In San Diego, weather seldom changes. Sunshine is a year round occurrence and it absolutely never snows. We’ll get a few days of rain from time to time, some June gloom and, on very rare occasions, some hail. But you’re guaranteed temperatures over seventy in almost every month of the year. Right now, we’re in the middle of a warm, though not blistering, summer and the A/C stays on full-time. Yet, one day last week, the sun didn’t come out at all. Helios took the day off and we Southern Californians were shaded underneath endless stretches of Cumulus clouds. As I got into my car and flipped through my book of CDs that day, I ignored the power-pop, shunned the punk rock and left the hip-hop at home. I could think of no better time to listen to Riot on an Empty Street, the new album by Kings of Convenience.
Norway’s Kings just seem custom made for dreary weather. Their restrained, gentle acoustic songwriting provides a perfect backdrop for gray skies and the gathering puddles outside your door. As you watch the rainfall from your bedroom window, Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe’s vocal harmonies will soothe and comfort you in your weather-induced gloom. Unless you’re like me, of course, and enjoy rainy weather. In any case, the combination still pairs well.
Riot on an Empty Street is exactly what fans have come to expect from the Norwegian duo — fingerpicked acoustic guitars, sparse arrangements, hushed vocal harmonies and the slightest influence of jazz. “Homesick” and “Cayman Islands” fall more on the folky side, while the outstanding “Misread” and “Know-How” contain more of the jazz influence mentioned before. Or, to put it into Nick Drake-ian terms, the former are more Five Leaves Left, while the latter are more Bryter Layter.
Though Øye made a dance record not too long ago, that influence hasn’t made its way to Riot. Ironically enough, though, “I’d Rather Dance With You” finds the singer crooning, “I’d rather dance with you than talk with you” over a melody that sounds better suited for Morrissey than Moby. Yet, a house beat is nowhere to be found here, which is all for the best. The music is beautiful enough on its own and God only knows how an 808 would play into the mix.
There are no huge surprises on Riot on an Empty Street. It’s just warm, graceful music from two singer-songwriters that find beauty in a song’s simplicity. And even when the summer reaches record high temperatures, the Kings of Convenience will put you back behind a rain soaked window with the strum of one chord.
Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
Belle and Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
Sondre Lerche – Faces Down
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.