The first time someone asked me if I wanted to be in a band when I grew up, I laughed in their face. My friends had been reluctantly pounding out classical riffs since the days their mothers first held their diapered rears down to piano benches, whereas I was just starting to train my teenage ear to recognize notes that were not in key–a fact that many of the first musicians I played with were quite happy to point out.
That was a long time ago. Long enough ago to finalize my mirth at such an idea. Nope, unlike countless po-mo peers raising their eyebrows behind the coffee bar, guitar picks swinging on a tiny chain around their neck, I never wanted to be a rock star–which was rather fortunate, both for the inevitably-crushed would-be ego and for any hope of a financial future.
Instead, I chose “creative writing.” Yeah, about that…
Delusions of grandeur never deluded aside, I’ve enjoyed playing music with friends for years. Recently, Kirsten and I got the chance to acquire a very simple microphone interface for our computer, thanks to a few photography jobs (email me). It’s been a blast to hang out with some quite talented friends and help lay down a few of their tracks. And Kirsten has more talent in her humming than I do in all of my fingers, years upon years of practicing scales and all–she just grins a little bit when I play out of key. C’est la vie. I guess I’ll keep her around.
So while relatively few people read this site or click on my Facebook links in the grand scheme of things, I’m trying to not let my friends’ work sit dormant on my computer. I’m temporarily rotating a few in-progress demos through Purevolume (any recommendations for a better site to host more than four songs at a time for a very low cost?) In a world saturated by singer-songwriters, this is not too much more than a bunch of friends having fun.
Even if you don’t have a soft spot for soft stuff, “Declaration of Dependence” by Norwegian pop-folk duo Kings of Convenience is an important album. Forget that it’s beautifully minimalistic, that it has enveloping atmospherics, or even that it runs at a comfortably relaxed pace: this record is just plain good music.
I always have trouble describing how great this album is without drawing an analogy to Simon and Garfunkel. You know, the delicate vocals, contagious harmonies, and tasty finger-picking guitar. On top of this, the Kings have done a nice job of spicing things up with the inclusion of the extended string family, adding some violin, bass, and piano here and there to create a unique feel for every song. The percussion section is conspicuously absent, but this doesn’t stop the album from being rhythmic. In fact, there are some surprisingly catchy grooves propelling the otherwise low-key music. This focus on upbeat tempos saves the album from the slump that snags similar efforts. Lyrically, the words are very introspective, a good match to the musical mood.
On top of the obvious merits of the music, the recording quality is top notch: lots of breaths and finger noise capture an aspect of intimacy in the performance.
Overall this album is consistent, relaxing, enjoyable, and easy-listening. 85/100
For the last year or two, indie-rockers have enjoyed a high wave of reverb-drenched 70s nostalgia. I’m no enemy of the trend–I find the quirkiness of Midlake particularly endearing, and I’m hugely sympathetic to the stacked vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes. One blogger favorite I’ve completely failed to connect with, however, are the Kings of Convenience.
Frequently compared to the legendary Simon and Garfunkel, KoC unfortunately capture all of the former duo’s sugary smoothness and none of their politically-informed wordplay. Instead, on their latest album we’re treated to a bunch of saccharine meditations on relationships.
All too often the songs are structured with rhythms that often bear an uncanny resemblance to up-strum patterns employed by Flight of the Conchords. If only the lyrics had even a bit of the Conchords’ irony–instead, we’re treated to song after song of endearingly heartfelt boy-wants-girl tripe that is undoubtedly meant to be tender and endearing, but is instead just…cute (intimate recording techniques and all). It’s all the confessional, singer-songwriter honesty of Damien Rice or The Swell Season, but with none of the passion.
At their best, KoC sound like a “sensitive” soundtrack to a hipster chick-flick. At their worse, they sound like a band that’d be right at home picking up their instruments for a quiet scene in a thirty-year old Barbara Streisand rom-com. 42/100