Kings of Convenience, “Peace or Love”

Kings of Convenience
Peace or Love
EMI
7/10

A new Kings of Convenience album after 12 long years still manages to feel like a warm soak in a tub on a cold morning. The fourth studio album from Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye is the follow-up to Declaration of Dependence, and it’s more of their Northern European sampler of Simon & Garfunkel styles. They’re still doggedly sticking to their quiet acoustic music, a banner they planted in the ground in 2004 with debut album, Quiet Is the New Loud.

Whereas most acoustic acts this far into their careers would feel pressured to experiment with rock, pop, or electronic stylings, it’s refreshing to hear the Norwegian duo not caring about all that noise around them. Since the last full-length, Øye did a lot of DJ work, teamed up with Bergen dance group Röyksopp, and his last solo effort was recorded with an Icelandic reggae band. Bøe makes dance music with Kommode and teaches architectural psychology. These two friends are not folk musicians in the traditional sense, though there’s still a fundamental homeliness enveloping much of Peace or Love—particularly with the plucked guitars and jazz-inflected violins on early single “Fever,” or the boss nova–infused “Angel.”

“Fever” is probably the most adventurous song on the album, with a drum machine over cascading falsetto performances. So, yes, there’s nothing too shocking hidden in the cellar of this 11-story album the Kings have constructed, but there are still plenty of moments to relax to, and sip on the cozy vibes. Bøe and Øye certainly do just that in the music video for “Rocky Trail”—they play a chill game of chess, juggle avocados while cooking breakfast, and water plants in a loft apartment. “Comb My Hair” and “Washing Machine” set a real homelife tone, and the record sticks to its guns throughout. The word gets tossed around a lot these days, but this album is the epitome of the word “hygge,” since it possesses the coziness of hot coffee and warm socks on snowbound days.

Feist joins the two by the fire on the tracks “Love Is a Lonely Thing” and “Catholic Country.” The latter was written with British folk trio The Staves and gets the blood flowing when the album starts to wind down. Feist’s subtle-but-expressive voice is the glue for these two tracks, and she has always complemented the Kings so well. It’s excellent to see her return after a long break as well after being on a pair of tracks on 2004’s Riot on an Empty Street and featuring Bøe on her 2007 album The Reminder.

The second half of the album delves more into the difficulties of entering middle age and either ending or starting up new relationships to some mixed results. “Ask for Help” is a lovely track about humility in a relationship and the lyrics almost read like a children’s song for adults acting like children. The duo sing over thin guitar lines: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you win / To know you couldn’t have gotten there on your own? / Wouldn’t it be nice if you lose / To have your own choir to sing the blues with you?” The cozy factor on the record can sometimes feel like a security blanket with gaping holes in the production fabric—but Kings of Convenience are back, and if it’s not your cup of tea, they’re not gonna be offended. Peace or love, baby.

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