Review Summary: Normandie stole my heart and they won’t give it back
I’ll be honest - my journey with Normandie wasn’t a very long one. Nonetheless, their fusion of synth-infused modern rock, catchy pop hooks, and post-hardcore elements has always resonated with me. The fourth LP from this Stockholm trio feels like an imperfect yet compelling iteration of their distinctive style.
In many ways, “Dopamine” is an evolution of the band’s 2021 effort, “Dark & Beautiful Secrets”. The album sees the return of pop-rock choruses infused with impeccable modern production and Philip Strand's emotive vocals. Normandie has also reincorporated heavier elements reminiscent of their earlier work (I highly recommend checking out their 2015 single "Black Blood"), notably evident in tracks like the high-octane rock anthem "Colorblind" and the synthwave-inspired "Hourglass," featuring a metalcore-esque breakdown with a guest performance from Dani of Bury Tomorrow. This song stands out as one of my favorites on the album, boasting dark, moody synths and melancholic melodies that build up to the aforementioned breakdown, serving as one of the album's highlights. Another standout track is "Serotonin," an emotionally charged alternative rock anthem with one of the most captivating choruses I've heard recently.
That being said, the band’s pop sensibilities do take center stage on this album more often than not, particularly noticeable in the track "Flowers On The Grave." While it's a catchy song, it leans heavily into a more generic pop-rock approach, with "ooh, ooh" refrains that may appeal to mainstream radio audiences but could potentially alienate older fans. However, I’d argue that ‘generic’ doesn’t always equal bad, and “Flowers On The Grave” is a prime example of this. On the flip side, "Butterflies" offers a moody and groovy alt-pop experience, which showcases the band’s ability at creating a gloomy atmosphere through dark synths and ambient pads, which transport the listener into another realm.
Overall, “Dopamine” serves as a fantastic showcase of Normandie’s multifaceted talents. All of the tracks flow into each other almost seamlessly, making the listening experience a quite pleasant and beautiful journey. While it might not be for the purists, I can see myself returning to this album many times. Normandie’s blend of anthemic alt-rock, alt-pop and occasional heavier moments truly demonstrates their versatility, which makes me really hopeful for the quality of their future releases.