Two things have already made my year, musically speaking, pretty remarkable. One I’ll keep to myself, and the other is this new tune from I Was a King. Their previous three releases were wrapped around the mold of classy power-pop, and I adored them all. Now, the band is growing, sonically. You’ll notice on this first single alone that there’s a vast difference in the pacing, not to mention the fact that there’s a female vocal up front from Anne Lise, which is a slight twist, though one that I find intriguing. Can’t wait for the band to release their next album, which is still shrouded in a bit of mystery…I’ll keep you up to date as I know more.
If you’ve followed this web site for some time, then you’ll surely be aware of my unabashed love for I Was a King. Through three albums, they’ve continued to amaze me with their pop tunes, and today there are signs that they’re progressing even further. They’ve got a new single coming out soon, and they’ve allowed us to share one of the tracks with you all, so we’re doing just that. I’ve chosen “Oslo Share,” which displays the band working with their excellent vocal harmonies, providing music that continues to leave an impression, even as the song comes to an end. IWK will be working on a new album in September, and I guarantee it’s going to be amazing.
Here it is. I know you’ll hate it; I know you’ll disagree, but that’s not the point in making an arbitrary list. We here at ATH worked really hard to fit in the tastes of the four of us, and when we decided upon our Top 50, it really boied down to simple math. What albums did we love when they came out? Do we still enjoy spinning those records months later? If they’re in the Top 50, then the asnwer is probably yes. I mean, our Top 2 records came out in January, and still play a vital part in my weekly listening. There’s no disclaimer here. We are who we are, we like what we like, and we hope that’s okay with you. If not, drop us a line and let us know where we went wrong.
I’ve long praised the wonderful work of I Was a King, and for a bit I felt like I was the only one that noticed. It seems that wasn’t true at all (thank goodness) with the band getting a touch of grace on production duties; Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Robyn Hitchcock share duties on You Love It Here. If that’s not enough to sway you towards the excellent work of this Norwegian trio, then perhaps I can push you just a little further.
Three albums into their career and the group opens You Love It Here with perhaps one of their best songs, “Frozen Disease.” The guitar has that nostalgic ring to it, distorted yet melodic. The song itself has a down-trodden temp, but Frode’s voice has this warmth to it that somehow allows the song to avoid any sense of melancholy, even if that’s the intent of the vocals. Then they move off into their meat-and-potatoes indie pop, blending slightly angular guitar work, emphatic drumming and harmonies that would make your mother swarm. “Leave” is the sort of song that originally endeared me to the group, and it’s clear that even with great producers on hand, you can’t take away a band’s songwriting sensibilities.
You’ve only got to skip ahead a few tracks to see the progression I Was a King has made in their songwriting; it’s nice to see them holding close to certain aspects, yet still see them pushing forward. “Hanging On” isn’t filled with distorted guitars, rather it’s filled with vocal harmonies and light instrument strumming. I particularly love the change in the vocal pitch that comes in right at 1:40 on your player; this is a mood affecting shift that’s been perfected by the likes of Nada Surf. Another move that was unexpected, yet welcomed, was Anne taking the lead on “Superhero.” For the majority of the track, there’s a hint of guitar, though it’s been cleared out in the studio to let her vocal shine through, remaining the perfect focus. It’s striking, not only for the power in Frokedal’s voice, but in its ability to break up some of the album. While I love power-pop and such, a little differentiation goes a really long way.
As always though, the winner on You Love It Here seems to be the sound of the guitars. “Food Wheels” enters near the end of the album, and while there’s still that element of swirling guitar, a more rudimentary sound is what struck me most. The distortion is peeled back, and I dare say that there’s a bit of a jangle to the track. It’s similar to the earlier appearance of “Eric” on the record, though that track has more of a chugging folk guitar vibe, and a more pronounced rhythm. All in all, these tiny additional touches demonstrate both exceptional songwriting and the band’s ability to adapt/change.
Sometimes when I listen to a record like You Love It Here, I want to hold it close to my heart/ears. It’s the perfect pop record that I can play any time of year, and it will always bring a smile to my face. That’s selfish though; the whole world needs to get a chance to listen to I Was a King. If you make one decision today, I beg you to make sure that it’s to pick up this delightful record from our friends in Norway; it’s a decision that will improve your life drastically, I swear.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-01-Frozen-Disease.mp3]
One of the band’s I can’t get enough of is I Was A King, a great power-pop act from Norway. They’re about to release their third album, You Love It Here on October 5th overseas (the band is currently looking for US representation!), and if you don’t love this song, something’s got to be wrong with you. It’s got an effortless cool to it, with a wonderful central hook and a melody that’s going to have you salivating for more from the group. If you needed further proof that this group was on top of their game, you need look no further than the production credits attributed to Norman Blake and Robyn Hitchcock. After you stream the song, check out this video that goes along with it HERE. This is going to make your day, I promise.
One of the bands that I’ve really enjoyed following over the last several years has been Norway’s I Was a King. They’ve just issued a really small run of a split 7″ EP on Splendour Records with Half-Handed Cloud, and I’m really enjoyhing their effort here. There’s a great swirling melody that is underscored by the guitar work, one of the prominent instruments in this band’s repertoire. If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out this band, the time is right to do so. Hopefully this 7″ indicates the band are back on track and set to toss out something new in the near future.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Happy.mp3]
Download:I Was a King – Happy [MP3]
A few years back I Was a King burst into my life, and I couldn’t have been happier. They recalled bits of my favorite under-appreciated band, The Comas, as well as hints of Teenage Fanclub. On their latest outing, Old Friends, the group adds a few little twists to the foray, though nothing that ultimately changes the established sound of the group.
From the minute you get into opening track “The Wylde Boys,” you can tell that Old Friends will definitely have a bit of a facelift. There’s this distortion/horn jam opening the track, and in fact, it probably detracts from the band’s meat and potatoes. But, once the killer drumming jumps in appropriately and those warm hypnotic guitar lines clean things out, you’re in heaven.
Once you get into the nitty-gritty of the album, fans of amazing power-pop will definitely find themselves enjoying repeated listens. “Echoes” has a great little stomping beat that supplies perfect opportunities for the guitar to wrap itself around your eardrums. These are the type of tracks fan of I Was a King were probably expecting from this record. But, as much as these moments clearly leave you in love with the band, there are some disarming elements, at least as far as construction of the songs go.
Take the single, “Daybreak,” which would be one of my favorite songs, period, if you could only remove some odd things that just don’t belong. First, you have that thirty second intro, seemingly belonging to a Beirut demo that made the trash. Second, that damn horn! Why on Earth does a splendid band with incredible hooks add the usage of a horn to flesh out their sound? It’s reminiscent of the time Cursive included horns to their post-punk sound; it doesn’t work. Some things are better left untouched. Perhaps the band found themselves stuck in a rut, battling to push themselves in a new direction, but this might not have been the best direction one could go.
Excitingly, there are some new touches here that excite me, as a long time fan. “Snow Song” begins with some acoustic strumming, and Frode’s voice sounding as pristine as it does in the live setting. It’s not straight-ahead power-pop, and it doesn’t have to be in order for I Was a King to pull it off. This is something I probably wish the band realized more. “Old Friends,” similarly has this great little bit of swing to it, and this cool, breeze-like vocal that accompanies the entire track. It’s a great closer, and a great piece of songwriting.
Oddly, Old Friends is still a winning record. There are a few miscues here and there, but even those odd spots don’t do enough to make you forget that the combination of melody and shredding guitars never sounded as perfectly as it does here. And the drumming, the drumming is phenomenal. I Was a King might have pushed themselves for this new record, and while I may not whole-heartedly agree with every step, I can appreciate spreading out into new territory. As long as they can still write those power-pop hooks that win any reasonable listener over, they’ll continue to progress, and continue to make me a fan, day after day.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/I-Was-A-King-Daybreak.mp3]
Download: I Was A King – Daybreak [MP3]
The time is almost upon us for the great return of I Was a King. Their new album, Old Friends, is heading your way January 25th, and while we’ve previewed some tracks, this is one of the standouts from the record, though I admittedly love it all. It’s got a little bit more exploration than their traditional power-pop, using horns to build the wall of sound behind their sugary coating. Like many of the songs on this album, it gets right to the point, hitting you over the head with pop simplicity at its best. This band definitely deserves your adoration, so go ahead an revisit their last self-titled album, then jam to this track, that way you’ll be ready to get blown away come the end of January.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1-06-Someone-is-Waiting.mp3]
Download: I Was a King – Someone is Waiting [MP3]
Over a year ago I raved about the debut album from I Was a King. It was everything that I like my power-pop to be, including a little bit of fuzz in the sound. Now, word has gotten out (via theGum) that the group will be releasing a new record in August, titled Old Friends. This is their latest single, and while I still feel the power-pop undertones, they seem to have thrown an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach into this new work. You’ll see what I mean when you hear the track, but don’t judge the band on this alone, as they’re sure to have more great tunes up their sleeve. Personally, I can’t wait.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/I-Was-A-King-Daybreak.mp3]
Download: I Was A King – Daybreak [MP3]
Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy. You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams. We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box. Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored. That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more