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Kings of Convenience – “Declaration of Dependence”

Over the past year or so, I’ve divided my time between my work, my friends and listening to acoustic pop duo Kings of Convenience. Their intricately intertwined acoustic arpeggios and haunting baritone harmonies have given me goosebumps (hopefully it’s not something more serious) since the very first time I heard them just over a year ago. Songs like “I’d rather dance with you” and “Misread” (both off of the 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street”) became a mainstay on my personal sountrack. So you can imagine my joy upon hearing that the Norwegian pair had just released their new album “Declaration of Dependence”

Ok, so a bit of background. Kings of Convenience are not for everyone, fans of metal, hard rock and women who are nursing or pregnant should consult a doctor before listening to KoC. These guys are quiet… like really quiet. Hell, their first album was called “Quiet is the New Loud”, and you know what? That’s the only album that makes noticeable use of percussion. Most of what you could conceivably call percussion in either their 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street” or the new “Declaration of Dependence” comes from string smacks distributed throughout the swirling guitar arpeggios. The band consists of Norwegian Guitarist/Singers Erlend Øye (also of Whitest Boy Alive) and Eirik Glambek Bøe. You’ll notice that both of these musicians have that awesome O with the slash through it, which leads me to believe that all of Norway is f***ing awesome. One last bit of background, though they are more popular in Europe, they will forever be overshadowed as the second most popular band in America whose name starts with “Kings of” (falling just shy of their Leon-esque rivals).

Ok, so lets get to this new album shall we?

First thing I notice is that this album has taken a less poppy turn than their previous “Riot”. On that album they really took off with popular songs like “I’d Rather Dance With You” and “Know How” which were very up-tempo and had catchy melodies. It appears as though this new album will be more of a return to their early work on “Quiet is the New Loud”. Immediately it is evident that they’ve still got it. The album opens with “24-25” a slow acoustic ballad which showcases their fundamental style: simple, straightforward guitar and vocals. Their voices spend most of their time twisting around each other like smoke rising from a newly extinguished candle. This is consistent with their previous work, but is nonetheless beautiful in a slow lilting sort of way.

The album then moves into slightly more uptempo selections such as their first single off the album “Mrs. Cold”. This single serves to change the mood from the slow, lilting “25-24” to a more playful one, starting off with the words “Hey baby”. From here the album only gets better and better. I’ve become personally attached to songs like “Me in You”, “Rule My World” and the albums second single “Boat Behind” (seen here live) which resorts back to the use of violin in support of their bouncing guitar and fluctuating vocals. “Rule My World” doesn’t seem like it should stand out in any way. Sure its kind of catchy, and the musicianship is clearly present, but it’s not a track you would expect to stick out from the rest. Well let me tell you, that song has been stuck in my head all day long, which normally annoy me, but this song is seriously good. The thing I absoutely love about this album is that even when they use chords, they’re not the same overused bland space filling power chords you hear in most music nowadays. Each chord could be listened to on its own, on repeat, and still not be boring.

Overall, this is the kind of album that you want to listen to as background noise, but the complexity of the chords and harmonies won’t let you. You almost have to pay attention to fully understand the songs. In their previous work, they wrote easily accessible songs that were both catchy and slightly more complex than the rest of the pack, but on this album they aim for a richness not seen in the pop songs of “Riot on an Empty Street” and succeed. My only complaint is that I kinda like a straight pop song every now and again, and this album doesn’t seem to have one. Overall I give it an A-. If it had had a “I’d Rather Dance With You”-esque single it would have gotten an A hands down.

In their own words “I can’t stop listenin’ to the sound of two soft voices twisted in perfection, from the reels of this record that I found.” (from the song ‘Misread’ found on “Riot on an Empty Street”)

Listen to their myspace!

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