesty…and he definitely found something ideal.
A true representation of NYIKO’s individuality and desire to expose the complexities of human existence, Honesty plunges you into a world of synth-laden pop circa 1980s. Reminiscent of Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, The Cure and even some hushed Blondie, we see the combination of yesteryear’s sounds into a contemporary setting. It is true that people have felt love and loss for centuries, but NYIKO explores the intricate subject with a unique sound.
While producing music as a solo artist, Honesty sees NYIKO collaborate with various musicians including Niles Gregory (guitar) and Stone Irr (bass). He also calls on the skills of bassist Maggie Toth on ‘Call The Boys’ and vocalist Hollander singing backup on ‘Glow’, ‘Four Years’, ‘Keeping Me Alive’ and ‘Breathless’. For a quick anecdote about working with Gregory and Toth on ‘Call The Boys’ check out our interview with NYIKO.
One element I find particularly intriguing about Honesty is the transition between genres while having the album packaged in a consistently synth-driven box. Using a personal narrative throughout Honesty, NYIKO engages easily with audiences looking at “the sequence of falling in love, watching it fade and the prospect of finding new love again” – his words, not mine. This evocative conversation pulls at your heartstrings and, as I believe he hopes, fills you with a deeper connection.
In addition to the harmonic melodies inspiring emotional connections, it is the lyricism that truly pushes NYIKO’s agenda. Perhaps agenda is the incorrect word, I mean he is pushing the message of viewing love as an art form. Rooting through the intricacies of romantic love, ‘Like The Movies’ and ‘Four Years’ represent desperation and yearning for love. Yet, NYIKO touches on something more than the desperation for romantic affairs as can be seen in the conceptual ‘Call The Boys’, ‘Like The Movies’ and ‘Live Long’.
Perhaps my favourite track, and it was difficult to choose one, is the closing song ‘Ghost In Your Dreams’. A melancholic single with upbeat harmonies and a lingering sense of nostalgia. Yet, I am quite the fan of ‘Keeping Me Alive’ with its movement from synth-pop to a sparse R&B style reminiscent of Prince or Sade. Perhaps it is ‘Bleeding On You’ with the strong post-punk impression similar to The Cure…as I said, it is difficult to choose one track as a favourite.
Overall, NYIKO’s 11-track debut album is a masterpiece of synth-pop proportions. It is wistfully innocent, poignant, sometimes jovial, nostalgic and melancholic but with a sense of empowerment, hopefulness and optimism for the future. Prepare for a whirlwind of emotions.