Ever since its 2007 debut, I Was A King has been heralded as a producer of jovial, carefree power pop. Old Friends, the Norwegian duo’s third album, is a testament to this with its wondrous brass orchestration and folksy vocals. Frontman Frode Strømstad has a way of incorporating melodies from the ’60s and ’90s indie pop to produce something that sounds both vintage and experimental. Compared to the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr., I Was A King has a little of the Shins and Sufjan Stevens in its music as well. That could partly be due to the fact that the very man himself, Mr. Stevens, collaborated with I Was A King in previous projects.
Hailing from Egersund, Norway, it’s curious how I Was A King chose New Jersey to record its third album. Recording in Daniel Smith’s Familyre Studios in Clarksboro, NJ, the whole process took less than a week. As a result, Old Friends is a wonderfully put together album that is reminiscent of I Was A King’s old work, but features some unexpected experimentation. Spanning from 15 second “Kontari” to appropriately drawn out “Learning To Fly,” I Was A King is skilled in the art of hypnotism. As you listen to Old Friends, you can’t help but get lost in its guitar rhythms and upbeat, pristine vocals. Showing the listener just that, “The Wylde Boys” showcases the band’s talent in mixing hazy, thumping guitar with bouncy pop melodies. Another stellar track on Old Friends, “Here To Stay” offers a more mellow approach to the duo’s music and seems to teeter on the edge of folk pop. In terms of instruments, I Was A King basically uses everything from violins to banjos to trombones. An album that uses so much in so little time, Old Friends has everything to offer.