I Was A King – Old Friends (Sounds Familyre Records)

The recording of Old Friends brought this Norwegian power-pop outfit to the decidedly un-rock town of Clarksboro, New Jersey where they christened Sounds Familyre Records label head Daniel Smith’s new recording studio. To make things even weirder for themselves, they also collaborated with performers from the avant-classical, indie-rock, free-jazz and electronica communities without letting them hear any of the recordings prior to laying down their parts. All of these recording techniques are fine and dandy, but what really matters is if they produce an end-product worth listening to. The band mostly do fine on that end, emerging from the studio chaos with a solid half-hour of music that’s respectful to the pillars of power-pop but with an added experimental edge that makes it more than a workmanlike genre exercise. “Learning To Fly” and “Forgive and Forget” would sound at home on any Teenage Fanclub or Sloan fan’s play-list, but there’s ample room for improvement too. The recording is a little thin and some of the songs (like “Unreal” and “Here To Stay”) would benefit from more time spent fine-tuning the arrangements to rescue the melodies from the band’s discordant playing, which they often feel trapped behind.