Very few bands are capable of completely conveying their artistic intent by means of an album cover or, for that matter, an album title. Norway's Kings of Convenience is one of these bands. Taking its name from the logistical simplicity of having only two members who compose primarily on an acoustic guitar, they are worthy heirs to the pristine and gifted songwriting craft of Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake, along with the contemporary literate indiepop of Belle and Sebastian and The Lucksmiths.
But, though the Kings' songs themselves, both seductive and sincere, would cause 80% of the indie race to throw their clothes to the ground and do whatever it is people do after they throw their clothes to the ground (besides shower), what is most remarkable about the band is their ability to so aptly convey the full scope of their musical aesthetic within the context of album design. Their proper debut, Quiet is the New Loud, was an exceptional statement of purpose, and made any attempt to describe the band's music seem redundant. What their debut accomplished with its title, 2004's Riot on an Empty Street accomplished with its design.
The album cover shows the band, attired entirely in earth tones, sitting in a vaguely IKEA-esque (yes, I know Norway and Sweden are distinct nations) apartment, itself decorated subtly in earth tones. A natural beauty looks up from her reading as she catches the eye of Erlend Øye, the most chic of geeks who, himself, has taken a break from his solitary game of chess. And as the eyes of the young lady and Øye meet, the more traditionally handsome of the two, Erik Glambek Bøe, gazes out to invite the viewer inside. The themes of the music contained within are perfectly captured in this moment.
The Kings play music for the awkward and lonely, the intellectually curious but easily distracted. Their music is sexy, but tastefully restrained. And ultimately, the polished production and skillfully written melodies are so accessible and inviting, that I, for one, wish it were possible to walk straight into the idealized album cover and join the band for a quiet evening of tea, Leonard Cohen records, and seductive glances from Norwegian babes.