Norway’s Kings of Convenience Sing Me To Sleep
America revels in sameness. Freeway exits, waffle houses, and hemmed jean shorts on overweight men – The USA is easily categorized. In a location-based Pepsi Challenge-style competition, it’s a sure bet that most wouldn’t confuse Paris, Texas with Paris, France. That said, sometimes you see a photo. Maybe it’s cropped strangely, or the focus is off. But for whatever reason, you can discern from the scant details present that the shot is distinctly European. Sometimes, you can even posit a theory of actual location. (Even without using your broad knowledge of Teutonic street signs.) In the slightly-off architecture of a parking garage in the background, the particular hue of a painted wall, the nuances of Europe make themselves clear.
It’s in the details that The Kings of Convenience dwell. And, like looking at old issues of National Geographic in your basement, a quick scan of Quiet Is The New Loud ‘s cover art reveals that the Kings of Convenience don’t hail from Topeka. Upon a blue stone sits Erland Oye and Eirik Giambek Boe, the duo that make up the Kings. Boe comforts a female friend; Oye gazes into the camera with a look of bemused intelligence. I’ve never been to Norway. But if I ever go, I expect it to look much like this album cover. In fact, I expect the country to sound like Quiet Is The New Loud.
The title is no joke. The material never seems to go above a lover’s whisper, as cryptic tales of love, loss, and realization unfold. “I realized that the one you were before,” sings Boe in “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From,” “had changed into somebody for whom I wouldn’t mind to put the kettle on.” His voice, resonating off the speaker cabinets in your living room, imparts the knowledge gained from a difficult relationship. Like a nicer, Scandinavian Joe Pernice, the embers glowing within the song give off its true warmth, even in pain. Conversely Pernice, the infamously sad troubadour of Scud Mountain Boys and The Pernice Brothers, never takes his knee off his audience’s chest. You smell the liquor on his breath as his songs of love, heartbreak, and drug use crash into ditches off US 131.
The Kings of Convenience give one the impression of getting up early…and liking it.
Is tea and clean living better than cloudy weather, crumpled cigarettes and Old Grandad? Will a new movement of Scandanavian Hug-Core save the world? Not necessarily. But listening to Kings of Convenience and their astute pop music, it’s almost like receiving an aural detox. Quiet Is The New Loud features a centerfold in its booklet – a panoramic view of a pristine Norwegian lake at daybreak. The shot is evocative of the album’s peaceful moments. The plunking of nylon strings, quietly harmonized vocals that revel in the endings of words – these are the details that define the music of the Kings of Convenience, just as the curious idiosyncrasies in an aging, yellowed photo on the wall of a booth at Waffle House can give away its European locale.