Kings of Convenience

Riot on an Empty Street (Astralwerks)

As mopey-geeky-acoustic-guitar-strummy duos go, Kings of Convenience sound like they could conjure a freezing drizzle on an August afternoon. The second record from Norwegians Erlend ye and Eirik Glambek BØe, who proclaimed Quiet Is the New Loud on their 2001 debut, sounds like it looks from the CD's cover, upon which the boys, in tattered pullovers and Coke-bottle specs, play chess while a magazine-cover hottie reads, oh, a book of 18th-century erotic poetry or whatever. Augmented by cellos and violas and trumpets and banjo and other instruments and voices that peek through the guitar strings, Riotis charming and sensitive and utterly earnest and more literate and likable than it has any right to be--Simon and Garfunkel, in other words, with more art than Art and less rhymin' than Simon, for whom English was presumably not a second language. To wit, from the melancholic "Surprise Ice": "When past sometimes takes you with soft hands, forcelessly pulls you to your chair/Hides you away from these half-days, sunless at the end of the year." But what reads like clunky junk on paper chimes and cheers on a disc made by guys for whom a single song can offer a respite and an escape and the eternal hope of a warmer tomorrow. Like Belle and Sebastian, only not so...catchy?

 
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