Photo by Salvo Alibrio, courtesy of Powerline Agency.
Kings of Convenience answer the infrequently asked question “what if Simon and Garfunkel were obsessed with bossa nova, and you know, Norwegian?” Their music is unhurried and intimate; for them, “quiet is the new loud” isn’t just an album title, it’s an ethos. That Peace or Love is only their fourth album in 20 years, and their first in 12 years, only reinforces that laidback design for life.
Album opener “Rumours” is a little bit coy yet wholly sincere; finger-picked acoustic guitar backing up Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe’s trademark “two soft voices, blended in perfection.” Songs like the loping, jaunty single “Fever” and the swaying lead single “Rocky Trail” are about as energetic as things get. Most of the time, this is music for a Sunday morning. This doesn’t mean it’s sonic wallpaper. One of Kings of Convenience’s strengths is writing songs that encourage gentle, wistful daydreaming, while also stirring your soul at moments in your life when you thought nothing would.
Peace or Love doesn’t stray very far from the Kings of Convenience formula (save for the drum machine on the aforementioned “Fever”—which is not quite Dylan going electric, but for this band, it’s something), but it is affecting and satisfying, not to mention impeccably produced. Longtime fans will appreciate past collaborator / friend of the program Feist showing up on two tracks (including the achingly lovely “Love Is a Lonely Thing”), and simply revel in hearing Eirik and Erlend’s voices again.
Best of all, Peace or Love is a chance to drink deep of a vestigial memory of a pre-social media, pre-constant notification, pre-chaos-as-a-base-state way of life. Kings of Convenience’s music is purposefully timeless. It shuts out the world, focusing on acoustic guitar, understated rhythms, skillful harmonies, and the subtle way the duo’s songs eschew verse-chorus-verse structure. This gives their music a conversational feel, and rewards the listener’s investment with a sort of recentering of the soul. In this day and age, that’s just about the most valuable gift anyone could possibly be given. | Mike Rengel