Twelve years are a long time. But anyone who feared an overproduced, complex album or even a complete break with the Norwegian duo’s style can breathe a sigh of relief. Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye have remained true to themselves and their music. “Peace or Love” sounds clear and reduced, with sophisticated harmony vocals, light and airy guitar tones oscillating between classic folk, airy bossa nova and indie pop at the centre, and bittersweet lyrics that deal with life, love and growing older. So the band’s comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel and early Belle and Sebastian still fit.
However, the two musicians don’t want to talk about a comeback. “It seems like a comeback, of course, but it doesn’t feel like a comeback,” says Eirik. “It’s been a very slow-burning project. We’ve fooled ourselves many times into thinking that now we know how to make records but the moment we’re in the studio we realise that recordings are really about capturing magic. It’s very, very hard to make something sound simple.”
As light and spontaneous as the new songs sound, the duo has been working on them for a long time. Almost all the songs on the album were already written in 2016. Then followed endless recording sessions in Sicily, Norway, Chile and Berlin to achieve the desired emotionality and lightness of the recordings. Five times (!) the two musicians recorded the album until they were satisfied with the result.
At the centre of their sound are still two voices and two acoustic guitars. However, for the sparsely instrumented heartbreaker “Love Is a Lonely Thing” and the bossa nova cabinet piece “Catholic Country”, co-written with the Staves, Eirik and Erlend invited the wonderful Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist to the studio, who gives the band’s sound a fresh direction. Both songs are highlights of the album. “Angel” is another Bossa Nova driven standout track of “Peace or Love”. The Brazilian lightness suits the duo and sometimes reminds a little of the great Michael Franks.
“Ask for Help”, a wonderfully tender hymn to interdependence, seems to sum up Eirik and Erlend’s unusual, unbreakable bond in their fourth decade: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you win/ To know you couldn’t have gotten there on your own?/ Wouldn’t it be nice if you lose/ To have your own choir to sing the blues with you?” Peace may be hard to find but you can hear the love.
Photo: Salvo Alibrio