Week 19: “Live Long” by Kings of Convenience

Admit it. Part of you is fascinated by Scandinavia. I’m not sure how it happened; maybe there was a Swedish exchange student at your high school, or maybe your favourite beer comes from there, or maybe you just always wished your name had a “Ø” in it. But at some point in your life you looked at a map, saw that quiet corner of northern Europe sitting there, and thought, “I like that.”

Well, you were right. Among its many contributions to the world, including Stieg Larsson, the Celsius thermometer, and blonde people, Scandinavia has given us the wonderful folk band Kings of Convenience. First of all, you’ve gotta love the name. It conjures up images of robed nobility walking into a little corner store and declaring a monopoly on all its contents.

But beyond the first-rate name, this Nordic duo also writes great music. Writing mostly in English (isn’t it amazing how Scandinavians almost always have a better command of English than English people do?) they put together lovely 3-minute nuggets that are an ideal compliment for a fall afternoon. “Live Long” is a perfect example.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The horn. Along with the finger-picked guitar above which it plays, the horn line is so reminiscent of “The Girl From Ipanema” that I can’t help but think it’s on purpose. But the slightly uneasy chromatic nature of the guitar part makes it more interesting and, no offense to Antonio Jobim, less cheesy.

2. The muted piano. Just before the 1-minute mark, a nice little plinky noise starts in the background. At first I thought it was harmonics played on a guitar, but if you listen carefully on headphones it turns out to be a piano with the strings muted. It’s a great technique, and it brings to mind musical drops of rain.

3. Laid-back vocals. As well as convenience, these guys are also Kings Of Singing Ridiculously Softly. At times barely above a whisper, the style works for them. By the time you get to the great hummed harmonies at the end, you’ll be lulled into a happy Scandinavian nap.

Recommended listening activity:

Ordering coffee with an accent to make the barista think you’re foreign and mysterious.

Buy it here.