Kings of Convenience have always had a wonderful quality about their music and sound. More than anything, the music they have put out, from Quiet Is The New Loud to Declaration of Dependence is, very simply, refreshing to listen to. An immediate hallmark of the Norwegian duo are beautiful, heavily prevalent melodies on the acoustic guitar with highly distinctive vocal harmonies above the acoustic melodies. It’s really a beautiful combination.
There is so much music out in the world, especially popular music today, that is marked by driving bass lines, heavy beats or drums; a constant intensity. And that does not inherently make that music bad, but it is so refreshing to open up a Kings of Convenience album and find something that is as sonically different from most other music as humanly possible—employing neo-classical acoustic guitar and little-to-no additions of drums etc. throughout the tracks, Peace Or Love is simple and stunning because of that.
It is an album that is proof of the concept “less is more.” Everything about this new record—the first record the duo has released since 2009—screams subtleties. Instruments are not overused; rather, they are employed tastefully, which adds so much to the listening experience, in addition to the motion and feel of each track.
The title track, “Rumors,” is largely just vocals and acoustic guitar, but, toward the end, a subtle string section moves in, playing slight countermelodies and just adding a lot of almost unnoticeable texture to the song, automatically elevating it.
The song “Rocky Trail,” has a bit more speed and motion than some of the other songs, with a prominent cascading melody on the guitar and a very subtle beat that is achieved by tapping the guitar itself. The violin that comes in on this song, as well as the moments of acoustic guitar solos—for want of a better word—create a wonderful experience, a true sonic environment.
Peace or Love is an album that doesn’t need lyrics; it somehow exists beyond words. This isn’t always the best thing—often, strong, more prevalent lyrics complete the musical story the artist is going for. And so perhaps I am missing out on the full story Kings of Convenience are trying to convey, but the way this album is put together, the soothing, soft nature of the vocals and the peaceful nature of the music combines to create a collection of songs that are open to constant interpretation.
There is little here that is concrete—there is just the swaying, soulful feel of the music.
And even having said that, in fitting with the almost slyness of the record, there are some moments of wonderful poetry. On the track “Love is a Lonely Thing,” which features the haunting, yet beautiful voice of Feist, is the line “Patience is the hardest thing to have the learn/Hours seem like oceans when desire burns.”
The remainder of that track maintains that floaty, peaceful musical motion, all wrapped up in pretty metaphors and couplets, a kind of poetry that is befitting a song about love and loneliness.
And though the entirety of this album really employs these same characteristics that I’ve been talking about, it somehow doesn’t feel that stagnant. Somehow, the album has a certain natural motion to it; songs change pace; the kind of acoustic melodies shift, giving off different feelings and emotions and even rhythms, all without altering the core of what this album is. Peace or Love is a very pure album. It is a record of simplicities, subtleties and pure joy. And it is truly a wonderful thing to have a record that exudes happiness more than anything.