Declaration of Dependence
Me in You
Rule My World
My Ship Isn't Pretty
Power of Not Knowing
Freedom snd Its Owner
Riot On an Empty Street
Second to Numb
Scars on Land
Quiet is still the new loud
Prepare to eventually be smitten as Kings of Convenience pick up where they left off five years ago.
Kings of Convenience could be mistaken for being Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe's safe haven. It's where they return to after having flapped their wings elsewhere – Øye with his Whitest Boy Alive solo project, Bøe with his non-music related involvement in the urban planning of his hometown Bergen. The duo first put themselves on the agenda with Quiet is the New Loud, their 2001 debut release. The critically acclaimed album of mellow folk pop and bossa tunes delivered on the promise of its title, and set the standard for subsequent records: 2004's Riot On An Empty Street, and the recent Declaration of Dependence.
KoC's first album in five years isn't much different to previous offerings. The duo's intertwined tenor voices and acoustic guitar plucking are still at the core, occasionally accompanied by piano, viola and upright bass. Apart from a few slaps on the body of a guitar, drums or percussion are non-present. There are few immediate tracks, none showing the potential of I'd Rather Dance With You, the shrewdly string-infused hit from Riot On An Empty Street.
The lack of innovation and the constant harmonising in thirds make the first spin a rather uninspiring experience. But Declaration... is a grower. As the fragile songs sink in, the subtleties emerge, lifting songs when they threaten to become repetitive. All of a sudden you find yourself rewinding the album in the middle of Mrs. Cold just to hear the pizzicato viola one more time, and you wait in anticipation every time it builds up to the beautiful-yet-brief variation in vocal harmonies at the end of Me In You.
The stripped-down soundscape, the simple songs and the concept of two men singing together make Øye and Bøe close relatives to Simon & Garfunkel. Traces of balearic sounds are also audible. Breezy harmonies, acoustic guitar melodies and echo effects bring Sade to mind, and My Ship Isn't Pretty isn't a far cry from the latter's Like A Tattoo.
KoC's musings about challenging relationships occasionally bear whiffs of adolescent naivety ("Hey Baby, Mrs. Cold, acting so tough, didn't know you had it in you to be hurt at all"). But the lyrics on Declaration... are less about the poetry and more about their marriage to the music. Mrs. Cold's "Ok I get it, ok I see" doesn't look great on paper, but together with the melody the sentence transforms into a nice rhythm. The lyrics are forgiven as Øye and Bøe give the words a purpose beyond their meaning.
If KoC haven't done it for you in the past, chances are they won't this time either. But if you look beyond the sum of its first impression, you'll find that Declaration of Dependence is a warm, trusted and subtly challenging companion for rainy autumn days - another KoC album delivering on the promise of its title.