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BENT KNEE

Crossover Prog • United States


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Bent Knee biography
Formed in 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The band was formed at Boston's Berklee College of Music by Courtney SWAIN (Vocals), Ben LEVIN (Guitar) and Vince WELCH (Production and Sound Design) out of a love of the epic and grand and has influences of Psych, Baroque Pop and Avant-Jazz.

Their eponymous debut CD was released in 2011 and is mostly a study of Courtney SWAIN's sultry voice, which sounds like an angry Shirley Manson (GARBAGE), fighting for attention from Ben LEVIN's occasionally crunchy and frequently sporadic guitar.

Their second album, 'Shiny Eyed Babies', released in 2014 was more of a full band effort with the addition of, Chris BAUM (Violin), Jessica KION (Bass) and Gavin WALLACE-AILSWORTH (Drums) and has a more diverse feel to it with jazzier moments, alternating with the starker sound of the first album.

Fans of Tori AMOS may enjoy BENT KNEE as would fans of distinctive female driven, stark music.

Biography provided by Roland113 (Edited by Quinino)

Bent Knee official website

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Land AnimalLand Animal
Import
Imports 2017
Vinyl$20.19
$26.65 (used)
Say SoSay So
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Audio CD$12.45
$8.99 (used)
Bent KneeBent Knee
Bent Knee
Audio CD$16.99
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CD Baby 2014
Audio CD$11.35
$3.38 (used)
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BENT KNEE discography


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BENT KNEE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 15 ratings
Bent Knee
2011
4.16 | 149 ratings
Shiny Eyed Babies
2014
3.89 | 133 ratings
Say So
2016
4.23 | 41 ratings
Land Animal
2017

BENT KNEE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 4 ratings
Live and Nearly Unplugged
2014

BENT KNEE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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BENT KNEE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

BENT KNEE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Land Animal by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.23 | 41 ratings

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Land Animal
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

5 stars Boston-based many-dimensional progressive rockers BENT KNEE are back with their fourth album. This one feels less hurried and far more mature than their previous effort, 2016's Say So. This is a band that is not only clicking on all cylinders, it is composing and playing at such a high level that it often takes many listens to hear all of the band member's contributions. That is one reason why this June release only receives my review posting in November.

1. "Terror Bird" (4:11) Great opening song! Opens with a weave of staccato sounds coming from many instruments-- a feature which turns out to be the foundation for all but the choruses when chords and volumes amp up. The use of strings in support in the second section and choruses is a nice effect. Courtney's voice is as dynamic and under- the-skin insistent as ever. Awesome! (9/10)

2. "Hole" (3:21) quirky and industrial, combining some 80s and 90s sound styles with an almost Oriental melodic palette. The music could even befit a soundtrack to a Japanese animation. But, once again, the lead vocal brings us back to Kansas. (or is it Oz?) Another instance where I am dumbfounded and astounded at this band's creative expression. (8.5/10)

3. "Holy Ghost" (5:33) amazing song construction, vocal, and drumming. This band is so tight! (9/10)

4. "Insides In" (6:29) a much more sedate and smooth opening feels and sounds good for a change. Courtney opens with a bluesy/torch song vocal styling--carrying it forward into the chorus--before piano and strings bridge us back to the A section. Strings, piano, and drum incidentals are so marvelous! Such a polished, carefully planned and executed song. This band is so at their peak! I would love to hear more music like this from them. The second half of the song has us waiting suspensefully before a series of dramatically-spaced and wonderfully effective monster hits from guitar, bass and drum bring us fully into the cinematic prog world--which only continues as the music ramps up to a kind of crescendo of sustained tension before collapsing into odd animal-industrial sounds. (10/10)

5. "These Hands" (5:36) opens as if bleeding over from the previous song but then deftly, easily, switches into an entirely different kind of music and song. Pizzicato strings and jazz percussion support Courtney's jazzy piano and vocal. Truly a stunning song of highly complex progressive rock music. (10/10)

6. "Land Animal" (5:13) opens with a very theatric, cinematic pomposity. Vocal chorus joins in the second round, then things quiet down for the entrance of the lead vocal. The quiet spacey "sending out a message" section in the third and fourth minutes is my favorite part. Then a strings-supported true electric lead guitar solo! (A rare thing for this band!) Nice section. (9/10)

7. "Time Deer" (4:19) a fairly straightforward rock start becomes complicated by Courtney's vocal, and the slightly off-center syncopation of the guitars, bass, strings and drums. Interesting. Courtney's vocals are so powerful that I fear that we come to take them for granted: she is always amazing and, I believe, inimitable (and this despite my deafness to lyrics and their meanings). (8.5/10)

8. "Belly Side Up" (4:15) such a different song--could come from the 1940s or 50s with its poppy effects, sharp orchestration, "old" guitar sound, and, of course, "school girl" background vocal choir. (8/10)

9. "The Well" (5:30) a song that, unfortunately, feels like we've heard it before ("Holy Ghost" and "These Hands"). Luckily, I love the sassy-seductress vocal. (A little Piaf?) The second half with its interplay of polyrhythms is very cool.(8.5/10)

10. "Boxes" (12:44) opens like a Peter Gabriel soundscape. Awesome drum, bass, and atmospherics. Courtney's voice enters at her most seductive. The song floats along like as if we're laying in a boat looking at the night sky while riding the softly rolling waters of the lake/harbor beneath us "I made it to the twenty-first century" is such and awesome line! Percussive and tuned and computerized incidentals pepper, dot, and streak the instrumental sky between vocal sections and to the end where Gavin's rock-steady, impeccable beats play out far into the finish. What an awesome song! What an awesome end to the album! (9.5/10)

Five stars; another masterpiece of truly progressive rock music from these young masters of 21st Century art.

 Land Animal by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.23 | 41 ratings

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Land Animal
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by javajeff

4 stars This album took some time to digest as it is not as raw sounding as the first three excellent albums. While Land Animal is another solid release from the band, I prefer Say So as it turned me on to the band in the first place. It feels like Land Animal lost some raw energy in favor of more production value. It has more expected, predictable, and planned arrangements, but this could be because I am now used to their style of music. How different would I feel if Land Animal was their only album? That would likely make a huge difference in evaluating this album on it's own merit. I was blown away by the older material when I first heard them, because their style of music was so new to me. They are a genre-defying art-rock band, and Land Animal features ten tracks with two over the six minute mark. I would recommend Say So and Shiny Eyed Babies as starting points for the band, but Land Animal should not be overlooked.
 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This might have been the most anticipated album for me in 2016. I remember putting it on for the first time and listening, just hoping I wouldn't be disappointed, and the first two tracks certainly impressed me but it was very much hit and miss after that. This has to be the most bombastic band out there these days, and when your "over the top" like that your going to be awesome to see live no doubt. Courtney's vocals that span every emotion you could think of and Ben's instrumental work and composing skills will make this a band to be reckoned with for many, many years. I just found this latest album "Say So" to be in the same style as the great "Shiny-Eyed Babies" including the subject matter(relationships from a woman's perspective) only it really does pale when compared to an album that I consider to be a top three for 2014. They do have a lot of ideas here so yes there's lots here that impressed me but also lots that left me unfulfilled to say the least. It's rated right now around number 50 on the Gnosis site which I would say is about right.

"Black Tar Water" really starts things off well as we get keys and reserved vocals to start. I do like those vocal melodies that Courtney uses a lot more of on this album. Drums after a minute as she starts to sing words again. More vocal melodies then a calm before it starts to build, even the vocals are more passionate. Another calm later with whispers ends it. "Leak Water" is another highlight and it opens with a guitar line that is joined by vocals then a catchy beat. A calm 2 minutes in as sparse keys, guitar and vocals come and go until it kicks in hard. It settles back and check out the emotion after 3 1/2 minutes. Great section!

"Counselor" is a disappointment. I'm just not into her vocal style although I get why she's singing that way considering the subject matter. Atmosphere to start as violin, piano and guitar join in as it builds until the vocals arrive. Here comes the bombast both vocally and instrumentally. There's even a CARDIACS-like section after 2 1/2 minutes. A cheeky tune but I'm not into it. "Eve" is the longest track at over 9 minutes. It also opens with a guitar line like an earlier track as vocals and more join in. I like how the lyrics are accompanied with dissonant sounds instrumentally. A massive drop of sound before 2 minutes that shakes the soundscape, like a bomb going off. A calm with reserved vocals follows then it picks up later before 4 minutes with vocals. Not into this then more power arrives around 5 minutes as we get insanity for a minute as she starts singing again amid the dissonance and atmosphere.

"Interlude" is less than a minute of atmosphere and guitar expressions. "The Things You Love" features heavy sounds as multi-vocal melodies join in. A calm follows as reserved vocals and keys take over, mellow. Sparse keys, violin and percussion take over then back to the relaxed vocals and sound. Some vocal melodies later and they will build in sound to the end, not a fan. "Nakami" opens with laid back piano then vocals before a minute, guitar too. I like the vocals here. The strings become prominent. It does get fuller and even more so after 3 1/2 minutes with the focus on the vocals. Love the deranged ending.

"Commercial" has a pretty bad multi-vocal intro before a challenging instrumental section takes over then the vocals kick in with passion. It's kind of funny before 3 minutes with the violin and sound. I love the haunting ending, more please. "Hands Up" might go down as the worse so called Prog song that I've heard in 2016. Really? Can anyone tell me that this is not pure [&*!#]? So commercial and vocal driven. Losing credibility here. "Good Girl" ends the album and it's somewhat dark and slow moving to start with guitar as reserved vocals join in. Strings before 3 minutes then it turns louder after 5 minutes with more depth as the vocals continue. It's spacey late to end it.

Man there are a ton of guests helping out, I counted close to 40 who add vocals, horns and strings throughout this album. Huge disappointment for me but I know I'm just one of many who feel let down here. I'll stick to the hair- raising "Shiny-Eyed Babies" but will for sure keep tabs on this talented band.

 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

5 stars Bent Knee are from Boston so I've had the distinct pleasure of seeing them numerous times over the last two years. Having made a significant step forward from their debut to Shiny Eyed Babies there was a distinct worry that this third album may suffer from comparison to what was one of my favorite albums of 2014. Fortunately that is not the case. I heard most of the the material on Say So performed live before the release and while excellent live it has come on leaps and bounds when executed in the studio. This is again collection of wonky edgy pop with a heavy emphasis on Courtney Swain's vocals which have a dynamic range a strength that continue to surprise and most remind me of Moorea Dickason of MoeTar. The beauty of Bent Knee is that all the music is group compositions and give room to all the instruments without feeling forced. It would be easy to make the band a showcase for Courtney's vocals & Ben Levin's manic guitar work but the rhythm section of Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums) & Jessica Kion (bass) are tight and dynamic adding twists and turns throughout. The violin of Chris Baum is a subtler contributor but vital to the overall sound. The production from Vince Welch gives a real depth and vigor to the sound while maintaining clarity. A great signing to the Cuneiform label and a strong candidate for album of the year.
 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by jazz2896

4 stars What a fine record this is. Bent Knee had somehow flown under my radar for the past couple years, but I'd seen their name pop up here and there but I never gave much thought to checking them out until a friend posted "Counselor" on Facebook. I immediately ordered this album, no hesitation. This album is a beacon of originality in a year filled with nostalgia acts reaching out to the 70's (and I guess the 80's are getting popular again) for inspiration. The lead singer Courtney Swain has one of the most delicate and yet powerful voices I've heard in awhile. She has moments that remind me of everything from old vocal jazz acts to a particularly snarling Kate Bush, but all in her own unique way; a true talent. The band is also incredibly tight and pull off all the ornate accompaniments and style shifts with finesse. One particular song I'd like to point out is "Hands Up", and I know this won't be a popular opinion, but this is one of my favorites off of the album, and it's probably the poppiest song on here. The melody is simplistic, yet utterly heart wrenching, and the chorus will be stuck in your head for days just like any good pop song should do, but it's such a well written and arranged song I can't help but love it. Utter pop perfection. This would be a five star album for me, but my interest tends to fade in the middle as the experimental influences seem to step aside to make room for the "indie" influences. Regardless, this is still an album that anyone looking for some fantastic original modern music should check out. Highly recommended, and easily one of my top five albums of the year so far.
 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars As I feared, Bent Knee's previous album, 2014's Shiny Eyed Babies--a masterpiece for the ages and one of my all-time favorite albums (#3)--has made it difficult for any future Bent Knee efforts to compare much less exceed the standards they set previously.

1. "Black Water Tar" (3:29) a top three song from me and a real grower as one listens repeatedly. (9/10)

2. "Leak Water" (4:41) the first of three or four consecutive songs that use a rather annoying violin/guitar scrape/pluck to establish a stark soundscape as well as a straightforward metronomic time signature. The song is good, the lyric interesting, but Courtney and crew may have taken this one too far (length, that is.) (9/10)

3. "Counselor" (5:51) this song has the impact, intensity and compositional cleverness that I expected to come from Bent Knee's "next" project. All band members are working at their highest capacity, full potential, on this one. And the lyrical content is uncomfortably edgy-awkward--just what I expect from Ben and Courtney. Fresh and innovative. Awesome! (9/10)

4. "Eve" (9:12) just never gets up and going--or takes too long to do so. BK's first attempt at an epic is a disappointment. (8/10)

5. "Transition" (0:49) is an awesome Dave Fiuczynksi-like guitar exercise in Asian microtones.

6. "The Things You Love" (6:12) seems to have some structural foundation in what feels like Chinese or SE Asian (Cambodia?) melodies--which is, to me, very much its strength. The gentler side of Courtney's voice matched with the strength of the large chorale work is an awesome trick--though the sections in which Courtney sings in her delicate voice are perhaps a bit too long. (9/10)

7. "Nakami" (5:20) contains a story and melodic sense fitting for stage and screen. A very welcome change of pace and style. I love the Japanese instrumental and melodic choices that are foundational to the song's first three minutes, but I LOVE the shift that occurs at 3:15 to the song's end. Stupendous! (10/10)

8. "Commercial" (3:44) represents the title quite well. There are lots of rapid fire bytes and bits, micro-tones, and discordant, chaotic, disruptive, disturbing--things that are so inherent to the basic fabric of modern society. (8/10)

9. "Hands Up" (5:40) is lyrically quite clever yet musically quite straightforward and rather unexceptional (by Bent Knee standards. This song reminds me of the songs from their debut album--trying to do much but somehow just not hitting the mark, not synchronized or hitting on all cylinders). (8/10)

10. "Good Girl" (6:43) is a slow, grungy, methodical, and spacious song which highlights the amazing musical chemistry and sympathy between Bent Knee co-founders, guitarist BEN Levin and vocalist CourTNEY Swain--and the work in the mixing room by VINCE WELCH is nothing short of astounding. This band is so talented! (9/10)

Some of my general impressions after listening to these songs over the past few weeks are conjuring up some of the (few) negative comments I've read by reviewers of Bent Knee's previous work, particularly the reference to the dynamic rollercoaster that the band subjects the listener to: it is sometimes difficult to stay with the band with such frequent and sudden vacillations between extreme loud and extreme soft; it requires a listener to be a) myopically focused on the music (to no other distraction) and b) incredibly tolerant of such dynamism. Whereas with Shiny Eyed Babies it is almost natural and joyful to remain so focused, with this album it is . . . more work; the journey that Shiny Eyed Babies took me on was so engaging, so exciting, so energizing, emotional, and authentically personal that it has never been an issue to tune in, give my full attention, and stick with it. I want to. I can't help myself. From start to finish. This album offers no such pull, no consistent bond of affection and awe--well, maybe some awe, but not the excitement and empathic connection.

Awesome album cover and design!

Later addendum (7/31016): It's been a couple months now that I've spent with Say So. My appreciation and enjoyment of all of the songs have increased however I will not change any of my ratings for I am of the same opinion as to their place among the scale. This album, while polished and intricately detailed in its construction, is not the shocking, bare-bones masterpiece that Shiny Eyed Babies was.

 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by LearsFool
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

5 stars Bent Knee... now here's a band that'll nail you to the wall. They start out from a simple idea - powerful, soul-esque vocals over prog - and have already perfected this niche with "Say So". Just take the opening double salvo of "Black Tar Water" and "Leak Water": practically blending into each other like a mini-suite, Courtney Swain lays down the law with her unrestrained singing as layers of her bandmates' instruments back her with brilliance. Generally, the album is an exercise in this combination of singing and instrumental styles, never letting up either pace or forcefulness. The band engage in a frenzy of complexity in time signatures and support of guest musicians through most of the record, a sometimes jazzy and always unique style leaning towards the front, wowing before allowing for a more concise ending in "Good Girl". Along the way, Swain is additionally backed by a massive chorus on "Counselor" and "The Things You Love" to exciting effect.

Lacking highlights only for its rock solid and consistent quality, Bent Knee's first masterpiece manages to create a beautiful, soulful soundscape that is also refreshingly blistering. A required listen and potential album of the year.

 Say So by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 133 ratings

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Say So
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by rogerthat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Say So is the third album of Boston outfit Bent Knee and their first with Cuneiform Records. A single from the album, Leak Water, was put up on YouTube in the run up to the release of the album. I did expect something different from a band like Bent Knee on their new album, rather than more of the same. Even so, Leak Water confounded my wildest expectations. It has a Radiohead-like quality in that the way it starts really throws you off only to eventually resolve into a sublime melody that you wish would never stop playing. I bet it would blend seamlessly with the soundscapes of the new Radiohead album, Moon Shaped Pool, for it shares that album's expansive, majestic beauty while also keeping you on the edge all the time. NOT that it sounds like Radiohead; just the spirit of the composition resembles that band. If the entire album was Leak Water good, Say So would be one of the greatest masterpieces of our beloved genre. If only'

To be sure, the first three tracks are indeed outstanding. Black Tar Water evokes Idler Wheel-era Fiona Apple but, powered by Vince Welch's amazing production and an overall filled out sound with more instruments, attains heights that, I dare say, would be beyond the grasp of that incredible Apple album. Thing is, though, I didn't even contemplate a comparison with Apple until I had listened to it several times. Which was as many as it took to really penetrate and tame the track. As was the case with Leak Water as well as Counselor. Bent Knee's complexity is deceptive. This is not complexity of the several time sig changes or un-melody variety. Rather, it takes some time to place a finger on the track's pulse as they are not constructed in a particularly linear manner and 'lack' a straight up momentum. So they keep teasing you and force you to really concentrate on every note and repeat that a few times until you begin to make sense of what is happening.

It is this quality that hurts the longer Eve. At 9 minutes long, it does need to get going to hold the listener's attention. For me, it was too stop-start so I never really grooved to the track at all even if I found myself enjoying some passages in it. It's not a bad piece of music at all but feels a bit of a let down after the rollicking start the album gets off to. Bent Knee have yet to work out their approach to the long piece format and all of Courtney Swain's sincerity can't ultimately keep me hooked to the track.

If Eve lacks resolution and focus for a long track, the tracks that follow lack, surprisingly for this band, ambition. Things You Love is sort of like the slow pieces of Belew-King Crimson, kind of quaint and pleasant but doesn't really grab me. Nakami'.very jazzy which is nice but Swain is singing all staccato and bright. Just at the moment I am going through a phase of discovering the incredible Linda Eder so the contrast is too much. The staccato delivery takes away that which makes jazz vocals seductive in the first place. It may not have been the intention, perhaps. In which case though, we are left with something that starts off like smooth jazz and ends up in a crescendo of soaring chanting. A Bent Knee trademark but in this case, there is not enough intensity in the preceding material to really get the crescendo to resonate. It's just there'and that's it.

What salvages Commercial is witty lyrics rather than the music. Hands Up is actually even more commercial but a well written commercial track and coupled with witty lyrics, evokes Siouxsie and the Banshees's Cities in Dust (though, sorry, not nearly as cool as that track).

Good Girl ensures that the album ends on a high note. Not as complex as the front loaded material but nevertheless a very interesting track with the distinct stamp of Bent Knee.

If the above reads like a disappointment, let's put it in perspective. It is only that from track four, the level of the album drops a bit and there is a regret of what could have been had the album been a more consistent affair. The positive is that Bent Knee seem to be truly finding their voice now and have shed their classic rock-isms from Shiny Eyed Babies. Indeed, after listening to Say So, you would be forgiven for finding Shiny Eyed Babies too retro in comparison.

Having found their sound, Bent Knee now need to exercise a little more discretion in terms of what ideas they put on the album. I know the old clich' about the composer putting the notes in there for a reason which we may not understand. But as a listener, I expect a cohesive experience and I can't say I got that from Say So. Instead, there was bountiful brilliance clustered in a few tracks and spread thin across the rest. I'll rate it a 4 as the quality doesn't drop to the mediocre even at its lows and at its highs, it is, I repeat myself, sublime.

 Shiny Eyed Babies by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.16 | 149 ratings

BUY
Shiny Eyed Babies
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

2 stars After seeing an album with such few ratings (86) creep into the top 100, I was intrigued. Surely this must be an INCREDIBLE album to garner a rating even higher than albums as coveted as "Red", "Animals" or "Fragile"! Unfortunately, after several listens, I've been deceived.

I suppose that Bent Knee can be seen as a modern day Van Der Graaf Generator. It seems that most fellow reviewers have been commenting on the lead female vocals. Personally, they have a Hammill-esque marmite effect on me; some seem to adore it, I feel like my ears are being gouged an hour. The singer's voice, and its subtly grating quality, combined with the generally dark subject matter and generic sounding "metal-prog" instrumental accompaniment that seems to be the rage nowadays (you know which one I mean; put on just about any celebrated prog album of the 2010's) make for an album that I really don't care to listen to again in the future. If you enjoy Van Der Graaf Generator and darker prog, or if you like the sort of metal-ish sound that I described earlier, then this may be right up your alley. But personally I can't bring myself to give this above 2 stars.

 Shiny Eyed Babies by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.16 | 149 ratings

BUY
Shiny Eyed Babies
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Imagine you take a vocalist like Christina Wolfe or Jarboe - someone who really isn't afraid to get into some seriously dark areas, but is also capable of singing quite beautifully as the mood demands. Add modern-day keyboard mastery, and then put her in front of the most bizarre and sonically diverse bands in rock music since Mr Bungle, and you have something that might approach the outrageous rollercoaster ride that Bent Knee offer up here.

Don't let the pretty album title - or, for that matter, the charming intro that shares its name - fool you for a second: just as you think Bent Knee are going to ease up on you, they go for the kneecaps again, creating an alternatingly intoxicating and terrifying sonic landscape. This album makes Disco Volante by Mr Bungle (the closest sonic comparison I can come up with), with all of its extremes, seem like a walk in the park - and that's before you even consider the lyrics. In some of the most beautiful moments of the album, frontwoman Courtney Swain is singing to a corpse.

Thanks to kev rowland for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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