I Was a King – You Love It Here

Rating: ★★★★½

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]

 

New Electro-pop From Machine Birds

Here’s a new synth heavy pop number called “If I” coming your way from Norwegian duo Machine Birds. It’s definitely not something I’d usually go for, and the Nintendo freak out in the middle is a bit much, but something about it is hitting home with me today.  The vocals play nicely off the ear pleasing beats in the background and create this nice meld of vocal with synth.  The duo have a new EP entitled Save Yourself coming out in the U.S. on September 24th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/machine-birds-if-i.mp3]

Download: Machine Birds – If I [MP3]

New Gem from I Was A King

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.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/59375150″ params=”auto_play=false&show_artwork=false&color=ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

New Spastic Rock From Ungdomskulen

I’m not exactly sure why this new jam “Askefast” from Norwegian group Ungdomskulen is really perking up my ear drums, but it surely has me paying attention.  It’s a little rough around the edges upon first listen, and I’m sure you see what I mean, yet it seems to grow on me after each spin.  You can almost hear some Mastadon in there mixed with maybe some Ice Choir and Portugal. The Man.  Anyway you want to call it,  the band surely shows a lot of talent.  On September 25th, the band will release their 4th studio album Secrecy worldwide.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/01-Askefast.mp3]

Download: Ungdomskulen – Askefast [MP3]

New Indie Pop from Making Marks

I used to love this band called My Little Pony, but now the band is down a member and going by a new name, Making Marks.  Luckily, the jangling guitars and the hooks I adored are still present in the reincarnation of the group, so indie pop fans can rest with a smile.  The new line-up will be releasing their Ticket Machine 7″ on Fika Recordings this coming October, with plans for a full length to follow in the Spring of 13′. If you like your pop with a bit of bounce and a little grin, then you’ll love this new jam.  Enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/01-Hard-To-Be-Good.mp3]

Download:Making Marks – Hard To Be Good [MP3]

Power Pop from I Was a King

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]

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