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Bent Knee - You Know What They Mean CD (album) cover


Bent Knee


Crossover Prog

3.82 | 162 ratings

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5 stars Bent Knee is a crossover prog band from Boston, Mass. Formed in 2009. The band was original formed by Courtney Swain (lead vocals, keyboards), Vivian Welch (sound design, producer and mixer) and Ben Levin (guitar, backing vocals). After their first album, they brought in more musicians and the line-up has remained the same since then; Chris Baum (violin), Jessica Kion (bass, backing vocals), and Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums). Their fifth full length studio album is called "You Know What They Mean", consisting of 13 tracks and a run time of 52 minutes. None of the tracks exceed the 6 minute mark. The album cover looks like crinkled aluiminim foil with various psychedelic colors reflecting off of it, all multi-faceted, bright and shiny, yet a bit chaotic, and that is how the music sounds.

"Lansing" starts off the album with a short introductory piece with a feedback noise and some chatter, it sounds like some concert field recording. "Bone Rage" suddenly smacks you on the side of the head with a noisy beginning, but soon moves into a hard and heavy guitar riff and Courtney's wild vocals. Some solid music follows, with a start/stop descending chordal riff while the vocals swings every which way. The staccato notes of the guitar end up melting together and we enter a loud and chaotic section that suddenly ends with voice and minimal music, which soon jumps right back to a loud ending. "Give Us the Gold" is much softer at the start, with Courtney singing with a only a throbbing percussion and a clicking cymbal. As she sings along in until the band suddenly kicks in and give the track a solid direction. The music ventures from several styles, but you can pick out a melody with verses and chorus among all of this. The great thing is, nothing really settles into any kind of repetitive groove, but pretty much swings around intentionally avoiding any repetition.

"Hold Me In" begins with quite a catchy and rapid drum beat and guitar interplay which eventually brings the vocals in. Again, just as you think the music is going to settle in to something, it wipes out the staccato beginning and turns it into something lush and textural. Courtney's voice swoops and swirls everywhere, and it's quite a sensation, especially with the use of cool effects that include a lot of echo and such. It all culminates in quite an emotional delivery in the vocals, which continue to move about freely in her amazing range. "Egg Replacer" begins minimal and kind of sneaky, but be careful, because it will get intense at times with some crazy outbursts with the entire band. "Cradle of Rocks" is a heavy, more straightforward rocker with a fast and exciting beat. This one seems to be quite a bit more accessible and would be a good single. Since it's more straightforward, it isn't the best example of their music, but it is still an attention getter that could be more radio-friendly, and it still has a good amount of power behind it.

"Lovell" is a bit strange with thick and heavy washes of guitar and synth all blended together. Noisy, but short with some band chatter at the end. "Lovemenot" goes hard, heavy and actually quite sludgy. Courtney's vocals and some string effects lighten it up a bit for a while, but when the full power comes in, it's surprisingly thick and heavy, almost even extreme. As with the other tracks, dynamics are very important, but the noisy sections are pushed to the extreme. "Bird Song" takes off from the last track and the sudden turn to minimalism. The vocals come in on the sparse keys, and there is some interesting vocal layering going on here, but it is quite beautiful and soft. Wow, what a contrast between those tracks, and I love it! "Catch Light" has a looped percussion, and starts off fairly standard, but suddenly becomes heavier when the synth and guitars come in. It's another catchy rhythm but with some outbursts of dissonant chords and a solid ending.

"Garbage Shark" has a dark and ambient feel to it in the beginning, but soon works up to a heavier tone with tortured guitars and a sweetly squealing violin. There are sections with dissonant tension that build and then release, but the track remains dark and eerie throughout. At 4 minutes, ?. Wow happens. A sudden cinematic texture takes over as all the while, vocals continue to keep up with the texture changes. "Golden Hour" starts with long, sustained low synth chords, almost droning along, and then Courtney's echoing vocals come in almost heaven like, sounding like she is singing in a cathedral. What a sound. Well into the 2nd minute, ticking cymbals, tonal percussion and bass push it into a more standard melody, but it is still layered with great accompaniment, which continues to be as intriguing and interesting as the vocals. "It Happens" seems to end it all on a more positive notes, but as the song continues, weirdness creeps in more and more as it goes on. It does end up resolving itself, ending on a lush and atmospheric texture.

I think I have a new vocalist to add to my favorite female vocalists list. I would put her right there with the amazing vocal talent as Kate Bush, even though their styles are quite different, they do share one thing, their sound and styles are both breathtaking. It also helps that the musicianship and instrumentation on this is stellar, the production is great and the use of dynamics, dissonance and unique styles is all top-notch. This album is definitely another favorite for the year, and I am definitely going to put the band on the list of groups to explore. I love the fact that the music can easily fool you, thinking at times that you have something that is somewhat "normal" that suddenly and unpredictable becomes totally unhinged. The music is quirky, no doubt, but it is also extremely well done. I really enjoy this album, and it always seems like it goes by so fast because I enjoy it so much. It never gets stale or boring through it entire length. I really don't know who to compare it to, but to me, its what I always wanted Portishead to sound like, with more outbursts and a large dose of progressive exploration, dynamic and expressive singing and instrumental backup, where the noise and music are just as important as the singing. I really love this! 5 stars. Unhinged and unpredictable with an amazing vocalist.

TCat | 5/5 |


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