We’ve focused a lot of attention on Bent Knee the past few years, with very good reason. After finding multiple avid fans on staff with their earlier work all the way through 2017’s Land Animal, they really broke through to capture the attention of a wide swath of our writers this year with their bombastic You Know What They Mean. That album managed to land at an impressive #8 on our album of the year list for this year. In spite of the multiple album reviews, write-ups, and interviews we’ve done with them however we had yet to request a guest list from them. Thankfully we’re pleased to say that changes today.
Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with the group and the diverse cast of individuals who comprise it, each band member’s favorite albums of the year are eclectic and often go against type for the kind of music they produce. Taken as a whole though things somehow make sense.
Ben Levin (guitar)
One of my favorites this year was Bon Iver’s i,i. I saw them perform the songs live and loved the concert, so the movie of that show plays in my head when I listen. When you see Bon Iver live, the vibe is group-oriented and it doesn’t feel like Justin Vernon’s solo project. Everyone is playing multiple instruments and singing hard! Just what I needed!
Chris Baum (violin)
The album that hit me hardest this year was Brittany Howard‘s Jaime. It’s a record that’s sparse when it needs to be, huge when called for, funky yet emotive, bizarre yet beautiful. It’s the perfect balance of head and body. The music has been lodged in my brain since its release, and each listen reveals some new hidden gem. Between her solo project and work with Alabama Shakes, Brittany is one of the finest voices in music today. We’re lucky to have her.
Courtney Swain (vocals, keys)
When it comes to music listening and new albums, I tend to live under a bit of rock. That being said, one album that I did really enjoy this year was Kim Gordon’s No Home Record. I was really drawn in after seeing the amazing music video for “Sketch Artist”. I also was very inspired by the Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lingua Ignota albums this year, too.
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums)
My favorite album this year was David Byrne‘s American Utopia Live On Broadway. While this album functions as a Broadway cast recording/live best-of album, I find the context of all these particular songs being plucked from all over Byrne’s long career in the order that they’re in to be very interesting. It manages to create something new out of songs that have already been released.
Jessica Kion (bass, vocals)
My favorite album this year was Big Thief’s Two Hands. Big Thief makes some of my all-time favorite songs and lyrically, I think they are the best out there. This album is so heartbreaking, covering vast expanses of topics that I’ve never seen dealt with so delicately. The song “Not” is now my favorite of theirs — I’ve never looked up multiple live performances of a song before and furthermore, I’ve never been so inspired by the fine details between performances. They are hitting it out of the park and I try to tell everyone I know to watch them fly.
Vince Welch (guitar, keys, sound design)
My favorite album that came out this year was Billie Eilish’s album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It’s really rare to see so much originality and craftsmanship in a huge pop album. I’m very excited to see where her career goes.