Standout Single: "Mrs. Cold"
For Fans Of: Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, Belle and Sebastian, Jack Johnson's somber moments
For the most part, "Declaration of Dependence" sounds like best buddies hanging out at a secluded European beach and playing a few tunes for their closest friends. Kings of Convenience's third album appears to have become the decidedly unplugged creative outlet for Norwegian boy wonder Erlend Oye, who also heads up Whitest Boy Alive, an excellent band in its own right. There is a noticeable lack of drums (and any clever studio trickery) on this album, although one could argue that these fellows strum their guitars with a percussive feel at times. Most of the songs follow the simple formula of one player strumming the percussive rhythmic chords with the other guitar running over the top with a pleasant riff, with an occasional string of violin or piano notes added to the mix.
The album starts off with the nostalgic "24-25" and picks up where "Riot on an Empty Street", the Kings previous album and magnum opus, left off- a soothing Simon and Garfunkel-esque vocal harmony over two gently plucked guitars.
Next up is the super catchy "Mrs. Cold," the standout track on the album. The tempo picks up a bit here, and if we were laying out on a chilly Icelandic beach on Track 1, the beach we are laying on here is more like Rio de Janeiro- warm and sunny, despite the title. This track also introduces the violin in the last few seconds, which is used sparsely throughout the album, most noticeably on "Boat Behind," another pleasant seaside ditty exploring the themes of independence vs. dependence. Nothing mind-blowing lyrics wise, but something every listener should be able to relate with.
"Me in You", the third track on the album, also introduces a bare bones piano (much less noticeable than it was on "Misread") and the pleasant female backing vocals we remember from previous albums.
"Rule My World" reminds me of something Oye would have penned in his younger days, and despite its mention "moral superiority" and of an "all-forgiving God / you claim that you believe in," has a slightly humorous feel when the chorus hits and they belt out permission for their female counterparts to rule their worlds.
After this track, the album begins to slow down a bit at the middle, and continues until the end, just like "Riot" did, which eventually closed with the epic "Gold in the Air of Summer" and "The Build Up." Although there is nothing here that rivals those two, and detractors of the album will claim the second half of the album is a bit of a bore, there is still plenty here to appreciate with a bit of patience. "Power of Not Knowing" will be a treat for fans of Nick Drake and "Peacetime Resistance" and "My Ship Isn't Pretty" continues the theme of "quiet protests against loneliness." Longtime fans of The Kings will also appreciate "Riot on an Empty Street", yes, the track title, and not the album, an apparent remnant track from years ago.
The Kings aren't breaking any new ground on this album, and perhaps it may have even been a step backwards, but in an era when voiceboxes, autotune and synthesizers are dominating the airwaves, I'm sure this is a welcome direction for many. I will continue to look forward to future projects, unplugged or otherwise, from Norway's musical golden child.
See what I'm talking about with the sitting on a beach vibe, here are the KoC playing "Misread" on a beach in Ipanema, with some of the natives singing along: