The Nordic Simon and Garfunkle have done it again. After the Kings of Convenience released Quiet is the New Loud in 2001, the purported “New Acoustic Movement” began. The album became an instant success, and after 3 years of tours, remixes and contributions, singer/songwriters Eirik Glambek Boe and Erland Oye have released another album: Riot On An Empty Street on Astralwerks. And I must say, it is a stunning record with sweet little stories about old men in canoes and ships in bottles.
These two Vikings with achingly soulful and bewitching voices manage to create everything you want from a second album: familiarity of sound, reminding you what you loved so much the first time, new sounds and instrumentation that prove that sound can always be improved upon, and an instantly charismatic sound. Songs like the first single, “Misread,” have a bossa-nova-jazzy feel to them, while tracks like “Stay Out of Trouble,” have a sepia-flavored tone, with lackadaisical steel strings, cello and viola. These songs sound as if they were written in the window seat of an old white house, with a cup of hot tea. Lots of them. And I’m pretty sure they were, because I read it on the band’s website, www.kingsofconvenience.com.
Canadian songstress Feist provides backing vocals on “Know-How” and “Build-Up.” I’ve never claimed to be a fan of female vocalists, but she gets a thumb up from me. Her sound is a timeless one, a perfect characteristic to add to the delicate and pretty sounds that come from the hands and mouths of these two gents. “Sorry or Please” is an up-tempo ballad about five weeks of imprisonment in the ambiguity of a relationship: “Your increasingly long embraces/ Are they saying sorry or please?/ I don’t know what’s happening/ Help me/ Right now you make no sense to me.” The Kings’ overtly acoustic sound is updated with a banjo, trumpet, piano and harmonics. All these instruments combine to create a sonically triumphant sound.
Driving tempos, bluesy up-stroking and swinging pop meshed with that gold ‘ole acoustic sound create an album that’s akin to seeing an old friend pull up in the driveway; familiar yet with new stories to tell. These songs are what rain would sound like if every drop translated into a musical note: soothing, soft, harmonious and sleep inducing. In a good way.
In a time where music like this becoming a norm as well as wearing out its welcome, The Kings of Convenience rise to the challenge and bring us another beautiful record to keep on the play list.