Following up their excellent Robyn Hitchcock/Norman Blake-produced 2012 release You Love It Here, Norwegian trio I Was a King return with more alluringly melodic indie pop on 2014's Isle of Yours. Self-produced this time out, the band is joined in the studio by veteran drummer Bill Rieflin (Ministry, Robyn Hitchcock) on a set of tunes that mix subtle experimentation and synth elements with classic, jangling guitar pop. Tracks like the opener "Graveyards" and the wonderful "Bygdøy 30" feature an easy blend of vocalists Frode Strømstad and Anne Lise Frøkedal, as their harmonies glide effortlessly over thoughtful, midtempo pop songs that recall the mid-'80s college rock heyday of bands like R.E.M. and the Feelies. Hints of '90s Elephant 6 Collective bands like the Essex Green and the Ladybug Transistor are also present in songs like "Redecorate" and "Procrastinate Song," with their punchy guitar riffs and stacked-harmony, power pop choruses. Surprisingly, one of the album's greatest highlights is the gorgeously rendered piano ballad "Pet Cemetery," sung by Anne Lise Frøkedal, whose performance here strikes the perfect balance between wistfulness and austerity. As enjoyable as the rest of the songs are, this track adds some welcome diversity to the collection, offering a break in the thread of nicely layered guitar pop. The only other track that really breaks from the album's overall form is "One of Us," a sleek, moody piece of Portishead-style late-night pop, also sung by Frøkedal. While a bit more variation wouldn't hurt, Isle of Yours is still a strong and charming effort by a smart and thoughtful band.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger