Of the many bands I became familiar with and wrote about in 2017, few meant more to me than the Boston art-rock/prog rock/whatever you want to call it collective Bent Knee. I’ve written about them several times this year, including a lengthy interview and profile of the band with frontwoman Courtney Swain. Frankly, by the time we were ready to roll out our album of the year list (where they ranked #17) I didn’t think I would be writing about them again for a while. But they were stopping through Brooklyn again in December, this time with the always amazing prog force that is Thank You Scientist, and I knew I had to come out and see them.
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as…
Our staff has shifted quite a bit since we posted our first aggregate AOTY list back in 2014. From refocusing our content to implementing The Brooklyn Plan™ to publishing our 2017 AOTY list, our roster of contributors has fluctuated substantially in terms of numbers and genre preferences. This ebb and flow…
Well, here we are. We made it, everyone
The beauty of good art-rock and pop is that it often presents the best of many musical worlds. For those of us who love a good vocal hook, catchy choruses, and a certain immediacy that pop offers but still crave some amount of edge and compositional twists and turns to keep things from getting too simplistic or repetitive, it’s the sonic equivalent of having our cake and eating it too. That mixture of familiar and the unexpected are the things that make acts like St. Vincent or Bent Knee at their best so utterly engrossing, addictive, and fun. And for those who are fans of either of those two aforementioned groups/artists, here’s another to add to your rotation who will surely not disappoint: The New Tarot.
I am at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the Boston-based art-rock band Bent Knee, both to interview them and to see them play live for my first time. I would love to say that I had been following the band for years and have already seen them a handful of times, but somehow their head-spinning mixture of heavy-hitting Faith No More energy, proggy theatrics, and off-kilter pop/rock experimentations somewhere between Björk and St. Vincent had escaped me until only just this year when a fellow Heavy Blogger introduced me to them through their 2014 sophomore LP Shiny Eyed Babies. Upon hearing tracks like “Way Too Long” and “Being Human” I was instantly hooked. The blend of jazz influences with the bite of heavy rock and metal, extensive incorporation of violin, and the powerful siren sounds of vocalist Courtney Swain were more than enough to grab my attention, and I quickly did all I could to catch myself up on their (at the time) 3 albums.
I’ve been meditating on why we even started Editors’ Picks; the concept itself seems odd. It’s a remnant of old journalistic structure, where the editor in a publication was this authoritative and prestigious figure, cloaked in years of experience and insight. That’s hardly the case anymore, in Heavy Blog and outside of it, as Internet structures break down the gates between individuals and editorial privileges. And that’s why it’s a good thing we have this column; it enables the unique voices which have broken through to the editorial body of the blog to speak outside of consensus.
Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the the day’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year end list. Enjoy!
Reviewers often use the word “depth” to describe releases they enjoy but the spatial metaphor is all wrong; a good album is not a single-vector experience, not (necessarily) a dive into unfathomable lows. Instead, great albums are often characterized by music which encompasses the listener. This allows such albums to suck their subject in, surrounding them with a vibe, a concept, a sound, an idea. In Bent Knee’s case it’s kinda-sorta all of the above, distilled through a personal perspective on life rather than a more solid theme or concept. Land Animal continues their tradition of tight grooves, impressive and dominating vocal performances, shrill violins, and hectic guitars all fed through an indie rock formula charged with just enough experimentation to keep things interesting. Like the other high points of their by now prolific career, Land Animal is an exercise in controlled chaos, in an all-encompassing vibe that simply screams Bent Knee.
Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post has staff writer Matt MacLennan face off against senior editor Nick Cusworth.