I Cani: the once obscure electro-pop persona now embraces Italian pop
“Ho paura di tutto, soprattutto dei Cani,” sings Niccolò Contessa on Glamour, the second and central album in the discography of his one man project. It translates to “I’m afraid of everything, especially of I Cani,” and it gives an idea of the complex love/hate relationship between a songwriter and the obscure electro-pop persona he started building six years ago and that reached way more people than he could have dreamed of.
The story of I Cani started in 2011 with the first album Il sorprendente album d’esordio de I Cani. Back then, no one knew Contessa’s real name, and he performed his live shows with a paper bag on his face. What everyone learned to know were his songs, written and produced in his bedroom; catchy synth-driven post-punk gems with brilliant and keen lyrics describing the contradictions of Italy and Italians, with a particular focus on the place where he comes from, a northern neighborhood of Rome.
Ironically, autobiographical elements and a taste for grotesque situations and characters were the keys that led his lyrics to be sung along by the whole indie scene. But he didn’t stop there. A few years later, he got rid of his anonymity and started pushing his career towards a new direction, somewhat close to cult ’80s Italian singers such as Lucio Dalla or Franco Battiato.
His latest album, Aurora, released in 2016, is a display of his newfound maturity. He basically revisits Italian pop. His songs become more conventional, the production hints to dance rhythms, his lyrics reflect his own personal growth. While some of his early fans were disappointed, Aurora is truly a great example of what modern Italian pop rock should sound like, but with the addition of occasional wild synths that he can’t seem to survive without.
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Writer and musician from Milan, Italy. Hardcore punk background, DIY enthusiast, Balkan culture scholar. Check him out on Twitter at @advaence