Bent Knee was founded in 2009 between Ben Levin and Courtney Swain as a mashup of the members names: Ben and (Cour)tney. They’ve danced between more industrial rock at their founding to hyper-pop inspired, avant-garde rock as of their most recent album. Here, though, I want to discuss their most popular album, “Land Animal”. I believe this to be the greatest amalgamation of the band’s talents, especially lead singer Swain.
Musical Versatility in Bent Knee’s Hands
Bent Knee has a knack for progression throughout the runtime of their songs, which is amplified by the average 5:03 minute length of tracks on this album. Starting with lead track “Terror Bird”, the song starts with some simple, low-key drumming and rhythm guitar led by Swain’s voice. Eventually, the song picks up as a heavy, overdriven electric guitar drowns out Swain’s beautifully quivering falsetto.
Likewise, “These Hands” highlights the musical storytelling Bent Knee is capable of. The song never repeats itself in structure, and each new phase feels fresh and invigorating. The bridge towards the end of the song, especially, seems to throw guitars and drums all around your ears as it goes on, creating an incredibly dynamic soundscape.
The Haunting Holiness of Bent Knee’s Voice
“Holy Ghost” is probably where Swain gets to show off her vocal range best on the album. Her loud, nasally singing on the chorus feels straight out of 90s grunge bands like Hole. She perfectly encapsulates a work-induced loneliness that breaks her. Even her quiet singing on the bridge sounds like shes about to have a mental breakdown, especially with how her voice echoes with delay.
These qualities persist through the album, of course, but they take center stage on “Holy Ghost”. Despite their often heavy subject material, Bent Knee’s music also becomes incredibly cathartic to sing along to because of these qualities. I’ve actually found listening to “Land Animal” in my car, screaming choruses to no one in particular, to be a great form of emotional relief.
I am shrinking in the laptop lightLyrics from “Holy Ghost” by Bent Knee
Messages and blessings from each part of my mind
When I’m writing fiction I can shriek in real life
Again, I highly recommend “Land Animal”, and the rest of Bent Knee’s work for that matter. If you’re listening to this album for the first time, I suggest giving it your full attention, letting the guitars wash over you and the lyrics penetrate you.
— DJ Cashew