by anti-folk hero
The Kings of Convenience are one of the most relaxed bands that have ever floated through my consciousness. Their music is breezy and laid back but still complex and interesting. Their songs are based on the harmonies of two guitars and two voices. The Norwegian duo consists of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe, a couple of dudes who used to jam together and finally decided to write some songs. They only have two albums out at the moment and Erlend is already in another band, but their second release transcends cultural barriers and resonates perfectly as an album without pretensions or self-consciousness.
“Riot on an Empty Street” plays like a lost Nick Drake album (if he’d been accompanied by John Denver) or an English language João Gilberto record. But the key here are the harmonies; the record is propelled to greatness by the intricacy of the singing and guitar playing. The two sing and play complicated arrangements as casually as if they’d been born to play them. The nylon string guitars are also a nice touch; having grown up playing both nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars myself, I appreciate a record that makes use of the softer, more percussive sound of a nylon string guitar. Let’s take a look at Cayman Islands, a track from “Riot on an Empty Street.”
Here are the lyrics.
Kings of Convenience – Cayman Islands
Through the alleyways to cool off in the shadows
Then into the street following the water
- This reminds me so much of Venice. We were there in late July and it was hot as all hell, and we literally walked through the alleyways to cool off in the shadows. This couplet is my experience of Venice, perfectly captured.
There’s a bearded man paddling in his canoe
Looks as if he has come all the way from the Cayman Islands
These canals, it seems, they all go in circles
Places look the same, and we’re the only difference
The wind is in your hair, it’s covering my view
I’m holding on to you, on a bike we’ve hired until tomorrow
- Now this has me thinking of Amsterdam on a quiet street off of the main drag. The lyrics evoke the reflection of a person who is just visiting, though looking around passively on the back of a bike. The lines about the wind and the bike bring you out of your reflective state and back in the moment, a good moment I’d assume, to remember the beauty and happiness you’re feeling at that point in time.
If only they could see, if only they had been here
They would understand, how someone could have chosen
To go the length I’ve gone, to spend just one day riding
Holding on to you, I never thought it would be this clear
These lyrics are relaxing, refreshing and enjoyable. Having just backpacked my way through Europe last summer, the lines in this song bring back memories of walking around in Venice and Amsterdam. Its not often that modern music is used to relax, soothe, or alleviate the tensions in our lives. Most often, with music like punk or pop, what we get is something that emulates the tension we feel. While this can help us feel connected to a greater mass of stressed out people, the Kings of Convenience have used their songwriting skills to create something that allows you to sit back and dream. Who else can you say that about these days?