Quiet Is the New Loud...seldom does an album title so perfectly describe a dominant music trend. Whether or not this is the intent of the Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience is almost beside the point. They've tapped into the current English music Zeitgeist -- despite residing in Bergen, Norway -- and delivered the year's first salvo of "quiet", introspective, twee, folky pop that is rapidly becoming a bonafide movement in the UK. Badly Drawn Boy heralded the imminent invasion of this sound last year with the masterful and Mercury Prize winning The Hour of Bewilderbeast and of course Belle and Sebastian have been doing this stuff for years. And the debut from Turin Brakes, another band of hopefuls being touted by the NME, was just released in the US and the UK.
The blokes that make up Kings of Convenience, Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye, have mastered the lustrous harmonies and polite sensitive boy cooing that made Belle & Sebastian indie faves. They also have a swell way with a tune, constructing deceptively simple melodies that lodge themselves effortlessly into your head. That’s no small thing and the “gentleness” and understated quality tends to make the musical achievement seem less than obvious.
Still, don’t confuse the re-emergence of twee pop with the importance of the techno, hip-hop, and punk revolutions. It’s more analogous to the Britpop of the mid-‘90s in the sense that this is music that has been done a million times before. That doesn’t mean it’s not artistically valid nor does it lessen its entertainment value. It does indicate that we may not be in for a terribly challenging year in indie pop music—at least in terms of indie pop pushing musical boundaries. Kings of Convenience recall Belle and Sebastian and a bit of Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkel, but all of these recent Euro twee groups ultimately share the most in common with the pretty, pristine, light-as-air pop of the old Sarah Records label from the ‘80s. Furthermore, 2000-2001’s folk pop renaissance is relentlessly polite—there’s not a tongue in cheek to be seen. Despite it’s sweet sound, this music takes itself very seriously indeed.