Peace Or Love
Kings of Convenience
2021 • ROCK/FOLK • EMI
Norwegian band Kings of Convenience’s first album in 12 years arrives with old habits: simplistic and warm songs that embrace the listener in a friendly feeling filled with fond memories.
It’s been 12 years since Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye last released an album. The year was 2009 when the well-received Declaration of Dependence hit the world, with the simplistic atmosphere the band had been working on since their debut, 2001’s Quiet Is the New Loud. In this period of little more than a decade that the band was in hiatus, they faced the beginning and the ending of relationships, the arrival of 40s, pressure from their record label, and drastic changes in the music market that now occurred faster and faster. In other words, if you look at the world at the release of their last album and the world today, you might even get confused and think that the time difference is decades and not just years. However, the Norwegian indie-folk band’s response after all this comes as an old hug and warm memories.
Peace or Love is their fourth album and like most of their discography, it is played entirely by strings that, despite being simple, features an honest and beautiful kinetic energy. The lyrics, on the other hand, despite carrying greater meanings, always seem to be born from conversations of friends that quickly transform loose sentences into a sharp lyrical set. While the album may sound tedious or even a little slurred at times — and it really is, it’s still able to captivate you in the most simplistic moments and convey a sense of calm and sincerity. If you referer, you can look at the cabin that Adrianne Lenker builds in 2020’s songs and then look at Peace or Love as the car trip before or after your stay in the cabin.
Indeed, most of these tracks have that feeling of a friendly hug. In the opener, “Rumours,” he sings about his lover but the soft, soothing words, “Don’t let them tell you who you are,” sound like they’re aimed directly at us. Meanwhile, “Comb My Hair” and “Fever” are built on catchy arrangements and harmonies, and the duets with Canadian singer Feist, “Love Is a Lonely Thing” and “Catholic Country,” appear as well-balanced harmonical collaborations that explore the tension of love. Also noteworthy is how they manage to attribute the simple chords to different feelings: while “Killers” appears as the most melancholic on the record, with pessimistic lyrics, “Ask for Help” sounds almost like an epiphany, with the lyrics which from a distance looks more like a warm and comforting hug. “If you got the will to do it/But you lack the skills to do it good/Ask for help,” he sings.
Another interesting factor of the record is the influences of Brazilian Bossa Nova. Although the duo has been working on this sound since the early 2000s, in Peace or Love the influences of the classic Brazilian genre from the 1950s and 1960s appear stronger — and even a hint of samba. Take, for example, “Rocky Trail,” which features a friendly violin that plays in coordination with calm, opaque strings that are ordered by the samba rhythm. It is an interesting and firm reinterpretation of the genre, much more concrete than, for example, Anitta’s “Girl From Rio,” which rescues an old song from Brazilian music. Afterwards, “Angel” also appears with some tones of Brazilian music, but now with the strings turning to something heavier and not so happy. More than that, the lyrics, which show the singer painting his beloved like an angel, also seem worthy of some Bossa Nova composers, with simplistic metaphors and short but striking phrases.
However, in the end, the only problem with Peace of Love is a certain inconsistency and sonic conflict that the album carries. While the instrumental, despite its more occasional complex moments, is aimed at a simplistic aspect that preaches something more acoustic and intimate, the vocal work in the voices often seems to sound straight from a studio, creating some moments where it looks like their voice was simply placed on top of the instruments. But, this is rarely a real problem. At the end of the record, even though “Song About It” sounds silly, he creates a really cool game about what love is. The final track, meanwhile, “Washing Machine” is bittersweet, with sweet instrumental but slightly bitter lyrics. “I lost count how many times I’ve tumbled ’round inside your washing machine,” he sings. But the only thing you feel is the fear of having to wait another decade for their next album.