After almost five years since their last outing, the Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience have returned with their third full-length, Declaration of Dependence. Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe are best known for weaving simple acoustic melodies into lush pop songs akin to a modern day Simon and Garfunkel. Although a return to this musical style is nothing new these days, this duo has proven that they are too good to resist, with a bittersweet depth that has given each album just the right amount of variety.
Ive always enjoyed Kings of Convenience for their wonderful pairing of arpeggio melodies and the simplicity that makes it sound so easy for them to write. I felt that, as a whole, their second full-length was not as strong as the first, although there were a handful of standout tracks on Riot on an Empty Street. Declaration of Dependence begins with 24-25, a familiar sounding song with a lone guitar and the contrasting vocals of both members. Its soft edges help ease the listener into the record, leading right into Mrs. Cold, the albums single. This track boasts a groovy island-themed melodic structure, cushioned by a catchy chorus and a dash of extra strings towards the end. While this feels like we might have heard it all before, Kings have never sounded this catchy.
The album progresses in the style that one might expect, but each track hits on a higher level than previously. Take Boat Behind, a song with paired echoing vocals, a simple guitar, and a sparse violin; all telling signs of the style Kings of Convenience have explored. Something seems to fit better than before, as if they found just the right balance between being melodic and deep. They seem to have shed part of their twee-pop innocence while still staying within their own realm. The minimal tracks on this record have been stripped down just enough, as opposed to the void heard on previous albums (see The Passenger).
One odd but welcome quirk of this album is the dark thematic lull that falls right in the middle of the album, with My Ship Isnt Pretty and Renegade. These are slow and meager, musically and lyrically, and both could have been placed at the end of the album, which is often the place for deliberate and vulnerable tracks. The fact that claration of Dependence follows its own flow of ups and downs makes it exciting to listen to. It is not one stream in one direction, but rather an exploration of everything this duo does well.
Some people find this approach boring and played out, and draw on Kings of Convenience's consistency of this style as reason enough to brush them off entirely. But it is hard to find fault in any track on this record; it's soft and nostalgic, comforting and simple, and will undoubtedly please fans old and new.
9.0 / 10
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