The second album from one-time Kings of Convenience frontman Erelend Oye demonstrates a shift away from the polished pop hooks and wistful folkiness of Dreams. However the band's ability to base tracks around a simple and catchy riff or synth line remains despite this album veering more towards the potentially dangerous territory of becoming a 'dance' album and therefore, unless a genuine classic, a short-lived and eventually grating work. Oye clearly felt that to go down the more folky/acoustic path would be to take a step backwards towards his Kings of Convenience days, so in a way, this is a natural, if somewhat brave progression - and to some extent a welcome one. The man is a huge talent, a house producer and DJ (check out his fantastic DJ Kicks compitlation), phenomenal musician and great vocalist - and these all come to the fore on Rules.
Oye's voice and lyrics retain the fragility of which we're accustomed yet a more highly-produced and electronic path has been chosen. This is demonstrated by 'Intentions' - a lilting beat and simple synths provide an almost reggae-like feel, the lyrics perhaps hinting at a desire to move away from the traditional Scandinavian pop sound?! The eagerness to reinforce this new direction by using early house synths, particularly on 'Keep a Secret', 'Courage' and 'Timebomb', lends a dancey feeling, however their repetition hints at a lack of depth,and 'Courage' particularly suffers from a lack of direction, sitting in a limbo between guitar pop and peak-time house.
The more down-tempo tracks 'Rollercoaster Ride', 'Promise Less or Do More' and 'Gravity' provide a welcome respite but first and foremost this is an album that has been made with the intention of getting you up and dancing. Indeed, if you've been lucky enough to see them live this album is much easier to appreciate (they tend to 'mix' their tracks live). Rules has some fantastic tracks with warm basslines, nostalgic lyrics and the archetypal catchiness we've come to expect ('Dead End', 'Island' and '1517') that you just can't help tapping your feet to.
All in all, Rules is a good if not great album, I'd give it 3.5 stars if possible. The band have demonstrated their ability to produce incredibly catchy pop riffs and Rules exemplifies that, yet the album's lack of depth and occasional repetition can become tiring....but then so can dancing I suppose.