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Album: Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love

Album: Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love

The folk-pop duo return with an album that's occasionally too smooth to soothe

The first release that brought folk-pop duo Kings of Convenience to prominence outside of their native Norway was their Live in a Room EP, released in 2000.

Recorded, as the title suggests, with a minimum of fuss, the cuts include pre-song count-ins, real-life room reverb and the occasional shriek of a string as a barre chord hurriedly settled into its seat. These moments defined the recordings almost as much as the notes themselves - acoustic music with an electric atmosphere.

More than 20 years later, Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye have returned with Peace or Love, their first album since 2009’s Declaration of Dependence. While simplicity is still the destination, it seems to require a much more circuitous route these days – apparently the album was recorded no fewer than five times in the pursuit of this effortless sound.

On one level, the result is a resounding success. Peace or Love is bossa-tinged collection of easy-glistening pop that rarely, if ever, makes a misstep. The close harmony vocals are still soft, breathy and charmingly affecting, the path between upbeat and sombre as carefully compassed as ever.

The particular preoccupation with rhythm that marked KoC apart from their peers (the criminally underrated Alfie excepted) is still much in evidence. From the staccato string stabs in recent single “Rocky Trail” to the lilting lounge beat that backtracks “Fever”, the natural interplay of the duo’s picked guitar lines is highlighted and accentuated in a way that bolsters without bloating.

There are trademark moments of breathtaking beauty. The stripped-back ”Killers” is one of the most uncomplicated songs on show and simply spine-tingling for it. “Catholic Country”, on the other hand, comes dressed to impress. Piano, strings, percussion and a guest voice (singer Feist, who also appears on the tantalisingly tortured torch song “Love Is a Lonely Thing”) combine to create one of the album’s highlights.

It’s just that… everything’s, y’know… a bit too smooth. Too refined, too polished. In pursuing perfection, they seem to have lost texture. There’s no grain to the thing.

And then comes album closer “Washing Machine”. A false start, an on-the-hoof, off-the-cuff count in, and we’re back in the room. Pop music through a folk idiom, the chemistry of two people playing together, absolutely in the moment. And it’s wonderful.

Peace or Love is, undoubtedly, a very good album, but there are too few moments this genuinely electrifying. I’d love to hear the outtakes – there should certainly be enough of them. The suspicion remains that, in clarifying their sound so carefully, the duo may have left something of substance in the studio.




In clarifying their sound so carefully, Kings of Convenience may have lost something of substance


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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