Daily Telegraph 12 June, The Times 19 June, The Scotsman 20 June, Metro 21 June, The Independent 18 June, The Observer 20 June, The Guardian 18 June 2004
22/06/2004 :: Kings of Convenience – Riot on an Empty Street
The original name for this wonderful record was Republic of Two, which would have summed up perfectly the idiosyncratic Norwegian duo whose debut album Quiet is the New Loud sold over 100,000 copies three years ago. Putting off that difficult second album, Elijah Wood look-alike Eirik Gamblek Boe returned to Beren to complete his psychology degree; while his more extrovert bandmate Erlend Øye travelled around the world collecting songs for his solo album Unrest. Despite Øye’s successful experiments with dance music on that record, the pair have returned to the minimal acoustic sound with which they made their name.
Øye’s plaintive voice is complemented extraordinally well on two tracks by his fellow Berlin resident Leslie Feist, whose own debut album follows in July. Elsewhere Love is No Big Truth sounds like a sort of fantasy version of the Police (if you hear this song, you will agree that such a thing is possible), while I’d Rather Dance With You sounds effortlessly like The Smiths – lore like them, in fact, than just about any band that has ever tried to.
(four out of five stars)
Three years ago, the Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience found themselves at the forefront of the so-called New Acoustic Movement. Not plugging their guitars in has proved to be surprisingly lucrative, but repeating the feat may be tricky.
Riot on an Empty Street is an equally pretty album, packed with melodic Simon and Garfunkel-style songs and lyrics about other people’s relationships. The New Acoustic Movement, however, has since died a death, and the band could suffer by association.
On the other hand, there is now the potential to tap in to a less trend- conscious, older audience. The songs here wouldn’t distress Norah Jones fans, while the bossa nova feel to the first single, Misread, should help it to find a place on the Radio 2 playlist. Don’t think that Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Boe have come over all middle of the road; Riot . . . is simply a lighter, less melancholic album than its predecessor, with smarter production and stronger song structures. There are subtle cellos, catchy piano parts, what sounds like a strummed banjo and, mid-album, a trio of comparatively upbeat numbers — well, you can tap your toes to them.
Tucked away at the end there is the wonderfully dreamy The Build Up, with guest vocals from the Canadian singer Feist (a fan of the band sent them a tape), who sounds like a fragile Björk. More of Feist on the album would have been nice, but the Norwegian pair do a fine job all on their own.
(Four out of five stars)
It’s three years since the Kings of Convenience released their debut album, Quiet Is the New Loud. As reference to Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake became commonplace, Eirik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye tiptoed away to Ibiza. Having given clubbers the most graceful of comedowns, Boe returned to university in Norway, while Oye made a solo album an immeresed himself in dance culture.
This new album picks up exactly where the Kings left off, with warm melodies and exquisitely detailed ruminations. The harmonies still glow, especially on the evocative Gold in the Air of Summer, and Canadian chanteuse Fiest on the jazzy Know How adds some bluesy soul to the sparse sound. ”I’ll make you laugh by acting like a guy who sings,” they say on the swinging I’d Rather Dance With You, their awkwardness as bittersweet as ever.
Following a brief period as reluctant standard-bearers of the short-lived ”New Acoustic Movement”, which was kick-started by their 2001 major-label debut Quiet is the New Loud, Kings Of Convenience duo Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye have followed completely different career paths. While Bøe settled back in Bergen to study psychology, Øye moved from city to city, recording with local electronic musicians the techno-pop tracks that made up last year’s engaging Unrest album. Back together again, the duo revert to form with Riot on an Empty Street, with delicately picked folk guitars and strings in sedate collusion behind harmonies whose precise arrangement and gentle delivery recalls Simon & Garfunkel on tracks like the opener ”Homesick”. Here and subsequently in songs such as ”Misread” and ”Sorry or Please”, their attentions are focused mainly on minutely observed behavioural charateristics. With banjo, piano and trumpet sparingly employed, there’s an air of exaggerated politeness about their performances. But there’s a discreet charm to their somewhat diffident manner that’s ultimately quite winning, aided by melodies that worm their way into one’s memory.
Kings of Conveniece’s first album, Quiet Is The New Loud, fulfilled its own prophesy: the lulling, understated acoustica became, for a while, the banner for a new sub-genre of music. Second album Riot On An Empty Street tinkers with the formula only by putting a stronger emphasis on instrumental diversity, with banjo, viola, cello, piano, trombone. Also on Know How, a falling female vocal is sprinkled like dust across Erlend Øye’s meditative lyrics. These exquisitely detailed arrangements and Øye’s brushed-cotton vocals have the clarity and delicacy of a dew drop, but again it’s eerily true to its title: this is a record in mortal danger of drifting by unnotided.
Three years ago, the debut album by the Norse folk duo Kings of Convenience suggested that 'quiet' might be the new 'loud'. The Kings were right, insofar as the mellow moods of Norah Jones and Radio 2 soon became the dominant sounds of the early decade. Theoretically, then, the path should be clear for the Kings' triumphant return after three years of studying psychology (Eirik Glambek Boe) and discovering electronic music (Erlend Oye). But KOC's second album is a mixed affair. Lacking the shock of the new that made their debut such a talking point, Riot On An Empty Street ups the chirpy bossa nova quotient in the pair's Simon & Garfunkel folk-pop. Their most regrettable indie tendencies are laid bare, too, on 'I'd Rather Dance With You'. But bookending the record's low points are lovely, intimate songs - like 'Homesick' or 'The Build Up', which features the new vocal presence of Canadian songbird Leslie Feist. All things considered, their limpid and sombre tunes still beat the hordes of 'big in Ireland' singer-songwriters hands down.
Remember when quiet was the new loud? Those were the days of the New Acoustic Movement, a typical NME hype which included bands like Starsailor and Alfie, and found unnatural leaders in the form of two rather weedy looking, Norwegians Erlend Øye and Eirik Boe. They foisted their folky, whispered sounds on to the world in 2001 and then disappeared for Øye to try his hand as DJ and remixer, and for Boe to finish his psychology degree. This highly anticipated show comes in support of new LP Riot On An Empty Street, by all accounts a more diverse follow-up to the aptly titled debut Quiet Is The New Loud, and should make for the perfect re-introduction to their rather magical music.