Love, and how it makes you throw in all your chips before you’ve even seen your cards, is the subject of this beautiful return from the Norwegian indie-folk duo. Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye emerged at the turn of the century and were quickly lumped in with the likes of Turin Brakes and the dull “new acoustic” movement, but the purity of their Balearic-sunlight melodies, infused with the elegance of bossa nova, have consistently set them apart even if their body of work remains small: this is only their fourth album in 20 years, and the first since 2009.
Songwriting this unadorned requires melodic strength and confidence, but the pair never waver from their acoustic guitars and occasional violin. Fever is the only song with a drum beat; Catholic Country – featuring Feist, and one of KOC’s best ever songs – and others play up the percussive quality of their stringed instruments to add urgency and even a little funk.
Bøe and Øye’s paired, timbrally similar voices remain a key part of the charm. Delicacy and care are given to both boyish and adult vocal pitches, perfectly expressing innocence and experience at once. There are moments of straightforward breakup glumness, but the complexity of love and desire comes through on songs such as Rocky Trail and Killers.
On Angel, Bøe regards a free-spirited woman ruefully: perhaps some quiet hopes of romance have been thwarted. These complicated, unreadable feelings are ultimately a mystery, and little dramas like this, populated with humans rather than signifiers, are what make Kings of Convenience a cut above.