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Old Friends

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Album Review

Norway's I Was a King are folks who clearly and dearly love their indie rock, and their third album, Old Friends, finds them once again reeling off a wealth of influences over the course of a dozen tunes — everything from Teenage Fanclub's fuzzy but effervescent shoegaze pop on "Nightwalking" to a curious three-way fusion of Sonic Youth, Big Star's Third, and the Stooges' "L.A. Blues" on "Unreal." But while I Was a King doubtless spend a lot of time absorbing their record collections on their time off, one thing that sets them apart from their role models is a consistent and palpable joy in their music. It's not that hard to sound upbeat on a hooky pop tune like "Echoes" or the folky campfire number "Old Friends," but even when IWAK dip into the minor-key turnarounds of "Forgive and Forget" or the chaos of "Unreal," there's a sense of wonder and charm that's a big switch from the affected façade of many of the bands that have followed similar paths. I Was a King have grown to include nine musicians on Old Friends, and all of them make their presence felt here; while there's a concise little rock band at the core of these songs, the arrangements make room for keyboards, horns, strings, massed voices, and various oddball noises, and it speaks well of the songs that despite their clean lines and outward simplicity, they can bear the weight of the sometimes overstuffed, picaresque performances and still feel sweet, grounded, and affecting. Old Friends is an ambitious project, but I Was a King never let the scope of the record overwhelm the heart and soul that lurks at the center of the songs, and they manage the impressive feat of allowing the music to sound loose enough to feel human but tight enough to express their intelligence and sense of scale. Sounding grand and intimate at the same time isn't easy, but on Old Friends, I Was a King make it seem as simple and as pleasurable as walking barefoot through the grass on a warm day.


Formed: 2006 in Oslo, Norway

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Indie rock outfit I Was a King were formed in Oslo, Norway by singer/songwriter/guitarist Frode Strømstad in 2006. Taking a cue from stalwart '90s shoegaze acts like Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine, as well as lo-fi power pop icons Guided by Voices and psychedelic rock royalty the Creation and Strawberry Alarm Clock, Strømstad released I Was a King's debut, Losing Something Good for Something Better, in 2007. The album received accolades in its Scandinavian homeland as well as in the British...
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Old Friends, I Was a King
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