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Bent Knee

Crossover Prog

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Bent Knee Say So album cover
3.89 | 182 ratings | 6 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Black Tar Water (3:29)
2. Leak Water (4:41)
3. Counselor (5:51)
4. EVE (9:12)
5. Interlude (0:49)
6. The Things You Love (6:12)
7. Nakami (5:20)
8. Commercial (3:44)
9. Hands Up (5:40)
10. Good Girl (6:43)

Total Time 51:41

Line-up / Musicians

- Courtney Swain / lead vocals, keyboards
- Ben Levin / guitar, backing vocals
- Chris Baum / violin, backing vocals
- Jessica Kion / bass, backing vocals
- Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth / drums
- Vince Welch / synths, sound design, producer & mixer

- Andy Bergman / alto saxophone, clarinet
- Sam Morrison / baritone saxophone
- Bryan Murphy / trumpet
- Geni Skendo / flute, shakuhachi
- Geoff Nielsen / trombone
- Nathan Cohen / violin
- Rebecca Hallowell / viola
- Keith Dickerhofe / cello
- Ben Swartz / cello
- Alessandra Cugno, Andrew Humphries, Anil Prasad, Celine Ferro, Clint Degan, Curtis Hartshorn, Geni Skendo, James Willetts, Jeri Schibelli, Jessie Vitale, Josh Golberg, Kelsey Devlin, Leilani Roser, Leo Fonseca, Mary Freedlund, Max Freedlund, Michael Vitale, Mike Razo, Miriam Olken, Peter Danilchuk, Rebecca Hallowell, Roland Rotsitaille, Ryan Jackson, Sam Swan, Stephen Humphries, Susan Putnins, Tim Doherty, Toni Schibelli, Tori Bedford / group vocals (3,6)
- James Dineen / voice actor

Releases information

Artwork: Greg Bowen

CD Cuneiform Records ‎- RUNE417 (2016, US)

Digital album (2016)

Thanks to Nogbad_The_Bad for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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BENT KNEE Say So ratings distribution

(182 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

BENT KNEE Say So reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by rogerthat
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.

Review by LearsFool
5 stars Bent Knee... now here's a band that'll nail you to the wall. They start out from a simple idea - powerful, soul-esque vocals over prog - and have already perfected this niche with "Say So". Just take the opening double salvo of "Black Tar Water" and "Leak Water": practically blending into each other like a mini-suite, Courtney Swain lays down the law with her unrestrained singing as layers of her bandmates' instruments back her with brilliance. Generally, the album is an exercise in this combination of singing and instrumental styles, never letting up either pace or forcefulness. The band engage in a frenzy of complexity in time signatures and support of guest musicians through most of the record, a sometimes jazzy and always unique style leaning towards the front, wowing before allowing for a more concise ending in "Good Girl". Along the way, Swain is additionally backed by a massive chorus on "Counselor" and "The Things You Love" to exciting effect.

Lacking highlights only for its rock solid and consistent quality, Bent Knee's first masterpiece manages to create a beautiful, soulful soundscape that is also refreshingly blistering. A required listen and potential album of the year.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars As I feared, Bent Knee's previous album, 2014's Shiny Eyed Babies--a masterpiece for the ages and one of my all-time favorite albums (#3)--has made it difficult for any future Bent Knee efforts to compare much less exceed the standards they set previously.

1. "Black Water Tar" (3:29) a top three song from me and a real grower as one listens repeatedly. (9/10)

2. "Leak Water" (4:41) the first of three or four consecutive songs that use a rather annoying violin/guitar scrape/pluck to establish a stark soundscape as well as a straightforward metronomic time signature. The song is good, the lyric interesting, but Courtney and crew may have taken this one too far (length, that is.) (9/10)

3. "Counselor" (5:51) this song has the impact, intensity and compositional cleverness that I expected to come from Bent Knee's "next" project. All band members are working at their highest capacity, full potential, on this one. And the lyrical content is uncomfortably edgy-awkward--just what I expect from Ben and Courtney. Fresh and innovative. Awesome! (9/10)

4. "Eve" (9:12) just never gets up and going--or takes too long to do so. BK's first attempt at an epic is a disappointment. (8/10)

5. "Transition" (0:49) is an awesome Dave Fiuczynksi-like guitar exercise in Asian microtones.

6. "The Things You Love" (6:12) seems to have some structural foundation in what feels like Chinese or SE Asian (Cambodia?) melodies--which is, to me, very much its strength. The gentler side of Courtney's voice matched with the strength of the large chorale work is an awesome trick--though the sections in which Courtney sings in her delicate voice are perhaps a bit too long. (9/10)

7. "Nakami" (5:20) contains a story and melodic sense fitting for stage and screen. A very welcome change of pace and style. I love the Japanese instrumental and melodic choices that are foundational to the song's first three minutes, but I LOVE the shift that occurs at 3:15 to the song's end. Stupendous! (10/10)

8. "Commercial" (3:44) represents the title quite well. There are lots of rapid fire bytes and bits, micro-tones, and discordant, chaotic, disruptive, disturbing--things that are so inherent to the basic fabric of modern society. (8/10)

9. "Hands Up" (5:40) is lyrically quite clever yet musically quite straightforward and rather unexceptional (by Bent Knee standards. This song reminds me of the songs from their debut album--trying to do much but somehow just not hitting the mark, not synchronized or hitting on all cylinders). (8/10)

10. "Good Girl" (6:43) is a slow, grungy, methodical, and spacious song which highlights the amazing musical chemistry and sympathy between Bent Knee co-founders, guitarist BEN Levin and vocalist CourTNEY Swain--and the work in the mixing room by VINCE WELCH is nothing short of astounding. This band is so talented! (9/10)

Some of my general impressions after listening to these songs over the past few weeks are conjuring up some of the (few) negative comments I've read by reviewers of Bent Knee's previous work, particularly the reference to the dynamic rollercoaster that the band subjects the listener to: it is sometimes difficult to stay with the band with such frequent and sudden vacillations between extreme loud and extreme soft; it requires a listener to be a) myopically focused on the music (to no other distraction) and b) incredibly tolerant of such dynamism. Whereas with Shiny Eyed Babies it is almost natural and joyful to remain so focused, with this album it is . . . more work; the journey that Shiny Eyed Babies took me on was so engaging, so exciting, so energizing, emotional, and authentically personal that it has never been an issue to tune in, give my full attention, and stick with it. I want to. I can't help myself. From start to finish. This album offers no such pull, no consistent bond of affection and awe--well, maybe some awe, but not the excitement and empathic connection.

Awesome album cover and design!

Later addendum (7/31016): It's been a couple months now that I've spent with Say So. My appreciation and enjoyment of all of the songs have increased however I will not change any of my ratings for I am of the same opinion as to their place among the scale. This album, while polished and intricately detailed in its construction, is not the shocking, bare-bones masterpiece that Shiny Eyed Babies was.

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team
5 stars Bent Knee are from Boston so I've had the distinct pleasure of seeing them numerous times over the last two years. Having made a significant step forward from their debut to Shiny Eyed Babies there was a distinct worry that this third album may suffer from comparison to what was one of my favorite albums of 2014. Fortunately that is not the case. I heard most of the the material on Say So performed live before the release and while excellent live it has come on leaps and bounds when executed in the studio. This is again collection of wonky edgy pop with a heavy emphasis on Courtney Swain's vocals which have a dynamic range a strength that continue to surprise and most remind me of Moorea Dickason of MoeTar. The beauty of Bent Knee is that all the music is group compositions and give room to all the instruments without feeling forced. It would be easy to make the band a showcase for Courtney's vocals & Ben Levin's manic guitar work but the rhythm section of Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums) & Jessica Kion (bass) are tight and dynamic adding twists and turns throughout. The violin of Chris Baum is a subtler contributor but vital to the overall sound. The production from Vince Welch gives a real depth and vigor to the sound while maintaining clarity. A great signing to the Cuneiform label and a strong candidate for album of the year.
Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars This might have been the most anticipated album for me in 2016. I remember putting it on for the first time and listening, just hoping I wouldn't be disappointed, and the first two tracks certainly impressed me but it was very much hit and miss after that. This has to be the most bombastic band out there these days, and when your "over the top" like that your going to be awesome to see live no doubt. Courtney's vocals that span every emotion you could think of and Ben's instrumental work and composing skills will make this a band to be reckoned with for many, many years. I just found this latest album "Say So" to be in the same style as the great "Shiny-Eyed Babies" including the subject matter(relationships from a woman's perspective) only it really does pale when compared to an album that I consider to be a top three for 2014. They do have a lot of ideas here so yes there's lots here that impressed me but also lots that left me unfulfilled to say the least. It's rated right now around number 50 on the Gnosis site which I would say is about right.

"Black Tar Water" really starts things off well as we get keys and reserved vocals to start. I do like those vocal melodies that Courtney uses a lot more of on this album. Drums after a minute as she starts to sing words again. More vocal melodies then a calm before it starts to build, even the vocals are more passionate. Another calm later with whispers ends it. "Leak Water" is another highlight and it opens with a guitar line that is joined by vocals then a catchy beat. A calm 2 minutes in as sparse keys, guitar and vocals come and go until it kicks in hard. It settles back and check out the emotion after 3 1/2 minutes. Great section!

"Counselor" is a disappointment. I'm just not into her vocal style although I get why she's singing that way considering the subject matter. Atmosphere to start as violin, piano and guitar join in as it builds until the vocals arrive. Here comes the bombast both vocally and instrumentally. There's even a CARDIACS-like section after 2 1/2 minutes. A cheeky tune but I'm not into it. "Eve" is the longest track at over 9 minutes. It also opens with a guitar line like an earlier track as vocals and more join in. I like how the lyrics are accompanied with dissonant sounds instrumentally. A massive drop of sound before 2 minutes that shakes the soundscape, like a bomb going off. A calm with reserved vocals follows then it picks up later before 4 minutes with vocals. Not into this then more power arrives around 5 minutes as we get insanity for a minute as she starts singing again amid the dissonance and atmosphere.

"Interlude" is less than a minute of atmosphere and guitar expressions. "The Things You Love" features heavy sounds as multi-vocal melodies join in. A calm follows as reserved vocals and keys take over, mellow. Sparse keys, violin and percussion take over then back to the relaxed vocals and sound. Some vocal melodies later and they will build in sound to the end, not a fan. "Nakami" opens with laid back piano then vocals before a minute, guitar too. I like the vocals here. The strings become prominent. It does get fuller and even more so after 3 1/2 minutes with the focus on the vocals. Love the deranged ending.

"Commercial" has a pretty bad multi-vocal intro before a challenging instrumental section takes over then the vocals kick in with passion. It's kind of funny before 3 minutes with the violin and sound. I love the haunting ending, more please. "Hands Up" might go down as the worse so called Prog song that I've heard in 2016. Really? Can anyone tell me that this is not pure [&*!#]? So commercial and vocal driven. Losing credibility here. "Good Girl" ends the album and it's somewhat dark and slow moving to start with guitar as reserved vocals join in. Strings before 3 minutes then it turns louder after 5 minutes with more depth as the vocals continue. It's spacey late to end it.

Man there are a ton of guests helping out, I counted close to 40 who add vocals, horns and strings throughout this album. Huge disappointment for me but I know I'm just one of many who feel let down here. I'll stick to the hair- raising "Shiny-Eyed Babies" but will for sure keep tabs on this talented band.

Latest members reviews

4 stars What a fine record this is. Bent Knee had somehow flown under my radar for the past couple years, but I'd seen their name pop up here and there but I never gave much thought to checking them out until a friend posted "Counselor" on Facebook. I immediately ordered this album, no hesitation. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1594376) | Posted by jazz2896 | Wednesday, August 3, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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