Bent Knee have really come a long way since arriving in the scene in 2009 when they were students at Boston's Berklee College of Music. And of course my introduction to hearing their music on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. It was announced last year in 2015 that they were signed to a new label with Cuneiform Records. And now finally in 2016, they have released their third album and follow up to Shiny Eyed Babies with the release of Say So. Here, Bent Knee take the boundaries of going forward to see what lies ahead and knowing what is the next logical step for them.
The lyrics deal with darker themes including personal demons, unwanted situations, and the difficulty of conquering them. It has a chilling atmosphere. Not to mention to carry both the Avant-Rock, Alternative Rock, and Avant-Pop approach. Courtney Swain’s vocals are still intense and powerful to follow in the footsteps of Laura Veirs, Tori Amos, and Regine Chassagne of the Arcade Fire.
The album itself, it’s spellbinding, eruptive, and hypnotic. Not to mention the seven highlights on here that will make you say “Wow!” and to take note. Leak Water starts with the guitars sounding like a ticking clock as if it's waiting for the alarms to go off at any second. With mid-tempo rhythms and textures by adding the colors with haunting sections before erupting the sounds of someone kicking the door down with a hardcore punch.
Counselor feels like something straight out of a collaboration between Tim Burton, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch as if all three of them had worked together by directing an episode of Twin Peaks. Lyrics dealing about meeting with a mental patient with a schizophrenic disorder as Courtney herself nails it down of portraying the character in the composition. It feels almost as if Bent Knee wrote a mini rock opera behind this song.
It portrays the patient as she is going through a good and insane vocal arrangement. With quirky vibes to transform into an insane Punk-Rock momentum. Gavin’s drums are thumping with a catchy twist as Ben Levine’s Guitar and Jessica Kion’s edgy Bass, sets it at the right level. There is some resemblance at the very end also of Linda Perry’s Knock Me Out with a nightmarish end.
The ticking clock continues with Eve for the first minute and 43 seconds before turning into a screeching and roaring powder keg as the instruments head towards total annihilation! And then it slowly heads back into the gentle momentum as the prisoners try to escape the hell they are in by dreaming as if they are taking control the sanatorium with a throttle into the styles of Sonic Youth and then moving back and realizing it’s a dream and knowing there’s no escape.
It is a compelling yet sad and emotional composition. Bent Knee give Ben Levine a chance to take center stage. With the short instrumental piece of Transition, he creates an approach to a misty cavernous ambient surrounding between Thurston Moore and David Gilmour before seguing into Nakami. Here, Courtney channels her tributes between Laura Veirs, Carole King, and Randy Newman.
With watery effects and symphonic chamber music heading upwards of alluring beauty. And now, this is where they return to the wackiness and back into a humor approach. On Commercial, Bent Knee take their homage to the essence of Frank Zappa, Mr. Bungle, and Italian RIO/Avant-Prog group, Loomings. They poke fun at the ads and infomericals with a bit of the styles of a fast-talk rap in the styles of Micro-Machines master, John Moschitta.
Good Girl is a ghostly and supernatural composition. It’s soon for me I hope, planning hopefully to be a live favorite one day and having an eerie sinister yet lullaby-sque ending. Both Courtney and Jessica sends chills down through the spine as if they’re right behind you of what she’s going through and there at times these Dalek vocals coming in while Chris Baum’s violin sends the emotional tone of what is to be and what is to come.
Bent Knee’s Say So is for me, not just a groundbreaking album, but a mysterious, deep, dark, and overwhelming achievement they have unleashed this year in 2016 on their label debut with Cuneiform Records. They have the gothic, the alternative, and tragic sides of their lyrical boundaries from what they have brought to the table with its power and electrical voltage that comes with it. With the sinister twists and turns, they will give you a big jump from the beginning to the very end.