REVIEW: Say yes to Bent Knee’s ‘Say So’

bent knee review

Artist: Bent Knee
Album: Say So
Label: Cuneiform Records
Genre: Orchestral Avant-Pop

What’s in a name? That’s one of the age old questions, isn’t it? In music, a name can reflect many things; the overall aesthetic of an artist/group, a reference to a concept, or even just a hint towards a style or genre. I mean, when you hear the name Enya, your first thought isn’t Swedish death metal. There are those, of course, who ironically name their projects just to throw us off the scent. Looking at you, Marianas Trench.

Bent Knee. Reminiscent of the similarly named Neck Deep? Not even close.

As an avant-pop-rock sextet, Bent Knee have released their fourth full-length album, Say So, a ten-track, ethereal work of art. Following 2014’s otherworldly Shiny Eyed Babies, Say So brings a similar feel while simultaneously reining things in in all the right places. Here, we don’t find quite as many polyrhythms between singer/keyboardist Courtney Swain and guitarist Ben Levin, but much more melody-driven pieces, showcasing Swain’s soaring vocals and the group’s amazing sense of structure and feel.

“EVE,” the fourth track on the release, is a 9-minute-long journey through subtle orchestral passages, jarring, heavy chords, and droning guitar loops. The Eastern-influenced “Nakami” begins as a ballad and evolves to become an odd-pop stomper as the rhythm picks up and the vocals chant, “No no ki, ko no mi ki no Nakami!” The album then continues to change gears with the satirical heavy-hitter “Commercial” and the hook-laden “Hands Up.”

Lyrically, Swain merges emotion with detailed, modern imagery. In “Hands Up,” a strained relationship is lamented as she croons, “I seem so pathetic, darling, check my phone constantly. Texts loop like a mantra through me, buzzing blasts of dopamine.” Then there’s the nightmare descriptions in “Leak Water”: “Tentacles crawl through your curls. I spin around ’til I’m nauseous. My child teeth fall through my lips. The new ones grow in sharp…I try to speak, but I only leak water.”

If you’re a fan of Florence + The Machine, Kimbra, or Alanis Morissette and wonder what they’d sound like with The Dear Hunter-meets-The Sound of Animals Fighting type of instrumentals, then look no further. And remember, don’t judge a book by its cover. We might think we can guess what someone would sound like based on their name, but your next favorite metal band could very well be called Rainbow Connection. So, swallow some perspective and, as Steven Tyler once put it, just push play.

SCORE: 9/10

Say So can be purchased on Bandcamp and you can catch the band live as they continue their tour across the U.S. and Canada this June.

6/2 – Portland, ME @ Empire
6/4 – New Haven, CT @ Lyric Hall
6/5 – Pawtucket, RI @ The News Cafe
6/9 – New York, NY @ The Bowery Electric
6/11 – Kalamazoo, MI @ Louie’s Backroom
6/12 – Dayton, OH @ Jimmies Ladder 11
6/13 – Kansas City, MO @ miniBar
6/16 – San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room
6/17 – San Jose, CA @ SLG Art Boutiki & Comic Art Gallery
6/18 – Eugene, OR @ The Black Forest
6/21 – Port Angeles, WA @ Coo Coo’s Nest
6/22 – Nanaimo, BC @ The Vault
6/24 – Mayne Island, BC @ Campbell Bay Music Festival

Kacy Raby
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