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]