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Bent Knee - Say So CD (album) cover


Bent Knee


Crossover Prog

3.89 | 182 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Say So is the third album of Boston outfit Bent Knee and their first with Cuneiform Records. A single from the album, Leak Water, was put up on YouTube in the run up to the release of the album. I did expect something different from a band like Bent Knee on their new album, rather than more of the same. Even so, Leak Water confounded my wildest expectations. It has a Radiohead-like quality in that the way it starts really throws you off only to eventually resolve into a sublime melody that you wish would never stop playing. I bet it would blend seamlessly with the soundscapes of the new Radiohead album, Moon Shaped Pool, for it shares that album's expansive, majestic beauty while also keeping you on the edge all the time. NOT that it sounds like Radiohead; just the spirit of the composition resembles that band. If the entire album was Leak Water good, Say So would be one of the greatest masterpieces of our beloved genre. If only'

To be sure, the first three tracks are indeed outstanding. Black Tar Water evokes Idler Wheel-era Fiona Apple but, powered by Vince Welch's amazing production and an overall filled out sound with more instruments, attains heights that, I dare say, would be beyond the grasp of that incredible Apple album. Thing is, though, I didn't even contemplate a comparison with Apple until I had listened to it several times. Which was as many as it took to really penetrate and tame the track. As was the case with Leak Water as well as Counselor. Bent Knee's complexity is deceptive. This is not complexity of the several time sig changes or un-melody variety. Rather, it takes some time to place a finger on the track's pulse as they are not constructed in a particularly linear manner and 'lack' a straight up momentum. So they keep teasing you and force you to really concentrate on every note and repeat that a few times until you begin to make sense of what is happening.

It is this quality that hurts the longer Eve. At 9 minutes long, it does need to get going to hold the listener's attention. For me, it was too stop-start so I never really grooved to the track at all even if I found myself enjoying some passages in it. It's not a bad piece of music at all but feels a bit of a let down after the rollicking start the album gets off to. Bent Knee have yet to work out their approach to the long piece format and all of Courtney Swain's sincerity can't ultimately keep me hooked to the track.

If Eve lacks resolution and focus for a long track, the tracks that follow lack, surprisingly for this band, ambition. Things You Love is sort of like the slow pieces of Belew-King Crimson, kind of quaint and pleasant but doesn't really grab me. Nakami'.very jazzy which is nice but Swain is singing all staccato and bright. Just at the moment I am going through a phase of discovering the incredible Linda Eder so the contrast is too much. The staccato delivery takes away that which makes jazz vocals seductive in the first place. It may not have been the intention, perhaps. In which case though, we are left with something that starts off like smooth jazz and ends up in a crescendo of soaring chanting. A Bent Knee trademark but in this case, there is not enough intensity in the preceding material to really get the crescendo to resonate. It's just there'and that's it.

What salvages Commercial is witty lyrics rather than the music. Hands Up is actually even more commercial but a well written commercial track and coupled with witty lyrics, evokes Siouxsie and the Banshees's Cities in Dust (though, sorry, not nearly as cool as that track).

Good Girl ensures that the album ends on a high note. Not as complex as the front loaded material but nevertheless a very interesting track with the distinct stamp of Bent Knee.

If the above reads like a disappointment, let's put it in perspective. It is only that from track four, the level of the album drops a bit and there is a regret of what could have been had the album been a more consistent affair. The positive is that Bent Knee seem to be truly finding their voice now and have shed their classic rock-isms from Shiny Eyed Babies. Indeed, after listening to Say So, you would be forgiven for finding Shiny Eyed Babies too retro in comparison.

Having found their sound, Bent Knee now need to exercise a little more discretion in terms of what ideas they put on the album. I know the old clich' about the composer putting the notes in there for a reason which we may not understand. But as a listener, I expect a cohesive experience and I can't say I got that from Say So. Instead, there was bountiful brilliance clustered in a few tracks and spread thin across the rest. I'll rate it a 4 as the quality doesn't drop to the mediocre even at its lows and at its highs, it is, I repeat myself, sublime.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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