Back to the Future

Looking back over my playlist for 2009, I can't help but notice that quite a few inspired recordings found their way to my ears during the past twelve months. One of my favorites was an understated album performed and produced by a pair of soft-spoken Norwegians.

Writing for Nordic Reach, I described their newest release as "part introspection and part frivolous fun," and listening to it again today, I think that first impression holds true. But at a time when nearly everyone seems to be giving their work the remix treatment, what appeals to me most about the Kings of Convenience is their simplicity.

The songs they compose are short, straightforward, uncluttered, and all the more indelible as a result. For instance, tracks like "Mrs. Cold" and "Me In You" serve as a reminder that capable musicians can still write taut, danceable grooves with memorable hooks using little more than a pair of acoustic guitars.

Of course, the other end of the spectrum also has its rewards. Laptop pop makes for enjoyable listening, too. Case in point: Don't Stop, the second album from another Norwegian songwriter with the easy-to-remember name Annie. In the January 11th issue of The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones uses the Scandinavian singer to investigate throwback trends, America's aversion to Euro-pop, and the future of music creation and consumption.

In a way he seems to be saying that she's been exploiting one trick—relieving some of the heaviness of house with sweet yet cool vocals sung against bright, synthesized sounds that recall the eighties—just long enough to seem retro and brand new at the same time. Comparing Anniemal, her previous full-length, against this batch of new songs, I'm inclined to agree. "All I know is who I am and I'll never be afraid to show it" she coos on the title track, and as the icy synthesizer melody pulses toward its eventual fade out, the only thing you want to do more than move, is believe.
Photograph of Kings of Convenience by Åse Holte

1 comment:

  1. I've loved KoC for nearabout 10 years. I've never been surprised that they kept their pace. They rose to prominence on a wave of goodwill toward strumming & cooing, light-as-air melodies, but, when that went away, they just kept doing their thing. They play those sweet sounds like they're the only ones doing so and they are instantly recognizable. In other words, they are Authentic...and they make it look easy!

    Meanwhile, do you listen to Alela Diane? If not, I reckon you should.