Category Archives: kings of convenience

RIOT ON AN EMPTY STREET by kings of convenience

by Gordon

Pitchfork: 7.3          Rolling Stone: 3.5/5          Metacritic: 71          Spin: N/A

 

Released: June 2004
Tracklisting:
  1. Homesick [LISTEN]

  2. Misread
  3. Cayman Islands
  4. Stay Out of Trouble
  5. Know-How
  6. Sorry or Please
  7. Love Is No Big Truth
  8. I’d Rather Dance With You
  9. Live Long
  10. Surprise Ice
  11. Gold In the Air of Summer
  12. The Build-Up

   In some ways I’m surprised by how few people have heard of Kings of Convenience, and in some ways I’m not. Word of mouth only goes so far for the kind of music the (mostly) duo create, and I certainly wouldn’t have known about them had a friend in college not sent me the tip. But then I listen to an album like Riot on An Empty Street and wonder why when I ask people if they’ve heard of the band, their reply is so often in the negative. As something like a modern-day Simon and Garfunkel, members Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe mix similarly beautiful, acoustic melodies with powerful, introspective lyrics to produce music magic that for them is most clearly present in this album (granted I have yet to truly soak up 2009’s Declaration of Dependence).

   The dreamlike album opens with “Homesick”, the Kings’ most vivid reincarnation of the previous two greats, almost purposefully so with lines like, “…I can’t stop listening to the sound/ Of two soft voices blended in perfection/ From the reels of this record that I’ve found.” Present listens still amaze me at how the combination of nothing but guitar plucking and their two voices can make such a beautiful song. It’s been a necessary inclusion on mix tapes for great friends for years.

   Though it’s their slower songs that really speak to me personally on the album, it’s nice to have a change of pace with more uptempo songs like “Misread”, “Love Is No Big Truth”, and “I’d Rather Dance With You”, most favorably the latter(est?), whose pretty great video speaks to the fun these guys have making their tunes. These songs introduce some nod-your-head strumming, catchy piano riffs, and groovy string accompaniment time to time.

   Two more greats that much be mentioned, both occurring back-to-back and near the album’s end: “Surprise Ice” begins with a throwback, intentional or not, to “The Sound of Silence”, and though perhaps only half as timeless, contains moments that truly pull on your heart and stay with you for those few minutes following. For me, this occurs when the melancholy chorus draws both of their voices together in an almost out-of-nowhere emotion. “Gold In the Air of Summer” is one of those unbelievably chord-simple songs that so easily lends itself to timeless melody and harmonies. It stands out on this otherwise largely same-sounding album by adding a combination of fluttery piano and regal trumpet.

   An added bonus is that we get to hear contributions from the great Feist on a few of the songs, too. For those that need a bit more beat and shuffle in their headphones, Riot On An Empty Street may not suit you so well. But it’s beautiful for what it is: a relaxing, even-tempered escape from an otherwise stressful, uneven-tempered existence

1 Comment

Filed under kings of convenience