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Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love Music Album Reviews

Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love Music Album Reviews
After a 12-year hiatus, the Norwegian duo returns with an especially airbrushed take on easy-listening pop. At their best, the Kings sound deceptively effortless, but the facade is sometimes too smooth.

Europeans have mastered the art of taking it easy in a way that elicits American envy—how else to explain the plethora of hygge coffee-table books, the popularity of travel vloggers, and the eternal appeal of striped bateau shirts? In that sense, to describe Kings of Convenience’s work as easy listening isn’t disparaging. It’s simply an acknowledgement that the Norwegian duo’s music, particularly Peace and Love, the follow-up to 2009’s Declaration of Dependence, makes languid, pleasant pop seem deceptively effortless; the album is so smooth that its seams are barely visible. The record’s 11 tracks are a Quaalude dream, a set of gossamer songs so refined that they take on sedative properties.

Peace and Love is, more than anything, evocative: of early-aughts indie pop (Feist duets on the tracks “Love Is a Lonely Thing” and “Lonely Country”), yachting as a lifestyle, bossa nova, the soundtrack to Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Chad & Jeremy’s “A Summer Song.” If songs can sound the way sea breezes feel, or like an iced coffee in a piazza, these do. Which makes it even more confounding that the duo of Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye recorded this album five times. “It’s very, very hard to make something sound simple,” Bøe says in the record’s press release—a very, very Norwegian understatement.

All sweat and other signs of effort have been completely scrubbed from the album, if ever they were audible. On certain tracks, like “Fever” or “Angel,” which sounds like the fraternal twin of Flight of the Conchords’ ‘“Foux du Fafa,” this airbrushed effect works well, especially in concert with lyrics that border on the absurd. “Angel, she’s an angel,” Bøe sings, deadpan, “Though she might be promiscuous.” On others, like “Song About It” or “Comb My Hair,” this sleekness occasionally has the uncanny gloss of packaged lunch meat, over-engineered and too distant from its composite parts. These tracks’ success pivots on an axis of earnestness—when they’re cheeky, Kings of Convenience pay winking homage to saccharine ’70s pop, and when they’re serious, they deliver music engineered to play over speakers at a tony rooftop bar. There’s a disjunct between “Comb My Hair’s” abject sadness—why bother with personal hygiene?—and its high-fidelity treatment, bright and affectless.

The uptempo “Rocky Trail” showcases Kings of Convenience at their faux-casual best: traveling at a clip, unspooling a winsome, jaunty guitar line, just two guys harmonizing about a failed friendship with a man carrying “a world on his shoulders that needed lifting.” “Brave enough to go climbing a wall so high that no sunlight is seen through winter,” Bøe incants, “Brave enough to go traveling around the world without money to eat or sleep for.” It’s the laminating of reality that Kings of Convenience do so well— buoyant sounds that make traveling penniless and hungry seem as toothless as a walk to the supermarket. Peace and Love, even more than the rest of the band’s oeuvre, renders the prickly, inconvenient parts of living smooth; it soothes, it backlights, it finesses.

At the end of a decidedly rocky 12 years, in which the band’s members saw relationships form and dissolve, felt label pressure, and confronted the onset of their 40s, it’s easy to understand the appeal of ease, or at least the facade thereof. Perhaps, despite Americans’ envy of European leisure, it’s also a distinctly American trait to look for cracks in the mirage. Still, Peace and Love is often as anodyne as its moniker would suggest, in need of a few fissures. It’s hard to separate these songs from their production. Both are panna-cotta smooth and occasionally cloying. It begs the question: What might have been left on the cutting room floor after 12 years of collaborative work and the frantic effort to erase the ensuing evidence?
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love Music Album Reviews Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, June 24, 2021 Rating: 5

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