I was introduced to Bent Knee a couple weeks ago when I read about their new record, Land Animal, which comes out next week on Inside/Out. The title track was put out as the first single, and I was sure it was a cover at first because there was something familiar about it. The pace and timbre of the delivery from Courtney Swain was stuck in my head for a couple of days. I realize now that my mind was just playing tricks on me. Her voice does remind me of Hayley Mary from The Jezabels (particularly on “Noah’s Ark”), but the song is wholly original.
Going into the live show I didn’t really have any expectations. Bent Knee has been playing together for a long time now, so I knew they’d be tight, and I had some idea of what they sounded like on record but no clue what their concerts were like. Turns out they’re just as interested in having fun as the people in the audience.
The show was being taped by the people at Audiotree, who also own the venue. That limited where I could go to take pictures a bit because I didn’t want to get in the way of the guys filming up front. I moved around a bit to try to get some different angles, but there were enough people there for the show that it wasn’t always easy (I’m average height, but a lot of concert goers are much taller than myself).
The most animated member of the band, Ben Levin, was a joy to watch. He seemed both completely focused and freewheeling at the same time. He was all smiles and his energy just couldn’t be contained by the stage. That energy was felt throughout the audience, as the ground shook multiple times from people stomping and jumping right along with him.
I enjoyed what I heard from this group of Bostonians. Swaine’s vocals can feel overwhelming at times, but it’s that same raw power that gives the songs their emotional weight. The label “orchestral pop” does fit to a degree, but I’ve never liked it. Nor “chamber pop,” though I think that works better. Having a live violinist is almost always a good thing, and though I didn’t get any good pictures of him, Vince Welch working the knobs and synths adds a great element to the music.