on July 17, 2003
I commonly surf Amazon.com to find new bands and new music. After looking at what other albums people who bought Beck's Sea Change, Nick Drake's Pink Moon, and others, I came across Kings of Convenience's Quiet is the New Loud. At first, I dismissed the disc as too folky for my taste and a Simon and Garfunkel wanna be. Fortunately for me, I sat down at a local record store, listened to the entire album, and purchase it fifteen seconds thereafter. Think of Simon and Garfunkel sitting down with Nick Drake over a case of cognac and coming up with this ablum. Rest assured, Kings of Convenience have their own unique sound which blends brilliantly with their subtle, sweeping voices. Along with superior acoustic arrangements, add a cello, some piano riffs, and you have a truly amazing arrangement of melodies. Since I purchased it, I've been listening to this album on repeat and have yet to get even remotely tired of it.
If you don't purchase this album, you're only neglecting yourself and the amazing music that surrounds us everyday.
on January 7, 2003
Kings of Convenience are two Norwegians named Erlend and Eirik, and "Quiet is the New Loud" is their first album. It is a group of recordings oddly reminiscent of any number of precedents - Simon & Garfunkel are the obvious reference, but so are Belle & Sebastien and Nick Drake - without ever actually sounding like anything else at all. Indeed, one of the strange effects of this nearly ephemeral folk-pop is its evasiveness. Instrumentation, for example, gets absorbed into the total effect; every time I hear "Toxic Girl" I'm surprised to discover it has drums. I remember it being just singing and guitar. In fact, each track has drums, electric guitar, sometimes on up to cellos and orchestration. The effects are hardly obvious.
This goes for the group itself: two Norwegians who sound like Englishmen, accompanying themselves on multi-tracked recordings done largely in Liverpool. Given its recording location, the whole album seems almost a deliberate reversal of The Beatles's "The Ballad of John and Yoko," where Lennon and McCartney produced the whole band's sound by themselves. The album cover - a picture of Erlend and Eirik with a female friend (perhaps Daisy Simons who co-wrote one of the tracks) next to some fjord-side boathouse - even looks like a Beatles-era artifact reprised. (Norwegian Wood, anyone?). The Kings of Convenience seem intent on using the whole panoply of studio effects and instrumentation towards the end of making as quiet an album as possible. The title is not arbitrary, nor even merely descriptive; it is a manifesto. The sentiment isn't new of course; it's fundamental to mid-twentieth century avant-garde aesthetics. "Less is more" was Mises Van der Rohe's motto. But the real success of the Kings' sound is that it doesn't actually come across as minimalist. The negations are played out and undercut from within rather than through after-the-fact reductions.
I have said nothing so far about the songs or the lyrics. No doubt, the argument that the album functions as a kind of auto-negation of assertion has to apply especially to the singing. More often it does just trail off behind the repetition of a guitar melody. Harmony vocals play in and out almost as cross-interference, as does instrumentation. Phil Spector may haunt this production, though I can't be sure it's intentional. All the same, the album comes with a lyric sheet, and the thematic is consistent: obsession with lost relationships, heartbreaks, and memories. Dusty Springfield once said she never paid any attention to the words in her songs. I'm not sure the words matter at all in these songs. Though I can only imagine that Erlend and Eirik's command of the English language is fluent, there is something about the construction of these songs, and their delivery, which suggests a kind of automatic delivery which seeks to produce a somatic effect rather than a semantic uptake. The lyric sheet functions almost as a kind of confirmation that our understanding of the overall mood is the correct one. The sense of locution seems to be that the best way to get someone's attention is to speak very quietly.
I don't think I'd much care to listen to this formula repeated ad nauseum, but as a knowing intervention in the contemporary pop scene, I'm ready to go the extra mile to defend its end-of-the-summer melancholy against the brutalism and nihilism of what passes for youth culture today. Or rather, the idea that Kings of Convenience are the latest manifestation of post-punk European rock'n'roll works well enough for me, but I imagine in the age of Limp Bizkit the kids won't quite be clamoring to buy "Quiet is the New Loud." That is their loss.
on January 29, 2002
After being bombarded by IDM over the last couple of years, I have found it very refreshing to listen to something organic again. What better album that this to kick the IDM habit for a while. Don't get me wrong. I still love Boards of Canada and Four Tet.
This music really reminds me of being five years old again when I used to ride around in my mom's pinto wagon not having a clue about life. When I only remember music as being something obscure to me. Now that I'm grown and understand more about music, I find myself listening to albums like this and really appreciating life.
The first song on this album called "Winning A Battle, Losing the War," is probably the most beautiful folk song I've heard this year. Holy Simon and Garfunkel. I hope that was the point because it sounds just like them. "The Weight of My Words" is the same way. Every song is exceptional and well worth any amount of money you spend on it.
If you haven't listened to folk in a while, let this album snap you back. I'll bet coffee shops around the world have this album on as I write.
If this album doesn't bring a sense of innocence back into your life, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Buy it. Enjoy it. Smile from time to time. Drink coffee.
on January 28, 2002
Before you buy this album you must look at the cover. Not often does a records cover tell so much of the story. Two guys, full of love, and reminicent of days they likely did not experience at a great age. Models for a generation of sublime folk being remastered by new groups. The links to Nick Drake and Belle & Sebastian are certainly noteworthy for those looking for a comparison.
Contrary to the beliefs of some I find their lyrics completely refreshing. While not entirely innovative, I believe the reason they are seen to be un-substantial by some is due to their lack of utter depression as with Drake, and a lack of pure craziness as is often the case with Belle and Sab. (is that a requirement to be on Matador?)
The quiet is really becoming the larger presence in music today. The subtle and intricate standing at the forefront give an artist the greatest control of their craft. Overt placements of the small bits lead to greater meaning and satisfaction for both the artist and listener. This is a prominent work for 2001 and a must own for lovers of the genre. Lets applaud those who walk with the envelope as much as those who push it.
on October 18, 2001
Did Paul Simon write this? Did Art Garfunkel sing it? Maybe. All right, I know nothing about these two; I just bought the album because it was on the Astralworks Label, and they haven't let me down, yet. This album blew me away. The lyrics are amazing; so passionate, so intelligent--and they are actually sung! Beautifully! These two voices are indeed angelic. And the intstrumentation is so subtle. The drums on the first track that you don't even notice were there until half-way into the second. The silly hi-hat groove on the second; the muted trumpet on that one track (I can't remember track numbers because I always just listen to it straight through). The song, "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From" is my favorite. It's a situation everyone's been in; it's a song that's been sung before--but always with distorted guitars and 2-and-4 drums. This time, it's different. It's haunting; it's new. After all, quiet is the new loud. (Fantastic title!) Although, quiet isn't for everyone. Someone I used to date said this album made her want to slit her wrists, where as someone I'm dating now says that it's one of the most wonderful, up-lifting albums she's ever heard. Go figure. If you like Badly Drawn Boy or Belle & Sebastian or Snow Patrol, this is right up your alley. Nice.
on August 7, 2001
I bought this one on the strength of an NME review and it has turned out to be one of my best buys for the year. It's understandable why many are pegging Kings of Convenience as New Alternative. There is definately a taste of Nick Drake in some of the jazzy touches on this album, and if you like Belle and Sebastian and Red House Painters you're going to like Quiet is the New Loud. But Kings of Convenience take things in a slightly different direction. They focus on acoustic guitar work (there's excellent playing on this album) and sixties folk harmonies, and they leave the songs alone when the guitars and vocals are enough to get the message across. Most important, the songwriting is intelligent and creative, with smart lyrics and beautiful melodies and harmonies. The album perhaps lacks diversity, but I credit Kings of Convenience for focusing on their strengths and not trying to sound like a different band with every track. Quiet is the New Loud is a very refreshing album that allows the listener to relax and enjoy the listening. I look forward to their next.
on July 9, 2001
These days, it seems, it doesn't take much to say a lot. On "Quiet is the New Loud," this Norwegian duo exemplifies just this. Aside from expressing the "less is more" sentiment in their album title, the Kings of Convenience delicately craft twelve songs that prove that a powerful, emotional depth can be easily discovered in the softest of whispers. More accessible than Belle and Sebastian (whom the duo have been constantly compared to), the Kings are neither unique in their approach nor entirely ambitious in their efforts. Indeed, the goal here is to keep it simple with basic harmonies, melodies, and accompaniment. Their gift, then, is that they do this so well. When it comes to playing acoustic guitars, the duo is no doubt talented, whether it be on the intensely somber "Winning a Battle, Losing the War," or the more upbeat and gorgeous "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From." Strings, horns, and piano (try the deeply contemplative "Parallel Lines") complement the songs throughout, creating mystical, dreamy soundscapes (try "Summer on the Westhill"). The lyrics, like the rest of the album, are simple, subtle, and unforced, though a little odd (Using "The Guardian" as a shield/I cover my thighs against the rain/I do not mind about my hair; from "Failure"), yet it comes across very easily that these two can easily find joy in sounding depressed. The listener will certainly feel the same. The album title may be a bit pompous, and the duo may have chosen a name that borders on arrogance, but don't let that fool you. In a hiearchy of delicate sounds, these Kings are certainly on top.
on July 2, 2001
When I first heard this record, I thought "yeah, I can dig this" (I do not really talk like this). Then I got sort of bored. I think maybe it's because quiet really IS the new loud--there are more and more bands that just sound the same as Belle and Sebastian, or (in the States) Elliott Smith. To be honest, KC don't really add much to the sound that Nick Drake mastered with Pink Moon, 25 years ago--and Nick Drake did it better than they do.
With that said, this record has grown on me. While the Kings are covering familiar territory, they do so beautifully (extended metaphor deleted). They could write better lyrics. They could be more ambitious. But they seem like good guys, and I like some songs on this album a lot. They stayed with me. That's a good feeling, that's what art or music or whatever is supposed to do, and grumbling about their lack of originality won't take that away.
I like this album. Very catchy and very well done, nice quiet music that will help you sleep and give you pleasant dreams.
on June 14, 2001
Individually, the 12 songs on this disc are as fragile as twigs from last fall's wind storm, but bundled together in this interesting CD, they make one strong statement about how attention-getting gentle, acoustic music can be.
Since it's inevitable from the first few notes of Winning A Battle, Losing A War, I'll get my Simon and Garfunkel comparisons out of the way right now: yes, the Kings make soft folk rock songs with easy guitar and sad piano arrangements, and harmony vocals. But, really, it's not fair to pigeonhole them or this record that quickly.
From track one on, the CD just seems right. Winning A Battle, with it's sunny melody but undercurrent of sadness, sets the tone. The longing of Toxic Girl leads to the muted horns of Singing Softly To Me, which leads to the next nine distinctive and enjoyable tracks.
It's not for everyone -- my wife was surprised that my tastes went this soft -- but it's hard to find anything wrong with this disc. There are no classics here, but Quiet Is The New Loud deserves to become one of Norway's most popular exports since ready-to-assemble furniture, only not as trendy.
on March 19, 2002
Or whatever the vigorous opposite of 'bland' is. I've tried listening to this but it's not possible to take more than 1½ tracks at a sitting. I just marvel at such obvious talent and sincerity ending up as such a non-event. I guess those scandiwegian nights are long n chilly and there's not much else to do but wear the tread off yr fave 'Chad n Garfunkel sing the Best of Nina and Drake' CDs, hone yr guitar technique ... and buff up the old English. When daylight returns - voilà! - you're both *technically* too good to ignore. They're clearly hells nice blokes in an endearingly fey n whimsical way and what I can make out of the chick looks cute in a bjørkish way. I play this album with the port and cheese and make everyone "Spot the Influence". Hey - astute reviews by everyone - *including* the usually abrasive Amazon critic. I guess the homey album photo precludes reaching for the usual bovver boots. Bless 'em, I say - and it sounds like a nice project to have put together.